This is not what SPYGOD expected to find at the top of The B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G. A boss fight? Maybe. Some weird philosophical discussion that ended nowhere but a fightfight? Possibly.
(A fight-cum-gangbang would have been nice, too)
The large, dimly-lit room beyond reminds him of the end of that movie where Wolverine and Batman were dueling stage magicians. Only every upright, man-shaped glass tank in the room is full of SPYGOD.
They're all beeping and lit up, giving heart function and what may be respiration rates. Liquid breathing, he figures. Either that or they've learned he doesn't need to breathe in order to breathe, now, too.
The floor is full of cables. All the cables go back to a dais. On the dais is a silver box that's glowing from within.
Behind the dais, up against the wall, is a larger, more important looking tank. Inside that tank is a figure, wired up and tubed and hooked in to who knows how many machines.
And the figure is...
Wait. I can see myself. I can see me there, with the gun, entering the room.
But I can see myself here, in this tank, too.
How can I be here and there at the same time? What the !@#$ is going on here?
"Sir," his second in command is speaking outside the room, not daring to come in just yet: "This is Operation Whack-A-Mole. The tanks are full of short-lived cellular replicates of yourself. You're in the main tank, in the back, piloting them."
"Why? How?" he stammers, suddenly very unsure of himself. But then bits and pieces start coming back.
The technology they found in the Ice Palace. The stuff that ABWEHR was using to make those human mayflies for the Fourth Reich, before they hooked it all up to the shoggoth that was Magda Goebbels and things went even more wrong than before.
The careful removal of that technology from under the UN's noses, and its secret placement here, in The B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G., where they could do whatever the !@#$ they wanted with it and not get caught.
The yoking of the consciousness broadcast system up to the Chandra Eye, itself, allowing him to perform what should otherwise be !@#$ impossible, even for them.
The first trial run, done in the desert with Moloch. The horrible sensation of being killed in a different body, and how it threw him for such a bad loop it took him a whole week to recover, leaving the people in charge to think he was dead.
The improvement of the technique, including psychic buffers to keep him from going into sympathetic systems shock when his clones died. Its secret implementation, known only to very !@#$ few in The COMPANY, to try and draw out whoever was setting him up for a fire-based assassination.
And then, the endless cavalcade of would-be murderers, all called into play one after the other as the previous assassins were dealt with.
...Beobachter laughed, and then wondered why SPYGOD wasn't flailing about in agony. And why the six prostitutes were not running about in panic, fearful for their lives, but were instead pulling large electric pistols out of their codpieces and aiming them at him.
"Private party, !@#$head," one of them said as s/he pulled the trigger. The others followed suit. Six heavy, white bolts of electricity arced across the room and struck Beobachter in the head, chest, and groin.
He went down smoking and shuddering, his heart beating badly out of time. The prostitutes continued to shoot him while he was down and flailing, and did not stop until they had fused all his armor plates together.
Cripped, rendered immobile, and smelling of burned meat, Beobachter blacked out five times before The COMPANY arrived to take him away. Someone may have urinated on him in that time, or it may have been him !@#$ing himself. He found it hard to tell.
...his mind said "fire." And the gun did. A single bullet spun through the air and struck the target, perfectly.
Flyshooter looked through the scope, watching SPYGOD scream and catch fire. He planned to sit and watch the entire death, just to be sure, but he caught something out of the corner of his vision as he did.
Something else was on that patio. Something that looking like one of those Slaughterbots from the 60's, only made up to look like an Asian transvestite.
He blinked, recognition setting in at the distinctive and surreal face of METALMAID. He had enough time to realize something important, but the confusion at this turn of events paralyzed him for one second too many.
All the time in the world to METALMAID. S/he quickly aimed a plasma cannon along the precise trajectory of the original shot and fired. The burst of superheated gas flew straight back, through the Flyshooter's scope, into his brains, and out the back of his head.
They wouldn't be getting any answers from him, dead or alive. And, as if to add a macabre touch to the end of his life, the magnificent weapon he shared a neural link with twisted into a bow of metal tubing and trigger mechanisms.
Isomorphic to the end.
"So what exactly was the second plan?" The distraction asks, teasing his hair in the back of the van. Spotter and Point Man are up at the front, getting rapidly annoyed at the person they brought along on this one.
"It was going to involve us detonating the belt we had you wear, sugar-hips," Spotter admits, maybe smiling around that rebreather thing he's got for a mouth: "There's enough semtex woven in it to blow up half the block."
"But, you know, we prefer the personal touch," Point Man smirks, twiddling his gloves: "No sense having a lot of collateral damage if we can avoid it."
"Oh, well that's just dandy," the Distraction snorts: "Tell a girl now, why don't you."
