|The Crew of the Egress: "I Never Said I Would Stay Til the End..."|
(Front) Brightstarsurfergirl (RIP), Dr. Heila (?), Walks In/With the Darkness
(Middle) Hanami, Dir. Straffer, SPYGOD
(Back) Mr. Chaos (RIP), Myron, Dr. Fuller (RIP) Soubre (W/Glimmer)
(Way Back) Disparaitre
(Art by Dean Stahl)
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"Good evening, America, and welcome to One News. I'm your host, Danielle Brick."
"As you may have guessed from all the fireworks, parades, and memorials, today marks the one year anniversary of our victory over the alien entity known only as the Decreator. After a year and a half wait for it to get close enough to attack, the forces of a united Earth, along with our new allies on Mars and Venus, fought the immense creature to a standstill just inside the asteroid belt.
"What exactly happened up there is still largely unknown, if not top secret, and the cost in lives was staggering. But the destruction of the entity was an unquestionable triumph, both for international diplomacy and the human spirit.
"Sadly, the global euphoria over that incredible victory has soured somewhat over the last year, as the realities of a three-planet alliance have made themselves clear. The long-term effects to Mars' already-damaged environment has led to massive disagreements over emergency immigration, and Venus' frankly eccentric political culture has caused no end of headaches here on Earth.
"What cost victory? We'll explore that in depth, later in the program.
"Closer to home, the already-controversial push for the so-called Human Life Amendment by Interim President Quayle became a lot more convoluted today. In response to his calls to resolve this issue before the 2016 elections, the Olympian Syphon announced that she would be arranging for free fetus exchanges at all of her temples.
"According to her public relations department, she issued the following statement:
"'The President claims he's pro-life? Let him show it. Let him support women who do not wish to be pregnant handing me the lives they carry, and giving those lives to those who want to be pregnant. Let him support my taking the rest inside myselves, so as to deliver new lives into the world at a more fortuitous time.
"'Let him support these measures, if he will, and then call himself pro-life. Otherwise, he is simply in favor of controlling women's biology, as is too often the case with those who claim to be pro-life.'
"The Quayle Administration had nothing immediate to say to that. But we have the Secretary of Health and Human Services with us, tonight, and hopefully she can illuminate the view from Pennsylvania Avenue.
"But first, in other Presidential news, there is still no sign of the former American President, in spite of an international manhunt that's lasted over two and a half years.
"New European Union investigators are turning over every stone they can find to locate and question the man who sat at the top of the Palace, and may have either known of, or even had a direct hand in, some of the more alarming activities of the Terre Unifee.
"At the very least, the gruesome death of his wife, and disappearance of his surviving daughter, have raised even more questions about the tenure of the failed one world government's first and only leader.
"To discuss this issue with us tonight, we have the new assistant head of NEU's Criminal Investigation Division, who's headed up this search since it began...
"Welcome to Carnivore!" the lovely black woman at the front of the restaurant says, gesturing within to the scruffy-dressed black man in a hoodie who's come in: "Do you have reservation?"
"I'm meeting someone here," the man says, his accent somewhere between Scotland and Morocco, and hard to place: "I see him now. Thank you."
He walks past all the people eating here, dining on skewers of crocodile, giraffe, okapi, and warthog brought to their table by men in garish zebra-shirts and wide-brimmed hats. It's mostly white tourists, here to sample the things they were taking pictures of while out on photo safari, either here in Kenya or across the border in Tanzania. But there's also some well-dressed locals, some of whom give him a scornful look as he walks past their tables.
It's what he wants, though: if they turn up their noses, they're less likely to remember him. He's just another piece of poorly-dressed Nairobi street trash here to see how the other half lives, and not worthy of their brain cells. He'll be forgotten within an hour if he doesn't say or do anything else to draw attention to himself.
Something he's not planning on doing.
