Chapter 6:

Going to Church

Welcome to Hell

It was super easy getting into that office.

The owner of the new restaurant, Franklin, wasn't exactly a veteran in this line of work. Or any line of managerial work. I wasn't exactly sure if that was even remotely related to his lackluster security, but hey, I already broke in. I was told the guy kept his money in an antiquated safe and couldn't believe he'd be that stupid, until I saw a big poster behind his messy desk — it was a red elephant on a blue background. Just to its left was a smaller poster, with "They're Always Watching" in green, against a black background with a white alien clipart in the center. The idea he'd use a mechanical safe didn't sound so farfetched anymore.

The plan was simple. Find the safe in that anarchical mess that was his office, get a small sum of cash, and get the hell out. That safe could've been hidden under the desk with all the stacks of paper lying on it, or in the cupboards and cabinets that had a lot of valuable trinkets — stuff like plates, tableware, artificial plants, plaques, random junk really.

It was hidden behind one of the cupboards, and fortunately it was one of those classic safes. The code was at 2949 but it didn't open. My hand reached for the knob and rotated it slowly, each time trying a few combinations upwards. It took a while, but it was 2999.

With what I've seen of incompetence so far, I had expected cash of about $100,000 lying inside, but all I found was $13,000. That was unexpected coming from Franklin Gonzales, born to a millionaire and his rich family; a millionaire who almost turned into a billionaire through lobbying for tax breaks even on his deathbed.

Taking it all, I didn't care if he saw he had not a single penny left. His fault for leaving the...


Bzz bzz bzz bzz bzz

...yeah, another day in Hell.

Took me a few more minutes to stop being a little groggy and lift myself up on the bed. I tapped my arm.

SUN 8:12AM 4/13/2036 - 493,900 LUCI

Oh yeah, I really wasn't meant to pay back my debt, huh? If I hadn't decided to run away with all that cash instead of paying the people who helped me get it, I could probably be somewhere else back on Earth.

Definitely not Heaven, though. I'd already made my bed and slept in it.

Nevertheless, I'd made my "morning" coffee — if a silly concept like time ever mattered in Hell — and drank it while tuning in to Secret Agent 606, a British cartoon about a pacifist MI6 agent trying to somehow sabotage and whittle down Russian spies in England. Nothing made sense, but it was a kid's show after all.

Unlike what Andy and co. suggested, the coffee here merely tasted wrong compared to the real thing. It felt slightly more like chocolate and less like coffee, but I still found it a good enough way to start the day. All in all, the gang finally arrived about 30 or 40 minutes later and we were on our way to work.

"He's back!" Malstororo slammed the table in his office at headquarters, a little upset for some reason. "Amerigo is back!"

Stepping forward, I ask with concern. "Who the hell is this Amerigo?"

His voice seeped with anger. "Amerigo is the leader of the Gilded Gang! He's some idiot who got executed in Fascist Italy or whatever you humans call it, and made a living off my back here! I got news that he came back three days ago!"

"Some idiot, eh?" I was curious at that point. "Why the uproar?"

"He's the only one the Gildeds fears! Without him, those idiots fight each other too much to figure out a new leader to whip them and beat them! And that is if they're not sleeping off with drinks, or with women!" I sort of expected a response to that effect.

Andy tapped my shoulder, grabbing my attention. "He got killed in Hell a few years ago, but he refused to pay for his unusually expensive treatment. Greedy little sucker, but he knows how to run a gang. Powerful goons but terrible direction without his leadership."

"Ah." Looking back at Malstororo and then at Andy again, I pondered. "Why not just kill him again?"

"Easier said than done, human." The demon seemed calmer now. "He'll be well protected."

"By his own goons no less." Andy smiled. "All of them are extremely loyal. You'll see a cold day here before they betray the family."

"That's troubling." I tapped my right foot once, still weirdly unsure. "But I don't know how they'll affect us. We're not the only gang here, right?"

Malstororo got up. "They aren't just any gang. They're our direct rivals in this Deck; they're in the protection business, too!"

"Oh." I felt a little stupid for not being able to read the room.


Outside, we were collecting the money from the stores in our Saturday rounds. We had a large number of shops under our protection, including in other Deck levels, but for Andy's party, it was essentially almost a half of Deck 8, mostly stores owned by humans. Henry left us to help out one of his friends, so it was Eugene, Andy, and myself walking through the hot ceramic streets.

