They say you have to walk through Hell before you get to Heaven? Son, you have no !@#$ idea how true that is. And neither did I until later today.
Let SPYGOD set the scene for you, provided I can actually !@#$ get the words out. I don't know where to really begin, here, but...
Okay, deep breath. Recenter myself, here. Let's start with this morning.
After a couple days lost to a business proposition from a certain group of concerned individuals (let's call them the Loyal Opposition, I know the Backers do) which I, of course, turned down, I spent the night drinking like a !@#$, and then got back in touch with The COMPANY to see what had been going on in the meantime.
The answer was "A whole !@#$ of a lot, and where the !@#$ were you?"
To which I replied "Where the !@#$ do you get off !@#$ asking me where I've !@#$ been? Give me a status report five minutes ago, you little !@#$."
(Yeah, key management techniques there, I know.)
Status report was as follows: "deep!@#$, sir."
While I was away, The Flier was invaded by would-be saboteur assassins from GORGON. Our attempt to capture them was !@#$ bungled by a bad tactical decision. Also, we suspect there was a third party at work, but they !@#$ disappeared and haven't been found since.
Further along the colon? The President keeps !@#$ calling, wanting to have a face-to-face followup to our last, splendid conversation. Second keeps stalling him. President doesn't take no for an answer, and calls up Wayfinder. Wayfinder admits he can't locate yours truly, anywhere, which could mean I'm dead, or just not on the planet. President immediately starts pestering Second to take the reins, Second, to his credit, says "!@#$ that noise, sir," (much more !@#$ diplomatically, of course) and tells him to give me at least a week. Then hangs up on his !@#$.
And down in the bottom of the turd punchbowl. Poor Randolph's still out cold in a !@#$ coma. No joy, there. I tell some COMPANY doctors to go over, kick the RNs out of his room, and perform some high tech medical wonders on his lazy !@#$. He doesn't keel over and die until I get a !@#$ chance to apologize for what happened in Africa - Period.
Also turns out Dr. Yesterday's been trying to get in touch with me, nonstop, and then stopped calling. They called him back to ask what was up, and he said nothing -- everything's perfectly alright now, we're fine, we're all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?
(Dumb !@#$ scientist. Probably discovered cold fusion in his herbal tea but wanted a second opinion before bothering his wife.)
Oh yeah, and Dosha Josh is here, on The Flier, waiting for me. No, he won't take no for an answer. Says it's sister!@#$ing important, and I'll be kicking myself for a million reincarnations if I don't get over there ASAFP to find out what the F he's got to say.
What can I do? I man-missile myself off to The Flier, toot sweet, and rendezvous with all the subtlety of a shotgun blast to the head. Unlucky me, the catch net's not properly secured. Lucky me, I just happen to miss most of one pit crew and one of the Platforms, and leap out of the missile just before it flies out of the other end of the hangar bay and has to be shot down before it smacks into the St. Louis Arch.
(You're welcome, !@#$. Hate that !@#$ thing, anyway.)
Seconds later, I'm having the pit crew for breakfast for their apparent sloppiness, and am interrupted only by the news that the catch net's not the only thing to be malfunctioning on The Flier, lately. Ever since the attempt to kill or incapacitate Second, things have been acting just a little weird. Elevators not stopping on the right floors, steering being too fast or too slow, guns jamming or going hot, things like that.
Of course, this is not good. I have seen that one episode of Star Trek. So I call up Second and ask why the !@#$ !@#$ we haven't made way for open water just to be sure we don't accidentally atomize a major metropolitan area. He says he didn't want me to have to man-missile into the !@#$ Ocean and miss, and, well if we had to atomize anything, he knows how much I hate St. Louis.
Good man, that Second! I give the order to move out into the Gulf of Mexico as soon as ten minutes ago. I also tell the communications department to disregard all calls from the White House or Air Force One unless they !@#$ tell me the Sun's about to turn black and eat Mercury or something. Also, have all information on the saboteurs put on my desk as of two hours ago, and have Dosha meet me in my executive office. Like now, or something.
