Monday, August 20, 2012

"Hey Lepidus, thanks for trying to talk Ahriman down when he came to take me away. That really meant a lot to me."

"Don't worry about it. If they killed you, I'd be stuck here all alone with these crazy people!"

"Haha, yeah...."

"Besides, you're the best friend I've got here. I can't stand by and let Ahriman just push you around like that."

"Yeah, of course. Because that's what friends do, right?"

Yeah. Because he and I are great friends. Totally awesome friends. Nothing but wonderful, awesome, just friends.

Damn it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I don’t believe it.

It actually worked out.

Just this morning, a truck stopped by our apartment. The first thing the men inside dropped off was a document containing a list of changes to the way finances were being run. Most of it deals with modifying how much gets distributed to each section, though there is a new feature: a board has been established to put the crazier requests for funding under review. I get a proxy asking for a few million dollars so he can pull a Morningstar and build his own tank, I just send it to the new office and they decide whether or not the proxy deserves that cash. I like it that way. It means I don’t have to be the one who deals with the problem.

But more importantly, the truck had food. Lots of food. It wasn’t anything fancy: canned stuff, TV dinners, etc. But it’s a hell of a lot better than having to ration things.

To celebrate, I called everyone to the kitchen and we had a little feast. Lepidus and I cooked the meal, and the Jackson brothers set up the table. It was the closest we’ve come to having a regular breakfast together as regular roommates. We didn’t quite manage regular; after getting everyone sat down and the food handed out, Sky asked where all this new food had come from. The instant I mentioned Truth’s name, she grabbed her plate and threw it out the window (But that’s okay because we now have money to pay for a new one!) Then she grabbed a cup ramen out of the pantry, and ate that instead. But at least that’s been the only outburst today.

All in all, things for once look a little bit less horrible.

Friday, August 17, 2012


A long time passed before I heard from Ahriman again. The delay only made my fear worse. I wasn’t helped by the fact that Sky had decided to go into her Saying Creepy Rhymes phase again, and she always was looking at me with a smile whenever she said them.

When he did finally show up at our door, it was almost a relief. Almost. The smug smile on his face hinted at the dozens of horrible tortures he imagined I would be put through.

Lepidus tried to play the peacemaker again, telling Ahriman that none of this was necessary, I had learned my lesson, I was too valuable to the organization for them to get rid of me…. Ahriman would hear none of it. He told the Jackson brothers to take Lepidus away “so that he wouldn’t try anything heroic.” Given the way he glared at Ahriman as he was dragged away, I honestly think he might have had he been given the chance.

I expect Ahriman wanted to spend more time gloating at me, but Sky entered the room, and he was quick to leave with me. I think he’s still a bit frightened of her because of the knife incident.

The car ride, however, gave him plenty of time to gloat. We were heading to a different part of the city, to the more upper crust, fashionable areas. Eventually he shut up long enough for me to get in a word, and I asked where we were going.

“To see our Oracle.”

Wait, Oracle? “You mean an Oracle? The people who the Boss actually talks to? Like the guy on Messenger’s blog?”

Justice’s blog. Do not disrespect the new name he has taken. And yes, someone like that. Not the same person, of course. You will be answering to our region’s Oracle.”

Oh fucking fuckity fuck fuck. That was the point I realized how completely in over my head I’d gotten. All I’d done was point out a discrepancy between how much money we got and how much we spent on our livelihoods! Couldn’t they just dock my pay or something? They didn’t have to take me to the closest link any of us had to the Boss!

I kept quiet for the rest of the ride. I didn’t want to get into any more trouble than I was already in.

We parked in front of a skyscraper further in town. Ahriman tossed the keys to a valet standing in front of the building, and we walked inside.

The skyscraper looked like it was being used by some business company. One with some very old fashioned ideas about employee dress code: business suits everywhere. More than once I nearly jumped when I saw someone who looked like the Boss.

Ahriman took me to an elevator and hit the button for the top floor. When the door opened… I gasped. I’d never seen such luxury before. The room looked like its designer had been told to make the most decorated and gaudily rich place he could think of. The floor tiles looked like ivory or marble, as did the walls, with gold gilt patterns acting as highlights. Also on the walls were several paintings, all of which looked like they were worth more money than I’d ever see in my entire life. Most prominent amongst them was a painting which took up most of the wall opposite the elevator. It depicted an immense tree, with branches reaching above the clouds and roots stretching into the depths of the earth. The golden plate at the bottom labeled the painting as “Yggdrasil.” In front of the painting was a solid black wooden desk, at which sat an old man in a suit.