I turned around, facing Eugene while walking backwards — something I really liked doing just because I could. My arms were crossed behind my head. "Say, how's that Jet Streamer?"

His eyes glazed and drifted up, as if trying to remember. "Ah yeah, we should pick it up tomorrow. Can't wait to see that city down there."

"Whatever you guys do down there," Andy held Eugene's shoulder and looked at me, "don't cause any trouble. Hull gets breached, you're vaporized."

"Say, are we better off selling it or using it for work?" My lips smiled slyly.

"I'd say sell it." Andy shrugged. "Thing will fetch us about 2 billion luci."

"Wow." I couldn't believe it. Just how much can this money change our lives? "So each one of us gets 500 mil?" I wasn't exactly a fan of including Andy in my calculations as he did absolutely nothing, but it was the worst case scenario.

"That's not how it works, April." Eugene stopped in his tracks, and the rest of us did as well. He got closer to me. "We used Malstororo's connections, so he's part of the cut. The lady doing the work will also want her cut. That's 1 billion we can't use."

My response was immediate. "What the fuck."

"So, each of us will really get 250 million. It'll last you for a year, or two if you're really conservative. It's not gonna set us up for life."

"What bullshit is this? You, me and Henry, we put our lives on the line for that damn car. They've killed nearly a hundred people just to get to us. And that's all we get out of it?"

"April," Andy butted in, "Welcome to Hell. That's all I'm gonna say."

Eugene continued. "We don't decide the rules and customs here, April. Remember we're here to be eternally damned and tormented for our sins. That's the poi—"

Two loud buzzing sounds startled the three of us, but Andy and Eugene instinctively reached for their pockets, pulling out their buzzing phones.

"Yeah, we're needed at Saint Patrick's Church." Eugene shoved his phone back into his pocket.

"There's a church in He—" Never once had I thought of all the things to interrupt me, it would be Eugene giving us his back and making a T-pose completely unprompted. Out of the 59 on the back of his shirt...

Two white metal bars suddenly emerged?

The same happened with the bottom of his pants, this time the handles were horizontal. As if that wasn't enough, his shoes emitted blue light, like it was yet another one of those rocket cars. Another second later, he was floating.

While I was completely dumbfounded by the sight, Andy ran towards him and latched on the left top bar with his hands, standing on the bottom one with his feet. Waving his hand towards the free bar, he yelled "Get on!"

"What is goi—" I just decided to stop myself and mumble "Fuck it" instead, and then ran full speed onto Eugene, holding on to him. Five seconds later, he just kind of flew forwards. Like a fucking car. Where the hell did he get all that space for those mods?

Tightening my grip, I looked at Andy. "What the hell is up with him?"

He just laughed. "Body mods, baby."

"I thought you needed a full suit of armor to just fly!"

"Nah," he smiled, "as long as Hell got the brains, and you got the money, anything is possible here."

"Just like that?" We were casually flying past a lot of stores, as well as other land vehicles like scooters and pedestrians. Nobody seemed surprised; in fact they looked completely apathetic.

He smiled again. "Make sure your battery is charged though, or you'll come down crashing."

While Andy briefly looked at the scenery, I wondered if Eugene was able to hear us at all, since he didn't make any comments. Andy eventually turned back to me, though he had a serious look this time.

"I honestly don't know why you ran off with that money, April. We're doing well in this place."

I turned my head away from him, watching some bazaar flying past us. Were we really doing well together? Maybe in the past five days, but considering these three were one of many reasons I ended up here...

"We really needed that money, y'know." Eugene finally confirmed he could hear us.

"Andy. I needed that money more. All I wanted to do was settle down, forget the past, and pick an honest line of work. I would be happy working for Amazon of all companies if it came to that."

"April," Andy's voice sounded strangely sorrowful. "We knew that. But we couldn't pay that $5,000 back at home. Heartless motherfucker wouldn't even turn around and see us begging him on the floor. He had his men drop us on the spot."

They really had to open these memories, huh?

By the time I realized it, tears were already falling off my cheeks. "I... I didn't want to rob and kill people forever. I never asked to be fucked in life."


