Saturday, May 4, 2013

10/15/12 - The Reclamation War - Pt. 8

A half-century ago, when things were a lot crazier than they are now, Japan had the honor of hosting a trio of ambassadors from another plane of existence.

They first arrived in the 1960s, when the island nation was under extra-planar attack, yet again -- some strange hybrid jelly-monster from a dying, nightmare dimension, come to breed. When the best and brightest of Japan's Self Defense Force was destroyed or too damaged to fight on, hope arrived in the form of a massive, shape-shifting machine of unquestionable power. It utterly annihilated the otherworldly threat, and sent what remained of its slimy carcass back into the hole between worlds from whence it came.

When the battle was done, and there was nothing left to do but tend to the wounded and tally the dead, the immense thing underwent an amazing transformation. It shrunk down to human size, and split into three distinct persons: a man, a woman, and a child.

Their language skills were halting, but their intentions were clear. They called themselves The Dignitary, and sought to create and maintain diplomatic relations with Japan. They claimed to want nothing more than friendship, and could offer little more than that. But after seeing firsthand what it meant to have such a friend, the Japanese Government was very pleased to open relations with the odd trio.

For the next couple decades, the trio joined with the many extranormal and hyper-developed guardians of Japan in its defense. They came to learn much of their new world, and fit in quite well with the spirit and people of their adopted nation. They didn't enter hostilities all that often, given their colossal levels of power -- and diplomatic ties -- but when they did, the outcome of the fight was never in question.

All was well, and would have remained so, except for what happened in America in 1980.

For some strange reason, as soon as the contract with the Backers was signed by the White House, The Dignitary found it impossible to live as three distinct beings. They had to permanently form into the larger, gestalt creature to survive, necessitating their move from the cities out into the Ocean. And, after a short time, their hosts discovered that the massive thing The Dignitary became could only remain active for so long before running out of power, and having to shut down for long periods of time to recharge.

Worse, when the creature did rouse from slumber to help defend Japan, it seemed different in temperament. Before, the being shared the kindness, intelligence, and humanitarian credo of the three beings that comprised it, but now, it acted like an uncaring thug -- smashing through buildings full of people to charge at otherworldly invaders, and using its mighty weapons without any care as to the civilian or collateral damage.

After one repelled invasion led to the death of hundreds of innocents, a team of powerful beings confronted The Dignitary in their underwater shrine, and tried to shame it into answering what had happened. The answer was terrible: when the shift happened, back in 1980, The Dignitary had been cut off from their own dimension. Without that link, they were not only deprived of their primary source of power, but also of the true mental impulses that had been controlling their actions, all along.

The real trio that made up The Dignitary were back in their home dimension, cut off from the machine they'd been operating. And while their mental imprints remained within the group mind of the machine, they had degraded over time, leaving only a single, stunted mind, with only the most basic of its many, complex impulses intact -- to defend its host, no matter the cost.

It was hypothesized that, without aid, The Dignitary would eventually be nothing more than a mindless, uncaring machine, and might one day destroy Japan while trying to save it. Faced with that nightmare scenario, a number of extranormal talents came together to come up with a solution to the problem, along with a few other concerns that had come about since America had begun being cagey with its strategic talents.

From that crucible of crisis came a body that would safeguard Japan's many strange and unusual hyperpowered people and items: The Organization. And one of the first things they did was to convince The Dignitary that it would be better off if it went to sleep until the group could find a way to either re-open the portal to its home dimension, or send it back there.

Thankfully. The Dignitary agreed. And one night, when no one saw, it walked ashore, settled down onto a large, vacant lot in Tokyo, and changed its shape one last time.

Since then, a massive glass and steel building with white exteriors has been the headquarters of The Organization. None have dared attack "Heaven House Tokyo" for fear of what it might do, or what horrors they might unleash if they damage it too much. Even the Imago have given it a wide berth, perhaps hoping that the group that meets there is smart enough to stay within, and not attack them.

And they did, for a time.

But today, that understanding is dust.

The people of Tokyo look out their windows, and up into the heights of their massive cityscape, as a strange sound that has not been heard in decades roars between the buildings. The ground shakes, and the towers vibrate, and the power flickers on and off, as though something were playing havoc with the power grid.

