Tuesday, June 4, 2013

10/15/12 - The Reclamation War - Pt. 16

When the Imago began to hatch their plan to take over the Earth, through GORGON, they realized that they would have to neutralize SPYGOD as soon as possible.

It wasn't necessarily because of his position, his connections, or his long history. Nor was it his skills, or his abilities, or even his power set.

(It wasn't even his somewhat skewed sense of fashion, though the less serious amongst them joked that removing his utterly flamboyant optical pollution from the world could only be a good thing.)

It was simply because they knew that, when the time came, he would fight them tooth and nail in such a way that they could not ignore, much less sweep under the rug.

They thought they had him taken care of, thanks to their gruesome deception involving the American President, and the arrangement they'd made with the two beings from Alter-Earth. They figured that, accused of such a terrible crime, SPYGOD would crawl underground and bide his time, giving them just enough of it to take over the world before he could launch a plan. And even if he did show his face again, he'd have a very hard time convincing his people of the truth while they were hunting him down -- especially with False Faces in important positions.

And if he followed the trail the truth ultimately led to -- all the way to Alter-Earth -- he would surely not return.

When they learned he'd gone there, after all, they were worried at first. But then came the news that the city they'd taken the real President to was gone -- completely obliterated -- and they figured that he was, at long last, dead. And so they went forward, secure in the belief that no one and no thing could stand against them now.

And for a time, things were truly glorious. 

But then things started happening, like the high-tech bombing of their space elevator. And after they chased down the obvious culprits -- killing far too many humans in the process -- and then discovered that, while they'd been searching for them, someone had stolen key information from a lock-up in China, they realized that they had been played.

And they were quite confident that they knew who was sitting across the card table from them, sleeves stuffed full of Aces.

So they began to hunt him down, as he was, in turn, hunting them. They swatted aside annoyances with increasing levels of firepower and civilian casualties, hoping to rouse him to anger and sudden action, but he did not oblige. They laid traps along the way, hoping to snare him, but even when they did they never held onto him for long.

And then there was that strange attempt by that old, had-been supervillain to take over the world using an army of the sort of robot SPYGOD used to use for domestic help. At first, they figured it was a separate matter, but when it was all over, they wondered if it wasn't yet another costly diversion from SPYGOD, after all.

And now, not long thereafter -- seven months to the day since they took over the world -- they were in dire danger of actually losing it, again.

And here is SPYGOD, leading the charge against their own center of power.

He is surrounded by a horde of Imago -- false and true -- and being bombarded by eyebeams that should be deadly to any living being with a set of eyes. Except that he has no eyes, save for a glass copy of one and the Chandra Eye under an eyepatch. And while their beams can do massive damage to nonliving things as well, he is not letting that stop in him the least.

He has no armor, no weapons, no means of transportation. He is naked and unashamed, battered and bruised and bloody. And yet he continues to fight on -- leaping from Imago to Imago, killing each one in turn with a vicious bite to the forehead, or powerful smack upside the skull with his hands, feet, or penis, and then jumping onto the next and nearest victim.

And all the while, as the Imago are tied up dealing with him, the massive, white robot he brought out to fight flies ever closer to the Lost City, and the Flier, not even feeling the sting of the Flier's weaponry yet.

The Dragon -- perhaps the only member of the Imago's leadership with the tactical skills to know what to do next -- realizes that it's only a matter of time before the Dignitary is at their gates, and using its own strength and weapons to rain mega-powered ruin down upon them. He has no desire to see this, and so has decided to hold back on the true strength of their weapons, the better to lull them into a false sense of security, and get them close enough to feel the full bite of their power.

But as he prepares to fire these as-yet silent weapons -- sliding forward massive dark matter cannons, sending protonic missile pods out from their shafts, and aiming the mighty displacer beams -- The Dragon realizes that even this is a terrible gamble.

They may yet lose. The enemy may yet win.