"It all ended so quickly. Before I could even get a chance to repent."

Unexpectedly, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It wasn't squeezing it, just gently holding it. Turning my head slowly, of course it was Andy's, who was smiling. "April, why're you crying? We're fucked too." One of his cheeks had a single tear slowly crawling downwards. "Hell is a den of murderers, rapists and thieves, but it is our one and only second chance. Just let's not do what both of us did again, alright? That's all I ask."

My lips briefly formed into a smile right before I dropped it. Once again, I mumbled "fuck it" and just straight up smiled. I guess being eternally damned in a strange, unbearably hot world made me much more open for suggestion.

I remembered it all. Andy had tried shooting me with his gun back on Earth for running away with my — our — loot. Henry frantically ran after me with a bat, trying to knock me on the floor, if not smash my skull in. Eugene hurled curses at me just as he did bullets. I did the robbing from Franklin, but without them I wouldn't have figured out what to do and when. I stole their money and their lives just as I did that rich millionaire. My official sin says only one thing against me. If it wasn't brief and simple, it'd paint a far more detailed picture of myself, and boy, I was a monster.

Just when I started wondering if Andy and co. were even worth fucking over for a measly $5,000 that didn't help me survive long enough, Eugene sharply stopped, bringing me back to my senses.

Although the path was twisting, we made it in about 5 to 10 minutes. Between the usual shops of various colors and shapes, there really was a church. The facade was made of stone and tinted glass, with a belltower tall enough to pierce the first car level, a white cross adorning it at the very top with a crucified Jesus.

What the fuck. Did Christians like, pray and worship God in Hell? What for? To somehow go to Heaven? What use was going to church in fucking Hell itself? I also wondered if they read the Bible, but I stopped myself. Almost all Christians I knew had a copy or two of that holy book, always buried under a desert's worth of dust.

Whether it made sense or not, one thing was clear. A crowd of people surrounded the church entrance, and all of them appeared to be watching something in horror.

"Attention everyone!" a loud, obnoxious megaphone spooked the hell out of me. "Unless the Church pays its debt in full, nobody's getting out. We demand two and a half million lucis."

"That Italian accent..." Eugene wasn't the only one to make that observation. I almost assumed it was the Gilded Gang, but I figured it might be stupid to have an all-Italian gang in Hell.

"All right, we're going in." Andy immediately tried pushing through the crowd, with us following him close. Incidentally, I realized the humans in Hell were far outnumbered by every other kind of entity out there. For every single human, there were ten of everything else. And yet, I had a certain feeling the churchgoers were human-only.

On the other side of the crowd, at the top of the ten or so steps that made the staircase, three sharply dressed people stood directly in front of the entrance. They wore completely black tuxedos with diagonally striped gold-and-black neckties. Underneath their tuxedo hat was a golden masquerade mask covering the top half of their faces. Definitely dressed to kill. The one in the middle held the megaphone in his left hand, but all three had rifles. My gut instincts told me those three weren't the only ones involved.

"These are those Gilded guys, right?"

"Yes," Andy swiftly answered. "The Gildeds."

The megaphone guy looked at the crowd, looking like he was searching for someone. Suddenly his eyes were all on us, and before we knew it, he snapped his fingers right behind the megaphones. The other two guys looked at him, and presumably figured out exactly where he was looking, and that was how we were now staring down three barrels.

"Put down your weapons, if you know what's good for you." Right when the megaphone guy said that, the group surrounding us all dispersed, leaving us out in the open.


Without moving an inch, I took another deep breath. I had hoped they wouldn't shoot us readily, maybe granting us a few seconds for a snap plan to just happen. By moving my head right, I was hoping I could pass my next course of action to Eugene. Muttering quietly, I said, "Think of something while you're giving up the weapon." Then I did the same with Andy on my left.

Seeing that all three of us worked on pulling the weapons out of our bags slowly and steadily, the gunmen seemed appeased; at least for now. I took my time to push everything else in my bag so I could take the gun. Finally, it was right in front of me, lying sideways on both of my hands. If they wanted to come down and just pick it off my hands, nothing stopped them.

