Monday, September 26, 2016

Apotheoclypse Now: 9/19/16 - 9/25/16

"I can see you're going to crush them now / I can feel you're gonna win"

(The Turd Crab from Beyond)

(Art by the Lemonade Project)

* * *
* * *

"How is this even !@#$ing possible?" SPYGOD asks, holding his lover for the first time in a long time.

"Thank Raitha," Straffer says, kissing him passionately in his fiance's office -- suddenly no longer as dark: "This is a hard light projection. Same principle that keeps the lightships together."

"That's not the only thing that's hard," the superspy says, kissing him back.

"We could do that, too," the blonde cyborg says: "If only we had time."

"That seems to be a thing, these days."

Straffer nods, and then holds SPYGOD's head in his hands: "We have a plan. We're about to do it. But it won't come cheap or easy. And I'm going to have to do something..."

"What?" SPYGOD asks, not liking what he sees in his lover's eyes.

"Someone's going to have to go into the hole and stop whatever's on the other side," Straffer says: "It might not have to be me."

"But if it is, you'll !@#$ing do it," the superspy says, nodding.

"Tell me you understand," the cyborg pleads: "Tell me you back my play."

"I wouldn't !@#$ing love you if you weren't the one who jumped feet first onto Planet Mother!@#$er with a laser gun between your teeth," SPYGOD says, after a second: "And it wouldn't be !@#$ing fair if I got to jump, and I didn't let you."

"That's why I love you," Straffer says: "You get it. You get me."

"Is that the only reason?" the superspy asks, giving him a kiss that could stop a normal man's heart.

"It's in the top ten," Straffer mumbles around his lips and tongue.

"But please," SPYGOD says, kissing him with each word: "Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please come back to me."

"I'll do my best," Straffer swears: "I will. The caterer will be furious if we !@#$ing cancel."

"Yeah. And I got my tux being specially made in Dubai."

"That guy in Satwa?" 


"The one with the Thai place across the way?"

"The same."

"Black and gold?"

"!@#$ yes."

"I love you," Straffer says, looking him in the eyes: "I will crawl through hell, fight through heaven, and kick ass all the way through time and space if I have to, just to come back to you."

"Then go and do it," SPYGOD says. 

"And you promise me you won't !@#$ing brood," Straffer insists: "Go jump in your work. Make your stuff happen. Do what you have to."

"You know it," the superspy says, kissing him one last time. 

There's one more look between them. And then Raitha is there, smiling, instead of his lover.
And then she's gone, and there's just the office -- dark and foreboding, as ever.

And SPYGOD sighs, adjusts his sunglasses so no one can see he's crying.

And gets back to the !@#$...

Monday: 9/19/16

"...shock and revulsion nationwide as the interview between outlaw reporter Randolph Scott and the being claiming to be the Great Spirit goes viral..."


SCOTT: "So what would you say to the people of this nation? What would you want them to know?"

GREAT SPIRIT: "I'd want them to know that the time of silence is over. You think that because you hear nothing, there's nothing out there. That's not true. We've always been out there, listening and watching. We've heard the silent cries of our people. Cries of sadness and anger. Cries for justice and peace.

"The silence is going to stop. You will hear their cries. And you will hear our reply, and see it."

SCOTT: "What form will that reply take?"

GREAT SPIRIT: "Sometimes you hear the thunder after the lightning. This time you'll feel the lightning first."


"Well, Gretchen, I don't feel comfortable with some self-proclaimed god lecturing white people like myself about what some people did in this nation's past. We need to get past that, just like we need to get past this nonsense about slavery, and interning the Japanese, and profiling Muslims after the Computer Hell virus. We're a post-racist society, whatever the liberals might say, and we need to act like it."


GREAT SPIRIT: "All I can say about the American Indian Movement is that they shouldn't have stopped fighting. Words are fine, but there's a time to talk and a time to fight. Wounded Knee showed the people what happens when power feels threatened. It should have made them discover their own power, and respond to that threat in the only way power understands."

SCOTT: "What's that?" 

GREAT SPIRIT: "More power."


"... news coming in from Mars, from Freedom Party Candidate Ted Cruz. They have been fighting for just under a day, now. We hear they are breaking through the enemy's defenses and approaching their objective... whatever that is..."


 "Well, Fred, the President has considered the situation. And he's decided that, given what's been going in at Standing Rock, it's best to just let this issue lie for a time.  We do not believe that our nation is under any threat from this entity, or his cohorts. In fact we've enjoyed some very fruitful dialogue with them, lately..."


SCOTT: "Is there anything you would say to your people, at this point? It's been a while since you've spoken to them."

GREAT SPIRIT: "We speak to them all the time. They just don't listen. They let this world blind them to the light from our fire, and deafen them to the drums from our circle. They can't hear the call to come dancing because they've lost the connection to our world."

SCOTT: "How do they get it back, then? Come sit by your fire? Groove in the mud here?"

GREAT SPIRIT: "Well, a good start would be to deal with their so-called leadership on those sorry reservations they live in. I've seen what passes for tribal elders, there. It makes me sick. They're more interested in using the law to make money. They let their people get sick on poison. And then they blame the white man for their problems."


JOE TWO MOONS: "How dare he claim to speak for our people? We don't even know who he is. All I can tell you is that as the leader of my Tribe, and the CEO of a casino that's brought countless jobs to this reservation? We're doing just fine without him."

REPORTER: "Sir, what about the pending investigation into your possible involvement in a heroin trafficking ring...?"

JOE TWO MOONS: "This interview is over."


"... still unsure why a police officer shot an unarmed man, his hands in the air, who seems to have simply been returning to his stalled vehicle. The Governor of Oklahoma has promised a full investigation..."


SCOTT:  "So what should they do, then?"

GREAT SPIRIT: "They should remember that they are a proud and worthy people. They should leave those pits the white man gave them and move out into the land beyond them. They should work hard, act well, and contribute to that world. Add to its culture. Create harmony. And bring the songs of our people out into the open."

SCOTT: "Conquer by assimilation?" 

GREAT SPIRIT "Up to a point. But they should also remember that they walk with their ancestors, and we spirits. When they encounter trouble, we will be there. When there is danger, we will aid them.

"And if there is trouble, we will come to stop it."


"I, Seranu of the Olympians, state now and clearly that we bear no ill will towards our cousins. We find their cause to be just, and their concerns to be correct. 

"We only ask that they be considerate of the very delicate balance we gods find ourselves in, right now. With so many of us coming back to this world, it is only natural that its inhabitants may be afraid, or at least worried. 

"If we say or do too many things at once, that fear may turn to panic.

"And panic is often the author of tragedy..."


 SCOTT: "You're here in South Dakota, at Standing Rock. You've chosen this place to congregate, and make yourselves known to be here. One might wonder if this conflict is the trouble you speak of."

GREAT SPIRIT: "All troubles are one trouble, now. The trouble is that our people are not taken seriously by the government of this land. They're used to handing off beads and trinkets, and hoping we quiet down and go away. They're also used to pointing a gun at us, and saying go back to your hovel and make no more noise."

SCOTT: "But you're not going to be quiet, are you?"

GREAT SPIRIT: "No, I am not. We are not. We are going to say that this pipeline goes no further. We are going to say that these lands be left alone. We are going to say that all sacred lands be left alone."

SCOTT: "And if they say no?"


GREAT SPIRIT: "That will be our answer. Only on that day, there will be lightning and thunder.

"And they won't like it when the lightning flies up their asses...."


"... oddly enough, there has been no comment forthcoming from The COMPANY, which has taken the point in maintaining some semblance of order among the various pantheons that are now appearing, or wanting to emigrate, to America.

"Attempts to get a comment from SPYGOD as to the seriousness of this threat resulted in our reporter being tossed out of the Heptagon with his microphone crammed somewhere unsuitable for broadcast..."

 Tuesday: 9/20/1

"... coming through on this channel? Are you receiving us? This is Myron with the Reclamation Force. We're having communications issues, right now...

"... still advancing on the enemy position. We've lost about half of our remaining Lightship fleet to their defenses. It's like they've turned the caverns into crap and weaponized it. Every corner is a mine or a beam emplacement. We're lucky that...

