Sunday, October 28, 2012

9/09/12 - Climbing the Moon, Heading for the Stars

There will be no fight. You were given no opportunity. Nothing was left to chance.

We have taken the world in our hands. From this moment onward, you will be ruled.

We control Deep Ten. Your ability to make war on us is nonexistent. 

Your Strategic Talents have been neutralized. 

Your leaders will soon sing our praises and convince their citizens that ours is the greater good.

They will be well fed and cared for. Occupied and content. Safe from petty tyrannies and their accompanying tortures, protected from the worst things life could offer.

They will have the illusion of liberty. And with just enough freedom and enfranchisement to feel as though nothing is missing, and everything is in order.

And within one generation, they will know nothing else but what we tell them.

* * *

At the ragged edge of a deep, dark forest full of trees that are thousands of years old, there's a massive, multi-storied treehouse, high up in the cyclopean boughs of the tallest one there.

It's not in the greatest of repair, that treehouse. Once it was a well-appointed thing, looking a lot like some Queen Anne-style mansion, hewn from fallen timber and living wood, and then nestled amongst the humungous branches of a tree like some strange, surrealist bauble.

A house in a globe in a Christmas tree as tall as skyscraper.

But the ornament has clearly fallen on hard times. The once-shining wooden walls are cracked and rotting, and their screen windows are ripped and frayed. The many roofs are moldered and collapsed, and every so often a large piece of the structure creaks, cracks, and falls down when the tree sways in the wind.

It's not a safe thing to be there, clearly, but yet there are many signs of life and reoccupation. Minor repairs have been done, recently, and new, shiny electronic equipment has been hung from some of the porches, and attached to the better roofs. Antennas and receivers carry information back and forth, and automated defense batteries stare down any would-be intruders.

Especially the flocks of pterodactyls, who -- smelling prey within -- are rather keen to try and attack the seemingly weak, wooden structure, and aren't smart enough to understand that the streams of metal that splatter them whenever they do aren't going away anytime soon.

* * *

Not long after a failed pterodactyl run, a well-tanned, lone figure stands stands on one of the porches, sipping water from a bottle and watching the wildlife, above and below.

There's a herd of herbivores of some -saurus stripe, down there, and he's wondering if something nasty's going to come through and try to slaughter them, again. He's tempted to bring one of the special rifles out here, with him, to make sure that doesn't happen. But he figures that, if he does, he'll get another lecture about nature and nurture and all that !@#$.

(Either that or the recoil will make the porch fall right off, and take him with it.)

And while there was a time that Myron might not have minded that, so much, these days he's feeling a lot better about himself, and his place in the larger scheme of things. His survivor's guilt is mostly washed away, and he no longer feels stupid, or useless, or out of place. 

That's not the only change that's gone on; he's a lot thinner than he was -- slimmed and tanned by his time working in the Sun, here. He moves quicker and easier than he has in years, and just feels more at ease with himself. 

And the sunglasses? Gone, except for the ones he wears to keep from getting blinded around Noon, when the Sun's at its highest and most bright. 

He sips some more water, swishes, and spits some over the wooden railing, watching it bead out as it plummets to the ground, far below. He'd kill for some !@#$ing Pepsi, which reminds him of a song he hasn't heard in forever, and that makes him chuckle, just a little.

"Careful," a sing-songy voice warns him from the door: "You keep !@#$ing laughing they're gonna !@#$ing realize you're not as big of a hard!@#$ as you pretend to be."

"I get three introspective chortles a day," he says, turning to look at the tall, somewhat gawky teen girl coming out onto the porch: "It's in my contract."

"Which one? The scientist who saves the !@#$ing world or the recovering supervillain?"

"They're kind of the same," he says, wishing she wouldn't !@#$ing bring the last one up, anymore. 

"Yeah, well," she grins, stopping just a little short of being too close to him. He looks at her and smiles. She looks away, and down. 

Myron's not 100% sure what the !@#$ happened to Winifred. She knows a lot about certain terrible things that Imago was doing, and barely escaped with her life after finding them out. But what happened between the time she found it out and when the others found her is something she hasn't shared with too many people. 

(He suspects it was !@#$ terrible, which is sad. He also suspects she's got something of a crush on him, which is really awkward and inconvenient, to say the least.)

"Anyway, I was !@#$ing looking for you," Winifred says, still not really looking Myron in the eye: "Fred's calling. He says they're !@#$ing ready to send over another group, and !@#$."

"Cool," Myron replies, turning and heading for the door, and not being too surprised that she walks quickly ahead of him: "Any idea who's in this group?"

"No !@#$ing idea, but I sure !@#$ing hope they got my !@#$ AV request in."

"Holding out for BSG?"

"You know it!"

"Old or new?" he teases.

"Oh, let's not start that !@#$ again..."

