How's your !@#$ing Moutabal, son?
Yeah, good? Glad to hear it. I wasn't totally sure I still knew how to !@#$ing make it. The Lion taught me, a long time ago when we were still !@#$ing friends, and he was still alive...
Yeah, the trick's to get the !@#$ eggplant right under the !@#$ing broiler. You gotta char it just enough to get it smoky, but not so much you got a big !@#$ fire in your oven instead of mezze. That and some garlic, tahini paste, lemon juice, maybe some chopped parsley, too.
And I mean the real kind of !@#$ing parsley, son. Not that curly sprig !@#$ they put on your plate when you get a burger at !@#$ing Dennys. I mean the kind you buy by the pound at the !@#$ing supermarket and never quite use before it's gone brown and nasty in your !@#$ing veggie cabinet. That's the !@#$ you need, here. Chopped just enough to give it some !@#$ing texture.
Yeah, I learned a lot about Mediterranean cooking from the Lion. That man's wife could make a tabbouleh salad that'd make you run !@#$ing barefoot across the mountains to get to dinner on time.
Better days, those, son. Better days.
So, one big !@#$ cooking demonstration and ten !@#$ing Flag Speciales ago, we were talking about the big !@#$ magic of favors in the superspy game. Possibly the second most important thing you !@#$ing need to know, after how and when to !@#$ing blackmail someone, and to never !@#$ing pick a !@#$ fight unless you got a back-up plan that could get the Devil out of Hell.
(Well, okay, third most important thing. What the !@#$ is this, the Spanish Inquisition?)
Anyway, here's the score so far. Morocco no longer has a !@#$ing space program. Israel's HAGANAH owes Egypt's El Wedjat a big !@#$ favor because they're the ones who made that !@#$ing happen. By extension, NASA owes HAGANAH a favor, too, seeing as how the Israelis fixed it so their Space Shuttle didn't get !@#$ing preempted by a big !@#$ Nazi Silbervogel on a !@#$ing rocket sled.
(And yes, son, that's even though HAGANAH asked NASA to be the ones to do it, and they didn't. I told you this !@#$'s pretty complicated.)
Conversely? The Space Service is owed a little payback from HAGANAH for having !@#$ing flat-out refused to do any of it for strategic and ethical purposes. But, since the COMPANY never had time to properly !@#$ing refuse, we're still on HAGANAH's good list. Especially since HAGANAH was too !@#$ busy arguing with Molchanie to deal with something we were dealing with... and so on.
Plus, now I've got a piece of information I can use against el Wedjat, in case I need to blackmail them into !@#$ing doing something for me, someday. As I'm sure the Moroccans won't be !@#$ing happy to learn that their fellow North African, Muslim brother country !@#$ing sold them out to god!@#$ Israel all for the sake of the !@#$ing Camp David Accords.
Oh, this surprises you? Son, it shouldn't by now. We !@#$ing spy on our friends, they !@#$ing spy on us, and when we get a chance to get them to do something for us you bet your sweet, greenhorn !@#$ we bring up what we know.
Because you better !@#$ing believe they'll do the same.
So, all well and !@#$ing good. NASA's got a Space Shuttle, Israel owes Egypt a favor, Morocco has no !@#$ idea that they got !@#$ed over, and I got something I can use against Egypt if they ever !@#$ing get uppity with me. Life goes on, everybody happy, on to the next crisis. And the next. And the next.
But hey, son, you know how I always say that sometimes crises come in !@#$ing chapters? The next chapter in this crisis comes a few years later. 1984, I think. And by this time, the board's changed a little.
Anwar Sadat's !@#$ing dead. Israel and Egypt are still allies, but the leftover wedding cake's gotten a bit !@#$ing freezerburned. But at least HAGANAH and Molchanie aren't hating each other, anymore, because, since that science terrorist outfit was neutralized with extreme !@#$ing prejudice, ABWEHR is their big !@#$ primary threat once again.