"... Aesir running ahead of us. They're taking the crabs down, the combat troops are finishing them off, and some of the talents are clearing a path. Others are up with the lightships, dealing with the defensive grid.

"... lost some people already. A lot of Aesir are going down. I'm not sure if they're coming back up again..."

"... and... oh crap. Oh God, no. Um... you have to tell SPYGOD we lost-"


* * *

"How do you lost a comatose patient?" Rakim asks, looking over the mounds of data he's been feeding the Brain Computer all morning.

"He was never !@#$ing comatose," SPYGOD says, holding up one of the security tapes: "All the time Martha was there? He was constantly blinking in and out. Sometimes he was an illusion, sometimes he was moving so fast he couldn't be seen to move."

"And no one had any idea of this?"

"Yeah," the superspy grumbles: "Syphon was always missing the !@#$ing obvious."

"Well, I bet she's not missing anything now," the former Brainman smiles, stroking his long beard as the computer digests what it's been given: "I'll let you know as soon as I have a prediction, sir."

"Yeah, that reminds me," SPYGOD says, taking a stroll out of the room and down the hall, and calling someone on one of his many phones...

* * *

"... yeah, he's still here," Frankie sighs, putting her hose on one leg at a time as her on-again, off-again calls up about his 'little favor.'

"Don't worry, I've got Holly looking after him... yes, she'll make sure he's okay. She's flighty, not stupid."

"I hear that!" Holly shouts from the other room, to which Frankie responds by flipping her off.

"I heard that, too," Holly protests.

"Yeah, no problem, handsome," Frankie grins: "So after this, it's Hollywood, huh? That's what you always say.

"Yeah," she sighs: "Love you too, you big ngo. Bye bye."

Then she hangs up, puts the phone down, and does her nails with total precision -- wondering who'll be paying her bar price tonight. 

Wednesday: 9/21/16

Dear Lord, forgive me. I may have forgotten how to pray.

I'm about to go into battle, Lord. I don't know if I will survive.

They say I'm invulnerable, now. They say I have powers that let me reform my body from almost nothing.

They say I should be able to walk through all the living toxic sludge that we are about to battle, and not only survive, but strike the decisive blow.

They're all confident in my abilities, Lord. They think they know how I'll do even better than I do.

But I'm scared, Lord. I was scared when I went up against that giant Antichrist, in Russia. And I'm scared now.

There's something about this place, Lord. This dead, red planet that's full of holes, and crawling with filth given form. This broken world we've come to reclaim.

This hole in time and space that someone's going to have to go through and seal.

They say it'll be Straffer who does it. They won't say why, though. 

All that I know is that when he spoke with SPYGOD, last, the goodbye they had made me cry. 

(Is it wrong that I don't care, anymore, that they're gay? That all I see when I look at them is the love?)

Lord, something tells me the plan is going to change. Something tells me I'm going to be called upon to do more than I bargained for.

Something tells me I won't be coming back from all this.

Lord, I am your instrument. Your servant. If you tell me to fight, I will fight. And if I must die, here and now, then I am ready.

But I am afraid, Lord. I am surrounded by the darkness, here. By shadows come to life.

And in the valley of this Shadow, I need to know that you are with me...

It's starting.The drilltank is coming up into the place where the lightships and the Aesir have been fighting, the last few days. We're about to do this.

And we're all here in this drilltank, surrounded by the light of a woman who says she's a god -- a woman I mocked, not too long ago -- and heading for the most dangerous part of the planet.

Oh Lord, protect me. Protect us. Have mercy on all of us. Let us succeed.

In your name...

* * *

My name is Randolph Scott. I'm an outlaw reporter. 

If you asked me what that means, I'd tell you that it's simple. I get the truth, no matter what, even if I have to become the story in order to report it.

Sometimes it means I just kick in the door instead of knocking on it. Sometimes it means I stick a gun under someone's nose until I get the answers.

Sometimes it means I fire that damn gun, too. I don't do !@#$ by half-measures, anymore.

There's no !@#$ing room for half measures, these days. Either you're in or you're out. 

And damn am I ever in. 

I wasn't always like this, though. I used to be fairly safe reporter, not too long ago.

I worked for Alternet. I stuck to topics that were easy to understand, and held positions it was easy to be self-righteous about.

I wrote whiny, self-indulgent columns about how the Republicans were screwing the country, or the world. I got on TV and gave the business to the talking heads from the other side, and took their business in return. 

It sounded important, at the time. And maybe in some ways, some of the things I talked about, and the views I held, were actually pretty damn important from time to time. Maybe I changed some minds. Maybe I even changed policies, though I !@#$ing doubt that. 
But it was all predictable. All boring. 

All safe. 

And then I managed to get onto a real sweet deal. A press conference with SPYGOD, himself, who'd just kicked major supernazi ass down at the South Pole, and was holding court on what he'd done, and why.

And me? I just had to !@#$ing stick my foot up his ass...

Randolph Scott looks at what he's just written, makes a sour face, and then considers nuking it all.

Too long, he thinks. Too much of him, not enough of the story.

Self-indulgent. Smug, even.

Not the sort of thing you could consider for a eulogy, let alone an obituary.

He takes a deep breath, considers having some more of the scotch he's been nipping at since Helga died, this morning.

Jana is having trouble breathing. He can hear her in the room next door. They call it "respiratory distress" -- when the body's shutting down, but the lungs and heart haven't gotten the message, yet, and are putting all their energy into keeping the brain alive, no matter what.

It sounds awful. It looks even worse.

He sat in the room for exactly and hour, watching. Trying to write. And then he realized he couldn't do it.

(Velma told him to get out. Bless her for that. )

So he's here, next door, trying to write up how they all met. How he started this whole story that led to them becoming not just a story, but his own family.

And how he's losing them -- watching them die because they just weren't built to last.

"So much for German engineering," he mutters, and considers if he should put that in there or not.

(Write though the pain. kid, he tells himself: write through the pain.)

And after a genuine snort of the good stuff, he does. Especially after he realizes that the reason he can't talk so much about his kids is because he can't really accept what's happening to them, now...

Thursday: 9/22/16

"How is this happening?" the Candidate gasps, looking at the latest poll numbers: "I'm losing ground to this Socialist twit across the board?"

"You are, yes," his campaign manager says, shaking his head.

"How can this be happening?"

"Well, there's a number of factors," the kid says, looking around: "But I'd say your son's stupid post about skittles had a hand in it."

The two of them are standing in the man's large hotel room -- an executive suite the size of a small airplane hangar, with a genuine Chihuly chandelier dominating the high roof. It's full of big time donors, fellow travelers, and the like.

All of them trying to put on a brave face, in spite of the weird turn the news has taken for their great, orange hope. 

"This can't be happening," the beefy, big-faced man says, sitting down in a chair worth over $5000 and shaking his head, touching the sigil the late King Whip gave him: "This is supposed to be protecting me..."

"Well, King Whip is..." the campaign manager starts to say, and then doesn't finish the thought.

He really does not want to ever have to think about what they found in that box -- not ever, ever again.

"This is just incredible," the Candidate says, putting the polling data down and reaching for a glass of champagne -- one handed off by a waiter who doesn't even bother to smile at him, anymore: "The fact that a city like Detroit can just get taken over by super criminals. Unbelievable."

"Well, the city's always had a really weird relationship with heroes-"

"That's what happens when a city gets run into the ground by useless people," the beefy man says: "It just gets really bad. Totally bad."

"Well, it's a bit more complex than that-"

"All I need to know is if this thing will keep working even though King Whip isn't around," he interrupts, tapping the sigil: "Just through October. Can we count on it?"

As if to answer him, the sigil crumbles under the weight of his finger -- just enough to send a few crumbs down his suit jacket.

The moment that happens, it's like a switch gets thrown. The mood of the party sours. People stop talking and start grumbling.

Some of them even look across the room at the man they were lauding, just seconds ago, and give him that look. The look he knows too well from countless soirees and parties and get-togethers, from all the years before.

