The Big Man is sitting at a table, out on the back porch of his massive estate. The tree line is several football fields away, and the distance inbetween houses a massive pool, a hedge maze, and a sculpture garden that looks sublimely grotesque.
Like the estate, itself, the table is flashy and well-appointed. It's chased with so many luxurious substances that it would look horribly tacky in any other setting, but looks well at home, here.
Normally, he'd be taking his afternoon tea in a suit -- dark, of course -- and reading the paper. Today, however, he's decidedly dressed down. A thick, fuzzy bathrobe made from a then-endangered animal that's since gone extinct covers his nakedness. He still wears a hat, but it's an old, battered one.
And slippers, pink and tight, with what might be bunny ears half-attached.
The tea he drinks is unique. Only one place in the world makes it. They make it especially for him, out of things that would make the average person squirm, be sick, and call for the authorities if they knew the list of ingredients.
It costs $400 dollars a cup. He drinks about four a day, normally.
Today he's had ten.
The day's Wall Street Journal is on the table in front of him. He scanned the news sections for things of interest, and found the bare hints of what he knew. Stories of the Flier heading out for a training exercise in the Mid Atlantic. Ships and airplanes being diverted. People being surprised by bright lights and loud noises.
No news as to whether it's on its way back, though.
Normally, he wouldn't have to rely on this piece of !@#$ rag for information. He could make a phone call and get an answer, direct from someone who knew what was going on. But as of the last few days, he's been entirely cut off from that service.
The Director of the CIA won't answer his calls, anymore. And everyone below him in the American intelligence community has brushed him off, too. It's as if the refusal at the top of the chain gave them permission to shun him, too, or else mandated that they follow suit.
That's not all. His other villain contacts are being equally difficult to pin down, and just as reticent to reply. No one claims to know what happened to The Skull, though it's pretty !@#$ obvious it was destroyed. No one has heard from his son, Xerxes, either, but they won't say the words "he's dead" to The Big Man.
Even though it's pretty obvious that's the case.
He doesn't feel terrible about the loss of his son. Xerxes wasn't the only child he'd ever had, over the last century or so. He was just the only one that he'd allowed into his world, however remotely, and encouraged his free movement within. The others have no idea that their father is the Gilbert Biggs, and never will.
No, Xerxes was just an experiment that produced a useful, if unstable, tool. What really bothers The Big Man is the loss of The Skull, itself, and the sudden lack of communication. A lack of respect he could deal with, but the fact that no one will even tell him that he's been blackballed is troubling.
The term "social leper" is coming to mind; he doesn't think he likes it very much.
So what now? Who can say? But this isn't the only setback he's had in his many decades in charge of the Legion, and it won't be his last.
In time there will be another Agency Director -- maybe soon, if SPYGOD takes care of the current one -- and the new one may be willing to deal. In time there will be new villains who need framework, and old blood that wants to step down and retire on the franchise fees. In time there will be another fearsome god-vehicle to strike fear into the hearts of the good, and raise the hopes and dreams of the evil, maladjusted, and usefully insane.
Yes, he will have to rebuild things, now that they've been broken beyond repair. He'll need another Magician. They'll all need another war. They might even need another Hitler, come to think of it, though that idiot in Iran might prove useful without having to doctor his image too much,
But he's a survivor, in all things, and this is just another opportunity to prove that. He cannot be captured. He cannot be killed. He cannot be stopped.
And these problems are just a speed bump on the road to new and better times.
He reaches out to have another sip of the tea, but finds the cup is not within reach. He looks at the saucer and sees that it's empty, and then looks around to see where it might have gone.
It's in someone else's hands. SPYGOD's, to be precise. He's sitting at the same side of the table, maybe two feet away, having a sip of that exclusive, ultra-expensive tea.
"Gilbert," he nods, making a slight face at the tea.
"(REDACTED)" the Big Man replies, trying not to panic, even though he knows SPYGOD's the one in danger, here: "You know that's four franklins a cup?"