He's taken precautions, of course. Special contacts scramble his retinal patterns, rendering him invisible to detectors. The vocal scrambler he's wearing like a biteplate keeps people from recognizing his voice, or having it picked up by microphones. The thin, almost invisible clear gloves will make sure no one lifts his prints, and the makeup he's smeared under his eyes -- looking a lot like grime -- makes certain his facial features are blurred by any cameras with recognition software.
It's clunky and uncomfortable, and he feels like he's been out one hour too long on Halloween, but it keeps him safe.
"You're just on time," the man he's come to meet says. He does not get up, much less stop taking small, careful bites of whatever he's eating, at a corner table some distance from everyone else, who's sitting in or around the open-air area in the center of the dining area.
He's a large, well-dressed black man, wearing a very sharp, dark suit with a shiny, almost crystalline tie. His hair is steel-grey and cropped close to his skull, and his eyes are commanding and dark.
"Good evening," the former American President says, sitting down and pulling up his chair.
"Is it?" the Wandering Shadow asks, smiling a little: "I often wonder if that's an observation, a promise, or a threat."
"Yes. Who says it has to be good?"
"I think I'm wishing you a good evening."
"Supposing I don't want it?"
"Then I'm wasting my time, clearly," the President says, noticing that the motion and conversation at all the other tables has slowed down quite a bit since he sat down.
(One of the many stray cats leaps to get a stray piece of warthog, and seems to take forever to arc up and down...)
"Perhaps you are," the man says, putting another piece of meat into his mouth: "But I am not. I love the crocodile, here. I could eat it all day and never grow tired."
"Do they do something special with it, here?"
"No," the man smiles: "And that's what's so wonderful about it."
He eats in silence for a time. The President respects his need to build drama, and says nothing, except when an older waiter comes by to bring him a plate and take a drink order.
"So," the Wandering Shadow says, eventually: "One thing for another, we agreed."
"And neither of us ask any questions, so as to not have to tell any lies."
"An amicable arrangement."
"Yes," the President says, steepling his hands in front of his face as if in prayer: "I have what you need to know."
"And I know what you need to have," the man says, putting down his fork and knife: "But I must ask, what will you do with him when you have him?"
"I think you can guess," the President says, his eyes narrowing.
"Is this revenge or rescue?"
"And is there enough of her left to rescue, at this point?"
The President closes his eyes at that question, and taps the tips of his fingers together: "The bastard hasn't removed anything life-threatening, yet. The worst he got was half of her liver, but she's probably regrown it by now."
"And you've been keeping the parts?"
"Yes," the President admits: "As many as I can. We can reattach most of them. Advancements in medical technology have just been... well, I'm sure you know."
"I do," the older man says, watching as a gaggle of Zed-Heads stumble by, caught in the throes of Lala, or one of its many colorful derivatives. They're all sharing a group dream, one that's overlapping the mundane reality around them.
The look in their eyes is both hopeful and frightened.
"All this power and the Olympians can't find one man," the President scowls, a little unnerved by the sleepwalkers.
"Him, or you?"
"But it makes you wonder how hard they're looking," the Wandering Shadow says: "Now, you and I? We are ghosts. Shadows in the jungle, crawling through the moonless night. Maybe they do not find us because they do not wish to learn what we hide, here in the darkness."
"And maybe they're just !@#$ing chicken," his dinner guest says: "There's reasons they act the way they do. I've learned what some of them are."
"I'm certain you have," the man says, having some of his water: "But, to business?"
"Yes," the President says, handing over a slip of paper: "There's one way in to his place. That's it. And it's only good for that date."
"I see," the man sighs, but nods, and gently folds the piece of paper, so as to fit it within his coat pocket: "As for my information, well... you may kick yourself, as you say."
"Where is he?"
"I cannot tell you where he is," the man begins to say, and then holds up a stern hand when his guest protests: "I can, however, tell you how and where to find the only man on this world who can find him."
"Him?" the President asks, remembering the Frenchman with the bad cigarettes who he'd once accused of abducting him to Alter-Earth.
And when the most dangerous man in the world nods, and tells him where Disparaitre actually is, he does almost kick himself...