The look that says "who are you to say such things?" and "what have you done for me, lately?"

And all he can say is...

* * *

"...please tell me you're fucking joking about fucking the horse," the Alter-Earth SPYGOD says to his new master as they step through time and space itself.

"I never jest about my romances, my good and faithful servant," the adoptive son of Odin chuckles -- his wide smile taxing the facial muscles of the person he's wearing.

"A horse?"

"The true question is not why I chose to masquerade as such a beast, but rather what was in it for me."

"I'm guessing your life was on the line?"

"Oh, to be certain," Loki chuckles, waving a hand to bring them out of where they are, and back into reality -- emerging in a large, dark cave.

"And then you gave birth to... what?"

"Faithful Sleipnir," the trickster says, looking around the cave: "Currently ridden by the All-Father, himself. Eight legs has this steed, graceful and swift. There are none better."

"And for that you laid with an animal."

"Have you, not, yourself laid with another to gain some advantage?" 

"All the fucking time. I just violate some dumb beast. That's..."

"Wrong?" Loki smiles: "Unseemly? Perverted? This from you, who have done so many delightfully wicked things in your time?" 

"I never raped a thing that couldn't say no," the Alter-Earth SPYGOD insists, disgusted at the idea: "Animals are food or beasts of burden. It's not right to make them suffer."

"Svaðilfari hardly suffered," the trickster says, considering something: "In fact, I think I was the best..."


"Can you not feel it?" Loki asks, waving a hand around in the air: "We are not alone, here, friend (DETCADER). The ghost in time watches us, even now."

"Then get what we fucking came here for and get out," his new servant insists: "This time bullshit gives me a fucking headache."

"Very well," the person wearing Thomas Samuel's amazing new body says, and reaches down to take a certain very powerful gun from where the time ghost in question left it for the future to find.

And then...

* * *

"... Odin is down. I repeat, Odin is down..." Shining Guardsman says, doing his best to haul what's left of his friend back behind the lines. 

It was a bad idea, either way. The latest crab to come crashing through the dimensional portal was a lot larger than the rest. A lot meaner, too.

(And something about the sacs on its underside gave the others pause)

But Odin? He had no fear. He hadn't shown so much as a hint of it this entire time.

(Especially after the death of his son, Thor, on the first day of battle...)

No, not Odin. He leaped right at it -- spear in hand, sword at the ready. And those battle-hardened Aesir that remained followed shortly after. 

At which point the beast exploded, showering everyone within close proximity with the kind of poisonous, acidic sludge they've been wading in -- and losing people to -- every inch of the way. 

Odin took the brunt of it. He shielded the others as best as he could, but it wasn't nearly enough. 

And now Mr USA is dying -- his lower half a mess of melted flesh, torn muscle, and weeping organs, all showing under the skirt of Odin's armor.

Which suddenly isn't there...

"My God," the hero says in his own voice, and then gasping in pain.

"(REDACTED)?" the cyborg asks, gently putting him down: "Is that you...?"

"It is," Mr USA says, blinking eyes dilated by what must be extreme pain and shock: "I'm... I'm me. I can feel..."

He looks down at his midsection, and then up at the face of his younger ally: "I guess that's why I can't... feel the cancer..."

"Man, don't move," Shining Guardsman says: "Let me get you to the drill tank. We can stabilize you. We can..."

"No," the older hero dies: "It's okay. This is... this is how it happens. I saw this a long ago. When I was somewhere else. When I was with someone else... I can't explain it... take too long..."

"Please don't die," the hero begs his friend: "Not now. Not after we got you through the cancer, and..."

"The cancer was just delayed..." Mr. USA says, smiling in spite of it all: "Last treatment used up. I would have died in Moscow if Odin hadn't... if we hadn't..."

He closes his eyes again, and then opens them -- panicking.

"Tell Straffer..." he says, taking Shining Guardsman by the arm with such urgency it almost breaks his armor: "Tell Myron... it's not what they think it is."

"What is?" the cyborg asks, unsure if this is warning, delirium, or both.

"The war," he gasps, looking up at the flaming roof of the massive cavern as something explodes nearby: "All this... it's been planned... all plans... everyone..."

"Whose plan?" Shining Guardsman demands of him: "Tell me, man! What's going on? Give me a hint..."

"Naglfar..." the older hero says, pointing weakly to the roof of the cavern, and beyond it: "Look out for..."

And then he smiles, in spite of dying -- or maybe because of it...

Because here comes a large, gorgeous redhead to take him away from all this. 

The woman he's only ever seen tangentally, and then only because of the glowing dragonflies in her wake. 

"Tombo," he says, shaking her hand: "It's good to finally meet you."

"Come on, handsome," she says, going for the hug instead: "Your wife is waiting for you."

"What about... Charles?"

She winks: "Him too. They've hooked up over here, believe or not."

"Oh..." he says, and then chuckles: "Of course they did. I loved them both. Why wouldn't they love each other."

"It doesn't always work like that, silly," she playfully corrects him as she leads him away: "And no looking back, now. That's done."

"I know," he says, smiling: "It's all taken care of, anyway..."

And Shining Guardsman takes the time to weep, having seen America's greatest hero die a second time...

Friday: 9/23/16

"...I can't !@#$ing believe this," Josie mutters, watching the news feed: "I just can't..."

"Oh, I can," Dragonfly says, chuckling: "And I say good for her."

"This isn't funny, Agent," the COMPANY Second insists, pointing at the riot on the screen -- the one with a short, human dynamo in the center, tossing armored cops every which way: "This is a law enforcement situation. Red Wrecker has no business being there, let alone joining in..."

"Unless it's a revolution," the former assassin says, rubbing her hands together: "And then it might be a good idea for us to all know whose side we're on."

"And all of our heavy hitters are on Mars, fighting time crabs," the burly, pink-haired clone goes on: "And God knows how that's going...?"

"Still can't get through, ma'am," the harried communications director sighs.

"And Yanabah's at Standing Rock keeping that from boiling over. Gosheven's on top secret assignment. Swiftfoot's in the wind, again. Hanami's taken personal time at the worst time possible. Mister Freedom isn't answering his phone..."

"Free Fire's still a pile of scrap," some AGENT says, thinking he's being helpful.

"Rakim's sort of available," someone else offers.

"No, he's helping The Owl find her son," yet another AGENT corrects: "Been in with the Brain Computer all week trying to figure that !@#$ out." 

"And our Director is doing... whatever the !@#$ he's doing," Josie finishes the thought: "And now this. This!"

"You want me to bring her in?" Dragonfly asks, smiling as she watches the loop of Red Wrecker decking riot cops left right and center, one more time: "I will, if you make it an order."

"I shouldn't have to," she grumbles, but then nods: "Just do it gently."

"Like a lamb, ma'am," the white-clad, former assassin grins, heading out with absolutely no intention of obeying orders...

* * *

"Yeah, well, no," Slam Bang says, walking away from what's going on -- both armored arms up -- as yet another massive crab comes scuttling through the flowing rift in time, a few cavern entrances away.

"You don't have a damn choice!" The Sound shouts, his voice strange in the light atmosphere of Mars's massive, underground caverns: "You came here do to a job! Do it or-"

"Or what?" Kweekweg asks, his combat suit not slowing him down at all as he points his rather large harpoon gun at the intangible villain-turned-hero: "You'll set us straight, mate? Is that what you think?"

"We agreed to this," The Sound says, waving his hands at the frenzied battle just behind them -- the one Earth's forces are clearly losing: "All of us!"

"That was before this started going to !@#$," the armored bank robber says: "Me, I say we get the !@#$ out while the getting's good."

"What the hell is going on here?" a voice asks, its owner quickly whooshing over to them from the melee. 

"We're having some trouble with our part in things," the harpoon-hunter says to Shining Guardsman - - noting how loosely the cyborg's armor is hanging off his frame.

"All you have to do is hold this position until the crabs come this way," the armored hero insists: "Then you nail them from one side while we get them from the other. How damn hard is that?"

"Not hard at all, provided we forget we're cannon fodder," Kweekweg insists: "Or we forget that these things turn everything to poison when we do kill them."

