Okay, joke fail. You were all totally supposed to say "Hi, Myron!" No?
Okay, then. Well, like I said, I was Underman. I was Underman for all of about a month or so before I got caught by our mutual employer, and given the choice. Obviously, I made the right one, because I am now a member of The COMPANY, along with all of you. And I am, as of now, your chief residential expert in all matters pertaining to spelunking, subterranean exploration and warfare, and the so-called Hollow Earth.
Which is why, given that GORGON is one of our next targets, according to some theories, you and I need to have a word.
* * *
*Cell door opens*
SPYGOD: Well hello, there, Zachary. How are you doing, today?
MAGICIAN: Who the !@#$ are you? Where am I?
SPYGOD: Funny you should ask. This is Hell. I'm the Devil. Nice to meet you.
MAGICIAN: Oh God, please. Just tell me where I am. I can't move and I can't see. Not since--
SPYGOD: Shhhh. Shhh. It's okay. You're not really dead.
MAGICIAN: I'm... what?
SPYGOD: You are in Hell, though. And you're stuck with me, so it'd be in your best interests to cooperate fully. Otherwise, things could get really bad.
MAGICIAN: Oh, I know... I know who you are, now. You're SPYGOD, aren't you?
SPYGOD: Give that man a prize! What gave me away?
MAGICIAN: You come in here acting like you own the place-
SPYGOD: Technically, the American government owns it. I just run it. What's your point?
MAGICIAN: All full of yourself, just like a cock on a pile of !@#$.
SPYGOD: Yeah, well, that'd be you, buddy. Zachary H. Leighton. 102 years old. Don't look a day over 50, though, and not bad looking at all. What they got you on? X-Tend?
MAGICIAN: Are you kidding me? This is the Legion's health plan, you dumb !@#$. I think they get me the generic.
SPYGOD: *laughs* Now that's a good one. I'll give you that, Zach. But I have to tell you that's the last laugh you're going to have for a while.
MAGICIAN: Oh, are you going to have me beaten up, again? Keep me tied to this chair and blindfolded? Maybe soil myself, one more time?
SPYGOD: That's not a blindfold, Zach.
SPYGOD: It's a bandage.
SPYGOD: You see, we've had a file on you, and I have to say I am impressed by your power levels. Able to make someone do anything you want them to, no matter how unsavory or self-destructive? Even able to make people forget their entire lives and accept false memories? That's really something, Zach. I don't think I've got anyone on my side who's got that level of mind control. Not without some serious mental drawbacks, anyway.
MAGICIAN: ... please. Look, I'll-
SPYGOD: Shhh. Don't interrupt me, Zach. I was about to say that here you are, with all that power, and who are you working for?
MAGICIAN: ... I'm...
SPYGOD: That's right. The wrong team. The Legion. The Big Man.
MAGICIAN: What do you mean this is a bandage?
SPYGOD: Well here, do me a favor? Your hands are sort of free. Open your left hand, and turn it palms up. Okay?
SPYGOD: Now, here. There's something for you.
MAGICIAN: What... what is it? It's cold and... wet...
SPYGOD: It's your right eye.
SPYGOD: Now, see. Look what you did! You dropped it! And the floor's all sticky with your filth, Zach. We're never going to be able to recover it, now.
MAGICIAN: *more screaming*
SPYGOD: Okay, okay. Well, can't say I didn't try. We'll talk again when you're a little more intelligible. Have a good afternoon, Zach. Be seeing you.
GUARD: Any instructions, sir?
SPYGOD: Can I have my meatball sub back?
GUARD: Oh! Of course, sir. It smells wonderful.
SPYGOD: Well, here. You have the rest, then.
GUARD: Are you sure, sir?
SPYGOD: Yeah. I just needed the one meatball. Do me a favor? Wait fifteen minutes, go in, and say "eww, what's that on the floor?" Then come in a few minutes later and hose him down. Make sure to tell him that thing on the floor went right down the drain.
