Of course, he's glad to see me. I get pounded on the back and asked if I slept well during the flight. When I complain about the bed he tells me not to worry. They didn't break anything getting it out the roof. Except maybe the roof.
He asks about the kids, as always. I tell him they're fine, which he doubtlessly knows. He just smiles, lights up one of those atrocious cigarettes he's always chain-smoking, and blows two rings of smoke -- one inside the other, like an eye.
'SPYGOD sees all,' in other words. Yeah, yeah. So did he see this coming? I ask as another large building in Sirte gets demolished by something I haven't even seen yet, but am quickly learning to fear.
I get an enigmatic smile this time, and another pound on the back. Today we make a man out of you, he promises by way of an answer. Then he starts cursing out his staff for getting here later than expected, and orders a complete pullback. We need to be well outside the thing's ability to throw no later than last week.
As if to counterpoint his seemingly-impossible demand, a chunk of Sirte goes flying overhead, thudding nearby into the sand. We're nearly airborne after that.
* * *
The Black Pill. Where to begin?
It was developed by a man named Wilhelm Heinrich Ganz, back in the mid-40's. Like a lot of the crazed innovations World War II produced, it is a beautiful piece of truly in-your-face, no-!@#$-around, weird science genetic engineering. It takes no prisoners and makes no apologies.
It will give you powers, or it will kill you. Badly.
When he unveiled it during what ABWEHR still calls, perhaps unimaginatively, The Night of The Black Pill, they were careful in spite of their haste. They took blood tests and performed other measurements to determine who in the bunker was best suited to survive the transformation. Even then, the casualty rates were astounding, but enough survivors meant that the remnants of the Nazi High Command were able to plague the world for several decades thereafter as superhumans, rather than just Nazis on the run.
SPYGOD informs me, between bouts of screaming at his underlings and then commending them for anticipating his insane demands, that they discovered Colonel Khadaffy had a stash of Black Pills only a day or so ago. They -- that is, The COMPANY -- quickly alerted a number of allies in the region, but the problem was that that they had no idea where Libya's deposed leader was hiding. Apparently he'd taken a tip from the late Saddam Hussein, and had numerous lookalikes running around the country, spreading confusion as to his real whereabouts.
In retrospect, he admits, they should have paid more attention to Sirte. This was his hometown, after all. Given his sentimentality and nostalgia it was only logical that he'd come back here to plan the next move after that life was thrown upside down by the so-called Arab Spring.
But, in time-honored SPYGOD tradition, satori came a little too late. One of the Colonel's few remaining Revolutionary Nuns managed to live through the process and gained a rather impressive power set, as they say in the halls of The Flier.
The problem is that no one was really made to have 100 feet tacked onto their current height.
* * *
The next morning I get a good look, through drone cameras, at what we're dealing with. I vomit after only a few seconds. I'm far from the only one.
The woman striding around the city is not instantly recognizable as female, anymore. Her body is still humanoid, but terribly misshapen, looking very much like what happens when a poorly-sculpted birthday cake is allowed to sit out in the rain for a time.
Her skin is melted and rent open. It is stretched taut over limbs stuffed to bursting with massive, cancerous nodules that seem to make up more than 90% of her visible body mass, now. Great lumps of fat and externalized veins and organs form a strange skirt just below the seething, pulsing ruin that her breasts have become.
Only her head and face retain their original features, but those features are grotesquely distorted by the expansion of the back of her skull. COMPANY scientists along for the ride tell us that was possibly to accommodate the massive changes to brain structure needed to pilot and maintain such a massive frame around.
But any explanation takes a back seat to the fact that she looks like someone took the head of a child's doll, split it up the back, and stuffed both their fists and feet into it. It reminds me of pictures of severely hydrocephalic children, which have always filled me with both incredible sadness and revulsion.
And the fact that she's conscious, and has been clearly driven insane by her ordeal, does not help matters. The way her misshapen eyes dart around the landscape is truly horrible.
What can we do for her, now? Of course, SPYGOD has an answer: "She dies."
I don't know which is worse -- the answer itself, or the nonchalant way he says it. The question as to how much thought he's put into the issue haunts me the rest of the evening as the COMPANY Agents settle in for a night of quiet observation, media manipulation, and occasional sorties into the city to help trapped rescue workers.
* * *
The day after that the troops arrive, as it were. Strategic Talents from other North African and Arab states come in to assist with the situation.
They seem a rather well-mannered and humble bunch of fellows, in direct contrast to most American Supers I've observed. They also have refreshingly direct names: The Fist, The Lion, The Hammer, The Wall, and so on.
All of them are friendly except for The Lion. I am told that he isn't thrilled to be here, but no one will say why. There is clearly something better left unsaid between him and SPYGOD, though: neither will look at the other for very long, if at all, and they're going to great pains to avoid speaking directly to one another.
Item number one on the agenda is what to do with the 100 foot tall woman. They don't like SPYGOD's solution, and unlike him they think there is a better solution. Apparently someone from Egypt is a magnificent healer, and might be able to reverse what was done to her. SPYGOD surprisingly defers to their judgment and says to bring him here in 72 hours, or at least before they deal with item number two. But after that, he's calling her collateral damage.
Item number two is something I hadn't even thought about. There has to be some reason why the civilians aren't running away in well-deserved fear. Rumor has it that the Colonel has another Super who's capable of keeping people from seeing certain things. Her presence has been verified by COMPANY Agents who went into the city to rescue humanitarian workers, last night; try as they might, they could not see the giant at all.
Item number three is other Supers. It's doubtful that the woman is the only survivor of what SPYGOD calls "a black pill party." There could be any number of them in there, either with or nearby the Colonel. They'll have to be dealt with, "just like the last time."
No one seems to have any problems with that, which leads to another, more heated discussion about the ethics of dealing with the 100 foot tall woman. Apparently the fact that she's clearly brain damaged is what's making the other Supers balk at "the obvious thing," and no one's pleased by his use of the term "put down a mad dog."
After a few go-arounds, each more heated than the last, I take my leave of the planning session and go outside to get some air. It's still hot and humid in late October, but one can feel the seasons shifting. I do my best to not look at the city, and the horrible thing stalking around it.
One of the Agents comes over and hands me a bottle of water. He insists I drink the whole thing down over the next half an hour. It's his job to ensure everyone's hydrated and sunscreened. Not a bad job to have, apparently, but he's cursing his lot in life. He tells me he'd rather be shooting at something, instead.
"It's the waiting that kills you," he announces before chasing off after a pair of returning Agents, bottles in hand. Hearing the Arabic screaming from the planning room, I can only imagine.
(Randolph Scott is listening to Mama (Genesis) and enjoying some tea)