Rise and Repent
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PREVIOUS: The Vice Girls

FIRST: The Chosen Few


My first-ever demonarcotic is speed on crank. Belphegor's remains should act as a drain, siphoning off sloth and replacing it with laser-like reflexes. Either that, or put the user into a permanent coma. I'd put the odds at ninety-to-ten.

Natasha doesn't even blink when I explain the consequences. She simply passes the pills to Diya and Tracy. Then they down them with a glass of water and disappear.

Two hours later, the three of them return with satchels full of papers: stocks, bonds, property deeds, and more. I'm expecting Natasha to reveal some juicy gossip, maybe tell us how the Prime Minister is a slave owner or something, but she just drops the satchel on the ground. She passes me a lighter and asks me to set the satchel on fire. I comply.

This, she says, is for Zabutom.

Diya and Tracy add their bags to the mix. As we watch the papers burn, I realize that some of them belonged to normal people — ordinary folks just trying to get by. Natasha shrugs when I point this out. Burn 'em all, she says, and let God sort them out. She kisses me.

Afterwards, in bed, she strokes my hair and tells me she loves me. It's the first time she's ever said that. I nestle deeper into the crook of her arm.

I wonder, is it me she loves? Or what I can do?

Is there a difference?


I continue to develop drugs for Natasha and her crew. In exchange, they start bankrolling my studies. With some forged documents courtesy of Tracy, I convince my parents that I've won a series of scholarships. Natasha, Diya, and Tracy become infamous as the Chicago Spectre while I toil in the background, and I'm okay with that. I plan to publish my research on demonarcotics eventually — I'm sure it'll win me a Nobel.

I stay on campus for the winter break. My parents think I'm spending my time doing research with a professor. They're half right. Natasha and I reconnect; she gets me a Vespa for Christmas and we start taking joyrides on it.

Then my final semester rolls around, and the joyrides come to a halt. When I'm not sleeping or eating, I'm working on a final project. I prepared for this ahead of time, and whipped up more than enough demonarcotics over the break to cover the Spectre. But my relationship with Natasha becomes effectively long-distance, limited to video chats on Fridays and Sunday trips to the Moon. I'm mostly okay with this. As it turns out, the less sex you're having, the more fun it is to have. But I can't help but feel that I'm slipping away from her — and letting Diya get closer.

My worst fears are realized barely a month into the semester. I'm talking to Natasha over video-chat when Diya enters the screen. Natasha stands up and they shake hands. Then they slap them against each other. It's a secret handshake.

At first, I try to play it off and tease them about it. Natasha smiles bashfully — but Diya smirks. I know that smirk. It's the same one I give her when she sees me smooch Natasha. If I don't do something soon, I'm going to lose my girlfriend to a fucking furry.

I tell Natasha that I want to start going out on operations with her. She points out that I don't have any innate magical capabilities. Demonarcotics are strictly off-limits to me, so the best I could do is get myself killed quickly in a gunfight. But she'd love to spend more time with me.

It's not that, I lie. I just want to be more useful. I've been working on a fix for that, anyways — a project that will turn me into a magical girl like her.

Another lie. I'm barely keeping afloat with my schoolwork. But Natasha doesn't need to know that.


With the prospect of imminent ascendance hanging over mine and Diya's heads, our unspoken conflict heats up. Diya gets into robotics. I spend a goodly portion of my Sunday visits listening to her and Natasha debate about the metal needed in a catgirl's spine — tail included — and whether or not to have touch sensors in the ears that'll make the androids mewl. I use her excitement to motivate myself in my new quest to become a magical girl.

I bring Natasha home to my parents. Much to my shock, they respond favorably. Privately, they tell me that I'll always have a home with them, and my father approves of my girlfriend's career path. This is the exact opposite response I was looking for — they're supposed to kick me out of the house so that Natasha will spend more time doting on me and less on Diya. That night, lying in my childhood bed, I figure out how to convert my veins into biothaumic channels.

Diya acquires a new hobby: manga. She joins our two-woman shoujo club and introduces us to books like Spice & Wolf and Basara. Our club discussions become infused with debates about the merits of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism versus anarcho-communism. I just want to go back to reading manga and cuddling with Natasha, but I'm worried that saying anything will just make me look bad in front of her. So I just redouble my efforts to bypass the blood-brain barrier and implant a consciousness directly into my cerebral cortex.

At the beginning of May, the entire Specter disappears with my entire supply of performance enhancements. They return a week later with nothing but tired faces and filthy clothing. When I ask them where they've been, Natasha tells me to google a popular retail chain. I find out that the children of the chain's entire board of directors have been kidnapped; the ransom note is a demand to enable the company's workers to join independent trade unions without reprisal.