GUARD: Um, yes. Yes sir.
SPYGOD: Good work, son. Carry on. Enjoy the sub.
* * *
So when we talk about a Hollow Earth, what are we talking about? I'm sure some of you may have read Poe or Burroughs and thought about great jungles in caverns lit by an interior sun, and a world that time forgot. Blah blah blah.
The answer is going to be disappointing if you're wanting to ride dinosaurs ten miles below the Earth's crust. But it's also exciting, because there's things that have been going on down below our feet that stagger the imagination.
The truth is that there is no Hollow Earth, at least not like you might think. The truth is that the Inner Earth is not like anything you imagined, or that you read. The truth is that it's a lot more amazing, and sometimes terrifying, than you could have believed.
And it's a truth we've got to get up to speed on. Mostly because GORGON's down there, already, and may have been down there for ages. And if that's true, then we don't have the time to be sitting around chit-chatting about crazy theories and science fiction stories. We have to focus on what's real, or at least what we can prove.
So it's my job to get you all up to speed on the great, largely uncharted wilderness that is the Inner Earth.
* * *(OBSERVATION LOG - ZERO CHAMBER, LANGLEY)
(DATE: 11/18/11 - TIME: 7:30 - 8:00)
(PERSONS PRESENT: DIRECTOR CIA, AGENT S)
S: Thank you for coming, sir.
CIA: No problems, (REDACTED). You didn't have any problems slipping away?
S: They think I'm at a bar with a girl, sir. I left strict instructions not to call me. They tend to respect that kind of thing.
CIA: *shudders* That organization is just one giant harassment suit waiting to happen.
S: Well, sometimes. I think they have a good sense of humor about that sort of thing. As near as I can tell their Hell Month program tends to weed out all the whiners. Mostly.
CIA: Well, I didn't send you to join. What's happened?
S: They got Whisper of Liberty, sir.
CIA: You mean the Magician? Zachary Leighton?
S: Yes sir. He's being held in lockdown in the Heptagon. They have him thinking he's had his eyes surgically removed and are leaving him to drown in his own despair.
CIA: Wow. That's... that's pretty effective.
S: It is, yes. He's been screaming that he's willing to make a deal for the last few hours. They haven't taken him up on it, though.
CIA: So what's your concern, other than the obvious one?
S: Well, if he tells all he knows, he'll lead them to the ones he's retired. If they get hold of them, and make them remember, it will lead back to us.
CIA: And knowing SPYGOD, he'll use that as leverage against us.
S: Or worse. You should see him, sir. He's in full on kill mode, right now. He had to sacrifice one of his Agents to get actionable information on the Legion, and he's out for blood.
CIA: Can you eliminate the Magician?
S: I don't think so, sir. My host has no reason to be there, unless she's following him. But I might be able to get the information on the lockdown. It would make it easier for someone else to get in.
CIA: Do it. I can find someone to handle the kill.
S: So we've written him off, sir?
CIA: I'm this close to writing the entire !@#$ Legion off, (REDACTED). We haven't gotten a lot of bang for the buck out of them since the Cold War ended, and the longer we have them up and around the bigger the albatross around our neck.
S: I agree, sir. But I'd suggest we be very careful about that. We have no way of knowing how much insurance the Big Man's taken out. We could be--
CIA: I know, Agent S. I know. But let's at least get it so The Magician can't do us any more damage. You find out what you can and get it back to me as soon as possible.
S: Of course, sir.
CIA: Oh, and how's your host doing?
S: Fine, sir. Just fine. My people have her under control, and her vitals are stable. I think she'll last quite a while.
CIA: Until... the op is over.
S: Yes. Until then.
* * *
Now, for those of you who didn't pay attention in geography class, this is the planet we all live on. And since someone with a very bad sense of humor decided to deep-six the visual aids I spent all week working on, we're going to have to use our imaginations.
