Friday, June 20, 2014

1/5/13 - METALMAID: Und wird von millionen Augen angeguckt - pt 4

   ... some brown-haired guy that looks about as remarkable as a mud puddle.

"Et, voila!" The Violet Demon announces, waving a hand at the man as though he'd pulled a rabbit out of a hat: "Ladies and gentlemen, meet Francois Dinoart."

"Who?" METALMAID demands, glaring down at their captive. 

"Who?" most of the supervillains echo, as they've never see the man in their life.

"Wait a !@#$ing minute," The Angle says, taking a step forward and looking at the man: "Danny...?"

Francois sighs, and begins to roll something around in his mouth. But before he can the Violet Demon waves a purple, glowing hand on the left side of his head, and the man falls down unconscious, once more.

"Sorry about that," the masked villain says, looking up at METALMAID as he kneels down and puts his fingers into the man's mouth: "I figured he'd have a poison tooth to chew, I just wasn't sure when he'd do it."

"And how did you know that?" the Lord of Spiders asks.

"Direction Noir always sent their agents provocateur out with a failsafe, just in case they got made and couldn't get away," he explains, pulling out the still-intact poison tooth: "Not as good as two to the eyes, but not everyone has an N-Machine."

"What the !@#$ is Direction Noir?" the Angle asks, shaking his head: "I know this guy as Danny French. He was one of the Secessionist leaders at the Montana compound."

"Yes," the Violet Demon says, coming up and holding the tooth aloft for inspection: "And before that he was Freddie D. Arthur, supposedly-American staff at the French embassy in Washington D.C., but really in charge of keeping a number of our spy organizations under surveillance. Especially the CIA, which had a number of people in bed with the American Secessionist movement, and was very interested in strategic talents, seeing as how they couldn't stand the guy that ran the COMPANY..."

He looks around the room at all the blank stares, sighs, and -- after tossing the tooth into the punchbowl -- waves his hands and smiles: "Maybe I should start from the beginning?"

"It would probably be a !@#$ good idea," Chassis says.

"I think I'm going to need some aspirin," Red Thunder sighs, looking down at what's left of Green Thunder.

"Just hurry it up, will you?" the Emperor of Pain sighs: "I can't hold this for too much longer."

"Okay, then," the Violet Demon says, vaulting up to the stage, nodding to The Pusher, and turning around to address the crowd: "Those of you who don't know me? I'm the Violet Demon. The Scarlet Factotum can vouch for me, and I can certainly vouch for her-"

"How might that be?" the Lord of Spiders asks, putting a heavy foot down on their unconscious captive's head so he can't escape.

"Well, we almost worked together, once, and stayed in contact thereafter. We would have worked together more, but, well, you know how the song goes. 'We all have to duck / when the !@#$ hits the fan.'"

There's a couple laughs, there -- especially from the turned heroes -- and he smiles behind his mask.

"Glad you thought that was funny. What comes next is definitely not. And before I get started, can we just agree not to kill the messenger?"

"Anyone who touches you will answer to me," METALMAID announces, walking up to the stage and standing next to him. And there's something about the look that he gives her when she says that which makes her heart do more strange things, inside her.

"Well, okay then," he continues: "Long story short? You've all been played, and badly. You were all set up to fail by the Terre Unifee. They've been the hand behind the wheel on a lot of things that have happened, lately. The idea to get the Secessionists together with the former members of the Legion? Making inroads with you new folks? Getting everyone to strike on Christmas?

"Well, that was all them."

Booing, now. But METALMAID growls, and it stops very quickly.

"I'd really like an explanation on that," Husqvarna says, pointing a chainsaw at the stage: "What exactly was going on?"

"Well, I can give chapter and verse, but it'd take longer than we've got," the Violet Demon says, gesturing to the very-beleaguered Emperor of Pain, grimacing behind them on the stage: "The simple explanation goes like this:

"To start with, there was the CIA. Like I was saying earlier, there were a number of connections between them, the Legion, and the Secessionist Movement. It was all one big conspiracy of convenience, with each of them playing off the other to get what they wanted, and then being able to toss the trail down the trash."

"That's got to be bull!@#$," one of the new heroes snorts.

"No, it's not," Nefartiti offers "When I got into this !@#$ing gig? King Totenkhamen told me all about the history of the Legion. There was a !@#$ing lot of CIA involvement in there, especially during World War II. And they just kind of made it a thing, after that."

"King Totenkhamen?" The Sound asks as softly as he can.

"Don't ask," The Pusher replies, shaking his head: "It's a branding thing." 

"So, anyway," the Violet Demon continues: "The Legion went down, as most of you know. And then the CIA went down, after the Imago took over. I'm sure you watched the trials on TV?"

"Kill your TV, man," Groovy Nightmare giggles from the back of the room.

"Can't disagree with that! But even with the Legion and the CIA gone, you still had the Secessionist movement, only now it could do whatever it wanted and not have to answer to its handlers in the Company.

