Sunday, January 4, 2015

5/5/61 - The Things We've Done Together While Our Hearts Were Young - pt. 1

Freedom Force, May 5th, 1961
At Cape Canaveral for Alan Shepard's historic spaceflight

Back: Mrs. Liberty, Swiftfoot, Gold Standard, Dr. Chaos, Mr. USA
Front: Liberty Belle, Corporal Flag, American Lightning, New Man
(Art by Dean Stahl)

* * * * * * * * * * 
"Remember, it's not enough to make history - 
you've got to arrange for someone to record it for you."

The Wind From Nowhere, J.G. Ballard (1961)
 * * * * * * * * * *

The wind blows across Bird Island, again, bringing with it the crisp, earthy smells of a Florida afternoon. It makes the trees sway and creak. Wild grass ebbs and flattens to mark its course. 

And, at its center, SPYGOD and the Crimson Assassin face one another from twenty feet away -- each ready to kill the other.

The tall Russian adjusts his grip on his wondrous weapon, making certain his foe's eyes are square in his crosshairs. SPYGOD looks at the guns he'd dropped by his feet, wondering if he can get to them in time.

The wind blows once more, and the Russian starts to count, ever so slowly.




And then-

* * *

"Oh, you have got to be !@#$ing kidding me," SPYGOD spits into his Freedom Force communicator as he gently disentangles his left foot from what's left of a man's backside.

Normally, he wouldn't be so gentle about it -- especially considering what this dark-red-wetsuited Russian Superspy had been saying, here in this gas station restroom, before he kicked the man's tailbone up into his sternum.

But the shoes are handmade Roger Viviers,!@#$ it, and he's not losing them to a Soviet !@#$hole if he can help it.  

"I wish I was, (REDACTED)," Dr. Yesterday sighs over the communicator: "We've got confirmed sightings up and down the coastline. SQUASH operatives are coming in from the shore, south of the Cape, and setting up weapons. And I'm sure you can guess what they're after."

"Half the !@#$ing free world knows by now," SPYGOD replies, pulling his foot free with one final, wet squick. The costumed fellow screams at the pain, but quickly shuts up once SPYGOD kicks him at the base of skull with his other foot -- propelling him right through the toilet stall wall, shattering him against the tile wall, and dropping him down into the commode.

"What was that screaming?" Dr. Yesterday asks.

"Had to flush the !@#$ toilet. Found a commie in the bowl."


"Oh, never !@#$ing mind," SPYGOD shouts, running out of the Union 76 station's men's room, grabbing the pocket scope he always keeps on his person, and looking up the Florida coastline, seeing exactly what his ally was telling him.

There's a high-tech, collapsible pontoon boat, just up at Satellite beach. It's just like the one he saw land here -- at Pelican Beach park -- as he was making his way north, this morning. And when he went to investigate, and realized that the two men who'd come ashore weren't here for a full tank, he'd decided to pull off within range of his pocket scope, and see what they were up to.

One hastily-assembled, super-sophisticated soviet missile launcher later -- aimed due north, no less -- he realized the time for watching was over. So he'd driven up, weapons blazing, and eliminated the threat. Then it was just down to trying to get answers out of the one guy who'd had the sense to run into the station's outside washroom to flee his fate.

One ultra-brutal !@#$-kicking -- along with a rather rough poison-tooth removal -- later, what SPYGOD had learned had made him rather upset, to put it mildly. Not only because of what he had learned, but also because of what this !@#$ simply did not know. 

And as any spy could tell you, that's what sinks the fleet.

"Did you call the !@#$ troops in, yet?" he shouts, putting his scope away and getting ready to act.

"Mr. USA and Mrs. Liberty were already at the Cape. Gold Standard's airborne from Atlanta. Swiftfoot's bringing the others from DC, but it'll take a while to get them assembled-"

"We don't !@#$ing have a while, Bob. We got commies trying to stop the launch. And if they're out here, attacking in the !@#$ing open...?"

"Then there's someone inside, doing the real work," Dr. Yesterday realizes.

"!@#$ right," SPYGOD says, heading for his car, which is parked right next to what's left of the other operative, and their weapon: "And we only got a half an hour to stop this !@#$."

"Oh dear."

"You got that right! Tell our people at the Cape to lock it the !@#$ down."

"Already on it, (REDACTED)."

"Get in touch with Patrick and get their defenses up-"

"Who's Patrick?"

"Patrick Air Force Base, you !@#$ing twit. It's on the !@#$ way, and they'll get to them before I do."


