The city is warm and dusty, and smells of the sea. Brick houses with flat roofs bake and waver in the sun, and noisy cars and quiet people mill by the other side of an impressive cordon, manned by NGUVU agents with guns.
SPYGOD looks down at the reason for the large cordon, his face implacable in spite of what he's seeing. He pulls out a tjbang stick and chews on it, relishing the moment of clarity when his heart stops and brain tries to die on him.
"So you see why we called you out here?" The large and tall NGUVU Agent -- who still hasn't given SPYGOD his proper name, yet -- says, moving up behind him.
"Yeah," SPYGOD replies, kneeling down and looking into the face of the former head of BUSH. The last time he saw this man he was throwing his fat !@#$ at NGUVU. And now...?
"I thought you guys were keeping a close watch on him?" he asks, an accusation by any other name.
"We were. But he escaped. He had an unauthorized visitor in his cell our security procedures were apparently unprepared for. They left ahead of our Agents coming to debrief him. And now, here he is."
Here he is, alright -- what's left of him. Sprawled on his back, his face turned up in a rictus of fear, pain, and the soul-shattering loss that comes from having your entire mind and memory ripped from you, one painful moment at a time.
The NGUVU Agents are staying well clear of the hideous sight, keeping curious civilians and what passes for a press in Djibouti at bay. SPYGOD doesn't blame them. The look in those blasted, sunken eyes is enough to make someone !@#$ sick.
"So he vanishes from your !@#$ headquarters. He's gone for four days. Sometime in that time he and his liberator come here, and then... this happens."
"He's been dead two days," the Agents says, kneeling down alongside SPYGOD: "We do have ample crime scene technology in this country, you know."
"Okay, so he's alive the first day. That's getting him out of Ethiopia."
"Actually, we think he was there the entire time. A chartered flight left the Obock Airport yesterday under what can only be termed suspicious circumstances. The body was found not long thereafter. The car seen speeding from this location is parked at the airport, not far from where the plane took off."
"And the plane?"
"Gone. Vanished off the radar over Yemen. We're trying to get the authorities there to cooperate with us, but-"
"Don't bother," SPYGOD says: "The plane's a !@#$ distraction. If you had anything resembling a navy, you'd find anomalous sonar readings off the coast from a few days ago. His liberator took a sub."
"And how do you know that, Mr. Quatermain?"
"Because it's !@#$ GORGON," SPYGOD says, lighting up a cigarette and ignoring the insult: "It fits, and what's left of this poor !@#$ clinches it."
"Do enlighten me, sir," the Agent says, not bothering to get up: "I do so love being lectured."
"Excuse me?" SPYGOD says, looking down: "You called me, friend. You asked that I come out here."
"As a courtesy, only. You gave him to us. We thought it best you know what had happened. And please do not call me your friend."
"So what do you think happened?"
"I think..." the Agent says, rising up to his full height, "I think you are right. I think this is GORGON at work."
"So you recognize her work?" SPYGOD asks: "The Black Star? This is her-"
"One step at a time, please," he says, waving a dismissive hand: "I know for a fact that this fool was playing both sides of the fence, claiming he was going to rid the world of that group at the same time he was making overtures towards them."
"... That I didn't know."
"Ah, then perhaps SPYGOD does not know all. But whether this fool hoped to loot their treasury and then entrap them, or simply string them along for the entirety of his career? That is something we do not know. And it is a question we may never solve, now. But the fact is that he and GORGON were well acquainted."
"Another fact," SPYGOD says: "She worked on him. That means she knows everything he knows. Including the stuff that he didn't know he knew, anymore."
"Your English is tortuous, sir."
"Look, maybe you didn't know this, but our friend here had some work done on him, back in the 70's. He and a number of other intelligence operatives underwent an experimental procedure that would ensure that certain secrets were locked in his brain, hypnotically. They couldn't be accessed by him without the proper trigger word, which were kept under lock and key-"
"Again, Mr. Quatermain, you presume too much," he says: "Who do you think developed the Seyoum Treatment? Who do you think has the trigger words under lock and key? We already know these things, sir."
"So you know what he had in his !@#$ noggin, and you just let someone from GORGON walk into your cell?"
