Sunday, March 29, 2015

1/15/13 - Seven Days of the Con Job - Pt. 4.5

Les Trois Grandes
Foudre Blanc, Tempete Bleu, Ciel Rouge
(Art by Dean Stahl)

* * *

Far off the beaten path, in the mountains of India, there's a particular peak that does not appear on any map. 

It's a terrifying thing -- tall and scraggly, utterly bereft of plant life. The animals all give it a wide berth, and people who look at it don't care to stare for too terribly long.

It's just not a healthy thing to consider, for some odd reason -- especially not on a night like this.

Before that unholy mountain is a windswept plain. In that plain, well within the mountain's moon-shadow, is a cairn of black and tan rocks. It's maybe two feet tall and four feet wide, and with no writing to explain why it's there. 

Suddenly, there's a wavering motion in the air, and someone appears directly in front of it.

It's a man, dressed in what might be some kind of sterile suit. It's got a clear facemask and an oxygen tank. It's also got blood spattered all over it. 

The man reaches down into a pouch, on the suit's belt, and pulls up a small, plastic communicator. He says something into it, and then tosses it off into the dirt, where it sparks, smokes and warps itself into uselessness within seconds.

By the time it's broken itself down into nothing but unhappy molecules, the man has vanished again. This time it's by an entirely different mechanism, and for a much different purpose. But the disappearance is so seamless and smooth that, if anyone had been out here to watch, they might think they just saw a magic trick. 

And they might just have applauded, in spite of themselves. 

* * *

“Quite the speech, my friend,” Foudre Blanc says to a well-dressed man, shaking his hand as he does: “Very convincing.”

“Thank you,” the fellow says, clasping the hero’s hand with both of his own and smiling: “I certainly hope so. They say you can lead a horse to water…”

“But you can’t get him into the boat?”

“Exactly!” the man laughs, his voice echoing across the large, tightly-packed hall he was just addressing.

The room is filled to bursting, tonight. Hundreds of Front Nationale representatives are there, along with delegates of other likeminded groups from throughout Europe. They all press flesh and chortle, so high on the fumes of what they just heard that their normal antipathy for one another is mostly absent.

“So, do we have a timetable?” the white-clad hero asks, wondering how long it’ll be before the Lega Nord people start a fight with the Golden Dawn, just because.

“Soon,” the man says, nodding at that mousy woman from the Danish People's Party as she touches his sleeve and thanks him.

"Just soon?" Foudre Blanc replies, a little dumbfounded: "My understanding is that that... thing is getting even closer. Surely we have to be ready to move soon?"

"And we will," the man assures him, patting him on the back: "It's just a delicate thing, you understand. All these people, all these technical setbacks. And then the matter of getting us up and away in the first place..."

He pauses for a moment to nod at that weird-haired fellow from Party for Freedom, who's entertaining a gaggle of starstruck NF people with his own tales of making things difficult for Negros.

"If there are still difficulties, you can count on my help," Foudre Blanc says: "My company has gladly given time, money, and resources towards this goal. And will gladly continue to do so."

"And it's greatly appreciated, Bruno," the man says, nodding to others still as they pass (Jobbik, Finns, those ones from Spain who change their name every other year): "Indeed, if it hadn't been for Industries Roquer, I doubt we'd have gotten this far this fast."

"Even with the backing of the Terre Unifee?" the white-clad hero chuckles.

"Well, it's one thing to have the reins, and another to be able to gallop the horse out of the stable at any time," the man winks: "I'm sure you understand, having your own group of secrets to tend to."

"I do indeed," Foudre Blanc says, quietly wincing as Julien starts heading their way, the better to schmooze on the man of the hour, too.

"Have no fear, my friend," he says, smiling at the hero: "We will take to the skies, as I have promised. We will leave this sorry mess of a world behind. And we will set up a new, more pure one elsewhere."

"A noble goal," the hero says, taking a step back as the Old Man's number one comes up to fawn.

The after-speech festivities go on for some time. And with each passing moment, Foudre Blanc becomes more uncertain of things. More ambivalent.

It's not that he's against the plan -- indeed, he's one of the principal bankrollers. But rather that, when he started his campaign, he imagined that he would be cleaning up Paris of the human filth that had infested it, so that future generations could once again live in a clean and beautiful city. 

But this way? They'll be leaving it in the dust to be destroyed whenever that massive space disaster gets here. One of the greatest cities in the history of the world, rendered unto dust by some horrible thing beyond human imagining. 

Does that mean his mission is a failure, then? Or is he simply trading what would otherwise be a lifetime of work for a sharp and final lateral move? 

