Wednesday, August 14, 2013

12/21/12 - The Trial of the Imago Interlude - The Long, Strange Trip of Mr. USA (Part 1)

Okay, this might take some !@#$ing explaining, son.

You know Mr. USA and I have had something of an... interesting !@#$ history. We were friends, once, and then we weren't, anymore. And for all that time I had no !@#$ing idea what the !@#$ happened. I didn't know if I'd said or done something wrong, and he didn't want to !@#$ing talk about it. So I just let it drop and said '!@#$ him,' right?

Well, things were more complicated than I knew. It wasn't until after the President was supposedly dead, and Mr. USA came hunting me, that I found out exactly what the !@#$ was going on.

And boy, was that a !@#$ing doozy.

* * *


"Wait..." SPYGOD says, looking at his bound captive: "You're telling me... that's the !@#$ing reason you've been hating me since the War?"

"At first, yes," Mr. USA says, his anger a white-hot, palpable thing: "And yes, I know it's stupid. And it was, then. But then you made it worse-"

"How did I make it worse?" SPYGOD asks, holding up a hand: "My door was always !@#$ing open to you. I made a million !@#$ overtures and peace offerings. You !@#$ing ignored them-"

"Why the !@#$ should I take a peace offering from someone who's threatening to kill my wife?" the superhero shouts, straining against the inhibitor manacles: "Why should I give you the !@#$ satisfaction?"

SPYGOD blinks. Twice.

"What...?" he says, shaking his head and leaning back: "Your wife? You're married?"

"Don't pretend you don't know," Mr. USA hisses: "Don't you dare."

"(REDACTED), I swear, this is the first time I'm hearing about this," SPYGOD says, holding up his other hand: "I didn't know you were married. No one did."

"You dirty liar," the hero continues: "You knew! It was your voice on the phone! Every week, sometimes every day, telling me to look the other way when you did your evil, !@#$ed up things! Making me impotent, unable to stop you, unable to see her, unable to see my children... my son, my daughter..."

"You have children?"

"Yes! And they've never even met their father, not that they can remember! And it's because of you and your messed-up plans for the world! And I've tried to expose you and I've tried to get you fired and I've tried to stop you but every time you just find some way to stop me, or another way to threaten them, or weasel out of it, or escape! And now... and now..."

"And now the President is dead because of me?"

"Yes! You !@#$ing killed him! One of the finest men I've ever met, the best man we've had in that office for decades, and you !@#$ing shot him!"

"(READCTED)," SPYGOD says, putting his hands on the man's shoulders and looking him in the eyes: "Look at me. Look at my eyes. You always knew when I was kidding you, back in the War, remember? I could never lie to you. You were always that much better than I was. I could hide things from you, but never lie. Remember?"


"Then look in my eyes, here and now. And I'm telling you, I did not know you had a wife. I did not know you had children. I have not been threatening them. I have not been blackmailing you. And I did not shoot the President."

Mr. USA's eyes flare up as bright as the Sun. If the manacles weren't on he'd have melted half the tent, then and there. They stay bright and bright for far too long, and when they finally go dim he's weeping.

SPYGOD regards him for a time, and then, with what might be a moment's hesitation, presses the switch on the manacles' controls. The steel bands turn off and fall down around his captive. The man doesn't so much as move, too busy weeping.

Which he lets him do for quite some time.

* * *

Once he stopped !@#$ing crying, we started talking. 

I learned about how he'd met a young woman, over in France, during the Occupation. How they'd worked together on an op and she'd impressed him, which is !@#$ing saying something. And how, after the War was over, he went back to Paris and found her there, waiting for him. 

Of course, it wasn't a good !@#$ idea for people like us to be involved with normal people. What they did to us at Camp Rogers changed us in ways that might have made us really !@#$ing incompatible with normal folks. Might have caused mutations, defects... all kinds of nasty !@#$.

But he didn't give a !@#$. He figured he was owed something, and I figure he was, too. So he took what happiness the world saw fit to !@#$ing give him. 

They were married in secret. He saw her when he could. She gave him a son, and then a daughter, and when they made it past a year apiece he figured the doctors had been wrong, or just overly !@#$ing cautious. And they made plans to have a life together, as soon as he could swing it.

And then the phonecalls started, and he couldn't see them anymore. 

He couldn't tell her why, or what was happening, or even where he'd !@#$ing gone. He just told her it was over and she should keep her head down, and not tell the children who he was. And then he had to cut it off and never see her again, and do what the voice on the phone told him to, or else she'd pay for it.

My voice, supposedly. But now we know who it really !@#$ing was, now don't we?

