Chapter 8:

Long Live the Lottery Economy!

Welcome to Hell

April 16, 2036

The day after we visited the Noah as tourists, I managed to get the entire gang into Malstororo's room for a meeting. In fact, I had spent the night planning out how I would pitch the idea and also researching potential questions and their answers, even how to look absolutely confident that this was a walk in the park through my expressions and body language.

All night, I reminded myself of the times I learned one way or the other that body language was the key to getting my way with humans, or for other people to get me on their side. Just watching TV was enough proof that this rule also applied in Hell. The CEO of Mark Motors showed up by himself to a keynote for some boring new vehicle, using not just his assertive walk and calm yet controlled behavior, but also his role to convince people that it was the revolution to the way in which we think of car interiors, not yet another boring new vehicle.

It was clear that I had to do something like that. Personally, the product itself failed to interest me enough to remember what it's called or even the CEO's name, but the way it was presented and sold to the audience must have generated a lot of pre-orders regardless of the product's actual substance. On the other hand, I did have something of content to offer my employer and fellow gangsters. I just had to convince them to look past all the difficulty and focus on the ultimate reward. The gold.

These were the thoughts that swirled in my head when I showed up to work and got into Malstororo's office. I opened the door, seeing that my gang was there in addition to the big boss. Only Malstororo and Andy were seated; Malstororo in the office chair and Andy in one of the two guest chairs respectively, while the rest of the gang stood beside the latter.

Walking in with a confident smile, I put my plan into motion. "I've got a proposal." I had a devious smile on my face, my hands were on my hips. That piqued the demon boss's interest.

He leaned forward. "A proposal, you say? Please, entertain me."

"Well, it's a grand job that will proverbially take us to the moon, but a dangerous one." I flashed a smile, hoping my charisma was up to the task.

"Hmmm..." He leaned back. "Normally, I'd deny your request, but I've got the feeling you're onto something big, and I don't know why. Please sit down."

"All right." I sat down in front of the boss's desk, opposite of Andy, with a small table separating us. "Who has heard of the S.S. Noah?"

Before Henry could finish what I thought was "What the hell?" Malstororo interrupted him.

"The S.S. Noah, April?" Squinting at me, he tilted his head. He was extremely bewildered by the idea. "Are you planning something there?"

Giggling in a fiendish way, I continued. "Why else would I bring it up? There's a bank down th—"

He interrupted me again, his voice rising in an incredulous bellow. "You've got to be insane, April!"

On one hand, he was my boss and my only means of paying off my debts and getting some extra dough at the moment. On another, if I let him stop me like this every other sentence, I'd fucking lose my chance to get one of the biggest gigs of my afterlife, and inevitably delay faster payment of my debt. I narrowed my eyes, trying my best to look displeased and unsatisfied, and shifted just enough to jut a hip out defiantly. "Can you let me finish, please?"

Once again, Malstororo leaned backwards on his chair, giving me just the breathing room I needed.

"Are you suggesting we... rob the bank?" Andy's eyes were so wide, they could have popped out like marbles and rolled across the floor.

"Yes." I glanced quickly over my gathered companions, noting every expression and how they shifted from surprise to intrigue as the news sunk in — I bet they were asking what kind of deranged ideas I had this time.

Indeed, Henry spoke first. "That's stupid as fuck. Ye know the banks here are secure as heck, in this stupid district? Why do ye think waltzing into a sub and robbing its bank is like a walk in the park?"

It sucked that Henry was throwing shade on me again, but I couldn't lose my cool now. I took a steadying breath before continuing. "I went there with Eugene last night." Eugene nodded silently at my words. "It shouldn't be too hard. To exit the sub, you have to go through a canal lock. It takes a few minutes for the lock to be sealed and filled with lava, and even more time before it is opened again. These exits are placed in parking garages all around the submarine."

"What April is saying is that we've got about a few minutes' time to hijack a Bank Noah van, loaded with enough Hell gold bars to quickly raise our meager balances into the billions of luci." Eugene moved to stand beside me, a sign of support if I saw any.

"I've seen someone pull off this kinda gambit before on TV, except in another less popular sub." Andy said. "He couldn't unlock the van, so he broke the driver's door. He got the gold all right, but he got a much needed lava shower." Yeah, that was the kind of thing I didn't want to happen. "Also, they don't transport gold that often."

"If it's the infamous Joshua Robber, he was a lone wolf who didn't have the tools or the intel. The Joshua Bank security also released a clip with all obvious location details redacted, just in case someone had any bright ideas." Malstororo commented, before his lips twisted in a faint smile. "But April is asking me for help. She knows she needs help with this plan, and as far as I'm concerned, we do have the tools now, so it might just work. The only hard part is the intel."

"We could use our hacking devices. Unlocking the doors is always the easy part, y'know." Eugene added.