"We did not let anyone simply walk into-"
"Then how in the !@#$ !@#$ did he get past your guards?" SPYGOD yells, getting the attention of the men on the cordon: "Don't you have anti-teleporter shields? Psychics to watch for invisible people? No-Suit radiation detectors? What kind of !@#$ operation are you idiots running?"
"We do not know at this time how he got into our complex," the Agent says, looking askance and trying to keep his cool.
"Bull!@#$," SPYGOD spits: "BUSH was toast the day before. You have an N-Machine, and if you're the ones who came up with the treatment, then you have to have a hypnotist in house. You just admitted you had the trigger words under lock and key. So the moment it went down, and he was as expendable as a day old muffin, you could have moved and gotten it all out of his !@#$ head and then tossed his stupid !@#$ in a dumpster. But you waited. Why?"
The Agent tries to say something, but falters. At that very moment, something goes wild in SPYGOD's very demeanor, and he grabs the man by the lapels and throws him down onto the ground. Before anyone can do anything he has his gun out and is sticking it between the man's eyes.
"Let me explain something to you, you arrogant mother!@#$," he says, ignoring the guns all pointing at him: "There may be things I don't know, but there's a lot more I do. I understand that you knew he was in bed with GORGON. I understand you knew they'd come to get him. I understand you knew why. So the only question worth asking right now is why the !@#$ did you dangle his !@#$ out as bait?"
"We wanted to know what the plans were," he admits, still trying to keep his dignity: "We wanted to know what their working relationship entailed, exactly. We injected him with radiotransmitters in his sleep and listened into their conversations. Or we tried to, anyway. As soon as they left the building, we lost all contact."
"Organic teleportation !@#$ fries most injected radiotransmitters, you stupid !@#$," SPYGOD snorts, shooting just to the left of the man's head. The blast knocks the man for a loop, maybe giving him a concussion. SPYGOD clearly does not !@#$ care.
"So you got nothing for intel, you got a dead man on your hands, and, worst of all, all the stuff he didn't know he knew is now known by one of the most !@#$ dangerous group of fanatics on the face of this !@#$ planet. Do you feel proud yet, Umslopogaas?"
The Agent doesn't say anything. He's shaking and bleeding from one nostril. Concussion, alright.
"Call me Allan Quatermain, huh?" SPYGOD says, putting the gun away: "At least he could !@#$ shoot straight. You couldn't hit the broad side of the planet with that dumb!@#$ plan of yours, !@#$hole."
"Sir, I think you need to leave," one of the guards says, sweating profusely but trying not to show his fear.
"!@#$ right," he says, turning to walk towards COMPANY transport: "You all call me when you're ready to actually deal with your !@#$-ups like adults."
He stops for just a moment, and then longer. He looks down at the head of BUSH, cocking an eyebrow. Then he reaches down, grabs the head with both hands, and pulls it clean off the neck.
"What are you going to do with that...?" the stricken Agent says, too !@#$ up to yell about evidence or anything of the sort: "Make it into wine?"
"I didn't kill him, so no," SPYGOD says: "But I know a man who's excellent with leather. I'm having this made into a hat."
All the way back to his transport he hears curses he's never heard before. He smiles wickedly, head tucked underneath his arm. This trip has been educational, after all.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
"I don't understand what you're saying, here," Randolph's editor says, looking at the hardcopy he's just been handed: "Could you please break this down for me?"
"Well, look... I don't know that I really understand it all, myself," he starts to say, looking at the latte he hasn't really had anything of, yet: "But I do know one thing. Whatever they're saying about him and the assassination? I don't buy it."
"You don't buy it," the man repeats, somewhat incredulously.
"No. It's... look, you'd have to be around him for as long as I have to really get it."
"Get what, Stockholm Syndrome?"
"No. I remain critical of the man and his methods. But I'm not going to accuse him of something like that."
"I'm not asking for accusations. I'm asking for you to look for some proof."
"There is none."
"Do you really know that?" The editor asks, looking down his glasses: "You know the kind of people he surrounds himself with. You know the kind of things he's done in the past, both that we know about and that we don't, but we have a !@#$ good idea he did. Can you really say with any certainty that he didn't do this?"
Randolph tries to protest, but he can't: "No, I can't. But it just doesn't seem like his style. It's... well, it's stupid is what it is."
"And peeing on General Park's grave in Seoul wasn't?"
"He was mind controlled."
"That's what he says. I have a source who tells me that he's immune to mind control. Always has been, at least since he got that eye."