"And then we forget that we're all supposed to climb over that poison to get to the next objective," SlamBang adds.

"We're all taking the same damn risks, here," Shining Guardsman insists: "All of us."

"We're not all immortal, though, are we?" the harpoon hunter says, gesturing to the fight going on -- especially to all the Aesir who are chopping their way through the enemy: "Some of us have to sell our lives pretty dearly-"

"How dare you say that..." the cyborg hisses: "After what just happened? How dare you say that!"

"I'm a villain, mate," Kweekweg chuckles: "Nice isn't in the description-"

"It sure isn't in mine, either," all the villains hear over their suit intercoms just then.

"Um, yeah," SlamBang says: "Is that you, Myron?"

"It is, yes," the former Underman says: "And I've heard every word, and I have to say I'm really !@#$ing disappointed. I thought we had an agreement."

"Well, it's like this-"

"Save it," Myron says: "You will stick to your part of the plan. You will do exactly as you're supposed to. Or I'll just blow your suits open from here and you can all suffocate for all I care."

There's a moment of silence, and then the villains nods: "Yes, sir" they say in near-unison.

"Stand your ground and aim your damn guns," Shining Guardsman says, rocketing away: "Don't make me come back to tell you that."

The Sound smiles, and then beams it at his two companions, thinking he's won.

But as soon as he's turned away, SlamBang and KweeKweg look at one another, and are clearly thinking the same thing.

There's going to be a reckoning. And soon...

Saturday: 9/24/16

The old man stands on a bluff overlooking the sprawling camp at night, hands on his hips, and studies the motions of those below.

He pretends he doesn't hear the woman as she approaches -- stealthy and sly, and quite unlike the creature she's got inside of her. But as soon as she gets within a few feet the Great Spirit chuckles.

"How long did you know?" Yanabah asks, not bothering to sneak up the rest of the way.

"How long did I know you were there?" he asks, his voice deep and firm: "Or how long did I know you were coming?"


"I knew you were there because I heard you before you got to the bluff," he chuckles, adjusting the campy, offensive tie he's wearing today: "You walk pretty loud."

"I thought I was being silent."

"Maybe to most. I really should teach you how to move as I do. Without disturbing so much as a blade of grass."

"I'd love to learn that," she says, with no little amount of reverence: "I still don't know why you're being so nice to me."

"Because I knew you were coming," the Great Spirit answers: "All this has been foretold."

"All of this?" she asks, gesturing to the camp below.

"This great battle we stand on the brink of," he explains further: "The struggle that was. The conflict that is. The things yet to come..."

He looks far away for a moment, as though he's seeing through things, again. When he looks back at her it's as though he's seeing through her skin and into her soul.

"Bad times are coming, granddaughter," he says, putting a hand on her shoulder: "Will you still walk with me?"

"Yes," she swears, putting a hand on his hand: "Forever, if you'll have me."

"Will you fight with me?"

"You have to ask?"

"I do."

"Then yes," she swears as well.

"And will you not fight for me, when the time comes?" he asks: "If I tell you to lay down your gun and your bow and your knife? To let the being inside you rage but not let it out? Will you do that as well?"

"Of course," she says, not sure where this is going: "I swear it."

He nods, and then slowly turns from her to look down at the camp.

"The storm's coming," he explains: "First the wind changes. Then the sky darkens. When the rain comes, some will hide. And when the lightning strikes, more will run.

"It's going to be some sad times, that storm," he promises: "But after the storm, there will be sunshine, again..."

She stands by his side, proud to be there -- thinking she understands what he means.

And he stands there, doing his best to hide his sadness -- knowing she wont' realize what he means until it's too late...

* * *

"... and no one's here, I swear," the weird-acting security guard whispers into a sub-dermal communicator, located between his jaw and his ear: "Well, other than me. And that other guard. But he's on the other side of the building-"

"!@#$ing focus, you goddamn goofball," the person he's talking to growls at him: "If you screw this up I swear I'm tossing your ass into a blender."

"Whatever, boss," Gosheven sighs, looking down yet another long corridor and wondering if the secure room he's looking for is here: "Just don't blow me up, okay?"

"I told you-"

"Yeah, yeah," the shapeshifter (currently disguised as Jose Rodrigo, 34) snorts: "Tell it to poor Swiftfoot, if you can find him."

SPYGOD falls silent at that, and Gosheven doesn't know if he said the right thing at last, or maybe said the last thing he'll ever say.

"Have you heard anything from Mars, yet?" he asks, trying to defuse the tension after a minute too long of stonelike silence.

"If I did, don't you think you'd have !@#$ing heard it?"

"With you? I have no damn idea," the shapeshifter says, shrugging: "For all I know you've heard from Straffer every half hour, you've made it there and back twice, and Elvis called up the other night to complain about where you stashed him."

"He's in no shape to complain about a damn thing," the superspy says: "And I don't have time for your chatter."

"Okay," he sighs, but a second later he realizes he's found what he's looking for.

"Almacenamiento Especial 52," he reads off the door: "No abrir puerta de alarma. Peligro, no entre. Me chinga su esposo."

"You !@#$ing wish," SPYGOD snorts: "You got the way in, right?"

"Got it," he chuckles, using Jose's stolen keycard to gain access to the large storeroom. He's inside in less than a second, and then using everything he learned from the guard -- once he got him into several complicated and compromising positions -- to turn off the security systems made to keep those guards from snooping too much. 

"Do you have it in sight?" SPYGOD demands, not liking the silence.

"Do I !@#$ing ever," Gosheven says, whistling at the sight of what's dominating the room. 

"Well good, then," the superspy says: "Hold the damn fort as long as you have to. I'll have the Roaring Boys there in exactly five minutes, ten seconds."

"And then what?"

"And then, there's someone else I need you to procure for me," SPYGOD says.

"Who's that?" the shapeshifter chuckles, wondering how long it'll take the other guard to get to this point, and what he'll do to him when he does: "The guy who knows how to work this thing?"

And when SPYGOD tells him, Gosheven's only response is "who...?" 

Sunday: 9/25/16

"... Director Straffer of the UN Space Service, you !@#$ing acid-!@#$ing piece of garbage!" the blonde cyborg screams, shooting the latest emissary from the hole to pieces as he does.

"Sir!" Senator Ted Cruz says, clearly aghast: "Language!"

"I don't think that really means a damn thing, right about now," Shining Guardsman says -- his cobbled-together armor barely holding up in the face of what they now stand before.

They've finally done it. They've broken past the final guardians, the last defenses. They've strode past nightmare barriers and spiritually-toxic emplacements.

And now they stand on the shores of the great hole in time that has haunted the Lunar Planum for countless ages.

The enemy can't send any more of those massive crabs through, anymore. The moment they appear, New Man fires down the way and kills it before it even gets started towards them.

All they can do is send these horrible little things -- strange mockeries of the human form, some of them wearing faces both familiar and tragic -- to try and broker some kind of truce.

(The last one was a Lightship pilot they'd lost early in the siege. Seeing her made Straffer furious. Hearing her talk... well, that brought out the guns.)

"So now what shall we do?" Orn of the Vanir asks, patting his borrowed hips as he looks through the bag of tricks his vessel brought along or made here: "Is there a trick or a toy you shall require to travel into that?"

"Yes," Myron communicates from back in the drill tank, some distance away -- his team settling matters with the nasty things the last few batches of crabs gave birth to after they died: "I'm sure we'd all like to know what to do now?"

"There is, yes," Straffer says, grinning: "This has been a long, slow crawl. It ends only one way. We get in there, and we stop it up on the other side."

"And how do we do that?" Myron asks: "You and Odin sort of hashed that out. I only got every other word."

"And what do you mean by we?" Ted Cruz asks, hoping that this cup might yet be lifted from him.

And Straffer smiles, and is about to explain.

Until someone pulls a sword and something really stupid...

* * *

"... like get right on television and talk about us," Karl says, holding Randolph's hand.

"I want to," Randolph says, trying not to squeeze his son's hand too hard. It might snap the brittle bones under that papery, clear skin.

