Sunday, September 28, 2014

1/9/13 - Repas Rouge (Les Trois Grands)

In the heart of Paris, a massive ziggurat of glass and steel squats over the landscape -- shining in the noonday sun like a drawn sword held on high.

It's called the Palace, and it is the headquarters of the Terre Unifee -- the world's new government. It is also the home of Le Compagnie, the first truly international team of superheroes, all doing the bidding of the TU around the globe and beyond, and keeping it together in this time of turmoil and chaos.

They say one could not exist without the other. Perhaps they do not know how true that is.

The ziggurat is as tall, wide, and incredibly imposing as the government that it houses. A flagpole for every nation in the world is perched on the thick, silver balustrades that ring its many, lushly-gardened terraces. Every day the flags are moved up a space, so that each one has its day in the sun.

And as of today, with the long-awaited joining of Australia and New Zealand -- among the last of the major holdouts -- those poles are just about full.

Up at the very top tier of the ziggurat, there's a ceremony going on to commemorate that joining. The President of the TU, himself, is there, along with his Cabinet, any number of journalists and dignitaries, and two of the three most powerful beings Le Compagnie has to call upon.

Ciel Rouge stands to one side of the ceremonial platform, smiling as sharp as steel as the President speaks of unity, equality, and brotherhood. Tempete Bleu floats just behind it, his arms crossed in what might be satisfaction, or command. Theoretically, Foudre Blanc would be glowering on the other side of the platform, but he doesn't do days -- and is rather busy -- so they've gotten Australia's own Brave Dreaming to stand there, instead.

(He doesn't look happy to be there, but then Aborigines are hard to read, sometimes.)

 "... and, with that, I am incredibly pleased and honored to welcome our new friends to our new world," the President says, smiling as he gestures to the Prime Ministers on the platform with him. Each one, in turn, stands up, and holds out a large, folded flag of their nation.

On cue, Tempete Bleu smiles, floats down to take the flag from each man, and then flies off to find two empty holes in the arrays of flagpoles. Australia's currently on the bottom, between Ashmore Island and Austria, and New Zealand's around the top, between New Caledonia and Nicaragua. Within seconds, both flags are fluttering in the winds along with their peers, and a great cheer goes up to perfectly blue sky.

After that, there's applause, photographs, and mingling. The President clearly has a million things to go and do, and it shows, but he takes the time to spend a few moments with the men he's just symbolically emasculated on live television.

"I'm glad to have you with us, finally, Fred," he says to the President of Australia -- a large-faced, sweaty man with glasses too small for his face -- as he shakes his hand.

"I'm glad to be here, sir," the man replies, maybe a little too quickly: "Anything we can do, you know you can call upon us."

"The same goes for us, sir," his New Zealand counterpart offers, all but stuffing his own hands into their handshake: "We're at your disposal. Anytime."

"Of course," the President says, more than a little disturbed at how overly-fawning both men are being. But he doesn't show it until he's at least four steps away, and no longer in the view of any cameras.

Which is when he lets his face bear the weight it's recently earned, and, after being all but surrounded by his overly-armed executive security guards, leaves the tier to attend to the many duties that await him.

Ciel Rouge watches him leave, feeling genuinely sorry for the man. But before she can think too heavily about his personal tragedies, she realizes that her blue counterpart has sneaked up behind her.

"Tonight, then?" Tempete Bleu whispers in her ear, smiling.

"Yes," she says, smiling up at him: "I thought perhaps nine, to make things easier for our white friend. That's not too late for you, is it?"

"Why would it be?"

"Your nutritional requirements still puzzle me," she replies, her smile suddenly having a little more bite to it.

"I think I can wait a few hours for a good meal with my friends," he responds, his smile suddenly absent from his face: "The usual dining room, then?"

"Don't be late," she teases, but he's already floated away -- off to talk to the Prime Ministers, now that the cameras are being ushered off the tier.

Over in the corner, Brave Dreaming stands, looking up and tangling a finger through his wispy, black beard. At first, she thinks he's being stand-offish, but as she walks over she realizes he's looking for something, up there.

"A good day for your people, then?" she asks, coming perhaps a little closer to him than she should.

