The path is designed to try and confuse people into thinking they're just taking a leisurely but unusual inspection tour -- not entirely unknown in these post-SPYGOD days. But it's also been designed to keep the Specials from seeing what they're up to, which would not only render their daring preemptive strike on New Man useless, but also get them killed, most likely.
And no one wants that.
Second would rather go faster, of course, but he's following The Dragon's lead on this one. He may not trust him further than he could spit him, but if there's one thing the man knows how to be, it's sneaky. So he's deferring to his judgment on this one -- even if he's still highly uncertain of his true motives.
(The barrage of zen bull!@#$ he tried to ply him with, back in the Director's office, did nothing to convince him.)
"How much longer?" Second asks as they pass up yet another chance to walk into a side entrance of engineering, electing to go up another floor, instead.
"A young monk once asked his master how long enlightenment took," The Dragon answers, not bothering to look back and regard his questioner: "His master said 'as long as it takes.' The student pressed on, wanting to know 'how long does it take?" And the master smiled and said 'when you stop asking that question, you will know.'"
"In other words, shut up and keep walking?" Second cuts to the chase.
"In other words, once we're inside, you'll see why we've stayed outside for as long as we have."
Second scowls, but looks back the way they came. As he does, a pair of Specials walk from the entrance they might have just gone through, and take up position guarding it.
"I think I see," Second replies, looking forward again: "Do you think they know something's up?"
"I think they are on high alert, given that this is the day," Dragon replies, holding up a hand and pausing their journey: "I also think they are only a few movements away from taking over this entire installation, and the closer they get to the moment, the less secrecy becomes an issue. So if they see us, they may decide to bring certain eventualities forward, and then our stealthy attempt to stop their plan becomes a very loud and violent fight."
"True, but what if they throw the switch and we're still sneaking around out here?"
"Then we will know that we no longer need to sneak around, as you put it," the Dragon says with a condescending smile: "But look, my young monk. I think enlightenment may be close at hand..."
He gestures to a bulkhead that has been partially slid open, revealing access to the maintenance platform that runs the whole of engineering's roof, allowing engineers to get up and change lightbulbs.
"Ah, the top-down," Second says: "I guess this isn't a great time to mention I'm not !@#$ing crazy about heights."
"No," Dragon says: "But the good news is that we need only be so high for so long before going down."
"That's the other half of the problem."
Once on the platform, they can see that the situation is worse than they may have thought. The entire ground floor of engineering is literally crawling with Specials, with only a few Agents still at their posts. It almost looks like they're being replaced, one by one, by the new guards in the all-covering, high-tech suits and frightening-looking gauss guns.
The Dragon points to another platform, up against the far wall, just over the massive reactor core. Second knows what it is: an access point to one of the most secure places on the entire Flier, and one they'll need to get into in order to do what they need to do.
So they walk along the platform very, very slowly -- barely daring to look down as Agents are roughly wrested from their duties and made to leave the room. Any of them who ask the Specials for proper authorization are quickly marched from the room and tossed out; any who resist are overpowered and dragged away.
Second would dearly love to jump down there and kick some !@#$, but he knows that they have bigger fish to fry. Timing is critical, here, in the last moments before the enemy's plan kicks into full swing.
And, as Second knows too well, lost seconds don't grow on trees.
* * *
It takes what seems like forever for the assistance to come to Myron's aid, in the interrogation cell. Then another forever beyond that for that assistance to get over the fact that they're going to be handling the SPYGOD, of all prisoners. But eventually, they get him up and ready to go -- thankfully not noticing that he's manacled in trick cuffs -- and then frog-march him down the hall and to an elevator.
Myron follows, holding the buzzer, and hoping that the Agents thronging the halls to watch their former Director be taken to a more secure holding facility don't give in to the urge to get physical. As it is, they seem content to jeer, boo, and hawk spit at him.
"Murderer!" they scream: "!@#$ing murderer!" "Traitor!"
Myron thinks of that terrible Christian snuff movie his Bible-thumping aunt made him watch, once, and can't help but find some strange parallels. But that would make SPYGOD Jesus, and if there's one thing he isn't, it's a martyr.
(Even now, somewhat in charge of the proceedings, Myron's just following his orders -- however temporally-scrambled they are, and however surreally they were given.)
The two guards take way too much time getting down the hall, mugging for the crowd and posing for photographs along the way. Thankfully they don't actually stop, but every so ofter the clicker goes off in Myron's pocket, and he's positive that his allies are wondering what the !@#$ is going on.
But at last they're in the elevator. And then they're going down to a level that, if all's gone well, should be absolutely deserted.
When the door opens, and Myron hears nothing, he's pretty sure that part of the plan, at least, as worked out. And SPYGOD picks that moment -- being dragged out of the elevator -- to finally wake up and start to talk.
"Look, I'm telling you, Myron, I don't know what the !@#$ happened," SPYGOD says: "You can hit me with that !@#$ing joybuzzer all day long if you want, but it ain't gonna change a thing."
