Friday, May 9, 2014

1/1/13 - A Shadow of Life - Pt. 2

Where the !@#$ we? Not that important, son. We could be a big !@#$ mile under Paris, London, Neo York City. Anywhere the Terre Unifee's got its fat, French fingers into, we could be there, watching our man get the mother of all debriefings.

(I'm betting Rome, though. The guards all look like pictures of my Great Uncle from my !@#$ing family album. Especially the women.)

What is important is what this guy is saying, and you can bet everyone worth a !@#$ in this new, post-Imago world is listening in.

That goes for me, too, of course. And you can bet your big !@#$ $800 Prada belt I'm looking in on this third man, along with Straffer. 

What, they trust us again, now? !@#$ no, son. We're still on the outs. It's just that we sort of !@#$ing invited  ourselves. 

But here's the kicker. No one else in the room can !@#$ing see us, but we can see and hear every !@#$ thing that's going on. 

(And how we're doing that is something I'm going to have to keep !@#$ing quiet for now, son. I'm supposed to be under House Arrest, after all. We wouldn't want to get in any worse trouble than we're already in, would we? Though it'd be hard !@#$ing work to do that, at this point.)

But we're watching and listening as the TU's best interrogators are working this man over, ever so gently. As someone who's had to "welcome" any number of superspies, villains, and idiots with more power than ethics or brains over the years, I have to say they're doing a !@#$ good job.  

Even with that weird, green-haired woman standing right behind them (the one who makes it so his powers don't !@#$ing work) I wouldn't be worried that he'd try to jump the !@#$ out of here with the sugar trail they're leading his dead-eyed !@#$ down.

Not that he has anywhere to jump, now. Not really. Not now that his double, Disparaître, has his scent and can follow him !@#$ing anywhere he tries to go. 

And not that he can really go home, either, which is the whole !@#$ point of this discussion.

I'd almost feel sorry for him, except that I'm still too !@#$ed off at what happened there, a couple months back. That and I'm still trying to wrap my !@#$ing noggin around what he's saying he saw. 

And yes, son. Now more than ever, that is saying something.

* * *

You see, son, something has gone wrong. Badly wrong.

The whole Alter Earth plan revolved around one big !@#$ fact. And that was that, while both our planet and theirs was going to be visited by this big !@#$ space monster to end all big !@#$ space monsters, we were going to get hit first. 

How did they even !@#$ing  know this? !@#$ed if I know, son. I know that they had some records left over from the time before, when other things were living on their Earth, but how they knew how to interpret them, and how those things even !@#$ing knew? Kind of makes my !@#$ head hurt. 

!@#$, son. For all I know their Zombie Emperor Jesus gave the !@#$ing date ex !@#$ing cathedra, at some point during his centuries-long reign. Who can say? 

Alter Earth was never what you'd call a !@#$ good source of reliable intel. Most of what we got, prior to my discovery in the HONEYCOMB's central HIVE, was courtesy of people who got zapped over here for however long before they faded back home. 

And as you might !@#$ing imagine, they really did not feel like cooperating. Even when we were really !@#$ nice to them. 

(Especially when we were really !@#$ nice. It scared them more than the threats.)

But here's the big !@#$ deal, son. Like I said earlier, we were supposed to get !@#$ing nailed by this space beast a year and three months before them. And the idea was that they had some machine that might help, and they wanted to test it out.

So big !@#$ space monster day would come, they'd turn their !@#$ing technogooble on, cook up some !@#$ing popcorn, sprinkle butter-flavored powdered baby parts over it, and munch and !@#$ while watching us burn, or melt, or whatever. And then they'd go home, intel in hand, and either build a bigger version of their !@#$ing machine, or prepare to bring people over here to ride out the storm.

Whichever, whatever. But they had a plan, based on a rough time estimate, and they were !@#$ing sticking with it. 

Well... you know what I say about plans, by now.  Right, son?

* * *

So our third man, this double of Disparaître, he's spent the last couple months carrying on like nothing's !@#$ different, because for him it really isn't. He can go back and !@#$ing forth, right? Who cares about the !@#$ Imago if you can just wink anywhere you !@#$ well like?  

He comes here, sees !@#$, doesn't !@#$ing care, does nothing. Maybe he gets in contact with the other me and the nasty !@#$ they were partnered up with, maybe he doesn't. And then he goes home, checks in, feeds them intel that's a mix of true and false, just to keep things !@#$ing interesting. 

Comes here, goes there, repeat as !@#$ing needed. 