"That can be sorted out." Malstororo still kept that faint smile. "You can get in with our Jet Streamer, but leave some other way."

Andy raised an eyebrow, worrying me. "Wait. April, how did you even know the way they exit?"

I crossed my arms. "We were entering the sub and a van was right behind us. So I assume these vans exit the same way they enter."

"So yer saying we have to go there and case the joint, eh? Maybe see if them vans have a predictable pattern." Henry seemed a little less reluctant about the idea, but I wasn't sure he was fully in on it.

I still had to win him over, even if it meant putting aside my distaste for his occasional snide remarks. Gaining ground was worth getting him on board. "Yeah, that's right. We'd need someone to help us with the planning."

"Y'know," Malstororo cut in, "I thought you were a stupid little clueless human." Uhh, thanks, I thought to myself. I appreciated having to know that. "But you've got a good head on your shoulders. You've got my blessing, but don't fuck this up, all right? I'll let my men see what we can do."

I wish I could've just shouted "Yes!" and jumped like an excited little girl, but I had to settle for a more graceful and mature, "Thank you. I truly appreciate it."

Henry shrugged, as if he was going to just roll with it. Andy's eyes briefly widened in surprise, before it turned to yet another brief smirk meant for me; implying he was happy with my performance. As for Eugene, I heard him mutter "Fuck yeah" in another display of measured excitement.

"Now, April," Malstororo continued. "You need a little bit of modding for that kind of job, if you know what I mean. I'll pour some of my money in. Are you up to the challenge?"

This time, I had a wide grin on my face. "With pleasure."


April 18, 2036

The Marlboro Ring rushed me to get modded as soon as possible in anticipation of the plan's execution. The District of Lucifer scheduled the lottery for this April tomorrow, and this was the day to hurry up and buy what I could before prices went up.

Malstororo sent a "scout" team to learn whatever they could about the Bank Noah vans. The nice thing about Hell is that it was easier than ever to pull off social engineering techniques on its people. The targets either didn't care enough about their company, or would deliberately do anything to bring it down, so it was sometimes trivial to extract sensitive info like this.

The scout team found that the security guard union was in charge of handling transport of valuables like gold in exchange for fair pay and treatment. That meant the transport vans changed their routes often, all according to a plan that assigned four or five possible exits they could take at a time. This meant the heist was feasible but only if we had a lookout team and constant communication. In the meantime, the gang arranged plans with underground arms dealers for heavy armor and new weaponry.

Eugene took me to Cybermodz, where Mozgorn was already slithering through the place, apparently looking for something.

"Eugene! Been a while!"


The two exchanged warm greetings, once again reminding me that... actually I had no idea why the three delinquents and literally all the shop owners everywhere we went just had this great rapport. Maybe I missed something obvious. Hypothetically speaking, I'd have shot Jeremy to death if he tried to take protection money from me as a shopkeeper — and I absolutely adore and miss my brother.

"Oh, welcome back, April!" Mozgorn smiled.

Waving at him, I said "Hi!"

"Listen Mozgorn, please give her a good deal. We want her a little bit stronger, if nothing else." Eugene touched the side of Mozgorn's head without a single hint of disgust, not even for having a little bit of goo on his right hand.

"Without you even asking, my friend." Mozgorn looked me up and down. "But you need to decide what you want, April."

I wasn't actually sure, other than there were definitely some quite out there mods. Fucking Eugene decided to body mod himself into a goddamn vehicle, and this was probably just the tip of the iceberg. "I'm going for some big job, but I don't know what exactly I want."

"Well, are you comfortable losing a little bit of your flesh?" He asked with remarkably extreme nonchalance. The way he phrased the question made me feel all sorts of uneasy.

I firmly grasped my left arm, knowing this was the body I grew up with and was used to. If I go part way robotic, will I want to go back to my body? Will it be viable? None of these were questions I would know the answers to right now. "Uhhh, ummm, I kind of like being human. I'm not comfortable with that kind of leap yet, even if I can revert it."

"Not a lot of mods for you, I'm afraid, but I can suit you up with a regenerative panel. It'll heal your wounds very quickly." He picked up something; a light green curved panel that was about the size of my torso.

"Heal my wounds? Like in Call of Duty, or whatever that shooter game was?"

"Yes," Eugene answered, "exactly like that."

"Sure. Any side effects? Since it's a bigger mod, and all that."

Scratching his head, Eugene answered, "It will feel weird."

"Of course it will when I'm shot," I was so sure Eugene left something out, "I meant outside of getting shot."

"Right, it'll feel a little tickly when healing, and you'll feel there's something inside you. Now, I'm gonna ask if you prefer bleeding to death?" Eugene grinned with a chuckle.

The classy bastard, also wording his question like that. I had no choice but to sigh, shrug my shoulders, and entertain him with a, "Fine. Make it happen."

