Sunday, February 5, 2012

1/21-31/12 - Countdown to Catastrophe - pt. 3

12:00 PM

My Fellow Americans:

Yesterday, at about 8 in the morning, Eastern time, while most of us were either getting ready for Church, or sleeping, a horrendous tragedy took place in the nation of Costa Rica. 

The Orosi volcano in the Guanacaste National Park, long thought inactive, erupted with full and terrifying force. The resulting volcanic cloud killed tens of thousands of people, and has done millions, perhaps billions, in property damage. The human cost is, of course, incalculable. 

As with any such tragedy, the United States of America stands ready to provide aid and support. We have already taken steps to do so, sending much-needed rescue workers and evacuation teams to the stricken areas. With their expertise, and God's help, we will do what we can to help our neighbor and friend. 

But, in this case, that's not nearly enough. And that is why, on behalf of the United States of America, I am offering a full and complete apology for this disaster. 

For some time now, the Agency known as The COMPANY has been in Costa Rica, dealing with the aftermath of what we had hoped was the final battle with the science terrorist organization, HONEYCOMB. We had destroyed their Central HIVE, and taken several steps to ensure that no more of their remote bases would be activated once it was gone. 

I was personally assured by its commander, SPYGOD, that the matter was dealt with, and we were safe. Unfortunately, he was wrong. The matter was not completely dealt with, and we were not as safe as we thought we were.

Exactly what happened, yesterday, is still being assessed. The best explanation we have is that the volcano was altered by HONEYCOMB to go off in the event that the Central HIVE was knocked out. 

Why it waited this long before exploding, or what we could have done to stop this matter, are questions we do not yet have the answer to. I promise here and now that we will have those answers, and when we do, I will make them known, both to you, and to the world community. 

There are those who may say that, given the nature of the foe we faced, this is not really our fault. They say that in the same way that any occupying army might insist it was not their fault if someone stepped on a landmine left behind by the army they'd just defeated. They can only remove so many dangers at a time, after all. 

But I reject that argument. We are responsible. We went in there, knowing that we dealt with a foe that was willing to create terrible doomsday weapons. We went in there knowing that they weren't above poisoning the well, or watching the world burn if they couldn't have it. 

We went in there unprepared for all that we found, and this lack of preparedness has cost the nation of Costa Rica dearly.

It is a sad and sorrowful thing to see such a tragedy unfold before our eyes. It is even more sad and sorrowful to know that we are, at least in some part, responsible for its happening. But words like "I'm sorry" and "We made a terrible mistake" have little meaning unless they are backed up with direct and resolute action. 

To that end, I have directed that all the rescue vehicles and agencies suited to handle this crisis make themselves available to the President and the people of Costa Rica. I have also directed the appropriate agencies to stand by with any monetary assistance that nation may require, both to respond to this crisis, and to eventually rebuild its Northwesternmost part. 

I hope that our actions here today will assure the nation of Costa Rica, as well as the entire world, that the United States of America is a responsible nation, capable of not only admitting its mistakes, but taking steps to fix those mistakes when they occur. 

As your President, I promise here and now that I will do what I can to ensure that something like this never happens again. There will be a full, high-level re-evaluation of how our various Agencies are comporting themselves in the War on Super Terrorism, and new, stricter guidelines issued, and followed up on. 

Again, on behalf of the American people, I apologize to the Nation and the People of Costa Rica, their neighbors, and the world. We will fix this. You have my word.

Thank you, God bless us, and good afternoon.

(The President leaves the podium without answering any questions)

2:13 PM

Oh, what a completely !@#$ day this has turned out to be.

First up, I finally get a call from the President, after about 48 frantic hours of trying to peg his !@#$ down for a conversation, and about 24 after he goes on the !@#$ television and cops a plea to the whole !@#$ world before even giving my plan a listen.

How did that conversation go? Well, there's smelly !@#$, there's deep !@#$, and there's bad !@#$. This one stunk so !@#$ bad you couldn't get away from the stench, no matter how big and deep you buried it.

(Yeah, it's not the greatest metaphor in the world. !@#$ it. I got nothing right now.)

The end result? We yelled at each other for about half an hour, with him telling me that this time I went too far, me telling him this wasn't really our !@#$ fault, and he should have just !@#$ went with my plan, him telling me he was sick and tired of me pulling supervillains out of the hat to use as patsies when I make a mistake, me telling him that's what they're !@#$ there for, and didn't we do that last time, and him telling me he was never happy about that, and me calling him a !@#$ wimp and a hypocrite and making us look weak and spineless right when I'm about to go up against the worst group of them all.

And then, he says the words. I know those words have been coming for some time, now, but I didn't know they'd be today.

The words are "I think you should really consider stepping down before I have to find a way to make you."

Well, you can imagine how the conversation went from there. I won't bore you with the details. But by the end my communicator was !@#$ melting. I can only imagine how his desk phone looked.

(To be continued? I sure as !@#$ hope not.)

Then, just as I'm getting my backup communicator out, I get a call from Karl. He's in San Francisco. Could I come as soon as possible? Randolph's been badly hurt.

I get to the hospital soon as !@#$ ten minutes before he called, and he takes me to where his brothers and sisters have been for the last few days. He went to a meeting with his editor and was supposed to just be gone a few hours, and when it got to be Midnight Karl started looking. He didn't have to look further than the news.

What happened? Of all the !@#$ things: poor Randolph got his !@#$ run over by a !@#$ bicycle courier. Dumb !@#$ ran him down while he was crossing the street, and then took off as soon as the ambulance got there, cursing the kid out for not looking both ways.

