|"I'd be safe and warm / If I was in LA"|
(Back) SPYGOD, Governor Ronald Wilson Reagan, Mr. USA
(Front) Hoosk, Raitha, Rahmaa, Rosi, Syphon
(Art by Dean Stahl)
* * *
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.
- Ronald Reagan – "A Time for Choosing."
June 10th, 1994
The large room is dark and strangely humid. Lightning from a far-off stormfront plays tricks outside the window, occasionally throwing crackling patches of illumination on different parts of the room. Every time it happens, it seems to reveal something standing there.
Someone standing there.
And every time it happens, Ronald Wilson Reagan starts a little, not sure what’s happening. Not sure if this is a dream, or real.
Or something much worse.
When they ask what this is like, and he can think enough to answer, he says it’s like being a goldfish. Some things he knows, and will never forget: his name, who he was, his wife, his children, the horses at the ranch, this home in Bel Air.
It’s everything else he has problems with.
If he had breakfast or not? If he talked with someone, today? What he wanted to do, that afternoon? What he was doing just a few seconds ago?
All those memories and thoughts and plans and dreams are a jumble in his mind. They are there and then gone, scattering like leaves in the strong wind that brings the storm.
Blown up and away in advance of the horrible thing he alone can see…
On a night like this, it’s hell. He keeps being surprised by the oncoming storm, forgetting it was approaching. The lightning startles him, each time, as it really seems to come from nowhere. With every flash he sees something he doesn’t remember being there, the time before.
And when things go dark, again, and he’s left to the puzzle of his thoughts, he sees it again.
The monster, coming from the dark.
Lightning flashes once more, and this time there is someone in the room. Tall and clad in black. Eyepatch.
A different kind of monster, come for him at last.
“You…” Ronald Reagan says, his eyes widening and then narrowing, uncertain.
SPYGOD nods, solemnly, stepping towards the man. He says nothing. There’s nothing to say, right now.
And he’s trying too hard to not cry to say anything, anyway.
For a moment, the former President is terrified, because he doesn’t know why this is happening. But then, as if by some miracle, he does remember something.
He remembers why this man is here.
The change is instant. Gone is the uncertainty and fear. Instead is the warm, knowing smile. The wise and easy look in his eyes.
And the grin. That grin.
“Hey, (REDACTED)… where’s the rest of me?” he whispers to his assassin, with a warm wink. A final joke, perhaps.
SPYGOD doesn’t reply. He can’t. He just raises the gun to the man’s forehead.
* * *
June 10th 1968
- Not exactly the way you thought your !@#$ day was going to !@#$ing go, sir?” SPYGOD asks, shooting down the hall of the Capitol as he bundles Governor Reagan out of his office.
“You can say that again!” Reagan shouts as he ducks for cover, just ahead of a fusillade of machinegun fire from the opposite direction.
“Sorry about the close call,” SPYGOD says, returning fire just faster than the Governor can follow: “We didn’t get word about this until just !@#$ing now.”
One shot, then two, and he’s splattered the head of some fat secretary in a toxic orange dress. She looked rather incongruous as she expertly fired that HK MP5 at them, but at least she dies with no more surprises.
“What the heck is going on here, sir?” Reagan demands: “That’s Florence, from the motor pool. I’ve known her for years.”
“You knew her, sir,” SPYGOD says, indicating they should stay put for a moment: “Maybe you never did, come to !@#$ing think of it. This is GORGON, after all.”
“GORGON,” SPYGOD nods, reloading fairly swiftly: “They replace people, sir. Their False Faces copy them so well and completely that you might not know they were !@#$ing duplicated. Worse still, they could have had agents here for years, and no one would have known.”
“Oh God,” Reagan says, shuddering. Suddenly the vicious attack by his personal secretary – the one this man just thwarted by driving his flying car through the office windows – makes perfect sense.
“So from here on out, we trust no one. I mean no one, sir. Anyone could be a False Face. Everyone could be !@#$ing trying to kill us.”