He looked like someone who would have appeared on the cover of Fortune 500. Given the surroundings, he might really have been on the cover before. Silver-grey hair, pale blue eyes, and wrinkles on his face that hinted at a lifetime of hard work.

I only got a quick glimpse at him before two muscular men (who were also wearing suits. I’m sensing a pattern.) stepped out from the side and began patting Ahriman and I down. It was a quick, professional search; only a brief few moments later, the man who’d been searching me finished and returned to his position flanking the elevator door. Ahriman’s search took slightly longer; the guard found three knives concealed on him before finishing.

Ahriman was snarling at the guard the entire search. When it was over, he stepped forward and spoke to the man behind the desk. “My lord Truth, is this really necessary? Surely you know that I would never dream of harming-”

“Your loyalty to Father has never been in question, Ahriman.” The man coldly cut Ahriman off. “But that alone does not grant you special privilege. We are all equal under He That Is.”

I’ve never seen Ahriman at such a loss for words before. He looked… well, he looked exactly like I imagine I look whenever I say something wrong in front of Ahriman. His eyes darted around as he looked for inspiration on how to pull himself out of the hole his mouth had gotten him into, until they locked on me. He grabbed me by the arm, and pulled me forward.

“You are in the presence of the Oracle, Truth.” He said to me. Truth? That was a much cornier name than I had expected. In any other circumstances, I might have laughed at it. “He shall pass judgment upon you.”

Truth looked me straight in the eyes, and said to me, “Ahriman tells me that you have made several statements criticizing our current distribution of resources. Do you deny this accusation?”

Well. This was it. I was going to be sacrificed to the Boss and my body would be found hanging from a tree next week. I decided I should at least go out trying to make a stand. “No, sir. I don’t deny it.” And then I explained our financial situation.

It took a while, but Truth didn’t interrupt once. Ahriman tried to, but Truth raised a hand to silence him. When I finished, Truth turned his stare to Ahriman and said, “Is what she says true? Are you supporting our brothers and sisters on starvation rations?”

“Of course not, my lord! They are being adequately supplied for their purposes!”

“Really? Then you will have no complaint with me reviewing your latest financial records?”

For the second time in my life, I saw Ahriman speechless.

“You did bring the financial records, didn’t you?”

Ahriman just managed to stutter out a “No my lord.”

“Well stop standing here then. Go and get them.”

He fled out of that room, back into the elevator. I was in shock. What the hell had just happened?

I wasn’t given much chance to recover from my shock either. With Ahriman out of the room, Truth looked back at me. This time, he smiled, and when he did it looked like his entire persona changed, from a cold CEO to a kindly grandfather. “You must excuse Ahriman. He means well, but his eagerness is often misplaced. It is something I see often. Far too many of our brothers and sisters look at Father and only see a monster. They fail to understand the beauty and purpose behind the killing, and thus focus only on the killing.”

With my brain still at a loss for what was going on, I stupidly said the first thing that popped into my head. “To be honest sir, I thought the killing was what we were all about.”

Thankfully, his response to that was laughter. “And then you go and illustrate my point perfectly. So many think of Father as nothing more than a monster, it makes sense that even members of our community would begin to view him similarly.”

I wanted to ask, “Isn’t he?” but felt that might be pushing my luck a bit too far. So instead I asked, “Does the Boss really talk to you?”

“’Talk’ may not be the best description. He communicates with me, but it is not through language. I understand what He intends for me to do, but beyond that I doubt I have the vocabulary needed to completely explain how He does it.” That wasn’t much of an answer, but the fact that he was even answering questions was a surprise. “Though now that you’ve asked me such a personal question, may I ask you one?”

I didn’t feel I had much of a choice, so I nodded.

“Diana. It’s not your birth name; I checked. The Roman goddess of the hunt. An interesting choice for someone in your position. For a tracker, it would make sense, but a financial bureaucrat?”