"And call the !@#$ President and tell him to call Nicki and tell that bald rat bastard !@#$ to call the whole !@#$ thing off if he knows what's !@#$ing good for him-"

"What am I, your secretary?" Dr. Yesterday sighs: "Don't you have someone at the Heptagon to make those calls?"

"Oh, I got that new guy they !@#$ing saddled me with, Fredericks or whatever. He's !@#$ing useless. You call the President."

"Well, okay-"

"And while you're at it? Tell your brothers to get it ready to go."

There's a moment of silence, then: "Are you sure? It hasn't been tested, yet. Anything could happen-"

"Yes. And it's called 'Freedom Force Fails in Flaming Fiasco,' right across the front page of the Daily Trumpet. Do you want to !@#$ing read that tomorrow while you're having your coffee, Bob?"

"No, (REDACTED), I don't."

"Then get Frank and Hector out to the port and tell them to fire it the !@#$ up," SPYGOD commands, taking care to step over the burned, still-crackling body of the other Soviet operative as he leaps into his shiny, matte black Aston Martin Spider: "I think it's time to show those Soviet clowns what American science can !@#$ing do."

He guns the motor, reverses over the lump of charcoal that used to be a man, flips the radio back on, and drives North for Cape Canaveral at top speed, ready to execute every last !@#$ing commie saboteur he sees along the way.

"Rawhide" by Link Wray plays on his radio. Afterburners kick his maximum speed from 90 to 150 MPH. His license plate reads BTFU01.

And it's 6:51 in the AM, just 29 minutes from launch...

* * *

SPYGOD really hadn't expected to have this kind of morning, but then he never does.

He'd been down in Key West, earlier that morning. That was after spending most of Thursday scouting launch locations for a special, one-man operation; the sort of thing he wasn't going to !@#$ing tell anyone else about, if he could at all help it. You don't just kill a foreign dictator for revenge and leave a paper trail, after all.

(Especially now they've got some brown-nosing schmuck watching over his every move, just to make sure he "sticks with the new program." !@#$ that.)

His cover consisted of making advanced arrangements for a certain double-agent, to make sure he'd have a smooth transition from the mainland to Havana after his upcoming "suicide." This involved getting a safe house updated and ready for Old Man (aka Ernest Hemingway), as well as preparing for his arrival. However, it also meant keeping an eye on the Cuban vampires, and making note of the nasty places they gathered when they came ashore to carouse, gambol, and drink yankee blood in the place they still refer to by its old, Spanish name: Cayo Hueso -- the Island of Bones. 

After a night of having to watch nightmarish things he'd just as soon light on fire, along with their subhuman, blood-addicted toadies, he was happy to move on to his own, personal errands the following day. After a few checks on locations he'd spied while traveling, he relaxed with drinks and some exquisite al fresco sex with a well-built Asian man-boy who waited tables at an oyster bar in Old Town. A few hours of that had left him spent and sober, yet unable to sleep, so he crept out of the fellow's house once he succumbed to slumber, climbed into his car, and drove back up the Overland, planning to make it up the coast in time to watch the launch.

He wasn't worried about the event, initially. Yes, the first American in space was going to be a big !@#$ deal. And, yes, it would be the sort of thing that might bring any number of jack!@#$es with a cause out to stop or sabotage it. But there were already going to be some members of the Freedom Force there, doing both PR and security, and if they couldn't handle it, well, he'd eat his hat.

(That and Mr. USA had made it clear he'd rather SPYGOD didn't cut in on his show, this time.)

But now he's !@#$ glad he didn't see if that round-bottomed peach of a man-boy wanted to go for another round, after all. He'd have felt really !@#$ stupid if he'd learned of a successful SQUASH operation while he was !@#$-deep in some oyster boy's !@#$hole. And he'd have felt even worse if it was against something this high profile.

And that was the old SPYGOD luck at play again -- the same obscene fortune that'd gotten him this far, and continued to surprise him. If he hadn't been alternating between speeding and slowing down? If that erratic trajectory hadn't brought him to this stretch of road, just now? If he hadn't noticed that pontoon?

(If he didn't already have a backup plan for something exactly like this in place...?)

No. No sense examining it. No sense second-guessing it. Clearly he was meant to be right here, right now, doing one of the things that only he can do.

If there's one consolation -- other than not having Jack get on his case about something -- it's that he was meant to be killing the idiots SQUASH had sent. So he takes extra care to annihilate every last one of the mother!@#$ers his car comes across as he races to the Cape, hoping every other order he'd put into play is also being followed.

Some days it's good to be a superspy. If his luck holds out, this will be yet another one of them.