As if to prove his point, he fires off what seems an absent-minded shot back down the hall. A security guard gasps as his head comes apart from the nose-up, the grenade he was about to throw tumbling around his feet. SPYGOD instinctively throws himself over the Governor a second before it explodes.
“So you stick with me, sir,” the man says as their hearing returns: “You do that? You do what I tell you? We leave here alive.
“But anyone so much as !@#$ing looks at me funny? I shoot first and mourn later. I’m not taking the chance that they’re just dazed and confused. You’re their primary target, and I’m here to get you the !@#$ out.
“Yes,” the Governor says. No hesitation, now that he knows what the stakes are.
“Good,” SPYGOD says, gesturing to the nearest way out. The second they’re up he drapes his left arm around the man and, hunkering down, ushers them along, and hopefully out.
* * *
As SPYGOD would later explain, this attack hadn’t come from nowhere. It had its violent genesis in the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, just five days before.
It transpired that, in Kennedy’s time as Attorney General, while his brother Jack was President, he’d uncovered a lot of information about some as-yet-unnamed criminal conspiracy – one operating alongside his normal targets in organized crime. A shadowy organization that replaced people, the way a cancer replaced healthy cells with diseased ones.
But every time he got close enough to get an idea of what was going, things fell apart. The trails dried up and went cold, witnesses changed their stories or disappeared, and evidence just vanished.
He would have done more to look into it, but he and his brother had a falling out that led to Robert leaving the White House in early ’64. He immediately leaped into a different political arena, winning a Senate seat against a popular incumbent.
And when he wasn’t campaigning for civil rights, or any of the other causes he felt strongly about, he was using his new connections and abilities to look into this conspiracy.
What he found disturbed him, clearly. He had made veiled mention of some of what he had uncovered to friends and confidants, and made inroads to certain well-placed law enforcement officials about working together to stop this thing. But he’d have to do it from the top down if it was going to work.
Which meant he’d have to do his brother, Jack, one better, and run for President against the man who’d beaten him – Richard M. Nixon.
What Robert hadn’t known was that the conspiracy had a name: GORGON. And GORGON was well aware of his plans, as some of those friends, confidants, and law enforcement officials were in league with them, or had “friends” who were False Faces.
The assassination was meant to put an end to that nonsense. What they didn’t know was that, not long before he went to California for the Primary, Kennedy wisely sent a copy of what he’d learned to J. Edgar Hoover, at the FBI. He knew the man hadn’t been much a friend while he’d been Attorney General, but he knew his thirst for justice – or at least the chance to “single-handedly” bust a massive conspiracy – would see this organization arraigned if something happened to him.
Unfortunately, GORGON had people in the FBI, too. Once they realized what might happen, they elected to act quickly – to kill Kennedy, take California, and then vanish into thin air within the state.
Fortunately, Hoover had certain heroic allies who could read minds – even ones as smashed as the FBI’s False Faces. Once the Director realized what was about to happen, he made a few phone calls – one of which went to SPYGOD, who just happened to be in California at the time, on “personal business.”
And SPYGOD knew exactly what the late Robert Kennedy had found, and what they might be doing next if they really intended to vanish into the state. They’d already snuck into the edges, and some of the bottom, but to succeed they’d need to take out the top.
Which meant the Governor, himself, needed saving as soon as !@#$ing possible.
* * *
Saving the Governor is proving to be a nightmare with every step.
Frank from the press pool tries to bomb them. Josie from catering leaps from the ceiling, strange knives in hand. Even old Jerry, one year from retirement, pulls his gun out to kill them rather than everyone else.
SPYGOD does not hesitate. Each one gets dropped with a single, fast shot to the head. Dead bang, right between the eyes.
Eyes that are made of soulless metal…
They seem to spend eternity of running, ducking, and shooting. The Governor’s rescuer goes through gun after gun, clip after clip, from a seemingly-endless supply. He never falters, never hesitates.
Never ceases to amaze and impress.
Finally, they get to the hallway leading to the back entrance. When the Governor thinks to ask why, he realizes it’s because the cars are parked here, giving them some cover.
And a good thing, too, as there people shooting at them from the trees, now.
