"Get up, maggot."
I shouldíve seen this coming. Shouldíve known they wouldnít go easy on me because of my name and history. Back in the Nexus, being a MagClone meant something. Down here, stranded in Hell without any of my brethren around? I might as well be just another mortal with a stick in his chest. Nobody made any concessions, nobody gave me free stuff or promised me easy promotions or did any of the things Iíd expected them to do for someone of my prestige and infamy.
"I said get up, maggot. You know what Iíll do if you make me repeat myself again."
Exhibit A, my lovely drill sergeant in boot camp, Ms. Rubyteeth McDiesIfWeEverMeetAgain. A more cold-hearted and psychotic hell-tramp probably exists somewhere, but Iíll be damned if sheís not at least the fourth worst person this side of the Styx. If she gave any sign of recognition when she first heard my name on day one, I definitely missed it, and she didnít seem to care about its significance later, either.
"Go **** yourself," I spat out, along with some blood and a couple of my teeth, one of which, Iím proud to say, almost nicked her right in the eye. It was the second week of boot camp, and we were in the middle of our usual afternoon flirtations. I was lying in a ditch for failing to successfully navigate an obstacle course that required the use of magic I refused to learn, she was standing over me with a healing wand, and the rest of the cadets were watching from afar, at they assumed to be a moderately safe distance.
"I said go **** yourself. Iíve seen this movie before. You hit me, I fall down. I get up again, you hit me, I fall down, and the whole process keeps going on until you hit me really hard and say something profound that motivates me to stop lagging behind, or you call it quits because I wonít stop standing up and all the Magtok-punching is bruising your knuckles. Also, youíre like the forty-eighth person to call me maggot. At first I thought you did that to everyone, but no, Iím the only one here who gets called that. Itís not clever anymore, itís not even insulting, maíam, itís just vaguely sorta annoying. I donít-"
I really wish she hadnít interrupted me. I had this really clever remark lined up about how if she didnít have her smelly demon magic, sheíd lose any sort of fight in an instant, but then she decided to butt in preemptively and stomp down on my right arm, and keep putting pressure on it until it made that awful snapping noise. Yíknow, the one that sounds sort of like a tree branch cracking, or like an arm being stomped on so hard it breaks into a million pieces? That one. Oww.
"Fifteen laps around the barracks, or fifteen minutes in my quarters, maggot. Either way, youíll get your arm back when youíre done."
Yeah, I was in no condition to do even half that many laps. But I did, and then the healing wand fixed me right up. The next day, I did a few more, too. And so on, until it was firmly established I wasnít going to budge on the whole 'Magtok doesnít do your stupid lame-face elf magic nonsense' stance that I insisted upon sticking to, and that I wasnít into whatever kinky torture curtains she had in mind. A bit more broken limbs, some extra fireballs, and in a month Iím sure they couldíve convinced me to change my mind about the whole wimpy elf magic thing, but seeing as I was just an insignificant piece of rubbish with a whale-hunting stick in my torso, I guess they figured it wasnít worth it. When our time in boot camp finally came to a close, I graduated to the Infernal Guard just like everyone else. Or at least, thatís what my papers said.
In truth, after earning my gun and uniform, I ended up spending an inordinate amount of time working with Clockworks. So someone down here knows who I am, I guess. Theyíre warforged, for those not familiar with this particular kind of hell, by the way. The Clockworks are these huge metal guys, big olí magitech robots, made up of equal parts gears, servos, steam, and the wailing souls of forgotten children. Dumb as Magbots, and just as blind and subservient to anyone with enough ribbons and medals to hand out orders. Since they fall under the command of some doofus called General Klank (Iím serious, thatís his actual name. Figures that the only people he can command respect from are designed from the get-go to have absolutely no sense of humor), theyíre technically outside the chain of command of the Infernal Guard, and vice versa. Though weíre supposed to work together, thereís usually a fair amount of bickering, rivalries, and all sorts other stupid nonsense about who has more pin-ups of Lady Morgana stapled to their tank or whatever going on in the background. I donít know, maybe I made up the pin-ups thing, I donít care. I never really pay attention to that sort of thing anyway. The point is, the Guard needs Clockwork to absorb most of the casualties and be all non-magicky Terminators or something like that, and the Clockworks need us to be magicky portal support and also to keep them operational and wind them up like silly little childrenís toys or whatever.