And if not, then maybe today's when he learns that luck isn't everything...

* * *

"The Soviets?" Mr. USA sighs as he runs after Mrs. Liberty, heading for the control center's nearest exit: "Really?"

"That's what they're saying, (REDACTED)," she shouts back over the alarms, taking a little pride in running ahead of him, at least until he can take to the air: "Frogmen with rocket launchers, down the coast. SPYGOD's taking care of them, now, but he thinks that they're just distractions."

"He would," the hero grouses, knowing his old rival is probably right about this: "Same plan as always?"

"Same as always," she says as the door comes into sight: "You go high..."

"And you go low," he finishes, allowing himself the luxury of skipping just ahead of her, opening the door for the lady, and then whooshing up to the skies to see what the holy heck is going on, here.

As he scans the horizon, he can see a couple fires, further south from here. Narrowing his eyes, he quickly discerns the cause: a speeding, black sports car, firing incendiary rounds at every two-man squad of would-be saboteurs.

SPYGOD seems to be enjoying this, if the look on his face is any indication as he mows down yet another group of them. But he's not moving fast enough, and there's more up the way.

"Mr. USA, I presume?" he hears someone day, over his communicator. He smiles, knowing who it is.

"Gold Standard! I'm really glad to hear your voice."

"I'm about five miles out. Be there in ten seconds. What do you need me to do?"

"I've got the skies over here. You go south, and help SPYGOD knock out enemy emplacements along the coastal road. Look for pontoon boats. Two man squads-"

The whoosh of his gold-armored friend takes the voice away from him, just for a second. The man-machine flies by with all the power of a jet engine, giving him a thumbs-up as he does to indicate he understood. And then he dives down, preparing to attack from the north as SPYGOD sweeps up from the south. 

"All well and good," Mr. USA says, looking at the rocket as it stands by the construction gantry, waiting for the order to go: "But where's the real threat?"

"You see anything up there?" Mrs. Liberty asks, already standing by the rocket and looking around: "I've got bumpkiss down here."

"Not sure," he says, making a circle around the rocket and looking down, wondering what he's not seeing...

* * *

"Of course, Doctor Power would be away today, wouldn't he?" American Lightning says as the Swiftcar pulls up in front of the control area.

"Eben's got a life too, Robert," New Man says, jumping out of the open seat behind the conveyor belt Swiftfoot runs on to power the weird, smoking contraption (something like ten seats connected to a free-rolling, steerable track): "And other responsibilities."

"Like you'd know about responsibilities, Charles," Dr. Chaos snorts, brushing his blue hair out of his face and putting his tophat on: "Give it a rest-" 

"Codenames, folks," Corporal Flag chides his fellows: "We're on the job, now."

"Yes, we are," Freedom Belle says, taking charge before someone else can: "Swiftfoot, reconnoiter the area's edges. Look for anyone set up for mischief, and then get back here to me."

"YouGotItHon," Swiftfoot stammers, and then speeds off to do what his girlfriend has instructed. 

"The rest of you are going to pair up, go inside, and see if we can locate any saboteurs," the short, severe-looking woman says: "New Man, you're with Lightning. Corporal, you and Chaos go left. We'll go right."

"Why?" Corporal Flag asks, clearly not wanting to be in with the man dressed like a stage magician.

"Because it's your turn to make sure I don't atomize the structure while dealing with the bad guys," Chaos chuckles: "Jerry."

"Hey, now," the Corporal sighs, but quickly realizes he's a step behind the others, and not likely to catch up if he doesn't hustle.

The others don't like him much -- he knows this. Part of it's because, out of all the others, he's the only one that got to keep his wartime name as he actually was a Corporal; everyone else got the "Lieutenant," "Captain," and "Sergeant" taken away from them after Korea. And part of it was the fact that he came in during Korea, as a replacement for American Flag, who bought it during the push back from Pusan.

But the real reason is because, no matter how hard he tries, he just can't get a hang of how to take control of a mission. Everyone else seems to have it down pat, but whenever he opens his mouth to lead, everyone else just sort of brushes him off, leaving someone like Mr. USA, Mrs. Liberty, or Liberty Belle to step up and get things done.

(That and American Lightning, which is twice as galling. Who was that Negro to tell him anything?)

One of these days he'll get it right. He knows this. But until then, he's just going to have to eat !@#$ and wait for his chance. 

Maybe today it'll come at last. 

* * *

"Well, about !@#$ time," SPYGOD chuckles, watching as balls of fire explode up ahead of him, in the distance.

