Thursday, May 24, 2012

2765 - pt. 3

So, when we last checked in with Mr. USA and yours truly, we went to the sickening abomination that is Alter Earth, trudged through a sea of blood, come, and !@#$ to the bottom level of The Prosperpinium, found the real President of the United States of America, and blew the happy unholy !@#$ out of the people who'd been mentally and spiritually torturing him for the better part of a month.

I did my best not to shoot anyone who was just here to beg favors from the ultra-white folks, down here, but the fact that I winged a few is not really weighing on my !@#$ing conscience, right now. Conversely, I don't know that Mr. USA held back at all, given how much red he's got all over his face and hands. But thankfully, I think most of the slaves were smart enough to run when their masters were splattered by his fists and feet.

(The clothing here repels liquids better than oil does water, and thank goodness for that.)

I let Mr. USA handle the gentle work, now, while I try to listen into comms chatter and find out what the appropriate response from the city's authorities will be. I can hear the IV and life support being torn off the President, and the moment the gag's off I half expect him to collapse into hysterics and beg us to get him out of here. But, to my surprise, he doesn't.

"Please tell me this is real," he says, getting up on shaky legs, leaning on Mr. USA for support: "Please tell me this isn't just another trick."

"It's no trick, sir," Mr. USA reassures him, helping him walk away from the chair: "It's us. It took us... well, it took him a whole month to find you, but-"

"A month?" the President gasps.

"Yes, sir. How long as it been here?"

"I... I lost..." he shakes his head and can't go on, weeping openly. I figure he meant to say he lost all track of time. And I figure the tears are for his wife and children.

So we let him cry, because it'll be a while before the enemy can muster a response to what just happened, here. And after everything we've walked through, and the horrors we've witnessed, it's the most human thing we've seen all !@#$ing day.

Also the most beautiful.

* * *

At some point, he stops crying so much and talks. 

He remembers how he got here, to Alter Earth, even if he didn't know where he was for a few days. On the day he was going to accept my resignation, a visitor came into the Oval Office and approached the desk, and then something happened. He said he felt weird, as though every piece of his being was being turned inside out and sent somewhere else.

Next thing he knew he was somewhere else, tied up and naked and gagged and blindfolded. Then he was beaten up in a dark room, "abused," (that's all he wants to say) dressed in those clothes, and marched through The Proserpinium in an evil and debased ceremony, with all tableaux and exhibitions going full !@#$ing tilt. 

They put him in the chair, and the people who ran this part of the show explained what had happened, up to a point. They told him he had been taken from The Otherworld (their term for us), and that no one would come looking for him here because everyone there thought he was dead. They told him that he would never leave this place, and would not be harmed, but he would not be allowed to die, either.

But he should not feel as though he were a mere captive! Oh, no. In this fashion, he was as Proserpine, Herself: raped from the world above, and taken down here, to the seat of Plutonian glory, to be treated as a queen.

As a sacred and royal captive, he would spend the rest of his days here, in this place. He would have the esteemed privilege of watching all the glory of the Mysteries unfold before his eyes. And if he came to love these things, in his heart, and truly embrace what was offered, then they would let him out, and he could spend his remaining days as one of the elite.

Was this not the most supreme of honors? Was this not a boon beyond compare? Was this not the gift of a lifetime?

Were they not !@#$ing merciful? 

Needless to say, the President, being the bleeding-heart, overly-compassionate, and generally well-meaning person I've come to know and loathe (and occasionally respect) did not see this as a privilege, an honor, a boon, or a gift. He saw this as torture, and a living !@#$ing death, and refused to cooperate. And he did his best to try and rise above what was happening, or at least imagine he was somewhere else.

Unfortunately for him, they anticipated this. They let him get so far, and then hooked up a machine that jolted the back of his knees at random intervals, just to keep him from nodding off into memories or dreams. He got six hours of sleep a night, when the place was closed, but the rest of the time his eyes had to be open and facing forward, so as to enjoy his special little gift.

The sadistic !@#$ers wouldn't even let him go insane in peace.

He gets done with his story just as I get word that they've sent in the Marines, as it were. Somewhere between 100 and 200 fully armored Police are on their way into the building, now, shock batons at the ready. They chant as they march, and while my Latin's a little rusty I'm pretty sure it's praise for Hades and Proserpine, and a promise of doom for us.

I wonder why they're not sending armed folks. Maybe they really think they can just weigh us down with their bodies until we run out of bullets or steam. Maybe they just have that much of a mad-on against guns in this town. 

Me, I'm not looking this gift horse in the !@#$ing mouth before I blow Mr. Ed's brains out. No guns in their hands mean easier going for us. And right now, that's all I !@#$ing care about.

"We need to end this," the President says, rising up steady on his feet.

"I agree, sir," Mr. USA says: "We are getting you home. I swear to you that before this day is over, you will be with your wife and children, again."

"No. Not me. This whole... obscene thing. This place. It needs to end."