I tell Natasha that she shouldn't be bringing children into this. Diya barges into the conversation, arguing that the board of directors is holding thousands upon thousands of children ransom — the children of the company's workers. They depend on the company's pathetic wages to feed their kids, and thus have zero bargaining power. I want to ask what'll happen to the hostages if the company refuses to cooperate. But Natasha's on Diya's side, and I don't want to give the furry any more leverage. So instead of asking meaningful questions, I change the subject to my research on using the cardiovascular system as a point of thaumic leverage.

Luckily, the company caves within three weeks. A few days after it's confirmed that the workers have started unionizing, I see on the news that the kids have been returned mostly the same. They all have a washed-out look and can't remember a thing about the past month. I can barely bring myself to kiss Natasha that night, but Diya needs a reminder who Natasha's girl is.

Except when I go to kiss her goodnight, she's too busy working on android catgirls with Diya. She barely even notices the kiss on the cheek as the catgirl boots up with a MIDI-meow. Natasha and Diya share a fistbump.

I don't go to sleep that night. Instead, I concoct a cocktail that will either overclock my brain or make it melt out my ears. Time is running out, but I'm going to become a magical girl if it kills me.


It doesn't. By graduation, I've figured out how I'm going to bond myself to a demon. In exchange for energy from my metabolic processes, it will let me channel thaumaturgic and theologic energies. If I survive — which I'm reasonably sure I will — I won't quite have magical powers. What I will have is the ability to get high off my own supply, which should let me achieve more or less the same effect.

We decide to do it the day after commencement. Tracy's feeling sick, so Natasha and Diya help me construct the transmutation circle in the coven. It consists of a pair of concentric circles with a hexagram circumscribed by the outer ring, with electronic summoners at three of the hexagram's tips to summon the demon and specify its task and payment. The payment is the three of us. Natasha and Diya will provide the initial down payment of energy. The demon will attempt to secure the rest of its payment from the individual at the focal point of the ritual: me.

We take our positions on the hexagram. I hit ENTER on the laptop that controls the three summoners. The ritual begins.

There's a whirring sound as the summoners execute the first part of the program and the rings of the transmutation circle spin. The hexagram glows as a bright white entity appears at the center of the circle. It looks just like me — but has no mouth.

Natasha and Diya cast the spells I've directed them to, feeding the entity the first part of its payment. But it's still hungry, and the hexagram is pointing it towards the only person in the room that hasn't paid the transmutation toll.

As the entity floats towards me, I press ENTER again. The summoners kill the binding array and automatically generate a new one. The entity pauses as it senses the ritual shifting, but it's too late. It's acquired a taste for EVE, and the stuff is addictive. But the terms of the new ritual have left it completely locked out from all other existing EVE channels in the area. In order to get more, it'll have to make a new one: me.

I lock eyes with the entity. We both understand the deal that I'm making. There's no going back for either of us.

The entity grabs my mouth, pries it open, and stuffs itself down my throat. It's like I'm being cooked alive and flash-frozen at the same time. The sharp reek of pork fills the air. A low gurgling sound becomes audible from far away — there's a moment of detached epiphany when I realize the sound is me.

Red steam hisses from my pores as my body flushes out blood and my marrow flushes in gasoline. My heart stops. Then it restarts.

Not as a heart, but as an engine, with pistons that generate a drumbeat of the damned. My death-gurgle ebbs. I cry out and then fall silent.

The ritual ends. The rings stop spinning. The hexagram dims. We fall down heavily, and then Natasha rushes over to examine me. I wave her off and take a moment to admire my new form.

My vision is sharper. My muscles feel developed. I feel better. Harder. Faster. Stronger.

I want to punch a bitch. I want to rob a bank. I want to walk away from an explosion. I want to get out there and do something. Hell, I can do anything. And I know exactly what I want to do first.

I fish a couple of pills from my jean pockets and pop them both into my mouth. I swallow them without so much as a sip of water and grab Natasha by the arm. A portal opens up underneath our feet, dropping us through space and time onto my Vespa.

There's a helmet dangling from the handle. I plop it onto Natasha's head — safety first — before gunning the ignition. The engine doesn't catch; my heart does, with a variably manifolded interior space that has twice the CCs and fuel economy. With a disproportionately loud roar, the tiny scooter blasts out of the parking lot into the Toronto rush hour. I navigate through the gridlock with hellishly fast reflexes, taking the four-oh-one onramp and cutting in front of a trailer truck at three-digit velocities. The honk makes us vibrate in our seat.

Natasha grips me tighter as we weave between semis at more than two hundred kilometers an hour. The road clears and I decelerate on the downhill — not because I'm scared, but so we can enjoy the view. Ahead of us, the sky turns purplish-pink, with shades of orange emanating from the dipping sun.

For a minute, I let myself stop thinking. Instead, I focus on the here and now: the colors of the sunset ahead of us, the purr of the Vespa, the warmth in my heart, and Natasha's breasts pressed against my back.

She hugs me tighter. I pull off the highway and park the Vespa on the median.

We take our helmets off and make out. The whole time my tongue is in Natasha's mouth, I'm thinking about Diya. About how I've won.


NEXT: Ecstasy and Exorcism


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