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Chapter #9

Declan 1.1 (Two Devils)

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Before I could argue with her about my hot tub destiny, the quantum
doof himself walked right up to the table. His shiny black hair was all greased
back, and he was wearing a cheap suit that didn’t fit him right. Overall, he
looked like a used roloball salesman.
“Declan, could you pull the chair out for me?” he asked, his voice drifting
out from Tawana’s comband speakers.
“Hey! How’d you do that?” she exclaimed.
“No, pull it out yourself,” I told him, knowing full well that it was one of
his hologram projections.
In a tone that shamed me a little, Tawana scolded, “Declan, don’t be
rude. Here, I’ll pull out the chair for you.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
Tawana said, “You’re welcome, sir.”
Then QD looked at me with his hologram eyes, and I wondered which
camera he was really seeing me through. He was pretty clever earlier, when he
led me into the building to a predetermined spot, near a pillar with a hidden
speaker, before slipping into the elevator. I was hoping I’d never have to see
this guy again.
“So to what do we owe the pleasure of the magnificent, juggling info-
slash-con droid?” I asked.

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“Now, Declan. I would never.” QD gasped.
“But I’ve seen you juggle already,” I replied. Then I asked, “Are you here
to eat? The salmon’s delish.”
QD was less than amused. He said, “Are you trying to make a joke,
Declan? Because it’s not funny.” Then he continued, “You meet certain criteria
that my situation demands. I only wish you knew how to pilot a flying saucer.”
Tawana was enchanted with this slick, contraptionoid fella. I could see
the wheels in her head turning.
Me, I just felt another con coming on. I told him straight out, “Just stop
right there. I’m not doing it. Whatever it is, just forget about it. Go find yourself
another pigeon.”
“Maybe you should hear him out, Dickey. It might be beneficial,”
suggested Tawana.
I said, “Yeah, like this stupid wig. What’s this thing all about?”
Concerned and worried, he pleaded, “You’re all I got! Everybody else I’ve
ever met has been either a droid tech, a doctor, or a sponsor involved in my
creation, except for a handful of nasty creatures that called me horrible names
while walking by me on the sidewalk.”
I said, “I bet I can guess at least two of those nasty names, and we all
know what you did to them. So what’s with this wig, Quantum Doof?”
Once more, he eluded the wig question. Instead, his face filled with
anger, anxiety, and frustration. And like an angry, spoiled child, he blurted
out, “If you don’t help me, I’ll raise up a thousand demons and terrorize all of
your friends and everybody in this place!”
Intrigued, Tawana asked him, “You can do that?” She looked calm.

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My countenance fell to the floor, and I watched it drain out of my feet.
Then I looked back up at Tawana, who looked back at me, slightly worried at
the look on my face. Then, biting her finger, she leaned back in her chair with a
stupid what-have-I-done look on her face.
I looked down again and shook my head no, no, no. I could feel it
coming. This droid was mentally unstable, and I could just feel his breakdown
coming on.
QD snidely replied, “We’ll do thirty demons instead, one for each coin.”
He looked at me with a perfectly evil grin and gave Tawana a nod.
Then—BAM!—the barroom’s entrance busted wide open. Blue smoke
entered the room, and behind it was a young, pasty white devil boy, who had a
round head and a fat belly. He was riding a medium-sized, shiny candy-apple
red tricycle.
His appearance hushed the small crowd as he rang his little round bell
on the tricycle’s handlebars and took full advantage of the acoustics and
speakers in the bar and restaurant.
Rrring rang, rrring rang, around and around a few tables. Then again,
rrring rang, rrring rang. The smoke moved almost unnoticed to the stage, where
I guessed bands played once in a while. The smoke swirled around and formed
four more devils. These were blue and matched the large, shield-shaped
sconces on the walls. Their hearts were lit up in the same way the light shined
through the sconces, but they looked like small children with horns and tails.
One of them, a little she-devil, was turning cartwheels back and forth on
and around the front of the stage. A second one was jumping rope, and she
was quite good at it, swinging it around and side to side, then opening it up,