He's not sure. He resigned himself to a lifetime's crusade, back when he began it. Indeed, he knew he might die with that mission unfulfilled.

But now -- as he stands on the brink of seeing it done by default -- all he knows is that he will be disappointed that the final piece of negro filth that dies in his city will not perish by his hand, but instead by some abomination that he'd never dare to look upon, himself.

Disappointed, and more than a little cheated to see his promise to Sabine fulfilled by default. 

Eventually, the evening comes to a close. People leave in small knots and whorls, and then in one final trickling. On the steps, at the end, Julien shakes the man's hand, and then walks away quickly before Foudre Blanc comes up to pay his own respects. And then he's gone too -- zapped off into the electrical wires -- leaving only the man of the hour, who must now catch a cab, as though he were simply another businessman out at night. 

Unbeknownst to him, as he hails a taxi, he is being watched.

One of his spies is a woman wrapped in a red shroud, who lurks in the shadows of a nearby building and glares at him. If looks could kill, he would have died a thousand deaths by now. Indeed, it’s rather difficult for her to avoid going over there, right now, and giving the dead their due.

Especially after everything she just heard inside that hall…

But Ciel Rouge is not stupid. She knows she cannot touch him, here and now. Not with the power he holds. Not by herself.

No. She must wait for the right moment to expose him, and his followers. She must gather more facts and gain more allies. She must be ready to bring the house down in such a way that it wouldn’t collapse on her, instead.

And she thinks she knows just what to say, when she finally gets the chance. 

She vanishes, leaving him no wiser. And as he finally gets a cab to stop and pick him up, he's observed by yet another person -- a black-clad, young blonde woman who kneels on a rooftop, miles away. 

If anyone came onto that rooftop, just then, they might think she’s making ready to take his head off with the rifle she’s wrapped around. But the rifle has a long-range microphone where the barrel should be, and a large telescope attached to what should be a sight. 

Helga smirks, watching as Guillaume Brilliand, Director of the Space Service, gets off the street at last. 

I've got him, she tells the others. 

And suddenly, something becomes very clear to them all.

* * *

“So, you want to tell me what’s really going on, here?” Mark Clutch asks SPYGOD, walking into the otherwise-deserted room the man is sitting in. It might have been a library, once, except that all the shelves are empty, save for dust and cobwebs.

“Well, I’m having a !@#$ing drink,” SPYGOD says, raising a glass from the side of his ratty chair: “Straffer’s taking a !@#$ shower. Martha’s making sure the car’s good to go-“

“And you’re going to answer some !@#$ questions for a change,” Mark insists, leaning over him.

“You sure you want to take that tone with me, son?”

“!@#$ straight I am,” Mark says, too angry to be properly scared.

“Okay…” SPYGOD says, having a sizable gulp of his drink: “Let’s have it.”

“What are we doing?”


“You heard me.”

“I did, Mark. That’s just kind of !@#$ing broad.”

“What are we doing here?”

“Well, that’s kind of !@#$ing existential-“

“Shut up!” Mark shouts, knocking SPYGOD’s drink out of his hand and putting his fist in the man’s face: “I swear to God if you get smart one more time I’ll-“

He doesn’t even see SPYGOD move. One moment he’s standing in front of a sitting man. The next he’s sitting in the chair, and SPYGOD’s standing over him.

“What?” he says, his brain still reeling from the sudden movement.

“Now it’s my turn,” SPYGOD says, pointing to the glass where it lies on the ground, empty: “And before I !@#$ing say anything, you better understand something son. I love Martha with all my !@#$ heart, but you ever knock anything out of my !@#$ing hand again, you’re going to be making yourself a new one with your other one broken and shoved right up your !@#$. You !@#$ing got that, son?”

“Well, at least now we’re being honest,” Mark snorts.

“What the !@#$ do you mean?”

“I mean you’re finally showing us how it is.”

“You mean you didn’t !@#$ing know, already?” SPYGOD asks, raising an eyebrow: “I shoot people for less backtalk, Mark. You know that.”

“Yeah, and that’s one of the few things I do know.”

“Look, son, I !@#$ing told you,” SPYGOD sighs, putting his hands to the sky in exasperation: “I’m not telling you a !@#$ thing more than you need to know because it’s not !@#$ing safe. Not for the plan, not for me, not for you.”

“Maybe I should decide that?”

“Because I am sick and tired of not knowing anything,” the man says: “I am sick and tired of being led around by the nose from place to place. I am sick and tired of following mysterious leaders who don’t tell me who they are and ask me to put my !@#$ life on the line, and then-“

“You realize you just !@#$ing described being someone’s sidekick to a t, right?”

