Hellboy: Oddest Jobs Page 9


Then came the prerecorded message from Gunter Herzog, a pasty, bespectacled East German sorcerer who'd been held in Spandau for most of the Cold War. He was a most scary little man: frail in form, but rabid with conviction, and burning with awful power.

"We are Silent Summer," he declared from the smoking ruins of the Etna camp. "We are the vengeful arm of Gaia, whom you have all but murdered in her sleep. On this very special Earth Day, we have pledged our lives to give teeth and claws to our Mother, so that she might save herself.

"Now the terrible Hundred-Headed One awakens, to be reunited with his magnificent bride. And all who serve the Machine shall perish. May Gaia forgive you.

"We assure you: all virtuous people, who bow to Mother Earth, have nothing to fear. Nature loves her children, and is kind and just.

"But the old days, the old ways, are come again. We are Silent Summer... and you will know us by our triumph!"

End of ultra-stupid broadcast. Beginning of red alert.

Fifty miles from the nearest land, the B.RR.D. cargo plane circled above the waves. They had no mystical cloaking spell or ingenious device to hide them from view. Their only element of surprise was that they were out here, too.

Silent Summer believed there was something enormous and terrible waiting deep beneath the surface. It had been waiting for untold thousands of years. Waiting for a moment just like this.

Abe was down there, checking it out. Evidently, the doom-saying lunatics were right again.

Hellboy spotted the massive shadows on the water a mile out to the west, in the moment before the choppers blinked in and out of view as Herzog's invisibility spell wore out at last.

"Holy cow," said Omar the pilot, banking them into a brutal U-turn. "That guy's gotta be pooped."

Four miles away, but closing fast, the huge Sikorsky cargo choppers swooped low, so their enormous payload skimmed the suddenly choppy whitecaps of the sea the ancient Greeks called the Icarian, after the last fool who tried to fly across it.

Hellboy told Roger, "You wait here with Omar and Liz. I'll call you if I need ya."

"Are you sure ... ?"

"Gah!" Hellboy answered, as he stepped out through the cargo door and plummeted into space.

Roger was right. The new jet pack kicked right in at the first push of the button. Yanked from free-fall by jet propulsion, Hellboy righted himself, then rocketed straight at the gunships.

"Nice," he said.

The closer he jetted, the clearer the immense gray object in the sling became: a colossal severed tongue of metamorphic stone — wide at the base, tapered at the tip — roughly the size of a subway car.

"Typhon was buried alive beneath Mount Etna while preparing to throw it at the gods of Olympus," Kate lectured. "At a guess, that's only a segment of one of his tentacles."

Hellboy growled, "It damn well better be a tentacle."

He was close enough now to see the terrified faces gaping at him through the windows of the lead chopper: fey, vegan Euro-hippies, way the hell out of their depth. He almost felt sorry for their dumb asses. But it was definitely time to grow up.

As if on poop-your-pants cue, great red clouds and globs of blood and meat began to flume out from all four load-bearing choppers, misting the air and plopping down onto the monstrous slab.

Which, almost instantly, began to shudder with life.

Typhon had awakened.

"Oh, crap," Hellboy said.

On board the Sikorskys, all was jittering chaos and Teutonic gloom. Between the wood-chippers consuming the dozens of wine-bloated goats on slaughterhouse hooks, and the sudden appearance of a rocket-powered monster. Silent Summer's starry-eyed fling with radical eco-shamanism was over. Luckily, the days festivities were about to take on a life of their own, and would need no human hand to guide them.

From the lead gunship, Gunter Herzog gloated over Hellboy's confusion. The B.P.R.D.'s pet devil seemed to stall in midair, watching the bloody rain of rebirth, unsure of which way to go.

Perfect.

"Set him free!" Herzog screamed into the radio mic.

All at once, the bolts holding the sling exploded. The tethers, untethering. The Hundred-Headed One, falling.

The helicopters, darting away like frightened mosquitoes — from the splash of sixty tons of petrified titan hitting the sea.

And the stone-fisted monster followed it, heading straight for the churning depths into which Typhon had disappeared.

"Behold!" Herzog crowed, fingering a remote detonator. "Typhon calls, and I open the door!"

Abe looked up when the colossal stone hit the water, like the door to heaven slamming shut. Churning, bloody foam cast a purple sunset pall over the depths, but he could hear the sound of the abominable thing growing as he stroked down into the azure void, so swiftly that his skull ached with the uncanny pressure and ... heat?

Abe swam for the blunt, broad peak of a seamount that reared up off the sea floor like the stump of a blasted volcano. The jumbled stones of the mountaintop were softened by cobwebs of pale, slimy algae, but they had the unmistakable uniformity of chiseled blocks and columns.

Abe recognized the pillars as Minoan, but the scale was absurd. To build such an oversized temple on a tiny island would break even the maddest emperor.

But Abe doubted that this place was made for, or by, men.

And perhaps it wasn't sent to the bottom of the sea. Perhaps it was built down here...

As Abe paddled closer, the warmth abruptly became a most unpleasant heat. A solitary boulder loomed up out of a clearing among the ruins, embedded in the buckled flagstone floor, like the eroded remains of a colossal idol.

On Abe thought darkly, the plug in a bathtub.

Beneath the silt and slime, the cyclopean boulder was inscribed everywhere with spirals, circles — serpents. And it was not merely wedged into the hole, Abe noted with a twinge of admiration.

The boulder was the head of a gigantic Archimedes' screw, with threads winding down its shaft to lock it into the hole for all time.

This isn't a temple, Abe realized. Its a tomb.

Or a prison?

Abe swam closer. The unnatural heat was coming from the sealed pit. Even if Silent Summer revived it, the fragment of Typhon would never get through this. Not without help.

That's when he noticed the blinking green lights underneath the head of the titanic screw. And the strobing red timers.

Oh, no...

Abe keyed his throat mic. Every static-blasted channel dragged barbed wire through his brain.

"Hellboy? Liz? Anyone?"

Hellboy hit the red waves skull first, letting the jet packs ballistic momentum propel him deep, then deeper still, until Typhon rose up to intercept him, block him, plow him back toward the surface, Hellboy came in swinging his right fist like a wrecking ball, in a slow but unstoppable arc of stone on stone.

Given time and room to work, Hellboy could reduce the Great Pyramid to paperweights. But the water dragged on his fist, and the thrashing behemoth shrugged off his love taps like he wasn't even there.

Then Typhon picked up speed, and Hellboy clung like a remora on a sharks back to the pitted living stone as the monster tentacle reared up into the dazzling daylight.

Still coughing seawater, Hellboy was suddenly fifty feet up in the air again, riding the Earthshaker into the middle of the outraged swarm of Silent Summer helicopters. And Typhon was not only angry, but growing.

That was when Herzog pushed the button, and the bombs went off below.

First there was the punishing sound, deafening underwater. Then the shockwave knocked Abe senseless.

The head blew off the giant screw, spinning away like an aborted rocket launch. The next thing he knew, the explosion collapsed into a vortex, drawing the sea down into the opened pit.

It was a strange feeling, to be swimming for his life one moment, only to find himself falling the next. He wrenched one arm out of its socket, fighting the current, but was sucked helplessly down, like a spider down a drain.

Plunging through pitch blackness, he could only flail in the tumbling seawater and rising steam. That he'd fallen long enough to realize he was falling gave him serious cause to worry.

But nothing could prepare him for the return of light.

The scalding steam became a writhing fire that flayed the scales from his flesh. The distant walls of the cavern glowed with livid green phosphorescence, arching away on all sides, to form a spherical grotto bigger than the Astrodome.

His Geiger counter keened on his belt. The chamber was evidently lined with uranium, or some even more radioactive metal. With the water that had seeped inside it over millennia, it had become a natural nuclear reactor.

The water was like molten lead. Abes gills curled up, eye membranes clouded over. Shrieking like a lobster in the pot, kicking for the surface, Abe tried to call Hellboy. Don't try to save me, was what he would have said. Nothing could survive down here —

Then something gargantuan stirred below, and rose up out of the boiling blackness.

Even as Abe struggled against the sucking undertow, the leviathan slurped him back. It stretched out forelimbs like bridges, tipped with fossilized talons long enough to flay whales. A leering mountain of jellied, colorless flesh — pickled almost to translucency over a gigantic pagoda of bone — parted the waves.

Trapped by the lighthouse lamps of its eyes, Abe could only marvel at the yawning hangar of its mouth, as it swallowed him.

Abe threw out his arms, but he couldn't even touch the sides.

As he tumbled down the gullet of Typhon's wife.

At first, wrestling with Typhon had seemed like a perfect vacation. With no mouth, the stubborn chunk of a titan couldn't try to eat him or bore him to death with grandiose monologues, and its seeming indifference to pain left him free to unload on the bastard without holding back.

Like any vacation, however, it got old fast.

Typhon's stone armor had split in a thousand gasping mouthlike gills, to suck up the goat chowder that coated its surface.

This was good, because Hellboy was able to grab a gaping slat and peel it back like an envelope, exposing a soft interior that was less like stone than meat.

Not so good, because Typhon was gulping down goat so fast — growing so immense and alive — that Hellboy was becoming less of a threat by the second.

It wasn't like riding a subway anymore. It was more like a runaway firehose, a bucking bronco the size of a nuclear sub.

Hellboy ripped a thirsty flap into a foxhole, felt the whole titanic mass twitch as if stung. At least it knew he was here ... He pulled a concussion grenade off his belt, armed it, stuffed it into the hole, and jumped back.

This time, he could feel it scream. A big step in the right direction.

A huge cloud of bubbles broke the churning surface all around them. The sea began to bend, spiralling powerfully counterclockwise and down. Spinning Typhon like a Tilt-A-Whirl.

"Oh, man ..." Hellboy groaned.

And then they were both dragged beneath the surface, once again.

Up until now, Omar, Liz, and Roger had been reduced to stunned spectator status. But as Typhon and Hellboy disappeared into the yawning whirlpool, the Silent Summer choppers turned on them with guns blazing, and the dogfight was on.

Liz hit the deck as bullets stitched down the hull of the cargo plane. "Hang on to something!" Omar shouted, executing a textbook vomit-comet barrel roll.

Liz enjoyed a moment of true weightlessness, spoiled only by the imminent mutiny of her breakfast. Roger clung to the wall, oblivious as a bullet glanced off his temple.

Almost too soon, Omar deftly returned the deck beneath their feet. "I'm bringin' us around! Get ready!"

Liz scrambled to the open aft door and dangled out into the wind. She saw the lead attack chopper pacing them like a shark. It must have been dry on ammo, because the guns were swivelling without spitting tracers; but a silver-haired man splashed with blood hung out the gunner's door, waving his fist and roaring air-curdling curses at them. It could only be Herzog.

"You brought this on yourself," she muttered. "This was all your stupid idea ..."

She drew in a breath, let out a wordless curse of her own. This curse was made of fire, and bent the winds with an ear-splitting snap as it was unleashed.

The last she saw of Herzog, he was screaming through a faceful of burning glass.

Then the gunship was engulfed: a huge blazing dragonfly full of dying people, tumbling end over end into the sea.

No time to dwell. Plenty for that, later. The second gunship dropped onto their tail and began to fire.

So did she.

Then, and only then — as the bullets melted in midair, followed by the guns and the people who fired them — did Liz remember her friends.

"Hellboy!" she bellowed into her headset. "Abe! Are you all right... ?"

She jumped when Roger touched her arm, "Hellboy went down with it," he said, staring down into the bloody sea. "Abe doesn't answer. I should help them."

Liz stepped in front of him, tried to make pushing him away into a hug. The first time they met, Roger almost killed her. Even among the sideshow ranks of the B.P.R.D., the manmade man took some getting used to. "Roger, you're ... here to observe, to learn what to do."

"But they will be hurt..."

Liz tightened her lips in an expression even the homunculus could tell was not a smile. "Then you'll learn what not to do ..."

Back in the whirlpool, Typhon turned itself skinny-end first to ride the maelstrom like a gigantic kayak. Not so far below, the glowing mouth of the vortex was a hungry hole in the ocean floor,

Hellboy hung on like a barnacle, tried to rally his thoughts. Fighting was useless. But something had to be done.

The rocket pack clonked him hard on the back of the head.

"Ouch!" he gurgled.

And cracked a devilish grin.

Hot damn, he thought, this stupid thing might wind up useful after all.

Working as fast as he dared, he armed the rest of the concussion grenades and strapped his utility belt to his rocket. He shrugged the pack off, punched the thrusters, and sent the rocket whipping down the throat of the vortex, just ahead of the unstoppable tentacle of Typhon.

The eager tip of the titan slipped into the mouth of the pit. And with a concussive slam of whirling currents and awful stillness, the whirlpool sputtered and died.

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