(Not) Making a dealDisclaimer: None of the characters are mine, but of their respective owners.
The Limbo was foggy, grey and foggy, sunless and damp. To Helen Cutter, who had experienced it all, from the humid jungles of the Carboniferous, to the bone-freezing winters of the Ice Ages, to the desolate wastelands of the future, this was just another change of the scenery – but one from which there seemed to be no escape.
Or was there, suddenly the mists parted and Helen stood at the doorstep of what seemed to be a legal office, of all things. “Mrs. Cutter?” the lawyer sitting in it enquired cordially enough, “do come in. We’ve been expecting you.”
“It’s Dr. Cutter, thank you very much,” Helen said, her hackles already half-raised, “and who are you?”
“Please, call me Holland Manners,” the lawyer said, still cordially, “and please, do come in. We have plenty to discuss.”
“I’m not sure about that,” Helen replied, sitting firmly at the doorway of the office instead and looking at the lawyer with a deep suspicion. “I’ve never had much dealing with you lawyers – shouldn’t you be talking to Ms. Johnson instead?”
“Mrs. – I mean, Dr. Cutter, this is a low blow. You’re fully aware that after her death Christine Johnson still hasn’t recovered her full facilities? It’s like she’s not quite here yet,” Holland Manners added in a sharper voice than before.
“She hasn’t? Then there is justice in the world, hallelujah,” Helen said in a faux-pious voice, raising her eyes heavenwards.
“Please don’t use this tone of voice, doctor,” the lawyer grimaced, “and it’s far too late for you to discover piety instead. I’m afraid it’s boiling tar for you from now on, unless we make a deal.”
"What, you’re alive and can bring me to life?!” Helen was unable to keep incredulousness out of her voice since a long period in her life. “Really?”
“Definite yes to the latter, sort of to the former,” Holland Manners shrugged nonchalantly. “The fact that we’re still in Limbo helps – but time is running out.”
“Hmm,” at the mention of time Helen pulled out a large, exquisite-looking watch on a chain from out of her breast pocket. “Interesting. So, what’s your sales pitch? Let’s hear it, then.”
“I see that you’re not the type to mince words,” Holland Manners nodded approvingly. “I like that in clients – I get too much of the other type among my co-workers. Listen, Wolfram & Hart will bring you back, and in exchange you remain a client of a firm. Aside from running an occasional errand for us, perhaps, and some equally occasional token of gratitude, we won’t demand anything more from you.”
“If that be so,” Helen narrowed her eyes, “why bring me back in the first place?”
“Because, Dr. Cutter, you’re an impressive person. Even your attempt at destroying humanity – though can you please refrain from such attempts in the future without checking with us before-hand? – was a lot neater than some things that our other clients tend to undertake. Clearly, once you get back and recuperate, you will be going places, and with our support, you may be going even further, no?”
“Hmm,” Helen just looked at her watch once again. “I’ll be going places, am I?”
“But of course! An ambitious, animated woman like you can easily go far once she puts at least some effort into her career-“
“And I am going to go far,” Helen agreed, as she pressed a button on the top of her watch, “Just, perhaps, without your help.”
“Impossible,” Holland Manners shook his head. “You’ve got an impeccable poker face, doctor, but without our help the only direction you’re going is down, and you wouldn’t like it there, it won’t be fun for you at all!”
“Want to bet?” Helen grinned, as her flesh began to grow translucent, her grin – a grin of a skull. “I may not be much of an evil overlord wannabe, as Oliver Leek had been, but I did have an ace in my pocket – chronological clones. Looks like my gamble had paid off after all!”
With these words Helen put her watch back into her pocket and vanished, her grin – the grin of a skull – mocking to the last. “Well,” Holland Manners said, looking at the now empty doorway of his office, “this wasn’t something we expected at all. This might be...troublesome.”
And back in Africa, 3.2 million years B.C., Helen Cutter opened her eyes and straightened back up. “So, Wolfram & Hart, eh?” she said, musingly. “I think I’ve heard this name before, it is time for me to research some common knowledge!”