Barcelona. Of course, it had to be Barcelona. And at night, too, with all the lights and noises.
(And FAUST Agents, crawling around)
The two groups are meeting right in front of the Arc de Triomf, which is kind of ballsy, given the nature of the meeting. Still, it's a good plan to meet in public, right in front of a tourist attraction. There's too many people for the NEU's cheap-!@#$ sensors to get an accurate reading, and too many innocents around to risk a police action, even at night.
Plus, having that many folks around will make their bodyguards just that less likely to start firing first, and yet more alert than ever.
And those guards have to be at the top of their game, tonight. This meeting's been a long time coming, and is a very fragile thing. Both sides have a lot to gain from an alliance, and yet neither fully trusts one another, given everything that's happened in the last couple years.
No one wants to wind up like Le Front Nationale -- hammered to pieces in the last, noble act of the government they'd infiltrated.
So they're here, meeting in public like legitimate groups, rather than outlawed organizations. Pulling up in large, black cars and pressing flesh in front of a national symbol, all lit up against the night. Cordial talk amidst the push and pull of international tourism -- some of which is anathema to the local organization -- and a surrounding throng of large, meat-faced clods in large coats who are clearly packing.
No matter. They're all dead. They just don't know it yet.
But they will learn.
"Yeah, just like that," the Red Queen says, the warm, alien gun breathing in time with her as they choose which target to nail first. Maybe the red-faced clown from Democracia Nacional, just to spook his many bodyguards into shooting at the people they're here to meet? Or maybe she'll hit one of the less-impressive super villains from what's left of Le Compagnie, so they'll think they've been set up and behave accordingly?
She closes her eyes and lets Hǫfuð see for her. Lets the massive sniper rifle on the tripod calculate angles, using their combined experience, and that of every entity that's ever bonded with the weapon before..
"One bullet, in the right person, at the right time..." she whispers, waiting on this rooftop for that moment to come.
"Sorry to interrupt, Red Queen," a commanding voice interrupts her reverie: "We need a sit-rep."
"Your timing sucks ass, sir," she replies to the COMPANY Chief, feeling the gun's extreme annoyance in addition to her own: "That's my report."
"Very funny," New Man chuckles: "I take it you're in position and doing your thing?"
"Was about to," Red Queen says, closing her eyes to let the gun take over again: "The real handshake hasn't happened yet. Waiting for the tension to build..."
"Anyone really big from Le Compagnie?"
"Bunch of sorry-ass Spanish second stringers," she mutters: "La Lechuza. El Rey Verde. And I could be wrong, but I think that's El Khadir out of uniform."
"Do El Khadir," Josie cuts in: "He's the outsider. If the ND guys are going to pop anyone, it'll be him."
"Not a bad suggestion, Ma'am," Red Queen chuckles, remembering why she likes Second so much: "There is one other guy, but he's got his back to me. He's doing the talking for Le Compagnie. Hooded up, too."
"Any ideas?" New Man asks, and Red Queen knows he's not asking her. He's got the whole war room of the Flier to consult on this matter, and she knows he's hearing all kinds of intel right now -- a veritable babel of conflicting facts and claims that she's glad she can't hear.
"It's Helvete," someone cuts in.
"Gosheven, you're on triple-black, !@#$it," Josie reprimands.
"I know, and I wouldn't cut in if it wasn't important. But I just got confirmation that he's not where I am. And that can only mean he's at the meeting in Spain. If she hasn't seen him yet, then he's the one in the hood. Has to be."
"Oh !@#$," New Man says: "Red Queen, that changes everything. We can't turn it into a killzone with him there."
"We could kill him, sir," she hisses: "We owe him. You know that."
"I do, soldier. But I also know that we need his scary ass alive for questioning. Our questioning. If FAUST gets on the scene and takes him, alive or dead..."
She nods. They're not on speaking terms with NEU's international criminal investigation body right now. If Helvete gets into their hands, they'll lose a whole lot more than they stand to gain from disrupting this alliance.