And if the enemy does win, that victory can only ever be laid at the feet of the man who they tried so hard to put out of the picture, and obviously failed to do so.

SPYGOD will have won this day.

And, given their history, The Dragon will not have any standing for surrender in the aftermath.

So he waits for the crucial, critical moment, when either SPYGOD or the earth-shattering mecha he has awakened gets just close enough, and then he can make that one last roll of the-

* * *

dice, lady," Mrs. Liberty says, kicking the Imago trying to kill her right in the uterus, and smiling rather widely when she sees an entire, boot-shaped section of her metal-plated anatomy go flying out the back.

And then it's all she can do to shoot the !@#$ in the face -- the better to withdraw her foot from the sticky, bloody mess -- and then go on to the next one. 

Her partner and friend, Liberty Belle, is dead, lying in sorry pieces at her feet. She doesn't have the time to mourn her now, and that just makes her !@#$ angry.

(And the strange presence that either was or was not with them, helping them fight, hasn't been around for quite some time, so she's imagining he's dead too -- whoever he was. But imagines she'll feel sad for him, too, when the time comes.)

She also realizes she'll have a lot to mourn, in the days to come, if she survives this -- which is a big maybe, right now. The special eyeglasses she's wearing to keep the Imago from killing her with their eyebeams is probably one more direct hit from frying, and then she'll either fight blind or not at all.The guns she's been looting from dead enemies are getting fewer and harder to find.

And the sky keeps opening up and vomiting out Imago, or Specials, or whatever those weird hybrid things are...

All around the world, it's the same thing. Groups of heroes huddle together, dealing with the last, frantic gasps of an enemy whose true power was never truly known until now. The weird armies redouble their efforts and try to protect civilians as best they can, but find themselves unable to both kill the enemy and save others from being killed by them. 

And if not them, the seemingly-endless supply of those that come after them. Over and over again.

As the numbers of the good decrease, and the numbers of the bad increase, more than one hero raises his or her head to exclaim that they could win this day, if only someone would find a way to-

* * *

!@#$ it!" Myron shouts over his communicator, as he heads into the dark bowels of the Ice Palace with only a map and a headlamp to guide him (and Yanabah to guard him): "You deal with... that, and let me deal with this, okay?"

"Alright son," Mr. USA replies from where he is, his voice weak and quavering: "Just hurry. We've already been too late, today..."

Myron grimaces. He really did not need to be reminded of that, just now.

"Hold up," the Native American woman says, capping off a pair of shots into the gloom ahead of them. There's a scream and a gurgle, and then a dwarf tumbles from a support beam, his rifle clattering to the ground just after him.

"Good shooting," he says: "Can you see in the dark?"

"I can smell things really well," she explains, kicking the rifle away from the thing as they pass it, just to be sure: "There's no more in this passage. Might be some in the room we're heading to, though."

"Alright then," Myron says: "You take point, I'll come after."

"No guns?" she asks, looking at his uniform.

"I didn't get into this business to kill people."

"Time to learn, Underman," she snorts, and runs ahead to the swinging double doors looming ahead of them. She kicks them in, and does a cartwheel with her forward momentum. There's six quick shots, and then some more screaming, and then nothing.

"Nasty !@#$," he mutters, remembering when SPYGOD told him the same thing about learning to kill, and how well that went.

In the room, there's a half-dozen dead dwarves strewn about the ground, some still twitching. All of them appear to have been shot between the eyes. Yanabah is looking at the large bank of controls on the other side, most of which appear to have been added onto whatever ABWEHR was doing, here.

The noise in here is almost deafening: electrical hums and clicking, along with the strange, water in the wind noise that massive teleportation platforms give off when they activate in series. 

"Okay, this is the energy output station for the upper level," Myron says, tossing the map aside as he goes: "So it's the logical place for them to be sending their teleport waves through. Might also be a good place to see if we can disrupt their energy supply, somehow."

"Don't talk," she says: "Do. I'll watch the door for more. I can smell them coming."

