Tuesday, October 16, 2012

9/02/12 - The Miseducation of a Post-American President

"So this is training, huh?" the President asks SPYGOD as they march out into the deserts, north of Choibalsan.

"No," SPYGOD says, having a quick sip of water: "This is just the !@#$ing morning commute."

They've been walking for about an hour, now. Both of them are carrying heavy sacks full of food, supplies, and weapons, but where the President's starting to feel the weight, SPYGOD doesn't seem the slightest bit bothered by it.

"Nice scenery," the President says, seeing what looks like the burned-out shell of an old, VW bus over a bluff, off in the distance.

"That means we're here."


"Yep. Welcome to Camp !@#$ You Up, Mr. President. Got your five star accommodations, right over there. Best dining you can carry on your back. And if it rains, we'll have an Olympic swimming pool."


"Oh, wait until you see the entertainment," he says, turning to smile: "Now that's gonna be a !@#$ing hoot."

* * *

Saying that this wasn't exactly what the President had in mind when he agreed to let SPYGOD train him is something of a massive !@#$ing understatement.

Ever since SPYGOD reassembled himself, about a month ago, he'd been more missing than accounted for. He'd leave without saying goodbye, take a few provisions and weapons -- along with that strange, white button of his -- and then take off for a few days, sometimes a full week. And when he came back, he wouldn't really say where he'd gone, or what he'd been up to, or what he might have learned.

In the meantime, the President was happy to continue contributing to Altan Aduu's smuggling operation, such as it was. As there was no one to steal from, except the Imago, and no one to sell those stolen things to, he and his men had gone into lockdown mode. And, for them, that mostly consisted of hunting the bounty of the desert from horseback with their bows and arrows, cleaning their guns, and drinking themselves into liver failure.

That and telling stories, which Altan Aduu was rightly famous for. He had a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the great epics of the steppes, and knew all the famous tales of the great shamans, and the magnificent warriors that they taught their ways to. He could recite from memory how the armies of entire nations were routed from this land, or kept from ever coming in. Tales of kings and their horses, swords and their wielders, and the endless cycle of life and death that only a hard and rocky land like this could produce.

And there, in that cave, with the kumis turning his brains to jelly and the voice of the Golden Horse painting great and towering pictures in his mind, the President could actually see himself there, at those battles -- riding down foes with his horse and his sword, and telling them that they would go no further into this land without paying for it with their blood and their skulls.

So when SPYGOD came back, three days ago, and asked the President if he was tired of sitting around in a cave, and ready to take the war to the enemy, he said yes. Totally, wholly, and unequivocally. 

"No matter what?" SPYGOD asked, looking him in the eyes: "No matter how hard, how crazy?"

"Yes. Totally."

"And no matter what I might ask of you?" SPYGOD asked one more time, tentatively offering him his hand.

"No matter what," the President answered, taking it and shaking it.

And now, here they were, an hour from the caves, and the President was starting to realize that maybe this hadn't been such a good idea after all.

* * *

They get within twenty feet of the bluff, and the President realizes that it is, indeed, a VW bus. It looks like it was hit by a rocket launcher and left to burn. A firepit lies nearby, between some large rocks that were clearly meant to be sat upon.

"Camp !@#$ You Up, Mr. President," SPYGOD says, gently easing his pack down to the ground, unzipping his jacket, and taking it off without even breaking stride: "Last chance to back out of Hell."

"I told you, I'm not backing out of my obligations," the President says, turning to look around the landscape: "I owe it to the American people to help free them. And you said-"

The blow hits him square in the cheekbone, just as he's turned around to regard SPYGOD again. He didn't realize that the man could move twenty feet in a second, much less hammer his face hard enough to send him sprawling another ten feet away.

"Ow!" he says, lying in a heap and trying to reorient himself: "What the... what the heck was that?"

"That was lessons number one and two, Mr. President," SPYGOD says, slowly striding over to him, fists raised: "Lesson one? Never fail to expect danger. Lesson two? Never turn your back on a potential opponent."

"I think you broke my face."

"Better that than your neck," SPYGOD says, reaching out a hand to help him up. The President takes it, and is grateful for the assist, at least until he realizes that he's being grabbed and thrown another ten feet -- landing just short of dashing his brains out on a rock.

"Lesson three," SPYGOD says, holding up three fingers: "Never trust a potential opponent."

