Diablious Ex Machina
By Christopher Yukna 
Somewhere in a university in upper state New York, sometime in the late nineteen seventies. It was a sweltering day. Inside it was worst, hot and muggy. The young researcher had been cooped up in the mainframe computer room all day. I know that nowadays computer rooms have that aura of science fiction movies. Air-conditioned, well lit, sometimes with great views from fairly high up in a building. Well, this was not one of those rooms. This one had the ambiance of a deranged erector set collector. Wires were everywhere. Everymachine seemed to hum or make much louder sounds. There were air-conditioners, but they were there for the comfort of those finicky main frames and they contributed to the general brouhaha. The young man was alone in the room and had been working much too long on his program which was bug ridden to say the least. The young fellow was not a bad programmer as programmers go but he had passed his limit on fatigue and frustration. Suddenly he exclaimed :
« Damn, I would sell my soul if this thing would just work.. »The temperature of the room dropped considerably. It became appreciably drier as well. Rejuvenated he went back to work on his software. A few minutes later a well dress middle aged man entered the room. He went unnoticed for a second and so he said :
« I think I can be of some assistance. »

The young man looked up and said : Who are you? how did you get in here ? This is supposed to be a secure area...

Didn't you say you could help me? Oh, I get it. You're the new Prof. in computer science. »

« No, I am not. But the offer still stands. »

« Well, if you're not the new teacher., who the hell are you ? »

« An apt phrase. You may call me Nick. »

« Like in good olde Saint Nick. I wish it were Christmas time. »

« No, not precisely, I would say I am the exact opposite of him. »

« Huh ? »

« Perhaps we should cut to the quick. I assume you have heard of one of my clients a Doctor Faust ? »

« Get out of here ! You are going to tell me that you're the devil or something ? »

« More or less »

« All right, where is the cameras ? Who put you up to this ? Did Willfred let you in here? »

« Look kid, I am here to cut a deal. No jokes. »

« Okay, let me see the horns. Spout smoke. Grow a tail. Where's the bat wings, you know. »

« Personally, I am not sure I would do that for you even if I could. There are simply questions of good taste. »

« Why can't you ? »

« In case you haven't notice the other side hasn't been doing any miracles lately either. The reason is simple and I hate to admit it but we copied you humans. »

« What do you mean ? »

« We, Infernal Ltd. signed a sort of Geneva Convention with the air heads. Look we had been losing ground anyway. Most people believed their promises more than ours anyway. And top it off if they could raise the dead, bring in pretty angels in broad daylight... Let's just say that we don't exactly regret the agreement. We don't do any fancy stuff and neither do they. »

« Believed your promises. What are you talking about ? You mean Hell tells the truth ? »

« I don't know where people got the idea that we're all malevolent. Look in the last engagement, war if you will, they won the high ground. We got what was left. Winners always rewrite history. It does make it hard to do any new prospecting. Which is why I'm here : what is your fondest desire ? »

« I haven't got the foggiest idea. »

« I'm a fallen angel. Lies R Us. You are not telling the truth. You want me to guess? What about eternal youth ? I can throw in a beauty makeover no extra charge. »

« No thanks, I know this one. I stay eternally young cause I get killed in a car accident the next day. Nothing doing »

« What about eternal life ? »

« Come on, I have watched the Twilight Zone, if you give me eternal life something always screws it up. I get bored to death. I grow so old that I beg you to kill me or something else. Nope. »

« Look kid I got a quota to make. What do you want? Remember the only way to get rid of a temptation is to give in to it!  Don't you want to live with all the gusto? Go out and grab it.»

"Now you sound like a beer commercial."

The room remained silent, and just for a moment Nick seemed perturbed. Then he continued.

« I know, how would you like to be a star athlete? You can make Joe Namath look like a patsy. Women will follow you around. Let me tell ya, sports contracts are not going to be shabby in the eighties. If I told you the figures you'd never believe me. What about it ? »

« Look, thanks a lot, but I have always been a nerd and I'm comfortable with it. I have never wanted to play sports. It's not me. »

« Ah, but I piqued your interest with the women thing. I can give any women you want and anytime you want. Just say the word and you can love them and leave them to your hearts content. »

« I can't see me needing more than one woman in my life and I would kinda like to find her myself. »

« Good God, kid what do you want ? I can't believe you made me say His name. See here, you summoned me. I don't just make impromptu appearances. What do you want ? »

« You're not going to like it... »

« What ? What ? »

« I want to help people. I am an idealist, you know altruistic. I just have this thing ; I want to change everyone's life for the better. »

« This is really not in our list of current objectives. »

« But this is what I really want. I can even be more specific : I want to be the ultimate programmer. I want to produce software that everyone can use not just here but all over the world. I want to improve the lifestyles of... »

« Calm down sonny. Listen, I can't make deals like this on my own. I got to talk to the BIG GUY. Excuse me for a minute. »

With that he turned away covered his mouth and began making rather strange rumbling and snorting sounds. After a minute or two of this he seemed to return to the real world and said :

« It's a deal. You'll be able to do what ever you want with a computer. You want to help the downtrodden with software go ahead. You'll be unique in the world of information processing. But only for ten years. You understand philanthropy is not our kind of business. »

« Make it twenty and you've got a deal. »

« Okay, Billy boy, but I'm doing this to get my quota in this week »

They shook hands.

Almost Twenty Years Later to the D
ay
The young researcher is no longer young. But the years have not been cruel either. He sits in an immense office, looking out upon his gigantic enterprise. No one has produced more changes all over the world in such little time. Things have certainly altered for him as well. A beautiful wife, a stunning home, Nick even works for him in marketing. But with all his success , he works as if possessed. Which in fact Bill is. To make one more change to improve one more thing is his consuming desire knowing how little time he has left. Each day is an orgy of creation, and he doesn't let his underlings slack off either. Bill must leave his mark on the world before he leaves. Nick enters the offices gushing with praise.

« Boss that was a touch of genius, hiring those seminarians to work on the Help files. I have never seen better work. Who would have thought up in the mountains completely out of touch with reality you could find a religious order that would enjoy writing advice to users. What do you think of having nuns man the e-mail and phone lines. Like you say be charitable. I'm sure they can use the dough... Hey, what's up ? You look like you're draggin'. »
"Nick I was really touched when you left your old job and that organization and came with us »
« Yeah, yeah, sure kid. »
You know at the time I thought that if we truly helped all mankind that well, some one would save me from going to hell. »
« But... »
« No let me finish. I regard you as not only a colleague but as a friend. Over the years we've done a lot. »
« I'll say ! »
« You understand I don't regret the contract. It let me do what I think I was destined to do. Now, that it is almost over, I have to ask you is there anything I can do to prepare myself for Hell ? »
« Look, I should a told you Bill. I didn't really leave Infernal Ltd. My master is pleased as punch with what you have done. He's the one that suggested I take a leave of absence to give you a hand and quite frankly learn from you. Business has never been better for us. Bill Gates you have done more for our organization than any mortal has ever done. When you introduced DOS you have no idea how many people began asking for Hell's services. I can' t believe you could top that... but with Windows 95, Word 97, etc. Hell has pulled even with the boys upstairs. Bill you got nothing to worry about, Infernal Ltd. has issued you the first ever indefinitely renewable contract. Great work son. »

feel free to contact me with any questions

Christopher YUKNA