Which is when Faraj al-Ǧazāʼir, would-be Moroccan astronaut, comes back to Earth -- alive and well and more than a little pissed off.
What happened, you may well !@#$ing ask? Well, that's a !@#$ good question, son, because no one has any idea what the !@#$ el Wedjat's high muckety-muck two-fisted pulp sorcerer !@#$ing did to that spacecraft. Not even the sorcerer, himself.
Oh, he claims he sent it through a gate into the !@#$ing sun. It's something one of the arch-magicians of the Upper Nile learned to do from those !@#$ aliens that were !@#$ing around in Egypt, back before the Pharaohs were a thing. It seems there were other aliens trying to get in on the !@#$ action, and these folks had a knack for !@#$ing zapping them while they were still in the upper atmosphere.
All well and good, son. But this was written down back in the time before people really kept good !@#$ing records. And this was the first !@#$ time in thousands of years that anyone had !@#$ing tried to fire that !@#$ing spell off.
So, needless to say, the guy got it a little !@#$ing wrong, and we really have no idea what the !@#$ happened.
Did Faraj get flung into some far !@#$ corner of the universe, where our physical laws don't mean jack or !@#$? Did he get hurled into an alternate dimension, or some parallel world? Did he wind up in the !@#$ing collective unconsciousness, or the god!@#$ Dreamlands? The future? The past? !@#$ing Hoboken on a really bad night?
Who can say? All we know is that the big !@#$ hole in reality that the sorcerer created when he made it look like the !@#$ing Silbervogel blew up was still there, !@#$ing keeping time with the !@#$ Sun. And occasionally some weird !@#$ would tumble out of it.
And every year, after that, when the Earth passed it by again, some of that weird !@#$ would tumble out on us.
Not anything really awful. Not at first, anyway. Space junk for the most part. Weird monster things that couldn't !@#$ing handle the vacuum. Ships that weren't made to handle entering our !@#$ atmosphere.
Even more dead spacecraft, floating in the black between worlds.
But then, five years after there's this !@#$ing boom directly over Morocco, and something that looks like a god!@#$ diving bell made out of ceramic plates the size of VW Bugs comes hurtling out of the !@#$ing sky, heading straight for Algeria. It smashes into a mountain range, and should !@#$ing make a crater the size of a city, but somehow it doesn't.
The !@#$ thing just melts, all the heat and kinetic energy it absorbed finally bleeding away.
Inside, wrapped in the arms of some gelatinous thing that looks like a jellyfish someone fed a !@#$ of a lot of steroids to, is capitaine Faraj al-Ǧazāʼir. Only he's bigger and stronger, his hair's down to his !@#$ing knees, it's gone steel grey down to the roots.
And he's !@#$ing naked except for a pouched, black-leather belt, a black choker around his neck, a red shoulder cape, and a weapon that looks like a gun and a sword made sweet metal love one night and cranked it out a month or two later.
The jellyfish dissolves. He comes out, only slightly disoriented. The Algerian border patrol's not sure what to !@#$ing make of all this, but one of them looks hard at the guy's !@#$ face and realizes this is the Faraj al-Ǧazāʼir. And they all start !@#$ing cheering, like it's Major !@#$ing Tom come home at last.
But then he ruins it all by telling them that Earth is in deadly danger, and, worse, tells them from what.
You see, son, there's only so much a person's mind can !@#$ing take in. It's kind of like your stomach, you know? You see a huge table of good food, and you start !@#$ing piling up your plate. But sooner or later you get full, and then if anyone tries to make you eat any more you'll throw the !@#$ up.
You've been there and done that, right? I know I sure as !@#$ have. Half the Chinese buffets in this town have orders to !@#$ing shoot me if I show up again.
(Especially on Christmas.)
Well, Faraj tried to tell them about where he'd been for the last fifty !@#$ing years. The massive sea in space he'd navigated. The island-planets where time stood !@#$ing still, or moved at different rates. The creatures and kingdoms between them all.
