"And then the Imago came, and saved our leaders, which is part two. And then they tell us that they'd also come to save us from ourselves. That they would be watching us for a time. Protecting us. This is part three. You know all this, already."
"We do, yes," Sir George says, running a finger along the lip of his shotglass: "Just as we know that the Imago were lying, and clearly had their own agenda."
"And just as we know that they've been quite ruthless about enforcing that agenda," Khalil adds: "Many who were leaders in Africa on that day are not leaders now. And their families..."
"Dead, or worse," Dosha finishes his sentence, pushing his glass over towards Mikhail in hopes of a refill.
"Yes, my friends," Mikhail says, filling up Dosha's glass and offering the same to others: "And worse, well... you have seen how keen they are to separate parents from children, especially in the places where they have given work to the people. They have made it clear that they can take anything they want from you. Take anyone. It is not hard to convince people to say what they want said, and do what they want done, when your children will pay the price if you do not.
"But Israel? Ah, they are nothing but trouble, right from the start.
"Part one does not happen in Israel. The revolutionary fools who try to take Israeli government are smashed to pieces. The idiots who try to take down Palestinian Authority? Also smashed."
"Why them?" Dosha asks: "What is so special about them?"
"It seems that both sides have many precognitives, who are screaming that something terrible is to happen on 3/15, but do not know !@#$ing what it is. Naturally they suspect one another, and remain on quiet high alert. So when revolutionaries strike, everyone's Supers are there. And they smash them."
"Smashing," Sir George smiles, downing his new shot: "So what went wrong?"
"The Imago come down, and you can tell they are not happy," Mikhail continues: "They are expecting things to be one way, and they are other way. So they do their best to go to part three without there being part one or part two. But no one is having this !@#$. Both sides, they are saying 'Who are you?' And 'Who do you think you are to tell us these things?'
"This does not go over very well. The Imago want Israel and Palestinian Authority to broadcast to their peoples the things they wish them to say. Again, both sides, they are saying 'Who are you?'"
"What did the Imago do?" Khalil asks, looking very pale.
"At first? Nothing," Mikhail continues, taking a swig of vodka straight from the bottle: "They say 'fine, be !@#$holes.' They !@#$ off to the sky, or thin air. They leave the Israelis and Palestinians to fend for themselves, no imports or exports, no emergency supplies.
"But, you know these peoples. Both are used to eating !@#$ and !@#$ing gold. They are little shaky at first, but soon they are fine. No problem, yes?
"And then, at last, Imago come back again. This is months later, after Presidential trials are all over, and last American President is man who fell to Earth. And now they say they need Israel and Palestinian Authority to tell their people things. They need to organize people to work, to prepare the Earth from this danger that is coming. They want to take their mentally incompetent away to be healed, and their children away to be educated. Same thing they do in some places."
"Again, why Israel?" Dosha asks: "It seems that most places where the populations were taken from major metropolitan areas and set up in tent cities are less developed places, in less developed countries. Most of India has been resettled, with only places like New Delhi still as it was."
"And Africa," Khalil adds, agreeing: "Major cities like Nairobi and Addis Ababa were left alone, but everything outside of them was uprooted."
"Maybe to punish them for being so !@#$ stubborn," Sir George offers: "Maybe they really hate Jews and Palis. Who can say? World conquerors don't always have rational reasons."
"Is good point," Mikhail says, pouring him some more vodka: "Who can say? But what happens next, we can say. Because we have seen."
He shudders, and takes another swig.
* * *
In a darkened room with one, shuttered window, not too far away from Poke's, two Thai men -- one young, one middle-aged -- are standing by a large, metal crate. They smoke bad cigarettes and wait, occasionally thumbing their very large, loosely-holstered pistols, and shooting nervous looks at the crate.
Especially when they hear what's inside of it move.
"Why haven't they called, yet?" the younger man asks, looking at the cellphone over on a table with no chairs. It's sitting next to a small, wooden box that's quite old, but has a very new lock on it.
"Because they haven't called, yet," the older man sighs, wishing the kid they'd stuck him with would learn to relax.
"They really should have !@#$ing called by now-"
"Shut up," the older one says, slicking back his hair and wishing this safehouse had a !@#$ air conditioner that worked.
"You know I'm right. They should have called by now."
"And I'm telling you to shut up," the other man says, walking to the window and looking out for no real reason: "You know how this is. We'll be called when we're called. Until then, we are patient."
The younger man sighs. He joined Internal Security to have more control over his own situation, but since those Imago bastards showed up, it's been less about having control, and more about people having control over him.
(Of course, upon reflection, he realizes ISOC's always been that way. It was just a better illusion before 3/15.)
Finally, the slim, black cellphone rings. They both look at it, and then at each other, and realize no one wants to actually answer it. But after the third ring, the older man sighs, walks over, and bites the bullet.
"Yeah," he says, listening: "Pokes? ... Okay, that makes sense. ... You want them all dead? ... Okay, no problem. We'll tell her."
He hangs up, puts the phone down, and pulls out his pistol. He nods to the younger man, who gulps, and then, very slowly, goes over to one side of the crate. There's a hidden keypad, there, and he types in the combination that opens it up.
