Once again, I am reminded what a !@$ lucky !@#$hole I really am.
No, it has nothing to do with the drunken six person free-for-all !@#$ that erupted last night after I had two of everything and a few bowls of peanuts. Nothing to do with the would-be BUSH assassin who flew in from Swaziland to do me in, either, though it was really funny watching him run into my suite, slip on a puddle of astroglide, flip head-over-!@#$, and crash out the window while the aforementioned !@#$ was happening.
(Nor does it have anything with the fact that, yet again, every Republican front-runner was too !@#$ scared to say anything bad about your truly when the moderator threw out the obligatory "but isn't he against family values?" question in the latest debate. That just means it's early, yet. I got fifty bucks down on Ron Paul.)
It has to do with the fact that, if we'd been just a little later dealing with HONEYCOMB, we might have a real !@#$ problem on our hands. It seems our science fascist friends were just a little ahead of the curve in one field in particular. The sort of field that you really don't want anyone to be ahead in, period.
Not even us.
So today we're cracking into one of their deeper bunkers, and signs are good we've hit something really !@#$ important. First clue is that the door is wired up like a Hanukkah bush, filled with enough traps and countermeasures to keep us there for years.
No problem, we just come in from the bottom, but then the insides are filled with the usual HONEYCOMB !@#$: giant metal cockroaches on a sleeper switch and all that !@#$.
Once we've fumigated the lot, we find a room full of what seems like trophies, all under glass. But the things are just normal objects: books, newspapers, toys, articles of clothing... things like that.
Well, we get to looking at those things, and realize there's something fundamentally !@#$ wrong with them. Like how newspapers have the wrong !@#$ politicians saying the wrong !@#% things about the wrong !@#$ events. Or how the clothing has brand names we've never heard of, and fashion styles that look just a little off, if not outright sinister.
But the kicker is how the book on the Civil War ends with President Jefferson Davis fighting off Abraham Lincoln and his Confederates, and keeping the "blessed institution" of slavery going in America up until at least when the book was written, in 2750 AU.
AU? That's 2750 years after the founding of Rome, son. How's that for !@#$ up?
That's about when we realize what we're dealing with, here. HONEYCOMB has clearly succeeded in breaking down the dimensional barrier to Alter-Earth. Worse, they've found a way to bring objects back from there and keep them !@#$ stable.
And that can only mean that they were working on sending their people over there for extended jaunts. Possibly even permanent ones, with all the transcosmic bad !@#$ that would entail.
You see, son, Alter-Earth is the nemesis planet. Our dark mirror. The Mirror Universe from Star Trek, only without the ridiculous beards, and a !@#$ of a lot nastier.
It's nothing to do with alternate timelines, like that one radioactive nazi snowglobe we'd have turned into if I hadn't done a certain thing I really don't like !@#$ thinking about. It's not about choices gone wrong or pivotal moments gone a different direction. It's about the fact that our existence, and the general crawl towards decency and positive action we share as a species, creates an anti-force in its wake that is somehow made manifest in Alter-Earth.
(And no, son, I don't !@#$ understand it, either. Dr. Yesterday tried to explain it, once. I kicked him until he stopped talking.)
Our contact with Alter-Earth has been, thankfully, very !@#$ limited. When we do cross over it's mostly magic bull!@#$ and the occasional weird science accident, and when the crossover occurs the general rule seems to be that, for something of ours to go over there, something of theirs has to come over here.
This leads to the occasional "evil doppelganger" shtick, where one of the superhero set has to get beaten down because, hokey smokes, he's wearing a messed up (but often strangely alluring) version of his costume and would rather rape, steal, and kill than do his !@#$ job. Fortunately, the amount of time the doppelganger spends over here is limited, and the freak can be contained before long.
Unfortunately, the story about what happens to the doppelganger over here happening over there isn't true. Just because we jail the sorry !@#$ doesn't mean our guy's not free. And just because we take care to not kill the sorry !@#$ doesn't mean our guy gets the same courtesy.
That's what happened to The Verve. Nice guy, really. Then he got sent over to Alter-Earth, accidentally, and replaced with this sick, amoral !@#$ who got off on splattering old ladies on their way to church. We taped his Alter down and waited for the effect to reverse itself, and when it did it transpired that our counterparts had done a Box Job on him.
(No, son. Not the fun kind.)
The bad news is that when Alters show up, there's nothing that can tell us they're not who they say they are. They're the same DNA and all. The only differences are physical, mental, and spiritual to some extent. So if you had a really careful and canny Alter, the !@#$ could mess with us really bad before he or she switched back. And if our person was killed by that Alter's confederates over there, we'd never know what happened, now would we?
The portal to Alter-Earth was in the next room over. It was this huge, mad science thing that took up most of the room, and probably killed half the country's electricity when they turned it on, reactor or no.
It was switched off, but its sensors were tracking a single individual. One of HONEYCOMB's folks, performing reconnaissance for his masters, and under orders to gain as much information on how things work over there as possible.
We're still combing through the files and plans on the whole thing. It looks like this lucky !@#$ is the first "Alternaut" to survive the journey. They brought back physical objects, first, to see if it was possible to do so without losing objects in return, but sending an organic, living being over there proved very difficult.
(They had extensive photographic records. I'm not sorry to say I almost !@#$ chucked up everything I drank down the night before. You do not want to see what's left of a person when an entire universe's laws of physics decides to say "No, !@#$ you.")
After 38 tries, this fellow succeeded. He's over there now, with no !@#$ idea what's happened while he's been away. It looks like the plan is for him to come back here in a month or so, give a prearranged signal, and make the crossing back. I think we're going to be nice enough to let him come back.
Whether he likes our idea of a welcome back party or not is not really my concern. I look forward to the debriefing: especially if he can confirm that I actually do exist, over there, because as far as we can tell I don't.
(Which is really !@#$ weird.)
But this is troubling on a few levels. First and foremost, if our HONEYCOMB has figured out how to do this, has theirs?
And if they have, do they have an Alternaut on our side of things, poking around?
What's the !@#$ doing? What's his plan?
Not a lot of answers, tonight. Just questions and nasty suspicions. But given that our HONEYCOMB was planning a fullscale invasion of Alter-Earth, and were going to strip-mine it, turn it into a giant attack platform, and launch massive sorties at us from across the dimensional barrier, I'm feeling relived enough that I can hand this over to my backburner boys without much navelgazing.
Sometimes it is okay to take a deep sigh of relief and go get !@#$ drunk, secure in the knowledge that no matter how bad things are right now, they could have been a !@#$ of a lot worse.
(SPYGOD is listening to Down in the Park (Foo Fighters) and having a large amount of Bells Two Hearted)