NEO YORK CITY
She's running. She does this every day, just before bed. She's done it every day since she was in college, and would have done it every day in the Army, too, if they hadn't had that little problem about what she did with her body when she wasn't on duty.
She runs. She's !@#$ good at it, too. Which is why she's kept so far ahead of the person who's trying to snatch her off the street.
Not that he isn't trying hard to catch up with her, though.
But she's confident, this one. Why shouldn't she be? She's a newly-minted Agent of The COMPANY. She just made it through the terrifying uphill slog that is Hell Month. She's got her uniform and her office, and has been posted on The Flyer as a scheduling assistant to SPYGOD, himself.
(It might have been the way she kicked him, square in the alien apparatus, that day he came down and offered to give them the day off if the five Hell Month survivors could take him down. Or maybe it's her excellent organizational skills? Like the song says, 'It's no use asking / You'll get no reply.')
She's crawled through things you don't want to know about. She's done things no one should ever have to with people, places, and things that most folks outside certain government agencies even know exist. She's earned her place in the organization a dozen times over, and while she hasn't made her bones, yet (that accident in Hell Month did not count) she's sure she's going to make it, soon.
Her name is Agent Sue F. Armatrading, and she is not afraid.
Which is why, when she realized she was being followed on her after-Midnight jog, she did not use her communicator to call for help, or flag down a fellow citizen or policeman. Which is why she simply upped her already-considerably pace and changed her route a little, hoping that her would-be attacker wasn't in the mood to leap through alleys full of garbage cans, cardboard boxes, and sleeping Free.
Which is also why, once she discovered that her tail wasn't going to be shaken so easily, she thanked God for the gun in her runners bag, and decided on a good spot to turn around, whip it out, and start exercising some authority on the !@#$
She slows down, now, making ready to pull the gun out, spin around, and put on her game face. She really hopes it's just some rapist !@#$ high on meth. It'd be nice to blow some holes in someone and not have to worry about too much paperwork.
But she's made one mistake, and it isn't until it's too late that she realizes this. She'd been focusing on the visible threat. She made no allowances for other, unseen factors.
Like the one that's just snuck up beside her, pressed a certain nerve cluster on the side of her neck, and turned her off like a handheld blender.
She falls down, almost insensate. For some reason she focuses on her gun clattering on the street. That and the voice of the person who dropped her.
"Get her back to the Farm," the person says. (My god, that voice...) And then she's blacked out.
Her name is Agent Sue F. Armatrading, and while she still is not afraid, she's more than a little concerned. Not about how she's going to get out of this one, but how she's going to explain it to her boss...
THE FLYER - SPYGOD'S OFFICE
MYRON: Sir? You asked to see me?
SPYGOD: Yes I !@#$ did. Five minutes ago.
MYRON: I came as soon as I could, sir.
SPYGOD: You should have come yesterday, Myron. I may have to introduce you to Mr. Left foot again.
MYRON: Oh please, sir. Not that again. I just had these pants washed-
SPYGOD: Come in, sit down, shut the !@#$ up.
MYRON: Yes sir. I mean, sorry sir. I'm sitting down and shutting up now.
SPYGOD: Good. Coffee? Tea? Beer? Whiskey?
MYRON: Coffee, sir. Please.
SPYGOD: My god, man. You need to watch that habit. Drinking that !@#$ black heroin is going to !@#$ kill you faster than being skull!@#$ by a jackhammer.
MYRON: ... I'll have a beer, then, sir.
SPYGOD: Good man. Hope you like Thai.
MYRON: Learning to love it, sir.
SPYGOD: So, Underman. How's life as a reformed would-be supercriminal now working for the best spy agency in the government working out for you?
MYRON: It's done wonders for my self respect, sir.
SPYGOD: Yes, so I've heard. You've fit in well, you're doing a better job than I'd hoped. I understand you've even managed to get yourself !@#$ laid for a change.
MYRON: Um... yes, sir. Several times in fact. How did you... oh, wait. Never mind, sir. I keep forgetting. 'SPYGOD knows all.'
SPYGOD: !@#$ straight, and don't you forget it. Now. Reason I called you in here. I may have a lead on where GORGON went when they vanished down the !@#$ plughole. If I'm right, they're in the central subduction zone.
MYRON: But that means they're...
SPYGOD: Yes. They are.
MYRON: Oh. Oh !@#$.
