I wrote this story last year for Dave Robison’s birthweek (yes his birthday is so epic a single day can’t contain it). I plan on doing another one this year. Sooooon.
Dave Robison sipped at his scotch. It had been a tough month, but this was his birthday week and he looked forward to it like he did little else on his schedule. Of course, just then his cell phone chose to vibrate in a special three short and one long code that he had come to both dread and enjoy.
He walked to his library and flipped the head back on the bust of Tee Morris. The red switch pulsed. When he pressed it the holographic projector flickered to life.
In seconds the ghostly image of August Grappin floated in the air. “Agent Robison, I’m afraid I have to activate you. PODKAST is needed and you’re the only agent in the region that’s available.” The Paranormal Order of Daring Knights Against Supernatural Terrorism had been the only shield between the world and the powers that sought to enslave or destroy it for centuries.
Dave bowed his head. This was going to get in the way of his birthday week, but they wouldn’t have called him unless… “It’s Dr. Morse, isn’t it?”
Commander Grappin nodded. “I’m afraid so. He’s come up with another dastardly plan. I’m sending you the details. It will require a trip to Canada. There you’ll link up with Agent Skinner and his crew. Together I hope you can stop him.”
Dave reached into the bottom desk drawer. The silver dagger, the badge of a knight’s office, sat there in its shoulder harness. He slid it on over his Hawaiian shirt, careful not to wrinkle it. He grabbed his white fedora and settled it on his head. “I’ll head north as soon as I can. Robison out.” He flipped off the switch and Gus disappeared.
Now came the hard part. “Terry! I’ve got to miss dinner tonight.” It wouldn’t be the first time, but duty called.
The flight to Canada was uneventful. Scott Pond was the pilot this go-round. He was every bit as good a flyboy as he was an artist. Having a private plane meant that PODKAST agents could carry things that would raise an eyebrow with the TSA. Holy water, the dagger of their office, the occasional assault rifle or wizard’s staff; these were but a few of the things he’d seen on trips like these.
All he carried with him other than a change of clothes and his smartphone, was the dagger under his left arm. He was past the days of going into heavy combat. He could still scrap with the best of them, but his knowledge of esoterica, his abilities as an actor, and quick thinking had always taken him a lot further than brawn ever would. The exception to that had been the werewolf lair that he and Nathan Lowell had cleared out in Laos, but that had been twenty years ago.
He stepped off of the stairs and onto the tarmac. It was full dark and there was no one around. This airport was little more than a dead end road in the middle of the Canadian wilderness. He looked around for his contact. He hadn’t waited long when headlights flared to life at the edge of the woods. A modest sized SUV pulled up and disgorged a young lady with brightly dyed hair.
Dave echoed the smile. “Good to see you Opopanax.” The exchanged a warm handshake and hug.
“Sorry we kept you waiting a bit. We were on the line with the Mob. There’s something wicked going on up north. It’s not related to this case but they’re keeping an eye on it.” The Mob served PODKAST, and primarily just the Skinner crew’s arm of it, the same way the Baker Street Irregulars did Sherlock Holmes.
“No problem. It feels good to stretch my legs. I got some of the details from Grappin. Apparently Dr. Morse is up to his old tricks?”
She nodded. “Get in and we’ll talk about it.” She got in the back and Dave joined Jrd up front.
The long haired Canadian smiled at Dave. “Good to see you again, my friend.”
They shook hands. “Good to see you up and walking around. I hear you took a bad fall on your last case.”
“Just a little poltergeist problem. We got it sorted out. It was only a sprain, really. This one’s going to be a bit trickier. Morse is working with the Fiendmaster.”
“Cooley? Damn. I thought we’d banished him for good.”
JRD shrugged. “He’s a powerful sorcerer. Looks like they’re planning on opening a hell gate.”
“Let’s get moving then.”
The three PODKAST agents continued chatting as they drove on into the dark Canadian wilderness. Dave stroked his chin. “I don’t know why they would try to open another hell gate after what happened last time.”
JRD smiled. “Well Dr. Morse is an evil genius, but the emphasis is on the first part of that title. This time he’s got Cooley in his corner.”
