Monday, May 4, 2015

1/18/13 - Seven Days of the Con Job - Pt. 7.0

"This is What You Were Waiting For..."
Henri, Josie
(Art by Dean Stahl)
* * *

There's the Story of a Man Who Loved Too Much
He Ended Up Inside a Prison Cell
You've Got To Want To Give To Get It
Or You Could Land Up In the Same Suspicious Hell

* * *

 "... news coming in from the city of Korhogo, in the Cote d'Ivoire. Residents are saying that, since last night, their town has been invaded by what appears to be the spirits of the dead. 

"They're described as human-looking, for the most part, glowing and translucent, and looking like they did when they were dead. Many of them are of local people, but a number are of strange individuals, many of whom appear to be wearing prison uniforms.

"No one's been hurt by these phantoms, so far, but more than a few people have suffered heart attacks and shock upon seeing them. 

"The Terre Unifee says that they are aware of the situation, and are sending Le Compagnie to deal with the situation..."

* * *

"Are you hearing this, then?" the white-armored Russian hero snorts, waving his hand at the television he brought into SPYGOD's front room, just to have something to watch, other than his apparently-broken prisoner: "I should be there, with my comrades. Instead I am here, with you."

SPYGOD doesn't even answer that. He's curled up on the couch, across from Bely Rytsar, listening to the same song over and over and over again on his headphones and crying. It's just loud enough that his jailer -- able to stay up and alert for weeks at a time, thanks to his armor -- can make out the tune, but not enough to hear the lyrics. 

But it's gotten very !@#$ing annoying. 

Sadly, Bely's not allowed to touch the prisoner. He isn't even supposed to yell at him, under the circumstances. Everything must be done above board. 

So if this pidaras wants to sit there, listen to that song, drink American beer, and cry? He gets to do exactly that. 


"You truly are a suka," the man mutters, disgusted: "I expected much better from you. You, the man who saved this world, and then betrayed it. One betrayal and you are done?"

His prisoner whimpers something. 

"What was that, little man? I did not hear you."

"I !@#$ing loved him,"  SPYGOD whispers, his voice like crushed glass: "I was going to !@#$ing marry him. I told him all that. And he just sold me out for a better job."

"Bah," the Russian says, waving it off: "This is what we are calling Monday morning in Moscow. Everyone sells one another out. No love is true. You called yourself the god of spies? Surely you must have known this?"

SPYGOD says something, but it trails off into incoherency. But the Russian doesn't care to have him repeat it, because he doesn't really want to hear it. He instead goes back to watching ghosts stumble around an African town -- maybe just a little less dazed and confused than his prisoner. 

He really wishes he could just hit him. That would make all this go a lot better. So maybe when he's done, and they come to put him on trial, he'll see if he can get in one good, solid punch to the promezhnost when the cameras aren't on. 

You can get away with murder when no one's watching. In Moscow, they call that "Tuesday."

* * *

Mark Clutch can't stop screaming. It's not for him. It's for her.

When he was young, and liked to make model kits, his father gave him an ingenious, little plastic contraption. It laid flat on a table, and had little grooves and slots that one could put alligator clips into. The idea was that you used it to hold a model kit's pieces in place while the glue was drying, so you didn't have to sit still for minutes -- or even hours -- to keep the parts from setting the wrong way.

He can't help but think of it, now that he's watching El Inquisidor Escarlata use a similar device to hold Martha's right hand down as he takes it apart.

There's almost nothing left of it. He's separated flesh from muscle, veins from arteries. All that's there are gnarled nerves and raw, wet bones, held together with plastic clips. 

(No blood no blood how can there be no blood?)

She stopped screaming a long time ago, maybe around the time he completely peeled her thumb. Now she just moans, as if she's coming out of a fever, and then slides mercifully under again. 

But Mark can still scream, and he does. Thinking of all the times he saw that hand in action. The way he held it when they talked. The way he kissed it, that one time, when they almost might have done more than just be coy.