* * *

"Okay, I think we're good on this end," Mark Clutch says into the microphone on the really large bank of stolen computers and cobbled-together controls that have come to dominate what used to be the grand buffet room of this tree mansion. 

"Roger," a creaky, scratchy voice replies from the other end: "We'll be sending in 60 seconds. Better get clear of the device."

"You got it," Mark replies, waving to everyone to stand well clear of the large apparatus the computers are all attached to. It looks like a gigantic television screen -- maybe the sort of thing you'd find up high in a sports stadium, only with a large pair of antennas, set at jaunty angles. Its screen glows with a strange, pulsing, grey-green light.

The machine starts making crackling, hissing noises as it warms up, and the banks of computers click and clack and whirl. Small arcs of electricity jump between metal surfaces, and those closest to the event horizon feel the hairs on their arms and legs standing up, which is as good an indication as any that they should back the !@#$ up.

At sixty seconds, a series of clicks go off as a bank of indicator lights turn on -- one right after the other. The pulsing light from the television screen gets brighter, and then faster, until it's a flickering strobe so powerful that onlookers need to shield their eyes, or cover them.

In the flickering light in front of the screen, human figures form: hazy and indistinct at first, but becoming sharper with each passing second. A rippling crack of displaced atmosphere, like a slow boom of thunder, rolls across the room -- shaking the entire treehouse as it goes.

And then, with a very loud hiss, the machine begins to decelerate. The whirling computers wind down, the indicator lights go off in reverse of the way they came on, and the pulsing becomes slower, and dimmer, until the onlookers can see who's just joined them, and how many boxes of supplies they've brought along.

An odd crew, this: mostly Middle-Eastern and African men and women, many of whom seem a little woozy and uncertain at their new surroundings. Mark and a few of the onlookers come forward with water, towels, and first aid kits, just in case.

"Thank you," the tallest man there says, gratefully taking water from Mark: "Are you Mr. Clutch?"

"I am. Aren't you the Lion? From Tunisia?"

"Algeria, actually," he says, shaking Mark's hand: "There was a Lion in Tunisia, but he was well before my time. I took my name from him in homage."

"Yeah, we get a lot of that," Mark smiles: "So who's who?"

"These are some of my allies, here with me. This gentleman here is The Wall, who is also from Algeria, and this lady is The Fist, from Egypt. The short fellow in the thobe is Running Bird, who comes from Mali. She is Skyspear, from the Sudan. I'm sure you can guess why this toothy fellow is called Crocodile, and this fellow here... um.... رجل الصل ?"

"Man of Steel," the metal-skinned man in the says, extending a hand to Mark: "From Fujairah, in the Emirates."

"And the man whose powers over metal have saved us from those Imago things quite a number of times," the Lion says, putting a friendly hand on the metal man's shoulder: "I thank God this man is on our side-"

"And I'm sure I need no introduction," another man -- the only pale skinned one in the group -- interrupts as he walks forward and looks at Mark, who does his best not to scowl.

"Green Man," Mark says, noticing how disheveled the fellow looks, his long black hair ratty and greasy, and his green eyes sunken: "It's been a while. How are you?"

"Not very well," the assassin says: "And you should know that I'm not here by choice."

"Well, I don't think anyone's really here by choice," Mark starts to say, but man's already stomped off towards the doors and out into the main hall. It's almost like he knows where he's going, and, considering his talents, he probably does.

"Is there some bad history, here?" The Lion asks, discreetly.

"You could say that," Mark replies: "But the least said about that, the better. There's some pressing issues and bad news waiting, and... well, I'm still trying to forgive."

"Always an admirable thing."

"So which direction is Mecca from this place?" Crocodile asks in a sibilant voice, scratching his scales as he does.

"Any way you want," Mark says, smiling.

* * *

After a meal -- which may or may not have been entirely halal -- and a penny tour, Mark brings the Lion up to see Myron, who's in the workshop with Winifred and a few other, young men and women. They've just busted into some of the supplies the latest group brought with them, and are taking full advantage of the boxes of circuits and wiring. 

"Myron?" Mark asks: "I've got the Lion, here."

"Oh, okay," Myron says: "Winifred, you keep doing what I showed you. Penworth, you and Harold unspool the wires and get the boards lined up in sequence. And the rest of you... just keep doing that thing."

"Okay, Myron," Winifred says: "And we are on for later, right?"

"Yeah, we are," the man says, trying not to sigh: "BSG and popcorn in the TV lounge."

"Dude!" she gives a thumbs up and then goes back to soldering what looks like a rifle with a radar dish where the barrel should be.

"She really does have a crush on you, Myron," Mark chuckles once they're outside, on a platform leading towards the tree, itself.

"Dude, she's 16," Myron says: "Why is that everyone who's interested in me is either a supercriminal or underage?"

"16?" The Lion says: "Back in my country, in some villages, she would already be promised to someone, and probably already be married."