Mark blinks a few times, and then, sighing, just looks down at his hands: “It’s just… I love Martha, (REDACTED). I’d follow her around the world. I’d trust her with my life. And the reason for that is that she does not play this secret agent man game with me.”

“It’s not a !@#$ game, son.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Pretend I !@#$ing don’t. Explain it to me, Mark. Small words, long sentences.”

“Alright then,” Mark says, looking him in the eye: “I spent a long time hiding in a treehouse on another planet, following the orders of a guy in a mask who claimed to be working for you, but really wasn’t. And then almost dying because one of the people we thought you vouched for turned out to be… what the !@#$ WAS that thing?”

Moloch?” SPYGOD says, shrugging: “Damn if I know. Dangerous, that was for !@#$ sure.”

“Yeah. And come to find out it’s Mr. USA-“

“That was not Mr. USA.”

“No, I mean the leader of the resistance, who was Mr. USA, who’d been living a parallel life to the Mr. USA we all knew, and acting in secret all this time, and not stopping !@#$ from happening, and-“

“Stop it,” SPYGOD  commands, waving a hand in front of the man’s face, as if to wake him up: “We just got over this !@#$. Let’s not !@#$ing start it again, okay?”

“Well, that’s just it. Maybe I’m not over it. Maybe I still have a problem being led a mysterious leader who not only doesn’t want to tell me what’s going on, but just admitted even he doesn’t know what’s going on. Maybe I’m sick and tired of being in the dark.”

There’s silence for a time, then. Mark sits there, unsure if he’s going to get smacked, shot, or yelled at some more. But whatever anger he felt when he strode in here seems to have dissipated, somehow.

Better out than in, maybe.

“Look,” SPYGOD sighs, trying to be a little more gentle: “Do you know what a !@#$ N-Machine is, Mark?”

“I think they might have told me, once or twice.”

“Then imagine this, son. Imagine you !@#$ing know something, and you know you !@#$ing know something. Okay?”

“That’d be a first.”

“Now, imagine you get !@#$ing captured by someone who wants to know that something. And imagine they have people who are !@#$ing good, I mean really !@#$ing good, at figuring out that you know something they !@#$ing want to know. And imagine they’re in a !@#$ing hurry and don’t care to try to talk or torture it out of you. Especially if they’re !@#$ing smart enough to know that torture doesn’t !@#$ing work?”

“Then they’d use the machine on me,” Mark says, sighing.

“Exactly, son. They’d use the !@#$ machine on you. They’d drain your whole !@#$ing life out of your !@#$ eyes, just to find out that something. They’d inflict that horrible agony on your !@#$, just to know what you know. And then you’d be !@#$ing dead, and we’d be down a !@#$ good person at a time when we can’t afford to !@#$ing lose anyone.

“And Martha would be !@#$ing heartbroken,” SPYGOD continues, leaning in a little more: “She lost her whole !@#$ family that night. You and her son are all she’s got left, and he’s kind of !@#$ing stuck in the Big Apple. And she loves you back.

“So don’t !@#$ing ruin it,” he finishes, tapping a finger on the man’s forehead with each word.

Mark just nods, looking down and feeling really !@#$ stupid.

“Alright,” SPYGOD says, standing fully up and getting ready to go: “I’m glad we had this talk, Mark. I feel we really had a productive !@#$ing discussion, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” Mark says, weakly.

“And just for future reference?” the man says, pointing to the glass on the floor: “That whiskey was !@#$ing older than both of us put together. If you can’t respect me, at least respect my hooch.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Mark sighs, but the man’s already gone.

* * * 

"Tasukete..." the guard on the floor keeps repeating, weakly holding his guts in as his life trickles between his fingers. 

His words might have some weight with his killer, except that the man's not paying any attention to him. Indeed, he's not paying attention to anything in the room. Not the other Space Service guards, here in the room, who had the courtesy to die quickly, or at least more quietly. Not the alarms that are ringing helplessly, as there's no one else alive in this part of the Rebun Island facility to come answer them. 

And not the guards in the rest of the facility, as they have their own problems, now...

The beefy, Japanese man in a floral shirt sits in a chair at the central terminal in the room, which is filled with other, smaller terminals. Under normal circumstances, it would be filled with communications personnel, all eager to talk with the various missions going on right now. 

But they're not here, right now. They're all on the other side of things, fighting for their lives against some horrible monster that, up until now, they thought was a story for children, or at least people who refused to grow up. 