“Isn’t this the part where someone else comes in to save us?” Reagan asks, ducking a bullet that comes to close for comfort: “The Freedom Force? Your people?”
“Eh, the Freedom Force is dealing with something in Texas,” SPYGOD sighs, shooting back at a sniper, watching him fall from the tree.
(Seeing he can’t be more than 12 years old. Hoping the Governor didn’t see that. Knowing he did.)
“As for my people, well… they didn’t know I was here,” he admits, tossing that gun aside to grab another he still has bullets for: “I was in town visiting a friend. Just happened to get wind of this !@#$ at the last minute. Hence the last minute rescue.”
“You can sure drive a flying car, sir,” the Governor says, smiling a little.
“Thanks!” SPYGOD says, grinning back and shooting his gun at some snipers. At which point he sees how badly !@#$ed they actually are.
There aren’t just snipers out there. There’s soldiers – dozens of them. Men, women, and children from all walks of life. All of them have dropped their disguises, so that their skulls – covered in clear plastic – are showing.
And all of them are marching towards them from the road.
“Oh !@#$,” SPYGOD sighs, patting down his uniform and not liking what he’s finding, or not finding as the case may be.
“Well, this is kind of !@#$ing embarrassing, sir. I think I’m out of guns.”
“So what do we do now?”
“I have put out a call, sir. Just not sure when we’ll get some !@#$ing help.”
“Can’t you go do… that thing?” Reagan asks.
“Well, I remember you from the War, son,” the Governor says: “Sgt. Shatter, right?”
“Once upon a time,” SPYGOD says, a little wistful, and not sure if this man can really call him ‘son’: “Not so much anymore. But even if I did, well… not liking those odds, and not wanting to leave you behind.”
Just then he has to shoot someone out of a window, up above.
“And then there’s that, sir,” SPYGOD admits: “We might be !@#$ing better off getting back into the building, but we’re still hot on two fronts.”
Reagan sighs: “Not a great way to die.”
“Eh, could be worse,” SPYGOD shrugs, turning to fire at the oncoming soldiers, who have yet to fire upon them.
“I could be dying with Pat Brown, instead.”
The two men look at each other, and then laugh.
SPYGOD grins and, pulling out the last spare loaded gun he has, hands it to the Governor: “Blaze of glory?”
“Why not,” Reagan says, taking it with something approaching gratitude: “There’s worse ways to end a political career.”
“Well-“ SPYGOD starts to say, and then he hears something. He cocks an ear, holds up a finger.
And then grins like a million dollar mother!@#$er.
“What?” Governor Reagan asks.
“Mr. Governor, you are in for a treat,” SPYGOD says, looking over to where the soldiers are marching: “The Olympians are here.”
“Who?” the man asks. But then there’s a noise like the world gently unfolding around itself, and something bright and beautiful appears.
At first, the Governor isn’t sure what he’s seeing. It looks like one of those chariots from the old sword and sandals movies, only it’s floating about twenty feet off the ground. It also has no horses, or visible means of propulsion.
Five people are in it, and then only one. An older fellow – short and sere, with grotesquely large ears, and a weird, white tuft of hair – remains inside of it, shouting commands above the fray as the oncoming soldiers start firing at his vehicle.
(Is he wearing a toga? What is this?)
The other four have leaped down to the ground, or flown in some cases.
There’s a woman made of light, gliding swiftly above the attackers and carrying another, much larger woman in a florid, flowing dress.
The Governor thinks he knows the large woman from somewhere. But that’s impossible, surely. She’s just a singer in one of those hippie bands he wish his kids didn’t like so much.
And yet, as they pass overhead, that woman does… something. And each and every sniper in the trees stops shooting, and instead falls down, writhing in what he first thinks is pain, but soon realizes is ecstasy.
“What the heck is going on?” he asks SPYGOD, who just chuckles and blows the large woman a kiss as they fly directly overhead, heading towards the capitol building.
For a moment, he thinks they’re going to break down the wall. But then they fly right through a closed window without breaking it, somehow.