"You know the drill, April." Mozgorn immediately started pressing the buttons on his consoles once again.

By the end of the day, I had no visible changes to my body, but I did have a weird sensation front and back. It felt like someone fucking sandwiched me in a layer of Vaporrub Vaseline. That horrible oily, offensively minty, gooey ooze inflicted on sick children and then swiftly covered up with a scratchy wool sweater. I hoped Mozgorn and Eugene were right. I had better "get used to it" sooner than later.


April 19, 2036

I was sipping my morning coffee, while also appreciating the little changes to my room ever since I got here. I had a stack of books on my desk, a bunch of cute hell flowers that looked like small poppies if they suddenly decided to grow thorns, some second-hand blu-ray copies of movies and a relatively old and worn but cheap game console to watch them on; far cheaper than the typical blu-ray player. Incremental changes, I know, but I was happy about them.

These thoughts were abruptly cut short thanks to the power of Hell television. "In five minutes, the Demon Lottery will begin!" The tuxedo suit human announcer had to shout at the top of his lungs, his arms stretched upwards in some strange, amusing excitement against the red curtain backdrop. Bringing the microphone closer to his mouth, he resumed speaking. "For April of 2036, we'll go back to Hell's humble beginnings. Can you guess what it's going to be?" The red curtain slowly opened from the center; very, very slowly. Almost agonizing. "That's right! It's the Devil's Wheel!"

The curtains then snapped open, revealing a gigantic roulette wheel on a large stage, tilted at an angle. Instead of a few numbered pockets, there were numerous ones with the names of what seemed to be two districts, one name in blue and the other in red.

"The rules are simple. The ball will spin all over the wheel — as I'm sure you gambling aficionados know back on Earth — and it will choose a pocket. The district in blue is the winner, and the one in red goes home!" He smiled very nonchalantly. "Oh, and it's business as usual for every other district. I hope you're ready! If I were you, I'd pray," the announcer almost laughed over the word, "that when the wheel spins, your district isn't in red!" The camera zoomed in on a digital timer at the top of the stage, counting down from four minutes.

I sat there, unable to do anything except watch the timer go down. In the entirety of the four minutes, I hoped Gremory would win. I had been told nothing good came out of losing the lottery, and that everything went great for us precisely because of winning the lottery. The worst part was having no idea what the fuck would happen should our name be in red.

At the 30 second mark, the camera zoomed out, showing the announcer walking to the side of the stage, where a big red button was situated. He then turned towards the camera with a smile. "By the blessing of The Satan Council and His Highness Lucifer, let the Demon Lottery commence! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Zero!" And then he struck the button with his fist.

A ball instantly launched at high speed on the edge of the wheel, all while the pocket circle kept revolving at a slow but steady speed. That gave me ample opportunity to try and make out the districts on the line whenever the camera focused on the pockets.

If I counted correctly, "Gremory" was written five times, four in blue and one red. The red name was right next to a blue one. Even though I never seriously believed in him prior to getting thrown into the fires of hell, I first prayed to God that he'd hear my prayer even though I was a sinner through and through, and then prayed that the ball wouldn't touch the spot with "Gremory" written in red.

It took five minutes for the ball to lose enough momentum and slide into the center, but man did it feel like forever. The ball then passed the divider, and went towards a pocket before being flung by the power of physics to the separator of another pocket, so close to a green Gremory. But it didn't come to a stop. It tipped over into a neighboring pocket. The camera was at a far angle so I couldn't get a clear view of our fate, not before it cut to the announcer again.

"And the Devil's Wheel has decided! Congratulations to the Mammon District!" The camera finally zoomed in onto the ball. It did have "Mammon" in blue.

It was also... the one... with "Gremory"...


In red.

"Unfortunately, if you're a citizen of the prestigious Gremory District... Well, prepare for the worst time in your lives! That's funny, because Gremory won the previous lottery! Fun fact, the last time Gremory lost was 20 years ago, so hopefully you have saved enough luci!"

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck

Instead of just pressing the power off button on my remote, I struggled to find it before turning the TV off and then throwing the remote away, where it bounced off some wall separately from its batteries and the battery compartment door. I had more or less expected we wouldn't have to see the worst of the district. That we had a miniscule chance of losing and will merely lose a couple of benefits but nothing too severe.

Then that happened! Fuck.

I couldn't handle the stress, so much so that I crashed into bed and clutched my head. I didn't live 20 years here, I just arrived! I was already in debt!

In my frustration, I briefly thought about cursing God for not listening to my prayers, but that was kind of selfish of me. I was a sinner after all. I deserved nothing except Hell.


