Over the course of the next two days, the President gets taken on a whirlwind tour of the exciting world of edged weapons. He learns to handle, wield, and get the !@#$ away from pocket knives, hunting knives, box cutters, short swords, long swords, axes, hatchets, foils, kama, and chainswords. The last one has him pretty freaked out -- especially when SPYGOD tells him he will take off an arm if he doesn't fight like !@#$ -- but eventually, after a few close shaves, he gets the hang of the noisy, whirling things.
He also gets shown how to use caltrops, throwing stars, chakrams, surujin, and throwing knives, both offensively and defensively. Whips are cracked, chains are swung, and garottes are pulled. Nunchaku are flailed, singly and in pairs, and sansetsukon quickly abandoned in favor of things less likely to rebound as painfully.
War fans are tried out, as are weird shield-and-blade combinations, and tridents and nets. Bo staffs, quarter staffs, tonfa, canes, nail hammers, war hammers, makeshift spears, and ordinary sticks are banged and cracked about them, and occasionally thrown.
All the while, through the lumps and bruises and cuts, the President slowly comes to understand some key concepts. He learns when to push an advantage, and when to step away from it. He learns when to circle and when to block. He comes to expect an attack, and know when his opponent is expecting his attack, or is actually off guard.
Most importantly, he learns to duck.
* * *
"Please explain what has happened here, tonight," the Orange-and-Violet Imago gently demands of the maimed security guard, whose face looks like he went about ten rounds with a young and vibrant Muhammad Ali.
"I have no !@#$ing idea," he says, eyes fluttering as the pain medication almost puts him to sleep: "Was just doing.... doing my job... you know, and... woke up... she hit me..."
"This man really should be in a hospital," the EMT keeping the guard alive complains, though not as forcibly as he should: "Please let me save his life. You can ask him questions later, surely."
The Imago looks down at the EMT, and waves him to the side. The technician gets out of the armored being's way, and watches with horror as he drives his metal thumbs into the man's spastic sockets. The crunch of eyes turning to bloody jelly fills the room, and then the man screams in pain and surprise, but it's quickly shut off as what's left of his body spasms, and he starts foaming at the mouth.
"You will show me, O human," the Imago says, his eyes going white and glowing, ever so slightly: "What took place here, tonight?"
And he sees
the monitors in the hospital's B-level security office. It's a pretty boring job, especially since B-level handles persistent vegetatives, comas, and the like. Generally speaking, the most excitement they see is when yet another nurse gets caught taking undue advantage of one of the better-looking patients, and no one wants to deal with that !@#$.
It's a quiet night, tonight. 20 channels and nothing's on but the Hallway Show, over and over. Bill takes a sip of his McDonalds soft drink and wonders if there's any fries left in the bottom of the bag. But when he goes to check, he gets the feeling he missed something on screen four.
He looks at the video for that camera. He takes it off current play and rewinds it a bit. Sure enough, something moved past it.
One of the patients, from the looks of it. A young woman, wearing nothing at all and trailing some of her IV tubes behind her.
And the look in her eyes... holy !@#$.
"Hey, I think we got a Lazarus," he says into his communicator as he tries to figure out who she is: "Building one, Level B, hallway two, heading for the concourse. Joe, you're there. Can you intercept?"
"Yeah, I'll do it," Joe says, and Bill can see him heading for her. For a time the story is played out in dueling camera angles as the two come closer to each other, and then, finally, he and her are in the same frame.
"Excuse me, miss?" he says, trying to be helpful: "Can you hold up for a moment? Do you know where you are?"
"I'm..." Bill hears her say, and then he remembers how he knows her. She's a Jane Doe, brought over from a military operation in the crazy days after 3/15. The Marines told them to look after her for the time being, and not ask any more questions than that, and then... well, after everything that happened, they were pretty much waiting for the Imago to show up and do something with her.
But they never did.
Bill's too busy processing all that to realize that the woman's just subdued Joe with her bare hands, and has taken his gun and belt. But the moment he understands what's happened, he makes up for it by putting the building on alert, calling in every guard they have and the police, and heading out to confront her, himself.
It's just one girl with a gun, he tells himself as he races towards her last position. She just woke up from a !@#$ing coma, and is probably delusional, deranged, and thinks she's still dreaming. Surely he can talk her down, or at least take her down without too much hurt.
But then he's turned the right corner at the wrong moment, and she's waiting for him, and he realizes that Joe isn't just down, but dead.
And after she's done with him...
The Imago takes his thumbs from the now-dead man's bloody, smashed in eyes. His own go from pale and glowing to normal, once more, and he gets up, looking around.
"That woman must be found," he says to no one there: "She is a danger to us."
