School's Out for Summer.
Kant felt a sudden jolt of surprise run through his body as it came into a neat – but by no means comfortable – collision with the tarmac floor of the schoolyard. He'd expected as much of a Friday evening; stealth and surprise, followed by a generous portion of aches and pains. Shakily, he rose back onto his feet, and tried to clear up the odd haziness caused by striking the floor after a long fling. The pleasant relief of unconsciousness threatened to seize him, but at the moment such respite was unaffordable. Stood in the vaguely Kant-shaped hole in the wall was the demon he and his erstwhile colleague had been sent to eliminate. And in line with convention it was big, merciless, and very, very angry.
Deciding on a more threatening tactic, Kant drew his S.O.D.O-issue flash grenade from his belt, and held his ground. This thing – whatever it was – had more eyes than the usual share allotted. From what Kant could make out, it had seven at the very least. Blinding it would probably cause shedloads of pain, allowing Kant the time to escape. Silver bullets hadn't worked, holy water hadn't worked and sheer beating hadn't worked; but a very small amount of magnesium and ammonium perchlorate probably would. With a cocky smile, Kant quietly flicked the safety pin on his flashbang, and watched the creature run right towards him.
"That's right." He nodded, quietly. "Come and get a taste of this, you hell-sprung piece of shit. Let's see if you can cope with one-million candela of light frying your corneas; and then we'll find out who can kick the most ass."
As the demon galloped towards him - making full use of all six of its of limbs - Kant gave the flashbang a good fling, watching it stop some fifteen yards in front of the beast's progress. He then crouched down onto the floor and pulled his trenchcoat over his head. Hopefully the high density weave of the cotton would protect his eyes – but then again, Kant had little faith it would. He'd have to work something more useful into the coat at a later date. Luckily, the flashbang wouldn't be as deafening as the normal model –one of Kant's ingenious alterations.
The light was searing, but not bad enough to blind the agent. Carefully he lifted back the edge of the coat, and saw the demon trying to clutch all of its eyes. Good. That would give Kant the time to…run.
Pelting across the schoolyard, Kant had an ironic flashback to his own high school days. Back then, weirdness was brought into being by short, greasy kids with huge glasses and malicious anti-social tendencies. At no point had he imagined that his early thirties would involve hunting down dangerous monsters and mind-warping entities. Noticing an off-building cabin classroom, he skidded around the corner and found James Ignatius nervously smoking a cigarette.
"Nice to see you put in an appearance!" Huffed Kant, trying to get his breath back.
"Yeah…what does this filth-baby look like?" Asked the priest, fumbling with a bottle of water in his jacket pocket.
"Lots of eyes. About nine feet tall, six arms – all of them leaden with muscles. Hands like joints of pork, too. Runs pretty fast and packs a neat punch. Holy water and silver bullets are useless, but big flashes seem to keep it back."
Jittering, Ignatius peered around the stuccoed corner of the cabin and saw the creature for himself. Within a few seconds, he'd noted its qualities and tried to come up with some way of killing it. Problem was, he couldn't. He pressed back against the wall, and looked back at Kant.
"No clue what that thing is." He began. "Could be from any circle, and of any rank. One of the shoddiest summonings I've ever seen. Interesting-looking specimen I'll admit, but it's going to be hard to exorcise it if I don't know what it is."
"Oh great." Groaned Kant. "Thanks for letting me know in advance."
"Hang on," mused Ignatius, "did you get any stats as to just how this thing got here?"
With an air of weary resignation, the scientist fiddled in his pocket until he came up with his trusty notebook, which he began to flick through at an accelerated rate, knowing full well that the demon had probably started prowling again. Eventually, he found the correct page, and reeled off the details to Ignatius.
"The advance team evacuated the school just before we arrived. Apparently it's the summer ball, so this worm couldn't have come along at a worse time."
"Summer ball…" Mumbled Ignatius, flinging his cigar out of his mouth and breaking into a jog. "High hormonal activity…large gathering of young girls, increased release of pheromones…too well-timed to be a coincidence…were any of the kids found with hallucinogenics on them?"
"Yeah." Replied Kant, keeping up with his colleague. "Why?"
"Hallucinogenics are great for ritualistic inducement, not to mention wearing down common perceptions of reality. If there's a high enough level of hormones in the air, a magician can use that to punch through the already-shaky boundaries and drag something else through. It starts out as nothing more than a blob, but feeds on the atmosphere of its surroundings and begins to project the desires of the caster, usually taking on the form of some kind of Freudian id – a big bitch of a thing made up of repressed fears and desiresWhatever happens next is anyone's guess."
"How do you know this thing was summoned?" Enquired Kant, cautiously re-loading his Heckler und Koch.
"These things don't break through just because of hormones and drugs; otherwise, the sixties would have brought about the apocalypse. Someone needs to have a deep kind of anger on their own part – manifested through something like jealousy, or hatred – in order to have enough oomph themselves. It's hard to explain; the demon is born from anger, nurtured by its surroundings, formed by repressed anxiety and commanded by the desires of whoever brought it in."