Opoponax tapped at her tablet’s screen. “According to our records Cooley has been playing both sides of the fence for the last ten years. He helped out on a couple of missions. If he’s helping Morse then it’s likely something to do with his service to Garraaga.”
Dave shook his head. “I can’t understand why these types always serve the most destructive forces the world has ever seen. It never ends well for them.”
“It’s a special kind of madness. They think that they’re special and will be rewarded for their service. We see it all the time with the Kar’wick cultists.”
“Do we know where they’ve set up shop?”
Opoponax brought up a map and threw it from her tablet to the SUV’s head’s up display. “Those are the coordinates JMay was able to get from her mana scans. It shows a definite spike in line with what we’d expect from a hell gate.”
Dave looked at the bottom right hand corner of the display. “That’s about ten kilometers from here? So we’re diving right in.”
JRD poked a thumb at the back of the SUV. “We’ve got all the tools we should need to set up an interdiction field. That should give you time to go in and work your magic.”
“Not magic.” Dave closed his eyes and focused. His features began to shift. Bones popped and creaked as he reformed the structure of his skull. His studies had given him a supernatural amount of control over his body. It was more a psychic power than anything. HE couldn’t explain that though as his jaw began shifting. He’d been thinking about who would have the best cred among the forces in play. There was only one person that was twisted enough to fall in step with the likes of Cooley and Morse.
When he opened his eyes and looked into the makeup mirror behind the sun visor Jake Bible’s dead eyes stared back at him.
Dave Robison, now wearing the appearance of zombie master Jake Bible, strode purposefully towards the group surrounding a summoning circle. “Just what the hell is going on here?”
The massive man standing next to Cooley, the Fiendmaster’s bodyguard Wolf, held out a hand. “No one called you Bible. Now go crawl back into your hole.”
Dave stopped and put his hands on his hips. “I need to be called when these two are getting up to something? Bullshit.”
“Stand down, Wolf.” Cooley barked at his man. “Wolf does raise a good point, though. No one I know of called you, but you’re here. Why? Or better yet, how?”
Dave as Bible laughed. “I have my sources. You can’t light a fart without my knowing about it. I’m not here to get in your damn way. I just need to know what you plan on doing with this Hell Gate once you open it.”
Dr. Morse smiled, all too eager to share. “Why we’ll plunge this part of the continent into eternal darkness of course. That’s only the beginning, but that’s all you need to understand.”
“What I understand is that this shit is going to bring down some heat on us. Have you thought of that?”
A thin, sharp faced man ran up. Dave believed that his name was Billy something. “We have a problem. Something has cut off our flow of energy. If we don’t restore it then it’s possible that the gate will open but without protection.”
Dr. Morse slapped the man. “How dare you interrupt your superiors? Or fail to mention that it could just result in the gate not opening.”
Cooley folded his arms. “Either way it’s interesting that it happened just as Bible showed up.” The Fiendmaster’s eyes glowed red.
Dave flipped Cooley the bird. “I’m not interested in your accusations. Blame me all you want, but if I could find you then PODKAST surely could.”
Cooley flipped a hand at Dave. A lance of black energy flickered out from it. The bolt struck the agent and washed off of his body like polluted rain.
“Was that supposed to do something?” Dave sneered. It had actually hurt quite a bit and took every bit of his control not to show it. The dagger of office provided some protections against the dark arts.
“We’ve no time to start fighting amongst ourselves.” Morse pointed to the line of trees. “Bible, why don’t you and Cooley go have a look around. I’ll keep everything stable until then.”
Cooley frowned. “I’m doing it because it’s a good idea, not because I take orders from you.”
Dr. Morse beamed. “Of course not, my man. Now move along.”
Cooley clenched and unclenched his fists. “Come on Bible, let’s go before I do something he’ll regret.” He led the way.
Once they broke through the tree line and were free of any oversight, Dave drew his dagger.
“You’d best put that knife away.” Cooley’s drawl was a bit exaggerated. Dave thought it was probably for effect.
He lowered the dagger.