(Isn't that just a fitting capstone for his career?)

Fractured skull. Possible cranial bleeding. May have lost a !@#$ eye when his cheekbone went into his socket on the way down, but they're not sure how badly damaged it is, yet. Keeping his brains from being squished out his ears by the pressure is their number one priority,

So they've put him into a medical coma, hoping to slow things down enough so that the body can heal without any added stress. Hopefully he comes out without a substantial loss of IQ or faculties.

Hopefully rabbits fly out of my !@#$ with easter baskets full of grenades and combat knives.

The kids are strangely serene about this. Karl tells me they cried when they heard, and then, as soon as they got here, realized they needed to be brave for him. Pragmatic, I think he said, nodding at me like I would understand, somehow.

And I do, really. This is all part of the upbringing we were trying to !@#$ save them from. Maybe not a bad thing, overall, but these kids shouldn't have to act like they're on a firing line, somewhere, watching their buddies die and reminding themselves they have to mourn later.

Have to feel later. 

These kids should !@#$ be kids. They should go see the world, have fun, have the kind of life they wouldn't have had if we'd never invaded the !@#$ Ice Palace, and just left them there to rot with ABWEHR.

Just like we would have done, if I had waited until we were 101% prepared for any and all eventualities before going down to Antarctica and blowing those super nazis out of the !@#$ ice for once and for all. We'd have never gone in at all.

And these kids would be down there, licking !@#$ out from between their masters' toes and waiting in fear of the day they looked more edible than !@#$able.

I got a million other phone calls coming into my phone, right now. Doctor Yesterday yapping about some other problem down in the Ice Palace, Myron wanting to sob about !@#$ing up, again, my Second wanting to know what now, !@#$holes pestering my media consultants, Congresspeople talking hearings, even a Presidential candidate or two wanting to talk strategy.

I let the phone ring and ring. I'm going to sit here, tonight, with the kids I saved from !@#$, and the person I failed to mend fences with, and have a think about what to do next.

(I wish Straffer would call. I really do. I could use hearing his voice, right about now. He'd probably have a good idea.)

4:30 PM

Second walks down the halls to his room, sighing as he goes. If he didn't have so much on his plate right now, he'd be hitting the sauce before he got there. As it is, in SPYGOD's absence, he's having to maintain a certain standard of decorum, if only because his boss won't.

Where is he, anyway? He spent the night in Frisco, and when he checked in this morning he said something about seeing a man about a horse before he hung up, but that seems a little weird. He's not even on the tracker right now, which is worrisome in and of itself. But if the boss wants some privacy, then so be it.

(He's earned it, after the last few days.)

"I hope you get here soon, sir," he says, typing the combination into his door lock and going in, taking a moment to salute some Agents as they mill past. They salute back, and for a moment, just a moment, he feels something prickle up on his neck.

He's about to go into his room. He stops. He closes the door, instead, and, and turns to follow the Agents. He catches them in mid-turn, and then they try to continue the way they were heading, however clumsily.

"Excuse me, Agents," he says, wondering why they don't look at all familiar. Did they come on board three days ago, when they took on new people and materiel?

There's no reply. They keep walking.

"Agents?" He repeats: "I was wondering if you could help me with something."

They start running without looking back. He draws his sidearm and calls for a general alert. The red lights start flashing and the klaxon sounds like a sick, robot duck, honking over and over again.

He shouts for them to stop and fires a single warning shot. Neither of them obey. He could call it security here and now, and let the N-machine tell their story, but something tells him to pursue instead of kill.

He might learn something on the way, after all.

So he runs. They lead him and the security personnel that aggregate onto him like magnets through the length and breadth of The Flier, almost slowing down enough to shoot on more than one occasion, but then ducking and running just quickly enough to avoid getting tagged.

Finally, there's nowhere left to run. They're on the upper flight deck, on the end with no transports. They stand there, backs to the line of Agents and their drawn guns, all shouting for them to get down, now. Get the !@#$ down, now! Kneel down, cross your legs! DO IT NOW!

They don't. They stand there, side by side, instead. Apparently waiting.

"There's two ways we can do this," Second says, walking just a little closer, his sidearm raised to maximum firing position: "The first way is that we shoot you. The second is you step back here and we talk."

"You forgot the third way," one says, his voice soft and gentle.

"The third way is down," the other says, his voice a near mirror of the other.

"There's no sense being stupid," Second says, although he now knows how stupid he's been.

(No doubt these two were just backup. The real person they should have been concerned about was waiting in the room. They were just a failsafe. And now that they chased them, whomever was in his room is probably long gone. Or lurking for another try.)

"Love is never stupid," one of them says, taking the other's hand.

"Love will conquer all," the other replies, as they look at each other, smiling.

Their faces look beatific as they jump. The Second never gets a good look at them, but something about their eyes distinctly unnerves him.

There's a massive explosion, ten seconds later, right where they would have been. It's too far down to affect The Flier, but any chance The COMPANY had of salvaging the bodies and doing the usual postmortem memory extraction is gone.

"This ship gets locked down now," Second says: "Total search. Everything and everyone. I want all internal security recordings for the last three days. I want access to my own room's cameras. I want... !@#$ it, I want everything. In my office. Five minutes ago."

The Agents scramble to get him what he wants, but somehow he knows it's too late. Someone just tried to do him in, and he blew the followthrough.

"!@#$!" He yells, not caring if it's a massive failure of decorum. Sometimes it's the only thing to do.

(SPYGOD is listening to Deep Water (Seal) and having something unknown, somewhere unknown)

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