7:20 IN THE !@#$ AM
HOTEL RIU GUANACASTE
Well, I'll say one thing for the Secret Service. They do not !@#$ around.
It hasn't been a full !@#$ day since the Governor of Texas, a Candidate for the Republican Primary, got his uptight, homophobic !@#$ shot at the press conference he called to announce he was quitting the race. And, already, due to certain "unfortunate" comments he made about me, I'm a person of interest in their investigation.
"Unfortunate" was their word. Given that "unfortunate" includes such snippets as "an embarrassment to this country," "drunk more than sober," and "a sexual deviant," I call them "obnoxious !@#$ bull!@#$." Either way, the Secret Service thinks said bull!@#$, however occasionally true, especially when I'm !@#$ drunk off my !@#$, was a logical reason for me to go ape!@#$ and kill him.
Also logically actionable, in their way of speaking, was his claim that I tried to "indoctrinate him into the joys of homosexuality," and had to be removed from the Texas State House. I can't !@#$ think of what happened in that instance, or when that might have been. I like to think that, drunk or sober, I'd have better taste than to try and cornhole that !@#$, but I don't know. It's just possible, even if I don't !@#$ remember it now.
(I have been having some weird memory blackouts, lately. Something to talk to Doctor Yesterday about next time I see his !@#$ north of the Ice Palace, anyway.)
At any rate, I woke up this morning about as hung over as a whale !@#$ after the truly epic party we had to celebrate the return to glory of The Flier, and there's these two, blacksuited mother!@#$ outside my hotel door, needing to talk with me. I didn't even know the !@#$ was dead, so the news came as some surprise.
I also didn't know the Secret Service was violently opposed to drinking on duty, which is just as well, as I sure wasn't keen on offering them any of the leftover champagne from the night before. That !@#$'s a grand a bottle, and I think I bought enough cases to fill the hotel's pool up three times over and have enough left to drown an elephant.
So if they want to be !@#$ about me offering, well !@#$ them! So much for interdepartmental !@#$ cooperation.
The investigation consisted of them showing me video of the assassination, which I did not need to see that early in the !@#$ morning, and asking my opinion while gauging my reaction. Which is !@#$ interesting: how are you supposed to react when you watch some poor !@#$ have the back of his head blown half the !@#$ off, stand there stupidly, and fall the !@#$ down?
Me, I had them rewind it about ten or twenty times, called up for room service to get me some proper !@#$ coffee, the more of it the better, and immediately went into Scooby !@#$ Doo mode. Which is to say "We got a mystery to solve, you pot-smoking teenage reprobates. Stop !@#$ the poor dog and put your detective panties on."
Of course, they weren't too happy to have me poke my nose in. Too !@#$ bad. By the time the coffee was there I was already skimming files to see how many invisible people we can currently account for, the availability of No-Suits, and whatever facts they wanted to give me.
It eventually turned into a really ham-fisted session of Quid Pro Quo, which I don't think I came out ahead in. I managed to learn it was three shots from a .45 caliber, done at medium range, straight on. I also learned that the usual equipment they use to watch for No-Suits did not go off, which means it's either some invisible !@#$ their watchers couldn't see, or one of our No-Suits, which do not have the flaws that give them away to scanning.
(I also got to read the rest of his prepared remarks. They nauseated me more than the video. Go !@#$ figure.)
On the other hand, the !@#$ learned what all I carry on me, which includes two .45 automatics, which are usually strapped around my !@#$ high heels for emergencies. I offered to allow them to take them for ballistics checks, and told them they could have access to our stores, though we don't have a lot of those pistols around. We prefer our agents use .50 calibers, as they're big, nasty, and hard to turn around and have them used on them given the training needed to even shoot yourself in the !@#$ foot with one.
I also had to hand over the keys to our No-Suits, which means that they are no longer undetectable by our fellow Agencies. They swore up and down it'd go no further than the Secret Service, but I believe that as much as I believe the one Agent wasn't a bigger !@#$ than Billie Jean King. Though she denied it, of course.
(I told her she could be out and open in The COMPANY. She told me to stop trying to bribe her. I told her to find out what Hell Month entailed, and then get back to me about whether than was a bribe, a dare, or a !@#$ warning.)
And then they were gone, back to catch some plane and tell their superiors things I'm really not !@#$ happy they know now. That and leave me to crawl back into one of these super-expensive bottles and get our taxpayers' money's worth.
Am I worried? No, not really. I mean, I didn't really like the guy, obviously. But he had about as much chance of winning the race as I have of being crowned Ms. Ladyboy of Bangkok, so there goes my motive. Plus, I was on a platform, watching The Flier get rebuilt from the atomic level up at the time he was having his brains turned to jelly on live TV, which gives me enough witnesses to cover my fine, gay !@#$ a hundred times over.
I could have bribed them.
I could have used some time machine bull!@#$ to go cap his !@#$ at any time.
I could have used mind control or holograms to make them think I was there.
