Tuesday, May 21, 2013

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

The particle cannon blasts continue to come, regular as clockwork. One hits Tokyo, then one hits the Dignitary, and another hits the glowing ball between the two, where an android that looks something like a young, Japanese girl floats in mid-air, maintaining a powerful shield over the city, the robot, and herself.

With each strike, the shield glows a little less. With each blast, it becomes clearer that she cannot keep this up for much longer. And while she's smiling widely -- some might say bravely -- it's also clear that her expression is more to do with appearing genki than actually anticipating a victory at this point. 

Something has to break, and soon. 

Just ahead of the giant, white robot that strides away from Tokyo, somehow walking above the waves, a flying saucer stolen from supernazis slowly makes its way out to sea. A large, strange-looking cat that speaks Russian is at its controls, keeping it well-clear of the blasts as they come down from the sky. And in the center of the flight deck, SPYGOD stands, watching as the war he's running comes down around his ears.

Too many of his people are dying. Too many of the supers he called to duty are being annihilated. Too many of the strange armies he bullied, cajoled, and blackmailed into action this day are looking at 75 to 100% losses. The commanders are braying for help he can't give, and suggesting new tactics that are just a pubic hair's breadth away from being surrender. 

And as he watched, and weighs his options, he becomes aware of his cat hissing, just before a sudden barrel roll almost lands him on his !@#$.

"What the !@#$ing !@#$, Bee-Bee?" he shouts, getting up. But then he looks at the main window, and sees why his cat decided to engage in mid-flight acrobatics.

"Well !@#$," he says, looking at what just appeared in firing range of his ship.

He doesn't know what to make of them, at least at first. The Chandra Eye sees them, but he has a hard time actually believing what it's showing him. It isn't until the strange, large, flapping things -- some weird, metal-plated mix of buzzard, wasp, and man -- start firing eyebeams at him that he realizes what's going on.

And, ultimately, what it could mean.

No time for that, now, though. He gets the idea, very quickly, that these newcomers are only firing at his ship because he's in the way of the Dignitary. Which means that they're trying to wear down its shields, so as to get a clear shot at it.

Which means they're fully aware of what the !@#$ is going to happen when the massive, white robot gets to their city and starts attacking it. And that, if nothing else, at least gives him some hope.

Still, it's a long way from Tokyo to there. And if the android's shields cut out, it'll be a !@#$ short trip.

"Well, then," he says, grabbing the big !@#$ gun Ju Kikan got him, and activating the magnets in his pumps: "Guess we're taking the big !@#$ party outside, huh?"

His cat just hisses, barrel-rolling yet again to avoid being hit by the bright-colored barrage of twinned beams. SPYGOD walks to the rear exit calmly, a leaf in the wind.

But, before he does, he realizes it's well past time to do something. He turns and looks off into the distance -- far, far away, where their destination hovers over the lost city they're heading for.

"Sleeper, awaken," he says, sending the signal through his eyesight.

And, that task done, he goes back to heading out of the flying saucer, and gets ready to kick some serious, metal space-!@#$, for America.

* * *

On the day everything went wrong, the Flier's nanites were hijacked, and the ship was reformed and remade from within

The traditional shape that had served it so well for so long was converted into something otherworldly and strange. A sleek, strangely-colored, giant metal insect, somewhere between butterfly and dragonfly, has been hovering over the Imago's lost city for the last seven months -- appearing otherworldly during the day, and glowing with strange hues from within at night.

During that time, many COMPANY Agents lost their lives as the ship's decks melted away to nothing, only to reform elsewhere. And those who did not die then and there were hunted down and killed later -- their bodies taken over by Falsefaces.

So, for the last seven months, the Imago have been secure that this ship is now theirs. They believe that they can let their hair down, so to speak, and be themselves amongst themselves, there. They feel that they are safe, and that no one and nothing can harm them, let alone see them.

They would be wrong -- after a fashion, anyway.

In the prisoner cells (the one part of the ship that has seen no use since 3/15) something is stirring. A wave is seen in the air, followed by an ephemeral form, floating well off of the ground. The form slowly but surely gains depth, and then something approaching substance. And then it has arms, legs, a trunk, and a head.

And then clothes befitting someone who's just awoken after a nap lasting several months.

"I'm awake," the slightly pudgy, Native American man says, shaking his head to make sure he's not dreaming this, too: "I'm inside the Flier, I think."