Strings of meaty muscle, splayed out on wires. A deflated balloon of flesh about the wrist. Delicate webs of blood vessels, twisted and still. 

And bones, which the scarlet-clad interrogator uses an extremely-sharp knife to prize away from the tendons, one millimeter at a time.

"You know something, Mr. Clutch," the man says as he further disassembles Martha: "You do not know what it is, but you do know it."

"I don't! I don't!" the man screams, his mind a broken thing: "If I did I'd tell you! I swear! I don't know!"

"Then you must tell me more. Tell me everything."

"Please, Jesus! I swear I don't know any more than I've already told you!"

"Then I fear we'll be moving along, up the arm," El Inquisidor Escarlata sighs, tapping the wrist with a free finger: "Radius from ulna, stripped and clean. Then her humerus. Then her clavicle. And if I have to go that far, well..."

He taps the front of her chest: "I can take her organs out, one by one, and keep them connected. I can keep her alive indefinitely, though she is just pieces on a bed. And she will feel everything, Mr. Clutch. 

"And she will know your silence is what caused her that pain."

Mark just screams and babbles out everything he can think of, large or small. None of it is worth a !@#$, he knows. None of it will save the woman he loves. 

But it's all he can do, especially when their interrogator begins to unwind Martha even further...

* * *

"All of that for love?" Director Brilliand asks, seemingly astounded by what he's hearing.

Faraj al-Ǧazāʼir nods at the hologram in the corner of his office, sipping his tea from a plastic ball as he looks down into it: "I know, Director. It seems an insane thing. But you will admit that love has driven many a person to insane actions."

"I don't understand," the wasp-faced director says, shaking his head: "He did know that the damage to this robot-"

"Android, sir," the warrior gently corrects his superior, smiling a little: "But yes, he did know the damage was extensive. He did know it might be a long time before she was close to being herself, again. He even knew that she might never be what and who she once was, and that he'd just have to understand that.

"But tell me truly, Director. When it comes to affairs of the heart, are any of us willing to hear the word 'no,' or 'wait'?"

The Director considers this, and then nods: "Still, the carnage is extensive. So many of our orbital defenders dead or broken. So much damage done."

"Yes," Faraj says, nodding: "A sad thing. It's fortunate we moved it further away from its previous position, or else we wouldn't have had much warning, and no time to prepare."

"A good bit of foresight on your part, Faraj, yes."

"Simple precaution, Director. We have discovered so much more than we'd anticipated, but that also opens up many more dangers. I don't want a weapons test to atomize a continent."

"Have you had any luck with them?"

"Not as yet. If we had, we'd have used them yesterday, surely?"

"Ah, yes," the Director says: "Well, it's a good thing you have Hanami, then? I must say you are in very good hands with her aboard."

"Oh, very good indeed," the man says, smiling oddly at that. 

"And the launch date?"

"Soon, I should think," Faraj says, looking askance: "We've made incredible progress the last week or so."

"It must be soon, Faraj," the Director says, leaning in closer to the camera on his end: "I'm having a hard time justifying any delays at this point."

"Director, just less than two weeks ago we had a machine but no idea how it worked. Now we know that not only can we use it as propulsion and shielding, it can also become a weapon. But if we are to take it into battle, we must understand it completely, and well, or else it will be our undoing. Surely you understand this?"

"I do, yes, but-"

"Then you'll just have to tell the people you're dealing with that we only get one shot at this, so it must be done right. It's not enough to simply launch it and pray."

"Isn't that what we were going to do before?"

"Perhaps," Faraj smiles: "But things have changed. Now we have a real opportunity to meet the enemy with a real weapon. We would be fools to ignore it simply to blast off as soon as possible."

"There are those who think experiments can wait until Mars."

"I would rather not experiment over their heads, Director," Faraj says, showing some steel in his eyes: "They are being most gracious in allowing us to make our stand, there, and to allow the Venusians to join us. This is a delicate matter, one that your time dealing with franc-pinching bureaucrats and the European press hasn't quite prepared you for. If you don't mind my being frank?"

