Sunday, March 15, 2015

1/14/13 - Seven Days of the Con Job - Pt. 3.5

"Come outside and feel the morning sun..."
The Owl, Bee-Bee
(Art by Dean Stahl)

* * * 

"Please, I am appealing to your humanity," the short-haired, white-robed woman says, sandals flopping on the dirt as she hurries after the Terre Unifee guards that have just stomped through the red, mostly-ornamental front gate of the Sonoma County Ashram.

"You have, yes," their leader says, indicating with a bored wave that the twenty highly-armored, heavily-armed men and women should continue forward, down towards the cliff overlooking the ocean -- high-tech stun-guns drawn and ready for use.

"This man is not a criminal. He is a spiritual pilgrim. He is a broken soul in need of healing-"

"He's also wanted for questioning," the man sighs, wondering if he can just taze the salope and be done with it: "If he has nothing to hide he has nothing to fear-"

"Please," she says, getting right in front of him, hoping that the others who live here will join her in this: "This man came to us in a very bad state."

"Hopefully he will not leave in a worse one. Now if you please." 

"What's going on, sister?" one of the others says, getting up from his afternoon tasks, a group of white-robed men and women following him right in front of the guards.

"They're here for him."

They all blanch at that, and the man holds up his hands: "Please, sir. let me appeal to your better judgment. If you know who he is, and what he can do-"

"We do, sir," the leader states, striding right over to the man and staring him right in the eyes: "That is why we have brought so many weapons. And if you do not get out of my way and let me do my job, we will use them on you, first."

He swallows, hard, and gets out of his way. As the leader smiles and stomps away, heading for the garden where -- according to near-constant satellite surveillance -- their target has been meditating since Midnight last night, the other pilgrims all drop their tasks and run for the entrance.

The man the guards are after is sitting cross-legged with his eyes closed in the small, well-maintained garden, watching with his mind as the water meets the land and retreats from it, over and over again. He's wearing a white robe like the others, here, and has shaved his head down so close that it's almost impossible to tell that his hair is blue.

If Mister Chaos is aware of the twenty-odd guards stomping towards him, he makes no sign of it. He sits and breathes in and out, trying to maintain some kind of rhythm with the crash of the surf. Letting its power wash through him, the better to scour everything away...

"Mssr!" the leader says, once his guards have surrounded him in a half-circle, guns ready to deploy: "Your attention please."

"Do you mind?" the man says in a gentle voice, not turning around: "I'm trying to meditate."

"We have some questions for you, Mssr. Chaos."

"That's funny, so do I," Mister Chaos sighs, opening his eyes a little: "I came here to get the answers."

"So have we," the leader says, taking a few steps forward, and indicating that his subordinates should lower their weapons just a bit: "Your former teammates have turned traitor, Mssr. Chaos. They have decided to conspire against the Terre Unifee to free SPYGOD from his incarceration. We have reason to believe that you may know something of this, and even if you do not, you may have some information that will help us to find them."

"Is that all?" the hero says, wishing so dearly he could just sit here and ignore them.

"You will cooperate, yes?"

"It depends," the blue-haired man says: "Did you bring guns to my Ashram?"

"We have, yes."

"Did you threaten my friends?" he asks, feeling the anger coming back to him, like the scent of the water.

"We told them to get out of our way. They seemed very concerned about your welfare."

"We do that, here," Mister Chaos says, sounding indignant as he turns around, ever so slightly: "We're like family."

"Well, you will be happy to know they shielded you as best they could," the leader chuckles: "Now, I am certain we can all be reasonable about this?"

"You come to my retreat, threaten my friends, and assume I'm committing treason," the hero says, getting up ever so slowly and turning to face his accuser: "I think we left reasonable a couple miles back, pal."

"Do not be foolish," the head of the guards says, taking a step back as his soldiers heft their weapons up and lock them into firing position. 

"I could say the same to you," Mister Chaos says: "Leave here, now. Do not come back here. If you want to talk to me, I'll talk, but we'll do it somewhere else."