And as they aren't able to stop the man, he's used his recently-reinstated access codes to link up with the Sled, and look at their executive security logs. 

What he's watching is making him cry.

It's hard to be certain what's going on, in the knot of bodies that's floating in zero-G. There's men and women in there, all sliding over and around one another. People are !@#$ing and being !@#$ed, in various ways and combinations. Lots of moaning and groaning, cries and laughter. 

And in the center of that flesh frenzy is an adorable, young woman who seems lost in wonder, and yet all too eager to take part in it. 

"Hanami..." Ju-San -- aka Mister 10 -- says between sobs, pressing his hand to the screen and closing his eyes as she finally decides where to start. 

And when he opens her eyes -- just as she really starts to enjoy herself -- he sees the face of Faraj al-Ǧazāʼir above her, doing things to her that he so desperately wanted to be doing himself. 

He knows, in that moment, that everything he had feared has come true. Everything that outlaw reporter intimated to him was correct. 

He's lost her. They've taken her away from him. 

And the only way to get her back is to go up there and take her back.

"(I will kill you,)" he promises the spaceman, his sadness being replaced by a white-hot anger he can barely control: "(I will kill you with my own hands, you !@#$ing outsider worm!)"

And then he's gone to make good on that threat, leaving only the dead and the dying he used to command in his wake. 

* * *

 "So..." The Scarlet Factotum says, retracting all of her blades and guns back into herself, and holding up the Pusher's severed head for inspection: "Does anyone else have any {quote}complaints{endquote} about how I run things?"

No one does. Her personal army of supervillains and technicians all hold up their hands, doing their best to distance themselves from the steaming human meat on the ground. 

"Good," the freakishly-ugly robo-woman in the extremely revealing -- and now incredibly-torn -- red dress says, tossing the head onto a nearby table: "Because if there's one thing I cannot !@#$ing stand, it's disloyalty. Especially now that we've actually gotten to our goal!"

She waves her bloody hands at the board, where, just sixty seconds ago, they got the last piece of their plan into place. They now have either replaced or recruited all the human machinery that the Terre Unifee uses to run the world. All the super-powers they've put to civilian and military use are either under the thumb of their organization, or have been cunningly swapped out with one of their own number.

The world is hers now, all she has to do is give the order.

The world is hers now, all she has to do is give the order.

The world is hers now, all she has to do is give the order-

"Is that actually going to hold her?" The Emperor of Pain asks, looking at their now-deposed leader as she lies in a heap on the floor. 

"I think so," the Pusher says, adjusting his million-dollar tie and looking at the specialist he hired for the job: "How long can we have her like that?"

"Indefinitely," the grey-suited woman with television static for eyes says, handing over the remote box: "As long as her CPU is active, she'll loop that over and over again and have no idea anything's wrong."

"Well done," he says, nodding to her: "The money's in your account. Are you sure you won't join us?"

"I prefer being independent," she says, winking a flickering eye: "But remember me, when you come into your new kingdom."

"I will," he says, shaking her hand before she turns to go. 

"We're just letting her go?" Lord of Spiders asks once she's out of earshot.

"No one messes with Joy, or they answer to me," the Pusher insists, looking down at his twitching, former client: "We are clear on that?"

"Yes," the Emperor of Pain says, nodding a little too quickly for his own liking.

"If you really want to kill someone for real, go find that Violet Demon guy and air him out," the Pusher says: "He's a little too queer for her.  If he comes back and finds her gone, well, we might have a real problem on our hands."

"I'll do that," the Lord of Spiders says, as he never really liked the kid, anyway. 

"Chassis?" the Pusher says, gesturing at the woman made from a white car: "Take her down to the shop. Take her CPU out, hook it up to a battery, and bring it back to me. We're keeping her as a souvenir."

"I hear you," she says, grousing: "And then what?"

"And then..." the man says, sitting down in his now-deposed leader's big chair, looking at the big board: "We let the world know we're actually in charge."

* * *

To her credit, Martha feels it first. 

She's out working on the car in her civies, just to make sure it's going to be in good working order. And somewhere between checking the oil and putting the cap back on she suddenly gets the feeling that something is wrong. 

She can't say what it is for certain. Maybe a change in the breeze, or a sudden stillness. Maybe the loss of certain sounds, rather than the introduction of new ones.

But after having her own home invaded, last year, she's rather sensitive to that awful feeling that someone is looking at her with ill intent.

When she was young, and being the Talon to her father's Owl, he always told her to value her instincts. He said that perception and a clear head was one thing, but that one always had to be ready to go beyond them, and just trust that the sudden need to duck and back away, or stand up and rush in, were being guided by something. 

