An Eighth Story Job
Marduk the Babylonian
“Aphrodite said,” explained Marduk the Babylonian, “That there were six altogether. Here’s my plan. I transport a mischief in…”
Freya the Aesir interrupted Marduk at that point. “How? Have you been to this dwelling?”
It was a reasonable question. In order to teleport to a given location, the God doing the teleportation had to have an image of the destination locus firmly fixed in his mind. The easiest way to get that was to have previously visited the place.
“No.” Marduk answered candidly. “I am availing myself of an album of photographs taken at a soiree Doctor Drummond hosted last year.”
“I see,” Freya said. “Proceed.”
Imp One of Seven
The dog was the first on the scene. He shone his flashlight about to illuminate the apartment for the others in his mischief. They chattered in their reedy voices, chuckling with glee as their discoveries confirmed the advance information the God had imparted to them. Over the voices of his companions, he heard, as though whispered, another conversation in miniaturized human voices — Man girls trying not to be heard, but unable to simply remain silent. At first he could not make out the words, though he understood Man speak quite readily. Then they came clear:
“What is it, Xe?” one asked another.
“Imps,” the other answered.
“Imps!? Omigod. Omigod. Omigod!” ejaculated still a third.
“Quiet, y’all,” a male-ish voice. Squeaky, as though issuing from a very tiny Man.
“Who the hell are you to tell me…?” A fourth Man girl.
“The one who’s gonna have to save your skinny, plastic ass if those Imps decide we’re a threat to them,” the male voice answered.
“Gottem!” one Imp exclaimed, indicated he had found the target and was close enough that the need for stealth was no longer a factor. It was Five. The Dog (he was One) ordered the rest forward, toward Five’s location, by a desk under a window.
“Are all present?” he called, daring to raise his voice to where it rang echoing from the vasty heights of the cavernous room.
“Have them all!” came the answer from his mischief in full cry.
The room lights exploded into brilliance. The mischief cried out in unison alarm. Only the God’s assurances of their safety kept them from abandoning their mission and scattering to whatever dark, hidey corners they could find.
“Ach! Ye wee bampots! Stand clear, else I’ll banjo ye!” a crotchety old grandmother’s voice in a Glasgow accent roared out across the loft. “Let me out ma hauns on ye! Ye’ll live t’ regret yer trespass!” A foot-tall brownie charged into the room from a half-lit kitchen, wielding a magical broom with all the panache of a samurai. She flew in among the Imps and began laying about her with her broom, fetching the whole mischief such a flurry of buffets that they nearly forgot why they were there.
In a trice, three of them — Four, Six, and Two — made a shoulders-standing ladder to the windowsill behind the desk, while Seven, who carried the bag, held a sack open below, looking upward expectantly to where his littermates teetered precariously against the wall under the window. Almost anti-climactically, the plastic toys arranged on the windowsill were tumbled into the sack. One! Two! Three! Four! Five! The Warrior, the golden Goddess, the Dark Goddess, the Chinoise, theThief. Seven pulled the cinch tight to close the sack and dragged it out into the middle of the floor. One closed his eyes and squinted, grunting like a constipated toddler straining to fill his diaper. There was a blinding flash of light and a thunderclap, and the mischief was gone, and with them, their sack of stolen dollies.
Just Another Day
The Gabrielle Dolly
They thought she was dead. For certain given values of they, thought, and dead. Others of them — to wit, Aphrodite — had chosen to hide her and merely pretend she was dead. Where they — to wit, Aphrodite — chose to hide her was at Camp Meander, the Troll Guard training facility in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, hard by the Daniel Boone National Forest. Six months before her Genesis ever even happened. Gods could do that. They could travel back in time — upriver against time’s current. But then they had to travel downstream at the same rate as the rest of us: sixty seconds to the minute.
And, since the dolly had a metric fuck-ton of catching up to do, and since it occurred to them (including, but not limited to Aphrodite) that they might as well kill two birds with one stone, they decided to put her through basic training in the Troll Guard.
Problem being: she was a Man, not a Troll.
