Key West normally isn't all that quiet. There's always the sound of your neighbors talking, cars and buses puttering along the streets, and -- of course -- the ever-present tourists, drunk or sober. Birds whirling overhead. The tropical winds.
But sometime around Noon, after a long, leisurely shower and some time to digest the outline of the plan they discussed last night, Dr. Krwi becomes pointedly aware that he's not hearing anywhere as much background noise as he was, yesterday.
Of course, it is Sunday. He did hear church bells, earlier, when he started to stir. Maybe there are more good Christian people in this town than his earlier observations would have indicated.
But when it becomes apparent he hasn't heard a car go by in a half an hour, and hasn't seen a single pedestrian walking along in that time, he knows something is seriously awry.
He crosses the hall to Gilligan's room. The mad fellow went to bed early, last night, and hasn't stirred, since. Hopefully he's awake in there -- Krwi would hate to go in and find him doing something unseemly and insane.
"Gilligan, are you awake?"
"I don't sleep," the man says: "Sleep is for the dead."
"And you're not dead, yet."
"Ask my pathologist. What's up, doc?"
"I wonder if you might.... have an opinion on the coconuts," he says through the closed door, cursing the clumsy phrases they've been forced to use thus far.
"The windows are lined, Thurston," the man: "The walls are proofed. This place is a void. They can't bug us or hear us."
"Then why are we speaking in code, here?"
"Practice makes perfect."
"I see. Well, perhaps you could lend me your opinion as to our current security status? I have not heard anything for the last half an hour-"
"They've been watching us an hour before that, Doc," Gilligan says: "I give them between ten and fifteen minutes before they come in."
Dr. Kwri starts, but then gets control of himself. Fighting living people. It's been a while.
"We have a problem, then," the old man says: "We are divided. The others went out to do some shopping or run errands."
"So it's just the Millionaire and the Lovable Screwup to watch the Minnow, huh?" Gilligan laughs, and from the creaks Dr. Krwi can hear, possibly getting up off the bed: "Too bad we have a handicap."
"I just called SPYGOD to tell him. He says he's working on it. But we are not, I repeat, not to engage with lethal force."
"I do not usually kill the living," the old man says, proud of that fact.
"Well, that's a !@#$ing problem," Gilligan says, rattling around in the room: "Because all he does is kill. Which means you're going to have to carry it for him, Doc."
"Him," the man says, pulling open the door to reveal that he's as naked as !@#$: "I'm not dressed, you see."
"'Clothes make the man?'" Kwri asks, trying to avoid looking at the many scars -- obviously self-inflicted -- on the man's body.
"Not a man," Gilligan says, eyes burning with terrible truth: "Fenris Wolf. World Serpent. Seven Handed Eater of Suns. Last Survivor of a Dying Planet. Last God from the Land of Black Mirrors. All here. All in me."
"Then we had better get ready for a siege," the doctor says, walking away from the man and his dangerous and insane eyes: "And put on some pants, will you? I do not think you will want them to taser you there."
"Only way I can even get off these days..." Gilligan chuckles, looking for the clothes he wore yesterday. No sense getting new ones messed up.
Especially since they won't be using tasers, this time.
* * *
"So, is there any point to this conch chowder at all?" Chinmoku asks, hands folded behind his back as he strolls up Duval street with Gosheven and Whisper, just three people amongst a lot of tourists and Sunday morning strollers: "I have had three bowls this day from three different places. None of them are what might be called of interest."
"Honey, it's !@#$," Gosheven says, letting his hands do most of the talking, as always: "It's here, it's edible, and you can cook it up, but it ain't like clams or nothing. It's just tasteless protein."
"Yeah, well, so's what you were eating this morning," Whisper says, looking over her shoulder. Something is unnerving her.
"What are you talking about, girl?"
"That guy you had to meet? Don't tell me you didn't !@#$ him."
"Oh, !@#$. That's just business. Because, that protein's salty. You oughta know that."
"Not lately," she mutters, looking over her other shoulder. Something is not right, here. The noise coming from Sloppy Joes, coming up on their right, makes it hard to tell, but still...
"We have been watched since we left the last store," Chinmoku says: "Four men close behind us, four further up ahead. Many more teams, elsewhere, watching."
"How do you know that?" Gosheven asks, looking around.
"The ghosts are chatty, today," he replies: "It would be best if we pretended we did not realize something was wrong, and that we were merely lost."
"Right," Whisper says, pulling out the cheap-!@#$ map the wino tried to sell her, six blocks and two hours ago: "Duval and Greene. We're running out of road to stroll up and lose ourselves in, and way too far from the Minnow to leg it back there."
"Perhaps you should call the Skipper and inform him that we have a problem, Mary Ann," Chinmoku says.
"The Skipper knows already," a man announces, moving in from their left and looking like he's checking the time: "They're back at the Minnow, too. This is going to make things interesting."