"Really? You should get your money back, Gilbert. It tastes like !@#$."
"It is !@#$. That and some rather unethically-harvested things from an otherwise-healthy human body."
"Chinese corpse tea? Well I'll be !@#$."
"You know what it is?"
"Of course! Anthropophagic drinks are something of a hobby with me. You know I drink wine made from the bodies of my enemies, right?"
"Yes, I've heard."
"Well !@#$. I should have brought a bottle."
"Well, we're celebrating, aren't we?"
The Big Man squints his eyes at his unexpected guest: "And what, pray tell, are we supposed to be celebrating? The death of my son? The destruction of The Skull? The failure of that shape-changing idiot to kill you?"
"Well, not exactly," SPYGOD says, draining the tea and then throwing the cup over his shoulder, where it shatters into three large, almost equal pieces: "I was going to say 'your retirement.'"
"My retirement?" The Big Man repeats, smiling: "Whatever gave you the idea I was going to retire?"
"Well, a few things. But primarily? You're !@#$ed."
"I've heard that a few times before-"
"Well you're hearing it from me, now, !@#$face," SPYGOD says, getting up and leaning over his quarry: "So that makes it !@#$ official."
"Oh dear, the gloves are off," The Big Man says, remaining seated. He wonders, idly, where Hargreaves is. He also wonders how long it'll take before security shows up, provided he didn't kill them all, already.
"That's one way to !@#$ put it, my friend," he says, stomping around the table and looking off into the distance: "You no longer have a relationship with the American government, or any of its intelligence agencies. You are no longer welcome in the halls of power. Everyone you had any deals with is either hanging you out to dry or have themselves been hung out to dry. All fall down."
"Well, that's a definite setback--"
"But wait! There's more. Much more, Gilbert. Your former, mind-washed associates have been captured and restored, and have either turned or been burned. By this I mean that some have cooperated, and told us all they know, perhaps as the price of joining The COMPANY, and perhaps as a contributing factor to a lesser, or at least less deprived sentence. And some are just never going to see the light of day again, provided we leave them in any shape to see !@#$ anything ever again.
"And, as we speak, every last operative and assassin on your big list of franchise holders, which we cracked years ago, by the way, is finding themselves on the wrong end of a gun barrel. As with the retirees, some will cooperate, by which I mean come work for us, unless they're too !@#$ed up to let live. And some will not cooperate, making the choice rather easy.
"But all this means one simple thing. That is this, Gilbert: as soon as I get the phone call, I can tell you that the Legion is done. Over. Hallas. Kaput."
There is silence at the table. SPYGOD does not turn around to face The Big Man. Is there something out there, in the far-off treeline? Or does he not want to look him in the eye?
Does he really think that can save him from The Big Man's power?
"Well, you are forgetting about my insurance policies," The Big Man says, deciding not to use that power just yet: "You know the deal, (REDACTED). If I don't make those calls, or do make certain calls, many bad things happen."
"They're dead," SPYGOD says, still not turning around.
"Dead. Deceased. No longer breathing."
"Poison. Car accidents. Freak accidents. Suicides. You know how it goes."
"No. I mean how did you find them all?"
"Well, that's just going to be my little secret," he grins: "But you can trust me on that, Biggs. Your insurance policy just got canceled so hard that Snoopy took a !@#$ on your front stairs."
"That seems kind of horrible, killing all those people like that."
"You killed how many people the other week, Gilbert? All those old operators, dead by poison fumes and their bodies turned to bones with sludge gas? I don't think you get to talk about horrible, !@#$."
"No, you misunderstand me, (REDACTED). It's not that I don't think it was the right thing to do, under the circumstances. It just seems out of character for you. For a conservative you seem like such a bleeding heart, sometimes. It seems so... harsh."
"Oh yes, it is," SPYGOD finally turns around to look at The Big Man: "Very !@#$ harsh. I don't know how I'm going to live with myself.