He stares as another woman stops flying around and lands. She’s a tall, black lady, whose hair is a burning round ball, just like the sun. The ground around her feet smokes and smolders and she stands there, glaring at the soldiers.
“Put down your guns,” she says, her voice a loud, drawling rumble: “Don’t make me tell you twice.”
They don’t listen. They fire at her, now. But the bullets melt in the air before they can reach her, and with a wave of her hand their guns follow suit.
“I hear you say all you need is love,” the fourth member says, languidly sauntering out of nowhere and into the group of GORGON soldiers, their hands badly burned: “I’ve got love for you, boys and girls. Will you accept it?”
“Is that a man or woman?” the Governor asks, not really sure what the long-haired person is.
“Rosi?” SPYGOD asks: “You know, I’m not !@#$ing sure. It’s never really come up. Might be both, actually.”
Reagan’s about to say something disapproving, but very quickly becomes silent as he sees what that person is doing. Somehow, all the soldiers have fallen to the ground in a daze, and are swaying back and forth as s/he sings what is, beyond a doubt, the most beautiful song he’s ever heard-
“Don’t listen,” SPYGOD says, snapping his fingers in the man’s ears: “You’ll be !@#$ing transfixed for days.”
“Aren’t they going to shoot them?” the Governor asks, doing his best to follow instructions.
“No need,” SPYGOD grins, getting up and indicating that the man he’s been protecting can do the same: “They’ll just !@#$ing sit there until it’s all over. But let’s go inside, eh? I don’t want you !@#$ing brainwashed, too.”
And they do, though the Governor can't help but take a quick look back at the scene they're leaving. All those skull-faced killers, sitting down on the lawn like hippie kids at a concert, swaying back and forth...
What is this?
* * *
Inside, there’s a different kind of spectacle. The rotunda is full of GORGON agents, all lying on the ground in varying states of undress, all blissed out and happy.
Above them floats the woman made of light. The Governor soon realizes she’s naked, though it’s hard to make anything out given how bright she is. He’s embarrassed for only a second, and then strangely aroused.
“Well, ain’t this just a trip?” the large woman asks, coming around the rotunda to greet SPYGOD, her dress flouncing around her like a sheet caught in the wind: “Good thing I was here for the show, too, or you’d just be !@#$ed, (REDACTED).”
“Hey Cass,” SPYGOD says, stepping forward to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Oh, please, honey. It’s Syphon when I’m working, remember?”
“When aren’t you working?”
“Oh, you clown,” she laughs, giving him a pat on the cheek: “When are you going to let me work on you, eh?”
He just laughs at that, maybe a little louder than he should. At some point he realizes the man he was protecting is staring holes into the back of his head.
“Oh, Governor Reagan? This is Syphon. Her friend up there is Raithe. I’m not sure what she’s doing…”
“I am helping the others, right now,” the woman of light says, her voice a strange, echoing thing: “These people planned to take California, today. There were abductions and replacements planned up and down the state. We were just in time, in most cases.”
“In most cases,” the Governor repeats, knowing all too well what that means.
“I am sorry for your losses,” Raithe says, gliding along a ray of light and landing gently before the man: “We have tried to minimize damage and care for those caught in the crossfire. We have not always been successful. But your state is secure, and this plot has been foiled.”
“They’ll be back though, !@#$ it,” SPYGOD sighs, looking at the nearest False Face as it writhes on the ground – imagining a passionate love so powerful that it can’t control its body: “These bastards are becoming a real problem.”
“Perhaps you should make a solution, yes?” a gruff voice asks, coming towards them. It’s the short, strange man from the floating chariot, come down to earth at last.
(And he was wearing a toga.)
“Governor Reagan, this is Hoosk,” the light woman says, bowing to him as he approaches: “He from whom all things are spawned.”
“All things?’ the Governor asks, extending a hand to shake, which the man all but ignores.
“Exploding eyeballs,” the short fellow snorts, shaking his head: “Facial projection systems. Voice modulators. Even something to change the smell of them. Quite ingenious little problem, these people, eh?”
“That’s what I’ve been thinking, yeah,” SPYGOD says: “They replaced half the staff here without anyone realizing.”
