9 Tactics

The Lead Demons arrive promptly, in the exact order Kali expected. Everyone takes their seat—they don’t have to wait on Lucie. She knows the value of a minute and is never late. At the exact top of the hour, Lucie appears in a blast of smoke and lightning. The theatrics have grown old with the Lead Demons. Abaddon yawns on purpose. Her lack of respect is ignored.

Lucie likes to begin her meetings seated on her throne. Once the smoke disappears, she steps down and paces the floor in front of the Lead Demons—eyeing each one with disdain. She uses an eerie silence to command their attention for the fiery speech she has prepared.

From the back of the room, Kali envies the blood-red bodysuit that Lucie is wearing for the meeting. It is her ultimate power suit. Today, her hair is as black as the coal on the wall behind her and as straight as the pitchfork she is carrying. Her heavy bangs just brush over the top of her piercing emerald eyes. Lucie usually chooses emerald eyes to go with her red suit. She designed her three “looks” to demand attention everywhere she goes, and to send specific messages.

Any hope that the great beauty pacing in front of them is here to spread goodwill evaporates the second she opens her mouth. Her personal insults and vain overtones can bring out the evil in any man or demon. This isn’t to say Lucie does not know how to charm. To the contrary, she is the “queen of charm” if she needs it to get her way. Since demons cannot come close to understanding the art of manipulation as she does, she must personally go to Earth to handle the details of these final seven years.

Kali takes a quick look around the room and thinks, We are all here because we were deceived by Lucie’s charm when she ruled over us in Heaven. Being cast out of Paradise to live in these God-forsaken chambers in Center Earth is just one of the reasons to hate her—but it is the main one.

“You should know why you are here,” Lucie snaps. “If not, you have taken your focus off winning the Great Game and have forgotten the future we are fighting for. However, I will continue. Even the smallest brain in the room is here because you were at least smart enough to follow me. You and I saw past the self-righteous, delusional one who calls Himself ‘Almighty.’ He tried to keep all the glory and credit for Himself. We decided this was not good enough for us.

“We challenged Him knowing it could cost us our residency in Paradise. We may have lost, and He may have imprisoned us here, but we are not finished. We did not surrender. Instead, we made Hades into a basecamp where we run our operations against man. He ignored us as long as He could, but He underestimated our resilience—and my ability to negotiate. Every time I cornered His children, ‘His Highness’ met me at the negotiation table to defend them.

“I am pleased to announce that Almighty’s “chosen ones” are failing Him yet again. He knows He is losing rounds in the Great Game because of His bleeding heart for men, and yet He remains loyal to them. The reckless love He has for these pathetic creatures set us up for a much-deserved seven-year reign on Earth. Many of you have been anticipating this for centuries—and it begins at midnight!”

Lucie puckers her bone-white lips and pauses for effect. This time, every demon in the room gives her their full attention. Azazel gathers her bug pets under her chair and captures them in her empty water glass. Lilith drops her hair, mid-braid, behind her back. Valentina puts down her bottle of toilet water and pats her lips dry with the sleeve of her gown. Amy clears her throat and folds up a fresh Kleenex, as if making herself a security blanket. Abaddon mumbles an “about time” under her breath and rolls her eyes. Jezebeth pushes her mirror to the side where it no longer blocks her view.

Even though she knows what Lucie is about to share, Kali uncrosses her legs and sits up straight. She is eager to receive her assignment. Since the day she and the other Lead Demons pledged their allegiance to Lucie in the Great Revolt, they have eagerly waited for her to honor her promise of a time to reign on Earth. Like the other demons, Kali has an innate jealousy of humans. She blames them for stealing Almighty’s attention from the angels and for prolonging the Great Game with their constant theatrics. Like her fellow demons, she is eager to settle the score with man.

Lucie picks up a remote and drops a 3D viewing square from the rafters. She likes to narrate her stories with accusations and over-the-top theatrics. She usually begins her sermons with the creation of Earth—or at least, the Garden of Eden. Watching Eve take that bite out of the forbidden fruit and then entice Adam into her scheme, is Lucie’s favorite. The Lead Demons have watched it hundreds of times. Surprisingly, today’s presentation starts much later in time.

The first image Lucie conjures up is of Noah and his family as they take up residency in the Ark. “Behold, I won this round of the Great Game. I was able to lead men to such evilness that their Creator, Almighty himself, had to kill them. How pathetic! By the way, he’s never explained himself for this detestable act. He only spared this one simple-minded man and his seven family members—while he let the rest of his creations die. ‘His Highness’ was so out-of-control he also killed off the innocent animals he had created—despicable, to say the least.

“The only exception to Almighty’s ‘animal massacre’ was two of each species he had Noah put into the Ark. The purpose of these animals was to repopulate the planet after the flood forever changed the terrain of the Earth. Does anyone else see the flaw in this story? Instead of making new animals—ones better suited to survive on the new Earth and not go extinct—he went through all this trouble to spare these few. If it had only been Noah and his family that needed to be protected from the flood, the boat could have been a whole lot smaller.”

Kali giggles. The other demons turn and stare. Lucie pretends not to notice. She changes the 3D image to the beheading of the Apostle Paul. This immediately puts Kali back into to a serious state of mind. She has a soft spot for Paul. Lucie assigned her to be the witness of the beheading, but Kali pushed back from the assignment because she once worked alongside him when his name was Saul—and when he had a much different purpose. At the time she followed Saul, he was a killer of Christians. As far as their mission on Earth, demons either “support hate,” or “undermine love.” Kali’s assignment was to support Paul in his hatred and persecution of Christians.

