"Well, you're going to !@#$ing love this one, son," the angry voice in his ear shouts: "Do not destroy that cube. Not until I !@#$ing tell you."
"You want I should go catch some waves?" Mister Chaos asks, gesturing to the nearby, Hawaiian shore: "I mean, I'm clearly not needed here-"
"You have no !@#$ idea how !@#$ing badly they need you there, son. So !@#$ing stay there. Got it?"
"Yes, sir," Mister Chaos snorts, very glad to hear SPYGOD hang up on the other end.
(Is this really the person the others were waiting for, and that his late father spoke so highly of? So far all he's done is bark orders that essentially come down to "one step at a time." Hardly a good strategy, now that they've got the enemy on the run.)
"What'd he say?" the hero known as Brightstarsurfergirl asks, her ruby board floating above the ground on a wave of silvery water it generates itself.
"He said not to attack the !@#$ thing, yet," Chaos says, taking off his black, leather jacket and putting on a pair of fingerless gloves: "Didn't say anything about the Specials, though."
"I think Ironface has them."
"I think he needs help," he replies, looking at her: "You aren't just going to let him have all the !@#$ fun, are you?"
She smiles, nods, and pilots her board off to the area in front of the cube, where the massive, metal hero they've partnered up with is literally picking up Specials by the handful and flinging them around. The ruby board barrels down on the Imago's shocktroops -- deflecting their weapons fire and knocking them down like errant waves.
A good start, but the Specials are being teleported in by the dozens; they're going to need help.
So Chaos puts on his headphones, cranks up some early 80's punk, and closes his eyes, waiting for the dangerous feelings to come back. He focuses on this location (Waimea, Kauai, Hawaii), sees himself in his mind's eye, and then watches as his body distorts itself -- going in and out as though he were film being twisted in a projector.
The grass around him wilts, rises, and turns an orange hue. The wind becomes dirt and insects. The space behind him is no longer a pleasant, October surf, but a strange landscape that could have come from a surrealist painting.
And the look in his eyes could kill a God dead from fear.
"!@#$ time yeah party" Chaos says, striding down to where his allies are battling. As approaches, the two heroes he was partnered with wisely get out of his way, and leap for cover. The Specials try to pursue, but soon whirl about to deal with the strange newcomer their previous combatants fled.
And his very presence makes the heavily-armored beings change to fit the strange, new world around them.
By the time he's done, his allies can only marvel at what was once a formidable group of enemy soldiers. Now there's nothing left of them but a mewling puddle of bubbling, white marshmallow goo. Smoldering sticks and bars of poisoned chocolate float in the spongy stuff, and an occasional clutching hand or silently screaming face tries to break the surface, only to be dragged back down seconds later.
"So what are we supposed to do now?" Ironface rumbles, stepping well clear of their leader's handiwork.
"We orders I disobey say..." Mister Chaos hisses, his misshapen face cycling through colors no one has a name for: "Inside see what's that !@#$ cube let's..."
And the others, not wanting to argue with a walking impossibility, do as they're told.
* * *
His name was Lonnie Carlson. He always obeyed orders. And now he was dying.
Carlson had been 34 when he'd been sent to Alpha Base Seven. His primary specialty had been communications repair, with a secondary of zero-G construction. He was supposed to study under the person he was going to replace, and then have a three year tour of duty, officially starting the day his predecessor got back on the shuttle for Earth.
That never quite happened. Three days after his arrival, 3/15 happened, and the base was shattered by particle cannon fire from Deep Ten. He'd been lucky enough to have been repairing communications lines underground when it happened, which meant he'd missed the massive, rolling decompressions, and the horrible decision to sacrifice half of what little remained in order to ensure that what few key areas remained could have a better chance of survival.
When he crawled up out of the wreckage, a day later, he learned that his Commander was dead, his predecessor was missing in action, and the Chief Engineer -- Barbara Martin -- was now in charge. He also learned that they had effectively given up all hope of rescue or escape, and were, instead, going to make as much of a go of living through the disaster as they could.
