It's just that kind of day.
Today is the last time he will walk these floors as undisputed master of the house. As of tomorrow afternoon, he'll be handing over the keys to the President of the United States. He'll be handing The COMPANY over, too, which stings worse than he could ever say. But somehow, losing what's become his home hurts just a little worse.
Why? He couldn't say. Maybe it's because, having shepherded this weird, confiscated supervillain weapon disguised as a skyscraper through several decades, and no few conversions, he's made his own, indelible stamp on the place. What started out as an amicable living/protective arrangement eventually turned into something of a symbiosis, just like any homeowning experience.
And he knows that, once he leaves, the next occupant probably won't keep the decor.
He walks down the hall to the hot tub, taking in the wall of heads as he goes. Will the next occupant really want to marvel at those grisly trophies? Probably not. He'll have to have them moved to wherever he winds up, next, which is still being decided. So he makes a mental note to have them put into storage, along with all the other clothes, decorations, furnishings, and detritus that won't be coming with him on his long-overdue vacation.
The hot tub. So many memories! He, Roy Cohn, and ten boys from the nearest dipstick bar. All those co-ed COMPANY socials. All those private dos he hosted for this town's right-wing gay contingency.
(All those mornings he woke up in it, half-submerged and wondering what the !@#$ happened the night before.)
He sighs and turns his back on it, not wanting to dwell too much in the past, today. But he knows that's going to be impossible: he can remember all the wild and crazy parties; all the black and terrible nights of soul-searching and professional substance abuse; all the times people tried to kill him in his own !@#$ home, and what he did with them, and how.
This place is full of ghosts, now, and none of them want to be quiet, today.
This corner becomes a memorial to the starlet who ODed on suspicious, dancing red powder she found under the marble bust of President Truman. That hallway remains a monument to the epic, running argument he had with Andrew Sullivan about supply-side economics, national defense, and Angels in America. The balcony converts to a non-stop replay of all the times he pissed off it for one reason or another, and all the would-be assassins who got to take the Air Stairs.
(METALMAID is outside, cleaning up what's left of the last batch of contract killers. He's decided not to tell Her he's leaving, and to quietly bequeath her to the next owner. It's a rude joke, maybe, but !@#$ it. He's done with her !@#$, now, too.)
But it's all the ordinary moments that come through the loudest. The kitchen alone reminds him of thousands of takeaways, hundreds of new recipes, and dozens of strange disasters caused by too much flour, or not enough salt. The TV nook in the living room bears witness to all the times he shot at or near the television, infuriated with the pabulum that passed for popular culture, these days (or the talking heads who felt the need to comment on it).
He uses his palm lock to go into the walk-in beer closet. Looking the well-stocked racks, he remembers millions of good memories of quiet drunks, well-lubricated parties, and drinking himself around the world one bottle at a time. Also the occasional skunky brew, which inevitably earned the bottler a personal visit for direct remuneration. That and a gunshot or two.
Another palm lock gets him into the hangar. There, he remembers all those times fiddling with that !@#$ed-up piece of !@#$ flying car he agonized about, sweated over, cursed out, and perversely loved. Now it's gone, too - blown to pieces by a bomb, last September.
(And that makes him think of something else, too. But no. Another mystery for another day.)
And then there's the bedroom. Oh dear Gods, the bedroom -- witness to the near-endless parade of mindless sex, courtesy of Neo York City's strangely-overabundant population of Thai ladyboys. How many times has he gone to sleep in a pile of writhing, brown manflesh? How many times has he shown the girls to the special secret elevator the next morning? Far too many to count, and he smiles at his own !@#$ shamelessness.
Conversely, how many times did he actually bring someone special here? Not a whole lot, other than Straffer.
(And that gives him pause. He remembers that today is actually !@#$ Valentines Day, and thinks of of the surprise he'd been back-mindedly planning for him. Except the affair curdled and died like a hardly-bloomed rose dipped in defoliant. And now...)
He sighs and sits down on the bed, running a hand along the comforter. Every so often he can still catch a whiff of what his sweat smelled like, cooling after a rocket ride. But now the scent's so faded, he can't tell if it's really there, anymore, or it's just his memory overwhelming his superior senses, and making him experience something that vanished a long time ago.
He feels a tear welling up under his glass eye. He doesn't block it, tracking its course down his cheek and off his chin. When it falls to the floor the thump rattles his feet bones.
The Eye won't let him have an ordinary moment, will it?
He looks over at the table, and sees the black card still sitting there. He curses, frustrated. He thought he told that metal !@#$ to take the !@#$ thing outside so it could burn in the sunlight? Dumb tin !@#$.
He's about to grab the thing and take it outside, himself, but then he thinks about something.
SPYGOD: Should I be? This is the third time around with you !@#$. You didn't talk me into a deal, then. Why would now be any different?
BEAUTIFUL STRANGER: Things have changed.
He looks at the bed, running a hand along it, again. He can't quite really smell his former lover, anymore, but he can hear his voice, clear as a bell:
SPYGOD: It wasn't what I heard. It was what I dreamed I heard when I was in that situation where I couldn't hear anything else. I imagined a presence out there. Massive !@#$ thing, but so dark that I could only tell the vague outline of its shape by what I couldn't see, behind it. Then it went by a gas cloud, and it was so !@#$ big the matter was drawn off and started to reveal what it actually looked like...
Dir. Straffer: A ship?
