Going To Hell

"All I'm saying is that it can't be biological. Doesn't make any sense."

Jonestown hunched away from the wind and lit a cigarette, "It's genetic, Kit. They ain't found the fucking gene for it yet, but it's genetic. Inborn. Gotta be."

"Okay, but if it was genetic or whatever, it would have been bred out of the system by now, right? I mean, over the centuries and stuff."

"Don't be so sure, man. I know some gay dudes with kids."

"Oh, sure, adopted."

"No, Kit. Kids. Biological-as-fuck kids. Not from a lab, nothing -
dude knocks up his wife, and then comes out of the closet a few years
later. Happens all the time."

"What, like back in the fifties?"

" … Just how old do you fucking think I am?"

" … I don't know?"

"Shit. Look, I know a dude who came out last year, he has an eight-year old goddamn son. Mother-fucker was watching 'Will & Grace' when he was putting it to his old lady, alright? This is the goddamn nineties, end of the twentieth fucking century, and he can't be a man in his own head unless he's banging this broad. All kinds of social pressure from this guy's family and upbringing had him eight shades of messed up, and its all the homophobic shit like your damn theories that make it worse."

"I'm not homophobic, man."

"Are you gay, Kit?"

"Hell, no."

"Well, shut the fuck up about it, then."

"I'm just saying-"

"Seriously, shut the fuck up about it or go wait in the van."

The two stood in silence. After a few moments, another pair of figures approached out of the darkness. They pulled close for a second, and then the smaller of the two strode off toward the tail-lights in the distance. Pulling his coat tight against the wind, Ethan walked away from the road and lit a cigarette.

"And what's the word, cracker?"

"We should be on the road before too long. Xun is delivering Dufrene's fucking spark plug and his damn McDonald's. I hope its all ice-cold."

"Then on to Cambridge?"

"No. I just got off the phone with William Tombs' mother."

"Why in the hell are you calling Billy's mother?"

"Let him know we were coming. Last I'd heard, William was living at home - now, it seems that he's in the custody of the state."

" … Holy shit."

"Apparently, young William is serving nine months for performing castrations without a medical license."

"Castrations?"

"Castrations. As in testicle-removal."

"On who?"

"Don't know."

"On his own crew?"

"Christ, I don't know! Jesus fucking wept, Jonestown - how am I gonna ask that poor woman a question like that over the phone at three in the goddamn morning?"

"What's she gonna do, slap you over the phone? Shit, it's simple, man: 'So, Mrs. Tombs, you know how your son has his 'Special Friends' that he sometimes runs off with for a few months at a time? And then he comes back with herpes sores, bruises on his knees and a wad of cash the size of a bicep? Yeah, well, we're friends of a friend, and is he in prison for assaulting one of THOSE young men?"

"Jail."

"What?"

"He's in jail, asshole, not prison - nine months."

"Shit."

"Tell me about it."

" … can we get someone else to run the numbers?"

"Jonestown, there is exactly one human being I've ever met who could quote-unquote 'run the fucking numbers', which was probably at least fifty percent blind luck, and he is currently fulfilling every one of his mother's worst nightmares about her son licking men's assholes. So, no."

"Calm down, man."

Ethan slumped to the ground on the side of the highway, "I'm just sick of this bullshit. The legendary, vaunted Three-Eyed Man was a great goddamn deal less helpful than I was hoping, we're already starting to feel the burn on cash, and now we're stuck with no leads and no map on the side of the road in fucking Connecticut because Dufrene can't keep the damn van running."

"Makes you wonder if Coffin ever has days like this."

"I'm sure he does."

"Big, scary dude like that? Hell no."

"Everybody eats a little shit now and again. You'd have to be a little crazy-masochistic to take a job like this, doesn't matter who you are or how competent your crew."

"Well, there's that."

"There's that, indeed."

Kit piped up, "So … can we still use the Shuddering Storm?"

"Good question. Ethan?"

"Not if I can help it. As a Drift, it has a nasty tendency to strand you - take a half-hour break to cat-nap, crack open an MRE or even recon the horizon, and the thing could blow right overhead, leaving you out in the open. You walk long enough, days at a time, somebody is going to drop, and then your ass is hanging out in the wind."

"My feeling exactly: great for a getaway, terrible for a long-haul. Plus there's the fucking refugee Damned, those greedy bitches - I know that I'll be labeled a traitor to my entire fucking profession for saying this, but without the Shackles & Screws holding them in place, most of the people in Hell are real assholes."

"Yeah - and the alternative sucks in ways I hate to even mention."

Kit began to chew on his lips, "Which is what?"

Ethan slowly stood, brushing dirt off of his pants, "Here's the lay of the land, Kit: the Three-Eyed Man says that our Departed's locale, this 'Laughing Solitude', is Ghost-Pussy territory - while it's on the maps, there's no charted Top-Side entrance; if there's a way to crash there directly from the surface, no one has found it. In addition, it's considered 'Deep Nether', so there are no particularly good roads leading there. On all of this, I tend to believe him."

Jonestown nodded, "Which means that we can burn a few weeks and spend a couple thousand bucks double-checking what the Three-Eyed Man says, against the hunch and against the clock, or we can just kick in the doors and march our way semi-blindly into the shit."

Ethan started pacing, "We'll need a Transit, and something semi-direct. We could hit Chicago, make a few calls and crash through to Lonely-Wood, but the Pits are unreliable. We could bargain with the Silent Wolf for a route, but the cryptic fuck only deals in red meat, still on the run - and I'm not dragging a street-walker down there for that thing's hunting pleasure, no matter how good the info is."

"Xun wouldn't let you, anyway."

"I know."

"Which leaves us with Alcatraz, which is shit-city and one-way, or with one of the Drifts."

"As I said, the Shuddering Storm is off-limits because we can't guarantee it - the odds of losing pace and winding up stranded somewhere uncharted are just too high. And the only other Drift that I know how to navigate is … "

Kit went white as a sheet, "No."

Jonestown chuckled, "Knew we could talk you into it."

"As for the exit - well, the Three-Eyed Man claims that Laughing Solitude treats their baby-rapers pretty well, at least physically, so our Departed should be able to walk. Whether she'll want to walk is a different story, but that's why we have Dufrene. We'll make a run back to the Dollhouse once we've broken her out, but we'll pretty much be playing it by ear from there until we hit surface again."

Jonestown considered, "Can we make it back before the Dollhouse wanders away?"

" … There's no way to know for certain."

"So we might find ourselves stuck in a less-than-charted Boutique in the Deep Shit, baby-raper in tow, against hostile Screws with no way back Up?"

"We run that risk. And that's a best-case."

"I hate this shit."

"Which means you're still human, Jonestown. Which means you're still human."

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