"Oh my !@#$ing God," Gosheven says, knowing it's SPYGOD, even if he can't quite see that it is: "How did they...? This soon? How?"
"You tell me," SPYGOD says, and then shoots the man right in the head.
Gosheven falls down, brains flopping all over a nearby wall and the pavement behind him. Neither Whisper nor Chinmoku so much as gasp, but the tourists scream and start to run for cover.
"You will, of course, not explain later," Chinmoku says, unfolding his hands from behind his back.
"Get to the other side of the Island," SPYGOD says: "I'll meet you there. Do not !@#$ing kill any of them. They might not be my people, but they're our people."
Whisper nods, and lopes into Sloppy Joes, seeking cover in anonymity. Chinmoku calmly walks across the street, moving between stopped cars and getting ready for the inevitable confrontation.
And SPYGOD twists his button, revealing himself to all.
"Key West? Where's the !@#$ing party at?" he asks, shooting a few more times into the sky, and then booking down Greene st as fast as his fine, gay legs will take him.
* * *
The first Agent through the back door at the house on Emma St. is typical of the new breed of COMPANY Agent.
He's Brett McKenzie, a 30-something member of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (still just "ATF," thank you very much). A week after the President was assassinated, he received word that he and many other "gateknockers" were being transferred to the beleaguered Agency, to take up jobs being vacated by those no longer willing, or cleared, to serve in that highly-secure capacity. And, since then, he and a number of other Agents from various other Agencies have been trying to get the runaway organization back under control.
One can only imagine his shock and pleasant surprise at learning, less than a few hours ago, that he was going to be in a group tasked with taking down Public Enemy #1, himself. Having never been a fan of Superheroes in general, the idea that he could be the one to plant the !@#$er in the ground -- or at least a jail cell, as he was supposed to be immortal and !@#$ -- was like icing on top of the really !@#$ good cake of being feted and congratulated by a grateful nation.
To be fair, he was warned. He was told that SPYGOD was amazingly dangerous. He was told that he had numerous, very dangerous individuals along with him, in or around this house. He was told that, to be truthful, they were going to be footsoldiers and distractions while much more powerful assets dealt with SPYGOD, himself. They might get one of his helpers, maybe, but the main target should be left up to professionals.
(!@#$ing Superheroes, in other words.)
But the thought of bagging the man has all but consumed him -- and all his fellows, for that matter. They might settle for one of his pet freaks, but they all want to see SPYGOD's eyepatched kisser right in front of the really big, really dangerous gun they're getting to use on this mission. They had no idea weapons like this even !@#$ing existed, but here they all are, handling something from one of those sci-fi RPGs they play on the Xbox after hours.
(Immortal, huh? Let's see how !@#$ing immortal SPYGOD is when a bazillion rounds of high-tech, white-hot flechetes are going through his nasal cavity at a rate too high to even think about.)
Which is why Brett McKenzie, along with everyone behind him at the back door, and quite a few people at the front, are going to be spending a lot of time in a nearby hospital. Overconfidence causes poor attention, poor attention means missing !@#$, and missing !@#$ means that !@#$ happens.
Usually to you.
Brett McKenzie's personal brand of !@#$ involves a rube goldberg of rope, kitchen implements, high pressure hornet spray, and a cigarette lighter. He doesn't realize the lit spraycan sproinging towards his face is a bomb until it goes off and catches him on fire. And while he's going down, screaming for help and gagging on bugkiller, he doesn't quite understand that the whirling, flashing thing he's seeing isn't a cavalcade of stars, but rather a silver blade, being quickly and expertly used to unhand his fellow Agents, and puncture key points of their armor.
Dr. Krwi says he's sorry to each and every man he maims here, today. They'll live, though, provided they're smart enough to apply direct pressure to the stump. And anyone dumb enough to try and ignore the pain and keep fighting will probably bleed out of the little holes he made in their underarms as a follow-up.
There's a lot of splashing and panic coming from the front door, or what's left of it. The porch was specially weighted to collapse if too many people were on it. The pool of waiting water hasn't been cleaned in at least two decades, to hear SPYGOD tell it, and no one in full riot armor is going to be able to float so well.
"That would be the end of the first wave," he says, backing into the dining room where Gilligan is waiting, now fully dressed and sitting in a chair, sweating profusely. In his hands is what looks like a silver facemask, with a curious set of grooves on the front. They make a pattern that almost looks like a smiley face, and he's done nothing but stare at it since he got down here.
"We need to leave, old man," he says: "If you want them alive, we need to run."
"We cannot," Krwi says: "We must stay here and protect the ipier. Without him, the plan is nothing."
"Then they'd better get here !@#$ing quick, Preacherman" the madman replies, looking up: "I feel the devil knocking at my door."
(SPYGOD is listening to Suburbia (Pet Shop Boys) and drinking the wind as he runs for cover)