"I don't," the Director says, clearing minding: "But I worry if so much power at your fingers hasn't made you forget who's in charge?"

"Have no fear, Director," Faraj says, nodding: "This ship is yours, as is the mission and the glory. But I will do whatever I have to do in order to bring the best fighting force to bear. And that means being a warrior, a leader, a scientist, and a diplomat.

"And if you'll excuse me? I do have some science to perform."

"Very well," the Director says: "But soon, Faraj. Soon."

The moment he turns off the hologram from his end, Faraj stretches out and leans back, the better to watch Hanami going down on him. 
"Are you in good hands, Faraj?" she asks, smiling up at him.

"Oh, I think I am," the man smiles, reaching down to take her hair in his hand: "I'm sorry if I seemed less responsive. It's not every day I have to speak civilly with a man who'd planned to kill me."

"Not that he wasn't going to !@#$in' kill all of us," Dr. Fuller grouses from the window, where he and Brightstarsurfergirl are wrapped around one another, floating in post-coupling passion: "Good thing those kids found out what was !@#$in' going on, ey?"

"Yes," Faraj says, sadly, thinking of the cost: "But the truth costs us, habibi. It is never a gentle thing. And when it wants to be spoken, there will be no taking it back."

At which point he allows himself to do what he's been aching to do since that !@#$-smear of a coward called in the middle of their "executive meeting," much to Hanami's delight. 

* * *

"Oh my," Henri says, leaning back on the extremely-messy bed and staring at the ceiling, his eyes wide and unfocussed. 

"Oh my?" Josie says, lifting her very large self up and towering over him.

"Oh my..." the wormy little man repeats, seemingly lost in space without his glasses. 

"... God?"

"I do not believe in God," he states simply: "But I will pray to you all night if that's what comes of confession."

Josie giggles and smacks his chest, which makes him wince a little. But he's too tired -- too enraptured -- to feel any pain. 

He knew this was probably going to happen. He's known it since they started their trans-Atlantic collaborations. He'd been assured of it since he'd made plans to come here. And after yesterday, it seemed as sure as the Sun rising. 

But still, the moment it all came true? Magical -- pure and simple magic. 

On the screen, some British actor is running down a beach, trying to get away from a weaponized weather balloon. They've been watching that entire series all night long, episode after episode. To be frank, he hated it from the start, but it made her relaxed. More open to possibilities. 

More eager to see all the interesting things he'd brought with him from France...

Hours later, he was broken, exhausted, and happier than he'd ever been in his life. And to think, this was but the first night of so many!

"I'm going to get you some water," Josie says: "I don't want you getting dehydrated."

"Of course," he breathes, still lost to things. But no so lost that he can't enjoy looking at her big, muscular !@#$ -- upside down, no less - as she leaves the bedroom for its adjoining bathroom. 

As she does, he notices something he didn't see before as they were ripping each other's clothes off. A small, round mark, just above the crease of her buttocks. Something of a third dimple, sitting there. Almost like an "outie" navel, somehow. 

And as he looks at it, he wonders where he's seen something like that before...

The british actor says something that seems important. He doesn't notice it for the chilly feeling he's getting.

* * *

The man shakes off the cold and enters the Spanish post office, taking one last, careful look in the window in the front door to make sure he wasn't being followed.

Satisfied, he crosses the nearly-deserted floor -- almost closing time on a Friday -- and, as he's done a half a dozen times, goes to his post box and opens it up.

This time there's actually something in it.

He hitches a breath, and then exhales slowly. He looks at the small, plain envelope -- festooned with stamps and stickers indicating it should get here as fast as inhumanly possible.  And as soon as he's sure it's not a threat he takes it, slips it into his coat pocket, and goes back out into the cool air of Irun.

It rattles and thumps, whatever it is. He's sure it's not a bomb. It could be a tracker, though. If so he should wander a bit before opening it, just to be able to give anyone the slip.