"We'll be happy to trash it on the way up," I say, reloading my guns and noticing that some of the Whiter people we thought we'd killed were stirring and groaning.

"This world," he insists: "We are not leaving these people to this... mockery. We are toppling this government. We are not leaving until we have liberated this world."

"There's no point, Mr. President," I say, looking back: "This whole !@#$ing world's hardwired to be bad. You'd have an easier time winning every !@#$ heart and mind in Afghanistan-"

"I don't have time for your usual, sour nonsense, mister," the President lets me know: "You say you can topple governments for breakfast in the name of freedom? Then free. These. People."

"Sir, I think-" Mr. USA tries to say, but I cut him off.

"Look, Mr. President," I sigh: "I know you read the !@#$ing files on Alter Earth. I was there when you did. And I know you were !@#$ scared of the notion that there was an evil reflection of us, just hanging there, one dimensional jump away. And I am really !@#$ing sorry that you had to see it up close and personal, like this. But you might as well ask me to change the laws of !@#$ing physics. These people were wired up wrong from the !@#$ing get-go-"

"Don't you !@#$ing say no to me!" he shrieks, getting up in my face so fast you'd think he was a speeder in disguise: "You didn't see this! You can't know! You have no !@#$ing idea what I've been shown!"

"Oh, I have some idea, Mr. President. I just walked through hell to rescue your ungrateful little !@#$, didn't I? 

"Well I wouldn't have needed rescuing if they hadn't pretended to kill me to get your crazy, gunhappy !@#$ out of the way, now would I?"

"No," I say: "They'd have just killed you. For real. Maybe your wife and kids, too."

"I do not want excuses, (REDACTED)," he yells: "I want you to obey my orders for once. He's the most powerful superhero we've got, and you know how to break things. We smash this rogue nation-"

"Rogue world," I correct him, gently as I can, becoming all too aware that they can hear the marching, chanting cops, now, too: "Rogue populations. Rogue moral codes. Rogue Gods. Rogue destinies. We have no business trying to fix things here, Mr. President, because we can't, any more than they can fix us

"Every time they've tried to conquer us, they've failed. It's not because they don't have the firepower, or the might. It's because nothing they do !@#$ing  works. They can kill people and cause panic, but when it comes to putting a government together, or making us obey, it all falls flat on their face. 

"Our world rejects them, just like your body does to a splinter. That's why there's usually a time limit as to how long we could be over here, and them over there. The universe is trying to tell us something. Maybe we should listen?"

"That's just an excuse," he says, but I can see the wind's gone out of his sails. That and maybe, with the enemy's voices getting louder and faster, he's feeling the time for argument slipping the !@#$ away.

"Sir, please," Mr. USA says, putting a hand on his shoulder: "I know you mean well, I know you feel for these people, and I can't blame you for being a little hesitant to believe (REDACTED), after everything that's happened."

"Thanks, (REDACTED)," I tell him.

"But, sir, he's right. There is nothing we can do, here. We're in Hell, right now, and these people are condemned. There's no saving them. The best thing we can do is leave."

The President looks at me, then back at him, and sighs, nodding. 

Just then one of the half-dead, whiter folks raises up a little bit and, gurgling blood, lets the President know exactly how disappointed she was in him. How dare he turn his back on this most glorious of opportunities? Did he not understand how lucky he was to be seeing these things, down here, day in and day out?

"We should have killed you when you arrived, you fucking worm," the lady says: "May Hades grind your shade to paste, the better to soothe his sore feet on the worthless jelly of your soul."

Something in the President's eyes changes, just then. He goes from being angry at me for denying him a greater, seemingly more noble kind of revenge to being angry at the people who did this to him in the first place. Being that this is an excellent development, I hand the President the only gun I carry that won't break his wrist if he fires it. 

And I feel very !@#$ good to see him take it, walk over to that lady, and fire it at her face until there's no bullets in the gun, and no face on her skull. 

He stands there, looking down at her for a while. I let him. And then, when we really can't wait any longer, and I don't need super senses to know that the cops have run down to the 5th level, I walk back over, gently take the gun from his hands, and tell him what the plan is.

Not that it's a really great plan, or anything. It involves him staying right behind me, and us standing behind Mr. USA. Quite some distance behind Mr. USA, in fact, so he can take them out for us. 

Unsurprisingly, he's okay with this. So I put my off arm around his shoulder, pull out a gun that I keep for just such one-handed occasions, and give Mr. USA my special, little smile.

"Still want to kill the whole !@#$ing town?" I ask, just as a sea of white-armored cops turns the corner of the 6th and last level, thundering down at us as fast as their burdened legs will take them, and screaming at the top of their lungs.

"And how," he says, and, rolling up his sleeves, walks towards them very !@#$ing quickly.

The rest is white and red.

* * *

One thing that a lot of people don't know is that, while everyone swears they watched lots of Movietone news footage of Mr. USA (known as Captain Courage, back then, they actually didn't. 

