This story ends a lot like it starts, with me at a bar, drunk off my !@#$. Except that when it started, I actually felt good about things, the world, and my place in it. Now I feel like the world just snuck up beside me, pulled out a big !@#$ baseball bat, and smacked me upside the head with it after cramming it up my !@#$ a few times.
So what was in between to change my day from good to bad? Holy !@#$ !@#$.
Flash back to this morning. I'm ten beers into breakfast, and having a quiet chuckle over the news that a prominent Senator was attacked in the Senate gym by what was, according to bystanders, an off-white puddle of goo that yelled "!@#$" every few seconds. It face!@#$ him for about a minute, spat half of itself up on his forehead, and slurked down the nearest shower drain, cackling all the way.
("Capitol security are said to be 'baffled.' The COMPANY has promised a full investigation.")
I try not to laugh too loud, but I guess it carries. I hear the fluttering of something and think it's another !@#$ bird that got in the front window and doesn't know how to leave, but I look over and there's my buddy Aaron, over at the other end of the bar. And he's giving me that look.
The kind that makes Secretaries of Defense !@#$ their pants and crawl into a corner.
I laugh, have the bartender set him up one, and say "He had it coming."
Aaron, he says "We all have it coming. You should know."
"Don't I ever," says I.
"I don't think you do," says he, taking the drink and downing it in one gulp.
"Are you here to scold me?"
"Not my department."
"Are you here to warn me?"
"I'm not allowed to do that."
"Are you here to talk over old times and give cryptic advice by way of what you do or don't say?"
Okay, that's !@#$ scary. Normally that's his cue to start doing just that.
"Is this about the last thing we didn't talk about?" I ask.
He gives me that look again, downs drink #s 2, 3, and 4, and says "You remember that time back in the White House, when the President asked me about prophecy, and whether what he saw in his dreams, or what we took and showed him, was what would happen, or just what could happen?"
I do remember it, but I look perplexed so he'll say what he needs to say. This is all part of the game, apparently.
"I told him that if it was a dream, then it was what could happen, and he might yet act to avert things. But if he was taken there, then it was going to happen. The only question then was what would he could do to prepare for it."
"I think I remember that conversation," I said: "1984?"
"April 3rd, 3:45 in the afternoon. Clear and sunny day. Nancy tried making scones."
"The White House smelled for days."
"(REDACTED)," he says, taking my hand: "This is not a dream."
I don't close my eyes. I can't. But for a moment it feels like I do, and when I open them up I realize I'm somewhere else. And I also remember that Aaron never uses my real name unless it's really !@#$ bad news.
"Somewhere else" is the Heptagon, down in one of the subbasements. I don't know what day it is or what time of day it is, and when I reach out to try and lock onto a signal, somewhere, and orient myself, I come up blank. It's like there's a giant, gray fog around my head, keeping me from hearing what I should be hearing.
For a scary moment I think the end of the world's happened, but then I see some Agents up ahead, and flag them down. And as soon as they see me they literally flip out and pull their guns. Half of them start shooting while the other half run for the alarm.
Of course, i try and laugh off the guns, not recognizing the look in their eyes. It's not "aha, it's 'Kill SPYGOD Week.'" It's "Holy !@#$, kill him before he kills us." That finally hits home about the time one of the bullet connects with my upper thigh and I'm thrown back onto my !@#$, bleeding like a throat-stuck pig.
They have guns that can hurt me. This is not !@#$ good. The last time I ran into one of those I was running for my !@#$ life in West Papua, and GORGON was after my !@#$.
So of course I think it's GORGON. The !@#$ have infiltrated the Heptagon, and !@#$ knows what else. Those aren't my people, they're false faces. And that means they die, badly.
I go for my piece but it's missing, along with every other piece of hand ordinance I have on me. No matter. SPYGOD Vision? Don't mind if I do.
But the moment I flap my eyepatch up, there's a weird noise, like some weird science thing's just been turned on and is warming up. A split second later I get hit with something so powerful it knocks me three timezones past unconscious and into the next dimension. I bite my tongue, !@#$ my pants, and throw the !@#$ up as every bone in my body vibrates like a tuning fork.
I don't know how long I'm out, but I try and get up as soon as I start registering objects and people around me, again, however dimly. The force hits me again, twice as hard this time. When I fight past the pain and nausea it hits me twice as hard as that, and twice as fast. Then twice and twice again, and again, and so on until I'm sunk down into the floor, more outside me than in me.
A fly in a blender, unable to come up for air and think, I slip away. It's not surrender. It's just the !@#$ inevitable. Whatever they have is too strong to resist, for now.
But I do register one thing. A face, one of my Agents. He looks down at me as I go under for the last time and spits on my forehead.
And what he says...
I'm out for some time, after that. A surreal dream landscape greets me while asleep, followed by a sudden and disorienting journey straight up into the sky, and beyond. I dream of space, black and endless, and the strange sense that there's something moving through it, towards me.
I can hardly see it out there, in the dark between the stars, but I know it's there. I just !@#$ know.
