Friday, April 26, 2013

10/15/12 - The Reclamation War - Pt. 6

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is a great city, recently risen above the waves.

It is a strange thing, that city: a single structure containing echoes from the architectures of all the world's great and long-lost civilizations. Aztec pyramids are surrounded by Greek columns, and rows of creatures akin to the Sphinx of Ancient Egypt stand guard over hanging gardens richly laden with strange fruit. The overlapping walls of Great Zimbabwe form a seamless, seemingly-endless labyrinth in the spaces between structures, their halls endlessly patrolled by the deadliest of sentries.

By day, the city shines strangely in the Sun, as though it were front-lit before a raging, black storm. By night it glows from within, its colors cycling in time with the many giant, white cubes around the world.

And sometimes, in those twilight moments when no human is anywhere near its eerily familiar pyramids and walls, glowing and misshapen things go in and out of its interior -- slipping through the air from the city to the massive, metal dragonfly that hovers above it, and then back again.

Inside that city dwells the great mystery of the Imago, themselves. It houses the massive enigma they have enslaved an entire world to protect. And it is also their weakness, for the secret is the answer.

And whomsoever answers it correctly will destroy them all.

Above that city, in the metal dragonfly that was once the COMPANY's Flier, the faces of most of the beings that have controlled the world for the last seven months are in deep consultation. One of their number -- the one they called The Sight -- is missing, as his incoherent screaming was too much for them to bear.

But even without him, and the powerful service he provided, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

How have they done this to The Sight? their hidden Leader asks, her voice sibilant and wet: What has happened to our eyes and ears on the world?

I think I know, leader, The Motion interrupts, his voice betraying how busy he currently is: Some time ago, there was talk of having a way of turning the entire Internet off. The so called "kill switch." Having an actual switch wasn't feasible, except maybe in the United States, so we, and by we I mean me, put together a package of very powerful viruses that would go all over the world wide web in seconds and destroy the networks. 

So why did you not make certain our networks were safeguarded against this threat? the Dragon asks, burbling up from the pit of neural circuitry he lounges within, deep inside the Flier.

I did. That was one of the first things I did. 

And yet the Internet is dead, and our friend blinded, The Dragon chides him.

Look, I did what I could. But this code is amazingly more complex than what I created-

Can you fix what has been done? The Leader asks.

Maybe not until we're ready to leave the planet, quite frankly, the Motion sighs: This is a mess. And I don't have time to deal with that mess right now-

Speaking of time, the one they call The Fist says, looking down from Deep Ten: I have the projectiles they've launched locked on to. They aren't warheads, and they aren't aimed at the platform. I think they're meant to launch satellites into geostationary orbit-

And there can be only two reasons for them to do that, The Motion interrupts: They're either going to set up a new, secured form of communications we won't have immediate access to, or they're going to send some kind of a jamming signal.

Can they do that? the Leader asks, sounding concerned: Do they have the know-how to do this?

We know that they do, my leader, the Dragon says: The one known as Underman used it on 3/15 to temporarily disable our technology. He has been missing for the last few months, but I doubt he has been idle.  And it would be a logical thing for him to improve upon his previous works.

And if don't have the ability to send a counter-signal through the Internet, anymore, they could knock us down like tin soldiers, The Motion says.

We could still send a counter-signal through Deep Ten, The Fist says: We could send it the same way we're sending our teleporter signals. But by the time we got it working, who knows how many of our power stations they might disrupt? And we'd need that power to send the signal.

Then we'd better shoot those things down quickly? The Motion says: And we'd better get our spy cameras up and running. There's thousands of people all over the world who have our eyes in their head. It's time to use them.

Agreed, The Dragon says: And perhaps we should also target the area around the power stations, while we are destroying the missiles. Their shields can be changed to match the harmonics of the particle cannons, and the deflection would cause a greater amount of destruction on the ground.

I'd be all for that, The Fist says: In fact, I've had a targeting solution planned for such an eventuality.