"I mean, you only threatened the life of the !@#$ President and his family. You only had two slaves looking after nuclear silos in Montana. You only had a finger in the brain of one of the guards on Plum !@#$ Island with keys to the anthrax and smallpox samples. Ten nuclear plants. The !@#$ NSA, TSA, CIA, FBI. !@#$, you even got someone into the Department of Fish and Wildlife. We're still figuring that one out."
The Big Man shrugs: "I don't even know why I took him, truth be told. I think it's because I thought it would be funny to have a ranger get eaten by a bear."
"Well, he ate a bullet at two this morning, Biggs," SPYGOD hisses: "Be proud of yourself. Be !@#$ proud of your great and mighty works."
There's silence, for a time. The Big Man contemplates telling him to shoot himself in the skull, but upstairs someone cries out and then stops.
"Was that Hargreaves?" The Big Man asks.
"Yeah. One of my Agents is working him over. He really doesn't want to leave here."
"Where are you taking him?"
"!@#$ if I'm telling you. It'll be interesting to see how much of what's rattling around in his skull is him and how much of it's you, though. I'm going to bet he's more you than him, by now."
"No, I think you're wrong there, (REDACTED). His father served me, as did his father before him. His needs are met, any desires he has are his to ask for, so long as he remembers there's a time to work and a time to play. I've never had to discipline him, never had to make him do anything, except maybe leave me alone."
"What happened to his father?"
"I killed him when he got old and stupid. Same with his father's father. Call it mercy."
"You really are one !@#$ up fellow, Biggs."
"'Oh kettle, thou art black,' cried the teapot," The Big Man says: "Speaking of which, I could use some more tea. Come with me to the kitchen."
SPYGOD pulls out his gun and starts shooting. In seconds the chair the Big Man is in has no legs, and the former leader of the Legion is on the ground, stunned.
Why didn't it work? What happened? What the !@#$ just happened?
"I have one question for you, Biggs," he says, putting the gun away: "Your real name isn't Biggs at all, is it?"
"Why would you say that?" he replies, shaky and -- though he hates to admit it -- scared.
"We looked. Your birth records are as fake as !@#$. No one remembers you as a kid. You just sort of appeared, fully formed as they say. Now me, I'm betting you were an immigrant."
"I was, yes," the old man says.
"And your last name was not Biggs, was it?"
"No. Beksinski. Gellon Beksinski."
SPYGOD nods, turning back to the treeline: "I'm guessing Eastern Europe."
"Oh? What part?"
"Warsawa," he replies, allowing the true name of his place of birth to roll off his tongue.
"Is that why you went after Hitler, then? He annexed Poland?"
"Oh, it goes deeper than that, (REDACTED)" The Big Man says, getting up out of the chair and standing up: "My parents came over here because they had money, and wanted their son to live someplace where that money could buy the best things, regardless of your creed.
"The rest of the family stayed behind, but we always hoped they'd join us. But they never wanted to come over here. They preferred it there, in spite of everything. My father was so disappointed, I think he went to his grave a sad man, wondering why they wouldn't give America a chance.
"And then came the Nazis, and the laws, and the Ghetto.
He lets the point hang. Maybe there's a sigh in there.
"I am sorry for your loss," SPYGOD says, turning back around: "I truly am. Is that why you stuck it to Hitler, instead of working for him?"
"No," he says: "The man was never going to amount to anything worthwhile, and I knew that. But after what happened, I considered it a personal incentive. Several birds with one stone."
"What a waste," SPYGOD says: "You know that? This is such a waste. You could have been one of our greatest assets during the War. A man who couldn't be killed? Who could disappear the moment you weren't looking at him? Could get anyone bad to do anything at all?
"You could have !@#$ killed Hitler, you !@#$. You could have been a one-man army. The best hero we ever had.
"And what did you do instead, huh? What did you do instead? You did... this."
