Benioth, the Demon of Laziness, is behind on his memos and has just found out he needs to corrupt a soul by midnight to make quota. Luckily the Demon of Sodomy doesn't mind sharing the fun, and Benioth runs into Andy, who's still innocent but eager to have someone fix that for him. It sounds like a perfect situation, but somehow things never go right for poor Benioth.
An ear-shattering honk filled the already cacophonous void of the infernal Pit, signaling a change of shift. The suffering souls still capable of moaning in dread did so, knowing that their tormentors would soon be replaced by a fresh group eager to get back to the fun of skewering, bashing, singeing and dismembering the inmates. For the demon Benioth, it was a signal that he could slink back to his office and his game of Minesweeper without having anyone over his head in the spitting order wonder why he wasn't out doing his duty with proper enthusiasm.
Truth to tell, Benioth just wasn't all that enthusiastic. It really wasn't his fault -- he hadn't asked to be saddled with repping Laziness, after all. He'd been a little late to the re-org meeting (the one called after the boss had finally sucked it up and dealt with the fact that he was never going to make it back to Heaven and that ruling Hell wasn't so bad if you looked at it from the right angle) and all the good jobs had already been assigned. Lord Belial had smirked and declared Benioth to be Laziness and that was that.
He hadn't always been lazy, no matter what anyone else said, but after being forced to represent a characteristic for a few millennia, it tended to soak in.
Besides, Kalubel thought scorching his initial into squealing souls was the greatest thing ever, and was more than happy to take Benioth's shift right after his own. Kalubel, who repped Firebugs, loved his work and so Benioth was really doing him a favor by graciously ceding his own shift in the bolges. Win-win and all that.
Which sounded as logical as it always had, for the five and a half centuries (give or take) he'd had the arrangement with Kalubel going, until he slipped into his office and found Lord Belial kicked back in the only chair in the room. It was a comfy chair, padded and adjustable, but Belial didn't look happy to be sitting in it.
"So. Have a good shift, did you?" Belial asked, in a way which made it obvious he knew the answer and was just waiting for Benioth to put the conversational noose around his own neck and tighten it.
"Umm," said Benioth.
"Spent your free time well, I'm sure."
Lord Belial slammed a huge, solid hand down on Benioth's desk, making various pens and pencils and paper clips jump. Benioth jumped too.
"It's not as though I give a festering shit who prods the sinners," his boss snarled, "so long as it gets done. What I do care about is when someone on my staff hasn't made quota in so long that it's come to His Highness' notice."
It hadn't been that long since Benioth had corrupted a soul, had it? He scanned frantically through his memory and recalled being part of a group project not too far back -- political corruption and fear mongering, mass condemnation, bearing false witness, all signs of compassion for one's fellow being driven out by terror. Best of all, most of the humans caught up in it had known they were doing wrong, but had gone on with it anyway because "everyone else" had been doing the same. They'd rounded up enough souls for the Pit that Intake had been backed up for years, with that senator who'd started it all leading the way. The credit had been divided among team members, but there'd been so many souls brought down -- that must've been enough to keep Benioth up to quota for at least another century.
"Umm," he said again, "I had a team project not too long ago--"
"That wrapped fifty-six years ago." Lord Belial interrupted him with a quick wave of one hand. "Your share of credit for the take was four-point-six souls."
Benioth's first thought was, That long? But then he did some quick mental arithmetic and beamed. "Well, there you go," Benioth said. He felt a light wave of relief run through him and an immediate need to lean against the wall before his legs gave out completely. "His Highness requires us each to harvest four souls per century, so--"
"His Highness requires a minimum of one soul per decade." Lord Belial interrupted him again, this time glaring at Benioth with tiny flames crackling around his eyes. "A paltry contribution even after the quota increase, which you would have known about if you ever bothered to read your memoranda." He grabbed a handful of papers off the top of Benioth's dust-furred in-basket -- a relic of the time before the computer had been thumped down onto his desk -- and flung them into the air, where papers and dust alike fluttered sadly toward the floor. "I assume your e-mail is similarly neglected, which means you're unaware that you have no grace period."
No grace period. No, of course not. His Highness hadn't ever been big on grace, not since the Fall. Benioth swallowed hard.
"Midnight, Benioth. Quota. One soul. And if I were you, after I brought in that one I'd start immediately working on the next. I have no intention of having this same discussion with you ten years from now."
"No, my lord!" Benioth fell to his knees and groveled while his boss strode out of the office, leaving blackened, hissing footprints burned into the putty colored carpet.
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