I WOULD HAVE TO CALL ON THE MILITIA, one of my reserve officers of the mongrel race. These humans too often leave a mess in their wake, pointing the blame right back to me--an annoyance and injury in an age when it was so important to keep up a romantic image for the sake of all the new recruits. But for all the sudden shift of circumstances, time, for once, was not on my side, and it would be necessary to enlist an understudy for crisp old Xin at once. I go to my little black book--in my case big and, although it has since gone sooty, white was all they had in leather--and flip straight to the listing reserved for my own personal brigade of sinister Florence Nightingales.
Here's one: Alan. My Angels always a suitable reserve, although a bit of a thick-headed lot. He won't remember our meeting, unlike Mick, Nix, Marianne . . . for whom encounters with the Unholy One are like nightmares but palpably real, memorable as murder but usually a little funnier.
"Hello!" he says, "what can I do for you?"
"Welcome," I boom, "help mollify my anxieties."
"Huh?" he huffs, hardly expecting a neurotic for his prince.
Worries, worries, worries. I worry: if an all-around creep who nonetheless serves my purposes will get re-elected President, whether Mick will hold up his end of our contract, if a simple sweetheart's going to get to keep her dream baby--and this one just a movie, but it kept me on the edge of my seat! My analyst calls me a functional neurotic with delusions of grandeur aggravated by a helluva messiah complex.
"Anyway, you can help me with the middle one. When you see the sinister flashing of a leaden, loaded firearm, you'll know the time has come to take the plunge. Here, take this. . . ."
And with this I hand him a dagger, adorned with invisible sigils and glyphs only his eyes could see, etched by yours truly many years earlier above a London alley, under cloak and clamber in a harlot's canopied bed. Czar and his ministers saw it too. Long before that, in another crumbling empire, the selfsame knife had been born of a king's burst belly . . . into a brute's bloody hand.
I've been around, all right. When it's not wielding the weapon personally it's usually to remind the tyrant to wash his hands. To the cold, sweet Popsicle I have always preferred the taste of the stick.