And oh, he tried to fix things, Mr. USA did. He tried to run around on the !@#$er. He tried to get back in touch with her. He tried, but the Alter Earth version of me knew what he was doing at all times, and always found some clever way to let him get just far enough before !@#$ing slapping him back down again.


I wished we'd had more time to talk about it, but of course he came to find me just as I was about to head to !@#$ing Alter Earth to snatch the President out of the living !@#$ they'd sentenced him to. And once we got him out of that !@#$ing holy sex-torture palace, the plan went face-first into a pool of !@#$.

And then, thanks to Simon Pure, I figured Mr. USA was dead

So you can imagine my !@#$ing surprise when I find out, months later, that not only is he alive (and over 100 years old, somehow) but that he's been !@#$ing working on my behalf for months.

And I had no !@#$ing idea, even though I actually !@#$ing met him, once.

* * *


SPYGOD opens the door and walks into the backroom of the Beijing gambling den. It's musty and filled with old food and things best left indescribable. For a moment, he wonders if maybe he's in the wrong place, but then there's a strange noise, right behind him, and he turns to find the person he was looking for.

One of them is doubtlessly the man he's come to see. A tall fellow, wearing a hooded and robed costume with a mask that defies all SPYGOD's attempts to see through or around it. He stands with a proud, almost military bearing, and has his hands extended in friendship.

The other is a strange and uncertain sight. He shimmers in the corner, looking like an image on a television in need of tuning. SPYGOD cannot see him fully, either, but suspects there's something familiar there...

"SPYGOD," the masked man says, his voice quavering: "It is good to see you, again."

"I don't know you," SPYGOD says, not taking the hands: "So maybe you better !@#$ing explain how you found me, and why I just crawled through half of !@#$ing Beijing to find you."

"You do know me," the man says, putting his hands down: "It's been some time, I'll admit-"

"Name names."

"I can't, yet."

"Then why am I not !@#$ing shooting you-"

"Because that does not happen, now," the other man says, his voice a strange and echoey thing that sounds like someone talking underwater.

"Oh, you do not want to do being this !@#$ing predestination jazz on me right now," SPYGOD snarls, pulling his gun out and pointing it at the mask: "Not after !@#$ing everything that I've been through."

"Then how about this," the masked man says, apparently not afraid of being shot in the face: "By now, your allies know me to be the leader of the resistance, acting under your authority. If you shoot me, here and now, that will not happen. And if that does not happen, you will create a time-space paradox large enough to rip the world in half."

There's a moment of nothing, and then SPYGOD lowers his gun, ever so slowly: "I didn't think paradoxes worked like that."

"They can, if they're the right kind," the echoey man says, stepping out of the shadows: "We are in three different places, right now, doing different things. And that's just now. Kill him now, and many things collapse, past and future. You do not want that to happen."

SPYGOD blinks, takes a step back, and nods: "Okay then. But I could always just !@#$ing leave and refuse to play your !@#$ game, now couldn't I? And you can't make me do anything, now can you?"

"No, but we think we can convince you."

"You can convince me to let a complete !@#$ing stranger I can't !@#$ing identify !@#$ing take charge of the people I !@#$ing left behind to !@#$ing free the world once I have enough !@#$ing intelligence on what we're going to !@#$ing do?"

"Yes, well... I'll admit it's a hard sell," the masked man says, shrugging under the robes: "I wish I could tell you who I am, but for the time being I must be a cypher. There are certain considerations. Lives at stake."

"Oh, like there aren't 6 !@#$ing billion lives at stake-"

"Would it help if I proved that you knew me?" the echoey-voiced man asks.

"It would be a !@#$ good start," SPYGOD says, looking.

The man nods, walks fully into the light, and changes. His face becomes a fantastic silver mask. His suit shimmers and changes into a high-tech silver outfit, worthy of a god. Time and space glitters and gleams around him, like a halo, and when he smiles the mask smiles with him.

"When last you saw me, I was ending, and warning you of bad things to come," Shift says: "And here I am, again, at my beginning, in the midst of those bad things. We have come full circle, you and I. Please walk with me a bit more."

SPYGOD gasps. His jaw drops. He shakes his head, and takes another step back. Maybe he wipes away a tear, maybe not. 

"Do you believe me, now?" the masked man says, extending a hand once more.

"I do," SPYGOD says, taking it: "But when this is over, you and I need to have one !@#$ of a talk about a few things."

"Oh yes," Shift says, nodding: "You will indeed."

* * *

And boy, did we ever.

Maybe we should switch up our drinks. I got some amazing !@#$ing French hooch here, somewhere. Hang on and let me see what I can find.

Oh yeah, this story's not done yet, son. This is just where it really gets !@#$ing weird. 

(SPYGOD is listening to I Can See Now / American Dreaming (Dead Can Dance) and looking for the French hooch)

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