Eugene and Andy did the same, but the latter had made a sound that was quiet enough not to be heard by our enemies, but loud enough for my ears to pick it up. An instant later, we were covered in a dense smokescreen, and a hail of bullets which looked more like red lasers whirred past our ears. If it wasn't for my instinctive reaction, I'd have been hit when they first opened fire.

"April, follow me to the right! Eugene, get away to the left! Open fire!" Andy's voice was barely audible in the midst of all the bullet rain, but it wasn't hard for figure out where it came from, and my legs to run towards it. Surprisingly, the smokescreen was still strong. Did it really cover a large range?

Without asking any questions, I put the gun on my shoulder and aimed it at wherever the bullets came from. Then, I fired and didn't stop firing, resisting the fiendish kickback as much as I could, my legs bracing against the ground. In addition to all the loud gunfire from our standoff, there was a machine gun firing off some distance away. I could only hear one guy screaming in agony, but after 30 seconds, the rival gang's bullets just stopped, leaving sudden silence.

Eugene shouting "Clear!" sounded like music to my otherwise ringing ears. Three seconds later, the smokescreen started dispersing rapidly. Or rather, it was shrinking, eventually concentrating on one single point before completely getting sucked up in... That dark part of Andy's leg? So that was why. "One man down! The other two got inside!"

On the top of the stairs, one of the gunmen was down on the floor, his blood flowing down the stairs. It was hard to believe he'd just reappear at some hospital and be good as new, physically speaking.

Andy confidently stepped forwards. "All right, we're moving in."

In lockstep, all three of us went up the stairs, all in anticipation of the two who escaped and any other men they had inside.

"Your shots travel very far." Eugene tapped my gun. "Could easily reach the other side of the church and still hurt like a bitch." I liked shotguns back on Earth exactly for that reason. Makes other people regret their life at a distance, blows heads into the smithereens at close-range. You couldn't convince me shotguns weren't the reason we had the Second Amendment.

The moment we saw the inside of the church, we were greeted by even more bullets. My T-shirt's left sleeve was instantly ripped, but nothing was as bad as Eugene getting shot in the chest. Nicely enough, those bullets merely struck his metal panel hiding all of his weird tools, as evidenced by the loud clanking and him simply shrugging them off. Built in kevlar?

We had to sprint at full speed to take cover behind a white, cylindrical pillar. Damnit, this had to be a massive church. The first floor had those pews extending for almost a hundred yards. As if that wasn't enough, there was a balcony above us with yet more pews. It was all too damn majestic for my taste, with its dark brown walls, chandeliers, tinted glass depicting Jesus standing in front of a cross, stuffy air, and lots and lots of unarmed people. In the chancel at the very back and behind the altar, one of the gunmen stood right next to who I assumed was a human priest.

About three of the gunmen were on the bottom floor, and two above, if the bullet trails were a reliable indication. The three men were hiding behind the pews, all while surrounded by unmoving churchgoers.

Seriously? Those people didn't even try to run? That made things harder.

"Shoot, April!" Andy was already trying to go for the top floor guys. "Don't worry about hitting the hostages, but don't kill Father Nicholas." The way he casually suggested I mow down innocent bystanders to reach those gangsters was a little unlike him. He preferred not to cause collateral damage back then, but here, he just casually shot some of the careless worshippers to get at his targets.

Listening to his advice, I surveyed the best target for the next shot, and quickly decided he was only a few yards away from the pillar I was behind. All I had to do was duck, emerge sideways from the left, stand up, and pull the trigger before he did. His suit, along with his entire chest turned into a crater of blood and flesh. "Tango down!"

Andy gleefully exclaimed, "Charlie down!", which was pretty nice to hear. That meant four men total left. "Eugene, go up and take down the two guys upstairs!"

Eugene T-posed again, which was really fucking distracting. "Roger that." He underwent his transformation again, and flew upwards, crashing through the balcony.

Wait. What did Andy just say now?

"Two guys? I thought you-"

"Yeah, another one showed up. Keep mowing them down, incompetent fools ain't even a modded army." He pressed a button on his gun and emerged out of cover right afterwards. The gun now had a circular plate of metal around it, with a window right above the sights. It looked like a shield? On a gun? "Press that button, and start advancing."