"Yeah, well..." Point Man gets up as the van slows down, and pulls out a small pistol: "There's something else we were going to tell you, honey. It's about your share in the loot."
He smiles but not for long. His face flowers into sparks of electricity and bursts open like a piece of popcorn. As he topples over the Spotter gets zapped with something that isn't quite enough electricity to fry to his brains in his skull.
Distraction puts his two smoking hands down and taps something under the back of his left ear:
"Yeah. COMPANY? This is Dandelion. I got one breathing, still, but you better get the machine out here. That and some explosives experts. I may be rigged to pop."
He lights up a cigarette with a short spark from his index finger and sighs. Why does this !@#$ always happen to him?
He remembers more. Much more. The telekinetic at the Bangkok Eight being shot to pieces by the gun hidden in the crazy owner's fake leg. The tranny hooker gun on legs being felled by sniper fire. Dozens more takedowns, breakings, and arrests.
And for what? For this?
"I remember..." he says, putting the gun down and looking at his true self in the main tank: "We were hoping the assassins would come out in force after Moloch failed."
"And they did, apparently," his second in command says, now stepping into the room, but still keeping his distance: "It looks like their employer activated every fire-based killer the Legion had on call, and set them up so that if one failed, the next would be sent out, and then the next."
"And so on until they ran out," SPYGOD says, shuddering at his own bloody-mindedness: "How many of me are out there, now?"
"We've lost about fifty as of right now, sir. And there's three currently moving into position..."
He has more to say. He always does. But SPYGOD stopped listening at 'fifty.'
Fifty times. He's died fifty !@#$ times, here in this room. Half asleep and barely remembering, unsure of what's going on. Just piloting the next body into position for its curtain call, and then going on to the next execution, and the next...
He looks around the room. All the other hims are looking at him, now. He can see himself through their many eyes, and the act of seeing them as they see him creates an endless reflection of the self. Like looking down the infinity corridor created when one stands between two parallel mirrors.
The him in the tank raises a hand. The others follow suit. They blink and open their mouths to say something. He doesn't need to know what the word is. There's only one thing to do.
He takes the weird insect gun off his wrist and throws it at the main tank, right at the weakest point. The glass is supposedly shatterproof, but bull!@#$ to that. It breaks like a safety window and floods the room's floor with slimy goo.
SPYGOD's real and true body falls to his knees, a marionette with his wires and strings barely holding him up. He walks over to himself and lifts him up, looking at himself through every eye in the room. It's an unnerving thing to see himself through so many different angles at once.
Carefully cradling his true self, he moves over to the box and opens it. Inside is the Chandra Eye, glowing as bright as the day he found it in that temple in Bangladesh. He cups it in his free hand and places it within his true left eyesocket.
At that moment, he comes back. All contact with his clones ends. The shell he's been inhabiting for the last few hours falls down in a heap, spent.
But not quite.
Somehow SPYGOD knows that, if he started the body up again, using the lifesaving equipment he can call into action at a minute's notice, it would live. It would be an exact replica of him: imprinted with his mind, his thoughts, his ideals.
And the world only has room for one SPYGOD.
"Sir?" his second asks.
"This ends, now," SPYGOD announces: "I want all these clones incinerated. I want this machinery locked up. This is the first and last time we are doing this."
"Of course, sir," the man replies. He knows better than to ask questions right now. They might get him shot.
"How many assassins did we get alive?"
"About a dozen, give or take."
"Enough to figure out something about their employer," he says, nodding: "Alright then. I want my uniform, I want my guns, and then I want solid food, beer, and a report on everything we've learned since this Operation went into effect."
"I'll get it at once, sir," he says, and off he goes to make calls and make it happen.
SPYGOD takes one last look around the room. One last look at the shell of meat down on the floor, no longer breathing. A small piece of himself, grown to maturity and then let loose in the world as bait.
"What was I thinking?" He asks, but he knows it's useless to ask that question. He wasn't. Or maybe he was, but had no idea it would turn out like this. Like so many other things involving the eye, it's more guesswork than anything else.
And he couldn't have guessed that it would have replicated his consciousness like that.
How much further down the rabbit hole does he have to go with this artifact? How many more senses? How many more revelations?
How many more miles does he have to walk before he finally gets a glimpse of his final destination...?
He doesn't know. And he won't know that for a while yet. Certainly not tonight.
But as he leaves the room, still dragging a wedding train of wires and tubes, he realizes once again that there are consequences to self-knowledge. This time he got off easy, and was able to stop it before it went too far, even for him. Next time he may not be so lucky.
Next time he might rue the day.
(SPYGOD is listening to Clockwork (Deadmau5) and going to enjoy the living !@#$ out of a Paulaner Oktoberfest)