Now, as you might not be aware, warfare in Hell sucks. Seriously, itís just an absolutely stupid mess of stupid out here. I came in expecting orderly little lines, two massive armies charging recklessly into one another, that sort of thing. Devils just hacking at each other with pointy pitchforks, the occasional fireball spell, and maybe even a siege of some obsidian fortress covered in superfluous black spikes, like that one part of the Lord of the Rings. Basically, I expected war down here to play out like movies, more or less. As Iím sure even the most naÔve propaganda imps who might be secretly reading this already know, I was wrong about all of that. So terribly, terribly, terribly wrong.
It all comes down to magic here, and who has more of it. Trenches, supply lines, most sorts of close-combatÖnone of that is really used, because none of it really matters when someone can just pour gas fumes into your base through an invisible portal, and then wait for someone to light a cigar. When you have to deal with a large number of people who can fly, turn invisible, bar entry to locales with flesh-consuming forcefields, do mind-control stuff, take on the physical appearance of others, and shoot you down with long-range, uncannily accurate magical clockwork weaponry, you have to be ready for everything. I, being my usual self, of course, wasnít ready for anything.
It all started one dismal little morning, about a day after Iíd finished some class on Clockwork maintenance, in the hopes of transferring to a position a bit less lethal than front-line infantry, somewhere where my skills could really shine. Iíd been taking the time to get to know some of the tin cans on a more personal level, (not an easy task, when everyone is basically a Magbot, but dumber), memorize the names of all the officery peoples in charge of the company, and generally get a feel for how these robot guys did business (mostly they just sat around and waited for someone to order them to go kill people. Urgh, some of them were so dull, I really think I might have been the first person to ever try speaking to them). Anyways, my squad and one other squad full of stupid clanking idiots I wasnít familiar with were called down to the briefing room, as it seemed they finally had an assignment come in thatíd be easy and straightforward enough to break in some of the new guys. Iíd like to say the air was tense with anticipation, and that everyone was eager to finally get out there and do something instead of sit around all day and take up space, but Iíd be lying. These robot guys wouldnít know pain if you ripped their arms right off, I doubt any feeling as complicated as desire ever crossed their hopelessly empty idiot-holes. My cultist and demony brethren were looking pretty daft and empty-skulled too, come to think of it.
Our orders were simple. Some creepy devil guy with a creepy name, Malach the Dominatrix or some such nonsense, was (and still is, I should mention) contesting Morganaís claim over this Lusty Second Circle place Iíve been hanging out in, and has his peoples holed up in mountains and islands and such. Scouts identified a man-made (or devil-made, whatever) cave network not far from our own forces, presumably full of smelly succubi, incubi, and whatever else this Malach guy commanded. Someone from the Infernal Guardís upper ranks was going to portal us in, throw a big olí anti-portaling field over the mountain, and weíd all stomp in and murder the face off of anything that moves. A simple, efficient, and swift attack, assuming our scouts accurately estimated what kinds of enemy numbers were down there (they didnít), and that our tele-mage didnít die before he could warp us back home (he did). I probably shouldíve been a lot more worried at the time, but the way I saw it, Iíd be spending the whole mission in a mountain, in a cave, with robots guarding me every step of the way. I mean, it was as close to being home again as Iíd ever be; I wasnít about to gripe about it just because thereíd be some succubi getting shot at while I was there. If anything, putting some of those things in their place would just make the whole deal that much sweeter.
"Iím sorry, Lord Magtok," our portal guy had said upon dropping us off just outside the cave entrance. "Iím afraid Iím just too much of a stupid girly wizard to hang around for the real fighting."
ÖOkay, maybe he didnít say it exactly like that, and I suppose he was probably under orders to wait for us outside the cave and be our lookout, but the moment I found out that our only escape was going to be sitting on his stupid barbed tail a few kilometers from whatever nightmarish doom awaited us inside the enemy lair, I knew things were going to get bad. First, I tried telling him to come with us, orders or no orders, but that didnít work out, and I got smacked upside the head for questioning authority, too. Then I almost asked one of my robot squadmates to stick with him, but thought better of it, for two reasons. One, I didnít know if those tin cans would listen to me, since they were outside our chain of command and nobody programmed any common sense into Ďem, and two, any stupid Magbot-wannabe I left behind would mean one less brass soldier watching my magnificently-sculpted ass once the lightning bolts started flying. I suppose, in retrospect, it mightíve reduced our casualties a little if Iíd said something, but all I wanted to do right then was kill some stupid devil-whores and then go right back to lying in bed, in my nice, safe little bunk (which happened to be about as comfortable as lying on a slab of stone, so you can imagine how much I suddenly didnít want to be here).
