Tuesday, April 30, 2013

10/15/12 - The Reclamation War - Pt. 7

Seven months ago, the sky became the enemy.

The air was full of blinding, white beams of energy: annihilating columns that marched from target to target, one by one, until the world was crippled. All airports and fleets were compromised. All military bases and missile sites were annihilated. All nuclear submarines were sunk, and warplanes swatted down.

By the time it was over, thousands were dead, and many more were wounded or blinded. The financial cost was truly incalculable, both due to the damage, itself, and its effects on global commerce and transportation. Indeed, the world may have collapsed back into a second dark age if the Imago had not stepped in and "fixed" what they'd broken.

Back then, they told the people that this terrible thing had been done by America. They'd lied and claimed that it had been a scorched-earth policy, of sorts -- one carried out when it became clear that its plan to use proxy warriors to take over the world had failed. And they forced all living Presidents, past and present, to testify to that, so that their families would be spared.

Ever since then, the guns of Deep Ten have remained mostly silent. When they are activated, the Imago have been quick to come on the internet and tell their slaves that the people did not see a giant, white column of heat evaporating a target. How could that be? The "weapons satellites" were supposedly destroyed, after all.

No, what they saw was simply the detonation of a massive and terrifying weapon -- one that produced an explosion that looked a lot like the deadly, particle-cannon blasts of 3/15. Such devastating attacks were the doing of dangerous elements, in league with either the old American government or the looming threat from beyond the stars. And, thanks to the mental programming that went over the internet, all day every day, the people believed it.

But now there is no longer an internet. Now the brainwashing has been eliminated. Now an active rebellion is happening.

Now the Imago are actually in danger of being supplanted from their perch, just as the final stages of their plan are within sight.

So now, there is no longer any need to lie, or dissemble, or soothe the worries of the population. There is no need to keep up appearances or avoid contradicting previous statements. There is no longer a need for a soothing voice and a patting hand on the head, and a gentle promise of better things to come.

Now there is only war, and a war needs a victory.

And the Imago will have that victory, no matter the cost.

* * *

Alpha Base Seven dies first -- The Fist makes certain of that, partially as a test of the weaponry, and partially because it amuses him.

The particle cannons fire at the lunar surface from four different directions. They strike the remnants of the base from directly overhead, from the sides, and from below.

The time before, the base lost much of its above-ground presence, and a great deal of its personnel. This time, it loses everything. Volley after volley, strike after strike, what the survivors of the last lunar holocaust had quietly rebuilt is atomized.

Tate dies trying to get people to safety, which is -- if you'd asked him -- exactly how he'd wanted to go out. Clifton dies at his post, cowering under the computer he'd spent so many months rebuilding and perfecting. Marcus dies screaming at God, begging him to stop the killing long enough for him to tend to the casualties he's already gotten that day.

Acting Commander Barbara Martin dies in her room, weeping as she comes to realize that her plan -- rather that Director Straffer's -- has been the one to kill them. 

As for Director Straffer, he is nowhere near the conflagration. He is quite some distance away, sitting on the edge of a crater, with his back turned on the base as it's taken apart from above, between, and below. His eyes can handle the blinding blasts from Deep Ten's weaponry, but he doesn't care to see the full cost of his betrayer's actions.

It's just too painful to think about, right now.

Idiots, he thinks as he repairs the damage to his body and legs as best as he can. He wonders if Prentice acted alone, or if Martin put him up to it. And he counts the number of seconds between firing solutions, hoping that they're increasing, and that the being pretending to be him up on his station has either gotten bored or is about to move on.

Doubtlessly on to the satellites, and then probably the world. 

Even now, Straffer has a plan. It's not the best plan, and it's something he'd rather not do. It's something he's avoided doing this entire time, even though it would have been so !@#$ simple -- obvious, even. 

And now he has no choice. 

He feels a mighty moonquake rumble. He stops working on his knee until it passes. He counts the seconds between flashes. 

He promises the dead their due. 

* * *

"!@#$," SPYGOD mutters, seeing the telemetry from the satellites vanish, one by one: "!@#$ !@#$  !@#$ on a !@#$ing !@#$."

He doesn't need to see the blips on the screen go away. Thanks to the Chandra Eye, he can hear as, in upper reaches of the atmosphere, the rockets' roar is replaced by a loud, atom-rending scream.

And then he can sense their absence in the dark silence that follows, thereafter. 

