This is SPYGOD, broadcasting to you from scenic Shindand, Afghanistan. Here where the poppies grow tall, the Pashtun boy hookers are cheap, and the cell phone towers stop working after 6 in the P.M.
You were probably wondering why SPYGOD didn't have anything to say to you, yesterday. That's a good question. After having a much-needed evening of drunken debauchery at taxpayers' expense, I got dressed up to come out here for the annual birth, life, and death of a short-lived, but very important, country.
Its members call it Outland. It exists for only 48 hours each year, and moves around from location to location so certain spy agencies supposedly can't track it. Note that modifier, as it will become important later.
This year, Outland lived and died about ten miles due North of Shindand, in the foothills. Massive amounts of expensive, highly-technical equipment were brought in through the former Soviet airfield in town to help mask its brief but poignant existence. Anti-radar devices, holograph projectors, invisibility screens, mind-clouder field generators, anything and everything you could think of and a few things you might not be able to.
Especially if you got hit with one of those mind-clouders. Nasty things, those. They're like doing three hits of ether and then drinking way too much bad, homemade whiskey on top of it. Too long in the field and you'll be lucky to remember your own name for days afterward.
Which is why I did ether before I went in, as a necessary precaution. Thankfully the enemy were too busy staring at the wares on sale in the dealers' room to notice my stumbling for the bathroom. They probably thought I was some mad prophet, come out of the poppy fields to sell unmentionable wares.
What is Outland? It's way above your pay grade, son, just like most of the real things in this world are. But in a rare moment of candor I am willing to bend the rules a little.
Outland is the yearly convention catering to everything bad and awful in this world. Groups like HONEYCOMB, ABWEHR, GORGON, and the Brotherhood of the Righteous rub elbows with various unaffiliated evil geniuses and super villains, third world tyrants, oil-rich despots, and questionable governments in exile. They talk shop with drug cartels, rogue weapons designers, red marketeers, mercenary outfits, and bent spies. They offer deals to would-be world conquerors, alien invaders, interdimensional menaces, and time-traveling weirdoes who want to shoot the drafters of the Magna Carta full of plasma bolts for their own insipid reasons.
They even have a token appearance by one of the last few members of SQUASH, now and again. Not this year, unfortunately.
Past that, it's like any other convention you've been to, with a few sinister twists. Panel discussions on the ethics of raising Cthulhu to take over the world. Meet and greets for clone army aficionados. A dealers room full of deadly weapons, strange substances, killer robots, replicant armies, doomsday devices, and things you never thought anyone could ever be whacked or baked enough to even think about making, until you see it for sale over in some darkened corner.
The prayer breakfasts by The First Church of Jesus Christ, Super Villain, are especially worth your while. So are playing mindtricks on the already-harried convention staff, attracting creepers and drunks just so you can strangle them in the privacy of your own room, and disorganizing the obligatory 3 in the A.M. clothing optional swim.
So I can guess what you're saying. "SPYGOD, if this meeting is so secret, and they're taking all these precautions to avoid detection, then how did you get in there?"
That's an excellent question, son. Let me preface it by asking if you remember what I said about how real spying works? Well, we have "Harolds" in every one of those big nasty organizations, too. And they have "Harolds" in us. At the end of the day we can only hope that they don't know as many of our Harolds as we know about theirs, and that the flow of useful information versus useless counter-information stays in our favor.
Which is how we know where Outland is going to be every year, and who's going to be there, and what they're going to talk about. That's also why The Company, the NSA, MI-10, Molchanie, and all the other big intelligence all have their people here, incognito, to watch, learn, and try to trap people in sting operations somewhere down the road.
But that raises a better question. "SPYGOD, if Outland is as massively and horribly bad as you say, and all these evil people are here in one prefabricated building, why the !@#$ aren't you running naked down the hall blowing them the !@#$ up with all those strange devices from the dealers' room?"
That's also an excellent question, son. And the answer I tend to give is: "After much soul-searching and carefully-calibrated abuse of my nervous system though the mind-numbing substances they sell in the dealers' room, I have carefully weighed the ethics and logistics, and decided that it's better to let a little evil go on so long as we have a direct intelligence pipeline on stopping the really big and bad things. If we lose a few thousand people a year to evil genius malarkey, but stop an invasion from beyond time and space, it's acceptable math to the intelligence community."
And in years past, I believed that. Or at least I nuked my frontal lobes with Martian cocaine until I thought I believed that. But even that delicious red powder that makes me feel so godlike and naughty can only hide my impotence in the face of realpolitik for so long before I run out of it, and then I'm back to merely drinking myself to oblivion every night out of guilt and horror.
So this year, I said !@#$ it.
Which is why I told The COMPANY, just before I went on that bender, that we won't be able to rely on our Harolds as much, anymore. I told them to be ready to do actual, big-stakes, crazy-ass super spy work again, even if our flying cars don't !@#$ work with a darn.
Which is why the various infiltrators from the various big spy organizations are all tied up and semi-conscious in the hotel room I took in town. No one noticed they weren't where they were supposed to be, because SPYGOD is just that good.
Which is why, for the first time since Outland became a regular thing, decades ago, I am missing the all-nude, all-depraved closing ceremonies. Instead, I am sitting at a tea shop in scenic downtown Shindand, having a lovely cover conversation with a lovelier Pashtun man-child.
And I am looking at my watch every so often to see what time it is. Because at 5:55:55 in the P.M., my special addition to the closing ceremonies' entertainment goes on stage.
You may remember SPYGOD telling you about how my enemies, some of whom are in attendance just ten miles north of here, have decided to make my life interesting by putting Thai replicant ladyboys in my path, in the hopes of taking me out. Thankfully, my in-home defense detectors usually catch them before their on-board bombs go off, and Metalmaid can fling them over the side of The B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G. just before detonation. That this leads to even more angry notes from Neo York's notoriously thin-skinned sanitation department is a small price to pay for America's security.
But recently, Metalmaid and I have been deactivating them, instead, and sending them to our COMPANY research scientists to reprogram. They've also made certain key improvements. More convincing behavior programs. Hypertime remotes linked to my sunglasses.
Better bomb yields.
So I've got ten replicant Katooeys ready to go on stage in thirty seconds. They'll start singing one of my favorite show tunes, just a little off key. And that'll give the foes of the free world just five seconds to realize something's wrong before those ladyboys go off.
I figure the blast will fragment the whole room, and maybe spill over to the dealers room. There, the blast might just ignite some highly explosive weapons I made sure were live and active just before I bugged out this afternoon. Nothing world-shattering, of course, but just enough to turn that prefab building into a big, smoking hole that not even the world's best mind-clouder can handwave away.
It feels like it's time to do things differently for a change. No more thousand versus billions arguments with myself over way too many drugs. I could have better, non work related reasons to turn my immortal brains to jello every night. I could go to bed feeling clean.
Ten seconds to go on the last days of Outland's depraved disco. And as I reflect that the hooker's English is sadly limited to sexual positions, but that his Russian is thankfully excellent, I think this might just be the start of a whole new year for me.
The ladyboys are singing "Take Back Your Mink" from Guys and Dolls, and I see
(TRANSMISSION CUT OFF)
SPYGOD is listening to I'm the Bomb (Electric Six) and drinking the best green tea he's ever had)