"Oh, you gotta be kidding me," the President says, feeling his ribs and wondering if something's been broken: "We just got here!"

"Yes. And if this was a real Hell Month, back with the COMPANY, you'd just be leaving. I'd have bounced your skinny !@#$ out right here and now, just for being that !@#$ing dumb."

The President glares at SPYGOD: "Maybe you should remember who's in charge, here-"

"Not you," SPYGOD says, slowly walking over to him: "You stopped being anything more than an ordinary American citizen the moment America stopped being self-ruled. You have no Secret Service, no Armed Forces, no Press Secretary. You don't even have your Vice President to let out of the kennel, anymore. He's ashes in the stratosphere, Mr. President. And from what I heard, he was a lot braver than you."

"How dare you!"

"That's all we got right now, Mr. President," SPYGOD says, getting in close and leaning into his former employer, now employee: "Daring. It's what turns hope into change, in case you didn't notice. It's what takes a group of untrained men and women and makes them into warriors.

"Now, I can give you the skills to exploit what you do have. I can help you stay alive long enough to use the fact that you were the President of the United States of America, and are still beloved by some, and seen as a beacon of hope. That, plus all the secrets you had access to, are what you bring to this mix, and make you uniquely useful. And that's why I'm willing to cut you a !@#$ of a lot more slack than I would have ever given to some fresh-faced little skinweasel who thought being in the COMPANY was going to be all puppy dogs and sugar sticks and a free gun longer than his stunted, warty !@#$.

"I never said it was going to be easy, Mr. President. In fact, it is going to be very !@#$ing painful. You will lose teeth and break bones. You will !@#$ blood and !@#$ black tar. You are going eat raw vermin, drink your own !@#$, and pray for rain.

"And you will go to bed thinking you're going to die in your sleep, and wake up wishing you had.

"But out of that hurt will come knowledge, and technique, and understanding. And when you have those things, you will be able to take what you already have and apply it to what we're going to do, together, to make you the President of the United States of America, again.

"And you will only be the President of the United States of America when you're sitting in whatever's left of the Oval Office, staring the American people in the face on whatever kind of real television we can cobble together for the occasion, and saying to them 'My fellow Americans, I realize seeing me must come as a shock, but I am happy to say that reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I have walked through !@#$ and fire and flame to be here, again, and will be happy to tell you what exactly happened when we have more time, and are in less danger. But I am ready and willing to resume the office, duties, and responsibilities of the office you elected me to, if you will have me continue. And now, let's take back our !@#$ country.'

"I don't think I'm going to use that kind of language on national television, SPYGOD," the President says, trying to get back up again: "But you have made your point."

"I sure !@#$ing hope so," SPYGOD says, taking a step back: "Because you are not the President. And I am not your COMPANY director. You fired me and then got your !@#$ exiled to Planet Mother!@#$er. So right now you're just some guy who may or may not be an instrumental part in saving this !@#$ing world from the tin !@#$ers who took it over, and I am the very unamused and impatient man who gets to teach you how to be that part.

"And any more whining out of you, and you can go back to Altan's swinging bachelor's pad, and spend the rest of this revolution sitting on your !@#$, shooting arrows, drinking radioactive mare's milk, and avoiding buttsex."

SPYGOD stares at the President, who stares back. By degrees, each softens their stare. And then, SPYGOD reaches out a hand to help the President up.

The President almost reaches out to take it, but then stops in mid-motion, glares at his brutal teacher, and -- without taking his eyes off of his opponent's eyes -- slowly and painfully gets to his feet again.

"Good," SPYGOD says: "You're learning. Now take your pack, scrounge for firewood and water, and get a fire going with a pot of boiling water so we can have some tea. I'm going to disappear and watch you.

"And if you let your guard down for even a second while you're doing it? I'll !@#$ing break one of your bones."

The President blinks. SPYGOD vanishes. And, with a deep, raggedy breath -- and the understanding that he could be !@#$ed up at any moment -- the President does as he's told, all the while keeping a eye and an ear open for the scary, sudden sound of SPYGOD making good on his threat.

And when he finally dares to make himself a pot of tea, maybe around two in the morning, he has to admit that it's the best tea he's ever had in his life.

(SPYGOD is listening to Barrel of a Gun (Depeche Mode) and having tea)

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