(They'd say God, of course. Others would say luck. Still others would say "synchronicity," but she always !@#$ing hated that word.)

So when she turns right around, swinging a crescent wrench in a long arc at what seems empty air, and connects -- hard -- with what was probably someone's jaw, judging by the crunch, she's not at all surprised. 

"We've got company!" she shrieks, bobbing and weaving her way back to the mansion as fast as she can from however many invisible people are right on her tail.

There's firing, right behind her. She can hear the distinctive sounds of darts as they thud into the dirt and trees around her. Martha's scared as !@#$ and all-too-aware that she could be hit at any moment, but right now she's too focused on getting into the house to worry about that.

It's simple math in her mind, really: house, suit, retribution. She might not even need the suit, given how badly these idiots are aiming. Just her fists, maybe-

Something hits her, right in the temple. A fist, not a dart. Excellent follow-through. Hurts like !@#$.

She crumples and goes down, but does her best to leap back up again. They call it Kip-Up. Her dad trained her for hours to get her to do it. And she trained Kaitlyn just as hard.

(My God. If they know she's here, they'll be after her next. And John.)

She leaps up and kicks blindly, somehow knowing where her opponent will be. Something cracks under her foot. A scream, then flailing strikes she can easily block in spite of their transparency. 

Martha ducks down once more, managing to narrowly miss being hit by another wave of darts. They slam into the back door of the mansion, less than six feet away, now. 

(People inside the room. Looks like fighting. Maybe Straffer, maybe Mark.)

She sweeps with her leg and takes her invisible enemy's out. There's a surprised cry and then a massive THUD in the dirt that brings up a comical cloud of dust. 

She leaps back up to continue running. "Company!" she shouts again, ducking and weaving as she runs for the door. 

The darts keep missing. Are they really that bad?

"My god," she says, getting into the kitchen and slamming the door behind her, eyes adjusting to the figures in the dark. Straffer by the door, Mark up against the wall. 

"Are you okay?" Straffer asks.

"Yeah, but they're in no-suits," she breathes: "And they've got tranq darts. Tell me we've got glasses or something."

"We do, yes," Straffer says, turning around suddenly. He's wearing a pair of black wraparounds. And he's got two things in his hands. 

One of them shoots a dart right into Martha's neck before she can even say anything. 

"What...?" she asks, feeling the drugs course through her body. She starts to fall before she can say anything more, suddenly realizing that Mark isn't just up against the wall. He's slumped there -- full of darts and barely conscious. 

"What the !@#$?" SPYGOD shouts, running into the room. He's got just a second to take it all in, and then, just before he can say or do anything, Straffer uses the thing he's got in his other hand.

Whatever it is, it makes SPYGOD jerk and dance like a puppet whose controller has just had a seizure. 

He drools and flails, unable to control himself. He falls to the floor herking and jerking. And when he tries to talk it sounds like a sped-up record.

"Don't bother, hon," Straffer says, standing close to him: "It's someplace you're not going to be able to get to, anytime soon. I slipped it in this morning while you were... compromised."

SPYGOD is trying to talk. It's not coming out well. It's shouts and tears and a question. Why?

"I'm sorry," his lover says, taking off the glasses as the door opens, and the invisible agents begin to come into the room: "I really am. I do love you, (REDACTED). I always will."

Again the question, sped up and nearly incoherent: "Thenwhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy y y y y"

"They promised me I could be in charge of the Space Service again," Straffer explains, having to raise his voice to be heard over the decloaking TU transports, outside: "All I had to do was turn you in and I'd be reinstated immediately. I'm sure they'll want to debrief me first, of course. That's how it works. But soon, I'll be back up where I belong."

More stammering. More crying. 

"Sorry, hon. I told you I valued my career. You'd have done the same."

Martha tries to fight the drugs, almost getting up to get forward and rip Straffer's smug, lying face off. Except that, before she can raise her arm off the floor, something steps down on it. A white boot, connected to a blue leg. 

A blue leg with a white lightning bolt arcing up it, towards a mocking, almost sinister face.

"Bonjour, Mdme Samuels," Tempete Bleu says, as his transparent men become translucent, and then fully visible. 

And just as she loses consciousness, she thinks she can see another face behind his own.

It makes her scream to look at it. 

* * *

 It's all about wonder
The power to be
Like thunder expressing
* * *
(SPYGOD is listening to Axis (Pet Shop Boys) and having a WBC PsycHOPath)

No comments:

Post a Comment