Those closest to the epicenter of the event see something they will never forget. The great, white building they had come to associate with that part of the city shudders, vibrates, and then begins to shift its geometry like a child's toy robot. It forms massive arms and powerful shoulders from its highest floors, its first levels split apart to become huge legs, and as they lengthen its entrance climbs to its chest.

Glass and steel are absorbed back into the building, leaving only a white and silver creature some 100 stories tall. It arches its back as it forms large, silver plates over its body -- like armor covering the important, major muscles and numerous weak spots.

And then, at last, a cyclopean head appears above a thick neck: a noble, white face with glowing, yellow eyes and a massive, flowing mane of silver hair.

As its eyes burn, so do the areas between its armor patches. Weird lights play in the air before it, like free-floating holographic read-outs and controls. It leans forward, holding up its hands for silent inspection, and watching as energy crackles between its fingers.

Inside its chest, in what used to be his office, Mister Ten sits in his chair and watches. It's all he can do. He's not in control of this, by any stretch of the imagination -- all he can do is ask the Dignitary to do what's needed, and hope the immense machine complies.

Hanami stands by his side as he talks to the robot, her gentle hand placed upon his shoulder. He tries not to show how much he needs to have it there, but it's obvious to anyone that without it he would be terrified.

Query: the machine asks, the massive voice -- a sound Mister Ten has never actually heard, before -- booming from the head, itself: Is host country in danger?

"It is, yes," Mister Ten says, awed by the sound: "It is in terrible danger. And so is the entire world. We must destroy the Imago. We must help our allies."

There's nothing, for a moment. And then, ever so carefully, the Dignitary strides towards the Pacific -- awake after these many years, and prepared to do its part in this war.

"I feel like a child, again," Mister Ten says, leaning back in the chair and putting his hand atop Hanami's.

"So do I," she says, but not quite for the same reason. 

* * *

When Moloch was young, and still learning of the ways of the meat that it had to call its family, it learned of American superheroes, and was not impressed. 

Moloch learned of the group of beings known as the Liberty Patrol, and how they had once sought to impress their will on the planet, after the Second World War. Moloch learned how they made terrible mistakes, in that next war, and how those errors led to America changing how it handled its superheroes. Moloch learned of the Freedom Force, and Strategic Talents, and the COMPANY that oversaw them all.

(And, of course, Moloch learned of SPYGOD, whom it vowed to one day destroy for his blasphemy.)

While learning of these things, Moloch learned of a man called Mr. USA: a powerful brute wrapped in an American flag, whose actions seemed to be hand-in-hand with the will and ideals of whomever was in charge of his country at any given time. He was a soldier in times of war, an idealist in times of peace, and, in the times of the Cold War, a walking deterrent whose very presence could stop the two major powers from rattling their swords so loudly.

The meat world got older, but he never seemed to. He remained an eternal reminder of a better, simpler time, when there was good and evil in the world, and America was on the good side. He smiled and the world smiled with him. And when he frowned, they got out of his way.

Moloch does not know who this ancient-seeming man in front of it is. He is wearing the costume that Mr. USA once wore, even though it doesn't fit him as well as it should. His hair is white and falling out. His eyes are rheumy and his teeth are missing. 

But the look in those eyes is unmistakable -- the same look that Moloch saw many times, as the meat news told stories of how the Israeli-loving Americans had employed their signature superhero to some battleground, somewhere, to fight crime or evil or terrorism, or whatever his Jewish masters were saying this week. 

Moloch saw that look in the man's eyes, back then, and recognized it as steel. 

And now that steel was coming for Moloch -- fists raised and crackling, mouth open in a battle roar, and eyes ready for the fight to come. 

The brass beast raises its sword-arms and attempts to block what's coming, but it is too late to do anything but shout. And, in the space of the next three seconds -- as its body is punched, kicked, crushed, electrocuted, shattered, and melted -- Moloch begins to understand a great many things. 

Too late, of course. 

After that rush of explosive force and pain, as the pieces of its body fall to the cracked, wooden floor of the great hall, Moloch does its best to regain its composure. But no sooner can it try and reassemble the twitching, brass flinders of its body than the old man is melting them into slag.

