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Faust Among Equals

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Faust Among Equals

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Author: Tom Holt
Publisher: Orbit, 1994

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Comic Fantasy
Mythic Fiction (Fantasy)
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The management buy-out of Hell wasn't going quite as well as had been hoped. For a start, there had been that nasty business with the perjurors, and then came the news that the Most Wanted Man in History had escaped, and all just as the plans for the new theme park, EuroBosch, were underway.


The Most Wanted Man in History, wishing to get from Iceland to Holland and having no transport of his own, had hitched a lift. Nothing unusual in that, except that he'd hitched it off an airliner.

Since there's virtually nowhere in Iceland where you can put down a 747 without breaking bits off it, the fugitive had left it hovering about four feet off the ground, on a cushion of pink cloud. With a little grunt of effort, he jumped up, caught the pilot's door, wrenched it open and swung inside the cabin.

"Hi," he said cheerfully. "Thanks for stopping."

The pilot looked at him, eyes rimed over with incredulous terror. What he wanted to say was, Who are you, what's happening, have you the faintest idea what's going to happen to me when the federal aviation boys found out I dumped my plane in a volcanic desert just because some guy stuck his thumb out. What actually came out was, "I can take you as far as Schiphol if that's any good to you."

"Schiphol's fine," replied the fugitive, dropping his rucksack on the floor and flopping into the wireless operator's chair. "Thanks a lot."

Without the pilot's having to do anything, the engines roared, the idiot lights on the console flickered into angry, bewildered life, and the pink cloud slowly floated up to around about ten thousand feet. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

The wireless operator and the co-pilot took an early lunch.

"Going far?" the pilot asked, as the plane resumed its flight. He was dimly aware of a heavy, oppressive force lying across large areas of his mind like a sleeping cat on the knees of an impatient visitor, blanking off those parts of his brain that might want to raise such issues as what in God's name is going on here. Dimly aware, however, butters no parsnips.

"Just bumming around, really," the fugitive replied. "And Amsterdam's as good a place as any for that, as far as I'm concerned."

Another thought that was hammering vainly on the locked door of the pilot's consciousness was, Hang on, why am I taking this nerd to Amsterdam when this flight's supposed to be going to Geneva? It hammered and hammered and hammered, and nobody came.

"Very much a fun place, Amsterdam, from what I've heard," the pilot's voice agreed. "Not that I've been there for, oh, fifteen years, I suppose. Not to stop, anyway. Been travelling long?"

Flight AR675, Flight AR675, come in please, urgent, come in, please, yammered the radio. Sundry captives in the coal cellar of the pilot's mind tried using a big chunk of basic survival instinct as a battering ram, but all they did was hurt their shoulders.

"I move about," replied the fugitive, looking out of the window at the North Sea. "Born under a wandering star, that sort of thing."

Flight AR675, Flight AR675, what the fuck do you think you're doing up there? Are your instruments shot, or what?

The pilot turned to his passenger. "Should I answer that, do you think? They seem rather uptight about something."

"I shouldn't bother," the fugitive replied. "They'll call back later if it's important."

"I guess so." The pilot leant forward and twiddled a dial on the console. The voice of Oslo air traffic control was abruptly replaced by Radio Oseberg's Music Through The Night. By virtue of some sort of ghastly air bubble in the stream of probability, they were playing 'Riders In The Sky'.

"Do you know, " said the pilot after a while, "something tells me that if we carry on this course much longer we'll be violating Swedish airspace. Do you think they'll mind?"

"I don't think so," replied the fugitive firmly. "Nice people, the Swedes."

- At which point, two massively-armed Saab Viggens were scrambled out of Birka and screamed like stainless steel banshees north-east on a direct interception course -

"Very expensive country, though," the pilot was saying. "I had to buy a pair of shoes there once, and do you know how much they cost? Just ordinary black lace-up walking shoes, nothing fancy ..."

"You don't say."

"And coffee's absolutely astronomical, of course. Not so bad in the little back-street cafes and things, of course, but in the hotels ..."

Ernidentified ercraft, ernidentified ercraft, here is calling the Svensk er force. Turn beck immediately or down you will be shot. Repeat, down you will be ...

"Would you like me to talk to them?" suggested the fugitive.

"Gosh, would you mind? That's extremely kind of you."

"No problem."

Copyright © 1994 by Tom Holt


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