I get to the suite, the guards open the doors for me. I start to ask Dosha what the !@#$ !@#$ is so !@#$ important.
And then a chair at the desk swivels around, and someone's in the room with him and his teleporter.
At first, I don't recognize him. Even after all we shared -- all the hate, all the fights, all the assassination attempts, and then all the weird best frenemy stuff -- it doesn't quite make it all the way up to my brain that this is the man I've been writing sordid, maudlin, and drunk pity!@#$ letters to for the past ten years or so.
But then he smiles that smile at me, and I know it's him. The Dragon. Here, in my Flier.
Dosha wastes my time talking. Something about how he turned up in Paris, more or less at the mercy of Direction Noir. Something else about how Dosha's people got hold of him, and risked tooth and limb to get him out of France, into India, and then find a way to sneak him over here.
Words words words, denials hedges lies. I'm not !@#$ listening. I'm looking at The Dragon, and he's looking at me.
We don't need to say anything, he and I. It's all being said in how we look at each other, how we move in relation to one another. That and how visibly agitated we're getting, listening to Dosha cover his agency's collective !@#$ so that, whatever happens now, it won't come back and nail them, or him.
"You did good," I tell him: "Thank you very much. Now, I think I need to debrief this gentleman."
Maybe it's the fact that I don't use a single four-letter word in that whole string of sentences that cues him, but he nods to me, and then to his man, and then they're !@#$ gone. It's just him and me, alone in the room, for the first time in years.
And he leaps over the desk, knives drawn, to try and kill me.
I recognize those knives. They're the Dragon Claws he used to be able to pull out of the air, and still can. They're super-heated metal, able to hurt even yours truly. Possibly even kill me if he made the right cuts.
So of course, I grab his !@#$ and fling him at the window. Just not soon enough, as the nasty cut he gets across my face attests.
"'But even in this I realize how broken I am,'" he taunts me as he leaps back for another go, just as I get my own knives out to parry: '"I would give all this up for you," I say. But when will I give it up for me? When will I say to myself that I am better than this?'"
A nasty flurry of knife strikes is followed by creative footwork and a solid, knife-butt to the nose, sending me reeling: "'When will I admit that I am worthy of kindness to myself?'"
"So you got my !@#$ letter?" I say, leaping to the ceiling and abandoning knives for really !@#$ long automatics with knife attachments.
"I cannot believe you intended to send me that," he replies, leaping after me and pressing the attack: "What were you thinking? How dare you show weakness to an enemy? What am I to you?"
A couple more go-arounds later, with both of us bruised and bleeding, looking for cover on either side of my table, and we know the answer. I say it, anyway: "My rival."
"And is this what you wanted me for? Sparring practice?"
"I was hoping for more."
"Well, I am not going to be the Asian butler to your bumbling, faux-French inspector, (REDACTED)" he says, jumping out of cover and throwing one of the knives at my fake eye: "Those movies were terrible."
"That we agree on," I tell him, shooting the claw out of the air and then shooting the other out of his hand. For a moment I think I've got him, but then he's at my throat with another claw, and I'm at his with the gun-knife.
We stand there, knives to each others' throats, not daring to move, barely breathing, for what seems forever. Or maybe just seconds. All I know is that in that one forever moment we know each other, again.
And the kiss that follows is the explosion that begins a new universe.
Of course, this complicates things. I don't know what I'm going to tell Straffer. I don't know what having him around will mean for internal security, or if I really should give a !@#$. There will probably have to be a proper debriefing, and the Chinese will be !@#$ pissed, and... and and and.
All I know is that I woke up this morning next to my best enemy, knowing that at any moment we might !@#$ or fight, and we're still not sure what to call it yet. That makes me feel more alive than I have in years.
GORGON? The President? Bring 'em the !@#$ on. I've found my devil, at long last.
And we are happy, here in Hell.
(SPYGOD is listening to Ten (Jewel) and having a cup of black heroin, just for laughs)