SPYGOD: No. A being. Something so large that it made my brain want to crawl out of my skull and move to !@#$ Guam just to get away from it.
He shudders at the sense-memory, and gets up from the bed. He walks down the hall to the living room, trying to mentally retrace a train of thought.
"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?"
He fiddles with the palm lock on the hangar door. It gives him the number of times it was accessed ever since it was installed, all those years ago. He looks back to September, right around the time of the car bombing.
Sure enough, there's something there. Something anomalous.
Something he does not !@#$ like.
SPYGOD: Well maybe you can comment on something else, then. This is 2021? Where's all the people?
BEAUTIFUL STRANGER: What do you mean?
SPYGOD: Last I checked, we were sitting at 7 billion. We ought to be at 7.5 or so, right now. But I listen in and find out we're at 5?
BEAUTIFUL STRANGER: I will not comment on that, either.
SPYGOD: I know losing Israel couldn't have done it. I know there had to have been at least one war you wouldn't let me see before we all held hands and sang kumbaya like a bunch of !@#$ hippies, but I don't see how that loses 1 billion, let alone two. So what happened?
He goes to the beer cooler and makes the same check. Something odd, there, too.
"Son of a !@#$ing !@#$," he says. Knowing that any security camera footage was probably wiped, or rendered useless by one little thing in the arsenal of democracy.
(Also, itself, rendered useless by recent events.)
I also had to hand over the keys to our No-Suits, which means that they are no longer undetectable by our fellow Agencies. They swore up and down it'd go no further than the Secret Service, but I believe that as much as I believe the one Agent wasn't a bigger !@#$ than Billie Jean King.
SPYGOD: The President! Where the !@#$ is he?
"What's the connection?" he says, reaching into the cooler to grab a cold one. !@#$, make it two or three. He downs one on the go right then and there and goes to find the nearest computer.
SPYGOD: When I look in the eyes of their children, I see that look. It speaks !@#$ volumes. It says "I lost one of my guiding stars and I'm never getting it back." ... So. I can only assume he's dead. Which means either you told me to let it happen, or you told me to make it happen.
He looks through his emails from Doctor Yesterday. The fix logs. The back and forth correspondence. All the things they say, and all the things they don't say.
All the little details.
* While everything's !@#$ bedlam on the Deck, everything's fine on the flight deck. Everyone's ready to deploy. All we have to do is wait for the optimum moment, which should come as soon as Dr. !@#$ Yesterday sends me that !@#$ upgrade and we install it.
* Ah, right on cue. I got mail. !@#$ wonderful.
* He says we should just download it into the mainframe and sit tight while the ship reconfigures itself? Oh great. Remote !@#$ carrier repair at 12000 feet above a battleground? !@#$ me.
"!@#$ me," he reiterates, the past and present colliding as he opens another beer and checks the extremely-!@#$ing reports the investigators produced, following the fiasco known as OPERATION DECAPITATION.
THE DRAGON: Unfortunately, that gesture proved less than useless. No sooner were all main weapons powered up than whatever solution Dr. Yesterday had provided, earlier that day, fell apart.
SECOND: The shields failed. The guns jammed. All we had left was the laser discs and I don't think they did nearly as much damage as we would have liked. It was all we could do to limp to the nearest dry ground and put down for repairs.
He closes the computer and looks at the beer.
While I was away, The Flier was invaded by would-be saboteur assassins from GORGON. Our attempt to capture them was !@#$ 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.
Air bubbles float to the top. The smell is overpowering, even from here. He can still taste the symphony of bold and subtle flavors on his tongue, growing deliciously fainter with each passing second.
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.
SPYGOD thinks of recent communications with Dr. Yesterday.
SPYGOD: Maybe. What do you know about The Chamber?
Dir. Straffer: I know we shouldn't be talking about it unless we're really secure, here.
SPYGOD: We are.
Dir. Straffer: Then I'd say I know enough to know it's a very good thing that thing's been l ocked down since you left the Ice Palace.
He thinks about the last time he talked with Director Straffer
"But it was nice while it lasted?" I asked.
He paused for a second, as if thinking of the right !@#$ thing to say, and then smiled and said "It was, yes. It was the best dinner date I've ever had, and one of the best desserts."
"I felt the same way," I said: "I'm sorry it couldn't have been more."
"So am I. So why don't we just leave it at that?" He offered, smiling at me again. That smile. The one I can't say no to.
And then he's up and throwing the bottle against the wall before he can think about it. The other one, too, for good measure. !@#$ it if METALMAID hears. !@#$ it if anyone hears.
!@#$ all of it.
He crashes through the penthouse, knocking things over on the way to the bedroom and screaming abuse. How could he have been so stupid?
How could he have been so !@#$ blind?
He collects himself in the room. He masters his breathing, stops himself from punching holes in the walls. If he had a gun right now this side of the planet would be in trouble, but he left them all by the hangar.
(.... of all the stupid, stupid things!)
He looks in the bedroom mirror, not surprised to see more tears running down his cheeks and chin:
"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.
In a flash, SPYGOD understands. Not the whole picture, he thinks, but enough to know the general outline of what's been going on around him this entire time. Enough to know just how badly !@#$ed things are, right now.
He turns to look at the black card on the table, and he knows what he must do, now.
God help him, and god help us all -- he knows.
(SPYGOD is listening to One (Three Dog Night, by way of Filter) and has no more time for alcohol, right now.)