Now, I want you to imagine you've got a toad in the hole for breakfast. You've all had one, right?
No? Oh come on, I can't be the only person who ever makes these. Do you all survive on ramen noodles and whatever slop the commissary has out, today? Jesus wept, people.
Okay, a toad in the hole is when you make some toast, and cut a hole in the center of it. Then you throw it in a frying pan and crack an egg into the hole. The egg cooks in the hole, you scoop it up with a spatula, and you've got a cheap and tasty breakfast. Its not exactly Quiche Lorraine, but if you're on a budget, it sure beats pop tarts.
Anyway. The center of the Earth is the yolk. That's the inner core. It's 800 miles in diameter and solid, probably made out of iron and nickel, or possibly other, more valuable elements. That's kind of academic, though, because you're not going down there.
Why is that? Because of the temperature, for one thing. We've estimated that it's about 5505 Celsius, which is as hot as it gets on the surface of the Sun. Steel melts at only 1370 C, and gets soft enough to deform and bend well below that. Even the best ceramics we have can only get you a few hundred degrees past that point.
For another thing, the pressure down there is so immense that you'd be pulped in microseconds. Think of the weight of over three million atmospheres crashing down on you. Then consider that, at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, it's only a thousand atmospheres. And that's enough to turn most submarines into metal confetti.
Some yolk, huh?
Okay, tough crowd.
* * *11/19/11
SOMEWHERE IN LANGLEY, VA
Agent Armatrading's eyes flicker open for just a second. She knows where she is, and when she is. She isn't so sure about the who, anymore.
That's what's so terrible about this situation, other than the obvious issues. The bastard rat !@#$ who's sharing her body has a mind like a wet sponge. It's impossible for it to touch her and not get her wet.
And the slop it's carrying around... Jesus Christ in Heaven she couldn't have imagined.
The older Agents would tell tales about The Body Thief, but she thought they were just stories. Booga-Booga tales to scare new meat, and make them even more mindful of their surroundings.
Now she knew the truth. The Body Thief was real, alright.
And the things he's done over the years? Things that they hinted at, but never fully spelled out? Oh, they were real, too. And then some.
How many bodies has this person racked up, over the decades? How many people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time wound up sharing a body with this !@#$ monster?
She knows everything about him. She knows his origins. She knows what he used to be called, once upon a time.
She knows that he's not going to let her live, at the end of this. She'll have known too much, by then.
She'll know how to destroy him.
That's what's keeping her going, now. She knows she can't break free from his spell. She knows she can't overpower him mentally, or do more than offer token resistance so long as she's tied up this chair and unable to move.
But she's an Agent of the COMPANY. The. !@#$. COMPANY.
She knows things. She was taught things. She had to use those things to make it through Hell Month and survive her first week on the job.
She knows how to use what she has available to get into, or out of, just about anything. She knows how to control her brain and her body. She knows how to fake out the experts.
She just has to make a plan -- a plan so quiet and simple he won't see it coming and warn her minders -- and follow through with it before anyone knows what's up.
And then he's going to pay, this Body Thief. She's going to make him !@#$ pay.
* * *
You're also not going to have much luck in the Outer Core, either. That's the egg white in our imaginary, edible world that you can't see because someone stole those slides and replaced them with what's either insect porn or someone's attempt to ape the guy who did the special effects in Alien. Maybe both. You know who you are.
The Outer Core is liquid, and extends about 1400 miles out from the Inner Core. Its temperature ranges from 4400 C, where it meets the Mantle, to 6100 C, where it touches the Inner Core. Those of you who are actually paying attention might realize that that's just about 600 degrees hotter than the Inner Core, itself.
The good news is that the Outer Core is what creates our Magnetic Field, which is why we have an atmosphere in the first place. The bad news is that there's still a lot of pressure down there, and by "a lot" I mean "crushed just a little slower."