"Maybe, but..." Myron sighs again: "I have to go by what I think is right. And I can't justify that. Even if she does have awesome electrical engineering skills."

"Then that's all there is to it," Mark says: "I'll leave you two to talk about things. I have some bad news to break to Green Man."

"Do you want someone there?" Myron asks: "Just in case he freaks out?"

"I don't think he will, somehow," Mark says: "But if you hear me scream and see me learn how to fly without wings or a parachute, come running?"

"Will do," Myron says, and they watch Mark walk back inside before speaking.

"More secrets?" the Lion asks.

"Superheroic family drama," Myron says: "The less you're involved, the better off you are. Trust me."

"I do, my friend. I am just a little weary of being kept in the dark."

"Well, I can only apologize for that, but I'm sure you understand why we're being so tight-lipped about things." 

"Oh, I do. But now that I and my friends are here...?"

"Knock yourself out."

"Then where are we, exactly?" the Lion asks, waving at the gigantic tree they're parked in: "The people in the flying saucer would not say where they were taking us, and the cartoons would not say where they were sending us. This has been quite the mystery tour."

"We are in an artificially created pocket dimension," Myron says: "It's a parallel Earth inside a force-grown parallel universe. The major difference between the worlds is that there was never a K-T Extinction Event-"

"A what?"

"You remember the theory that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a really big meteor? Here, it missed the Earth and went on to hit some other poor planet. So the ecosystem didn't have a massive die-off, dinosaurs never died out, and hominids never developed past the stage of being prey for giant, African thunder lizards."

"A parallel world," the Lion muses, looking around: "I did not realize he had access to that kind of technology."

"Well, it's really tenuous access," Myron explains: "Third-hand alien technology repurposed by a supervillain who didn't understand what he had on his hands, the way I heard it. Every time they fire it up they're not sure if it's going to make another world, shut down for good, or blow up and take half the planet with it."

"It seems reckless to keep it, then?"

"Well, did you ever think that SPYGOD wasn't a little reckless from time to time?"

The Lion chooses not to answer this, instead changing the subject a little: "I think I heard about this. This is where SPYGOD would take his youth organization, every year?"

"Well, not this one. That was B.A.S.E.C.A.M.P 3. And unfortunately, that got compromised in a big way."

"So what is this?"

"This is B.A.S.E.C.A.M.P. 4," Myron explains: "It was on standby in case anything happened to B.A.S.E.C.A.M.P. 3, and, considering what apparently happened to B.A.S.E.C.A.M.P.s 1 and 2, there was a good chance it'd happen to 3, eventually, too."

"What happened?"

Myron smiles: "That's gonna have to remain on the mystery tour, for right now. But trust me when I say that I wouldn't be doing you any favors if I did tell you. It gets to the heart of what we're up against."


"Imago, and some of what they're saying."

"So GORGON is not Imago?"

"GORGON's become Imago. How different they really are is something we don't know. Maybe they got taken over by a third party, and maybe this is something they've been working towards since the beginning. SPYGOD might have a better idea, but he's not volunteering any information, just yet."

"And he's not hiding out in the branches, drunk, is he?"

Myron laughs: "No, not today. He's out there, with the President, somewhere in Asia. I think the plan is for him to gather intel while we get ready to put certain things into play."

"And what of the other heroes?" The Lion asks: "Your Freedom Force?"

"They're going to be the loud distraction and rallying point while we get the actual work done."

"That sounds dangerous."

Myron smiles: "That's why we're heroes. The world's been conquered and turned into a combination labor camp and idiot farm. We have to free the slaves and awaken the stupefied. And we're going to have to pull them both off at the same time, and at the exact same moment Imago loses it offensive capabilities. Otherwise, they might decide to destroy what they can't rule, and that would be..."

"Bad," the Lion agrees: "Very bad."

"So what we're hoping is that you can tell us what you've seen back home," Myron continues: "And then, once we have a better picture, we can give you the tools and the skills to free your own people, when the time comes."

"And you think you will have those tools?"

Myron smiles: "We already do. We just have to make them bigger and badder. That and more portable."

"And these will win us our world back, insh'allah?"

"That's the plan. But it wouldn't hurt to have at least three backups. That and a lot of information on what's going on."

"I have the information," the Lion says: "It is... it is not a good thing to say or think of."

"Would you rather write it down?"

"If I do, I will probably soak the paper with tears," the man says, smiling sadly: "Better I tell you."

"Then I'm all ears."

The Lion nods, and looking around, begins to tell of what's been happening in Northern and Central Africa. It's not a good one to hear, and he breaks down a few times, both for air and for tears.

As he talks, and Myron listens, neither of them are aware that they are being listened to. The one they call the Man of Steel is on the porch directly above them, hearing every word they say.

And smirking, quite evilly.

(SPYGOD is listening to Don't Tell Me (Blancmange) and having a Tango Gold)

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