“Feh,” Hoosk says: “I am thinking they would not realize if the world started going the other way around Rahmaa.”
“You mean the Sun?” the Governor asks, still smarting from the snub.
“I mean Rahmaa,” Hoosk corrects him, not bothering to look in his direction: “Sun up there, Sun out there. Same thing, no difference. Yes?”
SPYGOD and Hoosk go over and kneel down to the one closest to get a better look at him, and their conversation drops down too low for the Governor to hear. He looks around the rotunda, looking at all the damage done to the building.
And all the people…
“I don’t understand any of this,” he says to the large woman. Mama Cass, that’s her name, isn’t it?
“What’s not to understand, Mr. Governor, sir?” she replies, giving him a mock salute.
“Well… that thing about the black lady outside. What was he saying?”
“He’s saying that the tall lady out there with the head like the Sun is the Sun, honey,” Syphon says, smiling at him like one might smile at a child asking a silly question: “Just like our sister Raitha is all light, everywhere, and our brother Soubre all shadow.”
"Is he here, too?"
"Well, yes," she says, pointing to the ground below them, where the light from Raitha is casting long, dark shadows behind their legs: "I could call him up if you'd like to talk to him..."
“And what are you?” Reagan asks, really not liking where this is going: “You’re with that one band, aren’t you? The Moms and Pops, or something?”
“Something like that," she winks, taking a step closer: “Well, you know our sister-brother Rosi out there is love?”
“I’m what usually comes after,” she answers, taking his hand and placing it on her ample belly: “Unless you’re not careful.”
He doesn’t get it, clearly – at least not at first. At some point his eyes go wide, and he takes a step back. Syphon laughs at his reaction and turns away, not seeming to care that she just shocked and angered the most powerful man in California.
“Jesus Christ, Cass, tone it down a bit,” SPYGOD scolds her, getting up to try and salvage the situation: “This is Ronald Reagan, !@#$ it. Didn’t you ever see 'Knute Rockne, All American'? 'Hellcats of the Navy?'”
“No, but I did see 'Bedtime for Bonzo,' honey,” she winks, turning on a large heel to walk amongst her handiwork, finding it good: “And I’m the Queen of Sheba when I’m not saving the world.”
“Yeah, let’s get you back outside, sir,” SPYGOD says, leading them the way they came: “I think the other cavalry’s arrived.”
“This is insane,” the Governor says to SPYGOD, quietly, as they head towards the back: “These people… they’re strategic talents? Heroes?”
“Heroes, yes. Talents, no,” SPYGOD explains: “I don’t have any !@#$ing authority over the Olympians, sir. They just sort of appeared a couple years ago, and, well, let’s just say they make their own !@#$ rules.”
“Do they answer to anyone? The President?”
“Not really, but they can be reasoned with. Besides, they are on our side.”
“How do you know that?”
“I know, sir,” SPYGOD says, giving him the most serious look he can muster: “And I know it’s hard to take all this at face value, but if I thought there was anything bad going on here, I’d have dealt with it already.”
Governor Reagan looks at the man. Purses his lips, narrows his eyes. Eventually, he nods, and extends a hand to shake: “I trust you, sir. But please, try to have them out of the Capitol building before I have to let grieving families in here. I don’t want them dealing with that fat lady and… whatever’s outside.”
“What was outside is now inside, my love,” the loveliest voice he’s ever heard announces.
And after that, everything goes colorful and strange.
* * *
The next morning finds the Governor standing in the sunlight of the rotunda, and watching as state workers try to clean up the horrible mess left behind.
His head feels terrible, as though he tried to drink enough to get ten men drunk. His vision is blurry, and he feels a strange sense of loss and shame, though he can’t quite remember why. It’s almost as if, the moment that Rosi person spoke to him, he fell into a trance of some sort, and lost most of his faculties and inhibitions.
What he does remember, though…
It turned out the “friend” SPYGOD was in town to see was that Jim Morrison degenerate, preparing for a show at the Memorial Auditorium. And at the party this man threw for these Olympians – one the Governor had somehow wound up at – he’d greeted this hero with a large, manly hug, as though they were comrades in arms.