And speaking of that, the Motion says: While I'm sending out more Specials to mop up what survives the blasts, should we just activate the Extermination Order?

There is no need for that, yet, the leader says: We will need their energy and power in the months ahead. We must rebuild our elevator, and redouble their efforts to build our escape vehicle. 

We could do that with only a tenth of the population, The Fist says: And they'd be a lot easier to control-

It is never wise to throw a valuable resource away simply because it has proven a bit more cumbersome than anticipated, The Dragon opines: One can always find another to help carry the burden. But once the heavy load is gone, it is gone, and there will be no getting it back.

Plus, to be honest, we've still got a lot of converting to do, The Motion admits: Consider my idea withdrawn, at least for now.

Very well, the Leader says: Fist, you may begin. But you must also utilize the spy network, and be prepared to fire upon any sign of resistance. If they were planning on sending up a network to jam our technology, then they must also have forces ready to mobilize. They must be destroyed.

It will be done, The Fist says: And I could be wrong, but I just saw an explosion on the Moon, close to where their base was. May I fire at it a few more times, just to be certain?

That seems a wasteful expenditure at a time like this, The Motion sighs: What are they going to do? Throw moon rocks at us?

I leave that decision in your hands, the Leader says: You all know what you must do now. Do it with the knowledge that I love you all, and that we shall soon be through this crisis, and then back on our way to The Day. All you need is love.

All you need is love, The Motion repeats, preparing to adjust where he teleports his soldiers, and making ready to get them out of the way of their big guns.

All you need is love The Dragon says, sliding his consciousness back into the endless, contemplative loops of thought and memory he spends his time exploring.

All you need is love, The Fist says, targeting all six rockets and the Moon in his first volley, just to be certain. 

All you need is love, The Leader breathes, confident her beloved servants will yet save this day.

And then there is silence in the Flier, yet again, occasionally broken by The Sight trying to come up from his current state of blind panic. As he cries and screams for help, he wonders why no one answers him. Where is the Dragon, who is all-present? Where is the Leader, who says she loves him?

Will no one save him in his time of need?

* * *
"Oh you have to be !@#$ing kidding me," SPYGOD says, looking up at the roof of Lady Gilda, and listening though it.

He didn't need the Toons to tell him the rockets were away. He could hear them, even all the way across the Pacific Ocean. He could hear them taking off, and could sense when they entered the upper atmosphere. He even felt the world shudder just a little bit as they raced out of it, and prepared to do what they'd been sent up to do.

And that's how he knows something is wrong on the Moon.

There should be a jamming signal coming from there. There should be a harsh, whining vibration, sluicing through the void and being picked up by Deep Ten's communications arrays. There should be a quiet but inescapable voice speaking to its computers at their deepest levels, saying "lay down your arms and surrender."

There is not.

He did, however, hear a loud thump from up there, right around the time he was trying to hear the signal. He felt the bass drum in his chest, and knows that wasn't just an overloaded device frying its circuits, or a blown fuse.

He knows the feel of an explosion. He knows the tactile sensation of a metal object stuffed with explosives one might make in secret, out of leftover scraps of material and chemicals stolen from a disused lab. He knows the taste it leaves in his mouth when they ignite and expand.

And he knows what happens when they're used to take out a pressurized environment...

"We've lost the !@#$ signal," he announces to his forces, wondering who that brave, doubtlessly-dead soul he just lost on the Moon could have been: "Deep Ten is still !@#$ing live. I repeat, Deep Ten is still live."

"What does that mean?" American Shield asks, doing his best to hold off the Specials that are all but overrunning his position.

"It means we're a few !@#$ seconds from !@#$ing needing plan B," SPYGOD says, quickly looking over his cheat cards: "Doctor Power, I need you mobile as of ten seconds ago. Mister Ten, stand by with the Dignitary. All allied forces, get ready to move. And all Supers..."

"Yes?" Mrs. America asks: "Do we have the go-ahead?"