"Hmm," he grunts, still looking up and not at her.

"I mean to say that, under the Constitution of the Terre Unifee, your people's rights are finally guaranteed by law," she explains: "And I'm sure we'll be able to arrange for reparations and positive action for the many outrages you've suffered, especially towards your women, just as we've done for indigenous peoples all over the world."

He turns to her, then, and just smiles: "You think that matters, red lady?"

"Well, I'd think so-"

"The dead are gone, red lady," he says: "Children are gone to town. Oilfields and black roads come in exchange. Air is bad, sea is filthy, everywhere trash and spoiled."

"We can help with that."

"Maybe you come around when the whitefellas come to our land, back in the day? Maybe then you help. Now, all you can offer is money. Money don't buy our lives back."

"No, but it does make things better, now," she says, crossing her arms and trying to smile: "And isn't that what you'd want for your people?"

"I'd settle for breathing, maybe soon," the man says, gesturing up at the sky: "Bad dreaming is coming, red lady. Maybe you throw money at it, make it better?"

With that, he sidesteps her, and walks away, slow and sure. As he approaches the men he came with, she notices that Tempete Bleu notices him coming closer, and abruptly breaks off the conversation he'd been having with them.

A conversation those two Prime Ministers did not appear to be enjoying...

* * *

"C’est des conneries," the older, heavily-armed guard says to the younger one, looking down the long, dark hall that has all the cells.

"What's conneries?" the younger asks, thinking he knows where this is going.

"All these people we're guarding. All these terrorists. Not a single one guilty."

"How do you know, Emile? They sound guilty to me."

"Not when they first come in, they're not," the older one snorts, wishing they could smoke down here: "They're all soft boys and girls, moaning through broken teeth and wanting a doctor. Not a bad bone in their bodies, just shock and hurt, maybe some anger, too, depending."

"No one's good after he deals with them."

"Yes, exactly. But once she's spoken to them? They turn right around. Suddenly they're snarling monsters, ready to blow themselves up for their God."

"You're insane."

"I am not. I know you don't care, Isaac. I know that to you this is just a paycheck. But I tell you, something is going on, here. And that red putain is to blame."

The younger guard shrugs, not really caring about the fates of a bunch of Beurs. Especially just before their lunch hour.

They work for the Police Nationale, the two of them. Their job is to guard the Islamic terrorists that their more-mobile brethren bring in for questioning on a near-daily basis. Mostly it's easy work, given that so many of them are in such bad shape when they arrive, thanks to the work of Foudre Blanc and those like him.

But every so often it gets a little interesting -- especially where their chief interrogator's concerned...

There's a loud clip-clop of nice shoes, suddenly coming down the hallway. The two men stand at attention, looking as ready for action as they can.

Coming towards them is an imposing, matronly figure, dressed in a white uniform, with her voluminous hair up in an old style. She's accompanied by a meat-faced man in armor that outranks the two of them.

"Bonjour, Mssrs," the nurse says to the two of them: "I understand we had three new arrivals, last night?"

"We did, yes, Nurse Corisande," the younger guard says: "I'm not certain when they came in. The previous shift wasn't too specific."

"And they have not seen anyone before now?"

"I am not certain-"

"Be certain, you little Merde!" the Capitane shouts at him: "Search what little memory you have!"

"No one has seen them yet, no," the older man says: "I remember this, now."

"And I'm sure you'd say anything to save your little friend," the man says, glowering at him.

"He's telling the truth, Maximillien," the nurse says, patting the larger man on the shoulder: "So how about I go make sure the three of them are alright, and you can have a quiet word with these two?"

The large man smiles and begins to smack his well-padded fist into his palm, and she clip-clops down the hall to the latest acquisitions, smiling as she goes.

It is not a kind smile at all. It's wide and thin-lipped, going all the way back to her ears. And as she comes closer to the three cells in question her eyes go from being a muted brown to a red-lined, bilious green.

With snakelike slits for pupils.

Nurse Marie Corisande (AKA Mary Changer, once known in England as Madame Slithertongue) looks into the nearest cell. On the bunk there's a sorry wreck of a man, lying in his own waste and blood. His right arm is badly broken, his left hand is crushed, and his face is a mass of red bruises -- eyes are so badly swollen shut it's a wonder he knows she's there.