"You really are one nasty and unpleasant person," he says, sighing: "I could really use some good vibes right now."

"Ain't got none to spare," she says, walking to the door. And it isn't until five minutes of feverish and fruitless work go by -- along with a lot of shooting outside the doors -- that Myron realizes she was crying when she said that.

But he doesn't dare ask her-

* * *

why this way, paleface?" Gosheven asks his older ally, who's so angry it's a wonder he doesn't turn red and melt.

"Because it's all coming back to me now," the original New Man says, purple flecks of energy coming from his mouth as he talks: "While I was being used by them, all those months, it was like my mind was all over the ship. They were using me, but I was spying on them. I just couldn't do anything."

"And now you can," the shapeshifter says, taking a quick look down the maintenance corridor they're about to turn down, and hearing more strange groans from the superstructure: "Any idea what all that !@#$ noise is?"

"They're gearing up to use the big guns."

"You mean they haven't already?"

"Oh no, friend. Not in the slightest. All they've been using so far is the stuff that was on board the Flier when they took it over. These weapons they're calling up are the things they used the last time they took over a world, and maybe the time before that, too."

"Oh boy," Gosheven says: "So what sort of !@#$ are you intending to have us !@#$ up, then? The weapons?"

"How about the kind of !@#$ they can't afford to lose in a firefight of that scale, my friend?" the older man says, patting his ally on the back: "Their central power conductors. And I know just where they are, and how to knock them out."

"Then let's do it."

"There is a chance the damage might be so great that you won't survive," New Man warns him: "I can become energy, but I'm not sure if-"

The Native American looks at the man he rescued and just smiles: "I survived a shot to the head and turned myself intangible to fool you people. You think an explosion's going to hurt me?"

"Fair point. Just duck when I tell you."

"Oh, no worries-"

* * *

there. The robot is just within range, and SPYGOD is not far behind. 

It is time, The Dragon announces to the Leader. I will destroy him.

I cannot speak with The Motion, the Leader says: He has gone blank in my mind.

Perhaps something has happened, The Dragon says, knowing full well what has probably just occurred: Do not worry. Safeguards are in motion to protect what he was doing. They will not be overcome by the likes of what little they have to throw against us.

You do not care for him, the Leader says: Just as you did not care for The Fist, or The Sight. You care only for yourself.

I care for you, my leader, the Dragon says. And maybe, in his heart, he does not feel that it is a lie. 

(And maybe he does, but simply does not care to deal with the contradictions at this glorious, supreme moment. There will be time enough for reflection -- and further, necessary deception -- when the day is done, and the battle won.)

He flexes his muscles and aims his fingers. The dark matter shells are loaded into the cannons. The exotic explosives are armed and ready to fire. The displacement cannons are aimed and primed.

He focuses on the massive, circular iris in the robot's chest -- the place that its primary armaments will come from, when the moment comes -- and then makes ready to fire....

And then, something strange happens. 

The entire city lurches to the east, as something incredibly large and dense crawls out of the ocean and begins to attack it.

From all over the Lost City, and from cameras all over the Flier, The Dragon can see that they have been attacked by some strange, undersea creature -- the genius of all pirates' tales of otherworldly monsters from the deep. A tremendous, sanity-blasting mix of Leviathan, Behemoth, and Kraken, roiling and ripping and smashing as it goes.

And it is not alone. A half-dozen more burst to the surface and begin to attack. Then another dozen. 

Then at least a score more...

We are attacked! the Leader screams, panicking: Destroy it! Destroy them! Now!

The Dragon can only concur, and quickly shifts the Flier's weapons to aim at both the monsters and the robot.

And it's only after he begins firing at both that he realizes the massive mistake he's just-

* * *

made this decision lightly, Emperor Thurl says, knowing that SPYGOD can hear him: I tell you truly that the one you called my father feared you, but also respected you. I say to you, also truly, that I give you this gift in his name, as agreed with the one who led your troops in your absence. I hope we both understand what this means, going forward.