At some point, he decides he's gone far enough. He stops by a park overlooking the Rio Bidasoa and, sitting on a bench, opens it up.

Inside is a note, wrapped around a something wrapped in bubble wrap. He doesn't have to look at it too hard to realize it's a fairly sophisticated CPU -- the kind that would have been used as the memory and mind of a certain kind of robot.

The kind he's been intimately familiar with for some time, now.

The note's a simple scrawl: This is her. They have her head. They think the CPU is in it. 

I was ordered to destroy it, but !@#$ that !@#$, man. I know how you feel. 

So you look after her, and stay low 'til we're in the clear. 

And if you do put her back together? Leave me the !@#$ out of it if it goes bad. 

The Violet Demon smirks and nods: "Thanks, man."

And then he balls up the paper and tosses it into the river, walking away with METALMAID in his pocket, wondering how he does feel about the psychotic Slaughterbot his life has revolved around for far too long, now.

Maybe he loves her. Maybe he's using her. Maybe he's somewhere between the two.

But he knows he better figure it out, and quick. Time is not on his side, now.

And if he screws this up, well, the consequences could be really !@#$ messy.

* * *

Martha Samuels can't stop screaming. It's not for her. It's for Mark.

When she was young -- still just the Talon to her father's Owl -- they ran into a dangerous sex offender. He called himself The Glove Man, which showed a real lack of creativity on his part. But what he lacked in that regard, he made up for in the imaginative ways he used his razor-sharp namesake on young men in the Chicago suburbs.

One time, they'd just missed him. He'd been there not more than ten minutes before they'd arrived, and before he'd gone he'd mutilated no less than four young men -- all of them flayed and vivisected, each one just a little different from the others.

As she stood there, trying not to cry as the four wounded boys gasped in pain, she couldn't help but think that what their tormentor had left behind looked like prehistoric ferns in a movie, all twitching and curling in the ancient wind. 

And as hard as she tries, she can't help but think of those bloody flesh-ferns as the scarlet-robed interrogator uses that knife-glove thing to dig deep into Mark's groin.

"You know something, Ms. Samuels," the man says as he slides his pinky-knife into Mark's perineum, angling up to miss the bone: "You do not know what it is, but you do know it."

"I don't!" she yells as Mark screams anew, finding some new reservoir of air at this latest degradation: "I can't tell you what I don't know! How can I tell you what I don't know?!?!"

"Then you must tell me more. Tell me everything."

"I've already told you everything! I don't know any more! I swear to God, please, just leave him alone!"

"Then I fear we'll be doing permanent damage, here," El Inquisador Escarlata says, pulling the knife in and out: "Maybe I'll leave him with no bowels. Would you love him if he had to defecate into a bag, Ms. Samuels? They smell. They burst. And they look quite unsightly."

"Please, leave him alone," she begs: "Work on me, okay? You do it to me. You leave him alone!"

"Oh no," the man says, smiling and regarding her: "There is no place for that, here. You cannot ask me to give his pain to you, any more than he can take yours when your time comes. All you can do is watch him be taken apart, slice by slice, inch by painful inch. 

"And he will know your silence is what caused him that pain."

Martha screams, again. She prays to God to get them out of here. To make this stop she'll do anything. Anything. 

But if God is listening, he doesn't make a sound.

* * *

"So, here's the thing," the badly-mustached man explains to the Emperor of Pain, gesturing wildly as he talks a mile a minute in the otherwise-deserted dining area: "This guy, he's got every !@#$ reason to hate this person, right? He !@#$ing killed his girlfriend, burned half his face, and has been causing this huge rain of !@#$ all over town, right?"

"Right," the older man sighs, wondering where The Sound is going with this.

"But then, after he gives him this total bull!@#$ line about how he doesn't ever plan anything out-"

"Why is it bull!@#$?"