So if we're going to think of the Inner Earth as a grade school playground, the Inner and Outer Core are the roped-off areas where the 6th Graders have their token, no jungle-gyms or swing sets recess, and us little kids don't get to play in. But why would you want to, when all the cool stuff is in places we can go?
That's the Mantle. Or most of it, anyway. It's still hot and under intense pressure, but there are variances, and a lot of room to maneuver within them,
The Mantle is the toast in that Toad In the Hole that makes up Inner Earth. It's 1800 miles of hot, viscous rock that flows so slowly it hardly seems to be moving at all.
The part that's got a lot of egg white fused with it is the Lower Mantle. The pressure there is almost 1.4 million atmospheres, and the temperature is 4000 C, give or take a little. This is the buffer zone where a very stern teacher stands and tells you to go back and play with kids your own age.
However, once we're at the Upper Mantle, we're in a different ballgame. The temperature there ranges from 500 to 900 Celsius. That's well within the tolerance of steel. And the pressure isn't nearly as bad, which means that a well-buffered environmental capsule could maintain life support for short durations.
You just wouldn't want to get out of the cockpit and walk around, even if you did find something large enough to take a pit stop in. That's because you're just under the crust, and that's where the heat and lack of pressure can combine to turn rocks into, you guessed it, lava.
* * *11/20/11
Been a disappointing day. Very !@#$ disappointing.
I knew we had one mole for The Legion. I suspected we had two. Now I've had that suspicion proven correct, but before we could get him locked down to talk about it, he killed himself. Which means I have no !@#$ idea why he did it, or how much information he may have passed on.
I have to hand it to my new personal assistant, though. Agent Armatrading's got her eye on the ball, alright. She was the one who noticed that someone had used my executive passcode to get into the Heptagon systems and root around in the lockdown files, especially those concerning our new top guest.
Once we realized that was up, it was just a question of who else had access to those codes. Two are dead, and one had an airtight alibi for the times that the breakins occurred.
And that just left Agent G. Gordon, who used to be an assistant until he !@#$ up one schedule too many, and got busted down to the motor pool. He did his best to backdoor the entries through several redundant systems, but the trail was pretty !@#$ clear, once you knew what to look for.
By the time we got down there, he was halfway across the lower hangar and headed for the open doors. He must have figured out what we were going to do. The look in his eyes was terrible to see.
Pure, white-faced, pants-full-of-!@#$, !@#$ fear.
I told him to !@#$ stop and come back. I told him it was no !@#$ use, and we knew. I also told him there was no way out, though that wasn't exactly true.
I didn't think he'd actually jump out the door, though. His records said he was terrified of heights, which was one of the reasons I assigned him down there. I thought it would be good for him.
(That and it was kind of !@#$ cruel.)
Hizzonner called me up to complain about a dead Agent splattered across the top of a taxicab. I told him to bill me, and send me what was left. He said there wasn't enough solid matter to fill a pizza box. I asked if it was small, medium, or large. He told me to !@#$ off and hung up.
Everyone who worked with the kid said he was quiet and loyal, but still !@#$ at me for busting him down there. So why did he turn on us?
Was it something I said?
Anyway, Agent Armatrading volunteered to handle the new lockdown codes, just to make sure no one can take advantage of what he sold. She looked a little miffed when I told her it wouldn't be necessary. I'm sure we've gotten to it before anyone else could have, judging from the fact that he hadn't left his station the whole time the breakin was occurring. He also didn't have any sign of passing the info on to someone else, using our systems or something of his own.
So, given all that, all I'm going to do is pretend to be in my office, and then sneak out the back to go watch over The Magician, myself. I've got the feeling that, if anything slipped through, they'll try something tonight.
And I'm quite the mood to put my foot up someone's !@#$ for having given me such a !@#$ disappointing day, today. Yes I am.
(SPYGOD is listening to Untitled (The Cure) and enjoying a Schlafly Christmas Ale)