"You are in no position to be giving us orders, mssr-"

"I am in the perfect position, sir. The morally correct one. Surely you can see that these people are here to receive help and peace? Your presence here is jeopardizing that."

"I could say the same to you," the man sneers: "You are the human weapon, are you not? One song and you turn the world upside down and inside out."

"Is that what you think?" the hero says, smiling just a little: "Is that what they told you?" 

"Well, yes-"

"You see, that's all wrong," the man says, smiling: "I don't need that song to use my powers. I use it to act as a lifeline, so I can find my way back to reality when it's done. Otherwise I might just change the whole world without even thinking about it."

Then he smiles and holds up his hands, revealing he does not have the tapeplayer on him...

A few seconds later, the other pilgrims are both startled and amused to see the guards go running right out the front of the Ashram, and into their troop carrier. Once the carrier is well back down the road, and they carefully return to the garden, they see that their blue-haired brother is back meditating, as if nothing had ever happened. 

And in a few hours, as he loses himself yet again, he begins to wonder if anything actually did. 

* * * 

"Well?" Straffer asks, looking over at the bathroom door as SPYGOD walks out of it, somewhat nonplussed.

"No, not yet," SPYGOD says, groaning and holding his stomach.

"Watched pot?"

"You could !@#$ing say that again."

"I think I did," Straffer chuckles, clicking through channels on the television: "I told you more fiber was a good thing."

"Yeah," he says, patting his stomach and stomping over to the fridge for another beer, or three.

As he does, he looks over at the main window. The usual protesters are down there, but he's not looking at them. He's looking at the boxes that are still stacked by them, awaiting unpacking.

He's also looking at the boxes he's taken from there and put over by the front door over the last few days, trying to figure out where to put what. 

He's also looking at his cat, over on the couch, lazily farting away the afternoon. 

And he's looking at his watch, wondering if they've got the timing right, after all.

He grabs a beer and pounds it down, tossing the can at the recycling bag. That it ricochets off three things before going in flawlessly isn't surprising, anymore. It's just a thing, and he's had a lot of time to get it right.

But in his mind he's already counting down. The last few trips to the john. The last few boxes moved around. The last few cans in the bag. The last meal, the last television, the last !@#$ on the table, or under it.

The last moments spent here, rather than somewhere else.

Something is winding down, so something else can start into motion. And he just can't wait.

Soon, he tells himself, grabbing another beer and going to sit with his lover in front of the idiot box before feigning intestinal distress yet again: Very !@#$ing soon. 

But how soon it will be is all going to depend on someone else.

* * *

'You called, Mssr. President?" Henri asks, coming into the President's office with all the care he can muster.

"Yes, I did," the President says, putting a now-depleted rifle down on his desk -- right next to a number other, fully-loaded ones -- and indicating that the gaggle of male secretaries nearby should run down to the other end of the room to replace the shot-up paper targets of SPYGOD with fresh, new ones from the very large stack in a chair. 

They all have ear-protecting headphones on, and for good reason. The wall across from the desk has been thoroughly shot to !@#$, back, and there again. The wood and plaster that hid the super-steel underneath is almost entirely gone, revealing only the metal beneath. 

And there's hundreds of flattened rounds down there, lying in random piles and pools on the floor. 

"I want you to be ready to go to America," the President tells him as he hefts up another gun and cocks it, making the secretaries work just that more quickly and efficiently. 

"Um... of course, sir," Henri says, taking a respectful step back: "May I ask why?"

"You may," the President says, not smiling: "I've got a feeling I'm going to need someone there to oversee operations, soon."

"I see. What sort of operations?"

"That would be telling," the President replies, chuckling over something: "But I think you can figure it out, given everything?"

"Oh, yes," Henri says, looking at the targets: "Are we adjusting our timetable after all?"

"You get along well with Josie, right?"

"Yes!" he says, brightening up quite a bit at the mention of her name: "Very well, in fact. Just the other day-"

"That's good, because you're going to be working closely with her from here on out," the President interrupts, assuming the proper firing stance and getting ready: "I've already approved your travel orders. You and her need to link up ASAP and talk cooperative measures."

"When, sir?"