"So you don't lose any of the feeling?"

"So they know," the outlaw reporter says: "They know what happened to you. They know who you are, and what you did. They know all those special things about you, your brothers, your sisters..."

"They're all in here, still," the withered old man smiles, tapping his forehead: "The link between us. When one of us dies, it's like the rest of us get something of them. A little piece of their soul, maybe."

"I wish I could do that," Randolph says, trying so hard not to cry: "Have you in my head."

"You do," Karl says, putting his other hand down so he can hold his father's with both of them: "You always will."

With that he smiles, and closes his eyes. 

And the last piece of the tragic legacy of ABWEHR dies...

* * *

"... if I fucking drop this," the Alter-Earth SPYGOD insists, looking intently at the vial he's just concocted using the Wandering Shadow's rather impressive laboratory. 

"And this poison, you say, can kill a god?" Loki asks, seeming rather incredulous. 

"It doesn't look like much, does it?" the doppelganger chuckles darkly, putting the vial down into a safe container: "Just gooey water. If you rub some of this shit over a non-porous surface it'll dry up in minutes, but still be good for at least a whole week."

"And then?"

"And then, on contact with skin..." the counterworld man grins: "It does two things very fucking quickly. The first is that it binds the soul to its physical container. And the second...?"

He takes a narrow pipette of the stuff from the vial, and heads over to a rat in a small, glass box he's gotten from the dead spymaster's stores. One drop goes splat on the thing's head.

And a second later, the rat drops down -- its skull a hollow, red bowl that's turning to liquid as they watch.

"The second is that it consumes the body, like the venom of a Ridgebacked Wyrm," Loki says, astonished at how quickly it works: "Like a stack of dishes falling to the ground, and crashing to powder."

"I was gonna say a row of dominoes, but I don't know if they fucking have them in Asgard." 

"We have something similar," Loki says: "And you are certain this will work?"

"I've used it a time or two before." 

"On your enemies?" the trickster grins: "Or your friends?"

"A friend is just an enemy waiting for the right fucking moment to stab you in the godsdamned back," the SPYGOD of Alter-Earth proclaims: "I prefer to think of teammates."

"And I prefer to have slaves," Loki smiles: "Especially useful ones."

"So now what do we do," the servant in question asks: "Master?"

"Find the right rat..." Loki muses, holding up the glass cage to watch the red, semi-transparent goo that used to be a lab animal rolling around the bottom...

* * *

... of the cavern floor, Freyja's blade still stuck through his borrowed heart.

"I told you, husband, that I would I lay you low for this insult," she says, her knee on Odr's neck: "And so I have done."

"You crazy..." Straffer gasps, looking around as all the Aesir there -- what few yet remain -- raise their swords and point them in the direction of the strategic talents and combat troops: "What are you doing?"

"Attending to a matter of honor," the Shieldmaiden says, giving him a clear look of 'stay the !@#$ back': "One I feel no need to explain."

"I could well explain it to them, my wife," Odr gasps -- still some life in Xhasm's breast, after all: "But I think they would fail to understand."

"You should have accepted the golden tears, fool," she mutters, stamping on his neck -- breaking it not quite in two, and ending his life.

"You just killed our best chance of going there and coming back!" Straffer shouts: "Xhasm knew-" 

"Nothing of what we know," Freyja announces: "The All-Father is dead. His son has likewise fallen. All that remains for us now is the final war. The Ragnarok.

"And it lies within!" she proclaims, pointing to the hole in time and space they stand before...
* * *
"... we go in," Myron says to the others in the tank: "I'm not letting this get !@#$ing ruined at the last minute by her getting religion."

And he turns to do so, in that moment forgetting who's in the tank with him.

And SlamBang and KweeKweg look to one another, and then to The Sound, who's also not paying attention.

And then...
* * *
... Naglfar -- a ship made from the nails of thousands of dead men -- quickly turns from orbit, and begins to hurtle towards a certain spot on the surface of Mars.

And then...
* * *

... and all the remaining Olympians scream in pain as one of their number vanishes from their presence...

...Martha Samuels decides she's had enough of waiting for an answer about her son's whereabouts, and goes to put on a long-neglected, newly-augmented uniform...

... The Candidate looks at the crumbling thing on his lapel -- afraid to take off his jacket for fear of it falling apart -- and realizes he's on his own...

... and new pilgrims arrive at the protest camp, all wishing to speak to their spirits, and not caring about the National Guard that's currently observing their movements....

... as the Alter-Earth SPYGOD listens to what his so-called master commands of him, and finds it rather fitting...

... and Randolph Scott and Velma Dinkley bury their adopted children side by side, so they will always be together...

... and Hanami bows deeply before the red and silver beings she has just met, truly awed by their power and grace...

... and Red Wrecker and Dragonfly hide out in Charlotte, drinking and laughing as they wonder how long they can stay AWOL and get away with it...

 ... and authorities at Costa Rica's Laboratorias de Ciencias y de Almancenamiento Nacionales cannot explain how their central lockup at Cartago was burgled and then burned down...

... and SPYGOD realizes what a lack of news from Mars must mean, and activates the Roaring Boys to begin Operation Plagiarism...

... at which, ten minutes later, a well-known writer gets abducted between rooms in his house, and scuttled away to an unknown destination...
* * *
... as the surface of Mars buckles and then collapses in a certain spot -- doubtlessly burying everyone and everything that was there under billions of tons of red rubble -- a split second before the ship of the Aesir crashes right into it. 

There isn't so much an explosion as there is an absence of aftermath. No sound of a blast. No bright lights. 

Just a hole in reality that opens and closes, leaving nothing behind to show it was ever there.

Dust clouds churn and settle. The twin moons float on by. The sun rises, then crests, and then sets.

And if Mars itself feels it should stop silently spinning to mark the end of not one war, but two, it makes no sign.

(SPYGOD is listening to Crapage (Front 242) and having a Naglfare

Monday, September 19, 2016

Apotheoclypse Now: 9/12/16 - 9/18/16

"What do you want from me today? / Going through the tunnel of another drain"

(Ted Cruz, Myron, Shining Guardsman)

(Art by the Lemonade Project)

* * *
* * *

Over the ages, many a person has asked me "why?" Why do I do these things that I do? 

Why do I knock over the cooking pot, or spread the rumor? Why do I lie and cheat, and then make it seem as though others were at fault, and not I? 

Why do I play jokes that lead friends to become enemies, lovers to quarrel, and kingdoms to go to war?

Why indeed, Loki. But why not? 

If a joke be told and not understood, does not explaining only diminish the humor? Ruin the jest?

Well, so too is it with my actions. I do not feel the need to explain them, any more than the bear needs explain its hunger, the squirrel its need to hide nuts for winter, the Sun to rise and to set.  

But what would I say to the All Father, were he here before me, asking me why?

Well, I suppose I might have a great deal to tell him. And perhaps this would make all manner of things plain.

But, as I have said, I have no intention of ruining my greatest jest in ages.

Especially now that, thanks to this new body I have claimed as my own, the laughter be around the closest corner...

Monday: 9/12/16

"Well, this is... awkward," Director Straffer says, watching as almost every hero Myron brought with him to Mars intervenes to keep one Aesir from killing another, right on the deck of Naglfar. 

"That's putting it mildly," Shining Guardsman says, using every ounce of his suit's strength to keep Freyja from pulping the person that hitched a ride with them, halfway to Mars. 

"It would be a good thing for the two of you to cease your argument," New Man says, maintaining a purple cylinder of light around the stowaway in question. 

"Do not interfere in this matter!" Freyja insists, doing her best to unsheathe her sword: "This is none of your concern!"

"This is our war, too, lady," Myron insists, walking forward to stare the goddess in the eyes: "And she's-"

"He," the stowaway reminds him, through borrowed lips.  

"He is part of that war effort," the former Underman goes on: "So whatever problem you have with your..."

He looks at the stowaway, trying to see past the large frame of the woman he had thrown off his lightship, less than a week ago, and tries to see the god inside. 