"But did you ever wonder why they seemed to be all wait and no action, right up until Christmas? Did you wonder how the main compound just folded like a house of cards when Le Compagnie showed up? Did you marvel at how efficiently most of your now-jailed colleagues were rounded up afterwards?"

There's some assent, and a few verbal question marks. On the other hand, Black Rider seems to be nodding so enthusiastically it's a wonder his head doesn't pop off.

"Well the Terre Unifee knew that they'd have to take the United States of America in to get the rest of the world to fall in line. The best way to do that was to show the American people just how weak and vulnerable they were on their own. And, as you all know by now, things were pretty sketchy out there, after the Reclamation War."

There's nodding on that. No one there didn't feel the pinch in some way, shape, or form.

"But they also needed to find a way to get the serious troublemakers and loudmouths out of the way. That would be the Secessionists, who were all butt-hurt now that the Imago were gone, and they had to be part of America again. I'm sure you talked with enough of them to know how angry they were at the thought of taking orders from France, of all places?"

More nodding and mumbles of agreement.

"So they decided to get rid of a few birds with the same stone. So they got the Secessionists to work with you lot to build their compound, up in Montana. And they got them to work with you new folks so they could run guns, money, and supplies back and forth. And then they planned for there to be one big attack, during which all the necks would be stuck out and ready for the axe.

"And, well, the axe was swung," he shrugs, holding his hands out: "And you all, here? You're most of what's left of that. They built you up just so they could knock you down, as proof to America's people that they're weak and in need of foreign assistance to maintain their security. And as America goes, so goes the world."

"Diabolical," the Lord of Spiders says: "I must remember to congratulate the head of the TU on such a masterstroke, just before I bite him."

There's laughter at that, and the Violet Demon grins behind his mask.

"Well, why not make that happen?" he asks, looking around: "Before we were so rudely interrupted by the Terre Unifee, masquerading as the Brotherhood of the Righteous, you heard the plan to deal with the TU-"

"We heard a part of a plan," the Black Rider squeaks: "I still don't like the idea that we don't know the whole thing going in-"

"If we did, and they captured your racist !@#$, you'd spoil it all for the rest of us," Husqvarna snorts: "I'm okay with limited intel. It's how things work in the real world."

"And I think we're all aware that, if we don't like the plan, it's sixty-to-five right now," Chassis points out, glaring at the five people on the stage.

"And come on, folks," the Violet Demon sighs theatrically: "Is there anyone here who doesn't want some !@#$ing payback on the TU at this point?"

There is no one, judging from the cheers.

"Then I think my work is done, here," he says, walking off the stage and heading back into the audience: "And I think the lady has the floor, again."

METALMAID tries not to smile too widely at that, and, within a short time, has them eating out of her hand.

* * *

"I think that went rather well," the Lord of Spiders says, later, as he and the Emperor of Pain stand outside the church doors, shaking red bits and pieces of the late Francois Dinoart off of their boots.

"I can't disagree," the old man says, lighting up a cigarette and offering one to his tarantula-faced colleague, who politely refuses.

"It's a good thing that young fellow interceded, though."

"What, this !@#$hole?" the Emperor asks, pointing to a rather large, red piece that's stuck under his heel.

"No, the young man in the purple mask."

"Yeah.. what's his name..."

"The Violet Demon."

"Yeah. Violet Demon," he says, taking a long drag: "Right."

"My goodness, man. You are rather out of it."

"Ah, you know how it is. A herd of elephants could have thundered through that church and I might not have remembered. I'd have come out of it and wondered who made the holes and left the pats."


"Yeah. Doing my thing for that long takes a lot out of me."

"It didn't used to."

"No, it always has," the Emperor admits: "I used to just be better at hiding it."


"Yeah. I mean, making everyone double over in pain? That's no problem. It's making it so that everyone who was with me wasn't in pain that's the hard part. And normally it's just me and a few folks, and not half a !@#$ basketball team."

"All these years and I never knew," the Lord chuckles: "But it does explain some things."

"Yeah, well," the old man shrugs: "I guess we all got our crosses to bear."

The Lord of Spiders nods, and finally accepts the offer of a cigarette: "I hate spiders."


"I hate spiders," the man admits, lighting up and taking care not to singe the tiny hairs on his face and hands: "I always have."

"You gotta be joking."

"I am not. There was an accident with one of my devices, early on. It transformed me into what I most feared. And while I have learned to use it to my advantage, and make myself the stronger for it, I still cannot look in a mirror. I can barely stand to look at myself."

"And you with eight eyes and all," the Emperor says, nodding.

"Quite the irony, yes?" the spider-faced man sighs.

"Well, hey, it could be worse."

"Really?" the Lord says, his voice re-acquiring its earlier edge, his eyes sliding to the Emperor in a not-so-friendly way.

"Yeah, I mean, at least a lot of people are scared of spiders. Imagine if you'd been terrified of something else?"