"!@#$ing !@#$," he shouts, tossing an empty bottle at the walls of his flying saucer: "!@#$ !@#$ !@#$!!!"

He knew the plan had risks. He knew it might not work as intended. He had no idea what went wrong on the Moon (or even who was doing it, up there). 

And he had a backup plan -- several backup plans, in fact.

But it would have been so nice -- so !@#$ing nice -- if things had just gone right for a change.

Still, it's somewhat comforting to know that God is up there, laughing at him.

"Mister Ten," SPYGOD says, looking at a face on a screen: "Is the Dignitary ready?"

"It is," the Japanese man says: "But we will need some time to warm up the engines, and coax it into motion. It has not been in battle for so long-"

"Tell that giant white !@#$ to get its star-metal !@#$ in motion before I put the mother of all !@#$ing guns up its giant white !@#$hole and give it a laser enema," SPYGOD snarls: "No excuses, no delays!"

He turns the screen off. If he could shoot it without damaging his ship, he would. So instead he grabs another bottle of hooch and drains it in one, gargantuan gulp.

Plan B is in motion. And now, so is he. 

"Take us up, Bee-Bee," he says to his cat, who's downed his own bottle of emergency vodka while waiting for his owner/staff/hooch-provider to stop cursing and drinking and start thinking, again. 

The cat nods and says something in Russian, which could be best translated as "About !@#$ing time, idiot." And then the flying saucer SPYGOD took from the Fourth Reich, all those years ago, engages its cloak and leaves a lonely rooftop in Tokyo, heading for the mighty Ocean to its West.

And battle, though whether victory follows thereafter is even more uncertain, now.

* * *

The six rockets never even get to proper cruising altitude before they are picked off, one by one.

Each streaking projectile is enveloped in its own, personal line of white. Touched by fire, they melt almost instantly. All the hard work that went into making them -- to say nothing of their payloads -- is undone in less than a second.

That necessary task done, the firing solution moves on to more complex targets: the area surrounding the massive, white cubes that the Imago have erected outside of major cities, and in the wilderness areas beyond their sprawling, high-tech tent communities. Anywhere they are being attacked, they fire -- knowing that the shields surrounding their cubes can be adjusted to repel the deadly particle cannon fire they're raining down.

American Shield wonders why the sky is so bright, and reflexively holds his namesake up over his head. That gesture buys him only an extra millisecond of life, but it's enough time for him to realize that the weird dreams he's been having recently (him standing by an empty grave with his name on the headstone) were actually an omen. Had he more time, he would have prayed, but before he can even think to begin he has already joined with the body of his God, in a place where prayer is somewhat unnecessary.

He is not the only one to die, then and there, and he is not the only member of the Freedom Force to die in similar circumstances. The Visionary goes intangible a second too late, his last thoughts a cacophony of irony and annoyance. The Red Alchemist is too slow to remember the formula for energy transubstantiation, and can only hope that the new Golden Standard lives through this, and that their explosive comrade is not vulnerable to this kind of energy while he's scattered atoms.

Around the globe, American supers and foreign strategic talents wither and melt under the horrible, white glare that comes down from Deep ten.  And those few that survive, either due to their power sets or some obscene act of luck -- perhaps both -- have only moments to call in and warn their allies of what's happening, and to either take cover somehow or get away.

Some are able to do so. Others are not so fortunate.

And they may be the first of thousands. 

* * *

"Everyone Toon up!" Fred screams into his intercom as he realizes what the energy buildup the sensors are detecting right above them is: "Toon up and Toon everything you can!"

Within seconds, almost every Toon that has become real in order to perform tasks that must affect the real world has pressed their personal Tooninator -- a small box, usually worn on the belt, that turns them back into cartoons. It won't work in reverse, but it's good enough for them to escape real world damage. 

As for the few that remain, they bravely forgo taking care of their own safety, and instead grab their massive, Tooninator guns and begin turning every important gizmo, device, and mainframe in the place into a cartoon. Hopefully there will be just enough time for them to Toon up when their work is done.

But if not, then theirs is just yet one more sacrifice on a day that's going to be full of them.

As this takes place, an old man that everyone knows -- yet hardly anyone has actually seen before -- walks up to the massive television that the Toons have built to connect them with B.A.S.E.C.A.M.P. 4 . He sees that the machine is warming up, and therefore preparing to transport things from the other side to this one.

And, before anyone can stop him, he presses the override switch, and throws it into reverse. 

