Friday, October 28, 2011

10/15-22/11 - (RANDOLPH SCOTT) Libya: Black Angels and Amazons - pt. 3

The argument goes on for the rest of the night. I fall asleep at some point, and after a while my dreams are no longer disturbed by sudden and impassioned outbursts in Arabic. I suspect consensus has been reached, but how and by whom will just have to wait for morning. 

That morning isn't long in coming. We're rousted from bed before daylight, showered and fed, and assembled in the shadow of the transport. The food is surprisingly good, but the coffee is the local stuff: black, thick, and laced with spices you'd normally associate with Indian cooking.

The Agents are all wearing weird, translucent suits over their normal uniforms. The over-suits are covered with wires and coils, and occasionally crackle and spark. I think I know what they are but every time I ask I get answered with "what suit?"

SPYGOD appears from seemingly nowhere, and everyone comes to attention in unison. He's clearly drunk but you wouldn't know it to hear him talk. It's as if the staggering and overdramatic gestures are part of some unfortunate neurological condition, rather than caused by the bottle.

"Rule number one, we are not here," he says, pointing a shaky finger: "Rule number two. We. Are. Not. Here."

NATO apparently has no real idea that The COMPANY have come to Sirte. As far as they know there is nothing wrong with the city, no Black Angel situation, and no giant woman walking around in it. We're apparently going to keep it that way.

"Rule number three, if you forget rules two and one, don't do anything you can't deny with a straight face."

Standard operating procedure for The COMPANY. By now I know it too well.

"Rule number four, No Suits, now and until I say otherwise."

Everyone in the line reaches for their belt buckles and give them a hard turn to the right. There's a weird science noise -- hums and crackles, mostly -- and everyone I'm in line with vanishes before me. No Suits, they call them. Now I see why.

"Rule number five, you are on humanitarian maneuvers only. Stay the !@#$ out of our way. I find  one stray bullet from one of our guns and I will !@#$slam every last one of you until I find out who fired it and why. And then I'm going to get really !@#$ nasty."

They don't even flinch. Not that I can see them, but I think I'd hear the uneasy shifting of weight in the sand. As always, they're more than used to SPYGOD being SPYGOD.

"You will listen for the evac signal. You will obey it promptly. We will rendezvous here not more than a half hour after the whistle is blown. If you're not back here, we're calling you dead. If you're not dead, you know what to do. That's probably Rules six, seven, and seven and a !@#$ half, but !@#$ it.


There's the sound of running feet in the sand, and a horde of invisible feet leave tracks away from the transport and towards the city.

"I'm with you, then?' I ask. He hands me an impossible looking rifle for what I hope is only a moment, but then he doesn't take it back.

"You're with me," he grins, sick and full like a yellow moon falling under the horizon: "Today we make a man out of you, Randy."

* * *
"A man." This is what a man does.

A man follows SPYGOD and the other Supers into the city, not really caring if they're seen or not. As soon as the locals witness the Arabic Supers they break out of whatever strange lethargy is keeping them in the city, instead of doing the obvious thing and running for their lives. They greet them as liberators, kissing their faces and hands and thanking them for coming.

Not SPYGOD, though. Not him. Apart from being a foreigner and a stranger -- and, of course, an American -- there's something dark and unlovely about him that leads them to shun him. 

He doesn't seem to mind. In fact, he seems to revel in it.

Maybe this is also what a man does.

"Ten to one they start cursing their dead mothers when the battle starts, son," he tells me: "They better get their kisses in now."

"How much of a fight are you expecting?"

"A bad one," he says, looking off in the distance: "The comms chatter just lit up like a forest fire. They know we're here. They're coming."

I'm about to ask who, but he throws me to the ground. Seconds later a whirlwind of motion swirls by where I was just seconds ago, and SPYGOD's shooting. People are screaming. Someone's shouting in Arabic and screaming and there are explosions and fire and more screaming.

What does a man do? He stays down on the ground and holds the impossible weapon for some other person, hoping the kinetic madness that's turned this part of the city from a meet-and-greet into a bloodbath does not touch him.

For the briefest of moments I dare to stick my head up and look -- really look -- at what's going on around me. The image is frozen in my eyes forever. The Fist and The Hammer striking the air and missing something moving too fast to see. The Lion being knocked back into a wall by that same, inhuman blur. The Wall trying to intercept the thing on the rebound and failing. Loyalist soldiers screaming oaths and shooting into the melee.

And all around the Supers, the ordinary people who'd been coming up and thanking them, earlier, are dying. They're coming part like straw dolls, their limbs ripped off and bodies rent asunder by the invisible forces polluting the air around them.

Bullets and bombs couldn't do a better job of killing them than these people who've come to protect them.

And then there's SPYGOD, off to my side, watching. At some point, maybe three impossibly long seconds into the fray, he starts moving his head in time with something moving this way and that, too fast to really watch. I've only got enough time to realize he's actually tracking the unseen blur before something really strange happens.

Yes, I realize saying "something really strange" around SPYGOD is like saying "something really bad for you" about a Jack in the Box. But what else would you use to describe the feeling that he's inside your head, playing with your eyes and your brain with all the subtlety of a drunk mechanical bull in a china shop?

What phrase can you employ to tell people how amazingly weird it feels to be seeing what he's seeing, as he's seeing it?

A sickening distortion of the senses gives way to a deluge of visual static, and then, like a TV that's just been turned to the right channel, I can see the invisible man. He's buck naked and running, clearly enjoying the carnage he's causing. He hasn't even broken out in a sweat.

"End it," SPYGOD says to the others, yanking me to my feet as he starts shooting at the loyalists. He hardly even moves his arm to do this -- snapping killshot after killshot off in a tightly controlled pattern. Bang bang bang bang bang; thud thud thud thud thud.

As for the others, they snap to in moments -- obviously more used to this sort of thing than I am -- form a plan and make it work. The Hammer leaps forward and grabs the moving target around the neck, his fingers finding the painful spots between vertebrae. The Fist kneels down and, before the speedster can react, jumps into his chest, fist first. The Hammer lets go of him a split second before the fist's namesake collides with his breastbone -- noisily turning his ribcage not quite inside out -- and the blow knocks him back into the waiting Wall.

The Wall's power is unique in the world. He simply cannot be moved, except by himself. Any force projected against him is repelled, measure for measure. When he walks, he's a moving line that nothing can cross without being smashed by the power of its own momentum.

And when he stands still, like he's doing now, and waits for something to collide with him, the amount of devastation created by a single man is simply unbelievable. The speedster doesn't so much splatter as turn into a fine, red mist, and the droplets will not even stick to The Wall, but atomize into near-nothingness as they float back down upon him.

I'm two blocks away before I realize it took all of five seconds between SPYGOD's bequeathing his sight to the others and the death of the speedster. It's another three before I wonder if the cloud of blood will still be invisible when we get back there.

(Randolph Scott is listening to Follow You Follow Me (Genesis) and still mainlining the tea)

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