I've often thought that our Capitol's just one postcard after another. We make these perfect buildings, perfect iconic structures. And then we go to work in them and do horrible and imperfect things, just to make sure the ideas those buildings are built to house and embody can continue on another day.
I often think if the Founding Fathers came back here, today, and saw what we'd done with their experiment, they'd !@#$ themselves. I know what Ben Franklin thinks about it. There was that lost weekend in Las Vegas, back in the 70's. Him, me, and Jim Morrison, dealing with a threat so large and strange it took the three of us to even figure the !@#$ thing out for what it was.
And as for dealing with it, well...
Well, another story for another time. You look like !@#$, son. Maybe the apple beer disagreed with you? Or maybe too much SPYGOD storytime?
No? Well, I'll go on, then. You just rest. Hunt's almost done.
* * *
Where was I? Oh, right. The Legion, and the big scam they pulled on us during The War. Thanks to a certain missing firebomb that didn't wind up landing in Dresden, we found Firebug, who rolled over on the entire scheme once we nailed his !@#$ to the wall with red-hot staples. And it not only led back to The Big Man, but back to another source that was even more troubling.
It turned out that, after The War, Truman kept Roosevelt's promise. Everyone in the Left Handed Legion who'd upheld their part of the deal got a full pardon, a new identity, and all the well-done fake credentials you'd need to make that identity look as kosher as matzoh ball soup.
But he threw in a little wrinkle towards the end, there, and that's what's made all the difference.
The Office of Strategic Services had been broken up after The War, but its functions were too useful to just shove under the rug in peacetime. After it became clear the War Department couldn't handle the extra duties, they created the Central Intelligence Agency to shoulder some of the intelligence burden. The NSA got the rest, and, after Korea, along came The COMPANY.
But the other, little-c Company? They needed some propping up at the start. Especially since they had to hit the ground running and deal with the Commies, who, now that the war was over, were really no longer our friends in need.
And Truman wasn't about to let a bunch of indentured servants in spandex get out from under Uncle Sam's thumb. Not when the Soviets had a super-breeding program to rival the Nazis' and massive numbers of heroes in action.
Not that I can blame them for wanting to corner the market on Strategic Talents. The Liberty Patrol was pretty much it's own animal, and part of the animal was that it had to remain above board at all times. So there was no !@#$ way the Company was going to get them to go do some wetwork under the table.
No problem. They just found their own people do to nasty work.
Anyway, thanks to Firebug, and what he led us to, we found out that the Left Handed Legion had been handed over to the CIA to handle. They had them all over Europe, doing quiet things against our new enemy. No major superbattles or shadow wars or anything like that, because it would have attracted WAY too much attention to what was supposed to be covert operations.
But some of those quiet things....
I mean, you know me, son. I'm no shrieking violet. I'd skull!@#$ Jesus Christ on television for America if I had to. Deny the asset to the enemy with a bullet between the eyes? Win hearts and minds with a large gun? Destroy the village to save it? All in a day's work, sometimes. It's the price of freedom. Always has been.
But some of those things they had them doing... Slaughter for no real purpose. Terror for its own sake. Kill first and ask questions never.
That !@#$'s just wrong, son. It's the kind of !@#$ supposedly civilized countries say are wrong, no matter what, and condemn other countries for doing. It's what America says you're not supposed to do, at least not to us or our allies. And it's the sort of !@#$ we look like compete schmucks when we get caught doing it ourselves.
And they were doing it on alternate days of the week, just to keep the Iron Curtain from creeping any further West than it already had.
You can imagine that I was not happy. Not one !@#$ bit. Bad enough we went in with The Big Man in the first place to win the war, but now this? !@#$ that.
So I took what I knew and went straight to the President. He was not happy, either, but figured his hands were tied. How could he publicize the fact that President Roosevelt had made this deal? How could he reveal that President Truman had added this wrinkle and had supervillains doing black ops for the CIA all this time? And how could he let The COMPANY punish the other Company when there were so many balls in the air, and the red nukes might fly at any moment?
This was the 60's, after all. If you didn't grow up in the Cold War you have no idea how scary it can be to wake up and know there's a nuke aimed at your head. It makes you crazy, after a while. And when you're crazy you do all kinds of crazy things.
Now, your average person would be shouting bull!@#$ and wanting to get the New York Times up everyone's !@#$ with a camera and a microphone. But that's why we don't let average people into intelligence. They have no stomach for the way things actually work, and in the world where these things actually work these were all legitimate concerns.
So I took my legitimate concerns down the way, over to John's office, and invited him and Clyde out for lunch. During that lunch we all had a little discussion about the issue, and some files may have been handed under the table. John may or may not have looked at those hypothetical files, and scowled that delightful little "I really need to !@#$ on someone's head right now" scowl of his.
