He sat in the dark. All the monitors had been unplugged, all the cameras had been swept away, all the people have been chased out to the front yard. For the first time in a long time, it was finally quiet.
The ice cubes clinked together softly as they melted and watered down the scotch. Once in a while he remembered that his hand was cupped, and he brought the lip of the glass to his mouth.
He rubbed his temples. For a minute, even though it was dangerous, he wanted blessed peace and a little bit of sanity. He wanted just a little bit of truth behind the web of lies. Once he had felt like a huge, bloated spider, spinning a web and marveli ng at the flies trapped within, struggling to get free. He was master, he was queen. Now, he realized that he was the fly, and the webs were so thick that there was no escape, no matter the struggle or the fight. He felt covered with gooey strands.
What had possessed him to do what he had done, he wasnít sure. He had the original of the tape. It sat here by his hand on the desk. There was a copy, but it was in Erlithanís hands now, and sure to be an amusement to all of the new regimeís enemies. A nd at the same time, he had told the Impudite what he needed to know. He needed to know it all, before it became a nasty little surprise and no one was exactly friends anymore. He didnít need that sort of enemy, he had enough.
Erlithan had looked at him from the other side of the desk with the copy of the tape in hand, and had said, "You donít really believe that Nybbas is neutral in all this, do you? Weíre both too old for those childish beliefs."
Just quiet. A little bit of quiet. His long hair fell over his face. His tie hung loose.
He looked up and peered into the darkened corner from which the voice came. He pulled his shades out of a drawer and slipped them over his nose. "Always, baby. Always."
The shape coalesced out of the darkness. "Thatís your first lie. Do you want to try for any others?"
"Would I lie to you?" He leaned back in his chair, and feigned insult. "No way, man. Hey baby, that would just be out of line. That wouldnít be cool, and Iím always cool."
"Can it." The figure settled heavily in the leather upholstered chair on the other side of the desk. It eyed him with the gaze of an ancient warrior, piercing through the darkness. They had known each other for so long, there wasnít a need for formal i ntroductions. The same old feeling, the same old familiar tension hung over the desk. "Youíve done well for yourself, Iíve heard. A barony now. Baron Teraphim of the Fourth Estate. Very impressive. I would have sent you a card, but Hallmark was all out."< /P>
He grinned a fake grin of pride. "Oh? Heard all the way up there? How excellent, baby. Nice to know the little people on the ground are doing their job of getting the word out." He spun a finger in the air. "Weíre always moving and shaking, baby. Alway s someplace to move, and always someone to shake."
"I found it disturbing," the figure said.
He paused. Then he said, "It turned out to be no where near as fun as I thought it would be, baby."
The figure, Rigziel, grunted. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. Oh yeah. It has its moments of being a real drag."
"You? Responsibility? What a surprise. And this took, oh," Rigziel looked distracted, "two millenia for you to reach the conclusion that it wasnít all itís cracked up to be."
Terry snorted. "Donít be a total bastard."
"I am only being," Rigziel said with the full power of the Truth, "a partial bastard. As total bastard, I would simply have killed you."
"Thank you for that little bit of clarification, baby." Terry sipped his scotch, and eyed his twin over its rim from behind the black lenses of sunglasses.
Rigziel narrowed his eyes. "You know, there are brand new career opportunities in Trade right now. Itís a whole new world. You should consider it."
Terry shot Rigziel a sneer. "You have to be kidding, baby."
"If there is anything I donít do," Rigziel said, picking at his pants, "is kid. Unlike your friends."
"Is that why you came to see me? To make paltry commentary, baby, trying to look smart? I can hire that."
Rigziel bent over the desk. "Trade, Terry. Itís fallen apart and now it needs new leaders. Experienced leaders. This is your chance. No one is going to ask twice where you came from or who you were. I would know, you would know, but they wouldnít quest ion a new Seraph-"
Silence hung over the desk. Both, the Seraph and the Balseraph, leaned back in their respective chairs. Between them hung an unspoken wall, which had been there for uncounted generations.
Terry felt uncomfortable. He rarely yelled in true anger. It shook his cool, letís do lunch demeanor. He drained his scotch. He even drained the ice cubes.
Rigziel stood. "Itís waiting for you."
Terry pulled off his shades and glared at his brother. "Are you trying to bait me, baby?"
"No," Rigziel said. "I am merely telling you the truth."
And then, in a whiff of essence, the Seraph was gone.
Terry sat there, staring into his empty glass for a while. Through the door and the walls came the sound of the endless Media machine - voices, laughter, screams, televisions blaring the latest news updates from around the globe as countless millions d ied. He, of course, was untouched.
He got up from behind his desk to the mantle piece, and uncorked the crystal bottle. Another slip of the amber liquid passed into his glass. With the liquid came a small measure of oblivion.
He lifted the glass to his lips, and froze. Somewhere, nearby, in this very room, was a disturbance. And it wasnít a small, someone tripped over a power chord and pulled it out of the wall disturbance. It was one of those wake the entire building and s end people diving for cover disturbances.
The Boss, Terry thought, has arrived. And he didnít even have a properly prepared spread of food ready.
He closed his eyes, and then downed the rest of his scotch. It had been a fun life, he thought, an exciting life, and now it was a life that was at its end. He didnít regret too much, except that Falling part, that sort of bothered him. On the other ha nd, he didnít really remember any of the bad parts. He kept forgetting those. But those didnít really matter anyway. Who wants to remember the bad things?
He turned to face the source of the disturbance, and said, "Hey, Boss. Howís the ratings business, baby? Iíve got a brand new pitch, and youíll love-"
He was hit with a whiff of lust. He peered, and he realized the new figure in the gloom certainly didnít move like Nybbas. It was too feminine, too feline, too much like a predator. And it didnít come with a laugh track and a gaggle of makeup artists.
He was frozen, and the figure, dressed from head to toe in sensuous black, whispered in his ear. "I like you," it breathed. "I think weíll work together famouslyÖ."
He thought about Rigzielís offer. He thought about how it was already too late to consider it, as it suddenly looked very attractive.