“I did say put it away.” Cooley turned. “Your disguise is very good. It’s not a spell. I would have seen that right away.” A nimbus of dark energy pulsed around his hands. “Before I kill you why don’t you tell me who you are?”
Dave frowned. He’d been caught before and had always been able to bluff his way out. “How did you know?”
Cooley smiled. It was a hideous thing. “Bible and I go back to ancient Mesopotamia. You’d have to be beyond damn good to fool me. I didn’t get to be this old by being stupid. Now are you going to tell me, or do I kill you and get your corpse to tell me?”
“Cooley, catch.” JRD’s voice called out from the trees.
The turning was instinctual. The gun barked three times. Cooley’s body jerked, but didn’t fall.
A massive animal with bizarrely covered fur burst from underground and dragged Cooley back down. All that was left in the wake of the lightning fast attack was a pile of disturbed soil.
JRD burst from the tree line. “We won’t have much time. The rounds I used on Cooley won’t kill him, but he’ll be out of commission for a few minutes.”
Dave nodded. “I got a good look at the containment spells they were using. They’ll hold and will make the gate both huge and stable. Is the interdiction field still up?”
The two men broke into a jog back towards the site of the future hell gate. “It is, but I can’t promise how long it will hold.”
“You break right and I’ll go left. Wait for me before you do anything. I’ll get their attention and you can surprise them. We need to take Morse down once and for all.”
JRD held his hand up palm out, index finger pointed up and the rest curled in. With that, he turned and ran into the woods.
Dave returned the salute and made his way around the perimeter. He was glad they hadn’t just run out into the clearing. When he got to the spot he intended to emerge from he was horrified. The shimmer in midair indicated that the gate was opening. The interdiction field either wasn’t strong enough or they’d found a way around it. It would be fully opened in seconds.
This was not going to be easy. He still hurt from the energy blast that Cooley dealt him earlier. He would need to change form yet again and doing so would further deplete his energy. There was no way around it. He closed his eyes and willed his body to change. It took longer than he was comfortable with, but when he opened his eyes he felt Cooley’s silver pony tail brush his neck. His body hurt and his soul ached but if he didn’t close that portal there would be more to worry about.
He ran into the clearing. “Bible has escaped with my staff and cloak. He and his lackeys have what they need to close the gate. Everyone needs to fan out and find them.” He was satisfied to see Morse’s servants scramble to obey.
Dr. Morse stood near the circle, his arms outstretched and his voice raised in chanting.
If Dave could distract him then this potential nightmare could end. He approached the sorcerer cautiously. The rip in time and space stretched and grew more solid. If such a thing could be said to be solid in any way.
“Come help me, Cooley.” The doctor’s bravado was gone and Dave could hear the strain in his voice.
Dave took several steps forward, drawing his dagger of office. The silver blade glinted in the eldritch light of the gate. Just as he was about to strike he saw a shimmer in the air. Dr. Morse had protected himself with some sort of ward. A circle made up of withered grass was barely discernible on the ground and Morse was dead center. If he crossed it to attack the man it could do any number of painful things to him.
He flipped the blade in his hand and threw it hard and fast. A half turn through the air brought the hilt end around. The weighted handle hit Dr. Morse at the base of his skull with a dull thud.
Morse fell, cursing and clutching at his head. One of his hands broke the protective circle.
Dave rushed forward and dropped his weight on the small of Morse’s back.
Air exploded from Morse’s lungs. There would be no incantations.
Dave retrieved his dagger from the grass and held its sharp point to the man’s seventh vertebrae. “Stay still, if you want to live.” He looked up to see if his support had shown up.
JRD was just finishing off the second of a pair of acolytes, delivering a powerful blow to the side of his head with a tactical tomahawk.
“Kill me or not, my work is done. See, the first of the hoard comes through the gate. You stopped me early, but my work was not in vain.”
Dave looked up and saw that Dr. Morse was right. A nightmarish form that looked like an ape with a scaled hide and tentacles for arms stepped through the gate. It towered above the prone pair.
The tentacled ape bellowed in a language somewhat recognizable as English. “Who has broken the seal between worlds?”
