Lucifer's Last Laugh

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Chapter 20: Shrugg’s Tale

I receive a telemessage from Asira that he has located Atlas Shrugg in Sparks, Nevada. I teleport to his location just outside a seedy motel called the Breaking Inn.

“He’s in his room watching porno movies on TV. Jesus, he is one huge human.”

“Do you have a reading on him?”

“Yeah, he’s a Null Three but I haven’t accessed any of his thoughts yet. Thought I’d leave that pleasure to you.”

I immediately begin to read Shrugg’s mind and am mildly astonished and pleased by what I find.

“OK,” I tell Asira, “let’s go in.”

We materialize at Shrugg’s bedside and before the big guy can even twitch I manifest myself in devil form.

“Oh, shit,” says Shrugg.

“Long time no see, Enkidu,” say I.

“You know this guy?” Dusana asks.

“You betcha.” My smile obviously revolts Shrugg (as it would most humans), “He’s my hero.”

Shrugg/Enkidu pulls himself up to a sitting position. “What do you want this time? I forget your name.”

“I go by Loki, now. We’re after Teddy Teawater.”

“You mean Alecto?” I am surprised that he knows her true name. “Good luck. I’m after her, too. You know what she’s doing?”

“Killing off all American combat veterans one by one?”

Enkidu nods. “I tried to talk her out of it but you know Alecto.”

“Actually I don’t but I need to get in touch with her. I know she’s in San Francisco and that she called you not long ago and my mind scan of you shows that you’re concealing something.”

“Good thing you can’t delve below the surface, devil. But even if I told you what I know there isn’t a damn thing you can do to stop her and she might just put a stop to you if you know what I mean.”

I wish Lucifer had not given me the gift of fear for I feel an unpleasant bolt of it shoot through me.

“Maybe an even greater hero than you could persuade her.”


“Your old pal, Gilgamesh.”

“You’ve seen Gil?”

“Couple of days ago.”

Enkidu shakes his enormous head. “I’ve been meaning to look him up. Haven’t seen him since we did the Apollonius of Tyana gig, coupla thousand years ago.”

This is novel poop to me. “Gil was Apollonius? Who were you?”

“Damis, of course.”

This changes everything, of course. I hurl a silent commination in Gil’s direction.

“I think it’s time the two of you got together again.”

With that, Dusana and I each grabbed an Enkidu shoulder and teleported to Gil’s home in Akron. Although not happy to see me again, he joyfully hugs Enkidu (or rather Enkidu’s right leg). The two heroes trade jibes in Sumerian as Dusana and I patiently look on.

“OK guys,” I finally say, “enough of old ziggurat week. I’ve got a proposition for you. In fact, a couple of them.”

“We’re listening,” says Gil, his arm draped around Enkidu’s mungo shoulder.

“First, I need you to find Alecto and persuade her to give up this crazy mission of vengeance. . .”

“And what makes you think she’ll listen to us?” asks Gil.

“She’s a sucker for heroes. Enkidu alone couldn’t dissuade her but I bet the two of you can.”

“And the second proposition?”

“I want you to revive the Apollonius and Damis act. Remember I need a new Messiah.”

“Look, we tried that and it failed,” says Gil. “I was supposed to be the pagan Jesus. He and I made a deal on that.”

“You knew Jesus?” I am surprised.

“Yeah, we both studied under Philo in Alexandria at the same time. Guy used to crack me up. Anyway, he was supposed to preach to the Jews and I to the pagans but then he got murdered and his whole thing evolved into offal under Paul and those cretinous Christians. In the meantime, I wowed the pagans with miracles and whatnot but ended up with zero followers. Theurgy just doesn’t work for the masses.”

“Not that version of it, anyway,” I agree. “But suppose we democratize it.”

Gil and Enkidu begin to look interested and I outline my plan to them.

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