Sure, the newsreels said it was him. And there were a lot of shots of him with the troops, before and after the battle. They really liked the ones where he was showing mercy to captured Germans, and accepting surrenders on behalf of the Generals.

But the bits where you actually saw him in action? Leaping into firefights and running between explosions, and picking things up and throwing them? Stopping tanks with a punch and laughing off bullets and shells?

Sorry to disappoint you all, but that was not him. That was an actor in a costume. Those battle scenes were staged well behind the lines, and the German tanks were captured. And the captured Germans were either Allied soldiers dressed up (usually the French, just to !@#$ them off), or out of work actors who'd followed the movietones to do work on propaganda just like this.

The reason is that, in an occasional moment of clarity, the Allied Command realized that it would be a very !@#$ing bad thing if the folks back home saw Captain Courage, Lieutenant Lightning, or any of the other Strategic Talents actually fighting. It would be hard to capture on film, for one, and really dangerous to be around.

And for another, it would be !@#$ing disgusting.

Why? Well, son, let's put it this way. You've heard me talk about how strategic talents liked to take tanks, artillery, and other battlefield objects and toss them around, but do you know what that really means?

Let's take a Panzer IV. They weigh about 25 tons? A ton is 2000 pounds. 

And how much do you weigh? Maybe 200 pounds? And maybe your friends are around that weight, too?

Okay. So imagine maybe ten of your fat!@#$, World of Warcraft-addicted computer friends, sitting in chairs pretending to be researching but really looking at internet porn. That's one ton.

Now multiply that by 25. That means 250 WOW junkies, all sitting around wondering if Leroy !@#$ing Jenkins is going to show up and !@#$-!@#$ their dungeon crawl.

Now imagine a person coming along, and picking all 250 of your friends up, over his head, and throwing them about a quarter of a mile. Hard.

Have you ever seen what a 50. caliber bullet does to a man's head, or body? Imagine something with a !@#$ton more destructive force going through an enemy soldier. 

Imagine slapping someone out of the way and seeing the center of their body just collapse into mush.

Imagine missing when punching at someone's head, but still causing a nasty, skull-rattling concussion, just like a near miss of a large bullet. 

Imagine being able to shrug off all conventional small arms fire, and only being knocked down, or just back, by artillery shells. 

Imagine only having to be worried about other Strategic Talents, which, as the war rages on, get fewer and fewer, and aren't replaced as fast as they once could have been. Which means that, after a while, you really don't feel the need to be all that !@#$ing careful.

And imagine that, when you aren't careful, losing all control on the battlefield becomes extremely !@#$ing easy. 

That, son, is why you never saw film of Mr. USA fighting. Not only did he not play nice, or fair, he didn't leave any Germans alive to surrender to him. Not because he's an evil mother!@#$er, or thinks the Geneva Convention was made for him to wipe his !@#$ty !@#$ on. But because in the heat of the fight, without any U-Men to slow him down, he would kill anywhere from 100 to 500 of the enemy in less than a minute, without even realizing he'd done it.

After a battle, I got drunk to celebrate, or honor the dead. He got drunk to stop seeing the faces of the dead, staring up at him, as though the vision of his world-destroying, near-godhood had been the most mind-blowing thing they'd seen in this life.

That and, just maybe, the last thought to run through their heads was how sorry they were to have not prayed to him for mercy, or deliverance. 

That's what we just sent up ahead of us. Right now, we're carefully walking through what little he's left behind. Every so often I shoot someone who looks like they're on the wrong side of dead or dying, and I recognize that they've got the same look as those German soldiers, back during the War.

The President doesn't know why I'm laughing. It's just nostalgia, really.

I hope so, anyway. 

* * *

The trip up seems a lot slower than the trip down was, oddly enough. Maybe it's because I spent so much of the way down in a daze, trying to convince myself to keep living through it. And maybe because I really want to get the !@#$ out of here.

The President makes most the journey with his eyes squinted or shut. I don't blame him. It's bad enough he can hear what we're walking through, but seeing the occasional remnant of what was left behind in the various alcoves and tableaux on the way down is nothing short of nauseating.

"Should have !@#$ing brought a flamethrower," I mutter after passing the area where the young boy's !@#$-stuffed mouth was being used as a jerk-off sleeve. The only salvation is that the couple that didn't want to be rude or anything was lying there, trampled to death in each other's !@#$-stained arms.

(And, yes, I shot them both in the noggin, on principle.)

By the time we did get all the way up to the top floor, I was smiling. Not long now, I thought. We'd call for Simon, he'd come get us, and then we'd be home, quicker than goose out of a !@#$'s butt.

But then I see Mr. USA, standing just inside the portico, by a statue of Hades mouth-banging Proserpine. He looks back at me, and sighs.

And then I look past him, and realize that we are, indeed, quite !@#$ed.

(Sephiroth - Uthul Khulture. And no, still no drinks)

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