"Permission to handle it my way, sir?"
There's a moment's hesitation, but only a moment: "Do it. Then get stateside. We've got another ticket in the jar."
"There's always one more ticket in the jar, sir," she chuckles, delivering her part of their little in-joke. And then she closes all contact with The Flier, going dark.
She looks around. There's a car parked nearby the meeting. No one's in it. No one's near it.
"Explosive ammunition, no tracer," she says. The gun complies.
A split second later the car explodes.
Everyone at the meeting pulls their guns and looks around. No one aims them at each other, though. A second after that, there's nods, and then they all get into their own vehicles and head off.
(Not before she's shot two more bullets, though. Small tracers in their bumpers. Wherever they go, the COMPANY will find them.)
"Pistol," Red Queen whispers as she gets up. The massive gun silently shrinks from the huge sniper rifle atop a tripod to a small thing, almost purse-sized, that still maintains its basic shape and contours.
She straps it at her waist and runs across the rooftop, wishing -- as she often does, these days -- that Disparaitre was still cleared for operations. She really liked having her own personal teleporter.
She really liked him...
A long time ago -- or what seems a lifetime ago, at any rate -- Myron once saw SPYGOD at what may have been his lowest point.
It was after that disastrous attempt to out-gun GORGON, just before everything went really wrong. He and Second had gone to his room to try and get him to talk to the crew, only to find he'd drunk himself into an even deeper stupor than usual. And he'd literally barricaded himself into his bed by lining up all the beer bottles in tight, neat, and orderly lines -- going from the door to his bed, like something out of The Wall.
That kind of collapse takes some doing, he thought at the time. He would have thought more about it, except that The Dragon -- or what they'd thought was the Dragon -- was stomping on him and Second to keep them from reaching out to him.
That and, frankly, he'd been so angry at him for letting them down so badly and just !@#$ing wallowing in it that he'd been unable to appreciate the unique craftsmanship on display.
On good days, he thinks he's actually outdone him. On bad days, he's too drunk to think about it.
And on really bad days -- like today -- he's so messed up he can barely remember that day, or what happened, or why he was even there in the first place.
Which is exactly how he likes it.
He's slouched all over his ratty couch in front of the television. It smells like he's peed all over it. He probably has. Every inch of this huge, luxury cabin -- deep in the woods of Washington -- probably has some of his urine splashed onto it.
(Maybe even a loose spattering of !@#$ too, though he tried to clean those up.)
And the bottles? Oh, he's got them everywhere. Lined up in neat rows, based on a system of classification he made, early on. Brewing company, label, proof ... everything in its right place, just like the song says.
Only he's gone up the walls, too. He's managed to make them dance and soar.
It's what he does when he's waiting for more. Crazy glue and steady hands. Patience and expertise.
It's what he does to keep from remembering what happened up there.
Every day at five a shopping drone flies by, bearing his order up from the nearest town. It has enough alcohol to get him through the night and into the next morning, enough food to keep him from starving to death, and the like.
The bills are paid from his accounts -- he doesn't even see them. The mail goes in the trash -- he doesn't want to read them.
And normally he'd watch TV while drinking, just to numb his mind. But this week all they want to talk about is that day, out past Mars' orbit, when the Egress went up against that...
"No," he mumbles to himself, flailing around for a bottle. None of them are full, anymore. Only one left and it's full of... oh god, no.
Where's the straw? He keeps it for emergencies. The leftover hooch separates down at the bottom. He can have a last hit of it before the real stuff arrives, later.
It's gone. He can't find it.
The straw is gone and he's about to drink a bottle of his own !@#$ to stay just drunk enough to not remember-
the ship it's coming to pieces parts falling everywhere engines screaming crew screaming the VR shorting out people seeing it seeing it for what it really is oh my god oh my god why have you forsaken me don't look fix it fix it people screaming brains falling out of their eyes slopping around the VR glasses tied to their heads gurgling dying GET TO THE !@#$ING TUNNELATOR he yells
-what happened in those last moments aboard the Egress, just before everything went tits-up into a sea of !@#$.