Randolph blinks: "He's... immune?"
Randolph doesn't know what to say to that. He finally takes a sip of that latte. It burns his tongue.
"So that opens up a whole lot of other questions, now doesn't it? What else has he lied to us about? What else has he lied to you about?"
"He didn't do it. I'd swear to it. It's just not his style. Or in his interests."
"We're talking about a man who blows !@#$ up because he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, Randolph. Who can say what his interest is?"
"America's best interest, at least as he defines it. He'd die before he did something like that."
"Uh huh," the editor says, reaching into his desk: "Tell me, Randolph. What do you know about the assassination of William McKinley?"
"Uh... what does that have to do with anything?"
"Just tell me."
Randolph sighs, looking up at the ceiling and thinking: "Turn of the century. McKinley had just been elected. Anarchist named Leon Czolgosz shoots him while he's shaking hands. He dies after a while, Teddy Roosevelt becomes president. Hilarity ensues."
"That's one way to put it."
"Yeah, and it's been making the rounds a lot lately. Assassination Vacation, that one thriller the other year. So what's the big deal?"
"Who was Leon Czolgosz?" he asks, handing Randolph a signed affidavit. Randolph skims through it quickly. It turns his blood cold.
"You can't... this isn't..."
"We can. We have to. Especially given what's just happened."
"But he didn't !@#$ do it!" Randolph screams, standing up from his chair: "I know this man. Whatever his faults, whatever he's done in the past, or had to do... I mean, you're reading this thing. It says he had to! But-"
"It says he's capable of killing anyone if he thinks he has to," his editor says, not deigning to rise: "And for all we know, he thinks he had to. Or maybe will, one day. And how would we know?"
"But... it'll destroy him."
"Maybe it's time he was destroyed, then," the man says: "I thought you were interested in the truth, Randolph. This is what it looks like. This is how we get to it. And if you'd been actually doing your job, and not just singing his praises in Libya, and then getting turned into a !@#$ babysitter for his Nazi clone kids-"
He doesn't get any further than that. Randolph's over the desk in seconds, hitting him. He bloodies his eye and breaks his nose before the office can react and pull them apart. It takes everyone there to do it.
A half hour later, Randolph's outside, shaking and pale. He's also unemployed, but somehow that doesn't matter right now.
He has to find SPYGOD. He has to tell him what's coming. And he has to do it in person, too, given that SPYGOD hasn't been answering his phone calls after that misunderstanding they had in Tanzania.
He's crossing the street, wondering how to get down to Costa Rica, when something slams into him. Things go white, then red, then black.
And the last thing he thinks, there in that blackness, is that he's failed a friend.
Dear Mr. President:
I kind of have a good news, bad news report to make.
The good news is that, as requested, The COMPANY has quit Guanacaste, Costa Rica. At of 815 in the AM, we packed up, cleaned up, and got our personnel and materiel out of the country. What we could carry away in a hurry, anyway.
That's the good news. The bad news is why we had to leave in such a hurry. It's the same exact reason you've probably fielded several dozen angry calls from the President of Costa Rica, as well as a number of requests for aid, and questions from the international media.
Sir, with all humility, I regret to inform you that we blew up the Northwestern part of Guanacaste.
Well, scratch that. We didn't blow up anything. It was the act of HONEYCOMB, which means it's possibly, or at least hopefully, one of their last ever acts. But as last mad acts go, it was a !@#$ doozy.
A few days ago, Agents, following up on a few things we found in what was left of the central HIVE, went to the nearby Guanacaste National Park to look at some petroglyphs by one of the inactive volcanoes, there. It turns out they were boobytrapped.
We're still trying to figure out exactly what happened. As far as we can tell, the machines we discovered there were set to cause the volcano to go off if it didn't receive a signal from the HIVE. And since the HIVE is inactive, well... it blew.
I don't have words to express how incredibly sorry I am about this. We had no way of knowing, but we should have suspected something like this could have been the result.
I'll see what I can do to come up with a good scapegoat to minimize PR damage, as always. The good news is that we've got at least one supervillain on the run we can blame for this, and she's a handy one to do it with, too, I have to say.
We'll talk later, I'm sure. I'll make certain my phone's available to you, sir.
(SPYGOD is listening to Human Beings (Seal) and staying sober, waiting for the call)