Tuesday, September 3, 2013

12/21/12 - The Trial of the Imago - Punishment and Aftermath

Yeah, that took longer than I !@#$ing thought it would.

What, the story? !@#$ no, son. I meant taking a slash and then flushing the !@#$ commode. All this French !@#$ I've been chugging it's no wonder my kidneys were backed up, but then you figure that poor porcelain throne can only !@#$ing handle so much before exploding into a million white pieces all over the !@#$ floor.

Of course, since this isn't our !@#$ing apartment, and we are under house arrest, I suppose I'm within my rights to do the !@#$hole rock star thing and just smash the !@#$ place. But where would I take a !@#$ the rest of the time?

(Not in the bedroom bathroom, that's for sure. Me and my boyfriend got that straightened out first thing.)

No, son. What was really !@#$ing taking so long was watching the gold go down the hole.

No, it's not that I have a !@#$ing attraction to that kind of !@#$. I've done a lot of weird things in my time, but I'm happy to say that, while I might gladly stuff my !@#$ into one hole, and take another thing in my mouth, I am not really all that !@#$ing interested in what comes out of them.

Well, one thing that comes out of one of them, anyway.

Yeah, you probably didn't need to !@#$ing hear that. Sorry, son. You can take your hands off your !@#$ ears now.

No, what transfixed me, back there, was the fact that, unless you're a !@#$ing sanitation engineer, you probably have no idea as to what !@#$ing happens when you flush the !@#$ john. It all goes down the hole and away from you, and that's all you need to know, right?

But in reality, there's this massive, complicated system at play. All these !@#$ tubes and pipes, and filters and tunnels, and sluiceways and treatement plants... !@#$ son, it's like some crazy kind of alchemy, down there, all set to turn a city's leavings into as harmless a substance as possible before sending it back out into the wild.

And it is pretty !@#$ing miraculous, in a lot of ways. But it smells, and it's nasty, and when things break down it's a !@#$ing hazzard, so no one wants to know unless they have to know. And so it remains a weird mystery science for most people, and only those who actually !@#$ing tend to the process know what's going on.

Yeah, son, I ponder things like that. I'm !@#$ing allowed. Had a lot of !@#$ing time to ponder that, now haven't I? You know how many minutes I've spent on the !@#$ can in my life?

I could count them, if I !@#$ing wanted.


No, the reason I got all starey-eyed back at the !@#$ can is because I was thinking about what happened next. To the Imago, I mean.

We tried them, we sentenced them. And then came the day we had to flush them down the !@#$ing toilet for their crimes.

And you better !@#$ing believe I was there for that one.

* * *

So, let's see, here. The sentencing happens on a Thursday in Paris. The very next day, I'm not there anymore, but the President is. And they get talking about some things that I genuinely had no idea were in the !@#$ing works, but wasn't entirely surprised to hear when it all happened.

(Yeah, yeah. We'll get to it eventually.)

Next couple of days I'm !@#$ing laying low because I really do not need to !@#$ off the President any further. Also, I can't !@#$ing go anywhere without people sticking cameras in my !@#$ face, or asking me how it feels to be !@#$ing responsible for a billion dead children around the world. We hole up in the B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G., drink mojitos, and order out a lot. 

Then, late Monday night, we get a call from Mister Freedom. He's ready.

And Tuesday is when it happens. 

* * *

On the Southeastern side of Cuba lies a small piece of empire, left over from the time before.

It's known as the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, sometimes Gitmo. Since the earliest parts of the last century, it has been under American military control, helping establish a presence in this volatile part of the world. And, since about the middle of the last century, it has been a hated thing in the eyes of the Communist government that controlled Cuba.

But that was before. Before the end of that Government at the hands of the COMPANY. Before the death of their Dictator, and the messy liberation of its people.

And before the coming of the Imago, which made all that confusion and liberation something of an afterthought, or perhaps a black joke.

Now, Cuba is its own entity, once more. Its people have elected a new government, based on a mixture of capitalist economics and socialist welfare. And they, like so many other countries, have joined the Terre Unifee.

One of their earliest decisions, once they joined the TU, was to demand that the American naval base leave. And maybe, once upon a time, America would have been happy to, seeing as how the real reason to have a Naval presence there was no longer in effect.

Unfortunately, Gitmo was also home to Detention Camp Zebra, which cannot, under any circumstances, be moved.

Given the unique situation on the ground, the two nations made a historic agreement. The base was mostly decommissioned, except for the underground prison, which became its own entity. America agreed to pay back rent, in full, and to continue to pay rent on the area they hold. And they also promised that the island nation would be protected from anything and anyone that might be locked up in The Z. 