"God no, please," he pleads, searching for the straw. There's got to be something here. Something, anything-
run !@#$ it run off the bridge Who's With Us Who's Still Alive I Don't !@#$ing Know Just Run Has Anyone seen Dr. Heila screams from the Zero Room the Returned are changing what is that YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE ME it says as the dead crewman becomes something else something horrible oh my god it's like trypophobia The Emperor Is Here! Faraj screams drawing his sword Leave This To Me The Rest Of You Run
- he drinks it down. All of it. Urine and separated heavy piss all down. The smell makes him gag. He just drinks. All of it.
"Oh god," he cries, weakly. The bottle falls and shatters-
the ship is breaking gravity smashes the bulkheads screaming the crew screaming Dr. Fuller looks back pillar of salt No Let Me !@#$n Help Him He'll !@#$n Die then screams his VR cracking brains turned to black jelly DON'T LOOK BACK JUST !@#$ING RUN
He sees the straw at last, all the way across the room.
He laughs. He cries.
He blacks out at last.
At long last the sun sets on the day, down in Pontianak.
Director Straffer watches from an observation deck on the Space Elevator as their warm and wonderful star melts below the horizon, over the Ocean. He carefully notes each and every change in color and brightness, right up until there's nothing but a subdued, warm glow floating over the curved horizon.
He's promised himself that, this time, so long as he's on Earth to see it, he will never ever miss another sunset. Even if he has to exit an important meeting to do it, he plans to be right there, watching it happen.
Sometimes he even cries, though whether he's doing so for the beauty, or because of something else, is something even he doesn't like to think about.
As it's been going down, the Elevator's been lighting up. The telltale hum of a load going up rattles the superstructure, just for a second, and he mentally notes what it was, and where it was headed. There will be another load going up in exactly twenty minutes. Then another, and another.
The Imago had done a lot of terrible things, but the Space Elevator had proven to be a useful thing. And now, after having been blown apart a time or two, it was a fully-functioning work of beauty, thanks to the application of Martian technology, as well as a few tricks from other, less-scientific sources.
He smiles as he walks to the transparent central core, watching as the massive cables go up and down along its sides. It always amazes him, no matter how many times he sees it.
"Sir?" someone asks. It takes him a moment to realize it's his second in command, Charleston. One of the few survivors of the Egress.
(And one of the more functional ones, at that...)
"Captain," Straffer says, nodding in return to the man's crisp salute: "What do you have for me?"
"More reports coming in about the latest wave of Martian refugees, sir," the young man says, handing over an electronic pad with a scrolling report on it: "150 this time. All from the worst-hit areas."
Straffer whistles: "I see most of them don't have direct clearance."
"No sir. We didn't know they were coming until the ship got into the docking queue."
"Well, that might be an issue," the Director of the Space Service says: "Get Ambassador Walks In/With the Darkness on the line. Tell him the situation, and tell him he's got my authority to have them in as long as they can pass a health and security check. But in future, we would like to avoid such surprises."
"I'll do that, sir," Charleston says, and then sort of frowns.
"Anything wrong, Captain?"
"I was going to... well, sir, it's not my place to ask, but..."
"How's he doing today?" Straffer asks, smiling sadly.
"About the same, Captain," Straffer sighs: "Some days I think I'm getting through. Some days I realize how badly gone he is. But he's still in there, somewhere. He just has to fight to get out."
"Look, sir, I realize this can't be easy. But... you and I were both there. We know what happened-"
"Your point, Captain?" Straffer asks, maybe a little more crisply than needed.
"If you need to talk about it with someone who understands? I am here."
For a moment, he thinks his superior's going to clock him, which would be a very bad thing on a number of levels. But, thankfully, the man takes a deep breath, nods, and looks askance: "Dismissed, Captain."
"Yes. Yes sir. Sorry, sir."
