Jack Yeovil

Demon Download

Dark Future 3

Part One: Slim's Gas 'n' B-B-Q


'Just what kinda ack-cent is that you got there, mister?' asked the gasman as he jacked into Duroc's car. He wore a baseball cap with the team logo obscured by oil, and had a name-tag on his multiply-holed bib-overalls. Slim Pickens. Whoever nicknamed him Slim was about thirty years out of date. His belly wobbled under denim like a double pregnancy.

'French,' Duroc said, gritting his teem. The pain in his side was almost intolerable, but he kept it to himself. A few hours ago, the numbness had worn off, and now he felt as if he were driving around with a flat-bladed knife between his ribs.

The demon needed to be bathed in blood at all times.

'My name is Roger Duroc.' The man might as well know. He was going to die soon, and the name would not mean anything to him.

'Ro-jay, huh? You from N'Orleans way? Lou-easy-on-Anna?'

'Non. Paris, France.'

'Yurrup, huh?' said Slim, exposing mainly rotten teeth in an approximate grin. 'I mighta guessed frum the way you got yer hand in yer jacket like that there Napoleone Boney-party feller on the teevee. You Frenchy fellers must sure like yusselves to go round grabbin' yer own titties all the time. We don't git many folks from Yurrup in these parts, nossir, not never. Japs 'casionally, but never no Yurrup-peens.'

Under his black coat, Duroc pressed the pad to his wound. The demon was stirring, restless, and the blood was still seeping. The pain would go away soon, when his mission was discharged.

The Path of Joseph was thorny. Thorny but rewarding.

Slim left the pumps to refill Duroc's tanks by themselves, and tapped keys on the forecourt terminal. The computer was melded with the Caddy's systems.

'Just runnin' some checks, Ro-jay. Safe sex fer automobiles, I calls it. What with all these here viruses goin' around, you gotta be on the look-out. I don't want ole Beulah—that's ma master program, Beulah—to pick up no foreign Frenchy computer ailments and rot to pieces on me, do I?'

Duroc didn't say anything. Slim was heavy-set, tattooed, scarred, probably a war veteran. He was big, but only his paunch was soft. He sounded like the cowboys in the sub-titled Western films his uncle had taken him to at the Cinematheque Francaise when he was a child. There was a slight awkwardness about Slim's keyboard action. He was missing the tip of his left little finger. That made him yakuza. They cut off part of a digit for every mistake you made. So, the gasman had been careless. But only once. That was a good record for someone stationed out here in the Colorado Desert. The yaks must want their best men to keep the supply lines open. Running a sandside gas station was a risky business, what with renegades and gangcults. Slim must have fought many battles, killed many people. It was just good business practice.

'Ah-hah, yer cleared, Ro-jay. No bugs on yer auto. It's a real clean machine. Yurrup-peen?'

'American. Cadillac coupe de ville, 1962. With alterations.'

Slim whistled through his teem.

'Neat to beat your feet-o, Hirohito.'

Duroc knew he was sweating badly. His collar was soaked through. His jaws ached as he bit an imaginary bullet. The demon shifted slightly and his ribs seemed to grind together. He pressed the pad tighter, and swallowed his spit.

It was a powerful demon. The Summoner had dipped it in his own blood before entrusting it to Roger Duroc. Duroc had travelled all the way down from Salt Lake City with the thing, struggling to prevent it from seeding early. If it were to spawn inside him he would be as dead within seconds, and his mission would have to be repeated. Another demon, another disciple. The Summoner would not be pleased.

'Don't git many private citizens through here, y'know. It's convoys, mostly. The big corps need to stop off somewhere on the interstate. GenTech route their trade this way. And we see a few Ops, and I daresay a couple of outlaws have stood where you're standin' now and filled up on gas. Real nasty boys 'n' girls, I s'pose, real nasty. Still, their cold kish is as good as anyone else's, and no one much bothers with gas stations any more. The gangcults need 'em as much as the corps. Gas, water and food. That's what you need to stay alive out here, and we got 'em all three. Would you care to try some of Slim's Special Refried Beancurd-shaped Ribettes with Chilli Fries and Root Beer? We don't stock no shamburgers. I knows you Frenchos got you a reputation for appreciatin' fine food. I could kick in some of Pappy Moe's cone likker.'

Duroc shook his head. Slim did not seem to feel rejected.

'Never know what you're missin', Ro-jay. Say, I could hunt me up some ole frawgs and hack their legs off fer ya if n you'd prefer. Throw in a fistful a' snails an' whip up some kinda gore-mette sauce or somethin'.'

'No thank you, that's all right. I've already eaten.'

Beulah had run a complete service on the Caddy in the time it took the twin tanks to fill. The car was certified bug-free.

'Say, has anyone told you you don't look too well, Ro-jay? The desert don't agree with you none, huh? S'pose you don't have no acres of sand over there in Yurrup, no burnin' sun beatin' down all day and whistlin' winds freezin' you stiff all night, no mutated coyotes tearin' at yer tyres? Gol-dang, but I hates them mew-taters. Frum where I sit, rattlesnake don't need no extra heads, right?'

Duroc's stomach shifted. He wanted this over soon. He had seen his face in the rearview mirror, and knew he looked like a week-old corpse with a bad case of the Detroit Sweats.

'Will that be paper or pretend money?'


'Fine. But you don't git so many trading stamps that way.'

'No bother.'

Duroc peeled the pad away from his wound, and let it fall inside his jacket. He ran his fingers over the slit and felt the hard edge of the demon sticking out of his ribs. He coaxed it loose and took the protruding strip between thumb and forefinger.

'Are you okay, Ro-jay? Can I git you some drugs? We got a special on amphetamines today.'

'I'm fine,' said Duroc, pulling the demon from his flesh. 'My credit card seems to have slipped into the lining of my coat. It's happened before.'

The demon came free. He pulled it out and held it up. It was not red-smeared. It had absorbed the blood. His wound closed, and he felt a tingle as the new flesh knit. It was an enormous relief to get the thing out in the air.

The gasman took the demon and looked at it. He would be seeing symbols on the plain white oblong. American Excess, Disneycard, US Gov't Bonds. Whichever was trading highest.

Slim shoved the demon into a slit on his terminal keyboard, and it vanished into the workings of the machinery.


'Let me git you yer GenTech traders.' He pulled a fistful of green-faced stamps from a roll. Duroc took them.

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