Sympathy for the Devil Holly Lisle
Copyright © 1996 by Holly Lisle
Cover art by Clyde Caldwell
First printing, January 1996 Dedication For Mark Twain and C.S. Lewis, who introduced me to this territory when I was nine; and in memory of Cathy Kelchner, my long-time friend, who lived long enough to see this project, but not to its completion. I miss you, Cathy.
Special thanks to my friends,
Bill Mullis and Keith Brinegar, who were willing to die for the cause; and to Bill Cleveland, Kerri Walters,
Cathy Lovato, and Walter Spence, whose shrewd insights and wonderful critiques changed the direction of the book and made it infinitely better than it was.
A Damned Hard Way To Die
Dayne flopped onto the couch, grabbed the remote, and flipped through the TV channels. There was nothing but news on. "What the hell-" She saw something football-like flash onto the screen. The Duke Blue Devils and the UNC Tarheels were on the field, and the Tarheel quarterback threw a beautiful long bomb down the field-and some huge guy in an obscene bright-red devil suit, with a pitchfork, no less, appeared out of nowhere and speared the football out of mid-air. There was a cut to an anchorman who stood panting in front of the camera, his usually perfect hair mussed and his tie crooked. "All across the state, we have similar reports. We take you to the Ashboro Fan Faire where two deaths have been confirmed." A reporter appeared, her face set in the fake-grim expression TV reporters always seemed to wear. "The final event of the Fan Faire ended in tragedy today when two filk singers performing 'I Wanna Be Seduced' were set upon by a bevy of what seemed to be nude women who attempted to seduce them on stage. Klingon security officers and men and women in Star Fleet uniforms acted quickly to restore order, but it was too late. The women turned out to be neither injured . . . nor women. In this interview, taped earlier, I talk with one, who claims she is a succubus straight from Hell."
Chapter 1 How can Hell exist if there is a Heaven, or Heaven if there is a Hell? Friday, October 8th Lucifer-Puissant Lord of Evil, Utmost Originator of All Things Foul, Master of the Netherworlds, Purveyor of Anguish-glanced up from his newspaper to stare thoughtfully over the miles of open office space that made up the central nervous system of Hell. Uncounted thousands of imps and leccubi and damnedsouls sat at uncounted thousands of obsolete, cantankerous computer terminals, alternately typing and swearing. The air-conditioning was on the fritz again, and Hell's computers worked poorly in the resulting heat. Lucifer's main office manager, the fallen angel Sertapius, had sent in a request for more computer techs. Unless things improved, he wasn't going to get them. They were hard to corrupt. They liked their work too much, and happy people didn't go to Hell. Lucifer had some of his top people working on a way to convince computer techs to get involved in politics-after all, bureaucrats were easy. Hell was up to the tips of its horns in them. The news was about average-wars, famines, plagues, shootings, hatred, racism, sexism, politically correct fanaticism-in other words, all good. Lucifer flipped to the entertainment section and read Calvin and Hobbes, which he enjoyed when Calvin was being terrible. And then he read his weekend horoscope-he always read his horoscopes. Some of his best future denizens wrote them, and he liked to check out the talent.
LIBRA-fellow libran, concerned by issue of fairness-like all born under your sign-intercedes on your behalf. beginning of new week brings you unimagined opportunities.
Lucifer arched an eyebrow and rubbed thoughtfully at the base of one of the curled ram horns that sprouted from his forehead. Promises, promises-the horoscopes were always full of them. Of course, where he was, nothing ever came of those promises. That was the hell of Hell.
Chapter 2 Dayne Kuttner was trying to catch up on her charting. She kept one eye on the monitors-rows of green light slid across the black screens in a variety of ugly, irregular patterns. Nobody looked good today, and she waited tensely for the next lethal change. She glanced at her watch and wrote: "1432. Systems assessment-see previous notes. Changes are as follows-both pupils now fully blown, no reaction to light. Sclerae edematous. Eyes lubricated, padded and taped. Decerebrate posturing noted .