"You think someone in the school did this?"
"No doubt about it. We're talking adolescent angst and sexual desire, not to mention jealousy. Trouble is, with the demon un-identifiable by any normal means, it'll be difficult to find the kid who formed it."
"Great." Snarled Kant. "My night gets spoilt by some whiny brat with delusions of demoniac grandeur. Just what I needed on my Friday night. I'm telling you James, demons are no fun anymore. I remember the days when demonologist meant you were taking on someone with a certain level of intellectual capacity."
"This kid doesn't know their arse from their elbow." Seethed Ignatius in agreement. "That thing's so malformed it was probably brought about through a hotchpotch of different rituals. I can see it now; some dumb-arse teenager who reckons these things don't matter. We'll strangle the little bastard when we get our hands on him – agreed?"
"Hell yes!" Affirmed Kant, before the demon emerged from the wall in front of them and froze.
Kant blasted off a volley of rounds into the demon's face, whilst Ignatius held up an open palm and began to recite an invocation. Neither seemed to work.
"Oh crap!" Squeaked Ignatius, watching a torrent of indescribable slobber fall from the demon's mouth.
"Jartt oth sug ob abbath!" The creature barked, glotally. "Shub ab grunda Ulchii!".
Irritated, the demon reared up, and belted the two agents aside with a good solid swing. As Kant found himself grazing the ground for a second time, he couldn't help but be confused. Before either of the two men could do anything, the demon picked up a scent and restarted its gallop towards the school hall. Dusting themselves off, the agents rose from the ground and watched it run.
"Any idea what that thing just said?" Asked Kant, re-adjusting his coat.
"Seems to be a composite tongue, up to a certain point." Replied Ignatius. "From what I know, 'sug ob abbath' was a curse phrase often used by demons in the service of the Hyperborian Kingdom; roughly translates as 'pain born from shit'."
"Sounds like a nice bunch of guys to have round for dinner."
"Mm. As for that other stuff…well, 'ab' is the Hyperborean-demonic for 'descended from', while 'shub' is a Malebolgian catch-all term for 'parasite'. And I may not be completely certain on this one, but the word 'Ulchii' is a pretty old word for human, used commonly by most demons up until around 400 B.C."
"So….something is pain born from shit, a parasite descended from something human."
"Got it one. I'm assuming because this demon was probably made up from different bits and pieces, then its taken fragments of language from different areas and points in time. Very rare that you'll get a demon nowadays who uses the world 'Ulchii'. Almost like someone calling you a nickname you had in school…"
"Yeah yeah…linguistic blather aside, how do we get rid of it?"
"Unfortunately," groaned Ignatius, "your guess is as good as mine. There's no ritual I know of that can send back something that malformed."
Kant immediately broke into a run, heading towards the edge of the schoolyard.
"Hey!" Called the priest, following shortly. "Where you going?"
"We'll find the kid who brought him in. See if he has any answers."
The duo slammed through the fire escape at the far end of the school's main hall, and saw a throng of frightened faces before them. The kids – old and young – were scared shitless. First the demon, and now this – being herded into the hall by ominous-looking SODO agents, their faces covered with dark visors and their thick arms bearing assault rifles. Rifles which were now turned on the agents.
"It's us, you Neanderthal goons!" Yelled Ignatius, shielding his face with his arms. "Drop the guns and let us get on with our work!"
"Your prerogative is to find and exterminate the hellbeast." Replied the captain, almost robotically. "We were assigned to guard these young people, using maximum force if necessary."
Ignatius hated the task-force. They were psychopaths drafted in from the usual streams of special forces, then pressed into the SODO's rigorous regime of self-conditioning and dangerous fearlessness. They were relics of an older era; one which would pass into the muck if Ignatius had to say anything about it.
"Your orders are to drop your guns!" Boomed Kant authoritatively. "You WILL listen to your commanding officer, soldier! You WILL let us pass!"
"Yes sir, agent Kant!" Saluted the captain, immediately lowering his weapon and indicating to the rest of the team to stand down. As the agents made their way into the crowd of teens, Ignatius stood up to the captain and scowled.
"Point a gun at me again captain, and I promise you'll regret it."
The silence of the youths was pretty unnerving. Ignatius leant closer to his co-worker and they began a whispered discussion.
"How did you make him do that?"
"Drop his guns? When you're military-trained, you know how to handle those psychos. They just need the good word given to them once in a while and they'll back down."
"Mm. Any idea what to do with these kids?"
"Nope. Do you know how we're going to locate the caster?"
Ignatius scanned the room. There were no indistinguishable auras; nothing spectacular about any of them. None of them had the mark of a demon-bringer. But, they were scared. That was bound to come in handy somehow. He nudged his partner once more.