"Are you kidding me, old man?" The Sound laughs: "Half the movie is this guy's plans unfolding. He's got one plan nestled inside another, like those... um... what the !@#$ are those dolls where there's the one inside the other?"

"Matryoshka?" the Emperor says, his annoyance becoming palpable.

"Yeah! Those things. So it's all one big !@#$ing plan. And then he explains that he did this to upset the system that this man was a part of, just to show him how !@#$ wrong he was. He's completely !@#$ing invalidated his whole !@#$ life in less than a day, right?

"And then, get this, he !@#$ing gives this man a gun, knowing he'll give him a 50/50 chance of survival, and gambles it all on the guy going his way. He got this man to go over to his side of things, even though he did all that crazy bad !@#$ to him."

"And that's why you love that movie?"

"Yes! Because the Joker totally turned Two-Face, and he spent the whole !@#$ing movie setting it up! Brilliant!"

"So you say," the old supervillain says, narrowing his eyes: "A curious turn of phrase, Sound."

"Oh?" the man says, brushing his 'stache with a finger: "What do you mean?"

"Well... I've always considered henchmen to be disposable," the man says, leaning into the table: "And as for alliances with others? Well, they're never to be entered into lightly, but then never to be depended upon, either. I'm sure you've noticed that our fraternity is quite a mess?"

"Well, yeah," The Sound says, not sure where this is going.

"So I've learned to trust my instincts, over the years. If someone doesn't sound right, I get rid of them. If something doesn't feel right? I leave. No apologies, no regrets. I either kill or climb into my car, sometimes both.

"And if I'm wrong? Well, it's not like I'm going too lose any sleep over it, am I?"

"No, I guess not," the younger villain says, grinning: "Reminds me of this !@#$er I knew-"

"Tell me, Sound. You've heard the story about the infamous meeting at Doctor Morbo's castle, yes?" the Emperor of Pain says, leaning back a bit and twiddling his fingers: "The one where all us big time villains came together to try and work out a mutual arrangement. A team-up, if you will?"

"I heard it went right down the !@#$ing toilet."

"Yes, it did. And the reason why isn't something we like to talk about. But... would you like to know what happened? Who really threw the first punch?"

"Uh, !@#$ yeah," the Sound says, scooting his chair into the table: "Lay it on me, old man."

"Well, it was the funniest thing," the Emperor says, ignoring the younger villain's attempt at flippancy: "There I was, in this room. And I was there with Doctor Morbo, our host, and the Lord of Spiders, whom you know. Duke Bloodmoon had come down from his rival castle, Steel Corsair from his zeppelin. The Steamqueen, herself, was there, which was no little thing. And The Human Scream and Mister Foulness, neither of whom was ever pleasant company. And all our chief henchmen and seconds in command. Everyone, really.

"And then someone, I won't say who, said the most curious thing. It was a phrase. A throwaway line, really. 

"But something about how that person said it? The way it left their lips? It made me think that this person was hiding something. 

"And maybe it was nothing, just some little thing. Maybe wanting to get the others to do in their old rival once the plan really got off the ground. Like I said, you know how we all are.

"But as the conversation went on, and we began to hammer out what hoped to achieve, and desired to do, the more I listened to what this person had to say, and couldn't help but think that everything they said was wrapped around whatever they were hiding. That they were steering the conversation this way, or that, in accordance with that secret.

"And do you know, Sound? I got the feeling that maybe, just maybe, this person wasn't here to do our kind of work. Maybe this person was here to do someone else's work."

"You mean a plant?" the Sound says, aghast.

"Yes, Sound," the Emperor says: "A plant."

"Holy !@#$."

"Indeed," the old man says, nodding: "Now, I had no proof. Mindreading was never my forte, you understand. But I did understand that the longer we sat there, with this possible traitor in out midst, the greater the chance someone might smash into our room. I'm sure I need not elaborate."

"Well, no. So what did you do?"

"Oh, I hurt the Human Scream," the Emperor of Pain smiles: "Just a short, sharp twinge in the solar plexus. But angled in such a way that he thought the person I suspected had done one of their trademark tricks. 