It was a victory party – that much he understood. All those strange heroes had been fighting GORGON, up and down the length of his state, and had succeeded in stopping them from secretly taking it over. It had been a hard battle, and came at a horrific cost, but they had persevered.
Did he thank them so enthusiastically of his own free will, or was it the state he was in? Was it alcohol, or one of the cigarettes one of the young people there had handed him? Was it something else entirely?
He wasn’t sure, anymore. He remembers the short, rude man speaking of Wonderwall, up in the heavens, but he doesn’t remember what it was supposed to be. He remembers dancing with the fat lady, and how the feel of her brushing up against him made his heart race in his chest, but he doesn’t remember what she whispered in his ear.
He remembers sweet music and shifting lights, strange tastes and wonderful feelings. He faintly recalls the exact sounds and smells.
And he believes – he knows – that he was in the presence of something so far above his understanding, and yet so perfectly clear…
(Who was the one called Shift? Why did he look at him so sadly, behind that silver mask? Why did he think he’d seen him before?)
He could have stayed there all night long, he thinks – content to drink and dance with the sort of people he usually excoriated as bums and freeloaders in speeches to well-heeled political donors and fire-eyed activists. He could have gladly lounged alongside them in the presence of those higher beings, happily drunk on that strange, honeyed wine they passed around.
Happy to just be a mere person, sitting at the feet of gods come down from the mountain.
The next time he remembers something concrete, a man in a bright costume was gently flying him home.
It was Mr. USA, from the Freedom Force. He seemed embarrassed about something, and was all apologies. Sorry about not having been there this morning. Sorry about not having gotten there sooner. Sorry, sorry, so sorry.
He flew the Governor all the way home, and walked him in, much to the amusement of Nancy. He explained something to his wife, quietly in the other room, as he drank water in the kitchen and tried to clear his head.
And then, as soon as it was just he and Nancy, the strange impulses that he’d been feeling all night long, since talking to that Rosi character… well, they just took over, and it was all she could do to get him back to the bedroom before he had her – again and again, like they were teenagers.
He shudders at the thought, now. The way his wife had looked at him, this morning, as if she wasn’t sure if it had been her husband last night, or someone else. Not knowing what to say, or how to ask about what happened.
The way she didn’t disapprove of the change.
He puts a hand to his head, wincing. He couldn’t remember everything of the party, and maybe he shouldn’t. The more he thought of it, the more he became convinced that Mr. USA had crashed it, looking for him, and had a screaming argument with someone there.
And the more convinced that something else had happened, there. Something important that involved several of those Olympians. Their king and their queen. Fate and disaster.
A price that Mama Cass was going to have to pay...
“God have mercy,” the Governor mutters, shaking his head.
“You got that right, sir,” one of the workers says, walking by and tipping his hat with respect. He’s carrying a bucket of cracked, burned wood in one hand and a well-used broom in the other.
“Yes,” Reagan says, turning to go back to the ruins of his office “I guess I do.”
* * *
It’s hours later, and he’s standing by the shattered remnants of his window, looking down at the grounds.
You’d have hardly known it was a warzone the day before. No bodies anywhere. No wreckage. No emergency vehicles of any kind, except for the police, who’ve set up a cordon to make certain no one gets any bad ideas.
It was SPYGOD’s people, apparently. The COMPANY, he called them. All the GORGON agents were swept up and taken away. All their guns confiscated.
All their victims bagged up and preserved as evidence.
“What kind of a world is this?” the Governor asks, shaking his head.
He thinks of the heroes he saw in the War: all bright smiles and derring-do for the newsreels, stopping Nazis in their tracks and marching all the way to Berlin. He thinks of the day he heard Adolph Hitler was dead, killed by the man who’d saved his life, yesterday.
He thinks of the parades and the parties. The elation of VE. The bittersweet relief of VJ.
And now… what was all this? Faceless agents, taking over the world one replacement at a time? Supercommies and Nazi heroes on the run?
Heroes who were gods – bound to no earthly authority but their own?