Not that such a thing is a concern with Mister Freedom on the case. (Usually)

By the time SPYGOD gets there -- flown in by the last remaining COMPANY Transport anywhere -- a number of distinguished guests have arrived. Mostly the same types who came to the verdict and the sentencing, here to see the end result, but also the well-known masters of several, esoteric fields. 

Leading scientists and great thinkers. Escape artists and magicians. Philosophers and religious leaders. All here to see the work of a man who melds their many disciplines into one, seamless art.

All front and center to watch the master of universal escapology create a prison not even he could get out of. 

One gets a sense of the gravity involved, here, this day, upon seeing the machine: a great, copper spiral surrounding a giant, silver cylinder. Lights flash around the cylinder, beating in time with whatever strange engine runs it. 

An elevating platform sits at the top of the spiral, holding a massive box containing many large, two-toned metal balls. These are obviously the condemned Imago, awaiting their sentence, and there are quite a few other, massive boxes nearby, waiting to be loaded onto the platform, and send barreling down the copper spiral, one by one.

In front of the machine, on the tarmac, is an ornate platform, done up in the colorful livery that Mister Freedom often uses when attempting some amazing feat. Before that platform sits the ball containing Green and Yellow, hooked up to the same speakers it was in court, in Paris.

The crowd assembles and sits down, talking amongst themselves. The last time Mister Freedom gave a public performance, like this, was when they finally trapped the Emperor of Dust. And what he did to him gave everyone who saw it nightmares for months.

Some fates are too cruel, even for interdimensional soul-thieves.

SPYGOD's up at the front, along with other witnesses for the Prosecution. He can't help but chuckle at how the Judge is jockeying for a good position, leaving his secret lover (the Prosecutor) well behind him, out of what may be eerie caution or simply not caring about his feeling at this moment in time. 

Mr. USA sits on one side of him, Director Straffer on the other. All the other Strategic Talents have elected to be somewhere else, and quite pointedly so. 

"I really wish Mrs. Liberty was here to see this," Mr. USA sighs.

"Yeah," SPYGOD says, putting an elbow up on the man's shoulder: "She'd have talked some !@#$ing sense into them by now, let me tell you."

"Well, I was thinking more of her actually... oh, never mind."

SPYGOD smiles: "That's always been the difference between us, hasn't it?"

"One of many."

"Yeah, well..." he pats the old man on the shoulder: "Welcome to the pariah club."

"If you two don't stop arguing I'm going to have to assert boyfriend rights," Straffer says, leaning over and winking: "He and I are the ones who are supposed to be bickering like an old married couple, by now. Not you two."

Mr. USA just stares at him for a moment, and then laughs. It's a long, rich laugh -- one that silences a lot of other people -- and before long SPYGOD and Straffer and laughing right along with him. 

(Some !@#$hole tries to shush them, but they don't even look in his direction.)

Eventually, the laughter fades, as it must. And just then, as if by some quirk of perfect timing -- or what might be design, knowing him -- there's a strange whooshing of black cloth at the front of the massive machine, and Mister Freedom is standing there, resplendent in his dark uniform.

Silence falls like a headsman's hatchet. He smiles solemnly, and holds up his hands. They have clearly been manacled.

"Today, we ponder the mystery of imprisonment," he says, holding his chains aloft: "We look upon a group of individuals who have earned our wrath, and are therefore deserving of our punishment. But we also must realize that they are sentient beings, deserving of the same respect we give to any such creatures. 

"Thus we affirm the paradox of prison: your body must be chained down, for your past crimes, but your soul must be allowed to soar, or there can be no future redemption."

'Soar': if there's any irony in his use of that word, given the Imago's tendency to use it to great effect, he makes no sign of it. A cool customer, this science magician. 

"And so, we commit the Imago to this cell," he says, gesturing to the silver cylinder: "It is a virtual matrix, specially built to accommodate their many minds, and respond to their needs and desires. Within its architecture, they may have whatever civilization they can devise, and one limited only by their imagination. 

"But they will not leave it until we allow them to do so, and doing so will prove... challenging, to say the least."

There's a collective nod, a muttering of assent. 

"I asked the one known as Green and Yellow if she had any final words to say, prior to her sentence being carried out. She did, and so I have allowed her this moments."

He walks down, and turns on a dial by the box: "You may speak now, Green and Yellow. They are all here."

