Thursday, December 19, 2013

12/27/12 - Straffer - One Look Up I Can See Down - pt. 4.3

On a windswept plain, before a great mountain, lies a small, squat cairn made of black and tan rocks.

It's only about two feet tall, just under four feet wide. It has no writing upon it, nor any identifying marks.  And yet it radiates a sense of importance -- perhaps because it's the only man-made structure for miles around. 

The only one visible, at any rate.

There's a strange noise, like markers on a whiteboard, and then two pairs of men simultaneously teleport within ten feet of the cairn. One of the pairs is a pair of white men: a taciturn fellow in a blue costume, who immediately lights up a terrible French cigarette, and a pretty blonde in a sharp-as-knives suit who takes the landscape in with a single, subtle glance. 

The other pair are Indian: a scarred, well-dressed fellow with a subtle sneer playing about his features, and a large man in a black coat whose face is mostly hidden under bandages. 

The two well-dressed men nod to each other and, walking forward, shake hands before the cairn.

"Dosha Josh," the blonde says: "Good to finally meet you."

"We've met before, Director Straffer," the other man says.

"We have?" Straffer raises an eyebrow: "I don't remember that. I usually don't forget a face."

"It was a long time ago. I wasn't nearly this handsome, and I wasn't quite so high in things."

"And I was," Straffer says, winking, and they both have a laugh about that.

"So?" Straffer says, looking around: "Your government had something to contribute to our efforts?"

"We do, yes," Dosha says, gesturing to the cairn: "If you'll follow me through here, I'll show you."

Straffer looks at the rocks, again, and -- cocking his head to the side -- smiles: "A shift door. How elegant."

"I thought you might appreciate it," the Indian man says: "But just so you understand? This is to be a weapon of last resort only. This is why we didn't bring it out against the Imago."

"I thought it was because you didn't know how the Sudarshana Chakram worked?"

"Oh we do," Dosha says, trying not to show how disconcerted he is that this man even knows its name: "It's just that we don't know how to control the thing."

"That could be a problem..." Straffer says, and Dosha shrugs:

"Well, hopefully we won't need it. But...?" and -- gesturing to his man that he's not needed -- walks right into the cairn, and vanishes. 

Straffer follows not long thereafter, and does the same.

"Ever get the feeling you get left out of the good stuff?" Anil asks Disparaître, trying to make conversation. But the Frenchman shrugs, and goes back to smoking his cigarette and looking bored.

"Gaandu," Anil mutters, wondering how long his boss will be, this time. 

* * *

For a moment, Straffer thinks that the prisoner hasn't understood what he's been told, or at least hasn't comprehended the full scope of it. The lack of shock or fear on his face is almost reassuring.

"And you are certain of this?" Faraj says, putting his hands out before him: "This is not a guess? This Preternatural is coming here?"

"I wish we were wrong," Straffer says, handing the man a folded-up piece of paper. The prisoner snaps it open with a languid gesture, glances over the data it holds, and then looks back at his liberator.

"When was this made?"

"Ten days ago."

"How many know of this development?"

"Not many. And they won't talk."

"That is good," he says, snapping it shut again and handing it back: "And you say that the people know that this beast is on the way?"

"They do, but I don't think it's sunk in, yet. The Imago told them it was on its way and that they were going to protect us from it. It turns out they were using us to help them escape the planet before it got here. I think most people have associated it with the rest of their broken promises."

"Or perhaps they are so broken that they cannot believe that fate would give them one more hardship on top of what they have already suffered," Faraj says, rising from the cot and walking to the far wall, his hands knitted behind him: "We must reach them as soon as possible. Otherwise when the end comes, they will panic. And panic is a deadly foe."

"I thought you might see it that way," Straffer says, getting up and following after: "That's why I need you with me. You know how to rally a people, Faraj. You've done it countless times before-"

"So you believe me, then?" Faraj says, looking down at Straffer and waving his hand before his extensive murals: "The Viridian Sea? The Islands of Time? The Endless Empire that claimed dominion over all? The Emperor and his Unknowing Armies?"

