Azrael settled into the leather armchair, letting his tired legs stretch out. Despite the fact that he was a being of pure energy, his stress seemed to manifest itself as a physical strain when he manifested. And now, as he irritably waited for his drinking companion to arrive, he could already feel his mood fouling.
An attendant was instantly at his shoulder, a shining glass snifter of amber liquid lowered into Azrael’s hand. The archangel took the glass without sparing a glance to the lesser cherub, who scurried off, and lifted the rim to his lips. The scotch was perfect, aged and seasoned and infused with a million notes of flavor on the edge of perception. In Azrael’s mouth, it might as well have been sewage.
The archangel glanced down at his gleaming watch three more times before another visitor entered the lounge. He knew that Mephistopheles was late; the demon had last wandered around the mortal plane back in the late nineties, when arrogant young kids in freshly tailored business suits ran the corporate world on their own personal clocks. The fallen angel had picked up more than a touch of that arrogance, as well as a disgusting likeness for energy drinks combined with his alcohol.
When the other man finally strolled in, one hand running up to slick back his greasy black hair, Azrael didn’t bother to hold in his sigh. “Get lost?” he asked.
The other man didn’t respond right away, settling into his seat opposite the angel and accepting his own drink from another cherub. “You just have no sense of panache,” he responded between slurps of the fizzy yellow drink.
Azrael disguised his lack of respect with another sip of his scotch. Fortunately, he knew the devil sitting across from him well, and the archangel could out-wait him every time. And true to form, Mephistopheles only managed to sit still for a minute or so before he took a deep pull of his disgusting alcoholic energy drink and opened his lips again.
“Okay, let’s get this over with,” the fallen angel announced, sitting back and squirming in his chair. “I hate having to physically manifest. This body itches. What’s on the list for today?”
The archangel raised his hand, and another cherub dropped a scroll into his hand. He set down his snifter of scotch on the end table next to his seat so that he could pull the ornate scroll open. “A light load,” he replied, a note of relief creeping into his voice. “Just three items. North Korea, something about a missing flight, and that issue that we keep tabling.”
The devil waved his hand in a dismissive manner. “Ugh, not North Korea again. What are we even supposed to be doing about it? None of our operatives are there.”
“Nor ours,” Azrael replied. “And to be honest, we believed that one of yours was behind the whole debacle going on down there.”
With a snap of his fingers, a long list appeared in smoky red flames in front of Mephistopheles. He flicked through it with one finger, reading off the names in demonic script. “Nope, no one there,” he said at length. “It’s just that dictator they’ve got. Totally off his rocker.”
“So what should we do? Lightning bolt? Column of fire?”
Mephistopheles waggled his fingers noncommittally. “Give him a couple years. He’ll either come around to your side, or we’ll end up replacing him with someone focused a little more on the religious hellfire.”
“Great. Next item: we apparently lost a plane…”