"Emperor, you just made a lot of dead sailors lost in the War very !@#$ing unimportant," SPYGOD says, watching the mighty guns of the Dignitary come out for the first time this battle and begin firing at -- and down -- the exotic weapons of the Flier: "And when I say something like that, it !@#$ing means something." 

Then the Overobligation is done?

"Done and dusted," SPYGOD says, tearing the head off the Imago he's riding, throwing it right through another one, and then leaping to the next: "Next time we talk, let's !@#$ing talk normalization, okay? I'm just a little !@#$ing busy, now..."

Truly I understand, the Emperor says, staring up at the darkness above his palace: Go well into battle, my ally. All our hopes are truly with you at this time. 

"Halle-!@#$ing-lulah," SPYGOD says, reaching his hands down into the bloody mess of the Imago he's riding and trying to get it to keep flying: "I could sure !@#$ing use some, Emperor. The world's gone !@#$-down in a sea of !@#$ here and now..."

He thinks to try and explain what he's seeing for a moment, but how could he really? How can he tell someone of the harsh and beautiful glory of what his eye reveals, as the weapons of the Imago attempt to rip open reality, itself?

Shells armed with exotic matter detonate not only matter, but spacetime, itself, in small, controlled bursts. Missiles that can create miniaturized atomic blasts streak towards the target. And beam weapons that put their target zones both a million miles away, and yet exactly where they are, try to create critical instabilities in the enemy's molecular structure, causing terrible implosions as they go.

Against a lesser enemy, the battle would have been over seconds ago, and the foe all but wiped from the face of the world.

But yet the Dignitary strides forward, answering the strange weapons of its enemy with stranger weapons of its own -- unleashed from behind the great iris in its chest. Birds of light and fire that intercept shells and missiles. Spirals of crystal flowers that erase beam weapons, turning them to soothing music. And green waves of power that take the damage done to the surrounding areas and clean them up, as though no battle had ever taken place here.

It is beautiful to see such terrible weapons overcome by such wonderful ones. Indeed, SPYGOD could sit on this dying Imago and watch it all day.

He just doesn't have the time, now.

"Gonna have to let you go, Emperor," he says, getting back to work in the knotty, red innards of his foe: "Hopefully I can !@#$ing make this-

* * *

work!" Myron shouts, banging his fists on the controls: "They've been locked down, !@#$ it!"

"Then unlock them!" Mr. USA replies, not sounding too good.

"I can't. Not without the code. And I bet it's !@#$ing DNA...."

"And there's not enough of him left to get any," Mr. USA sighs: "And Doctor Power doesn't have the power to deal with that, right now."

"And, not to rush you or anything?" Yanabah shouts from the door, where she's been firing non-stop for the last few minutes: "But I'm running out of ammo, over here. And not running out of targets."

"What was that, son?" Mr. USA asks.

"My two-handed firing partner says we're about to get overrun by the nazi sex dwarf brigade."

"So what are our other options?" the old hero asks, something approaching weary defeat in his voice (which scares Myron more than he's willing to admit).

"Not a lot. Not without going down there and tearing half this base apart. And..."

"Then you're going to have to just go do it, Myron," Doctor Power says, his voice hoarse from effort and weeping: "I'm dealing with things up here. Mr. USA doesn't know a circuit board from a checkerboard, and Skyspear's... well, she's not leaving the survivors."

Myron shakes his head, not wanting to think about that. And as he does, he glances over from where he's been working.

And that's when he sees it. 

"Did you hear us, son?" Mr. USA asks after a few seconds of silence.

"Yeah, I did," Myron says, taking his broken sunglasses off, and looking at the electrical components he'd built into them, long ago: "I think I might have an idea, provided that's not locked off, too."

"What son?"