Do you know who she is? he hears his leader ask, her voice sultry and wet.
"Yes. She was with SPYGOD before he vanished. She may know where he is. She may know his plans."
Then we shall find her, the leader says: See to her capture.
"I shall do this," he says, smiling to have been given such an important task.
Then he looks to the EMT who overheard all that, and smiles. Then a pair of crackling, bright orange beams of light shoot from his eyes and strike the poor man in his.
The technician doesn't even have time to scream before his brain's been atomized, and he falls down dead, his sockets smoking and burning.
"Your understanding is appreciated, O citizen," Orange-and-Violet says as he strides away from the two bodies he's just made.
* * *
At the end of the second day, SPYGOD lets the President have an hour to himself. He spends that hour resting as he was taught: his conscious brain relaxed, his body healing, and his more primitive instincts on guard in case his tutor should happen to go back on his word and try to kill him.
Which, of course, SPYGOD does: right at the 38-minute mark, with a curved sword the President's only ever seen hanging on walls in Saudi Arabian palaces. He dodges out of the way at the last minute, letting his opponent crash to the ground right where he was. And then he's up and scrambling, improvising on the run.
He grabs a large, oddly shaped rock and a short, heavy stick that were nearby, holding them up like they were a paired shield and blade. And he circles his opponent, sizing up the attack to come.
"Excellent reflexes, Mr. President," SPYGOD says, smiling cruelly: "And excellent escape and recover. Not crazy about the weapon choices, though."
"I left the chainsword back at the firepit," he answers, not allowing even an iota of self-doubt to enter his mind.
"Well, too !@#$ing bad for you," SPYGOD says, slashing wildly in an attempt to throw him off balance: "his one's no quarter, Mr. President. You either !@#$ me up the !@#$ up or I will take your !@#$ing head off at the neck."
The President doesn't talk back to that. Instead he concentrates on the patterns he's been learning, and watches for an opening. He lets the blade crash into the rock a few times, striking back with the stick when he can, and trying to keep the curved, sharp weapon from slicing into it, or his own flesh, as he goes.
After one thump too many, SPYGOD changes it up a bit, aiming specifically for the stick. The President lets him shave an inch off the end, then almost hit it a few times, and then gives him the mother of all openings.
But the second SPYGOD takes advantage of it, and over-extends in a bid to slice it off just above the President's fist, the President lets go of the stick. The blade hits it, but does not cut, and travels down past the President's knees. And then the President quickly hurls the rock at his opponent's exposed face.
The crack of SPYGOD's jaw breaking sounds like a gunshot. He screams in pain and rage, and tries to whip his weapon around to take out the President's ankle.
But the President is already moving forward, well past the range of the blade, and follows up the rock with a perfect, bare-fist killing strike to the throat.
SPYGOD coughs, gurgles, drops his sword, and then falls to the ground, clutching at his crushed throat. He lies there for a second and looks !@#$ stupid. And then he blinks, wiggles his jaw back into place, and takes a raggedy, deep breath, letting his larynx squeeze itself back out again.
"That was !@#$ good, Mr. President," he says, extending a hand up, as if wanting to be pulled to his feet. The President smiles and takes two steps back, his hands still up and ready to deflect or attack.
"And that was even better," SPYGOD says, getting up on his own and collecting his curved sword: "You recognize this weapon?"
"It's a scimitar, isn't it?"
"It is. Altan took it off one of those !@#$head jihadis from Afghanistan. Dumb !@#$er thought it brought him luck. Should have carried an extra pistol, instead. Might have lived."
"It's beautiful," the President says, watching it glint in the Sun, and seeing the detailed engraving along the blade.
"That it is. A perfect unity of form and function, decorated with love and piety. Pretty !@#$ good edged weapon, too."
Then he whips it around at the President, who actually manages to catch the flat of the blade between two hands and hold it in place.
"And !@#$ scary when you get it going," he says: "Don't make me embarass you twice in five minutes, SPYGOD."
His tutor smiles, and loosens his grip slightly. Only then does the President release his hold on the weapon, and take another step back.
"I'd like to learn how to use it," the President says: "When you're willing to teach me."
"Maybe another time," SPYGOD says, carefully turning his back on the President and walking back towards the fire: "You go catch us some dinner and I'll get the fire going. You get to sleep uninterrupted, tonight."
"Really?" the President says, raising an eyebrow.
"This time for real. You have earned it, today. And tomorrow we need to talk about something really !@#$ important."
"How to sew my head back on?"
SPYGOD chuckles: "More like how to avoid getting it shot off."
With that, he's moving again. And there's no point trying to get any more out of him.
Not tonight, anyway.
(SPYGOD is listening to Depeche Mode (Enjoy the Silence) and having an Aroma Coma )