“Answer the thing.” Dr. Morse’s words were somewhat muffled by being face down in the grass.
Dave thought for a split second. If Morse wasn’t answering and was asking him to, then answering might not be in his best interest. “Uh-uh.”
“My legions will crack this world in half, starting with the one that brought us here.”
Dave whispered in Morse’s ear. “Aren’t you generally supposed to have protection from the things you summon?”
Morse nodded. “The interdiction field hampered those efforts and Cooley left. He would have erected the protections when he came back.” The man sounded pitiful.
Dave couldn’t blame him. If he had a knife to his cervical vertebrae and cowered at the feet of a demon he might be a little distressed too. “So what do we do here? We need to close the gate and send this think packing.”
Just then, the ground beneath the creature ripped open, practically exploding. Cooley’s body was visible in the disturbed earth. He clawed his way out of the pile of sod.
The ape demon sniffed. “You. I know you.”
Cooley looked up. “Yeah I summoned you about a hundred and thirty years ago. You did some work for me.”
“It was you that summoned me?”
Cooley nodded. “Damn str-” He stopped, perhaps realizing that the admission was problematic.
The creature had heard enough. One of its tentacles lashed out and encircled Cooley’s neck. His face quickly purpled. A sound like a tree branch snapping was followed by a wet tearing sound. Blood fountained from Cooley’s neck and his head went sailing backwards through the gate.
“Some creature’s gonna be using that for a pen holder by quitting time.”
Dave looked over at JRD who had appeared with little noise beside him. “I wouldn’t doubt it.” He pointed to the gate. “I see a few more things headed this way. We need to get that gate closed.”
JRD flipped his tomahawk, letting it do a three sixty, the haft smacking into his open palm. “Maybe we kill the one who opened it. The one that’s left that is.”
“No. No, that won’t be necessary or efficacious. If you want to close the gate all you have to do is break Cooley’s staff.”
The sorcerer’s staff was nowhere to be seen. JRD whistled between his teeth. “Opop, do you have the stick?”
The young lady, colorful hair now matted with earth, poked her head out from the hole Cooley had been expelled from. “No whistling when you want me to come.” She reached down and produced the long stick. “This it?”
“Bow humans, or be the next to water the soil with your blood.”
Demons were always so melodramatic. Dave held out his hand.
Opop tossed the staff through the air and Dave caught it. He kicked Morse lightly in the ribs. “Something bad happens to us because I do this, it happens to you too.”
“There will be a rapid release of energy and the subsequent explosion will slam the gate shut. At the most it will knock us around a bit.”
Dave looked at the giant demon. “Oh, shut the hell up.” He swung the staff, bringing all of his muscle to bear on the task. The mission they’d had where he needed to pass as a minor league hitter had served him well. The staff connected with the demon’s shoulder. There was a crack like an iceberg calving and an explosion as brilliant as it was loud.
Dave felt himself blown backwards through the air and the bright flash was replaced by inky blackness. When he came to, he noted that the demon was gone, as was the hole in the air. A little more distressing was the fact that Morse was missing as well.
JRD sat with his back to a tree, rubbing his forehead.
“So, it worked?” Dave sat up slowly.
JRD looked over at him. “Near as I can tell. Opop says that the explosion forced the gate to close and sucked the demon back where he came from. It helped that what you did knocked him halfway through the gate.”
“She wasn’t caught in the explosion?”
JRD chuckled. “She’s got reflexes like a big cat. She was down in her burrow before you cracked the staff. She also says that Morse was protected by some kind of shield. He grabbed what was left of Cooley and disappeared. After that she went to mop up the last of the cultists who stuck around.”
Dave shook his head. “Damn. Looks like we haven’t seen the last of him or of Cooley.”
“Having your head ripped off isn’t enough to have done the trick?”
“Cooley’s come back from worse.” Dave got to his feet and walked over to JRD. “Shall we limp home?” He stuck out his hand.
JRD took it and stood. “I think I have a bottle of something to help us nurse our wounds back at the house.” The two men limped back to the SUV where Opoponax waited, engine idling.