You are, Gosheven, SPYGOD replies, speaking in a voice only the metamorph can hear.

"Well, I sure don't recognize the place. Did they remodel-"

Never !@#$ing mind that, now, you !@#$ing goofball, the voice of SPYGOD growls in his mind's ear: You're in the belly of a real beast, now. The enemy I wanted you there to hide out and deal with is now awake, and they turned my Flier into a !@#$ing modern art sculpture. 

And you !@#$ing know how much I hate modern art.

"Yeah, I remember reading when you threw Warhol through one of his soup can paintings..." 

It was a Marilyn, and we don't have !@#$ing time for that. You are surrounded by otherworldly enemies. Your assignment is to find out what they're doing, and then !@#$ up their !@#$ before they can attack us. You got that?

"Where are you?"
Tokyo, and we're going to be heading your way !@#$ quickly as soon as we clear up a problem or two.

"Okay then," the man says, puffing himself up a bit -- quite literally: "But just so we !@#$ing understand? This is it, right? After this, I'm free?" 

That was the agreement, Gosheven. Don't !@#$ this up, though.

"Wouldn't !@#$ing dream of it," the shapeshifter says, smiling. And then, adjusting his molecules to make him all but invisible, he saunters out of the cells and into the ship, looking for some !@#$ to !@#$ up.

And it's been his experience there's always something he can screw up, somewhere.

* * *

"I don't think we have any time for last-minute checks, son," Mr. USA says, watching Myron apply last-last-last minute adjustments to the cobbled-together bank of parts and wires that's going to get them home: "How badly can it go?"

"One wire in the wrong place and we wind up floating behind the Moon, sir," Myron says, hoping the adjustments he made to the great machine -- still warming up under their feet -- will get them to Neo York City like he planned: "Can't be too careful, here..."

"Thomas stopped breathing!" one of the SPYGOD Scouts yells, and there's a moment of well-deserved panic, but then a raggedy, halting exhale comes from the burned stump of a boy, wrapped in a sweaty, soiled blanket, and everyone takes a step back and breathes easier. For now.

"And that's why I'm saying we need to hurry this up, Myron," the old superhero says, taking a step towards him.

"Don't you dare !@#$ing rush him," Winifred says, stepping between Mr. USA, Mark, and the others: "Just let him do what he has to, okay?"

"That's out of line, young lady," Mark starts to say, but he's halted by a warm hand on his shoulder.

"I trust in him," Skyspear says, gently pulling Mark back a step before he can say anything to the contrary: "I also trust in God. We will get home, God willing."

"I just don't feel safe using something that... thing brought with it," Mark sighs, putting his hand on hers.

"It's all we have to work with, Mark," Mr. USA sighs.

"I know it's all we've got, but still."

"Um, excuse me? Who's got the Action Badge for Making It Work?" Myron asks, waving his free hand: "That would be me. So if everyone could please just let me !@#$ing do this? Okay? Thanks."

A few tense seconds later he snaps his fingers, and Winifred knows to hand him a smaller screwdriver. As she does, she whispers to him: "I thought you were in Boy Scouts, not SPYGOD SCOUTS?"

"Details, details," he says, winking. He's very glad to see her smile at it, and for a moment he thinks about other things. 

And then he realizes something is wrong.

"Those circuits just connected themselves," he says, stepping back and leaning away from the small, glowing, brass cube he's been working on: "They just !@#$ing connected themselves."

"What the !@#$ does that mean?" a SPYGOD SCOUT asks, and then finds out when a large, brass arm snakes out from behind the machine, grabs him by the neck, and pulls his head right off at the shoulders.

"It means that Moloch strides amongst you, once more!" the beast says, rising out of the Great Machine like a parasite sliding out of its host -- all sharp, twisting limbs and bull-mouths and horns.

Some panic and try to get off the platform. These ones, it cuts in half and flings to either side of the great hall. Some try to attack the creature their escape route has become. These, it smashes flat or viciously bites.

"You will not escape Moloch," the beast announces to those that survive the initial onslaught, holding a few surviving SCOUTS aloft, with knives held to their frightened throats: "And you, old man. Stand down, or Moloch will punish these for your impudence."

Mr. USA scowls, but steps back: "What do you want, you filthy thing?"

"You will contact SPYGOD, and tell him to come here and face his doom. You will tell him that God wishes to punish him, and if  he cares to see you alive, he will travel here. You will tell him these things."

