The walls writhe and pulse with generations of strangely-colored spiders the size of a young boy's hand, none of which care to skitter out of the way of the flashlight beam the way such things should. The ceiling and walls have collapsed in some areas, especially around the center of the city above, necessitating close squeezes and careful crawls around the falls.
And this means getting up close and personal with the legions of arachnids, leading to bites that they only hope aren't poisonous, or worse.
Along the way there are revelations -- broken doors and collapsed walls revealing treasures from a bygone age. Old soviet powersuits rust in the damp, awaiting a war that will never come, now. Rack upon rack of fully-grown clone soldiers rot in their jars, the preservatives having long since ceased to be worth the name. Harvested psychic brains still kept alive after all these years feebly whisper of missile launches yet to come, unaware that no one has listened to them for almost a quarter of a century.
"Ah, Sverdlovsk," SPYGOD says as he regards the ruins of a captured alien spacecraft more jellyfish than saucer: "You guys really had some weird !@#$ going on here, back in the day."
"You should know," the ex-President of Russia says, itching a very bad spiderbite at his neck: "You penetrated the defenses enough times, you and your men. Did you not stop to look? Or were we chasing you too swiftly?"
"Mission specific maneuvers, Valentina" he says, casting his flashlight back on the path ahead: "If you come for the crown jewels you don't have !@#$ing time to grab the Rolls Royce, too."
"Unless you can escape in it."
"Spoken like a true professional."
"And you would know, wouldn't you?"
"Says the man I caught !@#$ing napping in his safehouse," SPYGOD snorts: "How much were you paying that poor metal !@$ to be your human shield? You should get your money back."
"Perhaps I will," the ex-President says. And something about how he says it -- and how he reacts to SPYGOD's silence at the end of that reply -- tells SPYGOD that he knows what's coming next.
Which makes him just a little more dangerous, now. But it's not like he can get away from down here, now is it? All SPYGOD needs to do is step on the flashlight, and he's !@#$ing dead.
And the more he thinks of it, the more he thinks he might just do that.
* * *
The President of the United States of America breathes slowly, trying to enter the slow, grey space he needs to be in to make this shot work. He imagines the rifle as an extension of his own body: his eye the scope, his finger the barrel and the trigger.
The bullets his will to see this man dead.
He blanks his mind of any thoughts of that man. They did not work together, or talk together. He did not teach the man how to blend in better, and shake his security detail. They did not share confidences as one leader to another. They did not laugh at jokes or have that one meal, at a corner noodle place that the man liked to visit incognito.
He is not betraying him now, even though he is.
But it is one betrayal for the freedom of the world. One death to save billions of lives.
And then he takes a deep breath, compensates for the wind, and makes ready to pull the trigger back as soon as the target -- no longer deserving of a name -- comes into view.
Any second now.
* * *
"This is it," SPYGOD's captive says, gesturing to a sealed door to his left. It's a big, green, metal thing, with a keypad attached to it, and what looks like a rifle sight attached to that.
"The room containing all the !@#$ files on Unit 731," SPYGOD says: "That and all the equipment you had up there, trying to replicate their results. All grabbed and shoved down the memory hole after that little accident with the !@#$ing anthrax. Just like this city's old name, huh?"
"That would be correct," the man says: "But as always, the memory hole is not always final. We keep some things alive, just in case."
"And boy is that !@#$ing good for you," SPYGOD sneers: "Open it up. Let's see what's been keeping your sorry !@#$ alive for the last few days."
"But let me ask you this," the ex-President turns to look SPYGOD in the eye: "Do you really think you will have the time to find what you need to? There is a lot of information in there. Files upon files, in Japanese, Chinese, Russian... you would need an army to sift through it, and another to decode its many secrets."
"So you're saying it's too tough, and I should just !@#$ing quit?"
"I'm not saying you should quit, but I am saying-"
A crack across the face with the butt end of a gun ends his sensible talk, and he holds his hand to his cheek, wondering if it's broken.
"You need to hear what I am saying, Valentina," SPYGOD says, getting right in his face and putting a finger right between his eyes: "Right now, you are looking at a desperate man. I have a planet to save, and so far the only way I've found to do it is to do something that is so !@#$ing terrible, that even I couldn't !@#$ing live with myself if I had to do it. And if anyone ever finds out that I did it, I'd be !@#$ing tossed in a cell and thrown into the !@#$ Sun to roast like a human marshmallow.