"Help me, please," Samir says: "I just got caught up in all this-"

"You will stop thinking about your injuries," she hisses softly, the tongue of a snake licking out between her thin lips: "You will feel no pain from them. They will not exist to you. You will sit there and be quiet and obedient, and you will do what you are told. And you will feel the guilt of everything they have accused you of being and doing."

"Oui, Madame," Samir says, all hesitation and pain gone from his voice as he obeys her commands.

She goes on to the next cell, where Zaid lies on his bunk -- still insensate from the brutal beating he took. This one she silently wills to stay asleep, and his body obeys.

She'll work on his guilt later, when he's awake.

After that there's just Abdullah, who's just now barely awake. She's about to ascertain how badly off he is, when she hears that meat-faced Capitaine clomping down the hall towards her.

"Those two are idiots," he says, shaking his head as he approaches: "I'm in the middle of dressing them down for their incompetence, and the new guy decides he's going to try and slide his nose up my con by telling me of his partner's suspicions!"

"What might they be?" the nurse asks without turning around -- changing her face back to human and wondering if she'll have to kill this one, too.

"That our wonderful Ciel Rouge, who interrogates all these negros after you make sure they're up to it, is somehow forcing them to admit to things they did not, in fact, do," he says, laughing at the absurdity of it all: "Can you believe such a tale? As if that delightful woman had a mean bone in her body!"

"What a silly thing to think," Nurse Corisande says, laughing: "Well, perhaps you should reassign them to something less likely to require them to keep time?"

"I think I will," he says, roughly smacking her on the bottom as he goes past: "Let's discuss that tonight, shall we?"

"I'll need to be here for their examination before their interrogation, though?"

"Not tonight, my lovely," the Capitaine grins, snaking an arm around her neck: "It turns out the lovely Ciel Rouge has requested the night off. Business with Les Trois Grands, I am told. So we don't have to deal with these stupid beurs until tomorrow, do we?"

"No, we don't," she says, looking up at him and smiling: "So we will go back to your place and decide how we're going to kill those two guards."

"Yes," he says, smiling. And, with that, the two of them go back up the hallway, leaving Abdullah -- who was only faking being wholly asleep, as opposed to merely fading in and out from the pain -- to wonder what in the name of Allah he just heard.

It all sounded like hissing to him...

* * *

"So," Foudre Blanc asks, pushing the half-eaten plate if excellent food away from him: "You said we had business to discuss. Something we three must see to?"

"I was wondering about that, yes," Tempete Bleu remarks, pouring himself some more wine, and then offering some to Ciel Rouge, who politely declines.

"Not too much to start talking about it during dinner, I see."

"Meals are for good things, my friend," the blue-clad hero says with a smile as he puts the wine goblet to his lips: "Business is best discussed over dessert."

"Not for me," the man scowls behind his false face, hating the way he has to fake eating with these people.

The dining room is the one they usually employ for such meetings. It's small and cozy, decorated as though someone time-lifted it from the palace at Versailles during its hey-day. And, as it's tended by small, golden cherubs that have the memories of mayflies, they can say anything they want and not have to worry about the help overhearing. 

Which, given the things that bring the three of them together, is a chief concern.

"Well, you're right to be anxious," Ciel Rouge replies, putting her hands together: "We have a severe problem in America."

"SPYGOD?" Tempete Bleu sniffs, having some more wine: "He is a neutered dog in a sad little house."

"But the dog has dangerous friends," she replies: "And I believe... I know, that one of the more powerful of them is going to try and help him escape."

"The computer program that runs Neo York City," Foudre Blanc says, tapping the table by his plate: "The Nthernaut."

"You told him?" Tempete Bleu asks, not happy at this.

"I surmised as much," the white knight smiles: "If you'd pay attention to these things, so would you."

"I am not certain what he's planning, but it's deeply-laid and well-considered," she says, holding up a hand before the other two can fall to arguing, again: "It's also almost certainly in motion at this moment."

"So we turn him off?" the blue-clad hero shrugs: "How difficult is that? We have many who can do this. Eclat-"

"He knows to expect him, now. And I'm not confident our systems can take over the city once he's gone."