I may have also said "I know what Roosevelt told you when you wanted to quit. He said he needed his best man at hand when they turned around and !@#$ us. That time is now."
And we may have left that lunch feeling just a little closer than we did walking into it.
* * *
You can probably guess what happened, then. A lot of the CIA's supervillain assets went down overnight in lightning FBI raids. If the President had any complaints he didn't care to make them, and as for the CIA, well... they kept their !@#$ mouths shut.
But we always got the feeling that we didn't quite get all of them. The Big Man was shot down in a hail of bullets, but we've already talked about him and his powers. He was back in charge of things before you knew what was going on.
What was he in charge of, now? A whole new organization.
See, it's that chess game thing, again. He knew !@#$ well that the subterfuge with the Company was only going to last for so long. So while they were out in the world, following orders, they had another set from The Big Man, just like back during The War. Only this time, the orders weren't "steal !@#$," but "make deals."
Make deals with weapons suppliers. Make deals with someone who could make them a very scary mobile headquarters. Make deals with everyone they could to get additional funding and employers, all the while working the primary angle that kept them well-paid and well-hidden.
By the time we ran into them again, they were The Legion. They had the Skull and weren't shy about showing it off. They orchestrated all kinds of scary, high-tech jobs to keep them in money and power. And they had their own recruitment bureau, credit cards, front companies, spy rings, you name it.
They also had doomsday devices. Several, in fact, all scattered around the world and ready to be blown off at a moment's notice. Which made fighting them the right thing to do, but completely eliminating them kind of dicey. No one wants to blow up the skull and find out it's wired to a dozen nukes in a deep sea trench somewhere, now do they?
No, didn't think so. Or are you just falling asleep on me?
No? Okay. Just checking.
* * *
So that's where we are now, son. About to take on the organization that fooled the American Government and got several Presidents to feed them exactly what they needed, or just look the other way.
They know I'm coming after them. That's probably why they went out of their way to try and kill me the other month. They were probably hoping if they cut the head off the snake, the next head would be a lot more careful about doing the obvious thing.
To me, that means they're !@#$ scared. That whole "hire every assassin in the book and throw it at a target" !@#$ is way beneath them. I have a hard time believing that The Big Man actually okayed that, come to think of it.
But hey, even mega-geniuses make mistakes. After all, he keeps leaving himself wide open when he works on widening his spy ring. He does it in person, finding suckers and then using his powers on them to turn them into spies and saboteurs.
Now, yeah, he's got his act down pat and perfect. But it's still massively risky for him to be doing it, even if he's so innocuous at his age. I guess when you can't die, but you can age, you end up looking like a harmless old man after a while, instead of the devil incarnate.
Which is why you probably didn't think twice when that old guy knocked on your door, a couple years back, and struck up a conversation. Right, son?
No, it's okay. Don't try to move, son. Just sit still. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm not mad at you.
I want you to think back to that day. He said he was from up the block, looking for a friend's house. That's what he told you, right?
Yes, son. You can nod. That is what he said, right?
Yeah, that's what I thought. That's what Biggs always !@#$ says when he goes hunting for moles. It's like a nervous tic. You'd think someone as smart as he is would vary his shtick every few years or so.
And that's how he got his hooks into you. One conversation, just once, and you've been feeding him information ever since. You haven't meant to or even wanted to, and I bet you don't remember doing it when it's done.
But you've been doing it, son. Every Sunday when you thought you were in church.
Yeah, you can't move. Paralysis. It's a side effect of the poison I slipped you in your apple beer, back in the bar. You can't hardly taste it in apple beer. It's like it was made for the stuff.
No, don't worry. Well, maybe a little. You see, I was telling you the truth. I was on the hunt, and someone was going to die today.
And it's going to be you.
No, I'm not mad at you son. You remember what I said? Biggs' !@#$ mind trick only works on good people. Good people. That's you. You're the victim, here.
And I'm going to make sure he pays for this.
Yeah, I'm sorry too. But don't worry. You won't be dead for too long. There's an ambulance on the way now with a full crash cart, and we'll only wait as long as a minute before turning you back on again. There shouldn't be any significant damage.
But the good news is that, once it's over, you won't be under The Big Man's influence, anymore. You'll be free again.
And, best of all, you'll remember everything. Everything he told you to tell him, everything he told you to forget, every instruction he gave you. You'll remember it, and we'll use it to nail the dirty !@#$ for good this time.
Yeah. It's okay. Just breathe. You're doing fine, son. Just close your eyes and think of America. Think of her standing tall and brave, safe and sound. You made a promise to keep her that way, and now you get to keep it.
Just like I'm keeping my promise to you.
Good job, son. Sleep. You've earned it.
Sleep and wake up free.
(SPYGOD is listening to A Forest (The Cure) and having a nip of New York Apple Whiskey)