Even though Saul and Lucie shared a hatred of Christians, he would not sell his soul to Lucie for protection and power. Neither would he allow himself to be possessed. Kali had to dress in the garments of a man and follow him in physical form. She was with him when his life drastically changed course right before her eyes. He was on the way to the Temple in Jerusalem to deliver a letter giving lawmakers permission to arrest anyone who self-identified as a “Christian.” At the halfway point of the journey, something happened that still baffles the demons—including Lucie.

A bright light came down from the sky and shone directly on Saul. It was so bright it burned the area around him. Kali moved back to watch from a safe distance. Saul held his hands over his eyes as he looked towards the light, and started answering questions as if he was talking to someone. It seemed to her he was addressing Jesus—the self-proclaimed Messiah put to death years earlier.

When the light diminished and the conversation ended, Saul’s eyesight was gone. His men led him to Damascus by hand. A holy man of the city named Ananias came to Saul, placed his hands on his eyes, and pleaded with Almighty to restore his sight. Once Saul could see again, he had a spiritual enlightenment. He announced he was changing his name to Paul and proclaimed the man crucified on Mount Golgotha had indeed been the Messiah. He started writing sermons and sending them by messengers to the biggest churches in Asia. He began recording the life of Jesus through the accounts of eyewitnesses who knew him. Most of these letters and recordings of events were included in the Christian Bible.

Kali continued following Saul to do what demons do, but her assignment was not the same. Instead of supporting Saul’s harassment of Christians, she was now trying to interrupt Paul’s new popularity with them. It was surreal. As hard as she tried to hinder him, Paul was too mentally strong for Kali. She could not deter him. She was failing, Lucie got involved and reassigned her. Even so, she insisted Kali attend his beheading.

The experience still haunts her. Lucie knows this, and makes a point of taunting her about Paul. Kali is adrift in thought when Lucie pokes her with her pitchfork. Kali jumps to attention as the spike pierces her side. “My superior tactics forced ‘Mr. Infallible’ to commit heinous acts against man, animals, and the environment. I won in the Garden of Eden by enticing Adam and Eve into sin, I won with Sodom and Gomorrah, and I won when every disciple who followed Jesus was put to death. I will win again. Ultimately, I will win the Great Game.

“Tomorrow, when man awakes, we begin our reign on Earth. After seven well-executed years, I will be victorious. We must destroy all that is good, including the plants and animals on which man relies. He will find out much too late these are the very things sustaining him. After turning his heart against his Creator and earning his trust in the first three and one-half years, I will turn on man. I am in charge, and there will be no mercy.”

The third hologram Lucie displays is an even more interesting choice: She plays the conversation she had with Jesus in the wilderness, after he had fasted for forty days. “Watch carefully: This part of Almighty—the humanized part He sent to Earth—proves men of flesh and blood can resist demonic powers and rise above ego, selfishness, and even physical pain.

“Jesus was starving and weak, but when I dared Him to prove He was the Son of God by commanding the stones to become bread, He would not do it. When I dared Him to prove He was the Son of God by throwing himself off a cliff and allowing the angels to save Him, He would not do it. When I offered to give Him the kingdoms of the Earth I had under my control if He would worship me, He would not do it. He just gave me some self-righteous answers, pompous even though He could barely stand. He eventually cast me out of the desert and let the inferior white angels come to take care of Him.

“We know that man is weak and easily manipulated, but when he has a personal relationship with Almighty through his prayers, he is difficult to move. He is as unflappable as Jesus was in the wilderness. I should not have to tell you the magnitude of this threat. Man can never know the truth of his own power. You are going to follow my exact orders to bring him to his knees before he does. I want every single man, woman, and child to be tortured until they blame Almighty for their pain. Do this even if it means death for some.

“Personally, I prefer torture followed by death, but do as you please. There will be rewards based on the amount of pain you inflict. You must do whatever it takes to break the bond between man and Almighty. No shackles remain on my powers. Evil is in full play.

“But, know this: If you fail me in these next seven years, I will banish you to the darkest part of Hades where Azazel’s worms will crawl through your flesh for eternity. There will not be a single drop of Valentina’s stench-filled water available to satisfy your parched tongue. Do you understand me?” Lucie stops her pacing to glare at each of the seven Lead Demons one by one. When Lucie’s eyes connect with Kali’s, she feels complete hatred and disdain, as if her insides are being set afire.

After Lucie receives her symbol of obedience from each Lead Demon (a forehead tilted down onto the forearm), she swings her tail around and slams the stinging tip on the ground to reset the tone. “Each one of you must go and inform the Imp demons under your control we are preparing to rule on Earth. Tell them we are beginning the final chapter of the Great Game. Have everyone in the stadium in exactly six hours for the unveiling of the details of my seven-year plan. Chains await any demon not in attendance.”

From the exit door, Lucie stops and speaks to Kali without turning to look at her. “Kali, clean up the room. I am going to visit the Big Man himself. It is time for me to gloat. I also need information on where he hid those keys. The word on the streets is the soldier will be leading a posse from Heaven to rescue the keys. The timing is critical. Now, go!”

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Triple Digit TOC by K.M. Sheridan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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