At this comment, the devil took another large drink. “Shit,” he said with feeling. “That one was actually on us.”
Azrael raised an eyebrow. It was rare to see any demon, much less a Lord of Hell, accept responsibility for any wrongdoing, however small. “Care to elaborate?” he asked.
Mephistopheles’ drink was nearly empty, and a cherub scurried over to retrieve the glass and bring him a new drink. As soon as the new frosted glass was in his perfectly manicured hand, he took a pull and consumed more than a third. “We were testing out some new portal systems,” he finally said. “Larger openings. Armageddon’s coming, you know. Gotta figure out how to move our troops around.”
“And what, you just left one of these things open?” Azrael picked up, aghast. “You figured that no one would stumble upon a literal portal to Hell? What if one of their satellites spotted it!?”
“It’s cloaked! Give us some credit!” Mephistopheles interjected. “And we had it over a mile up in the air. Who’s going to ever bump into that?”
Azrael rolled his eyes. “Someone sure did,” he muttered under his breath.
“Listen, we’re on damage control,” Mephistopheles insisted. “We’ve already knocked together a mock-up, dropped it at the bottom of the ocean, and our people at the news networks are pushing towards it. This whole thing will blow over.”
“A mock-up? What happened to the actual plane?”
Mephistopheles rubbed his face with one hand. “The thing crashed right through our invasion launch cavern and ended up taking out Beezlebub’s summer palace,” he complained. “Now we’ve got a metal tail sticking out of his lava fountain, slaves working around the clock to repair the damage, and a whole bunch of Buddhist souls from on board that we can’t get rid of.”
This opened up a whole new debacle. From an inside breast pocket, Azrael withdrew an elegant fountain pen and inscribed a few notes on the scroll. “We can probably get in touch with Hotei. That chubby excuse for a god can probably pull away from his eternal buffet long enough to do something.”
“Please,” Mephistopheles replied sincerely. There was a definite advantage to this face-to-face meeting between the archangels and the Lords of Hell; while it took some humility, things certainly got done a lot faster than through the normal bureaucratic channels.
The archangel’s snifter of scotch was nearly gone. He glanced down at the list on his lap. “Well, there’s just that last item that we tabled from before,” he said. “We need to take some action about that.”
“How long has this thing been tabled for? It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” asked Mephistopheles.
Azrael had to quickly count on his fingers. “Two millenia? Might have been a little longer.”
“Ugh,” the devil groaned. “Refresher?”
The archangel disliked flashy magic, but he spun his pen in a slow circle over the scroll, making the words change beneath the ink nub. “Looks like we had some guy proclaim himself a god,” he read off. “Whole bunch of trouble went down, we both slipped up, and the aftershocks of all of this has been causing ripples and problems all over.”
Mephistopheles considered this for a few minutes, and then took a contemplative drink. “Well, my drink is almost gone, and these stupid bodies can’t hold a buzz,” he complained. “We’ve tabled this for a couple millenia, and nothing’s fallen apart yet.”
Azrael nodded. “Move to table?”
“Move to table.”
The angel rose up from his seat, stretching out his limbs. “Ugh. I can’t wait to get out of this body.” He tossed back the last of his scotch, tossing the glass back down onto a table.
One of the cherubs came up to the archangel, bobbing at his elbow. “Sir, the bill?”
With distaste, Azrael turned and glared at the little angel. “Are you kidding me?” he thundered. “Do you know who I am? We made this whole thing on another plane, just for meetings. What in the world do you need money for??”
The little cherub looked uncertain, but he stood his ground. “Sorry sir, but not money – karma,” he insisted. “We have to pay the karmic balance for the drinks, sir.”
Azrael was still about to argue, but Mephistopheles snapped his fingers, and a few shining tokens appeared out of thin air and tumbled into the cherub’s outstretched hand. “I got this one,” the devil commented. “You can pick up the tab next time.”
Together, the devil and the archangel strolled out of the lounge. Azrael knew that he should hate this manifestation of evil, but they had been meeting so long, had talked and griped together so long, that he actually felt closer to him than to many of the other angels. Metatron was an insufferable know-it-all, Gabriel had a frustrating tendency to gloat, and Michael was never able to remove the stick from his ass. But Mephistopheles’ lack of any respect towards authority was refreshing, a nice change from the stuffy bureaucracy he usually had to face.
“So, meet again in another couple years?” Mephistopheles asked at the door.
“Let’s make it next year,” Azrael replied. “Follow up on that plane, you know.”
The two men stepped out through the door, out into the nothingness on the other side. For just a second, both of their bodies were outlined in a glow; Azrael’s figure lit up in white, while Mephistopheles’ shape imploded into blackness.
And then they both were gone.