I could have !@#$ hired someone to do it, for that matter. Or ordered someone, if it's one of our No-Suits.
Worse, it doesn't even have to have happened yet. Maybe I didn't kill him yet. Maybe in a week, a month, a year, or sometime next !@#$ century I find out that I have to be the one to go back in time and do this because he was going to turn into a giant mouth on legs and !@#$ eat Houston like a big, gay bonbon if I didn't?
They wonder why I'm drunk more than I'm sober? It's because of !@#$ like this. Not knowing if I am really innocent of anything I get accused of, ever. And that is the dictionary definition of "!@#$ Terrifying," right there.
(I wish I could call Straffer and talk to him about it, but I suspect he's busy. He hasn't called me since the plan went off, and that was a really short !@#$ call. I feel like something's amiss but maybe that's just nerves. Or missing him. Or... yeah, that one word.)
I've got that petroglyph thing to look into, but I think that's a tomorrow kind of thing. Today I'm going to sit here, drink champagne and coffee, and wish I could be someone else, somewhere else.
I have the feeling this is the start of something !@#$ nasty. Or maybe it's already starting and this is just the first domino I've seen fall. Another definition of "!@#$ Terrifying."
Or "!@#$ Annoying."
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA
The former head of BUSH wakes up in his cell, aware that he's got a visitor. He snorts when he sees who it is, though, and rolls over on his bunk.
"Go away, please," he says: "I told you people before, I am not interested in a link-up."
"Oh, this is not that, my friend," his visitor says, the iron door slamming behind him: "The time for link-up is past. Well past."
"What do you mean?" the prisoner says, rolling over just a little.
"Link-up suggests a meeting of two groups. A temporary blending of strengths to meet a challenge, or deal with a threat."
"I do know how my language works, sir."
"Yes, but do you realize you no longer have a group to link up with?"
That gets his attention. He rolls over and sits up, disbelieving.
"BUSH no longer exists, as of yesterday," his visitor says, sitting down next to him on the bunk: "NGUVU has taken control of it, at the urging of the African Union. Your more useful services, such as dealing with extraterrestrials, are being handed over to NGUVU to deal with. Everything else... well, I think there are a lot of underemployed men and women in Johannesburg, tonight. Many widows and orphans, also."
"How could they do that?" the man spits, disbelieving: "They do not have the authority!"
"Well, might is right, my friend. So long as you had some might to balance out theirs, you may have had a point. But then you had to be embarrassed by that SPYGOD fellow."
Oh yes. That. The former head of BUSH glowers and looks away, obviously not wanting to discuss the matter. But his visitor presses the point.
"Tell me, my friend. You are not a stupid man. You are well educated, well versed in the art of spycraft. What were you thinking, engineering such a colossally foolish scheme?"
"I was thinking it was time he was made to pay for what he did."
"You would have done better to pay back the people who fooled him into doing it."
"I do not accept his excuse. It doesn't make my great aunt any happier to know her husband's assassin was tricked into killing him."
"And there, I think, is the truth of the matter," the visitor says, standing up and looking down at the prisoner: "Ego, my friend. Pride. You allowed them to get the better of you. And now, you are a man without power. Without a country, too, as of this morning."
"Yes, you've been washed away. Between the embarrassment SPYGOD dealt you, in your own headquarters, and some very upset Israelis, South Africa has washed their hands of you. As far as they are concerned, you no longer exist. Which means NGUVU can keep you here as long as they want. And that could be some time."
"What are you offering?"
"Who says I'm offering anything?"
"You wouldn't be here if you weren't. Taunting me is not your style."
"Who's to say it isn't? How do you know what my style is?"
More glowering. More looking askance. This isn't going well at all.
"But let's pretend for a moment I am offering something. What are you willing to offer, now that you have nothing?"
"I have a working knowledge of everything my organization has been up to since its inception," he says, trying desperately to sound as non-desperate as possible: "I know things that are not in the files. Operations so classified we didn't even write them down. I know where the bodies are buried, where the treasures are kept. I can be the best ally you didn't know you had."
"Which is, presumably, why NGUVU hasn't come in here, yet," the man says: "But we could always just use an N-Machine and take all that, which they may yet do. What can you do for my people that is separate from that?"
"Some of the information isn't accessible without certain hypnotic triggers," he says: "If you used the Nebylitsin machine on me, you would never get it."
"Which they probably know. Otherwise they'd be working on you, even now. They must be getting a hypnotist."
"Oh, they would. They will. You are no one, belonging to no thing and nowhere. This the price of failure."
"What do you want?"
"I want access to The Object," he says.
The man's eyes go wide and he gasps: "You... you know what you're saying? You know what it is?"
"Yes. I do. We need it. You can lead us to it. And in return I will get you out of this cell, and free."
He doesn't need to be told twice. He agrees. And when NGUVU's operatives come to retrieve him, N-Machine in hand, he's long gone.
(SPYGOD is listening to A Love Like Blood (Killing Joke) and still downing that expensive champagne)