Just like I know it's immeasurably old, and insanely dangerous. Just like I know that things out there older and more powerful than Earth or humanity will ever be are !@#$ terrified of it.
Just as I know its heading right for me. For us.
Just for a second the blackness moves, far away. A stellar nursery's gas cloud is disrupted as something too large to ignore moves past. In a split second flash I see an outline of what's coming, lit by stolen matter, and the scope and implication of it makes my brain !@#$ shut down like someone hit me with the genius of all blackjacks-
But then the noise yanks me away from that dream, and into consciousness. The same noise I heard just before I got tuning-forked into oblivion.
"Oh, let's not start that !@#$ again," I say, coming to on the concrete floor of what has to be an interrogation room. It's one of the nicer ones, up on the top levels. I must be a special guest.
The brain!@#$ clears and I can get up off the floor, so I do. They haven't even !@#$ cleaned me up, so I'm a total mess, which makes me throw the !@#$ up one more time. I look for a table to steady myself, or even a chair, but they didn't give me one. There's just a floor to ceiling mirror along one wall and a door with no handle on this side.
(And why can't I see through the mirror? I should be able to. I can't, much like I still can't get a lock on any satellites, hear any radio streams, or engage most of my other senses. Something is not right, here.)
"Can I get a !@#$ drink?" I ask, "Wash the taste out of my !@#$ mouth."
"You can choke on it, !@#$," someone says, most likely from behind the mirror: "You're lucky you're even breathing, you traitor."
There's that word again. Same word I heard from an Agent before going under, back there in the sub basement. Obviously, something !@#$ bad has happened.
"You're lucky you got me on a bad day, son," I say: "I don't know what you GORGON !@#$ have going on, here, but when I get out-"
The whine sounds, the wall of vibration hits, and I'm on the floor again.
"... can keep that up all day, you cycloptic, has-been, traitor !@#$," the guy behind the mirrorwall says when I come around: "Maybe you should just keep quiet for once."
"Maybe you should suck my !@#$ !@#$," I say, and the vibration hits again. At this point I'm just hoping it is a dream and this wakes me the !@#$ up. Or maybe I figure a way to work around the pain, or past it.
This isn't a lot of fun, but I've been in prisons before. It's all about getting through the bull!@#$, finding a weakness, and exploiting it.
When I come up this time, the lights in my room are dimmed and the lights are up in the one behind the mirrorwall. Some ratfaced little !@#$ with his finger on a large !@#$ button in a small, white handheld is standing next to a man I don't quite recognize for a moment, and then wonder what the !@#$ happened to the next.
It's Myron. He's lost weight and gotten a really short haircut, and a much better uniform. He's also looking at me like I'm dog!@#$ on his best shoe.
"Well I'll be !@#$," he says: "He really did come back. Do we know why?"
"I tell you when I figure it out, Myron," I say. Ratface hits the button again. Myron doesn't stop him, and when I come up ratface is gone and Myron has the button in hand.
"You know, I got to hand it to Dr. Yesterday," he says: "I was a little dubious when he said he had something that would !@#$ you up. But I guess this little baby works after all. That and the dampeners. How does it feel to be normal folks, (REDACTED)?
"You don't get to use that name, Myron."
"(REDACTED)," he says, zapping me: "(REDACTED), (REDACTED), (REDACTED)."
"What are you, two years old?" I ask when I come up. I don't think I have anything left to puke up or !@#$ out at this point.
"What are you, stupid?" He asks, looking down at me: "Or did you think we were? Why did you come back here, anyway? You took everything of value when you ran for it, afterwards. Is there another cache of !@#$, somewhere down there?"
"I got caches all over this !@#$ place, son," I say, getting to my feet: "I got ways and means. If I needed to get in here and get something, you wouldn't have seen me come or go. You should know that by now."
For a moment something flashes across his face. Maybe recognition, maybe suspicion.
"Why are you here, SPYGOD? And no bull!@#$. You lie to me, I press this thing and it stays pressed. I don't care if it kills you. At this point, it'd be a kindness you don't deserve."
"I'll answer, but let me ask you something, first?"
"Don't !@#$ push your luck, (REDACTED)-"
"What year is this?"
Silence. He just stares at me.
"Well? What year is this? Cause something obviously went !@#$ wrong in the future, and I need to know how long I have until it happens."
He just smiles and hits me with the buzzer. I go down. When I get up, I'm shackled and being frog-marched down a subbasement hall by two Agents, with Myron following.
"Look, I'm telling you, Myron, I don't know what the !@#$ happened," I say: "You can hit me with that !@#$ joybuzzer all day long if you want, but it ain't gonna change a thing."
"Yeah, tell it to the judge, !@#$," one of the frogmarchers tells me.
"Don't talk to the prisoner, Agent," Myron says: "Just carry him to the cell."
"Oh, I get another cell, huh?" I say, thinking of escape moves: "This one come with HBO?"
"It comes with enough slush-gas to turn you into compost," the other Agent says: "Please, give us an excuse."
"I will hit the button again, (REDACTED)" Myron says, and then everything goes weird.