"Is that a concern?" Foudre Blanc asks.

"What, the entire city of Neo York grinding to a halt?" Ciel Rouge asks: "No lights, no water, no emergency services? Millions of people, cut off from help?"

"That answers that question," the blue hero snorts: "If you asked me, I'd say let the Americans drown for an hour or two-"

"We're not asking you," the white knight interrupts, tapping the table some more: "And I think we can do it."

"Do what?"

"Take over the city from it," he explains: "The device you used, I presume it wasn't strong enough to handle the entire thing?"

"No," Ciel says, glad she's got him on her side in this: "It held it for a time, but not as well as it should. And the transition period between having him in charge and moving our own people in to take over, especially if they're going to have to come in after we shut him off... I shudder to think what will happen to those people."

"Then we build a better one," Foudre Blanc says: "Have the blueprints for the previous attempt sent to me, along with all the data they gathered. I will have a better one made within a week."

"Rather assured of that, are we?" Tempete Bleu says: "Do you have a magician in your employ?"

"Several," the white knight smiles, winking at Ciel Rouge. And he notices, with some satisfaction, that when she smiles their dining companion's face falls by an equal and opposite amount.

* * *

"You know, I could get used to this," Maximillien says as he licks human blood from the floor of his large apartment's kitchen -- naked except for a ridiculous pair of pink panties a size too small for him.

"You'll get used to anything I want, dear," Madame Slithertongue sneers, sliding past him as she turns to regard the body of the younger guard from this morning. He's laid out on a very large block of wood, naked except for his uniform cap, and ready for the chop. She's also naked except for a rubber apron, specially made for this kind of work.

And she's quite ready to do the chopping. 

The older guard is already long dead and in pieces -- limbs and ribs stacked over the sink to drain before being placed into the refrigerator, offal cooling in a bucket to be made into sausage. She's not crazy about keeping her meat cold, but given how rarely she can arrange a real, proper meal, it's a small price to pay.

It used to be she'd have just ingested these people whole, digested them over the course of a few days, and been fine for a month or so. Sadly, her new work schedule doesn't permit that sort of thing, so she has to make do with smaller, more frequent meals.

Thankfully, the TU is full of disposable idiots, and the people who broke her out of prison to work for them apparently aren't too concerned to see them quit in the middle of their shifts. They also aren't too curious about what happens to them after that, it would seem.

And so long as she has the latest Capitaine of the cells on her side, there's no reason for them to suspect anything's awry -- especially now that he's developed a taste for this sort of meal.

"So where's our third?" her slave asks between long licks of the old guard's blood: "That tasty little trollop we passed on the way?"

"I told her to take a shower first," she sighs: "I don't feel like eating whatever she had inside of her, too."

"Right," the man said, going back to licking like a dog. She sighed again, wondering why she acceded to this gros con's more lecherous requests. But then, long-term slaves obeyed better if she gave them a little something to keep them occupied while she was running them around, as opposed to the ones she dealt with for but a short time. 

Just then, there was a knock at the door. Feminine, from the sounds of things. 

"Go wrap up and get your putain," she commanded, not bothering to force him. It's not like she really needed to.

And when he was done with her, he probably wouldn't need to be forced to help her dispose of the tart, either...

* * *

"So, what do you think of the President's plan?" Ciel Rouge asked Foudre Blanc as they strolled around a private terrace, just off from the private dining room.

"To put the man on trial seconds after he neutralizes the Nthernaut?" the white knight repeats: "I like it. It makes sense. My only worry is..."


"That he might have anticipated that as well," he replies, looking out at the city beyond the balustrade and wishing he was in it, now, putting a boot to its backside.

"You think he suspects?"

"I think he could not have gotten to where he's been without having several plans, and being aware that his enemies have them as well."

"The President said as much."

"So are we the plan, or just one of them?" Foudre Blanc asks, smiling a little under his helmet.

"I'm not certain, yet," she says, leaning against a pillar and looking at him.

Tempete Bleu was gone. He'd left some time after dinner, once they'd discussed what they needed to talk about. Something about things he had to do, places to go, somewhere far and away.