"Now, do I look like I want to be turned into a !@#$ing human marshmallow, Valentina? Because something tells me you know the answer to that is 'no.' And that means that if the only way to find a solution to this problem is to go in there, get on my hands and knees, and root around like a pig to find out if there's something about GORGON that wasn't in the files in Beijing, then by God I will !@#$ing get on my hands and knees and root around like a !@#$ pig. I'll even !@#$ing squeal and roll around in mud if it'll help.
"Now are you going to help me save the world, or am I going to jam your !@#$ing skull into that retinal reader and guess at combinations until I get the right one?"
The ex-President looks at him, and then at the reader, and then goes to the door. He puts his eye up to the sight and types in a six-digit code. A light shines from inside the sight, and he steps back, squinting at its brightness.
And then, with a foul, metal-and-oil smell and a satanic hiss, the green metal door slides out, then in, and then to the left, revealing a dark hole beyond.
"On the third wrong try you would have triggered a bomb," he says, rubbing his zapped eye: "One that I think would have even killed you."
"Well, guess we'll never know, now," SPYGOD says, hoisting up his gun and looking inside.
* * *
At last, the target steps into view, and he's all alone.
Wen Boxiong walks into the kill zone, looking like a condemned man on the way to the gallows. He's going slowly, as if he was in no hurry to get to work. And maybe he isn't.
Wiping away all traces of there ever having been a conspiracy against their evil order.
He hesitates for just a second, trying to rationalize this. Wondering if there really isn't any other way to do this. Couldn't they just talk? Can't they disappear together? Would that be so bad?
(SPYGOD screaming in his face. Hitting him repeatedly. Telling him he !@#$ed up everything. Never seeing his wife and daughters again. The world ending. God telling him he !@#$ed up the whole planet. Hell waiting just for him.)
Yes, it would be that bad.
He takes another deep breath, compensates once more for the wind, and again makes ready to pull the trigger back. The man, the tool, and the weapon, all united in purpose to do one swift and terrible thing, here and now.
But just before he can, there's a weird light, all around Wen. He stops in his tracks and looks up, and suddenly he is surrounded by four Imago, who float around him like metal angels.
And one of them is blocking the President's shot.
* * *
SPYGOD roughly pushes his unwilling companion into the dark room ahead of him. Then he stalks in after, gun up and ready to fire, scanning it from left to right as he slowly puts one foot in front of the other.
The room is large and circular. It is lit with passive lighting systems that come on as they enter, creating a dull aura of visibility that's just enough to see by, but not much more than that.
But he doesn't need it, or his eye, to tell that there's nothing in this room.
Nothing at all.
"What the !@#$ing !@#$..." he says, turning in a circle, astounded by this.
"It is empty, my friend," the ex-President says, shrugging: "Even you can see that?"
"There's nothing here."
"That is what they mean by empty-" the man starts to say, but is quickly silenced by a rough blow to the face, sending him sprawling across the floor, teeth falling from his mouth as he goes.
"Where is it?" SPYGOD screams: "Where the !@#$ is the information, !@#$hole? Where are the files? Where is the !@#$ you got from the Japanese?"
"Gone," the ex-President says, struggling to get to his feet: "Destroyed."
"What do you mean, gone, destroyed?"
"I mean gone, and destroyed," he says, slowly rising and fixing SPYGOD with a look: "I saw to its removal and burning not that long ago, actually. A little over six months ago, in fact."
"Why?" SPYGOD hisses, stomping over and shoving his gun under the man's chin: "Why the !@#$ did you get rid of it?"
"In case this happened," he says, still giving SPYGOD the look: "And look, it has. I guess we deduced your moves correctly, my friend."
"What do you mean?"
"Didn't you think that it was too convenient that you actually found me?" the ex-President says, smiling with more than a little contempt in spite of the gun in his face: "You should have known me better than that, SPYGOD. I've been playing this game long enough to stay hidden, should I want to."
"So you wanted me to find you, and bring you here, to an empty !@#$ing room," SPYGOD says, getting ready to punch him again: "Why?"
"So they could have you."
"They who?" SPYGOD demands, but he already knows the answer to that question.
They're teleporting in, even now.