All the different places and people and things, all more amazing and terrible than anything we could !@#$ing imagine.
And the Endless Empire, made of people whose minds had been !@#$ing invaded by an intelligent virus with a group mind. A malevolent and cunning consciousness spread across trillions of !@#$ing beings, all over the place, all seeking to make his mind the only mind in all creation.
The Unseen Emperor and his Unknowing Armies, most of whom had no idea they'd been infected until he needed to turn them the !@#$ on...
He told them, Faraj did. He tried. But in spite of all the !@#$ they'd seen that night, they just couldn't wrap their heads around the fact that this man, who'd vanished just five or so years before, had aged 50 !@#$ing years in the meantime, even though he doesn't look a day over 30.
(That and he suggested they all have a hot, manly gang!@#$ while he was telling them the story, which didn't help matters at all.)
And so they thought he was !@#$ing nuts, and tried to club the !@#$ out of him. He responded in turn, but overestimated his own !@#$ing strength, killed three people before he realized what he was doing, and, horrified, ran like !@#$ for Morocco.
Of course, Morocco's happy to see him, again. They hail him as the prodigal son returned, and one they got over on the world. And there's talk of parades and parties and all that good !@#$.
But then, you guessed it, he starts !@#$#ing talking. He won't put !@#$ing clothes on. He won't go to mosque. He won't let go of his !@#$ sword. He won't stop trying to get !@#$ing laid.
And he won't stop !@#$ing telling anyone who will listen that the world is in big !@#$ deadly danger.
But you know, that last bit? He wouldn't be the first to come down from the !@#$ing mountain and warn people that Soylent Green is Charlton !@#$ing Heston. That they can deal with, usually.
It's everything else, son. It's the nudity and the !@#$ing. It's the fact that he isn't down with Islam, anymore. It's the horrible way he looks at people when they !@#$ing disappoint him, and that he has to be physically restrained from killing the stupid, the officious, and the !@#$ing useless.
How can I put this... tell me, son, when you were going to that awful, commie-run public school, did you have to read all of Gulliver's Travels? Not just the bit with the little !@#$ing people that's all that people tend to remember, but the whole !@#$ thing? The flying island, the trip to Japan, all that good !@#$?
Well, you remember when he goes to that island where the horses are the smart and beautiful ones, and the people are !@#$ing ugly and stupid? The Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos? And then he comes back to merry old England and he can't !@#$ing stand people, anymore, and just sits in the back of his estate talking to the !@#$ing horses?
And they think he's the crazy one?
That's the closest !@#$ thing I got for this one, son. Faraj was this fresh-faced, well-placed 25 year old kid with a lot of pluck, nationalism, and know-how when they put him into the Silbervogel and launched him up into the black. He then spent 50 !@#$ing years -- twice his age when he'd left -- living and loving and fighting alongside beings that make us look like plodding, grotesque idiots in comparison.
It took him forever to prove he was worthy of their company, and by then he'd changed so much that I'm not sure we can even call him !@#$ing human, anymore.
So he makes what's essentially a one-way journey back here to warn us that this Unseen Emperor wants the !@#$ earth, too. But Faraj has been gone so !@#$ long, and done so many amazing and crazy things, well, it's like zooming along at 100 MPH in the best sports car you can buy, and then having to slow it down to 10 when you aren't stuck in a tollway tailback a whole state long.
And you know how I feel about things like that.
So, what do you do with a crazy-sounding septuagenarian space warrior apostate with a taste for naked swordfighting and polysexuality? You toss his !@#$ in jail, obviously.
But how he got there, and who lost and profited from it? That's where this whole !@#$ favors thing comes back around on itself, son.
Eat your Moutabal. Drink your beer. This goes best on a full stomach.
(SPYGOD is listening to Contact (Daft Punk) and having some more Flag Speciale)