"How?" Mark shouts, guarding the body of Thomas with his own: "We can't communicate with Earth, you idiot!"

"Moloch has rewired the circuits needed to talk to him," the machine explains, and one of its many heads vomits forth a mass of wires and speakers, along with a small viewscreen: "You will speak to him through Moloch. You will do this now. Each moment you hesitate, another dies..."

Just to prove its resolve, it squeezes its knife-hands around the neck of one of its victims. The girl only has time to gurgle before her body hits the floor well ahead of her skull. As the others scream and curse, Mark realizes that, even after all these weeks together, he didn't even know her name.

"You hesitate, still?" Moloch asks, getting ready to reach for someone else.

"No!" Mark says, holding up his hands: "Please. I'll do it. Just, let me figure out what to say-"

"Moloch will speak. You shall recite." the beast says. 

(And for some weird reason, Mark gets the sense that Moloch thinks that's incredibly funny.)

"Okay," Mark says, looking at Mr. USA, who's clearly at a loss. They can't destroy the beast without destroying the machine. And if they destroy the machine -- render every working piece down to melted alloys and burned circuit boards -- they may never get home at all. 

And Thomas will most likely die.

"Now, Mark," the beast taunts: "Time grows short for you. Only Moloch is eternal, and the wrath of Moloch will know no ceasing-"

"Oh, please just be silent," a raggedy voice commands from on high. And what happens next happens so fast that even the principal players will never be able to process the entire thing. 

A green blur falls down from the broken ceiling, hurling itself at the center of Moloch's heads, long knives in its badly-burned hands.

Moloch howls in surprise as the knives enter the bulbous, metal eyes it created for itself, and lets go of the SCOUTS it grabbed onto in order to brush this painful annoyance away.

"Now!" the Green Man yells, leaping back from the thing's head a split-second before the many, sharp hands of Moloch crash against its face.

And Myron, still unsure of whether this thing will actually work -- especially now -- turns the machine on.

And then...

* * *

 ... yet another viewscreen goes blank, for a moment, and then comes back up on a blasted landscape before a massive, white cube. The unearthly armies that had been attacking it a second before are strewn on the ground, dead or dying. And misshapen, metal-plated limbs and tentacles come in from the sides of the screen to deal with those poor souls as-yet-untouched.

It's the same on all the screens the First Lady is watching, along with her children and their captor. The false Dr. Yesterday -- who's now properly introduced himself as The Motion -- is sipping coffee from a chipped mug that shouts IT'S NOT MAGIC, IT'S SCIENCE! and snickering as the metallic monsters he let loose on the world do what monsters usually do. 

He looks at his watch, somewhat theatrically: "It's been fifteen minutes, Mrs. (REDACTED). Do you think he's going to call?"

"I know he will," she says, holding her children's hands tightly: "I just don't think he's going to say what you want him to."

"What, that he'll end this stupid revolution to save your life?" Yesterday says, turning to look at her: "I hope for your sake he's more humane than that."

"This is about the greater good," she says: "My life for billions. He'd want me to make the same choice."

"And their lives?" he asks, pointing at her youngest, who recoils: "What about his children? His biological seed? Does he not care about that?"

"He does, but this is greater than them," she says, getting up and looking down at her captor: "But I'm curious about something."

"What might that be?" 

"You speak as though you have no feelings for us?"

"Yes, that's true-"

"But you seemed very concerned about that extermination order you were talking about," she says, gesturing the big bank of controls he was working from when he made that message to her husband: "Don't you want to see us all dead?"

He winces, and then looks back at her: "You mistake sentiment for expediency. The Day will go smoother if we put as much effort towards it as we can. We need you to work for us-"

"That didn't sound like concerns for expediency to me," she says, sitting back down to look him in the eye: "That sounded to me like you didn't want to be the man who killed an entire planet just to save his own people."

"I'll do that and more, woman-"

"It sounded to me like there's more of Dr. Yesterday in The Motion than The Motion would like to admit," she presses: "And if there's one thing I remember about him, about you, was that you were a good and humane man."

"Oh, I was nothing of the sort," he says, leaping to the feet and reaching for the hammer: "Do you know why I made those blue things, out there? Do you know why Rockethand went insane, last year? And do you know what I did and tried to do while that was happening? Do you?"

She shrinks back, thinking of what to say next. Before she can, he swings the hammer down, almost hitting her hand. She screams and jumps back, startled by the truly hideous look in his eyes.