"Oh, excellent," Green and Yellow sneers, her voice crisp and clicking: "I suppose you expect that I'm going to beg, or possibly even promise that we'll learn our lesson and someday prove worthy of your trust, again? 

"Well, I'm not. I am not sorry that we did what we did. I am not sorry that we were able to escape that prison we were put into, by beings more powerful than you will ever be. I am not sorry that we took over your planet, and planned to use you to escape it, in the wake of what's coming. I am not sorry we decided to murder you all, at the end, there, either. 

"I am sorry that we won't be able to see you all die, soon. Because that will be entertaining. You may have dealt with us, at great cost, but when ((UNINTELLIGIBLE CONCEPT)) gets here... oh, you are in for a shock. 

"But, not to appear entirely ungrateful, I will give you this. Of all the worlds we ever conquered, and all the peoples we ever utilized, you are the only ones to throw us off, ever. And it wasn't because we were weakened, or sloppy, or too kind for our own good.

"But it wasn't because you were just that good, either. It is simply because you are the only race that was so clearly willing to sacrifice so much of your own kind to save the rest.

"And that alone made so much of the difference."

There is silence, then. No one here has no difficulty understanding what Green and Yellow was referring to. 

No one wishes to have it elaborated upon.

"Mister Freedom? I have said all I need to say, both for myself and my people. You may do what you are going to do, now."

The black-clad man nods, solemnly. He does not disconnect the speaker, but instead presses a few buttons on a remote control he snatches from the air, as though it were part of a magic trick. 

The silver cylinder hums into life. Green and Yellow screams, sharply, as her essence is pulled out of the sphere she's inhabiting, and siphoned into the cylinder. A loud BEEP! sounds out from the machine, and the green and yellow ball she had been inhabiting, just seconds before, begins to smoke and crumble, turning into two-colored dust as it collapses in on itself.

"The process of incarceration has begun," Mister Freedom says, pressing another button on his control. The box at the top of the copper spiral releases a sphere, which rolls round and round the cylinder like a pinball. The cylinder BEEP!s and the sphere rolls on, falling into a shallow pit at the end. 

A crumpling noise is heard as it hits the bottom, and a puff of two-colored smoke wafts up, gentle and pathetic. 

"Out of respect for the process, I ask that, if you stay, you remain silence for the entire event," he says, pressing a button and releasing another sphere: "I estimate that it may take six hours, give or take."

A few people politely leave, heading for the reception that's been set up some distance away, on a rise that allows them to see what's going on. Others sit and watch, for a time.

And some -- like SPYGOD and The Owl -- join the magicians and philosophers, and sit and watch the entire thing. 

* * *

A long !@#$ing six hours, son. But worth every !@#$ moment, just to see those !@#$ers get handled as efficiently as they'd planned on handling us...


After it was done, Mister Freedom checked a few things, and then bowed to the crowd, and vanished without saying another thing. 

The copper spiral collapsed down into a big !@#$ ring, like a giant slinky or something. The cylinder went straight down into a hole in ground that I hadn't even !@#$ing seen, just a moment ago. As soon as it was gone, there was a sound like a million !@#$ cell doors slamming the !@#$ shut, one after another, each one louder and more !@#$ing final than the last.

And then the hole it went into just vanished like it wasn't even there. 

The magicians stood up and applauded. Everyone else just sort of scattered, like they'd watched their parents !@#$ or something. And then it was just me and The Owl, and she walked right by me without saying a !@#$ thing.

I wanted to say something to her. But after how things went in Paris, and what happened on !@#$ing Thanksgiving, I don't know that I would have !@#$ing dared. 

No, she had a right to her anger, son, so I let her have it. At least for then. 

So I went over to the rise for a much-needed drink, or ten, over at the buffet. It was a pretty upscale thing, complete with a string quartet playing orchestrations of the Beatles (mostly from Revolver). Straffer and Mr. USA were in the middle of a !@#$ing hilarious conversation, so I joined them, and we had a few snorts and giggles.

One thing I didn't find !@#$ing funny was the other Strategic Talents. They were all over by the !@#$ cake table, talking about the future. A new Freedom Force was in the works, over there -- old heroes, new faces, allies from all over the !@#$ world -- and it looked like The Owl and the new New Man were heading it up.

And it was pretty !@#$ clear, from how they all had their !@#$ backs to us, that they weren't asking us over to join.