"Yeah, tell it to the judge, !@#$er," one of the Agents says, shaking him a little.
"Don't talk to the prisoner, Agent," Myron says, wondering when Dosha and Anil are going to show up: "Just carry him to the cell."
"Oh, I get another cell, huh?" SPYGOD replies, looking around him: "This one come with HBO?"
"It comes with enough slush-gas to turn you into compost," the other Agent lets him know: "Please, give us an excuse."
"I will hit the button again, (REDACTED)" Myron says, hoping that he hasn't missed his opportunity.
But then the clicker goes off twice in quick succession, and he hears the strange, marker-on-the-whiteboard noise that heralds a teleporter using his power. And even though he knows what's coming next, he can't help but be startled by how swiftly it goes down.
First Anil's in front of him, taking the buzzer. Then he's behind him, taking his pants and guns. Then those pants are tied around his ankles, and he's falling to the ground, barely able to get his hands up in time.
As he hits the ground, he's dimly aware that both of the other two Agents are being cold-!@#$ed in the noggin by a swift, fat fist. As they fall down their pants do the same disappear-reappear act as his own did -- just tied a little tighter.
And then SPYGOD's just standing there, still manacled and looking somewhat stupid, and not quite sure what's just happened.
"Do not turn around," Myron says to him, just a little above a whisper: "Listen to me, sir. When you get back to when you came from, you find me and tell me three things. One is to remember that there will be a day when you'll claim not to have done something, and I should believe you. Two is to make friends with the Indians. And three is to always carry a pair of trick shackles with me."
SPYGOD nods, and rattles his shackles. They fall off and clatter to the floor, useless and cheap.
He doesn't waste time looking back and saying goodbye. For a moment Myron's kind of hurt, but he realizes that it's a complement in a way -- SPYGOD's way of saying that he can take care of himself.
Sure enough, by the time SPYGOD's made the stairwell -- and that strange noise comes and goes and takes him with it -- Myron's already up, re-pantsed, and heading away from the cluster!@#$ he helped engineer.
And on to the next one.
* * *
From his spacious and starry lookout on the world, far up and away on Deep Ten, Director Straffer watches as 24 different clocks tick and tock their way towards the next hour in their respective timezones. Canberra, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Singapore, Bangkok... from right to left, following the Sun.
It won't be too long, now.
Of all the persons involved in the plan, today, he has the most important job of all. Dr. Yesterday might be seeing to the Chamber, and its security, and the Director of the CIA might be responsible for what happens next. And what their leader's going to be doing on board The Flier, once things really get going down there, is going to be another very important piece of the plan.
But it's what he and Deep Ten are locked into doing next that will either guarantee that the plan is going to go off, or not at all.
Of course, without his support in things, the plan will still happen -- they've come too far, worked too long, and put too many resources and chess pieces into play for it to not work. But certain things would be no longer as controllable, and certain aspects of the "shock and awe" strategy they've decided to employ would no longer be as shocking, or nearly as awesome.
It's not enough to take control of the world, today; they have to make certain it stays under control. And to do that, they need Deep Ten floating above it all, watching and merciless.
"The nail needs a hammer," as their leader would say.
In some ways, the takeover of Deep Ten has been the toughest part of the plan to engineer. While GORGON had been running its communications network from the massive space platform for years, that was thanks to a few suborned, questionably-sane individuals that the real Director Straffer had been all too happy to fling from an airlock when their perfidy was finally discovered. And then he and SPYGOD had to go from rivals to friends to lovers in the space of only a few months, making further activities up here all the more difficult to engineer.
Fortunately, Straffer was out quite often, giving GORGON enough time to sneak more personnel on board, including his trusted Second in command. Once that was done, they were able to alter the programming on some of Deep Ten's robotic servitors, and build remote deactivation routines into the rest.
So when the time came for them to replace him, all the pieces were in place. Unfortunately, something went badly wrong, and the plan has suffered for it ever since.
Namely, Straffer chose suicide over surrender, or a fight to the death. And he chose to die by crashing out one of the windows in the area they ambushed him in, consigning his frail, human body to the cold and vacuum of space.
As a result, they were not able to get a decent N-scan of his brain. This lack of his firsthand knowledge has made performing the rest of the operation very difficult and time-consuming, as -- much like his lover, SPYGOD -- there are numerous things that the Director alone knew, and did not care to share with anyone.
But, at long last, the final pieces of the puzzle came together. They were able to bypass certain safety measures that had been placed within the weapons platform, and get it to do things that normally took a massive amount of override codes, palmprints, retinal scans, and DNA swabs to perform.
And now, they are able to call Deep Ten theirs.
Smiling with well-deserved satisfaction, the False Face wearing Director Straffer's face -- but, sadly, not possessing his mind -- watches the clock tick down on Sydney, and the last few minutes of the flawed freedom that Earth has "enjoyed" up to this point.
Soon a new hour will dawn, and with it a new order.
And all he has to do is speak to bring it down.