"Trying to find more metal?" Mr. USA says, following the pieces as they rattle back down the hall, scurrying away like cockroaches: "Or do you have another body, hiding somewhere?" 

"... destroy you..." Moloch hisses through a temporary mouth, seconds before the old man stamps it flat.

"Good luck with that," he says, standing still and watching the parts clatter away: "I'm going to give you some time to remake yourself, and then I'm coming after you. And you'd better be ready."

With that, the old man turns around and floats back towards the room, keeping an ear out for any loud, metallic bangs or scrapes.

"It's good to see you, sir," Mark Clutch says, extending a weak hand. Mr. USA grabs it with one hand and claps him on the shoulder with the other, and then gives him a gentle but powerful hug.

"It's good to be seen, Mark," he says: "It's so good to be here, again."

"What happened to you?" Myron asks, stepping closer: "I mean, I'm sorry to be blunt, but the last time I saw you, you were... well, you weren't..."

"This old?" Mr. USA replies, smiling, as he disengages from the hug and walks over to Myron: "Let's just say I've had a long time to plan my next moves, Myron. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of time, now."

"What is happening over there?" Skyspear asks, too weak to get up off the floor.

"When I came here, they had just destroyed all the satellites we sent up," the old man says, looking at her with sadness: "They were also about to train their particle cannons on the Toon colony, which means anything that wasn't turned into a cartoon was also destroyed."

"Which means we're stuck here," Winifred sighs, plopping down and letting her empty gun clatter to the floor: "Great. !@#$ing great."

"No need for that kind of talk, young lady," Mr. USA says, extending a hand out to her: "I think we can get home from here. But we're going to have to act fast."

"What do we need to do?" Mark asks.

"Well, a little-known fact about Moloch is that he's a human being," the old man replies, lifting Winifred off the floor without any effort at all: "He's capable of putting his mind into metal and controlling it like a second body. But he needs to be inside that metal in order to control it, and he also needs a clear connection back to his body in case things go wrong."

"Then how is he controlling that body?" Myron asks: "Does he have his real body here, somewhere?"

"He must have an amplifier of some kind," Winifred conjectures: "Maybe one powerful enough to punch through the dimensional barrier?"

"You got it!" Mr. USA says, giving her two-thumbs up: "Now, that lets him go from there to here. Do you think you might be able to use it to get us back?"

"I could..." Mark says, looking at the machine: "It might take some doing, but-"

"I'm on it," Myron says, going to get tools.

"Where would he have it, though?" Winifred asks: "I mean, it'd probably be pretty !@... er, pretty darn big."

"When we packed up to come here, he did have a large case with him," Skyspear offers: "It was large and square. He said it was spare parts, and I did not wish to pray any further than that."

"Probably full of brass, as well as the device," Mr. USA says: "So, you all keep Thomas alive and get that machine ready to be jury-rigged, and I'll go find where that monster hid itself, and bring it down here."

"That sounds like the best plan I've heard all day," Mark says, nodding and clapping the old man on the back. Something about how he almost steps forward unnerves Mark, but he doesn't say anything about it.

He has a hard time believing he just knocked America's most powerful superhero off-balance, even for a split-second. The implications of that are too scary to consider -- especially if he's all they've got to rely on to get them back to where they need to be, right now.

And God only knows what's happening there. 

* * *

 "Are we... are we dead?" the Talon asks the Owl, as they stand in a bright, blinding sea of white energy and are not harmed (nor blinded, for that matter).

"I don't know, honey," Martha replies, walking over to her niece and putting her hands on her shoulders: "One second we were fighting and then.... this. I don't know what's going on."

"It's like that time in LA, only we're inside it..."

Martha shudders, remembering that fiasco all too well: "We can't be alive and inside that beam, Kaitlyn. There's got to be another explanation-"

"Energy dispersal packs," the new New Man says, walking up behind them: "Those boxes I gave you before we started punching Specials, the last cube? They're keeping us from being incinerated by a particle beam."

"What, these little things?" the Talon says, suddenly afraid to touch the white thing clipped to her belt.