"No time to talk. Mr. USA? Get your !@#$ing mega-geriatric !@#$ down here and help guard the door. Maybe Skyspear can teleport you if she can let the two of them go for a second. Let Doctor Power do what he has to with her, okay?"

The answer he gets isn't nice or polite, but he doesn't care. He rushes over to the portion of the controls he just saw, hoping that it's what he thought it was. And he's not only delighted to see that it is, but that they didn't lock it down -- probably because they didn't think it was important.

"Can it just be that simple?" he asks himself, looking at the eyeglasses and the exposed -- and, in the Imago's case, highly redundant -- communications circuits: "Really?"

* * *

"Not really, no," New Man says, looking out at the massive field of large, glowing glass balls -- all of which seem to have something inside of them, spinning and spiraling too fast to be really seen.

DEROS, of course. 

"What do you mean?" Gosheven asks, using his powers to break and smash through the Specials that were guarding this large and cavernous room -- formerly the engine room, from the looks of things -- and keep his ally from being hit by their weapons.

"I mean I didn't think there were actually so many of them!"

"So what does that really !@#$ing mean?"

"It means that the moment I blow them up, we're both dead!"

"Even you, paleface?"

"Even me, Tonto."

Gosheven looks at him and smiles: "I was wondering when you were finally going to get one in on me."

"Not much as last words go, huh?"

"I'll take 'em," the man says, forming a large, metal wing to deflect the storm of flechettes heading their way, courtesy of the Specials' guns: "How about we both yell 'Geronimo' for good measure? Then we can be totally politically incorrect."

"Okay, that makes it official. We get out of this, you're my new best friend for life."

"Only if you buy the drinks."

"We'll take turns."

"!@#$ straight we will," Gosheven says, and gets ready.

New Man inhales and grits his teeth. Then he releases all the energy he's been storing for the last seven months in a massive, rippling wave of purple light. 

The wave goes forward, into the DEROS as they spin and purl, unaware of their fate. Each one only has a split second to realize what's happened before it's consumed by the violet fire and explodes.

And as each explodes, the energy carries on to the next, and the next, and the next, like massive alien firecrackers the size of large boulders. 

Gosheven cradles his spent ally-turned-friend in his arms and changes as rapidly as he can, hoping he can ride them both out of here. It's a slim chance, but he's been through tinier holes in his life.

Maybe the Great Spirit will let him keep his life to go with the victory, today, after-

* * *

all the weapons of the Flier are silenced, suddenly, as a great burst of fire and flame erupts from its center. 

The mighty craft begins to expand, then, as though it were a trick balloon rather than a thing made from otherworldly metal. Tendrils of light shoot out from where it buckles and bends, and debris begins to rain down from its undersides.

For just a quick second, it looks as though the battle is won.

But this is an advanced craft, by anyone's standards. It does not merely take damage lying down. It repairs, and rebuilds.

It reforms.

The light ends. The fires are extinguished. The falling parts are reclaimed and remade.

And, perhaps three seconds after it should have been destroyed, the nanites' work is done, and the Flier begins to open fire once more.

But it does so unconvincingly. Haltingly. It is nowhere near as massive or rapid as it was, just seconds before, and it gets no better.

Indeed, the craft appears to be crippled. It does not hover above the Lost City, but rather perches above its highest points -- forming grappling arms to take its weight as it settles down, unable to fire and fly at the same time. 

And that's all the invitation its opponents need. 

Before The Dragon can fully comprehend what has just happened -- and how badly things are going to go for them, now -- the Lost City is all but overrun by the remaining War Spawn, and the Dignitary now stands right beside its ultimate target.

"Enemy of this world, I call upon you to surrender!" the massive robot commands, its many, positive weapons jutting from the circular hatch in its chest and its arms raised to strike: "You have no option!"

Never! The Dragon shrieks, and begins to fire everything he has-

* * *

left to fight," Mr. USA wheezes, barely able to pull himself back through the doors, beyond which is an endless, running horde of dwarfs: "I'm sorry, Myron..."