So it was just the two of them, which was how she liked it.

"Once he's gone, there will be an immense vacuum," Foudre Blanc says, leaning on the railing and wishing she wouldn't look at him like that: "Every plot and plan he had in place will come crashing down around him. There will be chaos and disaster, and many people will find themselves working at cross purposes all over the world. It may be decades before it all gets straightened out."

"So you don't think we should be too hasty to try him?"

"Oh no," he says: "You know I want to see justice done, and so do you. But we need to be ready for the consequences."

"I think we are."

"Is the President?" he asks, rather pointedly, as he no more trusts the negro to do the right thing any further than he could throw him without his armor.

"He and SPYGOD share a strange bond," she says, crossing her arms: "It's a very curious thing. They hate each other, and yet have a level of respect. They've been through so much together, over the years. So much tragedy and danger, and all those times that SPYGOD saved him from a fate worse than death..."

"And yet, here he is, wanting him thrown into the Sun."

"Yes," Ciel Rouge says: "Losing a daughter will do that."

"He's lost more than that, hasn't he?"

She sighs, remembering the last time she went to the Executive Mansion on business. The coldness in the air. The way his wife left the room when he walked into it, without even saying a word.

The way his surviving daughter cried in her room, alone and afraid...

"He has, yes," she admits: "Something I trust we can keep between ourselves and not share with our friend?"

"I thought you hated lies?"

"I do, but I hate what he might do with the truth even more."

"You don't trust him."

"I don't like what I see when I look in his eyes."

"Then why don't you ask him to tell you the truth?" Foudre Blanc asks, taking a few steps closer to her: "About himself? His origins?"

"He's not ready to talk about that, I don't think," she says, putting a hand on the man's shoulder: "Not like we've talked, you and I. About your life, and how you want to make the world a better place. A safer place, where justice and equality are a way of life, and crime and violence a sick aberration."

He smiles at her, still amazed the salope can't read him -- swallowing all his lies as easily as a drink...

"Mon Dieu," he quietly begs as he crawls on his hands and knees, trying to get away from the burning wreckage of his car.

But he's moving, at least. That's a good thing. His parents always taught him that if he could move, he could do anything.

And maybe he can still save his fiancee, Sabine...

"We'll get there, one day," he says, putting his hand on her shoulder as he regurgitates the merde she loves to hear: "You, me, and him. The finest in the world, in a world as fine as we can make it."

She smiles, then -- that little smile that means she'd like to kiss him, but knows she cannot.

And he feels sick to his stomach and wants to scream and yell and punch her in the face and kick her in the knees and break bones and burst organs and snap her spine and crash her forehead into her brain and fling her broken body off the parapet and be done with it...

But he just smiles back, as though he wanted the same thing that she did.

* * *

After Foudre Blanc leaves, and it's just her on that parapet, she has a strange compulsion. 

She teleports down to the cells below the Police Nationale, where the most recent prisoners are waiting for her to interrogate them. She'd have taken care of them tonight, except for the dinner and strategy session. 

The guards are where they should be, and appropriately startled when she appears beyond them. They weren't counting on her being here this late, but thankfully they weren't up to anything untoward, unlike that one time she came down here to find someone's bachelor party going on, complete with hookers, booze, and an adult film being played on someone's phone. 

She finds the three new ones easily enough. There's Samir, sitting straight up and staring at the wall as though he doesn't care, his anger at having been caught plain upon his features. There's Zaid, who clearly needs some medical attention, what with a homemade toilet wrapped around his head, and is lucky to be dreaming of anything at all.

And then there's Abdullah, who's in and out of consciousness.

Something is strange, here. She doesn't feel the sort of things she normally feels from these kinds of prisoners about him. She feels fear from him, and not the sort that comes from getting caught with stacks of terrorist literature and all the things you need to make a bomb...

She scowls, wondering what's going on here. But if she woke him up now, he'd still need to see a doctor, and that would just get in the way of things.

No. She'll let him get a night's sleep. And then, tomorrow, once the doctor's had a look at him, she'll discover why this terrorist has the dreams of an innocent man.

(SPYGOD is listening to Back to Cruelty (Marquis de Sade) and having a Grimbergen Rouge)

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