From: (Dave Hemming)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: Freedom and Necessity
Date: Tue, 01 Dec 1998 00:04:31 GMT
Organization: remove all your clothes to reply
Lines: 163
Message-ID: <>
X-Newsreader: Forte Agent 1.5/32.451

  "This one of yours?" The captain pushed a thick file across the desk. I
picked it up and flipped it open.

  I recognised the first item - a newspaper clipping I'd forwarded to
Records for chasing. Six dead in Goods Received at the Swanwick Museum and
several "artifacts" missing, sounded like it might fall into our area. I
glanced through the rest of the documents; the police report, forensics, the
manifest for the last shipment, the tally of what was missing. The rest of
it came from our own sources, a report on those missing items. I looked back
at the captain and nodded. 

  "Read on. It gets better."

  Intrigued, I looked at our findings. The casket had the best
documentation; three mentions in unconnected works. There were minor
differences in what they reported, but all agreed that it had been used to
imprison a demon, or spirit, sometime in the Seventeenth Century. Two of the
sources agreed on the name, as well, and there was a rap sheet on Iolsoth

  He was nasty. It had taken three holy men - two the Church now ranked
highly among the saints, and one that we did - to get Him into the box in
the first place, and our man had lost his life in the process. This was
after Iolsoth had almost succeeded in opening a Gateway directly to Hell,
possibly even _during_ the ritual, the records weren't clear. That qualified
as a Very Bad Thing.

  At one time, I'd have laughed off this kind of stuff; I'd been a beat cop
then, and I'd thought I knew how the world worked. Then an encounter in a
crumbling tenement had cured me of my hard-bitten atheism, and got me
transferred to Shadow Command. In the ten years since, I'd learnt that what
I'd met then had been chump-change compared to some of the - things - the
department dealt with, though I still had the occasional nightmare about it.
This demon was right up there with the big guns - as His description in one
of the Demonographies put it, "Screams are his music and lightning his
guise". Nice.

  I looked at the final sheet. The other three items were various relics
with a fairly sordid and unpleasant history, but it was the note at the
bottom that arrested my attention. Apparently all three had been involved in
Iolsoth's original attempt to open a Gateway - He would need only two others
to try again. I slowly closed the file and met the captain's gaze.

  "There's good news and bad news, Simmonds." Uh-oh. "The good news is, we
have one of the two remaining artifacts down in The Vaults, and He's not
going to try to get in there." Not if he had any sense, anyway; there had
been several attempts to break into The Vaults in the past, both by mortals
and immortals, and none had got past the second seal. I'd watched the
security footage of Agrimal's discorporation, and Records had ranked Her
higher even than Iolsoth.

  "The bad news is that Research have given us a short-list of items that
could replace it in the ceremony, and it isn't that short. On the plus side,
we know where a lot of them are, even if we can't get at them. We've been
correlating crime-figures with the locations since we figured all this out,
and I think we've hit the jackpot." A useful tactic, crime-figures. Demons
couldn't help putting out a certain amount of negative energy, and Iolsoth
was strong. Within His vicinity, tempers would be short, greed heightened,
lust inflamed; on a plot of reported incidents, He'd stand out like a
beacon. The captain stood and walked to the map on the wall; I followed his
lead. He tapped thoughtfully on the North-East corner of the States.

  "Two nights ago, crime in Washington State went up by four percent. _Here_
- " he jammed his finger onto the Peninsula " - it's gone up by almost
twenty. It's mostly Indian reservations up there, and they've had to
transfer in uniforms from as far away as Tacoma to cope. Sound like our
boy?" I nodded. It certainly fit the pattern. "Get this - one of those
alternatives is a medicine pouch that belonged to a particularly nasty
shaman called, amongst other names... the lightning man."

  "I'll get a team together." 

  "Take Murcheson. I know he's not entirely stable..." Who was, in this
department? You could only take so much before you burnt out or lost it.
"He's still the best exorcist we've got."