"Her husband, Odr of the Vanir," the Aesir riding Xhasm's body insists from behind the purple cylinder: "And I would have words with this wife of mine, who seems more intent on killing me than kissing me of late."

That brings out a gale of laughter in the other Aesir, who are all watching this. That includes Odin, who seems entirely disinclined to interfere on either side.

"This is !@#$ we really don't need, right now," Myron says, looking to all godly beings within eyeshot: "We got giant time traveling crap-crabs down below, hurling balls of acid diarrhea up at us. We got a time portal we need to shut down before this gets any worse. And we got people I don't and can't completely trust along for the ride."

"Gee, thanks," SlamBang snorts -- crossing his heavy, armored arms -- but gets rather quiet when Myron gives him the death-look.

"So if you two need to have a damn moment, you have it after we're done," the former Underman insists, looking at the two of them: "Then you can totally make the dreams of those people who write the 'can this marriage be saved' column in Ladies Home Journal, for all I care.

"But for now? I need you," he says, pointing at Odr/Xhasm: "To remember that the body you're riding made me a promise, and I intend to extract it from you."

"I have no issue with that, good sir," the Aesir says, holding up her hands: "Her word is my bond, as I told you during our journey here."

"We saw what that was worth already," The Sound says, shaking his head.

"And I need you," he says, pointing to Freyja: "To put aside whatever thousand-year-old problems you got with this guy, and be a kick-ass warrior lady who doesn't let a man get the better of her."

She glares at him for that, but, by degrees, she lets go of the pommel of her sword, and relaxes.

"For the good of the battle, then?" Odin finally deigns to interject, stepping forward to look the two of them in the eyes.

"For the good of the battle," Freyja agrees, nodding in her husband's direction (but not looking at him)

"For the good of the battle," Odr says, nodding, and New Man lets the cylinder vanish. 

"Well, I'm glad we all got that out of our systems," Straffer says, nodding to each of them in turn: "If you'd all care to get back to your duties, I think the cooler heads need to talk strategy."

They all leave, after that, other than Odin, Myron, and Straffer, who looks at the former Underman with a newfound respect.

"Ladies Home Journal, huh?" he asks as they walk to the holographic map of the battle plan.

"My mom had a subscription for years," Myron weakly defends himself, putting his hands up in defeat: "And I got bored sometimes, you know...?"

"I'm not judging you, really."

"I just read it for the sex articles, I swear."

"Uh-huh," Straffer winks at him.

"Gentlemen?" Odin asks, gesturing: "Now that we have narrowly escaped one cataclysm, I think we would do well to plan our next."

"Oh, now you're helping?" Myron scowls as he walks up beside him: "Fat lot of good you were back there." 

"What I did, and did not do? I did as a mark of respect to you," the Lord of the Aesir explains, putting a fatherly hand on Myron's shoulder: "To lead, you must command. If I had led, just now, you would not command those two, nor my Aesir. You would be forever in my shadow. 

"But by remaining silent as you dealt with the problem? I showed that you, my friend, are the one who leads here. And after how well you put those two in their place? Well... I would be proud to follow you to the frozen gates of Hel, my friend."

"Oh," Myron says, nodding: "Yeah. Okay. Thanks." 

"Twas the least I could do, truly," Odin says, winking his one good eye.

"Well then," Straffer says, calling up the areas of approach on the Lunar Planum: "Shall we decide where Myron is going to lead us, then?"

"Most likely to a hotter version of where Odin wanted to follow me," the former Underman sighs.

Tuesday: 9/13/16

"Wait, you got an interview with... who?" Velma asks over the phone.

"The old man," Randolph Scott says, standing on a bluff overlooking the Standing Rock campsite at night.

"You don't mean..."

"I do, yeah," the outlaw reporter says, looking around at the goings-on down by the fires: "It was pretty !@#$ing revealing."

"Is that good or bad?" the Toon asks.

"Depends on how you look at it," Randolph sighs: "There's gonna be a lot of pissed off activists in the American Indian movement, I'll tell you that for sure. But there's also something more to it. Something almost hopeful."

"I could use some of that," she sighs.

"How bad is it?" he asks: "How are they?"

"Not good," Velma says, quietly: "Helga's having problems walking. Helmut's forgetting things. And Karl is... well..."


"He woke up with half his hair gone this morning," she says: "It was grey and thinning last night. This morning... it just fell off."

He grits his teeth and tries to close his eye -- except he can't. All he's got now is the prosthetic, and it doesn't close.

(It's making sleeping interesting, that's for damn sure.)

"I need to be home," he says to her: "I need to be there with them."

"With them."

"With them, with you," he begs: "With what we made. With what we've done."

"What about the truth, though?" she asks him, not without some acid: "It was worth killing for, a couple weeks ago. What's it worth to you now? Don't you owe the story enough to stick around and watch what happens next?"

"Damn it, Velma!" Randolph shouts down the phone: "The truth isn't worth a !@#$ing thing unless there's someone there to hear it! Unless we tell it to each other, and learn something from it, it isn't the truth. It's just a fact. And facts..."

He trails off, thinking of a song he hasn't heard in a long damn time. 

"Facts are just things that happened until someone makes them mean something," she finishes the thought: "And then it's the truth."

"And the truth is that I love you," he says: "And I love our kids. And I love what I do, even if it sometimes drives me to do stupid !@#$-"

"Stop," she says, and he does.

They remain in silence for a while, both waiting for the other to break it. She isn't sure. He doesn't dare.

"If you got on a plane and came here, he'd track you and kill us all," she says.

"I won't get on a plane," he says: "I got connections he can't track. You know that."

"Then get your ass back here," she says: "We need you."

And no sooner does she say that than he's got another burner phone out, and is calling someone he's going to owe one hell of a favor to when all this is over.

Wednesday: 9/14/16

"Well, that wasn't so !@#$ing difficult," SPYGOD says, lighting up another one of the black cigarettes he's convinced are trying to kill him, and looking around what's left of the United Nations Space Service lab.

Everyone who was there is dead, or worse than dead. They stood there and screamed forever as time went mad around them -- aging them forwards, backwards, and sideways at a whim. 

Human skeletons float in the air. Super-aged men and women sprawl across the floor, turned into Methuselahs in the space of seconds. White splotches on the ground indicate where people were brought back to the moment of conception. 

One poor guy -- the only one who tried to stop it, to his credit -- runs the gamut, his body going from sperm to skeleton in one long, painful arc both forwards and backwards. 

All to no avail, sadly. None of them had a hope of stopping what was begun the moment they tried to get into Space Commander's timeship. 

For that, a more powerful ally was needed. 

"Such a terrible thing," Shift says as he holds the thing they came for aloft. It's a large, silver sphere the size of a beach ball -- its skin shifting under the Olympian's touch. 

"Unavoidable," SPYGOD argues: "This started a long !@#$ing time ago, without us. And it's going to keep !@#$ing going on, without us. This !@#$? This is just the part where we finally come in."

"That is true," the Olympian agrees -- his silver mark as featureless as ever: "But I was not referring to what has taken place. That was merely a tragedy.

"This?" he says, holding the ball up a little higher: "This is the terrible thing I speak of, my friend. It is wonderful and horrible. A thing of power and terror."

"Damn straight," the superspy says, looking at what it's done: "You got a way to contain the !@#$ing thing?"

As if to answer, the supergod lowers the ball and, very carefully, brings his hands together as he twists them about, as if turning a lock. As he does, the ball gets smaller, and smaller still, until it's the size of a cantaloupe. 

And then, with that, he opens up a large pocket in the side of his silver suit, and outs the ball into it. The fabric folds around it, and then it's like it was never there at all.

"And now?" SPYGOD asks, wondering how the !@#$ he's going to explain all this to his fiancee the next time they talk. 

Shift doesn't answer. He just looks at SPYGOD, who sighs and nods, knowing full well what the time-traveling being is trying to tell him. 

There is no now, here, anymore than there's a then or a later. There's just this one place where it all meets up -- where the present, past, and future become one another.

And there's just the two of them to make sure it all goes according to the plan -- a plan they can only hope they both understand.