"Fine, whatever. Nobody needs your stupid, cowardly monkey-ass getting in our way anyways," I shot back, getting some rather colorful vocabulary in response that, for Libbyís sake, in case copies of these entries are being passed along to her, Iím not going to mention here. Suffice to say, I learned a few new phrases that day, most of them involving commands to shove things in places that would probably be very uncomfortable, painful, or downright impossible if anyone ever actually obeyed any of them. In fact, now that I think about it, itís probably a good thing that that wizardly soldier guy died, or I mightíve made a dangerous enemy of one of the Guardís best men.
So with one less body between mine and the enemy than I wouldíve liked, we marched on into the cavern. We marched in tidy, tightly-knit little rows and columns, with the exception of myself, of course, as the harpoon still lodged in my chest wouldíve made such closeness an impossibility. I tried to convince the Clockwork squad Iíd be much better off in the back, where I could keep an eye out for sneak attacks from the rear, but something tells me they didnít quite buy that load of bologna, because they took the matter to Sergeant Thorndrakes, after which I was immediately ordered to take point, and personally lead the way into the dark, shadowy darkness. Fudging hell-robot jerkholes, at least Magbots know their place. D=<
Ultimately though, that whole Ďpersonally leading everyone into battleí thing was going to do wonders for my reputation after all of this ended. Being one of only like three survivors means you can make up whatever you want, so long as itís close enough to the truth that if Injury McNoFaceMan ever earns enough to afford that prosthetic jaw he needs, he still wonít have enough dirt to call me out on my lies and truth-stretching, and itíll be so long since the mission happened that hardly anyone will care. Of course, I wasnít thinking about any of that right then and there, obviously. I was far too focused on not dying, and how I was going to rise up a few ranks and make something of myself someday, and the fact that the air suddenly went extremely dry and I could smell sulfur and-
"FIREBALL! TAKE COVER!"
Hey, remember when I said that the Clockwork guys didnít know their place? Well, this was to ultimately prove fatal for the vast majority of them, and far too soon for my tastes, too. I swear, I know Iím usually not good about this sort of thing, but I really did tell everyone to take cover. Stupid bastards that they were, of course, they didnít listen to a word I said. So while I was pinned to a wall by my own chest-harpoon (I probably shouldíve been more careful with that thing, so I wouldnít bury myself in a wall, but shut up, I was distracted), I couldnít see a damn thing, and could only get the vaguest sensation that something incredibly fiery and doomful just blew past me, whilst all around I could hear all sorts of whining and griping and dying from the idiots who didnít listen to me and hide in a corner like a coward when they had a chance. Some of the demons in my squad made it out of that initial blast, a little bruised and wounded, but our sergeant wasnít so lucky. Now, Iím no expert on incubus physiology, but when your torso is splattered across twenty-eight different places, Iím pretty sure thatís death no matter who you are. This was weird, fireballs werenít supposed to hit that hard, at least as far as I knew. I mean, Iíve never seen offensive magic even half that strong, excluding maybe some Exalted or one of Needs Food Badlyís hallucinatory incantations, and even then, it was never aimed at me.
So there we were, with all the Clockworks ruined, maybe three-quarters of our squad wounded, our commander in gory pieces, and me impaled against a wall and rendered totally useless. Not a fine start for a first mission, you could say. Of course, things were only going to get worse from there. If Iíd any notion quite how much worse they were going to get, I think I wouldíve just dove right into that ball of fire, and save everyone else the trouble. I was already starting to wonder if Iíd made the right choice, leaving myself exposed to anyone who might be in the mood to take prisoners, when from out of the dark depths of the cavern, who of all people but Libby walked right into our bloody scene.
(Yes, itís a cliffhanger ending. Yes, thatís all youíre getting for now, the infirmary wizard-doctor/robot-repairs guy says I need to get some rest and stuff. So fudge you, this is my MagJournal, Iíll finish the story when I damn well feel like it. D=< )