It's like a line of bombs hitting their targets, back in Europe. A golden streak flies just ahead of the blasts -- a huge, !@#$-eating grin shining behind its faceshield, its gilded hands giving an enthusiastic thumbs-up as it rockets towards his ally's car.

"Thanks for the assist, Ed," SPYGOD hails him over the communicator, just as he spins the car out to bring it to a halt in front of some bewildered beachcomber's summer house: "I think I !@#$ing got them all down here. Can you see any more?"

"Not now, but I'll go further down just to see if you missed any."

"Fair enough. And when you're done with that? Go right the !@#$ up and see if you can see anything past the coastal shelf"

"What should I be looking for?" the gold-suited inventor asks, just as he rushes over SPYGOD's position.

"Well, these !@#$holes didn't paddle all the way from !@#$ing Albania, did they? I bet there's a sub, parked just off the drop-off-"

"A bet, eh? Well, I'll wager dinner at Delmonicos that they just island-hopped up here from Cuba."

"Sure, but you're picking up the !@#$ drinks tab either way."

"You've got yourself a gentleman's agreement, good sir," Gold Standard chuckles, arcing up to see if he's won or lost this one: "Over and out."

"Too !@#$ing easy," SPYGOD says, leaping out of his car and looking back where he came from: "We saw them because we were !@#$ing meant to see them. And I bet they don't even !@#$ing care if we blow up their transport..."

He goes back into his car, reaching under the passengers' side of the dashboard to find the phone. A special, otherwise-hidden aerial goes up, and he places a call to the Heptagon.

"Home Seven here," his new subordinate says in his dreary, tired voice.

"This is Superguy One, calling in," SPYGOD says, using the ludicrous callsign the brown-nosing, DoD-appointee desk-monkey insisted he employ in the field: "I need some !@#$ing field advisement, and I don't have all god!@#$ day-"

"Sir! I've been trying to get hold of you since yesterday-"

"Never !@#$ing mind that, now, !@#$face."

"Sir, I don't think I got that last bit-"

"That's my new callsign for you. Like it?"

"Um, well-"

"Thought not. What's !@#$ing going on up there in Foggy Bottom? Did my messages get relayed?"

"Oh, you mean the ones you didn't trust me to relay for you, sir?" Fredericks says, not trying to disguise his bitterness: "Well, as far as I know, the answer is yes. The White House put me on hold forever, which means the President's making that call. And there's word of that ridiculous waste of taxpayers' dollars being put into a countdown at the port, so there's that-"

"And what do you have for me?" SPYGOD interrupts, watching as squad cars from Patrick AFB come zooming down the road at long last: "Did we receive any !@#$ing intel whatsoever that this was going to happen?"

"No sir, not an inkling-"

"I find that really !@#$ing hard to believe, !@#$face."

"Well, it happens to be true-"

"So what did you want to tell me?"


"You said you were trying to get hold of me all day yesterday. Why?"

"Well, it's nothing I feel secure talking on an open channel about, sir."

"Anything related to this?"

"No, sir."

"So, what, you just found it !@#$ing annoying that I went off the radar for a day?" SPYGOD seethes: "Are the people you're reporting to really that concerned about where I !@#$ing go and what I !@#$ing do that you'd rather play babysitter than keep an eye out for the sort of !@#$ you're supposed to be looking out for? Like, oh, I don't know, !@#$ like this?"

There's nothing but silence on the other line, and SPYGOD realizes what that means. 

"Then this is how it !@#$ing goes, !@#$face," SPYGOD seethes: "The next call I get on this phone had better be some really !@#$ed good intel on what's really !@#$ing going on, here. Because I refuse to believe that SQUASH would try and pull something this !@#$ing amateurish off. Bulgakov's too !@#$ smart for that. Agreed?"

"Well, yes-"

"So either this is all a big !@#$ distraction for the real operation, or something's seriously wrong in Moscow. Agreed?"

"Yes, sir," Fredericks says, knowing how this is going to go.

"So I want that intel, !@#$face. I want it yesterday afternoon. Or I want your !@#$ reassigned somewhere I can't !@#$ing find you. Got that?"

With that he hangs up, disgusted. Then he parks his !@#$ on the extremely-warm hood of his car, pulls out a long !@#$ cigarette, and has a significant drag off it as he watches a troop carrier pull up to deal with the mess he just made, a quarter of a mile back.

"What are you !@#$ing up to, you commie creep?" he asks his far-away, wheelchair-bound nemesis, wondering if this crazy caper really has his stamp on it.

It's just after 7, now. Only 19 minutes to go...

(SPYGOD is listening to My True Story (Jive Five) and having a !@#$ton of Blatz.)

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