"Yes, those little things," he says, smiling and adjusting his sunglasses: "They're gaining their energy from the beam, itself."


"Yeah, it's a nice system, once you've got it going. But I'm not sure if they'll last through a second blast."

"Did you know they'd do this?" the Owl asks.

"Given what they've done before, and what happened to you, I figured it was a sensible precaution."

"You really know how to impress people, don't you?" Martha says, laughing.

"I try," New Man says, sadly. Not for them, but for all the others who may not be as lucky, right now.

He can only hope their sacrifices are not in vain.

* * *

"You have to be joking, my friend," Mikhail says, resting his weary head in his hands: "I could not order these soldiers into a bakery for fresh bread, right now. Not while death is raining down from the skies-"

"We need those !@#$ing cubes !@#$ing taken out!" SPYGOD shouts at him, along with all the other foreign contacts and commanders he's been berating for the last few minutes: "If they don't !@#$ing have them, they don't have any !@#$ing power. They will !@#$ing starve to death and drop like !@#$ing flies when they don't get enough !@#$. We just need-"

"I will not order my soldiers into a suicide run," the head of the Pakistani Army in exile announces: "It is that simple. You must change the game board, SPYGOD. You must knock out those cannons."

"We don't have anything !@#$ing ready for that."

"Then I'm sorry, but it is just not on-"

"You !@#$ing coward!" SPYGOD shouts, pointing his finger at the screen: "We're out here risking our !@#$ lives, right now. My allies are !@#$ing dying. My friends are dying. And you're wanting to hide until you're assured of victory?"

There's silence in reply -- sharp and stone-like. 

"You said you wanted an equal piece of things," he says: "Well, this is how you !@#$ing get it. You go out and you fight for it. And maybe you die. And maybe you lose. But if you sit back and do nothing, today of all days, because you're !@#$ing terrified of dying, then you will spend the rest of your days regretting it-"

"You dare to threaten us?" a cybernetic Samurai chastises him: "You spoke to us of leadership! Where is your leadership, now?"

"You're !@#$ing looking at it," SPYGOD hisses: "And I'm not threatening you. I'm telling you. Because what do you think the Imago are going to do when they !@#$ing win this battle? Say 'O people of the Earth, we love you, we forgive you, all is good?' Oh !@#$ no. They're going to !@#$ing burn us out like rats and leave us baking in the Sun for that !@#$ing thing that's on its way to find. 

"It's now or never, ladies and gentlemen. Get out there and hit those !@#$ cubes. Because if you don't, there is nothing else left."

The screens turn off, one by one. SPYGOD glowers, and then sighs.

"I think we !@#$ed up, Bee-Bee," he says to his cat. He's not quite sure what the fuzzball says in return, though, as he can hear something else happening, up above them.

"Oh !@#$," he says, looking behind at the towering, white robot that's following them into the Ocean. And he knows what's about to happen.

And that there's nothing he can do to stop it, or warn them.

* * *

"Well, there's something you don't see every day," the ersatz Director Straffer -- now calling himself The Fist -- says as he sips his martini and looks down at Tokyo.

How dangerous a development is this? Their leader asks, sounding very concerned.

Very dangerous, the Dragon says: That robot's defensive and offensive capabilities are legendary. It can throw islands into space and smash cities flat with a wave of its arms. 

"Not good,"  The Fist says: "If it gets to the city..."

Well, what are we going to do about it? The Motion asks: I'm stretched too thin with teleporting our Specials out of your field of fire to attack it directly-

"Relax," The Fist says, gesturing to one of his servitor robots: "I've got it covered. I'm adjusting the firing program now."

You're not going to destroy Tokyo just to get to it, are you? 

"No," The Fist says: "I'm going to destroy Tokyo because I want to destroy Tokyo. The fact that it's going to annihilate that robot before it gets to our leader is just the icing on the cake."

You can't be serious- the Motion says.

Do it, the leader commands: They will suffer the consequences for becoming involved. This will further break the morale of the armies that are massed against us. With one city's death, our plan will live. 

"Amen to that," The Fist says, and gives the signal to fire.

(SPYGOD is listening to Never Let Me Down Again (Depeche Mode) and having a really nasty feeling)

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