He gets away as quickly as possible, wondering what the !@#$ he was thinking. And Straffer watches him half-run with some amusement, wondering the same thing, but also pleased that he picked the right person to be in charge of this crazy show.
"Of course, you'd have shot his butt full of holes for that," he whispers to his absent lover, no doubt raging in his room, back in Neo York City.
Provided he's bothered to wake up today at all...
"So," Shining Guardsman says between power-punches, flattening industrial-styled warbot after warbot with the metal fists of his power armor: "What did you think of the debate last night?"
"That sorry !@#$-show?" Red Wrecker replies, kicking one assailant into another, and then following it up with one of her Knuckle Sandwich Specials, her crimson cape whipping around her: "I'm glad I caught the highlights on 'This Is Bull!@#$.'"
"I kind of like what Kasich had to say," Mr USA admits, swooping into the center of the melee -- outside an ominous-looking, abandoned factory, just outside of Cleveland -- and joining Shining Guardsman and Red Wrecker in the hammering, though clearly taking a backseat to their efforts: "But then, he's always been his own man."
"Which means he's got an uphill battle," Blastman replies, crashing through a line of the robots to join the others, the pyramid on his head glowing as he comes: "I just kept hoping someone up there would tell Trump to shove it."
"They can all shove it, as far as I'm !@#$ing concerned," Yanabah snorts, bringing robot after robot down with carefully-placed shots from the twin 50 caliber handguns she's using, her silver jewelry glinting with each blast: "Bunch of white men all trying to out-white man each other."
"What happened to Carson and Cruz?" Red Wrecker laughs: "Did they change color while I wasn't looking?"
"Oh, you know what I mean, Florence," the girl with the guns says.
"This is why I don't talk politics on the job," Blastman laughs: "You can't argue with someone who's armed."
"Why talk at all?" Hanami says, floating above the others, her new, white and red uniform standing still in spite of the wind whipping around her: "This is a mission, not a social meeting."
As if to punctuate the point, her eyes light up, and every single remaining warbot stands still, smokes from its head, and falls down in a heap.
"Oh," Mr. USA says, taking a breather: "You might have done that earlier, hon. Saved us all some trouble."
"I was dealing with other matters," the android curtly announces, floating down to the ground.
"What matters?" Blastman asks, clearly annoyed. But a second later there's a loud sploosh from somewhere, out over the lake, and they hear screaming from the shoreline.
"Folks, I just got word that something the size of a dirigible came down in Lake Erie," Rakim says over their headsets: "Does anyone know anything about that?"
"Yeah," Shining Guardsman says, looking at Hanami -- and her weird, half-smile -- and then nodding to Mr. USA: "I think Hanami just dealt with the main threat while we were dealing with the distraction. I'll take Mr. USA and do rescue work if needed-"
"Actually," Mr. USA says, coughing into his fist: "Can I...?"
"Yes," Hanami says, looking at Shining Guardsman: "As I was about to say? Shining Guardsman, Blastman, do rescue work. The rest of you are joining me inside."
"Got it," Shining Guardsman says, nodding to Blastman and taking off.
"Sorry about that, hon," Mr. USA says to her as they head into the clearly not-abandoned factory: "They'll come around eventually-"
"Do you still want me to be in charge of the Freedom Force, sir?"
"Well, yes, of course. I said it, and I meant it-"
"Then please stop calling me 'hon,'" she replies, curtly, without looking at him: "All sexist diminutives make me seem like an ingenue."
"Yes, ma'am," he says, coughing into his fist again. Yabanah and Red Wrecker snicker to see the old man get told.
Inside the factory is quite a strange sight. There are more warbots, here, but all of them seem to have melted into the floor, somehow. Most of them stand immobile, locked in their last attempted motions, except for the few that continue to spark and struggle against their captivity.
"Deal with them, Yanabah," Hanami commands. As Yanabah obeys, she realizes that each warbot has actually fallen into their own shadows, somehow. Which can only mean that their often-absent teammate has been and gone.