"Converge on secondary targets," SPYGOD says, reaching for the bottle of the stronger stuff his cat has knowingly hidden until this very moment: "Total destruction."

There's cheering by some of his Strategic Talents at that order, but they don't know what he does. He can only hope that, once they learn what he's having them do, they can forgive him.

And maybe they can one day learn to live with that much death.
* * *

At that very moment, all around the world, thousands upon thousands of people begin to die.

Given that the world is raging against its captors, their deaths go mostly unnoticed, except perhaps by those who know them well. Even then, all those observers know for certain is that, for some reason, the dead stopped doing whatever they were doing, and stood or sat perfectly still for exactly ten seconds.

And, after that those ten seconds were done, the dead turned and walked away, heading somewhere else both silently and without emotion. They stopped rioting and looting, and came out of hiding. They walked from their homes or offices, abandoning their families and loved ones.

They got out into the streets to observe what was going on there. They walked behind the angry and idealistic crowds as they charged into Specials, and observed the less noble as they used the confusion to smash store windows and take what they wanted. They spied on hidden forces as they occasionally tipped their hand and came out to see what was going on, themselves.

They watched and listened, still as statues. They did not speak, or respond when spoken to. They could not be deterred or shooed away.

And they stood there until they either collapsed from exhaustion, or were knocked down or killed by stray bullets or sudden dangers.

Later, as the human cost of global revolution would be tabulated, it would be remarked that all these walking dead were people who lost their sight on 3/15, and had had their eyes replaced by the Imago as an apology. But by then, the damage was done. 

And there was simply no way to stop what was coming.

* * *

"Oh God, please help us," Mark says, trying to get up as the devil crashes into the buffet room, fire gouting from its eyes and mouth, its pathetic passenger's eyes still alive even though its body is wrapped in flames.

"Pathetic," Moloch hisses as it strides through the smoking ruin that used to be doors, shrugging off the numerous bullets and blasts from all the guns being pointed in its direction: "Would you kill a metal god with iron and steel?"

"We'll !@#$ well try, you !@#$," Myron shouts, jumping behind some crates of unpacked equipment and aiming for the thing's burning eyes: "No further! You !@#$ing hear me? No further!"

Moloch laughs, rears back, and launches a fireball at the crate Myron's hiding behind. He leaps out of its way just in time to avoid being disintegrated along with it, dropping the gun as he does.

"Let's get it!" one of the SPYGOD SCOUTS shouts, and leads a desperate charge, hoping to cover Myron and their wounded. They run and scream and fire, trying to find the weak spots in the creature.

But if it has any, they do not find it.

Somewhere in the doomed firefight -- as Moloch finds their weak spots all too well -- Winifred realizes that the machine is ready to operate, again. They could evacuate the room, and get poor Thomas back to the real world, if only they could keep the monster at bay long enough to let it warm up and activate. 

If only...

"Skyspear," she says, looking at the African woman, who's clearly wiped out: "How much control do you have over your teleporting ability?"

"I could carry the monster with me, yes," she says, trying to get up from the floor: "But I might not have the strength to return. It's too heavy-"

"I was thinking about the floor," Winifred says, pointing at Moloch's feet.

"Oh," Skyspear says, and, taking the teen's meaning, begins to jog over to the raging, brass beast hoping it doesn't notice her as it tosses fireball after fireball at its attackers, and slaps their burning, melting bodies across the great hall with unbidden glee.

"This slaugher is pointless," the brass beast snorts, turning its sights on the broken form, wrapped in a blanket, over by Mark: "Bring Moloch the boy, Thomas. Operate the machine to send a signal to SPYGOD. Do these things and Moloch shall spare your lives."

"No chance," Mark says, reaching over to shield Thomas with his own body: "You won't be getting any help from us."

"We shall see," Moloch says, getting ready to snort out another fireball. But, just before it does, it realizes that the woman who could appear and disappear is at its feet.

"Hello," she says, jabbing her hands into the wooden floor -- splintering it like matchsticks, and grabbing hold of what's left.

