Ella waited in her office with the door open in the old, noble house in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village that had been given to the Infernals as headquarters. Her office looked like her old office at the university, papers everywhere, coffee rings all over her desk, a collectible of Captain America holding his hand up, barring the way.
“Come in, Reed Daniels. Sit right there.” Daniels was researching and practicing with his power daily, growing more creative, and deadly. His bargain with Hell had given his body the power to create and extrude any weapon he had the scientific knowledge to imagine. He was an apostate Catholic priest with a lifelong passion for guns.
“What can I do for you, Ella?”
“What do you want? Who are you?”
Reed smiled, bemused, opening his mouth to attempt an answer. Zealot, Ella Marrow, put up her hand to halt him trying. She smiled sympathetically.
“Let me start. It’s only fair since I ask you such personal and philosophical questions. I want to rid the world of capitalism and anything like it that grows in its place, long as it takes, until something better takes firm root. I am a burner of dead society and, if I succeed, a gardener of a living one.” She extended her hands, palms open and up. “That’s me.”
“Okay, thank you for the colourful examples. I want to make the world a more just place—”
“Come off it, Blood Bath. You’re talking to a fellow badass chosen by Hell. None of us want a better world or even more just without qualification.”
He regarded the younger woman intensely. “All right, I want to kill so often that people’s fear becomes exhaustion and dread. Yet they still flee. A kind of sick acceptance of their role in being visited by a monster, over and over. I am that monster.” Daniels looked her in the eye as he said the last word. She didn’t blink.
Daniels was honest but mistaken. He was no monster. He wanted more than to kill or prey. His deepest desire was still to preach the word of God. But his anger had warped that desire. Now he wanted to terrify, to preach with fear and blood. That agenda made him a man that could be a tool, a powerful weapon, in his case. He could be used.
“Reed, your passion is going to help us change the world in the ways you bargained for. But you need to wait for my orders before you act. The Infernals is a very carefully conducted public relations campaign, the goals of which depend upon measured and carefully directed violence. Precise at times. Let me do the measuring. Above all, wait for and be directed by my kill orders. Is that understood?”
“Understood. I didn’t like my last boss at first either,” Daniels said. “But I respected him from the start.”
“Reed, I know you have priorities. Your enemies in the faith, the corrupt, the exploiters. We’re going to make them our priority, too, with you front and centre. A promise.”
“Thank you, Zealot.”
“In return, I expect you to support the dreams of your peers in this infernal alliance. Give and take. We look after each other. Share each other’s victories and joys. They become all of our victories in time.”
“You’re talking about a family,” Daniels said, smiling warmly.
“There’s a place in that family for you, Reed—a special place because of your wisdom, for lack of a more poetic word. And because you want to make something. I feel it. You aren’t only about burning the world down.”
Daniels averted his eyes from hers. He excused himself. Gladiator thought Daniels was about to cry. He had built some safe place for himself as a destroyer, probably for his god. Offering him a glimpse of another part of his heart had threatened that sealed safe new self he had made. Fool that she was. She had destabilized her most stable ally.
How could she turn this into a win? She would give him time, then talk with him again. Ask him if his answers to her two questions had changed.
Thank you for reading!