"Fred, when I'm through, if they haven't blasted this place yet, turn this thing off and Tooninate it," he shouts at the Toon who's been in charge of things. The look the Toon gives him is priceless, but the look the man gives in return both destroys all questions and makes it clear that his orders must be obeyed.

"You got it," the Toon says, nodding reverently: "It's... it's good to see you again."

"It's good to be seen," the man says, and steps into the machine's blinding, flickering field. 

A second later, he's through. A second after that, a beam of brilliant, blinding white comes down from the sky to the ceiling, and then though every floor in the place.

Some die, then and there. Thankfully, most do not. And the machine is rendered into stray molecules within moments. 

B.A.S.E.C.A.M.P. 4 is now on its own.

* * *

"Oh my God," Myron says as the machine stops working: "You have to be kidding me. You have to be !@#$ing kidding me!"

"Something must have gone wrong at the other end," Winifred shouts, continuing to aim her gun at the smashed-up, smoldering hallway that Moloch is coming down. The SPYGOD SCOUTS on the platform all shout and howl as one, both disappointed and afraid in equal measure.

"Try to re-establish contact!" Mark shouts, forcing himself to his feet and fighting off the wooziness that causes: "We'll hold the thing off!"

"Moloch doubts that," the brass beast exclaims, clanking into their view as it does. 

For a moment, Winifred allows herself to feel hope, for this is not the massive, raging beast they were fighting a few moments ago. It stands only as tall as Myron, and has no fire, nor any victim to fuel it. 

(Was this lesser body made in advance, in case something happened to the other one? Or did he just assemble it out of brass and steel, and pilot it down here? Winifred isn't certain, but already certain plans are forming, should the gun she's aiming at its head fail to work.)

But then it steps into the room, and her confidence goes away. The body jackknifes open into a much larger, more deadly form: sharp swords and cutting arms spread out in every direction, and the monstrous, raging head splits several times to become many things, all terrifying in their hate.

"Moloch will have its day!" the beast howls, slicing its way through the weak, wounded, and slow: "Bring Moloch the boy, Thomas! Thomas will bring SPYGOD here. And Moloch will destroy SPYGOD!"

"Don't you understand?" Mark shouts, firing his gun at the thing: "It doesn't matter, anymore! The plan's over! The machine won't work!"

"What?" the beast shouts, stopping in mid-stride.

"The machine's stopped" Myron says: "It stopped in mid-transfer, and we can't get it started again. And that means that either it's broken, or something's happened to the machine on the other end!"

"You lie!" Moloch rages, raising its sword-arms to the ceiling and slicing right through it: "Make the machine work! Or Moloch shall destroy you all!"

"Oh, !@#$ off," Winifred mutters, pulling the trigger. The bullets hit the beast right in the center of its cluster of faces, making it withdraw them into itself for a moment, and step backwards. But then it surges forward again, doing its best to kill her before she can fire once more.

Myron shouts and leaps forward, pushing her out of the way. Mark yells and fires, distracting the beast just as it's about to slice into Myron. Moloch turns on Mark and prepares to cut into him. 

And just then -- seconds before the brass blade can eviscerate its new target -- the machine surges into life, again. 

Moloch stops in mid-slice and turns to regard it: "The machine is broken, you said?"

"It's receiving!" Myron yells: "Everyone get off the platform!"

He doesn't have to tell them twice. The healthy haul the wounded away quickly, all moving to the far end of the room, well away from the metal creature that means them ill. In seconds, the area is blanketed by a white strobe light, and then a single figure can be seen through the haze and flickering fog.

Mark gasps as he realizes who it is. Myron blinks a few times, confused. Winifred squirms from underneath him to see.

"Who are you?" Moloch challenges the newcomer, looking down at an extremely old man wearing an ill-fitting but still-distinctive costume.

"Me?" the old man says, putting up his fists: "I'm your worst nightmare, you butcher. I'm someone you can't hurt, but who can hurt you."

"You defy Moloch?" the brass beast laughs, expanding itself out just a little more, as if to engulf the stranger in its sharp embrace: "You test the patience of a god, little man."

"You are not God, buddy," the newcomer says, levitating off the floor, electricity crackling between his knuckles: "But I'll be happy to introduce you to him..."

And Mr. USA flies right at the brass beast's numerous mouths, ready to show him the meaning of fear.

(SPYGOD is listening to Christmas Island (Depeche Mode) and having a Moloch)

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