"This is pretty nice, though," The Big Man says, pulling up the chair SPYGOD was sitting in and sitting back down.
"It's built with bloody money."
"Yes, and you know what? So is every nation in this world. The truth is that you can't call the land yours unless you own it. And how do you own something? You have to take it. If there's someone already there, and they won't sell, you have to take it. That's just the way it is.
"Every nation. Every country. Every place in this world with a name had another name before it. Every idea needed someone to die for it. Every empire needed soldiers, and every soldier needed an army to fight to call themselves soldiers. That is also just the way it is.
"Who are you to say otherwise? Who are you to judge me? Who are you to condemn?"
SPYGOD turns and looks at him, again. And he smiles.
"I'm the man who has your !@#$ in his hand, Biggs," he says: "That's who I am."
"So you're going to be boring and try to kill me?" The Big Man says: "I expected better."
"Oh no. No," SPYGOD says: "I'm not going to lay a hand on you. I'm going to walk away and leave you here."
The Big Man blinks. Twice. Then he almost sits up, but realizes that won't help things.
"I don't understand?"
"I didn't think you would, Biggs. But here's the deal. I know I can't kill you, because you'd just come back. I know I can't put you in prison, because you'd just vanish as soon as no one was looking at you. That kind of limits my choices, and I don't like that. So I need to get creative."
"Well, many have tried-" The Big Man starts to say, rising up out of the chair, but then doubles over when he feels something enter his gut. The crack of the gun is heard a half second later.
"What?" he says, sitting down and pulling at his robe. Inside his chest is a dart. He pulls it out and looks at it, uncertain.
"Nasty little cocktail," SPYGOD explains: "It'll send you off to sleep, which isn't death, and you can't disappear if you're not awake. We'll just keep you in a medically induced coma, Gilbert. The way we can manipulate them, these days, you don't ever have to wake up."
The Big Man stumbles, trying to find some way to kill himself. There's nothing nearby except the smashed teacup, but before he can get to it SPYGOD shoots the big pieces into tiny, harmless ones.
"You dirty !@#$" the man hisses: "You dirty rotten boy !@#$ drug junkie sodomite !@#$!"
"Hey now," SPYGOD says: "I ain't no chicken hawk. My boys are all legal."
"Well, that'll be the one good thing they remember you for, then," The Big Man says, almost helpless under the creeping paralysis: "Let me tell you something, you !@#$. I think you hate your boss. In fact, I know you do. I know you think the President is worthless and weak. Not a real American. Not a real leader. I've heard everything, I know."
"So what's your point?"
"My point is... you should shoot him," the man says, grinning in spite of the pain: "You should shoot the President of the United States of America, before the next election. And nothing that anyone else says or does should stop you. You should--"
He only gets that far, and then his mouth locks up. But as it does he can't help but laugh, knowing that he's just tagged his last and greatest target. There's no way he can shake that many instructions off. Something had to get through.
Something had to stick.
SPYGOD smiles, and walks over to the old man. He lifts him up and puts him fully in the chair, so he'll be comfortable until the COMPANY medics arrive.
"You know, a little secret, just between you and me?" He says, putting a finger to his lips: "I am completely immune to mind control. I always have been. I don't know if it's the Eye or what, but no one can make me do anything I don't want to do.
"I might make other people think that, from time to time. But it's all fakery. Just something I do to excuse myself from the consequences of my own actions.
"I just figured I'd tell you, now, because you're not going to tell anyone else anything ever again. And that suits me just fine.
He kisses the old man on the cheek, and, checking to see that the paralysis is complete -- and it is -- he walks away from the porch, smiling as he goes.
Halfway across the lawn he looks back. The old man is still there, stuck in his chair. He looks at him for quite some time, and then, taking a leap of faith, turns his back on The Big Man for good.
At last, this hunt is over.
(SPYGOD is listening to The Kiss (The Cure) and drinking everything he can to get the tea out of his mouth)