"And once he got up to remonstrate with that person? Well..." the Emperor waves a hand: "Things were said, fists were thrown, henchmen and seconds sacrificed. A villain or two destroyed, or maimed. And I alone escaped unscathed to tell the tale... well, I and Morbo, the Lord of Spiders, and Steamqueen, at any rate."

"Wow," the Sound says, nodding: "So what brought that up?"

"You did," the Emperor says, pointing a finger at the man's head, which instantly feels as though he's had the mother of all brain freezes: "'Turned,' you said? Do you know who uses that kind of terminology, Sound? Someone who's been turned, or else spends too much time doing the biding of someone who turns others.

"Agh, no!" the Sound tries to say, holding his hands to his temples to keep his brains from exploding: "I swear, no-"

"Swear all you like, little man," the old fellow says, standing up and increasing the pain levels: "I don't like you. The Pusher doesn't care about you. No one will mourn or miss you, except maybe the Angle. And he's not here, is he?"

The Sound grits his teeth, and then, suddenly, stops being in pain. 

The old man looks surprised, and then realizes he can't hurt a man if he's not solid. 

But before he can cry out or do anything, the Sound puts his intangible fist through the Emperor's chest, and then goes whole and full once more. 

The sound is disgusting -- especially when the Emperor coughs up blood -- but he dies before he can visit any more pain on his assassin. 

The Sound turns semi-solid, and lets the old man drop to the floor. Then he sighs, long and deep, and takes out a small communicator from just inside the neck of his costume. 

"Fury one, calling in," he mutters: "Fury one, calling Shadow Cabinet. Big !@#$ emergency. Over."

"This is Shadow Cabinet," a scrambled voice answers: "Receiving. Over."

"I just had to !@#$ing kill the Emperor of Pain," the Sound says: "He was onto me. No one saw. Please advise. Over."

There's just hissing for a moment, and the villain can imagine the man on the other end sighing, smacking himself in the head, and cursing his luck. 

"Can you hide the body? Over."

"I can, sure. Over."

"Then do so, and lay low. Operation Game Changer is on schedule. Repeat, Game Changer is on schedule."

"Copy that," the Sound says, and, quick as he can, bundles up the old man's lifeless body and sinks into the floor, planning to dump the Emperor somewhere in the ground, and then go back up to clean up the mess. 

And pray he can hold it together long enough for the !@#$ do go down. 

* * *

There's a spot in Neo York City very few people know about -- a completely-sealed room with no doors or windows, where only those who know of it can go.

It's a drop spot -- and occasional meeting place -- for those lucky few who can teleport, and only those who are known to SPYGOD are allowed to enter at all.

As such, it's not used a lot. It's kept meticulously clean, but no one is sure by whom.

And to speak of it to others is to be excluded from the fraternity, and perhaps a few other things as well.

Today, there have been two entrances, and two exits.

The first was this morning. A well-dressed, African man was teleported in by an African woman in jeans and a t-shirt (Kurt Lives, with a blue, demonic face below the lettering). They left a small, white box with a complicated lock on a table, and then left as quickly as they'd come.

The second was this afternoon. A woman in red leather, her features masked by a skull-bandana and a pair of large sunglasses, was teleported in by a man in a blue suit. He released her so she could take the box, and lit up a nasty, French cigarette as she examined it.

Then she walked back into his arms, and they vanished.

And the second they were gone, the room shimmered just a little, as someone odd stepped into it.

A middle-aged woman dressed like a 60's hippie stood there, looking around as she absentmindedly crocheted what might have been a very long hat. She looked over her granny glasses and took in the room, with gold in silver eyes. 

And then, after she saw everything that had happened, and would ever happen in this room, she looked up, as if she could see someone, and said one word: "Interesting!"

With that, she walked back into the wall, as if she was never ever there.

(SPYGOD is listening to Before (Pet Shop Boys) and having an Ananke)

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