"Soon," the President replies, smiling: "Don't worry about the timing. Just be ready to drop it all and go there when I tell you. You can do that, can't you?"

"I can, sir," Henri says, already looking forward to the side benefits of working closely with Josie.

"Good," his leader says, sighting down the line: "You might want to put on some ear protectors and watch this, Henri. It might be instructive."

"What is it?" he asks, getting a pair from one of the secretaries, now that they've all gathered around the back of the desk with him.

He doesn't hear the full explanation through the muffs. Something about a high-tech firm in Austria, a ridiculous rate of RPM, and certain, hard-to-get exotic materials that go into each and every bullet.

All he knows is that, when the gun speaks, he can't help but listen. And then he's amazed to see that the previously-smooth wall -- made to withstand a nuclear blast -- is ever so slightly pocked and pitted by what it's fired.

And then he's imagining what it'll feel like to fire such a thing, should the need arise.

"Magnifique," he whispers, enraptured by the thrill of it all.

* * *

"Well, this is exciting," Gunther says, scrolling through the late President of New Zealand's notes as he sits at the man's desk, naked as the day he tumbled out of the clone tank.

The two secretaries he seduced to get here -- a man and a woman -- are still going at it in the other room. The noise they're making is providing the perfect cover for his espionage, though at this point he's sure he could get away with just about anything and they wouldn't object. 

(He is that good, by all accounts.)

What's exciting, Gunther? Karl asks: I'm just seeing a long list of things done that day. 

What about the proof that Champain Enterprises was a shell corporation? Jana asks: You said you were getting somewhere with that. 

"Forget that, sister. I think I've found two things that are more interesting."

Do tell, Helga snorts.

"Well, for one thing, it turns out that the old fellow had just gotten through writing his notes for the day before he decided to kill himself, if you can believe that."

So he'd be an unusually-orderly suicide, Karl chuckles: Point taken. Go on.

"For another, it looks like the last person he talked to was Guillaume Brilland." 

The Director of the Space Service, Helmut adds: Now why does that sound importantly familiar?

"I don't know, but I know one of you knows. That name stuck out for me-" 

It's me, Helga says, no longer sounding sarcastic: I noticed that some of the other people I've been looking into have spoken with him recently as well. The Prime Minister of Canada, the President of Portugal, the Finance Minister of Uganda..."

And they're all sending things off and sending money to Champlain Enterprises, Karl intuits: So what's their angle with the Space Service?

Does Uganda want a spaceport? Helmut chuckles. 

Do you suppose they're all trying to go somewhere? Jana asks.

And with that they all instinctively look up at the sky, wondering...

* * * 

"Where the !@#$ have you been?" Blastman asks, sitting by the window of their bolthole and hoisting another can from the remnants of the six pack he got this morning. He looks utterly diminished in a flannel shirt and blue jeans, but he's trying to blend in.

"Had an errand to run," Night Phantom -- who's still in costume -- answers as he crosses the dusty, sparsely-decorated room, pulling a new six pack from the paper bag he's brought. 

"Don't tell me you actually went into a store..."

"Well, I couldn't just steal, could I?"

Blastman sighs: "Where did you go this time?"

"Berlin," the floating cloud of a man answers, tapping the Kaufland logo on the paper bag: "I hope you realize Bud Light is a pricey import over there."

"Well, that's the last of the beer money, then," the hero sighs, looking back out the window: "Unless you want to actually act like a !@#$ fugitive or something."

"Well, we don't have to-"

"We do," Blastman insists, popping the tab on the beer he's got in hand. 

The man laughs so hard he almost vanishes, and then realizes the man was being serious. So he sighs and "sits" down, his cloudy tentacles spilling onto the floor, and hands over the new six.

"How long do we have to wait here?" he finally asks, wondering if there's anything good on the old, half-broken television before the cracked mirror, over on the dresser with no shelves.

"You know the score, man," his partner in crime says: "Brainman's got a plan. Until we know what it is, we just sit tight, and wait."

"I wish I got to wait with Red Wrecker," Night Phantom sighs. 

"So do I," Blastman chuckles: "Tough luck for both of us, I think she likes Myron better."