"You dare?" Moloch says, his breath singeing her eyebrows.

"Goodbye!" she shouts, and vanishes, taking a good chunk of the floor it was standing on with her.

Moloch shouts and reaches out, trying to regain its balance. It fails spectacularly, and tumbles down through the hole, breathing fire all the way. There is a spectacular crash, followed by another, and then another, and then...

"Oh wow," Myron says, getting up to the smoking hole and looking down: "How high up is this treehouse?"

"About a half mile," Mark says, making sure Thomas is okay: "But that thing's fast, Myron. Get that machine ready to go."

"You got it," the man says, taking off his bloody, broken sunglasses and going over to get the machine going: "Everyone who's hurt? Grab someone who's knocked out and get onto the platform. We're getting out of here, now."

He doesn't have to tell them twice. The survivors get onto the platform, dragging the badly wounded and knocked out behind them. A few of them have the good sense to organize a proper stretcher for Thomas, and one of the Scouts makes he's getting enough oxygen. 

Skyspear appears a second later, holding a large, medical-looking thing in her arms. She's able to take two steps before falling to her knees, bleeding from her nose. Mark hobbles over to her, taking the machine from her and handing it off to someone else.

"Thank you," he says, wrapping his arms around her: "What can I do to help you?"

"I will be fine, soon," she sighs, smiling at him with bloodshot eyes: "God willing."

"I think we're gonna be okay," Mark says, looking around and wincing at having just said that. All around are the dead and dying, their bodies burned and broken on the floor like wreckage from a bomb. 

Mark closes his eyes and prays for them, wishing this victory could have come at less of a human cost. As he does, strange, thumping noises can be heard. 

"What was that?" Winifred asks, holding up a hand.

"Not the machine," Myron says, looking around as the device in question begins clicking and clacking, preparing to go.

"Was that Moloch hitting the ground?" Mark asks, but then realizes the sound is coming from the hallway. 

And it's footfalls -- heavy, thumping. 


"Fools!' Moloch shouts, its voice echoing down the hallways: "What is a body to a god? So long as there is metal, Moloch is immortal."

"I need another three minutes," Myron sighs as the machine slowly thrums into life: "Please just keep him back that long!"

Winifred grabs the gun Myron put down and aims it down the hallway, for all the good it might do. In that moment, Myron couldn't love her any more. In that moment, she wishes she could tell him the same. 

"Oh !@#$," Mark says, holding Skyspear close as she starts to cry in frustration and fear: "Oh dear Lord, please help us..."

But the only god that chooses to act in that moment is Moloch, and it chooses to laugh.

* * *

All around the massive, trans-Lunar weapons platform known as Deep Ten, hatches slide open, and scores of large cannons protrude. Their movement gives the ring the appearance of a spiky leather cuff -- the sort of thing a rock and roll god might wear on stage to avoid looking wimpy under the lights.

And then, one by one, they swivel around on their mounts, so that they are no longer pointing outwards, as they were intended to do, but inwards, at the Earth.

The Fist -- the being masquerading as Director Straffer, however imperfectly -- sits in his grand control room, looking through a massive, glass and steel window, down at the blue and green gem that this truly amazing place once guarded.

And as his robots move around him, going from station to station and preparing to fire, he cracks his knuckles and ponders the best place to write his name -- his true name -- across the face of this world, just before they abandon it to its fate.

"Activate program B-4," he orders, sipping at the martini one of his robots has brought him: "Start with the lunar surface. Might as well get that out of the way, first."

The entire station vibrates and hums as the cannons build up to charge. It's a wonderful feeling -- almost sexual, as if he was about to come.

"I wish I could just vaporize it all," he muses, hoping that the Leader didn't hear him, but knowing that it means nothing to her, anymore.

And with a wave of his hand as he sips on a Martini, he condemns the world he hates to slavery, followed by oblivion. 

(SPYGOD is listening to Agent Orange (Depeche Mode) and having a !@#$ing !@#$ beer)

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