Especially since they're getting it somewhat second-hand from their past/future selves...

Thursday: 9/15/16

"I never want to see this scummy, sad town again," the Candidate says as he gets into his waiting limo -- parked outside a Methodist church in Flint.

"Well, hopefully we won't have to, sir," his campaign manager says: "This was just a one-time thing-"

"The nerve of that lady," he goes on, shaking his head: "They want me to take time to come speak, and when I do, they tell me not to talk about that moron I'm running against?"

"Well," the young man says, not wanting to push the point any further.

"Not good," the Candidate says, not caring to look out the window as they speed away to his next destination: "Not good at all."

"Okay," his manager goes on, deciding to change the subject: "So we fly from Detroit to New York and get that interview with Fallon for the show, tonight. And then it's New Hampshire."

"Fine, fine," the man shrugs, leaning back in his seat: "Should be good. Fallon's a good guy."

"Well, he's promised to give you a fair shake."

"Doesn't matter, really," the Candidate smiles, patting the sigil on his lapel: "Fair, unfair, what can he say about me? Nothing that will matter."

"True, but-"

"And I can do anything I like, you know? I can say anything I like."

"I guess that's true-"

"Yes, it's true. I'm going to be the next President. And if that guy wants to be stupid I'll just deal with him after I get into office."

He smiles at that, thinking of all the people on that lengthy list of people he's planning to deal with. And his campaign manager tries not to swallow too hard -- finally realizing that his client hasn't been joking about that.

Which is when his call phone rings, and he realizes something is wrong when he sees the number.

"Hey man, what's up?" he asks King Whip, knowing he'd never call him unless it was a severe emergency. But as he listens to the voice on the other end, his face falls, and then goes very, very pale.

"What is it?" the Candidate asks, unable to hear the other end of the call.

"Um..." his manager says, shaking as he hands the phone over: "I... I think you better take this call, sir."

"Who is it?"

"It's.. well-"

"Give it," the Candidate insists: "Whatever it is, it can't be that bad."

But then he takes it, and hears what the Penitent has to say.

And he realizes just how bad it can be. 

Friday: 9/16/16

"How, exactly, does one lose a comatose patient?" the Assistant Director of FAUST says, not really amused at the latest turn of events.

"Very !@#$ing carelessly, apparently," SPYGOD says, glad he's got a bunch of his AGENTs around him on the bridge of the Flier. He'd be afraid to face this woman alone, otherwise -- even if it is just a video projection.

"I see. So Mister Freedom is, shall we say, rather ironically named, then?"

"He always was," the superspy says, hoping the joke means the worst part of this conversation is over.

"And now that he is an Olympian, and supposedly the pinnacle of restraint and containment, how does he explain this utter lapse in security?"

"That's just it, Ingrid," SPYGOD says, not daring to drink in front of this stern-faced woman (and desperately needing a !@#$ing slug right about now): "He !@#$ing can't. It's like it was with the President's daughter and that guy you all sent over. One minute everything was fine..."

"And the next, she's wearing his face out like a mask."

"Yeah. Only this time, one minute the damn bed was full, and the next it was !@#$ing empty."

"Nothing on camera, and no one saw anything?"

"The damn life signs monitors didn't even !@#$ing go off. It's like they thought the poor guy was there, too."

She nods, and considers that: "There are any number of meta-humans who could engineer such a feat, I suppose."

"We're !@#$ing running them down. We just need a motive."

"Revenge for Moscow?"

"Possibly, though it's my understanding the bastard that was riding him wasn't really on their side at the damn time."

"No," she smiles: "I suppose not."

"Well, I'll get back to you as soon as I know more."

"Oh, I expect you will," the temporary head of FAUST says, pointing a finger at him: "And you tell that lazy-eyed fool who looked after my man that I am keeping a very close eye upon his failures. At some point I am going to have to stop looking upon this as incompetence, and instead call it collusion."

"On that day, I'll !@#$ing drag his ass in myself," SPYGOD says: "You know I will."

She looks at him with something approaching surprise, and then shuts off transmission without so much as an other word.

"Well, !@#$," the superspy mutters, realizing he's really put a goose into the shark tank now. 

Saturday: 9/17/16

TIMEFRAME 09/10/16

There are times when I have to wonder if the reason we're mind-wiped after each mission isn't necessarily to protect us from going mad due to minor changes to the timeline, but rather because the irony of our actions has to be thick enough to spread on toast.

Case in point: to save my life, and maintain the mission, I just simultaneously created and destroyed the Wandering Shadow.

Yes, you have heard that correctly. It turns out that, while he was more skilled at temporal combat that I may ever be, he never had any safeguards. Killing him was only a matter of time, if you'll excuse the turn of phrase...


Well, I suppose I should start at the beginning.

I decided to take advantage of a lull in my observation of the primary subject of OPERATION ERASER and look into the 2016 assassination of the Japanese Prime Minister, at the Rio Olympics. The true culprit was never ascertained, as we know, as there was a lot more pressing business going on at the time.

However, the subject, (REDACTED), was convinced that the murder weapon had to be Hǫfuð, given the ballistics involved. At the time, the weapon was known to be in the hands of his Alter-Earth doppelganger, (DETCADER), which would indicate that he was the culprit.

However, the subject was uncertain of this. The act lacked his doppelganger's usual mad poetry, as he put it. I had to agree, so I decided to take advantage of Hǫfuð's presence, on my person, to look into the matter.

I tracked the real murderer to the central domicile of the legendary Wandering Shadow, only to find a dead NGUVU agent, known as Khalil. You might remember him as being one of the subject's suprspy contemporaries, notably active in the run-up to the so-called Reclamation War, and then occasionally useful afterwards.

Following a failed romance with Skyspear, he fell of the grid, and not even his fellows could locate him. I can now confirm that he had been working with the Wandering Shadow for some time, following the end of his relationship with the teleporter. I can also confirm that he died here, at the hands of the Wandering Shadow, either before or after being dismantled, for want of a better word.

I'm not entirely certain how this could have happened, but somehow (DETCADER) used his so-called Eye of Horus on the Wandering Shadow, and flipped his brainwaves to match those of someone from Alter Earth. This turned him into a sadist, a voyeur, and a cannibal -- terrible traits for someone with time manipulation powers to have,

But the Alter-Earth AGENT did an even worse thing. He gave the man Hǫfuð, and talked him into using it to cause chaos and panic on a global scale. Gods alone know what might have happened if I hadn't blundered into him at home, and been forced to defend myself.

And yes, I am calling all this an act of self-defense. I was temporally shielded the entire time. He saw right through it, as though I wasn't so much as a second out of sync. He attacked me from behind, and confirmed that he had killed and partially eaten Khalil.

And as soon as he realized that I had the same weapon he did, just 28 or so years older than his, he went berserk.

No, he didn't try and shoot me. He somehow knew the same thing that I did, that him firing at the wielder of the same weapon would create a paradox that would destroy both weapons, to say nothing of ourselves. So he just tried to punch me backwards and forwards along my own timeline, hoping to send me to its end, or murder me at its beginning...

As I said, he was very skilled at temporal combat. He almost got the drop on me about three instances in the first two seconds of perceived timeflow. However, once my suit analyzed the pattern of his attacks, we were able to formulate an effective countermeasure, and match him blow for blow, dodge for dodge.

Not that it wasn't painful. It was like fighting a stone mountain that decided to shake itself to pieces on top of me. And as we danced about one another, with me blocking his every attempt to harm or erase my past, he fought bravely to prevent me from doing the same to him. Bravely and expertly, I must say. If I hadn't possessed the safeguards I did...


The enormity of my action didn't strike me until I was standing over his badly-pulverized body, breathing his last within sight of his teenage self. In that instant, a connection was made between past and present, and all that time energy was sent right into his younger body.

All I could do was watch it happen, and then close the loop with extreme prejudice before things got any worse -- killing his adult time-aspect with a blow to the third eye Chakra, not quite driving his nose back into his corrupted brains. 