"We go good-cop, bad-cop. We'll get something out of them."
"Ah." Said Kant. "And I'm the bad cop again, right?"
Ignatius' silence confirmed his fears. Sighing less-than-audibly, Kant readied himself to be a complete bastard.
"Alright, you useless pricks!" He boomed, startling both his partner and the crowd. "You've all seen the big hungry doggie who's prowling around outside right now. I bet you're all crapping your pants and want to get somewhere safe. I bet there's nothing more you want to do than run crying back to your parents and let them take care of you. Typical waste-of-space teenagers!"
"I'm afraid my colleague may have something of a point." Soothed Ignatius in a measured, likable tone. "Unfortunately, there is a demon running around outside, and it is looking for someone. As for who that someone is, we just don't know; all we know is that they're in danger."
A mutter went through the throng. Then, a few giggles emerged from the edge.
"Demon?" Laughed one of the rousers. "Yeah right. And you guys are Batman and Robin."
The previous chatter was replaced with laughter. Big mistake.
Kant barged his way through the mass of young adults, watching their mockery turn to stone-cold fear as his giant's frame passed among them. Eventually, he came to the youth who had yelled the earlier remark, and carefully grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, lifting him a few inches into the air. He then watched with some satisfaction as the boy's eyes widened and his pupils shrunk. Kant brought the boy close to his face, and shot him a look straight out of a detective novel.
"That's right." He snarled, in his gravel-throated American accent. "We're Batman and Robin. We're Abbott and Costello. We're Butch Cassidy and the mother-fucking Sundance Kid. We're the two assholes who've had to give up our Friday evening in order to save your miserable, worthless ass. I've been punched through a brick wall. I've scraped my hide across your basketball court. I've got bruises that won't wear off until the Second Coming. And you know what?"
The next part he whispered directly into the boy's ear.
"Nothing would make me feel better than to take you outside, right now, and show you how demons aren't the only thing you should be scared of."
Calmly, he placed the shaking boy back onto the wooden floor, and turned back around. As he turned, he heard the boy try to make one, final stand.
"This suit's a rental…" He muttered. "God-damn nerd…"
The punch he gave the boy was even more satisfying than frightening the shit out of him; right on the nose, but just weak enough to not leave any lasting damage. He spun back from the moaning, bloodied mess on the ground and headed back to his partner. Ignatius rolled his eyes, and continued.
"Sorry about the mess." He called out, fiddling with another cigarette. "But my partner and I are going to need your help in beating this thing. You see, we have reason to believe that this thing was summoned by one of you. And as much as we don't really want to admit it, whoever brought it forth is going to have to help us send it back."
"I say we should just take them each outside and beat the crap out of them until one of them talks." Snarled Kant brilliantly, eliciting further fear from the youths. "And if no-one talks, we just have the guards here work them over until someone does."
"An enthusiastic sentiment oh-colleague-of-mine, but I'm sure whoever had the knowledge to summon this thing will, at the very least, have prudence and foresight enough to come forward as the perpetrator. And I would like to reassure them that they will not face any punishment if they admit their wrongdoing…"
"Mhmm." Affirmed Kant, folding his arms and resting against an acrobatic rig. "And if they don't, I'll break each and every one of you miserable pip-squeaks until someone squeals. Your choice."
Another muffled inquisition passed through the crowd. As it did, Ignatius re-approached Kant and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Miserable little pip-squeaks?" He exhaled. "Bit dramatic for you, isn't it boss?"
Kant smiled proudly, like a small boy who'd discovered a huge lexicon of curse-words and had just exercised the potential of his newfound treasure. Eventually, the duo could see a line splitting in the crowd, and someone was trying to shove their way forwards.
It was the genuinely pitiful type both had been expecting; short, lanky, greasy and visibly friendless. He wore a pale-blue shirt, a pair of too-big flared trousers and rotten shoes. Ignatius nodded at the boy, and Kant dropped his tough-guy act for the teen's sake.
"What's your name kid?"
"I'm Ed." Tried the boy. "Ed McMahon. I…um…it was me that brought that thing from hell. I held a ritual in my bedroom before coming here, but I'd put a marker in place in the chemistry store-rooms just before leaving school this afternoon. I knew it wasn't going to be a good idea, but…"
"Don't bother with apologies, lad." Sighed Ignatius. "Let's get you outside. Jack; get the captain and his gorillas to rally these kids and escort them out to the car park. And just in case he's unclear as to who he's allowed to shoot, he has orders to fire on the demon only. I don't care if Hitler jumps out the hedge - I'm not having this lot shot to bits by a troop of gun-nuts berserkers. When you're done giving him his orders, meet us in the laboratory."
"I've always wanted to hear you say that." Joked the American, before turning towards the captain and beginning some very stern dictates. Ignatius placed a hand on Ed McMahon's shoulder, and escorted him through the side door.
"Come on then lad." He began. "Let's kick this thing up the arse."