* * *

  We arrived at dusk at the gates of one of the smaller reservations. It was
not a particularly significant place, but its Tribal Heritage Hall held the
medicine pouch we were looking for. Or had; we were met by a sullen-looking
native cop who introduced himself as Michael Storm. A flash of my Bureau of
Indian Affairs ID did nothing to improve his mood. He seemed obscurely
comforted by Allen's FBI badge, though. Murcheson just stared at him until
he looked away, then went back to studying the night. I was pretty sure what
we'd find, and the story the kid laid out matched it exactly. All their
electronic security - not that they'd had much - had mysteriously failed,
and the pouch had gone. Along with a few other bits and pieces; at first I
thought they were just camouflage, but when I looked at the list I had
second thoughts. A staff belonging to the same unpleasant shaman; a clay
figurine of a "storm spirit"; a flint knife believed to have been used in
certain blood ceremonies. I wished we'd done some research into alternates
for that fifth item - it looked like Iolsoth certainly had. I turned to our

  "Are their any sites of historical significance around here? Sacred sites,
burial grounds, that kind of thing?" He didn't bat an eyelid; I wondered
what he thought we were up to. 

  "There's a burial mound just up the trail. It has a few legends attached
to it." I wondered if any of them involved opening a Gateway; probably.
Iolsoth had been two steps ahead of us all along.

  "Lead on. Now." I added, when he seemed to hesitate. He shrugged, and
walked off into the night. We followed, Murcheson muttering under his
breath, Allen bringing up the rear.

  As we approached the low rise through the woods, I felt the tension
heighten. I was about to snap at the cop for dawdling when I realised what
was happening - I was entering the demon's sphere of influence. I motioned
Michael back; no point exposing him more than necessary. I peered round the
trunk of the last tree. 

  There was a man, illuminated in brief flashes, doing _something_ up there,
puttering around with a bunch of small objects. I wondered if Iolsoth had
enlisted some help, until I realised those flashes of light had no obvious
source, and didn't illuminate anything else. I turned back to fetch
Murcheson, and there was the kid. Pointing his gun at me.

  "Please don't interfere, Mr Simmonds." He didn't look sullen now; he
looked exalted. The gun was rock-steady, though. 

  "You have no idea what you're doing, Michael." I needed to keep him
focused on my face, while my right hand snaked round behind me for my piece.
The bullets were hollowpoints filled with holy water, and each round had
been blessed by a Cardinal, but they'd put a mortal down as easily as a
demon. "Whatever you've been promised, it's a lie. They always lie."

  "I have been promised nothing. This is a debt repaid. Do you know who my
ancestor was, Mr Simmonds?" I could make a good guess, at this point. My
hand closed around the grip of my automatic. "Please put your gun on the
ground, Bureau Man." Damn.

  The sky lit up behind me. I drew and hit him - somewhere - while he was
still dazzled; mouth a round O of surprise as he toppled backwards. His gun
went off as he went down - I felt a burning line drawn across my thigh. A
graze, I hoped. No time to look for Murcheson now; I charged up the side of
the mound as a noise like feedback and a million bees filled the air.

  I saw Iolsoth on the other side of a column of boiling smoke, erupting
from the ground and shot through with vivid reds and writhing shapes of
darkness and light. He grinned at me, exposing teeth that were too numerous
and pointed to belong in a man's mouth. He gave a wordless shout of
something like triumph, then as I raised my piece He leapt into the light.
There was a deafening CRACK! and then the column was gone, and Iolsoth with
it. The noise tailed off and ceased. My gun arm fell to my side and I stood,
baffled, looking at the scorched and broken objects arranged in a rough
circle where the column had been.

  I heard footsteps behind me, and turned to see Michael Storm plodding up
the rise, clutching his shoulder. Our eyes met.

  "They put Him in a box for four hundred years, Bureau Man. Yet Lightning
Man had already bound him to return home."

  That had not been triumph I'd heard, I realised. It had been release.

(c) Dave Hemming 1998
You are lost in a maze of twisty little web pages, all 
See another at
ICQ: 14217710