Mara, Demoness First Class, top agent of Demon Central, and general all-around bastard, continued munching crisps (and occasionally giggling at the TV).
DEMONESS MARA. STAND UP NOW OR I'LL BUST YOU BACK DOWN TO AN IMP!!
Mara continued munching.
The Voice started to get irritated.
DAMMIT! PAY ATTENTION TO ME WHILE I'M THREATENING YOU!!
Mara looked up.
And started to giggle.
'Threat? Threat? BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!' She coughed, and nearly choked, sending pieces of cheese and onion crisps everywhere. 'I'd like to see you try...'
The Voice took a deep breath. Or it would have, if it had a mouth. Nevertheless, it did so anyway.
MARA... WE WERE DULY INFORMED BY... THOSE ABOVE... (the Voice managed to infuse those two words with enough venom to kill a politician) OF THE DISCOVERY OF A GROUP OF TIME TRAVELLERS. WHICH _YOU_ WERE ASSIGNED TO DEAL WITH.
I CANNOT HELP NOTICING THAT YOU ARE, IN FACT, EATING CHEESE AND ONION CRISPS WHILE LAUGHING AT BAYWATCH.
THIS IS DEMONIC BEHAVIOUR, TRUE. BUT THIS IS NOT WHAT MY ORDERS REQUESTED.
CARE TO EXPLAIN?
Mara looked up again, absolute calmness in her eyes. 'I've already _met_ these time travellers... sir.' she said, drawing out the last word, and leaving the Voice with absolutely no doubt as to her contempt. 'And, quite frankly, your orders can bugger themselves backwards.'
'Grant all of them their hearts' desire... in return for their _non-interference_ in our plans. You have all the power of Demon Central backing you up...' Mara sneered. 'Oh, _right_. _That's_ a fat lot of good...'
MARA. LET ME EXPLAIN SOMETHING TO YOU IN WORDS OF A SYLLABLE OR LESS.
WE DO NOT NEED CHAMPIONS OF TRUTH AND JUSTICE TURNING UP AND WIPING OUR PLANS FROM EXISTENCE. WE DO NOT NEED INTERFERING WANDERERS WITH FUTURE KNOWLEDGE OF OUR SCHEMES CHANGING HISTORY.
THIS IS WHY _WE_ REQUESTED WE DEAL WITH TIME TRAVELLERS FIRST. POTENTIALLY, THEY ARE A DANGEROUS TOOL FOR EITHER SIDE.
AND WE SHALL HAVE THAT TOOL FIRST.
'Did you actually bother to check what these particular time travellers' desires _were_? Sir?' Mara added as an afterthought. 'Or did you just 'lose' the paperwork? Again?'
'The destruction of everything that exists - Yggdrasil, Demon Central, Earth... _everything_. You'd be surprised at how many of them wanted that. Or how about *ruling* everything that exists, with none to challenge my rule? Quite a few of them wanted _that_, as well...
'Oh, we could grant them. Having the power of Demon Central at my command... I could grant them.
'There just wouldn't be anything left afterwards.
'And it isn't time for Ragnarok, is it, sir? Unless she feels like taking on Kami-sama *now*...'
Demons have been forced to clean all 3, 857, 474 of Demon Central's toilets with a piece of lint for less than what Mara had just said. The Voice knew this.
It also knew Mara knew this.
VERY WELL. THE PROTOCOL IS TO BE CONSIDERED SUSPENDED.
BUT SUCH DISOBEDIENCE ON YOUR PART CANNOT GO UNPUNISHED.
YOU WILL RETURN TO THESE TIME TRAVELLERS, TO THIS... 'THIS TIME ROUND'.
AND YOU WILL BECOME OUR AGENT IN THAT PLACE.
'Took your time 'bout it, didn't you, fathead?' Mara remarked. 'Kami-sama's already got someone there... and you should _see_ the agents the Muses have in place…'
OUR INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS ARE NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, MORTALBAIT.
GO THERE. DO WHAT YOU DO BEST.
WHATEVER THAT IS.
Mara seethed silently. Before she could launch any of her personalised collection of insults (collected over several million years, and several really disreputable parts of the universe, including Fox TV), though...
OH, BEFORE YOU GO, THREE THINGS...
1) DO _TRY_ NOT TO LOSE YOUR NAME AGAIN...
The Voice sniggered at the memory.
'Second, pusface?' Mara snapped, peevishly.
2) I WILL WANT AN EXACT AND _ACCURATE_ REPORT. CLAIM EXACTLY WHAT YOU HAVE DONE, NO MORE, NO LESS.
'Hey!' Mara screeched. 'You can't do that! We _always_ claim credit for stuff we don't do! Even Britney Spears!'