"And I am out of ammo, now," Yanabah says, pulling out a long knife and making ready to use it on whatever comes through the door next: "So if you're going to !@#$ing do something, Underman, now would be a !@#$ good time..."

"It's done," Myron says, looking at the weird cobble-together he's just made from his glasses, the communications station, and a few odds and ends he was able to break off of other things while they were keeping him safe.

"Are you sure, son?" Mr. USA says, looking up at him: "I don't hear any difference...."

"You wouldn't," Myron sighs, sitting down and looking at the doors: "I didn't stop anything from happening. I just added a few things, that's all."

"Like what?" Yanabah demands, quickly slashing the head off the first dwarf to come through the doors: "Underman? What did you do?"

"I'm sending the signal we were going to broadcast through those satellites," he says, wondering if he should get up and fight or not: "Right now, every Imago in communication with this place is shutting down."

"Does that mean..." Mr. USA asks, but then he cocks an ear as a series of thumps come from the hallway, outside.

Yanabah looks at Myron, and then at the doors. Then she carefully walks over, knife still at the ready, and kicks one of them open.

Beyond the light of the room, just outside the swing of that door, all the dwarfs of Dr. Yesterday lie still on the floor, twitching and groaning.

"Good thing he upgraded them, then," Myron says, getting up and grabbing something two-handed and heavy: "I was afraid we were still going to have to fight through them."

"Are they dead?"

"Just stunned," he says, walking past her: "So let's take advantage of it, huh?"

"Well done," she says, smiling at him.

"Thank you," Myron says: "And please? Underman is dead. Just call me Myron."

And then he starts to bring the bar up and-

* * *

down to Earth, at long last -- one and all.

Every Special drops down, useless and still. Every False Face seizes up and keels over. Every Imago goes cross-eyed and clanks to its knees, or on its face, and every strange, hybrid monstrosity stops moving and falls to the ground, smashing open like ripe fruit when they hit.

And every new group that gets beamed in does the same -- tumbling through the hole in the air like garbage through a chute, only to land in a heap on the ground.

At first, there is disbelief. Then shock. Then joy.

And then, when that's exhausted, and cooler heads prevail, joy turns to concern that they might get back up again. 

And then anger, and the desire for revenge, take over in full measure -- giving even the meekest and weakest of survivors a chance to kill one of their would-be assassins this day.

The streets run red with stolen blood. The cities burn with fire, with anger, and with hard-won freedom.

The Imago have lost.

* * *

The Flier stops shooting. 

The Dragon curses, wondering what has happened, but then realizes that not only can he not fire, but he cannot move, either. He cannot fly the machine away, or change its shape. He can barely even think.

All he can do is hear as the Leader screams and screams, terrified like a child. 

He tries to disengage himself from the machine he is bonded to, but the thing will not obey him. He tries to howl in complaint, but he cannot be heard.

Outside, the massive white robot reaches its hands out to take hold of the Flier. He can feel as its mighty hands clutch at it, and pull it up off the Lost City. He can sense it coming to pieces under that grip.

And then he feels the strange parabola of forces as the Dignitary picks it up, holds it over its head, and brings it right down upon the city, itself.

As he goes down, just before being smashed into the ancient stone, the Dragon looks through frozen eyes, and sees SPYGOD watching him fall. The man is riding athwart a headless Imago turned into a jetpack of sorts. 

And as the Flier is driven into the city -- again, and again, and again, until the nanites cannot cope with the damage and cease working -- he is aware that SPYGOD can actually see him, somehow.

And that he is flipping him both birds.

"... and you were !@#$ing lousy in bed!" he shouts at some point, but The Dragon can no longer quite comprehend what that might mean. The damage to the Flier takes away his mind, piece by piece, until he is little more than a simpering moron.

And then there is just darkness, and the fear that comes with it.

(SPYGOD is listening to Strangelove (Depeche Mode) and having a Victory Lager)

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