Not that, as Pete (the Troll Guard second lieutenant who’d gotten her out of Dodge on That Night), told her, they could keep her if she didn’t want to stay. Which she didn’t. The only thing that was keeping her there was her own pride and mulish stubbornness. They two stopped her from running far away and never stopping, but they didn’t — couldn’t — keep her from weeping in secret into her pillow at night when she thought nobody noticed. And, for the most part, they didn’t.
It was just another day. It was always just another day, she assumed, not knowing any different. She sat nearly alone in the crowded mess hall and reluctantly spooned bite after bite of viscous oatmeal and too damned few raisins into her mouth, chewing too long, and choking it down between sips of lukewarm black-ish coffee. All around her, her platoon mates and the Pasa from the rest of the training battalion chattered away in their own tongue in all their varied accents — this pair from Jirhum Ra, that foursome from somewhere in Siberia, that whole squad from the Canadian Rockies. She alone understood not a word — not a syllable or phoneme of it.
She told herself it was only going on her seventh month, that it would get better. In time. Down the road. It had to get better. She only had to be patient. But right now, nothing but her stony pride kept her from breaking down and crying. It was hard to chew even oatmeal-and-raisins with a clenched jaw, but she managed it.
Before she really realized something was up, a current of commentary ran through the crowded hall. She noticed first a change in the general note of conversation, then the volume and tempo of it. She lifted her head and looked around. Across the table, Li’h Loah, the blonde billilaalu lance corporal who was the assistant squad leader of the dolly’s unit, was half-standing at her seat, a fork still in her hand balancing a lump of scrambled eggs that, as the dolly watched, fell off to land on the table.
Little Low, as the dolly corrupted the other’s name, was looking back over her shoulder toward the mess hall’s main door. Someone — several someones — stood there. While nearly everyone in the mess hall was dressed in some kind of work casual uniform — CADPAT BDUs, coveralls, running togs — this handful of people, frekun ang to a Troll — were clad in a fashion more suited for… well, the dolly didn’t know. She could tell there was a difference, though, from the details — the carry harnesses loaded with ammo and other hanging bits, the helmets with dusty goggles slipped up off faces covered with grime except where the goggles had rested a moment before, the breathless tension in stances, the ready rifles slung casually from shoulders accustomed to going armed everywhere. The Troll in command of this unit was waiting for the approach of someone from within the mess hall.
One of the differences between the Troll Guard and nearly every other military in the world — the dolly had been here less than twelve hours and had already heard this repeated a dozen times or more with almost overweening pride — the officers and enlisted personnel all ate together — from the Colonel in charge of the regiment to — in the dolly’s case — the newest, lowliest, most unwilling recruit. It was, in fact, the Colonel in command of Regiment Arcadia, in camp for his mandatory annual training rotation, who was summoned now from his breakfast.
A frekun ang in perfect shape, absolutely properly turned out, nearly seven feet tall and perfectly proportioned, the Colonel strolled casually with all his command presence to meet the newcomers. The conversation between them was short and — it seemed to the dolly — urgent, as the Colonel quickly left with the visitors.
The tone of conversation in the mess hall shifted instantly, like a flock of birds or a school of fish reacting in concert to the approach of a predator. Across the table, Little Low sat back down, only then noticing the dollop of egg on the table. She used her fork to — absently, as though not really seeing or meaning what she was doing — pick the egg up and dump it on her plate. Then she set the fork down on her plate with an overloud clatter and looked across and up the table at the three-striper she assisted.
“What, Sarge?” she asked.
“They’ll tell us when they want us to know, Lance,” that worthy replied.
“You think it’s…?” She made a vague, but pointed, gesture across the table at the dolly, who bridled at that.
“She can hear you, you know,” the dolly growled.
“She should be seen and not heard,” the sergeant reminded her. “Eat your breakfast. Whatever happens, you’ll need it.”
“Yes, Sergeant,” the dolly muttered.
“What’s that? Is there a baby Troll squeaking?”
“YES, SERGEANT!” the dolly answered, her voice rebounding from the rafters of the place.
“That’s better,” the sergeant said quietly.