Guess you guys are going to be getting an explanation for that name as well. “It wasn’t my first choice, sir. Sky started calling me it one day, and it stuck.”

There was a flicker of… something on Truth’s face. The emotion passed too quickly for me to identify it. “Ah yes, Sky. You’re housed with her, aren’t you?”

Before I could answer, the elevator door opened and Ahriman stepped out. He was trying to appear calm, but it was clear from the sweat and the state of his clothes that he’d been running. “I just had the reports faxed here, sir.” He said as he handed Truth several papers.

Truth’s face switch back to the CEO one, and he quickly looked through the papers with an experienced eye. At one point, he paused and said, “I see we spent quite a large amount of money acquiring fragmentation grenades through black market channels in the US military. For what purpose, Ahriman?”

“Combating groups of runners, or driving them out of fortified positions, my lord.”

“I see. Diana, in your experience, how often do our comrades find themselves needing to do either of those things?”

He was asking me questions now? Ahriman glared at me with a “Answer that and you will suffer” look, but given how much higher Truth is on the pecking order, I assumed it to be an empty threat. “Almost never, sir.”

“Then what were these grenades used for in actuality?”

“I believe some proxies tried playing baseball with them, sir. Except they didn’t work very good as balls, so they took them to a junkyard and used them all blowing up whatever they could find.”

“Would you call that a proper use of our financial resources, Ahriman?”

“No my lord.”

“No indeed. I sympathize with your intent, Ahriman. But you are failing to match your intent with the reality. I’ll need to have some of my own men look over the numbers. They’ll give you the guidelines for how I want our funds to be proportioned from now on.”

“But my lord-”

“Your weapons will be returned to you as you leave.” There was a note of finality in that statement that rejected any chance of reply. Dejectedly, Ahriman walked out, with me following. Before the elevator door closed, Truth spoke to me again, once more with that kindly smile. “I thank you for what you did today, Diana. Through us, Father is building a new world. And each of us has a part to play in its creation. Even your work, mundane as it may seem, is vital to the foundation.” Then the doors closed, and the elevator started going down. And it probably was just because the way he said it was like a parent congratulating a child, but for the first time I actually felt a tiny bit of pride in the stupid work I’m always doing.

That’s how my “judgment” went. Now to sit here with my fingers crossed, praying this doesn’t backfire horribly. It’d be nice for it all to work out, but I’ve grown used to expecting the worse these days.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I fucked up

I don’t know how I did it, but I somehow managed to get enough money out of this town to meet the quota Ahriman wanted. It’s no wonder they’re having a hard time paying; with all the cash we’re wringing out of them, I don’t know how the town manages to maintain anything resembling a sustainable economy.

About all that money we’re getting out of the town. It’s a much larger amount than I had imagined. Too much, actually. I pulled up several other financial records after I got back to the apartment, and after adding everything up, there’s no reason most of us should be living on starvation rations. Our regional branch brings in enough income that all we’d need to do is cut back on some of the dumber expenses (we do not need to buy entire crates worth of bullets every month when most of the people working for us are incapable of shooting a large red target only a few feet away from them, must less a moving person,) and we could put all our local proxies on an upper middle class lifestyle.

After putting so much energy into just making sure we’d all get enough to survive, learning that did not make me happy. And because of that, I was dumb enough to raise the point to Ahriman when he next stopped by.

He flew into a rage. How dare I presume to know what we should do with our money. Our job is to perform Father’s will, not laze around in comfort. We should feel honored that Father has been generous enough to take the material comforts of our old lives away, so that we may live these more perfect lives of duty. I’d have found the rant laughable if I wasn’t terrified that he was going to kill me.

I honestly think he really may have, if Lepidus hadn’t intervened. He managed to talk Ahriman down from killing me where I stood. Except as he was leaving, Ahriman said, “Don’t think you’re just going to get away with your blasphemy this time, girl! I will be informing my superiors of your repeated insolence, and they will deliver your righteous punishment!”

Ohfuck. I knew Ahriman had people over him, but… I’ve never had to deal with them. I’d always hoped I never would need to. If someone like Ahriman is the sort who rise up in the ranks, I don’t want to imagine what those even closer to the top are like. I almost think it may have been safer to let Ahriman kill me. At least I wouldn’t have to deal with the dread I’m feeling for whatever punishment is in store for me.