What's weird in a case like this? Well, for starters, there's a noise like something sliding across a whiteboard, and Myron gasps. I look and he doesn't have the white thing with the button anymore. Then he doesn't have his pants or his weaponms. Then his pants are tied around his ankles, mid-step, and he's about to fall on his !@#$.
Then the Agents on either side of me are knocked out cold, and hit the floor with their weapons gone and their pants tied around their ankles.
Then I'm just standing there, looking !@#$ stupid, and wondering who did what where and how.
"Do not turn around," Myron says, just a little above a whisper: "Listen to me, sir. When you get back to when you came from, you find me and tell me three things. One is to remember that there will be a day when you'll claim not to have done something, and I should believe you. Two is to make friends with the Indians. And three is to always carry a pair of trick shackles with me."
I nod, and try the shackles. Sure enough, they fall off me. I start running and don't look back, knowing Myron can take care of himself. As soon as I get to the stairwell, there's a hand on my shoulder, and next thing I know I'm somewhere else.
Somewhere else is the inside of someone's house. It looks vacant, which means it's probably on the market. We're not by any windows so I can't tell which neighborhood, or where, but I hear kids playing and hear car sounds, so I'm guessing it's someplace nice.
"Are you alright?" Someone's asking me. I can't see who it is, which is highly unusual, but I recognize the voice. It's Dosha Josh, which means the person who helped in my escape must be his constant companion.
"I'll live," I say, still feeling fuzzy in the head: "I can't get a signal from any satellites. What's wrong?"
"We're still in the Heptagon's anti-you field, my friend," he replies: "There are a number of transmitters masking the wavelengths you receive on, all throughout the Washington D.C. area. They did not want you coming back here. Not that it really matters, right now. We have worse problems."
"I do not really think I am supposed to be telling you that," the voice says, and I realize it's coming from a small, black dot on the ground, which I pick up and examine: "Our mutual friend thinks you are from the past, and I know all too well that some things must be kept secret until the time they come around. But one of my people told me that I was supposed to tell you something, and I actually think it might be valid, though it seems a little silly."
"Might as well tell me, then."
"She said to say 'Beware the Ides of March.'"
"... That's it?"
"That is indeed it."
"Is that to do with what I'm supposed to have done?"
"Well, I can't see how that's possible. But-"
Just then there's a horrible sound. Something explodes. The house shakes. People scream and run for cover.
There's a horrible moment when the gray noise that's been keeping me from hearing anything sputters and dies. Then I hear everything. And it's way too !@#$ much-
I wake up in the bathtub in my room, back at the hotel. Someone's been considerate enough to strip me out of my nasty, !@#$ and puke-filled clothes and fill the tub with hot water. It's not enough to make me feel less like a horrible thing that crawled out of the rain, but goes a long step towards making me feel !@#$ human again.
Aaron is on the toilet, watching me, beer bottle in hand.
"Beware the Ides of March," he says, offering me a cold one. I take it and chug it, crying like a little girl with a skinned knee.
"I'm sorry," he says: "I wish there was another way."
"Is there anything I can do?" I ask.
"Prepare," he replies: "Be ready to flee for your life, and then fight for it."
"This is what Shift said, isn't it?" I ask: "He said Beware The Gorgon. What does that mean?"
Aaron shrugs. I throw the !@#$ beer bottle at his head, and he lets it shatter into a million pieces against his skull.
"Answer me, god!@#$ it! What does it mean?"
"It means what it means, my friend," he replies gently, brushing the glass flinders out of his hair: "I can't tell you any more than that. But if it helps you, Shift was right. You will win through at the end, though all hands be against you."
"'But to win all is to lose all, and you have more to lose than you could ever know,'" I finish the quote: "You'll pardon me if that doesn't give me a warm !@#$ feeling all over."
"Are you afraid of death, then? Or just losing?"
"I'm not !@#$ afraid of anything, Aaron," I announce, getting up out of the tub: "I just want to know the enemy's face before it's at my throat. Is that too much to !@#$ ask?"
"You know the face of your enemy, already," he replies. Then he's gone, leaving a shower of bottle dust to cascade down on my !@#$ toilet.
I shower. Dress. Come down to the bar. It's only been a !@#$ hour since I first walked in. Nothing really !@#$ changed, except now I'm stone cold sober and no longer feeling all that good about things.
Now I'm !@#$ drunk again, and wondering what to do.
In the past, when !@#$ like this has been thrown at me, I've been tempted to do something, but then wound up adopting the philosophy that I can't change fate, and should just be myself, and do things no differently.
But now? I've got a !@#$ instruction manual from the future. And if I don't follow it, something really bad happens. I have to pass along instructions, I have to be prepared to be owned by something I can't even detect yet, and I have to be ready to drop everything and run like !@#$ at a moment's notice.
I may also have to do the unthinkable, if we're to triumph over the enemy.
So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to get drunk, then sober, then drunk again. At some point in all that I'm going to find Myron and tell him what he needs to hear, whether he wants to hear it now or not.
And then, well... I guess it's about time certain plans were put into place, isn't it?
(SPYGOD is listening to Mothers Talk (Tears for Fears) and about to drink down half the bar)