So he's telling these nice TU interrogators that the last time he was there was a day at the end of !@#$ing November. They were having Market Day, then, apparently, and he had a few big !@#$ing purchases he wanted to make.

(And you do not want to know what he bought, son. Just trust me there.)

He buys some... things. He makes his !@#$ report. It's half true, half bull!@#$. They don't !@#$ing call him on it, he doesn't give them a reason to, and then he !@#$ing comes back over here.

And then, on Christmas Day, he teleports the !@#$ back home, expecting to find people preparing for another !@#$ing festival. Something to do with the Unconquered Son, or some such.

And instead...


The first thing he noticed was the Moon. It was gone. A big !@#$ piece of it was tumbling away from view, end over end like some poor !@#$hole falling out of a plane without a chute. 

Then the smell hits him. The kind of horrible charred smell you get when the mother of all pot roasts gets left in the oven just long enough to turn into coal, mixed with damp rot, methane, and !@#$ knows what else.

He looks down. It's the worst thing he could have done. Nothing is left of the city he once came back to. The buildings are all shattered and razed, covered in some weird, black !@#$.

There are people still alive. Just not a lot of them, and not for long.

The first one he comes across is kneeling with her back to him. She's a slave, he thinks, because she's naked. She's dirty and bruised and bloody, she's messed herself.

And there's something about the noises she's making...

* * *

At first, he thinks she's just crying, as her face is wet and she's making low noises. And who wouldn't be? Her world is destroyed, her master probably dead. There's no reason to stay silent and stoic, anymore.  

Who would be so cruel as to beat her for a lack of composure at a time like this?

But when he walks around, he sees his error.

She is not weeping. She is making the sound that people do when their minds have finally failed, and their bodies are shutting down. The low, endless "uuuuuuu" of the lost and the dying.

And she is not crying, either. The black, lumpy streams of matter oozing from her blasted and smoking eyesockets are not tears.

He has the uncomfortable feeling they may be what's left of her brains. 

He steps away from her, quickly, and looks around. He sees there are more just like her, living and dead. All with the same open, blackened, and smoking eyesockets, leaking charred and filthy matter down their faces.  

The few living ones making that horrible noise, the only sounds over the rushing wind and licking flames.

He whirls around, seeing that the buildings are alive with gruesome things. A pulsing, living darkness, clinging to their cracked surfaces. Insubstantial but ever-present, smelling of something truly awful.  

Something infectious, hanging in the wound between worlds.

He jumps, heading to the one place where there should be actual survivors. The place prepared for the highest amongst the high. Those whose robes are so white it actually hurts to look at them, and their servants must have their eyes altered accordingly.  

The Sleep Chamber, the last hope of their world. Mighty and inviolate, and still intact, there in the distance.

But the moment he teleports, he screams. The air is wrong, somehow. The substance tainted.

Something dark is waiting for him, there.

He flails away, landing outside the building he was aiming for. And then he realizes what is wrong. The strange, pulsing darkness that has coated the broken buildings is here as well, sliding over the outside surface.  

Feeding on what is within.

He hears their screams from the high windows. They howl that they were cheated. That they should have been given a new world they could live in, and not this sere and carnivorous landscape.  

Not this shattered, black mockery of a world. 

He could go up there and save them. He knows this. But he also knows that this would risk going into whatever darkness hangs in space between here and there. The scalding, acidic foulness that almost devoured him the last time.  

And so he turns, and ignores his masters in their moment of need.

He's crying, now. It's finally sinking in. His world is gone. There is nothing left for him now, here. Their plan is over.  

It was all a terrible mistake.

But then he makes an even greater mistake. He looks
up, past what's left of the Moon, still falling away from his world.

And he sees... something. A blackness, where there should be stars. A dark shape, getting smaller as it moves away from the planet it just wrecked.  

And for the briefest moment, maybe the space between two heartbeats, he can make out its shape...
* * *

And that, son, is when he finally did the sensible thing and got the !@#$ out of dodge.

He's not entirely sure what happened next, to hear him tell it. He says he !@#$ing wandered around in a daze for a while, alternating between crying and drinking. And then he just settled on !@#$ing drinking, and went to that nasty Cairo bar, knowing they'd leave him the !@#$ alone.

That's where they found his sorry !@#$, like I said. He wasn't trying too hard to hide, anymore, though. He just didn't !@#$ing care. In fact, according to him, he was working up his courage to go step into the !@#$ Sun when they arrived.

(One way to dodge the mother of all bar bills, I guess?)