Carlson would not be repairing any communicators, because they would not be using the communications array for fear of being detected. He also would not be doing any zero-G construction, as they didn't dare rebuild what had been destroyed for fear of being spotted.
But he was young, strong, and knew a few interesting Krav Maga moves. So they made him a security officer, and assigned him to guard sensitive places -- mostly to make sure no one raided their dwindling food supplies, or tried to take the one, last lifeboat out of the base and aim it at Earth.
He didn't like it, but he obeyed orders. It's one thing he'd always been good at.
And now it was killing him.
Not that he could blame someone for wanting to disobey the clanking, grouchy cyborg. Ever since he'd banged on their outer hatch and taken the base over, claiming to have a way to deal with Deep Ten, no one with any sense had really liked the situation. A large number of the survivors agreed with his reasoning, sure, but no one liked what he'd asked of the base, or the way he'd "asked."
Still, orders were orders. Director Straffer outranked Acting Commander Martin by a factor of five, and had to be obeyed -- especially in a massive emergency like this. And anyone who got out of line with him was looking at the mother of all court martials when they got back to Earth.
(If they got back, as many pointed out.)
So here Carlson was, standing guard outside the walkway leading to the communications array he was supposed to be running, and making sure that no one else went in there. If someone brought supplies, he took them, inspected them, and brought them in, himself. When someone brought the borg's feeding tubes, he checked them over and took them to him.
The only time he let anyone in was when Commander Martin stopped in, from time to time, and even that was hardly anything that Straffer wanted. In fact, the last time she came in, the cyborg had given Carlson quite a tongue-lashing for letting her through, and ordered him that, under no circumstances was anyone else to come in, ever, until the device he was building had been fired.
Which is why, when Prentice came up and said he had to deliver a set of parts in person, Carlson said no. That's also why, when he said he'd take the parts in himself, he got rather agitated when Prentice refused to hand them over, claiming that Straffer had expressly told him to deliver them in person. But, at the same time, he couldn't help but sympathize with Prentice's apparently no-win situation, and offered to go in and check for sure.
And that's why he's dying, now. The moment he turned to operate the door, he got a chop to the neck and a knife in the kidneys. And now, too weak to call for help, in a section no one comes through anymore, he's bleeding out.
(The worst thing? Prentice didn't say anything to him -- not a word of explanation. He just took his key card, swiped it, and stepped over him like he was a piece of debris, or something.)
He was just following orders, Carlson thinks as things go dim. Why do things like this always happen to people who just do what they're told?
* * *
"Just stay here, he says," Mrs. Liberty sighs, adjusting the massive gun she's been using to mow down the Specials as they teleport in: "Don't go anywhere, he says. I might need you elsewhere, he says."
"Don't !@#$ing remind me," Liberty Belle snorts, getting ready to scream her lungs out, again: "I've seen better plans written on the walls of public restrooms."
"All you American women ever do is complain," their Indian ally says, rolling his eyes and crossing his arms: "You need a proper husband, the two of you."
The two women look at him, then look at each other, and laugh. The man sighs and, putting up his hands, gets ready to rush back into battle.
And as soon as he's gone, for some weird reason neither Liberty Belle nor Mrs. Liberty have any idea who they were talking to, or that they even had a third partner with them.
But stranger things have happened in battle, one supposes.
* * *
His name was Nathan P Yellow. I didn't like him. And now I've just watched him die.
Nathan was a reporter for a FOX News affiliate based out of Scranton. Every so often I'd see him in Neo York City, covering some protest or counter-cultural event. He had a way of finding the smallest fault in anything, magnifying it a hundred times, and making it seem as though that fault was the overriding feature of that thing.
And, seeing as how he liked to do this to protests and counter-cultural events, his conservative paymasters loved him for it.