Lucky for me, Mr. USA didn't notice a !@#$ing thing, especially over the music. So we kept !@#$ing talking, downing the champagne, and figuring out some next moves. He knew how much !@#$ I was in with the President, and why (after all, he was !@#$ing there when it happened) so he promised to try and talk the man into calming the !@#$ down and seeing reason, at least as much as it was possible to do. 

A while into the party, I got called away by one of the magicians who'd been on the stage. Some Spanish !@#$ I never heard of before, and haven't !@#$ing seen since. He handed me a small note, made the Vitarka Mudra at his right eye, and said "Le esta viendo."


I open it up, and of course it's a note from Mister Freedom. Says he'd like to see me at his workshop. And, given how we left things last time, I figure it's time for that !@#$ing apology he said we didn't !@#$ing need. So I grab a bottle of the bubbly no one's touched yet, two glasses, and head on down. 

* * *

"Come, my friend," the older man says, leaning up from his neat and orderly workdesk, and brushing a hand through the multi-colored bangles in his long, white hair.

"I ain't even breathing hard, yet," SPYGOD says, ducking under a low-hanging piece of equipment: "Besides, my man and I have a bit of an understanding on that."

"I am sure you do," the old man smiles: "And you brought champagne?"

"Yeah. I kind of stole it from your table, up top."

"Oh, that is not mine. That is all the Americans' doing. And the Cubans. And the French."

"Hard to tell who's in !@#$ing charge of this !@#$ show, huh?"

"We are," he says, gratefully accepting a glass and letting the man fill it: "So what are we drinking to, (REDACTED)?"

"How about an apology?"

"I already told you, not needed. That was an excellent test of my security. I am glad to see you made so much of what I allowed you to see."

SPYGOD coughs into his fist: "Well... that's !@#$ing sobering."

"As it should be. So we have both underestimated each other? A good thing we are friends and allies."

"How about we drink to that, then?"

"I will agree to that," Mister Freedom says, clinking his glass with SPYGOD's and taking a sip: "And, if I may propose a toast?"


"To the eventual freedom of the Imago," he says, winking as they clink glasses once more.

SPYGOD stammers: "Um... what?"

The old man laughs, and gestures to a screen. On that screen is a giant, metal box, made of what seem millions of small, interlocking parts, each one cunningly nestled against one another.

"This, I think, is the finest cell I have ever constructed. I have made it in such a way that no one, not even I, knows the exact combination. To unlock such a thing would take a truly herculean effort, perhaps several of them all at once. So, I can say with some confidence, the Imago will not be let out of there."

"So what do you mean about their freedom?" SPYGOD asks, downing his glass and then just pulling off the !@#$ bottle: "Do you intend to !@#$ing let them out, someday?"

"Oh no. They are never going to be worthy of our trust," Mister Freedom says, sadly: "Their souls are manacled things, weighed down by dreams of limitless power and endless conquest. They will never take the steps to free themselves without some kind of external influence. 

"And as they tend to utilize, as they say, all things external to themselves, I don't think they'd listen to any such well-meaning force or fellow that came along to show them the error of their ways."

"Yeah, I never really saw an Imago Jesus coming down the pipe."

The old man chuckles: "I was thinking of an Imago Buddha, myself. But at least we are traveling in the same direction, this time."

"So what are you saying?"

"I am saying that, so long as they perceive the need to gain power by conquering others, they will never be satisfied to merely sit in a wondrous box and be given whatever they need to survive. They will try to escape, and, given enough time, they just might succeed, as they did before."

"Okay. And how are you going to stop them?"

"I am not."

SPYGOD shakes his head: "Okay, I'm still confused."

"Then let me tell you of the future, my friend," Mister Freedom says, gesturing to a pair of chairs that have quite literally appeared from nowhere, and indicating that they should sit in them: "One billion years from this day, when the Earth is a broken and blackened thing-"


"Let me finish, my friend."

"Are you talking about that !@#$ing thing we can't understand? The thing that's on it's !@#$ way?"

"I am. And it will scour us clean of life and move on, leaving only a sorry remnant, circling an impotent Sun."

"Okay..." SPYGOD blinks, having another pull and deciding to see where this is !@#$ing leading.

"So, to this ruined world, an exploratory craft shall come. When they search what little remains, they will find that there are a few pieces of technology still working. This cube will be one of them, and they, being machine creatures, will be eager to unearth it, as they believe it may be a last survivor of whatever apocalypse came upon us."

SPYGOD blinks again: "At which point they let the !@#$ing Imago out."

"Yes, and the Imago, as they put it, 'utilize' them. They use their machines to make even more bodies. They leave our broken solar system, and begin to ravage and repurpose other parts of the galaxy. And in time they create an empire that makes the one they had, back in their old dimension, look like a mere trifle."