"What, that drip?"

"Hey now," the older hero says: "That drip almost single-handedly won the Reclamation War, down at the South Pole. And he's been through !@#$ you wouldn't believe."

"Try me."

"Well, for starters..." Blastman starts to say, but doesn't get the chance before the entire wall he's sitting next to explodes inward, and he's thrown clear across the room by the man who caused it. 

"Hi there, brother," something wrapped in big, black armor says, his voice deep enough to shake the world. He looks down at Blastman from a helmet that's shaped like a bullet, and there's a broken planet Earth splayed across his chest. 

"Joey...?" Blastman says, shaking the fuzz from his head as he looks up at his older, evil sibling.

"That's right," Cataclysmo says, clanking his armored fists together: "Thanks for visiting me in prison, you sniveling little !@#$. I really appreciated the flowers, too."

"You twisted son of a..." Blastman starts to say, but can't get the words out before the black, human bullet is back on him again. This time he takes them both through the wall, the bathroom, the hallway, and the apartment across from it. 

He didn't even have to plant his feet and start running - he just moved. 
"Well !@#$," Night Phantom says, dropping his six pack and looking for a convenient shadow so he can help his friend. But then there are no shadows at all, and there's only a glaring, bright light within the room.

A light that casts no shadow, and never ever warms. 

I S33 Y0U, the Glimmer announces, shining through the hole in the wall its teammate created and spinning itself into humanoid form: T1M3 T0 3ND. T1M3 T0 D13.

"Yeah," Night Phantom says, putting up as much darkness as he can in the face of a psychotic, thinking star: "How about 'no'?"

The being laughs and shines all the brighter. Everything in the room catches fire. Night Phantom screams as his being is eroded away by the thing he's facing, but he realizes he's got one chance. 

He stumbles over to the mirror, and then turns it back at his attacker. The light can't harm a being made of light, but the strange effects made by its reflection momentarily distract the Glimmer, just enough.

And, with that, the Night Phantom flies over to the massive hole Blastman and his wayward, psycho brother just created on their way to wherever the !@#$ they went, and zooms into the smallest space he can find, hoping he can find some darkness down there.

The second he does, he goes through it, blindly entering the nightzone and seeing all the shadows and darknesses around. It doesn't take long to figure out which of the humanoid shapes out in the street are his teammate and his familial rival, and he comes back out of the dark and into the day nearby. 

He's about to say something witty and engaging, but then he sees that Cataclysmo has just about finished reenacting the Ur-crime with his brother. Blastman's chest is a broken and battered ruin -- ribs poking though his shirt like accusatory fingers.

"You !@#$er!" Night Phantom screams, hurling a line of darkness at the hulking, black-armored giant. It knocks him back just a bit, but that's almost enough time to give his dying brother a little room to breathe. 

"Game over," Blastman says, somehow able to speak with a crushed chest: "Do it."

Night Phantom doesn't want to do this, but he knows he has to. He can see Cataclysmo rallying, and can feel the alien heat of Glimmer approaching. There is no time.

So he slips into the shadow of a large piece of rubble, left from where the two men crashed to the ground. Then he comes up under the shadow below Blastman, gently taking the man's head in his hands.

And then he slips back into the dark, just enough to take his ally's head into the concrete, and leave it there.

Blastman's body jerks and twists, stuck into the ground from the neck-up. Then it lies still. 

"What the !@#$?" Cataclysmo roars, successful in his goal yet cheated of his prize: "What the !@#$ing fuck!"

The Glimmer can add nothing, other than to watch his partner destroy the concrete in vain. That and silently wonder where its foe has disappeared to, and where they might find him, now that he's gone back into the dark.

It would seem that timing is everything.

* * *

"Well, about !@#$ time," SPYGOD says, turning on the bathroom light right at 7:54 in the PM and seeing that something very !@#$ important has finally arrived.

He kneels down and takes it from its case, still slightly cold from the transit. It only takes him only three seconds to extract it, assemble it, load it, and check it to make sure it should work.

"Honey, is Top Gear on tonight?" he asks as he strides through the apartment, heading for where Bee-Bee is snoozing on the couch.