"I have always been ambitious," he says, holding the hammer up to her face: "And I have always been stunted in that ambition. I have been second or third to the bat, always and forever. I have been the one they made to fix their weapons and make their machines. I'm the one they forced to marry that Nazi harridan, and be second fiddle to her and her brothers. 

"Please," she says, but almost gets hit with the hammer, again.

"You listen!" he shouts: "I have always wanted more than this mere wisp of a life can offer. I want to transcend this frame, woman. I want immortality. The stars. Godhood. I have always wanted those things, and while I may not have been so keen on how they gave it to me, I have them now. 

"And I will not be stopped by the likes of your !@#$ing husband!"

He looks at her, and her red-eyed children -- almost too weary and worn out to cry further, and yet they do -- and then sits down, looking at the viewscreens, and then his watch.

"Twelve minutes left," he says, sipping his coffee: "And I think I'm going to definitely start with one of your girls. I want to see what happens to your lawyer's patter when I destroy what means the most to you. And when I do, I'm going to ask if you hold your husband responsible.

"Because he is."

And she grits her teeth and closes her eyes, praying for a miracle. 

* * *

"Okay, then" Director Straffer says, nudging his escape craft just a little bit to starboard, hoping beyond hope that he's just mistaken for space junk by the mighty -- but occasionally farsighted -- detection grids of Deep-Ten

He thinks of all the years that they've been smacked by derelicts and debris -- bits and pieces of old Soviet ships, small rocks traveling thousands of miles per second, and the like. Fortunately, the platform had advanced and efficient ways of dealing with the small pricks and large holes such collisions could cause, but it would have been nice if they could have seen them coming.

Today, he's grateful he never could.

At a certain point, just as a number of particle cannons let loose with three rapid volleys -- over Japan, he figures -- he decides this is close enough to work. And, having made that decision, he reaches for the switch. 

Before he throws it, he looks up at the station he's commanded for all these years. He thinks of his first day, and his last day. He thinks of the loneliness of being up on high, and the joys. He thinks of dreaming of space -- listening to it whisper in his mind as he slept in its weightless arms, letting it soothe him to sleep.

He thinks of the day they told him how much he would have to be changed in order to work within such a massive thing, and the final bit of safety protocol they were going to install within him.

Logical, really. They could be as certain as anyone that he wasn't suicidal, given the massive batteries of tests and interviews he'd undergone, before entering the Space Service, and then Icarus, then Alpha Base Seven, and then, finally, Deep-Ten. But they couldn't be certain he wouldn't be bought out by the Earth's enemies, or be overpowered and forced to use the station against them.

So they put the destruct switch for the entire station within his own body, and hooked it up to him in such a way that, should be throw it, he would die not long thereafter. 

After he leaped from Deep-Ten to the Moon, he did so with the hopes that he was dealing with a rational enemy, and that he could come back to his platform in triumph, eventually. But on 3/15, as he still floated down towards the Moon, and realized that they were using his platform to perform the unthinkable -- to attack the planet it was meant to defend -- he knew that he had made a grave error in judgement, and one he would have to make up for.

The signal he'd been constructing at Alpha Base Seven was meant to fix things, but then he was betrayed. And that left him only this one option -- or two, if he was willing to give up on the spirit of the switch in order to actually live through the death of his commission.

And he was. Oh dear God was he ever. Because as he'd fallen through space, aiming for the Moon, and hoping to one day hit it, he thought only of getting back to SPYGOD, and the one thing he'd ever loved more than his job -- more than himself.

So this was him, activating the third way: using the lifeboat's batteries to keep his brain and body alive after throwing the switch that destroyed Deep-Ten, and hoping the blast wave didn't cripple or kill the ship.

"'This rough magic I here abjure...,'" he quotes, wishing he knew the rest, and throws the switch.

And then he closes his eyes, because he simply cannot bear to watch. 

* * *

The first sign that The Fist gets that something has gone horribly, terribly wrong is when the nearest servitor robot fails to hand him a fresh martini.

He extends his hand to his back right, waving it around, and wondering why it's not making contact with a cool glass. Scowling, he turns around to berate the stupid, metal thing, but sees that it's been deactivated in mid-hand-off. Its big, bright eyes are no longer glowing, and its magnetic hold on the floor is starting to slip.

