"Sir, something's coming through the East access tunnel!" he hears a Secret Service agent shout. He immediately draws his weapon, orders that the door to the saferoom be sealed behind him, and charges out into the main area and towards the tunnel in question. Before long, he's got a large group of Agents behind him, toting submachine guns and everything they had left in the armory towards what is doubtlessly -- at least in his mind -- a beachhead of some kind.
"What do we know?" he asks the Agent who shouted.
"Just that it's big and metal and is going through the tunnel like it's construction paper, sir."
"That's never any !@#$ing good," he remarks: "Get ready to move the President and First Lady to the second fallback position. Have the football..."
He stops himself. No reason to bring the football, anymore, is there? It's a whole new game, now.
And, god!@#$ him, he's the one who gets to figure out the rules.
Once they get to the tunnel, he can see that the Agent wasn't kidding. The reinforced concrete structure has begun to collapse in on itself as something large and mechanical, which clearly finished rumbling out of one wall, goes right into the other. It gets as far as it needs to in order to have its rear sticking out into the tunnel, and then quakes to a halt, hydraulics hissing and gears winding down.
"No firing until I give the word!" he orders, hoping he knows what this is, but all too ready to commit to action if he's wrong.
A large, rear hatch opens up. All the Agents cock their weapons and take aim.
A long metal probe with a white sock attached to it comes out the hatch and waves a few times.
"Sir?' an Agent says, and Richter scowls, putting his weapon down.
"Hold your fire," he says, stepping forward past the firing line and heading for the machine: "I think I know who the !@#$ this is."
A COMPANY Agent pokes his head out and waves the flag some more: "Please, please do not shoot me," he begs.
"Is Myron with you?" Richter asks.
"Yes, Myron is with them," Myron answers, walking past the agent with the white flag and easing himself off the back of the drill tank and onto the floor: "Sorry about the mess, Colonel. I couldn't risk coming up the front lawn. I might have been seen."
"What the !@#$ is going on out there?"
"Hang on a moment," Myron says, taking his They Live sunglasses out and putting them on.
"This is not the time to relive the 80's, Mr. Prison Warden," Richter says.
"Sorry, just have to be sure," Myron says, looking at Richter and then back down the hallway, at the Secret Service Agents. Once he's sure, he puts them back up onto his head.
"Sure of what?"
"Colonel, we have big problems. We've been infiltrated."
"By whom?" Richter asks, leaning in close so they won't be overheard.
"GORGON," Myron whispers.
"You have to be !@#$ing me-"
"I wish I were," Myron shushes him: "Those Specials that have popped up everywhere since New Man took control of the COMPANY? They're all False Faces, sir. And they're not the only ones. They got Dr. Yesterday, too, and who knows what all he's gotten his hands on."
"I wish I wasn't. I made him the other day when he was installing the anti-SPYGOD field in the Heptagon. Now I found a way to disable them and used it after they started zapping us from orbit. I think it's Deep Ten, and-"
"Every air base, every airport, every nuclear silo and submarine," Richter says, putting a hand on Myron's shoulder: "We think they got Kennedy Space Center, too. And I'm getting reports that any armed birds we had in the air got picked off."
Myron scowls, twists up his lips, then looks askance: "So we couldn't fight back. Nothing to launch."
"Yeah, but why the fighter planes? It's not like they can fly into !@#$ing outer space and shoot it out with them, and even if they could, they'd be toast before they got to the Moon."
"Where's the Flier?" Myron asks: "And who's in charge of it?"
"I haven't had any contact with them since this all went down. And I think it might be worldwide, too. There were reports of coups and revolutions around the planet, but there's an intelligence blackout, and we have no !@#$ing idea what's happened."
"'Beware the Ides of March,'" Myron quotes.
"Nothing, sir. How's Congress?"
"No word of an attack."
"And the President's safe?"
"Well, how's this for a plan?" Myron says: "We get you, me, and some Agents we can trust into the drill tank, put the President in there, and get him the !@#$ out of here before they show up."
"I think that's a good plan," he says: "What about Congress?"
"Oh, !@#$ them," Myron says with a dismissive wave of his hand: "Let them obstruct their way out of this one."
"Okay," Richter says, watching the last of the COMPANY Agents clown-car their way out of the drill tank: "Has this thing got a bathroom?"
"No, and the coffee maker isn't even working. But I can get us to Dallas in about ten hours."
"Last place they'd look for the President...?"
Richter nods, claps Myron on the shoulder, and quickly leads him back to where they left the President. It might not be the best plan in the world, but !@#$ it -- it's a plan, and it's better than the one he had just five minutes ago.