"I more than believe it," Straffer says, tapping a few of the things the prisoner drew: "I was up above the Earth around the time you came back. I had proof that what you were saying was the truth. It was practically raining on my front doorstep for a few years there, while the dimensional conduit was open."

The prisoner blinks, and Straffer thinks that's the first time he's seen this man be surprised (other than the cyborg thing): "And yet, here I have remained..."

"The Space Service was afraid of global panic," Straffer admits: "And after the civil authorities got tired of you, well, we couldn't get you out without admitting what we knew. We might be able to keep our strategic partners quiet, of course, but Morocco isn't known for its ability to keep its mouth shut."

Faraj is silent for a moment, and unreadable. But then he nods: "A sensible precaution. In retrospect, I was clearly wrong to try and rally the common people. I should have started at the top."

"I agree," Straffer says, extending a hand: "I've come to take you there. Will you join us?"

The man looks at the hand for a moment, and then takes it: "We will. But I will need some guarantees. And I have to tell you -- when Earth is safe once more, and I get the chance to go back to the Viridian Sea? I'm leaving without saying goodbye, and this time I think I will stay gone."

"I wouldn't blame you," Straffer says, feeling as though the man's grip could crush his steel bones with minimal effort, and admiring his restraint.

"Also? I need clothes."

Straffer tries not to smile at that -- he was rather enjoying watching this well-maintained, hirsuite man walk around completely naked.

* * *

Across the heavens races a red and silver streak, going from pole to pole like she had no time to spare.

She laughs as she goes, this shiny shooting star. Red hair flying behind her in the cosmic wind. Metal feet planted on her glowing, ruby board. Riding the unseen waves of the universe, cresting and crashing on the invisible powers that that work in secret to keep all things as they are.

And some things as they must be.

Her names is Brightstarsurfergirl. It is not a name she chose for herself, but something the board whispered in her ear, when she first took it up. The board whispers many things to her, as they ride across the night. Amazing things, terrible things.

Things that only those who are chosen may know.

Today, she races to make a meeting on which many things depend. She must speak with the man she brought down to Earth, not too long ago. The man she found, right where the board said he would be. The man she saved, who will in turn save so much, and so many.

The spaceman, awaiting his next journey to the stars.

She could tell him of things to come. She could tell him of the triumph, the tragedy. She could tell him of the things that he will have to do for the future, the great and terrible choices that must be made to keep this world alive and safe.

But he would not understand them now. He may not ever understand them, to be honest. All that is certain is that he will make those choices, because he is the man to make them.

And she will be there to be sure that he does, because that is what she does.

She can almost see him, now, waiting for her on the beach. One day he may understand that she was waiting for him

But not today. 

* * *

"So," Faraj al-Ǧazāʼir says over the roaring flames, finding it strange to be in clothes for the first time in three decades: "I see fashion has not changed much?"

"Not really, no," Straffer says, trying not to jump at the explosion behind him: "There was a hideous pastel phase in the 80's, but that went away before long."

"I remember. Thank the Maker for that."

"Won't they be upset about...?" Disparaître asks, turning around to look at the burning prison.

"The official story is that the Pit of Hell caught fire and burned," Straffer explains, watching as a gaggle of suddenly-unemployed guards shout and howl abuse at the fire that's taken their jobs: "All prisoners died in the flames."

"Not entirely true, of course," Faraj says, watching as a group of bewildered men stagger away into waiting police trucks: "Some will be incarcerated elsewhere, quietly of course."

"Of course," Straffer says, marveling at how quickly the man catches on: "And others, like yourself, are going back into the world."

"And perhaps it's ready for me at last," the man says, standing still and taking a moment to breathe in clear and smokeless air: "Perhaps this time I am ready for it."

"Where to now?" the Frenchman asks, tossing his cigarette away.

"Whitehaven Beach, in Australia," Straffer responds: "We've got a girl to meet. I think you might find her interesting, Faraj."

"I'm sure I will," the man says, turning to look one last time at his prison, burning down: "Adieu, Fosse de L'enfer." 

And then they're gone -- to bigger and better things.

(SPYGOD is listening to Pandora (Rapha) and having a Tooheys)

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