It's not the only one, either. All the servitor robots in the main control room -- who'd been running from post to post just seconds earlier -- are all still and unmoving. They have been switched off in mid-motion, as though time itself had been stopped.

The Fist is about to page for assistance from any currently-operating robots, and then report in to the Leader, when he hears an alarm he's never heard before. It's deep and long, and makes his teeth and eyes rattle in his skull.

"Final remote self-destruct activated," a voice says from all around him: "All hands abandon the platform. This is your first and only warning..."

It says more, but it's lost in the babel of other alarms that accompany it. Each of the platform's ten reactors are critical, and about to lose containment, and catastrophic failure is imminent. The particle cannons are overheating, the heavy lasers are venting coolant, the missiles have armed themselves.

And structural integrity is collapsing in sections 100, 99, 98...

He gasps. He swallows. He searches his brain for what to do, now, but realizes that he did not remember that this could happen.
He also realizes he has no idea how to turn it off.

He sees the cannons light up from within and explode outwards. Entire sections ignite as their munitions go critical. The long, curved platforms buckle and implode, and start to fall away from each other, and the ground under his feet starts to shiver and shake.

He doesn't know how many seconds he has left. The machine may or may not have said it, but he certainly didn't hear it over all the other warnings.

So he sighs, and reaches over to take the martini from the robot's hand. As last gestures go, it's pathetic, but he'll at least have the satisfaction of one final, perfectly-mixed drink.

Just his luck, his fingers don't even make contact with the glass before everything goes white, red, and then black.

* * *

There are some sights that one never forgets. Some things that, even decades later, you can always remember where you were and what you were doing when it happened. 

For many people, all around the world, the death of Deep Ten will be one of those days.

All around the globe, be it in the dark of night or the bright light of day, it is witnessed. A bright line of fire stretches across the sky, its magnitude worthy of an exploding star. The line expands, going from the thickness of a piece of string to the width of a hand in seconds, and then quickly decreases in brightness. 

Most people have no idea what has just happened. They had no idea the weapons platform was even up there, given that its existence was a massive secret. So, for them, this just becomes another frightening event on a day that's already proven to be more traumatic than most minds can bear.

But for those who have been fighting and dying on this day -- and suffering heavy losses due to the cannons from that trans-lunar platform -- this is a moment of joy. 

The cheering goes up in Asia, in Africa, all across Europe and North America, down to South America and over to the Pacific islands and Australia. Everywhere that the weird warriors of the world are fighting to save it, they realize what has happened, and act accordingly. 

The broken get back on their feet and charge. The shattered groups reform and redouble their efforts. Hidden backups are brought into the fray, reinforcements are called in at last, and every last trick their generals were holding onto is finally played.

And those armies that have hidden out until now, waiting for the right moment, find they have no excuses left, and fulfill their weighty obligations. 

The tide has finally turned, and there is no time but now to ride to victory. 

* * *

On the roof of Lady Gilda, firing his obscenely large gun at the strange, new Imago that have come out to fight, SPYGOD sees this happen and knows joy for the first time this day.

"Alright!" he shouts over the noise of the gun (and what he's listening to): "Payback time, mother!@#$ers!"

"SPYGOD, is that what I think it is?" Mister Ten asks from inside the Dignitary.

"Yes it !@#$ing is," he says, lighting up his enemies with something approaching orgasmic joy: "Tell Hanami she's clear to turn her !@#$ shield off. She might want to hang back and help Tokyo, though. I think these metal-plated buzzards are gonna !@#$ it up if they can..."

"I think I will try," he says, but SPYGOD realizes, soon enough, that there's no telling that android anything. Before he has enough time to turn his head and watch, she's already flown past him three times, annihilating more and more of the newcomers with each pass. 

Before long, there's nothing but debris twitching in the ocean where he had targets. That and a smiling android, floating above the waves and giggling like a schoolgirl.

"Well done, Hanami," Mister Ten says, smiling: "Now, please go back to Tokyo. You must keep it safe from these things, and other threats. Can you do that?"

"I can," she says, smiling and bowing in his direction: "Please be careful, Ju San."

"I will," he replies, more worried about her.  

"Alright then," SPYGOD says: "If you're heading to the Lost City, it's !@#$ing thataway. Shall we?"

And, now going at top speed, the flying saucer and the giant, white robot do.

(SPYGOD is listening to Puppets (Depeche Mode) and having a Buzzards Bay IPA)

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