All well and good, of course. But looking at this broken bastard, crying into his hands now that the massive pile of nasty !@#$ we used to call Alter Earth is a !@#$ing tomb, here's the big !@#$ question, son. 

How do I feel about this? 

See, I used to dream about a day like this. I used to imagine a final !@#$ end to that !@#$hole of a world. All their rape as punishment, torture as entertainment, child sex as family business, death!@#$ing as ritual... just to find out it all ended at 5 in the PM on an otherwise-boring friday would have !@#$ing made my weekend. 

Especially after what happened, last year.

But now? Looking at this creepy !@#$ copy of Disparaître crying because he !@#$ing feels he should be dead, too? That he failed them, somehow? 

It reminds of of this time after the War, when I was looking at the dossiers of Hitler's Ubermenschen. The before and after photos Hitlers oh-so-exacting record keepers kept, year after year. All those fresh-faced kids and young people, some staring ahead like soldiers, some smiling like kids having their !@#$ graduation photos taken. 

I remembered some of them. I fought them. I cut them to pieces, shot them full of holes, ripped them apart with my !@#$ing hands. I cheered to see them dead and dying. !@#$, I even laughed  as they bled out.

But looking at their pictures, all there in their fresh, new uniforms, their faces full of hope and pride? I couldn't see any !@#$ difference between them and the pictures of the kids and young people I volunteered with, after Pearl Harbor. 

Just different uniforms. Different countries that couldn't settle things peaceably. Different ideologies that couldn't coexist. 

Differences that killed. 

Was it their fault those German kids were born into a broken world? Was it their fault they were told evil was good, wrong was right? Did most of them really know what they were !@#$ing doing?

I was never !@#$ing sure with some of them. But I think of all that !@#$ potential wasted. All that possibility gone.

And you know what? Even of Alter Earth was broken, so that the good was bad and the bad was really !@#$ing bad? How do we know there weren't some !@#$ points of light, there in that darkness? How do we know there weren't saints, alive and working in secret?

Did the good deserve to die along with the evil? 


I don't know, son. Sometimes I make like I'm the biggest !@#$ing authority on everything in the !@#$ world, and maybe sometimes I am. But at a time like this, I can't be of any !@#$ing help at all. 

At times like this, I'm just an !@#$hole with a gun who's famous for all the wrong !@#$ reasons.

* * *

Sow what?

My wonderful boyfriend, he talks to aliens for a living. Usually from the other end of a very large !@#$ing gun, of course, but we've always had other species living here, on Earth. And so long as they behave themselves and don't !@#$ing cornhole cows and steal farmers' daughters off to Zeta Omicron IV and a !@#$ half for fun and profit, we're fine. 

Sometimes they're even !@#$ing useful, because sometimes they have actionable intelligence. And even when they don't, well, at least they've got stories.

So you can imagine that, when I realized what this ((UNINTELLIGIBLE CONCEPT)) thing was about, I wanted to !@#$ing know everything. And while a lot of them don't have more info than we did, at least they had stories. 

Horrible stories.

Stories of entire !@#$ing solar systems wiped out in days. Stories of big !@#$ empires brought to nothing. Stories of the greatest !@#$ing armies and armadas wrecked to !@#$ and left burning in space.

Stories of how this !@#$ing thing's presence within a lightyear was enough to make entire planets pack the !@#$ up and go in the opposite !@#$ing direction, hoping it didn't notice them. 

Stories about how nothing could !@#$ing save those who were hit by this thing. Not bomb shelters or shields. Not all the !@#$ armaments in the world.  

Stories about how the few survivors didn't last long...

But this third man? This Omega-class teleporter sitting in this room, trying not to cry? He's the only person who's ever actually seen the immediate aftermath of this thing.

So now we know the stories we've been hearing are true. 

We know that, once we see that !@#$ thing, it'll be on us in less than a month. 

We know exactly what it will do when it gets here, and that nothing we can do will save anyone. 

We know that the disturbing news we got some time ago is even more disturbing than we'd thought.

We know what we are up against.  

And for me, that means that, now more than ever, we have to come together. All the plans, all the plots, all the problems. None of them are with a good god!@#$.

And that, son, means this House Arrest !@#$ needs to end, one way or another. I don't have time to be sidelined or out of action. Neither does my lover.

The good is not going to end here, son. Not so long as I have a !@#$ing breath. 

This fight must be fought, and I've got to be there, for all our sakes. 

(SPYGOD is listening to In a Dark Place (Gary Numan, remix) and having nothing now)

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