"Such as?" the man asks, turning to stare down the Emperor.

But then the doors open, and the Buzzard walks out, looking at the sheet of paper the Pusher gave him. The two men turn to look at him as he wanders away, as if in a daze, trying to pronounce his new, French name.

And as soon as he's in his buzzardmobile, they both break out laughing almost hard enough to burst, and keep laughing until he's well down the road.

"Your point... is taken," the Lord of Spiders finally gasps, clapping the Emperor on the shoulder.

"So, we're okay?" the Emperor asks after a time.

"I think so," the spider-faced man says, nodding: "On one condition."

"What's that."

"We remain firm in our oath to never say what happened that day at Doctor Morbo's Castle."

"Oh, don't worry about that," the Emperor of Pain says, remembering his conversation from earlier: "I think we're better off letting the legend speak for itself."
"Agreed," the Lord of Spiders says. And that's all that really needs saying on that point.
* * *
One by one, the rest of the people leave. They get into their cars and strange vehicles, their palanquins and giant monsters. They fly away on wings borrowed or created, or flit away as though they were no longer there.

And then do so knowing that something amazing has happened today, and they have been a part of it.

The rift between the old hands of the Legion and the new, turned heroes seems to be on the way to closing, now. People shake hands and laugh, no longer staring daggers at one another, much less contemplating their demise. There's a sense of cooperation and togetherness, replacing the mistrust and distaste from before.

(Someone even sort-of admits where a few of the missing people were disappeared to, on their way out.)

Was it the plan, itself, that turned their hearts around, and gave them hope? Was it the Violet Demon's explanations of how they'd all been played for suckers by their would-be rulers, and how this was the perfect chance to get back at them?

Or was it the final act, when METALMAID allowed all her people to take their rage out on their unfortunate captive, now lying in several small pieces on the floor?

Whether it was her ideas, his truth, or the bloody baptism that followed, none can say. All that is certain is that, at least for now, METALMAID has her army. Whether she can hold it or not is another matter, entirely, but that will be for the future to tell.

The Lord of Spiders and the Emperor of Pain shake hands for the first time in decades, and then the tarantula-faced man gets on top of the giant spider he hates, and causes it to lumber him out of town, to his waiting aircraft. After that, the Pusher and the Sound come to collect the Emperor, so as to drop him off at his new lair, and repay him for his excellent service, this day.
Finally, there's the belle of the ball, METALMAID. She leaves along with the Violet Demon, and is not at all shy about holding his hand as they walk away from the church, their feet still bloody from their object lesson.

Just before they get into their separate vehicles, he runs over to the church sign, and, using a few pulses of energy, burns the IST out of METHODIST. He seems to think it's hilarious, but she doesn't quite get it.

But never mind. He'll explain it later, along with a lot of other things. Bits and pieces of a life that she's only seen parts of, so far, but now wants more of. Tales of the road and the toil. The excitement and horror of being on the run for his life.

The joy of coming here, and being able to help in the way that he did. And the relief and the eternal happiness that she responded as she did.

They get into separate cars, yes, but they travel in the same direction. One gets the idea, watching them, that they'll be parking in the same place, tonight, too. These things have their own patterns and rhythms, after all.

The same story, told over and over again -- no matter how strange the actors or their circumstances. 

* * *

Not long after the two of them left, the Emperor of Pain finally relented, and the cloud of his namesake left Lebanon, Kansas along with them. 

Hardy hands were up first, tending to their own needs, and the needs of those they could see. After that, it was a matter of calling what passed for a local police force, and having them call the nearest emergency services to deal with the ones who couldn't rise just yet, or never would again. 

And there were far too many of those, this time. 

The authorities the survivors summoned would find clues, left behind. The defaced sign on the church, which no one understood. The bloody mess on the floor that used to be a French secret agent. Punch and pie they got from a Behemart in Phillipsburg, now poisoned with a fake tooth at the bottom. 

(A dead man dressed as a woman, stuffed into a trashcan by the restrooms)

Other than that, the room was frighteningly clean. No fingerprints or trace elements. No identifying markers of any kind. No videotape caught the revelers, no satellite tracked their paths in or out. 

It was as though they were evil ghosts, come to mock laws both moral and physical, and then go back the way they'd came. 

The local authorities didn't have the case for too long before the TU showed up, of course. A flying squad of people in bright uniforms appeared, not long after the church had been combed by the Sheriff and her officers. And as soon as they appeared, the information flow became one-way, and all cooperation ended. 

They were assured that justice would be done, of course, but that's what they always say. They got the idea that other, less kind things were said as well, but no one in town had much cause to speak French. 

So all they could do was care for the wounded, count the dead, and pick up the pieces as best they could. Life would go on, here in the center of America.  They would not let this beat them down or knock them out.

They were survivors, here in Lebanon. And now they had another, stranger tale to tell.

(METALMAID is listening to Das Model (Rammstein) and having... well, you can guess)

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