The well-oiled metal slides open like a flower greeting the sun, and then there's a woman in the room with them. She's wearing a simple shirt over a flowing skirt, like what a country girl might. Her skin is as pale as the Moon, and her eyes are blood red with black, nickel-sized pupils.
And her jet-black lips are curdled into a very nasty frown, looking at the two men.
"Hello, Amporn," the older man says: "You remember me from last time, right? You know what this gun does, and what we have."
"When do I get it back?" she demands, her voice deeper than it should be for one so seemingly frail and light.
"We're not sure, yet," he says, and this is the truth: "Things have changed. But soon, I think."
"That's what they said twenty years ago," she accuses: "You have no truth to you. I will enjoy taking you, when they tell me."
"You be quiet!" the younger man shouts, pointing his gun at the box at the table: "I will !@#$ing shoot it, you !@#$. Don't think I won't."
"And I won't stop him," the older man says, trying to mask his annoyance at the younger agent's outburst: "We can always find another thing like you. Maybe Cambodia, this time. I hear the ones up there have better manners."
The girl smiles. Her teeth are white, long, and jagged, like the shards of a broken plate: "I will have your wife, before I have you. I'll wait until she's with your child, and suck it out of her in the night. And then I'll slop its broken, little body into your mouth as I'm having you, just to hear the sounds you make..."
The younger agent picks that moment to be horribly, violently sick. The girl laughs at his nausea and embarrassment as he scuttles away from her, trying to regain control and point his gun at the box.
"You nasty little !@#$!" the older man shouts: "If we didn't need you..."
"Oh, but that's just it," she smiles: "You do need me. And that's why you won't hurt what's in the box, and you won't even breathe on my body, when I leave. Now will you?"
She has them there, and they know it.
"Now, what are my orders... master?"
"The bar, Pokes, over on Silom Soi 4. On the second floor there's a table. There are four farang there: a Russian, an Indian, an African, and an Englishman. You will go there and kill them all, and then return here."
"Are they special?"
"We suspect one or more of them may be, but we're not sure how. The Indian has a special man, but he's gone and won't be disturbing you."
"He'd better not," she says, stretching her back and arms: "I'm hungry enough to eat ten men, today."
"Well, go have your meal, woman," the older man says: "You have an hour. After that, we burn your body. Same as always."
"Same as always," she repeats, looking at them with luscious contempt.
And then, with the wet rushing of unspeakable things, she's gone.
* * *
"It starts in Jerusalem," Mikhail continues, after a moment: "In house of government. There is cabinet meeting, and it is being taped for posterity. They are deciding something important and want record of it.
"Halfway through meeting, Imago show up, and tell Prime Minister to get all his people there. And he does this, but who knows why. He gets other Party heads, the President, some ambassadors. Maybe he is wanting an audience. Maybe he wants strength in numbers.
"And then, once they are all there, these Imago start to tell him what he will be doing, and saying. Like old Soviets, they make it sound like good things, and important things, and how could he possibly resist such sensible commands?
"And there, in front of his people, and the heads of the other parties, and the President of Israel, he says 'No.'
"And they are shocked, and ask him to repeat himself. To explain himself.
"But he says 'No, I will not do these things. I am not your puppet. I am the leader, here, and we do not do things because metal men from the past come and tell us America has gone insane and a space monster is coming to Earth. If America had attacked us, we would have known. And if there is such a monster, we will fight it off, with others if we can, by ourselves if need be.
"'But this is Israel. It was purchased in blood. It was won through combat. It has been secured, time and again, by the sacrifice of its people. We will not do what you tell us to do, because you do not have the right.'"
Sir George blinks: "Bravo. I would have never thought he had that in him."
"Maybe he did not know, either. But this speech, it made them very angry. So one of them teleports away, and when it comes back it has his wife."
"Oh no," Khalil says, knowing what's coming next.
"This does not deter him," Mikhail continues: "Not even when her head is on his desk and her body is out in the street, having been thrown through the window. He is screaming, and so is everyone there, but still he is saying 'no.'
"So they find his children, and ask him one more time. And, again, he says 'no.'"
Mikhail stops, picks up the bottle, and is about to have another swig, but then puts it down. He closes his eyes for a moment, and when he opens them they are very wet.
"I forget who succeeds the Prime Minister in case of sudden death," he continues: "So I do not know who they ask once the Prime Minister is sent out of window to join his wife and children in street below. But I know that person also says no. And the President says no. And next person after that says no. And no and no and no, all the way down.
"Eventually, is just down to one cabinet minister. And she stands there, covered in blood of her colleagues and friends and rivals, and people did she did not truly know until this day, and looking at her husband's frightened eyes as some metal man has his hands around his neck, like chicken for the pot. And she says to them 'You are tiny. You are nothing. You have nothing on your side but lies and tricks. And you will find no one here who will say yes to you, because this is Israel, and whatever reason God put us here, it was not to say yes to the likes of you.'"
The Russian finally has that swig.
"So they went to the Palestinians next?" Dosha asks.
"Oh yes," Mikhail says: "And that is when things get really bad."