April 20, 2036

The moment the lottery results came in, the prices of everything hiked sharply. Whatever one wanted to buy was doubled, tripled, quadrupled, or even went up by multiples of ten. That meant I was forced to ration the food I had in the past two days, and only buy the cheaper food that luci could buy. No more nethercow beef and pasta, but a perfect season for living off beans and instant noodles. If a terrible phone cost 1 million luci, it would cost 10 million luci which was the price of something on par with if not better than the latest and greatest Galaxy Note — which now cost 50 million luci.

Even after just one day, the streets weren't as populous or busy as they used to be. Fewer people walked down the narrow streets of Semaimachi, and more shops were closed than open. Essential stores like pharmacies and food stalls were still open, albeit with even less people purchasing from them, while stores selling non-essential items like electronics, furniture, and paints decided they were better off not doing business at all.

Normally you could get stuck in a traffic jam in the Deck Market, but with about five or ten cars visible in Deck 8's skyline, this was the perfect season to hold a street race event. I honestly never thought a day would come where I'd stand in the middle of Deck 8 and see nothing but a ghost town, with the number of people I could see counted on one hand most of the time, two if I was lucky.

Things were even worse when going with Eugene to collect the gang's money. Yeah, Pushkin would still give us a warm welcome, but his smile felt kind of forced, his demeanor lacking in vigor. He straight up admitted having no money to pay for protection this week. Normally we were supposed to beat the shit out of his store and make fun of him for not saving money through the past twenty years like rich billionaires do in economic crises, but we'd only lose him to a rival gang and still get no money, so we just let him off.

The Gilded Gang on the other hand decided to commit the most petty crimes ever and straight up rob stores on the spot. They didn't even care how much they got, 500 luci stolen was seen as a win for them. If the stores didn't offer up anything, they either robbed their goods or smashed otherwise profitable items out of frustration. Sometimes they straight up killed the shopkeeper or the customers, keeping them stuck in hospitals and the now severely overpriced social services of the district.

It was a mess.

And yet on another hand, I was hopeful that my idea of stealing a literal hell submarine bank would let us survive through this insanity. Malstororo decided to arrange another meeting about this exact topic.

"As much as I'd like not to undergo this suicidal mission too soon, the Demon Lottery has forced my hand." Malstororo began with a somber expression, as he continued to explain.

The potential amount of money moved in a single van combined with the strong but exploitable security did provide a way out of this terrible month. Better yet, gold prices are fixed across all of Hell, regardless of lottery results. Theoretically, we could find a buyer from Mammon District as they'd be more likely to buy it, and use the luci from that transaction in Gremory.

"But there's also more bad news." Andy spoke while slightly quivering with fear. "Normally, even Gremory's poor have it easy, but last time we lost the lottery, even middle class life was impossible. Everyone straight up rioted. They robbed, they killed, they raped. That's why the banks have beefed up security now."

Frustrated, I slammed the table with my palm. "You've got to be kidding me. I was looking forward to that money!"

Malstororo just laughed. "April, my dear. You think you're the only one after that money?" He grinned. "All of us here are in need of cash, and fast."

"Are you sure we can pull it off with all that security in the Noah?" Andy asked, looking into my eyes, one eyebrow quirked as if to emphasize the question.

Malstororo sighed. "It's either you do nothing and die poor, or you get killed doing something." He just crossed his arms with a smug smile. "And you ain't here to do nothing."

"Look eh, this wench here is a piece of shit," I was about to stand up and punch Henry in the face, maybe knock a tooth or two out of his mouth, "but this the best idea she ever had in her life. I wanna rob the bank with her. Maybe she redeems herself. Maybe we all get that money." He looked at my face. "Will ye do it, April?"

It was very hard to resist the urge to punch him. In the end, I kept my fist to my side. "First, fuck you, Henry." I smiled. "Second, I'll do it." I turned to Malstororo. "Just give us tools and weapons and let us know when to start. You don't have to do anything when we start. You just sit back and watch."

Malstororo laughed again. "Y'know, I really thought you were a shit-for-brains, another whore. Your three fellows here didn't talk about you well. But recently, even Henry here was saying nice things about you. That Henry." He pointed at Henry, who shrugged once again with an oddly out of place smile. Hearing that surprised me. "You should stay with us after paying off your debt, April. We can go places with you around."

I was kind of nervous about the things said about me. What the hell were the guys saying?! "Th-thanks." If in those past few days, I stood aside and let them fling any kind of crap about me, I wouldn't be hearing this stuff now. "I'll think about it." It also helped that I didn't protest their company much. I still hated it, but on the flipside they gave me a source of easy income, a weapon to defend myself. Things I never believed I could get if they hadn't fucked up Mr. Charles's car. I didn't climb a big chunk of Hell's ladder, but I quickly went up a small bit thanks to their forced presence.

"Are you ready for, say, the day after tomorrow?" Malstororo smiled again.

Satisfied, I licked my lips. "I fucking am."