Thankfully he'd dropped Hǫfuð on the ground of his cavern before we began to truly fight, so I didn't have to risk the paradox associated with holding onto two temporal slices of the same thing. As of now I've secured it, here, thus ensuring it'll be found by the right people at the right time, between this timeframe and our own.

Which means I've taken one of the most dangerous weapons in the world off the board, until we take control of it in about 24 years. Which would be very satisfying if it hadn't come at such a cost.

We never really knew what happened to this amazing man. He cast a long, deep shadow across the 20th century, and then just vanished, leaving no successor. We'd all assumed he'd gone down fighting some ultimate foe in some unseen battle, blessedly raging just beyond or beneath the world's ability to see.

But no. He died because a monster turned him, and then I came across him while satisfying my curiosity after I got bored and went off mission.

I understand the need for the mind wipes. But this time, I'm actually kind of glad I'll be forgetting this when I get back. I don't know that I'll be happy knowing I did what had to be done, but only because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"When I get back," I just said. More like if I get back. Let's not forget that.

The combat took several days of elapsed time, even if it only felt like minutes. I'm tired and my chronal batteries need recharging. I will get back on Operation Eraser within a reasonable amount of time.

But right now I just want to lie here, and pretend I didn't just have to perform two-fisted euthanasia on a man more remarkable and honorable than I may ever be.


Sunday: 9/18/16

"What are you doing?" Freyja asks, coming around to the side of Odr, who's kneeling prostrate upon a towel on the far end of Naglfar's stern, and muttering to himself.

"Praying, my wife," the man in the woman's body says, rearing back up: "Earth is that direction, and so is Mecca. So I pray."

"You... pray?" the shield maiden of the Aesir says, incredulous: "To whom does a God pray? Have you gone addled at long last?"

"I pray to the one who created us, my wife," the Vanir says, putting his hands on his borrowed hips and turning to look at her: "The source of all power and matter. The one who created Man from a blood clot, and gave him a soul. And that soul gave him belief, and thereby created us."

She looks at him with some mixture of confusion and pity: "Odr... I know something of being in a body not well suited to our true nature. I fear your time in this woman's frame has confused you."

"Perhaps," Odr says, nodding: "It is a melding of souls, in many ways. I am not as accustomed to it as you have been. And perhaps the circumstances of our joining have affected my views."

"How so?"

"When I found her, she had just been condemned to die in the cold of the void between worlds," he explains: "She had never been in such a situation, before. And in such a time, her mind turned to Allah, whom she scorned and had turned her back upon long ago. She remembered the certainty she felt as a child, and the comfort such faith provided. 

"In that moment, I came upon her. I made her my offer, both to speed my journey to you and to save her life. And in that moment, many things within her mind came together."

"And so you would worship their God?" She asks, somewhat offended by the notion.

"I would, if you would permit me," he smiles at her: "But I am glad you are at last willing to speak with me, rather than strike at me. Perhaps the tide of our battle has turned?"

She looks at him again, and shakes her head: "The true battle begins in but a few days. I have sworn to the All Father to put all my strength into that. And that means that, for the time, you and I must be as one, as allies.

"After that..."

She pats the pommel of her sword, and raises an eyebrow. Odr nods, sadly, and turns back to Earth to pray.

And the stars roll on above them -- perhaps uncaring, perhaps not. 

* * * 

"I... I don't know what to say..." Syphon says, putting her hands over her mouth as she shakes her head: "This is... it can't be happening-"

"My son is gone," Martha Clutch says, doing her best to not let her fists talk for her, the way she's been wanting them too since she first crossed paths with this irritating Olympian.

"I see that...." the large woman says, looking over stacks of paper and things on her office desk, as if the answer were there: "But that can't be possible-"

"I closed my eyes to go to sleep," the heroine says, stepping closer to the desk: "When I opened them, he wasn't in the chair. He was gone."

"I can check... I mean, I'm sure we can find him..."

"Save it!" Martha shouts, knocking all the handy stacks of paper off the woman's desk with a swift kick: "What are you hiding?"


"You told me he'd be awake in a few days," the Owl insists, pointing a finger at the zaftig Olympian: "I've been there for weeks, waiting. And you keep saying he'll come out any day. And I keep waiting.

"And now..." she puts her hands over her face, and then puts them down at her sides: "And now he's gone, and you can't explain a damn thing to me."

"He's... he's got to be somewhere-"

"You don't want me to see the security tapes," Martha suddenly realizes.

"No, it's not that-"

"Yes it is," the Owl says, stepping closer: "You'd have offered me a look right away, otherwise."

The Olympian looks at her, and her face falls. She's been caught.

"What haven't you been telling me?" Martha shouts: "Where is my son? Where is Thomas!?!"

* * *

"How..." the alter-Earther starts to ask, holding his bleeding nose: "How... did you..."

"An excellent question," the man who just abducted him from his slaughter-safari says, giving him a lightning-swift punch to the kidneys before he can get his wind back: "But not, perhaps, the question you should be asking."

"I'll fucking... fuck you..." SPYGOD's doppelganger hisses, going down on his knees and wondering where his nearest knife is.

"No doubt you would," his assailant says, stepping well clear of the man's arm-range: "And even worse, in fact. I have seen your handiwork, sir. Especially what you and your servants were doing when I found you. Not a pretty sight."

"It's not like this fucking world is going to miss a few more idle rich," his 'guest' sneers: "Do you know how much they paid me to shoot that damn rhino?" 

"I do, yes. But I suspect your tour brochure did not include your letting the rhino stomp them to death, before you killed and cooked it yourself," the man chuckles: "That being after you and your servants had your way with your clients, in several senses of the word."

"What... what do you fucking want?" the damaged man says, looking around the square and featureless room he's been transported to for some kind of weapon, or advantage. 

"Many things, in fact," his host says, making an ornate, wooden chair appear from seemingly nowhere, and dropping it down between his guest and himself -- straddling his legs around the back of it: "To take you from your current playing board, and minimize the damage you do to this world by merely existing within its confines. To place you onto my playing board, in turn, so as to secure your unique services for things to come." 

"My services?" the SPYGOD of Alter-Earth says, judging that he can raise himself up on his knees to look his captor in the face, instead of his feet: "You could have just fucking asked. I'm flexible."

"Yes, but then you would inevitably betray me," his captor says, grinning ear to ear: "This is your nature, as it is mine."

"Who says I won't, now?" 

"Because you have something to gain from this," the man goes on, pointing a finger at him: "You spoke of a way to kill gods, my servant. I would have this magic for myself. I would be the one who decides who dies and who lives, and then only at my sufferance."

"How do you know..." the counter-world man says, rubbing his nose -- enjoying the pain that is his alone to give. 

"Because Loki Laufeyson of the Aesir knows many things," the god wearing the body of Thomas Samuels says: "And I know that it would be a good thing for these gods to be dead or suborned ere my father returns to the world..."

And as he smiles...
* * *

... Randolph Scott cries with helplessness as his son, Helmut, dies in bed from a disease that should only take the aged and infirm... 

... SPYGOD takes the news with a lot more stoicism than he should, and wonders why he's suddenly so uncaring about something so damned tragic...

... Straffer, Myron, and Odin make their battle plans a final thing, all wondering if this will be the last they all stand together as one...

... as Freedom Party Candidate Ted Cruz stands nearby, wondering if the grace he feels watching this moment is God's hand in his life, or the calm of the condemned...

... and the Candidate wonders if the dead body he found in Detroit -- what little remained of King Whip -- means this election is lost, or his administration saved...

... while the American people are shocked and scared by the image of the Great Spirit, himself, and what he had to say in the interview going viral on THIS IS BULL!@#$'s website, right now...

... and Shift, knowing more than he can ever say, casts aside a useless tear as he puts the future and past together, once more...

* * *

... and the Alter-Earth SPYGOD -- so long used to no longer being anyone's slave -- bows and scrapes before a God, of all things, and promises that one day he will avenge this gravest of insults.

But not before he finally gets the one thing he's wanted to do since this whole, protracted mess of a mission began. 

A thing that this God has claimed he will, at last, let him do.  


 (SPYGOD is listening to Fuel (Front 242) and having an Abandon Ship )