SPYGOD: Which means we've got our work cut out for us. How soon can you get me a working plan of attack based on the original Underman's maps of the planet?
MYRON: Give me a week?
SPYGOD: How about yesterday?
MYRON: Yesterday. Right. I'll get right on it, sir.
Got an interesting call from Director Straffer, up at DAMOCLES, around 9 in the AM. I'm still in The B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G, recovering from the party Myron's debriefing on Inner Earth turned out to be. Also still tangled up with the three lovely people I only half-remembered coming home with after all that.
He asks if he can come down to share it with me, as I am clearly in no shape to come up and see him. I ask him how the happy unholy living !@#$ he could possibly know that, and he laughs that annoying laugh of his and says he knows a thing or two, himself.
Sure, come on down, I say. I figure he's going to get in one of those swanky 80's-as-seen-in-the-60's rocket jets they go to Deep Ten and back in. But no, he !@#$ appears in the middle of my bedroom, all dapper and refined like he's been up a lot longer than I've been alive.
Of course I !@#$ shoot at him. You don't need to know where I had the gun hidden. He just laughs and turns around to regard the hole in the wall.
"Holographic telepresence," he explains: "I can beam on down anywhere with enough cell phone towers to triangulate a signal. Either that or use a nice communicator like what you've got there, under the... um, whoever that is on your left."
How lovely. I get to have my swinging bachelor pad invaded by a !@#$ hologram because my !@#$ cell phone is too !@#$ good for it's own good. I make a note to deal with that later, preferably with a very large gun.
But he's got a point to this little invasion of my oh-so-precious privacy, Director Straffer does. Once I have METALMAID show the ladies to the door, he uses some of that super-high-tech holographic tomfoolery to show me what I at first think is a flashback to the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, but is actually realtime 3-D sonar imagery from one of my COMPANY subs. The Thunderball, in fact.
"We found the dive recorder," he explains: "It was thrown well clear of the explosion. I was worried that, once the enemy spacecraft was dealt with, it might have been melted, too. But it turns out it was well outside the blast radius."
I watch, stunned, as the sub's sophisticated sensors show me a spacecraft design I have never seen before. From the pictures the research vessel had taken, it looked like a stereotypical flying saucer, but that was just from the top. It actually looks like a giant screw, with the business end driven into the sea floor.
The rest of the show's the depressing thing I was expecting: DAMOCLES agents swarm out to meet it and are annihilated by something the sensors can't quite make out. Once that something finds its way towards the ship, the agent in charge calls in a Code Triple Black. The rest is history, and a wide, long swath of destroyed seabed.
"One thing of interest," Straffer says, sitting next to me in the bed, somehow: "You see that mark on the top of the craft? The one that looks like a sideways 6? That looks remarkably similar to a concept-glyph in Catorese."
"Catorese," I repeat, having beer number four: "Remind me why that's !@#$ significant, Straffer. I'm not drunk enough to remember, yet."
"The Cators are the alien race that claim to be the oldest, most civilized, and most well-traveled out of all the ones we've made official contact with."
"Okay. So this is theirs? Swell. Let's !@#$ 'em."
"I've talked with them, (REDACTED). This is not one of their ships. They say that the glyph is similar to their writing, but is actually more in keeping with something they based their language on, millions of years ago."
"So this ship... might be something made by someone even older than they are?"
"Or, it could be another race that took influence from a similar source. Bottom line is that they don't know who they are. And that is also extremely disturbing to me."
"I bet they're !@#$ lying."
"They don't lie, SPYGOD. They actually can't mentally bring themselves to do it. That's one of the reasons I like dealing with them."
"How do you know they're not lying about not being able to lie?" I ask. It's a fair question, but it gets me the mother of all withering looks.
"Well, I thought you should know," he says, getting up to go: "We now have an answer. Maybe not a full one, maybe not a good one, but at least we now know what happened and why my men felt the need to sacrifice your submarine, and themselves."
"Hey, don't go away !@#$ mad," I say: "Can you holograph yourself a beer?"
"No. I can't drink."
"Can't or don't?"
"Yes," he answers, smiling: "Oh, and that glyph? It means a lot of things in different contexts, but in this instance we think it means 'Long Range Observation.' Observing what, I wonder?"
I'm about to tell him I'll come up when I know, but then he's gone. Sneaky !@#$.
(SPYGOD is listening to 7Rain: Ghost (Front 242) and having a large bottle of Deathly Pale Ale)