"And you know all this, how?"

"Because I have programmed the matrix to make them think this is what is going to happen," the old man says, smiling: "You see, time is not relative in there. To us, it has been only seven hours, but once the cylinder was locked down, their perception of time was slowed down considerably. In the last hour, several decades have already gone by. And a year to us will seem like a billion to them."

SPYGOD snaps his fingers, getting it at last: "So a year from now, they think the machines come and get them, a billion years from now. But it's really just an illusion. They're only leaving their perceptions of a prison for their perceptions of freedom."

"Exactly. And once they think they're free, they will no longer plan, plot, and conspire to get out again. And so we will not run the risk of them freeing themselves, somehow, in ages to come when this horrendous danger will be lost to time."

"You think they won't notice, even after billions of years?"

"No. In fact, I know they will not."

SPYGOD nods, and pours the old man some more champagne: "That's brilliant. It's a complete ripoff of the end of a Star Trek episode, but it's brilliant."

Mister Freedom laughs and raises his glass: "I never said I was completely original, my friend. But I think the application is, dare I say, flawless."

"I sure !@#$ing hope so," SPYGOD replies, looking at the box on the screen: "I wouldn't wish those !@#$ers on the worst bastards in the universe. And that's !@#$ing saying something."

"I rather think we've dealt with the worst bastards in the universe, now," the old man says, shaking his head.

And with that, there's some silence between them.

"So, I hate to ask," SPYGOD says, having another pull from the bottle instead of filling up his glass: "Have the other talents come to ask you to join up with their new group, yet?"

"They have, yes. But I have turned them down."

"Really?" SPYGOD asks, amazed: "I thought you'd be all over that one. The reasons they didn't let you in the Freedom Force after the Liberty Patrol fell apart were... well, they were complete !@#$. You should have been there, with them. And I told them that."

"I know, (REDACTED). And I appreciate that. But the truth is that I needed to be outside of that group. I needed to be doing this, outside of them. And I think I have done more here, outside, than I would have done inside."

"Well, that's a good way to look at it. Now me, I'd have been !@#$ing-"

"That and, a year from now, I will be dead," Mister Freedom says, holding up a hand.

"... What?"

"I need to move forward in things," he says, gesturing around: "I spoke about traps, before? Life is, itself, a trap. And I have been manacled too long. I need to move on in order to be free."

SPYGOD looks at him, and nods, having another shot of the alcohol: "I understand."

"Do you approve?"

"I don't, no," SPYGOD says: "I mean, I understand your reasons. I get you, and where you're coming from. But it just seems so weird to just say, hey, next year I'm cashing it in."

"That is because you have also been manacled, my friend," the old man says, getting up and putting a hand on his shoulder.

"Is there anything you need me to do?" SPYGOD asks.

"Yes. Someone will need to follow in my footsteps. I plan to spend the next year finding this person. I want your promise that, when they need help, the COMPANY will give it, fully and without question."

"I will," he says, putting a hand on the man's hand: "I will see that it's done. You know that."

"I believe you," he says: "But there is something you should know, my friend. And I think you already know it, but do not want to admit it."

"What's that?" SPYGOD asks.

* * *



Well, wasn't much to say after that. So I left, and collected my boyfriend, and we came back to Neo York City, hoping that we could start putting all that !@#$ behind us. 

Except we couldn't. And we didn't. Mostly because they wouldn't let us, and also because some things I'd let !@#$ing lie there for too long decided to jump up and say "hi."

And then things took their course, and here we are. Under house !@#$ing arrest and facing a trial for being the man they get to blame for what happened.

So who won? Well, son, I'd say we did. We beat those !@#$ers and have them locked down. They won't be threatening anyone ever again.

But then, we also lost something, here. A billion children around the world are dead. Millions more were killed outright in the war. And let's not even get into places like Israel, or Southern Asia, or anywhere that people got caught in the !@#$ing crossfire. 

And now everyone's signing up to be part of some !@#$ing world government, rather than picking up their own pieces and getting their !@#$ in order. Of course, maybe it'll !@#$ing work, after all, but I really doubt it. 

And maybe that's the crusty, old conservative saying that. But I just have a bad !@#$ feeling about this. 

And I know why, too. 


Yeah. Go to bed, son. Let this old man sleep it off. Tomorrow's another day. 

For as long as I have it, anyway.

(SPYGOD is listening to Ocean (Dead Can Dance) and having nothing now)

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