"Why, yes it is," Straffer says, turning the television up as loud as it will go: "I think they're in Barcelona, this week."

"Barcelona," SPYGOD muses, handing what he's got off to the cat, who wakes up, coughs, takes it, and heads for the front door -- growing larger with each step: "The sea, the sand, the sun."

"The amazing food," Straffer replies, heading for the window and the boxes stacked next to it.

"Sagrada Familia," SPYGOD adds, the syllables rolling off his tongue.

"I didn't think you liked churches?"

"I don't. But... !@#$, I told you about the time I-"

Straffer breaks the story with a kiss. He also hands him a pair of very large earplugs.

"Those aren't going to do me any !@#$ing good, hon," SPYGOD sighs, handing them back: "I hear through my eye, remember?"

"Well, just in case," Straffer says, and, just before he stuffs a pair in his own years, adds: "I love you."

"I love you," SPYGOD replies, but it's falling on deaf ears, now.

There's a banging at the door, just then. Clearly the guards outside have been informed as to what SPYGOD carried out of the bathroom. But no one seemed to notice that they've been slowly piling heavy things up in front of it all afternoon, which is going to make their breaking it down just a little difficult. 

And the moment they do, they run right into their worst nightmare: a drunk demon cat the size of a Wookie with a fully-loaded AK47.

"Poshel na khuy i vashikh matery vy pridurki!" Bee-Bee screeches as he opens fire, carefully aiming at nothing above the knees, as ordered. 

The guards scream and fire back. The bullets bounce off the cat. He just laughs and fires more, no longer caring about orders now that the stupid suki have tried to kill him back. 

Seconds later, the alarm goes off. 

Seconds after that, SPYGOD and Straffer step to either side of the window, each cradling a certain box under their arm.

There's a weird whine, just then -- one that builds in pitch and intensity until the whole world seems to shake and scream. 

Without warning, the large window shatters, along with every piece of glassware in the apartment. Flinders of transparent stuff go everywhere. 

And the moment the whine begins to die down, something shifts in the air outside of what once was a window, and a flying Aston Martin Spyder is there, instead.

One with a somewhat-unrecognizable woman behind the wheel, a strange white button glimmering on her shirt. 

"Cut that a bit !@#$ing fine, didn't we?" SPYGOD teases as he leaps from the apartment into the back of the car, indicating his watch. Straffer jumps in beside him just as she flips him the bird -- though not without a smile -- and re-engages the cloak. 

The car vanishes a second later, much to the disappointment and anger of the protesters down below. They throw eggs and tomatoes where they think it might be, but only succeed in getting themselves spattered with rotten food.

And then they're gone, with only impotent alarms, screaming guards, and gunfire to mark their absence. 

* * *

It takes fifty TU personnel and another hour to take Bee-Bee down. In the end, someone just has the good sense to throw bottles of vodka into the apartment and pray he gives up the gun for the booze and drinks himself stupid, yet again. Thankfully, it works.

Sometimes life is kind, even to the undeserving.

* * *

"I don't understand where they could have gone," the TU official in charge of keeping an eye on the five ABWEHR kids is saying, running his hands over the files on his pad: "It's like they just disappeared-"

"They have, obviously," his contact sighs, not in the mood to deal with this: "Any idea what they were looking into?"

"Something to do with the suicides of those two Prime Ministers, I think. Two of them were hassling the Australian's widow, and then there's this thing with the one in the New Zealander's office. I hear they're still cleaning up the stains on the carpet-"

"Get a kill team on it," the shadowed man snaps: "See them? Shoot them. Can make up any story needed after. Don't care."

"Very well," the man says: "It will be done. And what of their mentor, Randolph Scott?"

"Oh, don't worry about him," the man says, watching the footage from The Tokyo Kill Club, just last night: "Got something special planned just for him..."

The rest is darkness.

* * *

Somewhere there's a different door
To open wide
You've got to throw those skeletons out of your closet
and come outside...

 (SPYGOD is listening to Se a vida es (Pet Shop Boys, remix) and having a Champlain Orchards cider )

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