In fact, now that I'm looking at his dead body, I'm remembering a talk we had, once. I covered a protest for Alternet, and we met at a bar, afterwards. And I remember listening to him explain, in excellent detail (off the record, of course) just how he used all these deceptive tricks of editing and camera angles to transform someone we'd both interviewed. But where I edited for clarity, he'd turned her reasonable-sounding interview into the most horrible, anti-American, god-hating screed that anyone could have ever hoped to hear come from a liberal's mouth.
I looked at him as he smiled at me and sipped his scotch, and I asked "How can you justify that !@#$?"
And he said "We all see what we want to see. I just make sure that everyone sees what I do. And if you're honest? You'll admit you do pretty much the same thing."
Obviously, I disagreed, then. I still do. But he had something approaching a point, and I took it to heart, which is why I didn't throw my own drink in his face and go talk to someone else.
(That and the bar owner looked like he ate people who fought in his establishment. That part of town was, and still is, pretty !@#$ scary after dark.)
Nathan's attitude got him pretty far in the FOX noise machine. A couple years later he was a regular on Hannity and FOX and Friends, telling people what he wanted them to hear. There was even talk, behind the scenes, that he might get his own show, one day.
But then 3/15 happened, and the Imago took over, and he went from being a FOX News correspondent to being a roving reporter for the Imago, themselves. And for the last few months, whenever the Imago have gotten out and said and done their mighty !@#$ things, he's been right there on the net to tell us what a great bunch of swell people they were.
I can pretty much figure out why they picked him, given his talents, but I have no idea what they told him. I like to think that, brainwashed by their !@#$ internet programming, he was mindsmashed into thinking he was doing the right thing. I like to think that he was a victim of their endless parade of brain-bombing bull!@#%, and not some little Eichmann, happy to lie to hide the Holocaust.
I like to think he had something of a soul. And maybe the fact that he's dead, here, proves it.
All I know for certain is that, outside the protective barrier of Neo York City, the world is coming apart. Men and women, emboldened by the President's speech, are ignoring his warnings and taking matters into their own hands. They are smashing the internet screens in case they come back on again. They are setting buildings on fire and grabbing anything that could be used as a weapon.
And when the Specials showed up, and started shooting at them, they turned into angry mobs and charged, all too eager to test the idea that even a well-armed and homicidal bunch of riot cops cannot stop the will of an angry people.
I watched this happen. I provided some cover fire, too. And as I saw the crowds surging and breaking against the waves of gunfire, before finally breaking it down with the weight of their bodies, I saw Nathan Yellow down there, screaming and hating and fighting along with the rest of them.
That was an hour ago. The mob has gone down to the other end of town. No one is here but the dead and the dying and those who are tending to them.
Nathan P. Yellow was a horrible journalist, and may not have been a great human being. But in the end, realizing what he'd been doing for the last few months, he grabbed a lead pipe, went into the burning streets of the city, and went after the tools of the things that had turned him into a tool. And in that moment he was no longer a tool, or a slave.
Just another victim of a regime that's created too many. But at least we can say that he died free, and clean, and doing the right thing.
I forgave him a long time ago. Maybe now I can learn to like him.
-- Randolph Scott, Scranton, New Jersey, 10/15/12
* * *
"I said, where the !@#$ing !@#$ are my !@#$ing satellites?" SPYGOD rages at B.A.S.E.C.A.M.P.4.
All he gets is hissing in response. And in that moment he begins to understand that something may just have gone terribly wrong. So he raises the Toon colony, instead.
"Hey, can you send someone over to the treehouse?" he asks: "I think there's a !@#$ing problem on that end, or something."
And the person he talks to says they haven't been able to raise them, either. And no one has any idea what the heck is going on. And they're trying to fire up the machine and send someone over, but they're not having any luck, either.
This sends SPYGOD headfirst into a rich vein of horrendous new curses, none of which help anything, and only succeed in scaring the person he's talking to (and making his cat hide).
And as he rages and howls, wondering how he could have been so stupid as to start this war without the satellites in hand, the masked leader of the resistance lurks nearby, crying under his cowl.
Because he knows exactly what's happening, over in that fantastic treehouse.
And he knows he can't do anything to stop it now.