Something was wrong, here. Something was taking the promise they’d been given and twisting it around – perverting it. Something no amount of excuses or explanation was going to make better or wipe clean.
Something that someone was going to have to do something about…
“Someone like you, perhaps, Mr. Governor?”
Ronald Reagan blinks, and turns to look at the person who just spoke.
There’s a man by the door. Two men, actually. Both of them are tall, blonde, and well built. Their suits are amazingly immaculate, and he finds he can’t stop staring.
Beautiful, the both of them. So beautiful.
“I apologize for the intrusion,” the one doing the speaking says as he walks into the office, casting an eye at the wreckage on its floor as his partner closes the door behind them: “I’d have made an appointment but I understand your secretary is, well, no longer employed.”
“That’s one way to say it,” the Governor says, so transfixed by the man’s insolent beauty that he forgets he should be offended by their presence, and the almost cavalier way he’s spoken of the man who tried to kill him, yesterday.
(Or the man who replaced him? He’s still not sure about that.)
“Ronald Wilson Reagan,” the man says, steepling his hands before his chest: “My name is Ariel. This is my colleague, Aaron. We represent a party that is very interested in your political future.”
“Well, you’ll excuse me if I’m not in the mood to talk about politics on a day like today, gentlemen.”
“That’s just it, sir. You so obviously are.”
“Excuse me?” the Governor says, unsure.
“You were looking out there, at what’s left of the mess on the lawn, and thinking of the mess you’re all in now.”
“Yes, it is,” Ariel says, nodding: “I cannot lie to you, Mr. Governor. I will never dissemble or deceive you. But you cannot lie to me, either. And I know you know something is wrong, and needs to change.”
“Who… who are you with, really?” the Governor asks, holding out a hand to shake.
“Just call us the Backers,” the beautiful man says, taking it: “And if you’ll let us, we’ll back you all the way.”
“You spoke of a time of choosing, a few years ago, Mr. Governor,” Ariel says: “Very eloquently, in fact.”
“Oh, that,” Reagan says: “Well, Mr. Goldwater’s a friend of mine. And I thought if anyone could have pulled off a primary challenge against Nixon, it would have been him. And let’s face it, Dick has it coming to him…”
He thinks: why is he telling this man this?
“Because I have that kind of face, to which all secrets are not secret,” Ariel explains, seemingly reading the man’s mind with ease: “And all things in the human heart are known.”
Reagan almost gasps, looking at the two of them.
“All the way, Mr. Governor,” the other one says: “From here to the White House, and then into history.”
“What… why? Why me?”
“They say every man has his time, Mr. Governor,” Ariel explains: “But it’s also true that every time has its man. We want you to be that man. To shape this century. To bring it into rightness. To forge a new covenant, and see that destiny you spoke of worked upon it.”
“A world where sense reigns, and this sort of thing never happens,” Aaron adds, gesturing to the mess outside.
“American can be a shining city upon the hill, suffused with the light from on high,” Ariel says: “Or it can fall down, one house at a time. I don’t think you want that, do you?”
Governor Reagan blinks. He shakes his head, wondering if he’s asleep and dreaming on his feet. Is this really happening? Is he actually being asked by… by them to be a Prophet?
“No,” he says, extending a hand: “I don’t. I want a real America, again. I want what I told people about in the movies, and on the campaign trail. I want what’s right and decent.
“And I will gladly join forces with you to get there.”
Ariel takes his hand, and smiles. There’s a moment of grace, just then – something the Governor hasn’t felt in ages, since he was a little boy hearing a stirring hymn in his church, and imagining that God was speaking through everyone’s voices.
For a moment he catches Aaron’s eyes. Something about how the man looks at him reminds him of that Shift person from that party, last night -- something sad and knowing.
But then it’s gone, and there’s only the dream, and the realization.
And the future.
* * *
Stepped into a church / I passed along the way
Well, I got down on my knees / and I pretend to pray
You know the preacher likes the cold / he knows I'm gonna stay
Well, I got down on my knees / and I pretend to pray
You know the preacher likes the cold / he knows I'm gonna stay
* * *