I KNOW, I KNOW. BUT WE'VE GOT THE AUDITORS IN THIS MILLENNIUM. SORRY. EVEN MY_ HANDS ARE TIED.
Mara shuddered. The Auditors of Reality made any human auditors seem like Mother Teresa, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King rolled into one.
And their assessments were even worse...
...TAKE CARE OUT THERE, 'KAY?
Mara pulled out a CD, and prepared for her 'jump'.
She looked up just before she went through the CD.
'Hey, no problem. _Daddy._'
And then she was gone.
KIDS THESE DAYS... the Voice muttered.
Look Who's Talking, the day care centre outside continuity.
Current assistant helper, Kiyone, Galaxy Police Officer First Class.
The toddlers were asleep. *That* was a small relief, at any rate.
'*Finally*...' she muttered. 'I should've _known_ the bubblehead was gonna be trouble, even as a blasted _baby_...'
_I need a *rest*_ Kiyone thought. _Maybe some music..._
She flicked through the collection of CDs on the shelf. 'Lullabies... nope. "I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek"? No _thanks_... ABBA Gold? Hmm... Britney Spears? I thought we'd outlawed that one... Gods and Demons...'
She picked it up. 'Hunh. Why not? Double CD... should lemme get to sleep no problem.'
She slipped one of the CDs out and into her specially-adapted Discman (a present from Washu. It did DVDs, CDs and [fnord. Currently unavailable for release on Earth]).
_Then_ she tried to get to sleep.
'Just *once*,' Kiyone screamed. 'just _once_, could you at least _try_ to do something right?'
'I'm sorry, Kiyone-san!' Mihoshi wailed.
'Oh yeah? Oh yeah? Listen up, bubblehead! No-one - and I mean *no-one* - could cause *that* kind of galactic devastation by _accident_!'
'Hey, we're not supposed to be here, Kei!'
'Oops. Sorry, get on with the dream...' Kei said apologetically.
'Yes... Yes... You're right...' Mihoshi started to cackle evilly. 'So... you've found the truth at last, for what little good it does...Of _course_ nobody could be so idiotic, so clumsy, so... so...'
'Mihoshi?' Kiyone suggested.
'_Exactly!_ I've made your life a living hell from the moment we met. Every arrest we made, I'd foul up, every commendation we got, I'd ruin...'
'I have lived for nothing, *nothing*, but to see your life become Hell itself... Always go with what you know best, I say...'
Kiyone looked up from the manga she was reading. 'So we can take it as read that you're a demon from Hell, sent here for the sheer purpose of making my life unbearable?'
Demon-Mihoshi shrugged. 'Pretty much.'
'Okay.' Kiyone said. 'Now we've got that sorted out...' She flung her arm out at the devastation that had been their mutual bedroom. '_Once_, just _once_, I want you to clean up. Is that too much to bloody ask?! Or do the cooking, or the washing up... _without_ having something go disastrously wrong?'
Demon-Mihoshi shrugged again. 'Is that what you really want?'
Kiyone thought for a moment. 'No. No. What I want, what I really, really want...'
'Where did _they_ come from?' Kiyone sighed, jerking a finger at the pop group behind her.
'They needed the work. Get on with it...'
'..is for you to help me _out_ around here, yeah. No matter what it takes, just _help_ me _out_ here, for cruk's sake!'
'Your wish is granted.'
'YAAAAGGGHHH!!! WHO THE HELL ARE YOU!?!'
The blonde woman lying on the floor groaned. 'Urrrggghhh...'
'I *said*... who the hell are you?!'
'Oh..' The woman looked up. 'Oh _HELL!_'
'SHHH! You'll wake the children!'
'Children?! Children?! This isn't This Time Round! What the-!?' The woman gasped. 'Oh no. Oh no. Awwww.... _cruk!_'
'Who the _hell_ are you?!'
The woman coughed. 'Mara. Demon First Class. As for the hell I am...' She grimaced. 'Some things really _were_ meant for man not to know...'
'Oh yeah? And just what do you think you're doing?'
Mara actually flushed. 'Umm... You wished me here. Remember?'
'I have to grant a wish to whomever releases me from my catalyst. _You_ released me from my catalyst...'
'Your...?' Kiyone stuttered.
Mara flipped the Discman open. 'The Demons CD. In this case... you _do_ get what it says on the tin...'
'_Wish_?!' Kiyone repeated.
'What I wish is for you to help me _out_ around here, yeah. No matter what it takes, just _help_ me _out_ here, for cruk's sake!' Mara said, in a perfect imitation of Kiyone's voice.
'That was... That was _you_?!'
'You betcha, sweet thing... So I'm stuck here till I help you. At _any_ cost.'
'Oh gawwwd...' Kiyone slumped against the wall.
'You said it...' Mara slumped beside her.
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat