St. Chloe, Part 1
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Last time on Nexus:
Trickster Heist, Part 3

Washington DC, USA


The American capital was a place where you could meet pretty much all kinds of people in all kinds of establishments.
This was true for good ones, as well as for bad ones. His Excellency Silvio Paolo Spinazzola personally counted himself among the good guys.
He was a brawny man with a bald head and a short, neat beard and glasses. And he headed the U.S. branch of the Brotherhood of the Knights of Saint George, an army of the Holy See. Its mission was to secure and safeguard beings and objects of heavenly origin, and to destroy those that were of the Devil.
Accordingly, his office was decorated not only with a teak-wood desk and filing cabinets, but also with some copies of Christian icons and a crucifix.
He was busy stamping some documents when his secretary answered the phone.
"Spinazzola, what's up?" the head of the branch answered.
"Uh, sir, this is a certain Mr. Coin. He wants to speak to you. Says it's important."
"Can't he make an appointment?" asked Spinazzola, annoyed. "I'm busy."
"Sir, he says he's defected from the Foundation."
There was a brief silence.
"Mm, that changes things a bit…. All right, take everything off him that he could use as a weapon and send him up."
It took a little while, but then the door opened and a badly emaciated man entered. One could see his skull, and his nose bone. He had a rather large nose and narrow lips and wore a worn, cheap suit and carried a battered-looking black briefcase. Like Spinazzola, he was bald, though without a beard, but had unsightly liver spots on his head.
He looked around with a piercing gaze.
"You're Father Spinazzola, right?" asked Mr. Coin then.
"Indeed. I welcome you, why in God's name are you here, disturbing my work?"
Mr. Coin sucked in a sharp breath at the word "God".
"I think He's pretty mad at me right now, but I'm here to set the record straight."
The leader pricked up his ears.
"Why? Oh, please have a seat."
Mr. Coin complied and took a deep breath.
"Uh, are you familiar with Foundation Site-666?"
"No," Spinazzola said, shaking his head. "Did they really name a Site like that? Where is it located?"
"In Las Vegas."
"Euh…"
Mr. Coin shrugged apologetically.
"Sorry, but I can't help that. But I've been there, you must know. It is terrible there."
"Why?" Spinazzola asked.
"The whole location is just there to protect the demons. Las Vegas and especially Paradise are full of them."
"WHAT!!!" it escaped Spinazzola.
He had heard about Las Vegas once almost going to hell, but this was news to him.
"I'm not kidding, look at this," Mr. Coin asked, opening his briefcase.
Inside were some Foundation documents, neatly packed in a binder. There were reports on the demon population, the different species, agreements with the Foundation….
"This is outrageous!" Spinazzola commented.
"Isn't it?" agreed the renegade. "If it were up to me, I would expel them all from our world, don't you feel the same way?"
"Certainly," Spinazzola muttered as he turned the page. "But that will be impossible, there are so many of them, the collateral damage would be immense, the counterattack by the U.S. military alone would be too much."
"I have a solution for that," Mr. Coin said. "In its essence, it's very simple."
Spinazzola listened with growing fascination. This plan could work. Sure, the population of Las Vegas would fall victim to this operation, but who cared about those sinners when a veritable army of God's enemies would be rendered harmless in return…. The plan was just too perfect for that. It was foolproof and, once executed, unstoppable.
By no one…

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

The Triumph Rocket III Roadster is one of the largest mass-produced motorcycles in the world. The man piloting the two-and-a-half-meter-long colossus, however, made it seem like a normal vehicle. The blonde woman clinging to him from behind, however, set the perspective straight. The motorcycle had a correspondingly huge sidecar, in which sat a white-haired girl. All three passengers wore black motorcycle helmets and gear, with the blonde wearing a catsuit. White and blond hair fluttered in the breeze as they rode north on Interstate 15, heading straight for Las Vegas. The evening sun was blazing from the sky, but that didn't seem to bother them.
Their destination was the Las Vegas Strip, where the trio looked for a place to park.
A few passersby, apparently motorcycle enthusiasts, fell into spontaneous applause at the sight of the vehicle.
"Whew, lucky they're air-conditioning suits, otherwise the sun would have grilled us," Elli remarked as she climbed off the bike and removed her helmet.
A cracking sounds was heard as she straightened her back.
"We could have just come here via portal," Chloe remarked as she climbed out of the sidecar.
"When you travel to Vegas, you travel in style, Chloe," Elli lectured her. "Besides, Dean wanted to finally check out his motorcycle; he's been tuning that baby for twenty years."
Dean eyed his machine critically.
"I don't really like the sound yet," he remarked.
Elli collected all the helmets and stowed them in her bag. Chloe and Dean, meanwhile, opened their jackets, wearing shirts underneath.
"Now what?" asked Chloe as the three left the parking lot and entered the hustle and bustle of Sin City.
"Now we show you how we make dough," Elli explained with anticipation. "When we're not smuggling banned substances across some borders."
"You're dealing drugs?" asked Chloe, aghast, as they began to move.
"No," Elli returned. "Drugs aren't the only things banned in some states. They also include tea, wood, chocolate, coffee, and in an interesting case, milk."
"Who the hell bans mi-," Chloe began, but was interrupted by a bloodcurdling scream.
"What was that!" she asked, horrified.
Dean smiled evilly.
"Someone just tried to steal my bike…"

The Luxor Las Vegas is a casino and four-star hotel in Paradise and the sixth largest hotel in the world.
The most striking features of it are its front park with the two sphinxes and other Egyptian-inspired ornaments and the main building, a huge black pyramid made of glass.
But this was only a façade, for hidden beneath the ground was the building's real raison d'être, the Foundation's Las Vegas field office. It was here that the activities in Las Vegas and Paradise were monitored live and suspicious individuals and entities were apprehended. But Site-666, as it was called, possessed another purpose. Namely, guarding the machine that was hidden under the top of the pyramid.
Two men now entered the pyramid of Luxor Las Vegas. If one looked closely, one could see that one of them was wearing a thin bracelet with a crucifix on it.
Both wore long coats and sunglasses and were moving toward the center of the building, for the Luxor pyramid was mostly hollow and housed other buildings inside that were illuminated with spotlights because of the fading light of the sun.
One could tell at first glance that they were suspicious.
The security guards apparently thought so too, keeping a suspicious eye on the two.
As a result, they unfortunately overlooked a woman who was holed up in one of the restrooms, along with a trombone case.
And was calmly assembling the bazooka hidden inside….
The toilet had a window through which one could see the underside of the tip.
The woman opened the window…
Aimed…
And fired…
With the explosion, bright panic broke out in the building, while strange pieces of machinery rained down from the ceiling.
You could feel something primal, something evil beginning to spread through the hotel and spill out through the walls.

Dr. House, the site director of Site-666, rushed to his computer to make sure that a very special anomaly remained contained.
Why had the vacuum unit been destroyed!
Never mind, it wasn't as if there was no back-up.
He dialed the machine maintenance number.
It was answered.
"Skinner?" he asked. "Power up the backup vacuum unit! And do it fast, we're leaking TRE!"
Instead of the engineer's annoyed voice, a fearsome growl and giggle came from the receiver.
"Hey, Skinner, what's going on?"
"What's going on?" asked a voice that definitely didn't belong to a human. "Oh right, you were distracted…. But don't worry, we'll be with you soon…"
At that moment, another alarm began to blare.
And House's heart got into his mouth.
It was the alarm that warned of a full-scale containment failure of the captured entities.
But how the heck did something like that happen, it didn't come out of the blue!
Then it hit him.
The researcher who had disappeared….
The Foundation was searching for him at full speed, but so far nothing had been found. One day his room had simply been empty. No matter, that had time for later.
House activated the automatic lockdown of the site. None of these monsters were allowed to get outside, or at least not any more. Then he connected with the surrounding Foundation sites.
That meant he tried….
The lines were all dead…
That left Dr. House with no way to activate the back-up!
He watched anxiously as one by one all TRE detectors in the city began to show dangerously high readings while he racked his brain for what else he could do.

A few sparks flew from the cut telephone wires. They almost flew out of the hole that had been dug in the Nevada desert.
Lario and Cozzi, both stalwart Knights of Saint George, looked at their handiwork and wiped sweat from their foreheads.
"Do you think the other teams activated the jammers in time? Not to mention the other communication lines?" asked Cozzi.
Lario shrugged his shoulders.
"Brother, if God wills it, then Las Vegas will disappear tonight along with its evil spawn…"

"Twenty-five wins."
The dealer pulled in the bets and then pushed a massive mountain of chips to Dean.
"Very kind of you, sir," the latter thanked him.
Chloe watched enthralled what was happening at the table.
It was a larger casino they were in. This place wasn't quite as strict about the dress code, but Chloe wouldn't have gotten in without Ellis's silver tongue. The doorman had finally been persuaded with the help of Benjamin Franklin, on the condition that Chloe did not attend the games.
Dean had had a hundred-dollar bill exchanged for chips and had gone to the craps. At first he had lost constantly, but then Elli had breathed on the dice to bring him luck. As a result, he had started to rake it in.
The whole thing had repeated itself later at the Black Jack and at the Baccarat. Dean had now proceeded to roulette with his previous winnings of about twenty thousand dollars and had bet half of it.
And had won.
The dealer and also the other players looked at the stacks of chips in amazement.
Until the game master regained his composure. Chloe had stared at him for a while. Two short horns stuck out of his black hair. But she hadn't been able to ask Elli about them yet, mostly because no one else seemed to notice them. Besides, there was the other thing that puzzled her even more.
"Next game."
The players bet, and the ball started rolling. Dean then bet after some delay.
Everyone watched anxiously as the ball danced and bounced in the roulette wheel.
Chloe tugged Elli's arm and took her a little apart.
"How does he do it?" she asked, "He must be cheating."
"Dean and cheating?" Elli asked skeptically.
Chloe just raised her shoulders helplessly.
Elli chuckled.
"You're absolutely right, Chloe. But now tell me, what does he do?"
"Um…"
Chloe thought hard.
Wait a minute. Dean was a machine!
"He weighed the dice. By seeing what number of dice is on top when he holds them, he can throw them to get the result he needs."
Elli grinned like a mother whose child had won first place in a sports competition.
"A hundred points. But that was easy. What did he do in the card games?"
"He had cards with him that he would pull out of his sleeve when needed and make others disappear in exchange?" asked Chloe.
"Nh, almost. How would he be able to play with cards that differ from the design of the decks used in the casino?"
The metaphorical gears in Chloe's head were grinding.
"He stole them inconspicuously beforehand?"
"Another hundred points," Elli applauded. "Well, how's roulette? There's nothing here for him to throw by feel, and no cards to cheat with."
"Thirteen wins," came from the gaming table.
"No need to wrap up the winnings, sir," Dean said.
Disbelieving murmurs went through the players.
"Next game."
Chloe watched strained as the players, and eventually Dean, bet.
Then it hit her.
"He bets when the ball rolls. He can estimate where it's going to land."
"Exactly," Elli confirmed. "Dean's a kesselgucker, Chloe. If you're exposed as one in a casino, you're banned for life. So sh—."
"One wins."
Chloe could see the dealer was getting suspicious. He did not start the roulette.
"Sir, please bet now."
"I can't decide," Dean replied helplessly.
"I'm sorry, sir, but you must bet now."
Dean looked forced.
"Um, all in on the three…"
The dealer seemed reassured and started.
"Excuse me for a second," Elli asked.
She left Chloe standing there, confused, and wandered over to a part of the casino that was easy to look over. There she began to pose casually and suggestively at the same time.
She pretended to be warm and fanned herself.
She opened the zipper of her catsuit quite a bit….
It should be mentioned that unlike Dean and Chloe, she was wearing no other clothes underneath.
Numerous men's eyes and, to Chloe's surprise, a few that belonged to women, remained glued to Elli with desire.
So also those of a (to Chloe's astonishment also horned) waiter, who as a result no longer paid attention to where he went and crashed into Dean. Fortunately, he didn't lose the empty glasses on his tray.
Dean tried to keep his balance by raising his knee, but only banged it against the table as he was too close.
He faked a pained growl and braced himself on the table to keep from toppling over.
The shock that ran through the table from his knee jolt wasn't really worth mentioning, but was enough to make the dancing ball change course in mid-bounce.
It fell into the three.
The waiter was still apologizing profusely to Dean, while the table erupted in silent applause.
Dean collected his winnings from a pale dealer, probably only after the latter had fetched more chips from other tables, and limped away from the table after stowing the chips in a bag he had brought with him.
A whirring sound told Chloe that Elli had closed her zipper again. She thought she heard a few disappointed groans around the room.
"How much do we have?" she asked as she stepped back over to Chloe and adjusted her clothing.
"Twenty-two million and six hundred and eighty thousand dollars," Dean reported.
Elli raised an eyebrow.
"What, you usually don't abort until nine figures."
"The dealer was looking at me funny," was all Dean said. "Besides, I don't think they're willing to pay out that much here."
He was going to be right.

"So you are telling me this is the result of a hundred dollars worth of chips?" asked a small man with curly black hair and bicycle goggles that greatly magnified his eyes.
Two goat horns protruded from his skull.
"What can I say, shit happens," Dean replied with a shrug. "I earned it all fair and square."
The cashier gave Dean a long, penetrating look. But Dean had arguably the world's best poker face.
"Now, can you cash out or not?"
"I'll have to check the safe for that, I think you broke the house record…"
Chloe was getting fed up by now.
"Elli?" she murmured.
"Yes?" the woman addressed just as quietly.
"Why doesn't anyone notice that the staff here has horns?"
"Oh, you can see them?" said Elli, equal parts astonished and sorely impressed.
Chloe's eyebrows drew together.
"Others can't see them? How can that be?"
"You know the AVT, even if we don't have it with us today. Same principle. Demons are masters at hiding from ordinary mortals."
"Demons!?," Chloe assured herself.
Elli shrugged indifferently.
"Las Vegas isn't called Sin City for nothing, Chloe. Paradise, a town immediately bordering Las Vegas to the south, was founded by emigrants from hell. They are quite nice people who have settled here. They don't want to make a big fuss. Of course, there are bloodthirsty fiends, but they're taken care of elsewhere here."
"What makes set up shop here?" asked Chloe.
"Tax evasion," was the answer. "Hell has abhorrent tax rates, I've been told, so there's tax evasion and fraud on a grand scale."
"That… is way more mundane than I thought…" Chloe commented.
There was a click at the cash register as Dean closed the cases with his money.
"Got a count, we're good to go. Fast."
He shooed the two out of the casino and into the Vegas nightlife.
"Why do we have to leave in such a hurry?" Chloe asked.
"So we're out of reach when he realizes he gave me two hundred dollars too much," Dean whispered.
The trio took to their heels.
Only when they had covered about two hundred yards of the Las Vegas Strip did they slow down. Elli then dropped the suitcases into her purse and took a sip from her flask.
She and also Chloe then noticed a man sitting in a sidewalk café drinking wine.
"Oh, Jesus!" Elli snapped, running to the man as if to an old friend. "Hi. Well, remember me?"
The man looked up. The warmest, gentlest smile Chloe had ever seen spread across his face.
"Ah, Elli," he said kindly. "Nice to see you again after all these years."
"Likewise, man. How long has it been now?"
"Almost two thousand years. You still owe me money, by the way."
Elli pressed her lips together. Seemingly, because of the interest due and the rate of inflation, she had hoped her conversation partner had forgotten.
Chloe tried to categorize the face, but the results her factual memory provided were dismissed by her as impossible.
"Dean, is that…"
Dean tilted his head.
"I've never met him, but he's got scars in his hands and feet, so that'll be him. Fancy sandals…"
"Dean, the skin and hair color don't match."
"Chloe, think, the man was born in the Middle East, what do you expect? Blond and blue-eyed?"
Elli hadn't said anything for a while. Apparently she was still thinking about how to get out of it.
"Oh, don't stress, Elli, if you pay me my tab here, we'll call it even."
Elli awoke from her stupor almost instantly.
"Oh, very kind. What's on the list so far?"
"A salad and a carafe of water."
With a raised eyebrow, Elli looked at the wine.
"Why have I never invited you to a party…"
Her interlocutor turned his attention to Elli's companion.
"Don't be shy, step closer. I won't bite, I promise."
Chloe and also Dean didn't quite know how to behave in the presence of such a personality and waddled cautiously closer.
"Dean and Chloe," Elli introduced.
"Nice to meet you."
He regarded Chloe with a strange look. She thought she read pity in him.
"How do you of all people know Elli?" Dean asked.
"She helped me out in Judea. And borrowed money to buy wine…"
He looked at Elli with a reproving look.
"Yeah, I can pull such stunts," Elli waved it off. "The big G would think twice about judging me."
"You really should stop sinning. You'll get retribution someday."
Elli shrugged her shoulders.
"I don't believe in the existence of gods. I know they exist. That makes it much harder for them to hold me accountable. Like when I was with Apollo, Hera, Hermes and Aphrodite-"
Lightning twitched down from a small cloud in the sky and struck the ground just inches from Elli.
Strangely, despite this event, the people on the street remained surprisingly calm. Chloe suspected that this was due to the same reason that no one realized he was here.
Elli, meanwhile, rolled her eyes and turned to the sky.
"Oh, take a chill pill, Zeus, the four of them had as much fun doing it as I did. Besides, Diddy suggested it."
A restrained rumble of thunder echoed from above.
"Olympians…" said Elli, shaking her head, turning back to her interlocutor. "Anyway, that's the proof."
Chloe bore witness to a graceful head shake.
"Punishment for sins can come in more ways than just physical pain, Elli."
"Certainly, but I've done the math, with my list of offenses, He'd have to open the gates of hell right below me to punish me appropriately, and that's against the rules of the game."
Chloe felt something wash over her. It was intangible, but unspeakably sickening. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up.
Her counterpart abruptly disappeared with a "plop," as if he had been blinked out of existence.
The ambient lighting abruptly changed to a dusky red.
Dean sighed long and hard.
"Maybe you should have just shut up for once, Elli…"
The earth began to shake. Over the houses, Elli thought she could see transparent shadows in the sky far away, as if the city were in a huge hole. They seemed to approach with geological slowness.
Next to her, a half-naked man suddenly phased into existence. He grinned greedily and two horns were on his head.
He looked at her and then turned away from Chloe to lunge at a passerby.
Apparently, he hadn't wanted to mess with Dean….
The phenomenon was repeating itself. More and more of these demons appeared out of nowhere. They grabbed rocks and clubs and bottles and went looking for people to torment, but those weren't very impressed. It was as if they were in a trance.
The shaking stopped again.
Elli dug out her flask and a device Chloe recognized as the Empyrean Energy Meter1.
She took a hearty swig while the machine did its work.
"Holy shit, the Tartarean Resonance Energy is through the roof!" she then snapped.
"Elli? What's happening?" asked Chloe anxiously.
"The concentration of sin is way too high in this area," groaned Elli. "It's no wonder, considering what they do in Vegas. Something like that already happened in 1992."
"And what followed?" Dean asked, eyeing the appearing demons suspiciously.
So far, though, they'd been left alone.
"The same as now. Large amounts of Tartarean Energy are attracting each other across metaphysical boundaries. Las Vegas is about to literally go to hell. It's on its way to the fourth circle, if I'm reading the shadows on the horizon correctly. How fitting."
"How did that happen?" asked Chloe.
"It's not our problem, Chloe," said Elli. "We're getting out of here. Even though it seems like divine intervention is at work here, it's not my fault. If it was, our colleague wouldn't have just disappeared. After all, he can't be in hell-like areas. Already dead and all."
She ran into a side alley and while Dean and Chloe were still following her, she opened the Nexus in a side door.
"Chloe, you first."
Chloe did as instructed and stepped into the Nexus. Behind her, a sudden loud rumble came through the portal, and surprised shouts from Elli. And the screams of townspeople.
Concerned, she stuck her head back through the portal.
"You guys okay?"
The rumbling of the earth abruptly stopped and the shouts changed to confused and surprised.
Elli seemed to have been put on the seat of her pants.
She rose, frowning her brow, and pushed Chloe's head back into the Nexus with her fingertip and scientific curiosity.
Immediately, the noise and screaming resumed until Elli dragged her back outside.
The shadows seemed to have come noticeably closer and the red light had gained in intensity. Cracks that glowed as if magma was flowing underneath had opened up, and Chloe saw many more demons in the street, laughing and giggling.
"You wouldn't happen to be a bishop, would you?" Elli asked, confused.
Chloe took that as an insult.
"I'm an atheist, Elli, you know that."
Elli surveyed her with her device and sucked in a sharp breath.
Chloe didn't like that. Oh no, she didn't like this at all.
"Okay, Chloe, please don't freak out," Elli pleaded with a raised hand.
"You're achieving the exact opposite!" she hissed, half hysterically.
"Uh, okay, um…," Elli carefully ran her tongue over her lips. "You have a far higher empyrean potential than normal humans. Might be related to your behavior from the Pre-Evil Overlord era2. Normally, Las Vegas would crash immediately from the sheer amount of demonic energy just released, but your presence anchors the city in the current plane. But not forever. You have a choice now…"
"Which one?" Chloe asked.
"Either we get to safety and leave Las Vegas to the torment of the fourth circle, or we stay here and figure out what happened here before the city crashes anyway. I've never gotten into Hell with the Nexus, though, so we probably can't get out once we fall. Although, I have another idea…"
"Which one?" Chloe asked again.
"Your aura qualifies you for canonization. If I can make that work, Las Vegas can't go to hell while you're here, because then you can't be consigned to damnation by heavenly law."
"Wait," Chloe asked. "What's a canonization?"
Dean translated for Elli.
"She's trying to force the Vatican to make you a saint."


Next time on Nexus:
St. Chloe, Part 2

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