A quick inspection of my rifle showed that yes, there was a button that was flush with the rest of the gun's body, only given away by the rectangular groove between it and the rest of the gun. I noticed that groove when I first saw it but never thought of pressing it until now, which made the shield slide out of the center, right where the sight was. The button remained inside, but when pressed again it returned to its normal position and the shield retracted.

I took a deep breath, this time determined to make those bastards sleep with the fishes for a while. Resolved, I activated the shield and started advancing forwards.

With Eugene proficiently covering the area above us, Andy and I were able to advance, using the pews for cover and picking off any armed men. Even though I was consciously trying not to hit any innocents — unlike Andy — sadly a few of them had to experience death another time from my own fire, especially if those gilded buffoons used them as shields.

One man emerged from behind the bench closest to the priest, quickly ran towards him, and held him at gunpoint. "Listen, you filthy yankees!" How classy of him, glaring at us with a scornful look on his face. "You try anything funny, he goes. Fuck off."

At that moment in time, a sudden silence filled the air. All gunfire ceased, though I couldn't check if there were any other goons left. I was too fixated on letting Nicholas live than my own well being.

Slightly lowering his weapon, Andy spoke. "And if we fuck off, what happens to him?"

"Mind your own damn business, you unwashed peasants. I'm not letting you have him."

"Please!" Nicholas finally spoke for the first time. "Not even the Church is sacred here, please stop this madness!" Hmm, yeah, it probably wasn't sacred, given the circumstances it was built in. In fact, this priest had to have committed a great sin in life. Nothing about this made a lick of sense, but I had to roll with it.

The gunman lightly shoved the gun into Nicholas's head. "Father, can you please shut the hell up?" Surprisingly, his demeanor towards him was much nicer.

Eugene was already standing right next to me, gun already fixed at the fucker. How the hell did he just show up here so quickly? "Yeah, and we're taking him with us. We could just kill you in less than a second, y'know."

The Gilded guy — now visibly nervous — aimed at Eugene. "You're just three, right? I wouldn't want to be your other pals when you get it. You're all unfit for any place but hell!"

No one had said another word for the next ten seconds, not even the other hostages. I had no idea what to do. I was well guarded, but if I pulled the trigger, the gangster would as well, killing one of us, or Nicholas.

A voice that felt familiar, but mostly irritating, reverberated through the church. "Three, ye said?"


I couldn't get a good look at the terrified face the gunman made. He had a gaping hole in his head the next second, dropping very quickly on the ground.

Turning towards the entrance, of course Henry approached through the messy, bloodied church without a care in the world. "Sorry fellas, was on the other side of the deck. I see ye've done all the legwork."

"Thank goodness it's over!" Father Nicholas just fell on his knees as if he was grateful to God. "How could I ever repay you?"

That was a pointless rhetorical question. This church was paying our protection money, after all.


After getting out of the church, we finally managed to assess our damages. Eugene sustained some damage, but it mostly hit his light armor, which I just learned he wore underneath his clothes in anticipation for a moment like this. Surprisingly, the only damage I sustained was my left sleeve getting ripped twice, which meant I had to buy a spare T-shirt, and that was kind of annoying. At least it wasn't a hospital visit.

Not as bad as Andy though. His left arm was bleeding, forcing us to scramble and get first aid for him from a nearby pharmacy. "It hurts bad, but I had it worse." He clutched his now bandaged arm. "Don't worry about me."

"Can we get you medical care here?" I asked.

"Yes, it's gonna cost a few thousand luci for that kind of woun-"

"Like how much?"

"Should be about 100,000 luci." He gently held my shoulder again with a calm expression. "I can handle it."

"Eh," I shrugged, "so what if I have to lose a few thousand luci from the church job? That's the least I can do to apologize for my... uhh..."

I heard Henry utter a very faint "huh?" at my suggestion. Incidentally, he looked a lot less scornful.

Andy laughed, in a happy kind of way. "Thanks, April. I wish we had you like this back on Earth."

"Heh, I'm trying my best."

Eventually we split off, and I went home for a nice sleep, but not before getting myself a nice light blue T-shirt.

The next day, when Malstororo paid us our commission for protecting the Church, I noticed I got my payment in full without any deductions. Andy still stubbornly refused my help in cash, but my gesture made him seem a lot happier having me around. If that wasn't enough, Henry stopped giving me those looks of his as often as he did.