The Company Man

17 01 2008

Over on the Pantechnicon forums’ writing group, Caroline set the following challenge:

What I’d like you to do is pick a song title of your choice, and write a story with the same title (but it needn’t be a story based on the words of that song; just one inspired by the title). For example, if you choose “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles, your story would have to be called “All You Need Is Love” and you’d write something appropriate to that title.

Now, here’s the rub. No luxury of 2,000 words this time. I want to see you squirm! Let’s see if you can write this story in under 600 words! (I was going to suggest under 500, but I’m not that cruel). Then, if there’s a tie when we vote for our favourite story at the end, the one which has done the best story in the fewest words wins!

Oh, time limit? Let’s say we’ll start the voting for this on Monday 4th Feb (gives you 3 weeks).

So, in a nutshell:
Based on any song title of your choice
600 words or less

As I rarely get the time to participate in the challenges, I decided to throw down the gauntlet on this one. So without further ado, I bring you The Company Man (and five points to anyone who can name the artist).

The Company Man

“Your paperwork is always late.”

Gabriel shrugged. “I have a lot of work.”

“And I have the bigger picture to consider. I need to know what you’ve knocked off your to-do list right away, not three weeks later when you can be bothered to inform me.”

“I know, I know.” Gabriel picked at an old scar on his left hand, his nails worrying at the long-healed flesh. “I just… I don’t have much time.”

Michael rolled his shoulders and gave the faintest of sighs. “You’d have more time if you stopped fiddling with people.” He paused, then added “You don’t trust my judgement any more.”

“Taxiarch-“

Michael leaned forward a little. “Yes?”

Gabriel’s fingers ceased their movement, and he met his old friend’s gaze. “We’re losing the war.”

There was a stillness as they sat and regarded one-another.

“I know,” Michael finally murmured.

Gabriel sprang to his feet, losing a remex in the sudden motion. “You know? You know? I am down there every day, hunting and killing on your command! And you know you’re getting it wrong?”

“I know what I’m doing.”

“What if you don’t?”

Michael gave a small smile. “I do.”

 

 

 

“He knows what he’s doing,” Raphael said.

Gabriel gave a small grunt.

“He sent me to you,” Raphael added.

“I figured as much, after our little chat this morning.”

Raphael laughed. “Gabriel, this moment’s been in my diary for three and a half thousand years. Give or take a week.”

Gabriel’s step faltered. “What?”

Raphael tugged out his book and opened it at the delicate blue ribbon, where it was clearly written:

Gabriel, 14:30. Pep talk.

“So it is written,” Raphael added, his lips quirking.

“So it shall be done,” Gabriel finished. He ground his teeth for a second, then straightened. “He’s a bastard.”

“That he is.”

“You’re absolutely convinced that he knows what he’s doing?”

“I am.”

Straightening, Gabriel laced his fingers together and popped his knuckles. “All right. If you’re convinced, I’m convinced.”

 

 

 

“Are you lost?”

“No, I, um.” Gabriel re-checked his book. “I’m looking for Professor Flynn?”

“You’ve found him.” Flynn closed the book he held in his right hand and offered Gabriel his left.

Gabriel shook it. “Could I have a word?”

“Certainly. What’s this about?” Flynn guided Gabriel into a small office, the walls neatly lined with books, and dull, unimaginative ornaments littered around: a large globe, a telescope, a sextant.

Gabriel figured they were there as a badge of intellect.

“I, um. I heard you have an opening on your course?”

Flynn nodded, and looked away for a moment. “Alas, yes.”

“Alas?”

“We… lost a very good student recently.”

Gabriel carefully gave the nod of a man who had picked up on the hint. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Flynn cleared his throat and looked to Gabriel. “Who are you?”

“I’m-“

“Don’t lie.”

Gabriel blinked.

“I knoweth the Thoughts of all Men and Women, and I do not know yours. So. Who are you?”

Gabriel’s eyes flitted to the book in Flynn’s right hand. The book Flynn hadn’t set aside.

“Dantalion!” Gabriel’s book flashed, replaced instantly by his Sword, and he lunged forward.

The Demon only managed to get halfway through disappearing when the Master of God ran him through.

 

 

 

Gabriel set the timesheet down on Michael’s desk.

“On time? I’m impressed!”

“You had me kill five hundred and thirty mortals to put me in a position to get to Dantalion.” Gabriel sat, then admitted “You really know what you’re doing.”

“Of course.”

There was stillness for a moment.

“Bastard,” said Gabriel.

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