Hopefully they've got the time to make this work.
* * *
In the Flier's secondary control room, in front of the shifting, floating arrays of 3-D controls, The Dragon unfolds.
His head splits in half from the neck up, and both halves of his skull move a full six inches away from each other.
Numeral small, long, metal tentacles telescope out of that space, extending in all directions like a strange, punk rock hairstyle made of steel snakes.
Some of the snakes extend towards the open ports on the control projectors, and link up with the Fliers' computer systems. Others form a strange antenna of sorts, sending and receiving information from an as-yet-unseen source.
His eyes sink into their sockets and are replaced by even more tentacles -- smaller, lit-up ones that squirm and writhe in the air like aquatic creatures in an unseen current. They project images in the air: the secret leaders of GORGON, now entered into mental communication as the final moments of their plan come together at last.
Love is all you need, The Dragon intones, so joyful to be able to reveal his true self at last.
Love is all you need, says Dr. Yesterday from deep within the Ice Palace, as his part of the plan goes like clockwork
Love is all you need, says the Director of the CIA, observing the final movements in what he's been tasked to do, and hoping the barricade on his office door holds.
Love is all you need, says Director Straffer, holding steady with no further targets at this time.
Love is all you need, their hidden leader finishes, her voice strangely wet and hollow: You have all done very well. The cocoon is emptying, the butterfly emerges, and the new world we have worked towards for so long is almost upon us.
We live to serve, they all say in unison.
And you have served well. This would never have happened without all your efforts. I thank you all for your service, sacrifice, and hard work.
We live to serve, they repeat, proud of what they have done.
Now comes the true transformation, she says: You know what you each must do. Are you all ready for what comes next? Are you prepared for further work towards the goal? Are you ready to sacrifice?
We live to serve, they repeat (some more readily than others).
Then we can begin, she says: I love you all so very much. I wish there was not the need for pain, now. But remember that what you do, you do for tomorrow. The caterpillar must bury itself alive and sleep before the butterfly can come out and soar.
We are ready to sleep, some of them say.
We are prepared to soar, others respond.
Then be on your way, my loves, their leader says: Dragon, the next step is yours.
I am prepared to soar, he says, crying in joy once again.
And then he executes the program he just finished uploading.
* * *The first intimation that Second gets concerning the doomed nature of the plan is how the Specials they're advancing on, in the Engineering deck, suddenly stop firing and grab onto well-secured bulkheads. For a moment he wonders if maybe they're going to open the exterior hatches and try to flush them out in midair, but then he feels a strange, static charge building on the floor plates, and he realizes what's about to happen.
"Grab onto something!" he screams: "The Flier's about to shift!"
Every long-time Agent in the room knows exactly what that means, and immediately run to mirror their opponents' actions. The ones who were just shuffled in aren't quite so quick on the uptake, though, and that's why they die horribly after the next three and a half seconds.
The last time this happened, the Flier was fixed -- or so they thought -- in midair. The nanite swarms that rebuilt the Flier after its apocalyptic battle with the Legion's Skull were reactivated and put to work making the great machine work perfectly again, only to come back to life partway through the battle and jam up almost all systems. Since then they've been asleep, and all repairs have been handled manually, so as to not rouse the potentially dangerous mini-machines.
This time, the Flier is not so much fixed or rebuilt as recreated. The decks melt and coalesce into one another. Rooms are picked up and moved elsewhere. Weapon platforms are switched around, engines are repositioned, and the control deck is slid up to the very top of what is becoming a very insectile war machine.
Anyone who was hanging onto a bulkhead for dear life was lucky enough to spend up to ten nightmarish seconds of having their well-regulated world turned upside down, sideways, and inside out as everything around it shifted in position and molecular structure. Anyone who failed to heed the warning was most likely swallowed up by suddenly-porous metal and plastic, and ultimately !@#$ out the bottom or sides of the Flier like so much garbage.
And as for those who were lucky enough to grab onto something solid, there's still the issue of having all the air sucked out of the ship, and dealing with the sudden drop in temperature. Second tries to hold his breath for as long as he can, but when he starts blacking out and the ship hasn't stopped moving yet, it's all he can do to hook his feet into the bulkhead's emergency bars and hope he doesn't slip away.
He looks back down the hall and realizes he can't see New Man, anymore. Is he alive or dead? He can't be sure.
"Not like this..." he grunts, realizing that he's seeing more black than light, right now: "Not like this..."
But then he's closed his eyes for longer than he wanted, and the blackness welcomes him in.
(SPYGOD is listening to No Love Lost (Joy Division) and having The Love)