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one, two, three. A third one was bouncing a ball and picking up jacks, and the
fourth one was a baby in a high chair, a bowl on its head and spaghetti sauce
on its face. He was drumming the spilled strings of spaghetti on his tray with
his hands and making baby noises with a happy, chubby face.
The sound of several children playing on a playground together faded in
over the house speakers.
Rrring rang, rrring rang.
And then a bass string moaned and groaned, painfully growing louder
against the foreground of rrring rang, rrring rang.
The sounds kept getting louder and louder, until all of a sudden, all the
doors and windows burst into flames with a thunderous explosion. The fire
burst into the room and billowed across the ceiling. Thick black smoke filled
the room along with the fiery orange and yellow flames, and the smoke swirled
down into twenty-five well-dressed devils playing piccolos, flutes, and oboes.
They were waving their instruments up and down, playing a haunting melody
and wiggling to the music, as they walked around the room.
One wearing only one brown shoe stood up and grew as tall as the
ceiling. “Come on, everybody,” he said to all of us, and the playground noises
faded. “Come on, everybody. Let’s all go to heaven!”
Rrring rang.
“Yeah, yeah. Oh yeah, it’s great. You could write a book. You could learn
to play a guitar, or maybe fashion something out of wood. You could go fishing
in the ocean, or dive into an icy cool, spring-fed river on a balmy summer day.”
Then the melody started, and the words turned to song—
♫ Mm, yeah, we could live in the flesh,

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And play all night and sleep all day!
Let’s go smell the burning rubber
Of a nine-hundred-mile-an-hour dragster race,
Or we could just lay back on the side of a mountain
And stare into outer space!
Aghhh, man,
What have you done?
Greed and powd—
In your guns.
Was love so far away?
Was love so far awaaay? ♫
The high-pitched E-string slid down a most heavy, wrought iron guitar
that was chained and welded to the skeleton of a hideous demon with a rusty
steel ribcage and a shiny stainless steel jaw. He moved his mouth but couldn’t
sing at all.
And all the music turned into loud chaos, and everyone was covering
their ears. The devils jumped on the tables and walked on the ceiling, and one
of them stuck a thick one into the mouth of a big one that was wearing pearls
and screaming. He looked over at me and cried out, “It must be almost over!
The fat lady is singing!”
He cackled and hissed as a bunch of them stood above the tables,
spinning in slow circles as they pissed all over the patrons, who didn’t know
whether to laugh or cry, and some of them probably wondered whether they

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were dead or alive. And then everything faded as a new melody came forth. A
blue demon started humming softly. And then in a louder, fearful tone, he sang
a ballad—
♫ Thirty pieces of silver,
Thirty pieces in the sack,
As the sound of heavy moneybags hitting the floor kept time,
I betrayed my master with a kiss,
Before swordsmen trained to attack!
Said, ‘Bring forth fruits worthy of thy repentance,’
But what can I possibly do
To come back from that? ♫
Background singers repeated the lines as he played the most painful and
haunting sax solo I’d ever heard, and it went on and on and pulled on the
strings of my heart until I almost cried. And then all the demons slowly faded
with the ballad’s lingering, poignant melody.
We all sat there in silence for a moment. Most of the audience looked
shocked. A couple of them were pale, stiff, and mortified.
The girl tending bar was mixing and serving drinks like nothing
happened at all, but one of the guys sitting at the bar started clapping very
slowly. A few others joined in, and then a few more. Altogether, it ended up like
a nice, little golf clap.
A short-haired, husky woman stood up on the bottom rail of her barstool
and started waving at everybody, announcing, “Hollywood’s coming! Hollywood!
Welcome to my movie! Welcome to my movie, everybody! Hollywood’s coming!”

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In the next moment, a good-looking young man with perfect hair got up
from David Wayne’s table. I saw him glance over at himself in the mirror, and
he probably would have winked had he not seen me about to laugh at him for
being so vain. He looked down and refocused on his task, and I heard him say
under his breath as he walked by us, “Allison’s off her meds.” He rounded the
husky woman up as she was making her way around to all of the tables and
asking if anyone wanted her autograph.
I guess if you wait long enough, somebody'll take the credit.
Amazed, Tawana asked QD, “What else can you do?”
QD ignored her, focusing on me. To see deep emotion on a robot's face
was freaking me out. Filled with desperation and angst, he asked, “How about
an eye for an eye, Declan? If I save your life tonight, you have to save mine.
They’re going to decommission me in the morning. They told me I was only a
three-day project.”
Amused, worn out, and numb from the alcohol, I slurred, “Only under
one condition.”
“What’s that?” QD replied.
I said, “From now on, I get to call you Gizmo.”
He reluctantly agreed. I wasn’t too worried, though. The night was almost
over, and I felt pretty safe. Hmm, actually, Tawana might want to spend the
night over at that psychopathic drug lord’s house.
“You are a cutie, QD,” Tawana cut in. “For a droid, you know.”
“What a nice compliment,” he said without looking at her. “I’ll see you
later, Declan.”
“Hey, wait, what about this stupid wig?” I called after him.

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“Why would anyone like you ever wear a wig?” he asked sarcastically,
and then he faded away.
I wondered what he knew.