"Soubre, are you here?" Hanami asks as they enter the main floor of the factory, where massive machines dedicated to cranking out warbot after warbot now sit still, their innards torn out and left to spark and sputter.
"He is already gone," a haunting voice announces as its owner steps from behind one of the machines. He's a large, Asian man -- eyes hidden behind round sunglasses, his hands folded behind the back of his simple, white uniform.
"I liked him better when he was Night Phantom," Mr. USA sighs.
"I think he would say that Night Phantom was him," Chinmoku says, somewhat ominously.
"Not that I really understand a darn thing about these Supergods," Red Wrecker sighs.
"Join the !@#$ing club," Yanabah chuckles, sauntering up and putting her guns away: "All remaining warbots capped, Hanami."
"What do you have for us?" Hanami asks her countryman, who nod-bows and replies.
"The ghosts here are from the time before, when this was a proper factory, full of well-fed souls and happy times. This place has been long left to rust, as no one can quite afford it, or make it a good fit for their needs. Then, a week ago, a stranger appeared with many small machines. These small machines made larger machines, and they, in turn, began to create what we just fought, both here and above."
"That's exactly what Gosheven was talking about," Rakim cuts in: "The self-replicating devices he found in that warehouse in Heilongjiang. The Metal Plague that our people in the Ministry of State Security were warning us about."
"So this is, what, the Chinese trying to mess with us?" Mr. USA asks: "This seems a weird time for them to make this kind of a bold move. And on American soil...?"
"Soon to be everywhere, if our people are correct," Hanami says, raising an eyebrow at Chinmoku: "But I have the feeling there is more to this?"
"That would be correct," Chinmoku says, walking over to one of the machines he's wrecked with his Hungry Ghost Kung Fu and pulling out a panel: "My Chinese is, admittedly, weak. But I think we can both recognize what this means...?"
Hanami takes the panel from the man and looks at it. The characters Zi Yao Qiye feature largely above the rest of the writing.
"Qiye could mean venture, or enterprises, as you know," Chinmoku says: "But Zi Yao, on the other hand..."
"Purple Demon," Hanami says, crushing the panel in her hand: "Chikusho!"
"Does that mean what I think it means?" Red Wrecker asks.
"It does, yes," Yanabah sighs, smacking her forehead: "And boy, is the boss man gonna be !@#$ing pissed off..."
There's a whole lot of talk, just then. Mr. USA doesn't hear half of it. He's been too busy coughing into his glove, which is making him dizzier than it should.
And when he looks in his palm, he sees that it's spattered in blood.
"How long...?" he wonders as quietly as he can.
The former American President can't stop throwing up.
He doesn't care how bad this is, to be doing this here, of all places. He doesn't care how much DNA he leaves behind, or how easy this makes it for them to track him, or to know that he was here, and wonder how he found out about it.
He throws up because he's disgusted beyond words. He throws up because he's afraid.
He throws up because this makes him remember that horrible day, over two and a half years ago, when he found what had been going on in his own house.
And who had been doing it...
He'd come to this small, Parisian apartment to find Disparaitre. The Wandering Shadow told him that he was convalescing here, nearly-incommunicado, in order to try and remove the memories of what he'd seen up in space. Maybe he's succeed, here in the quiet of his own thoughts, and maybe he wouldn't.
No one would ever know, now.
The man is in pieces. There's no other way to put it. His parts are everywhere -- disassembled with surgical precision and then laid out on the floor, the tables, the chairs... anywhere a surface was to be had. The human wreckage is interspersed with packs of those !@#$ty cigarettes he always smoked.
And yet there's not a drop of blood, anywhere, except on the wall.
There, the assassin has left his calling card. Another crass and nasty taunt, somehow left just for him. It's as if he knew he'd be the one to discover this, just as he knew every other time he got close to him.
THIS TIME IT'LL BE SOMETHING SHE'LL REALLY FUCKING MISS
He retches, his stomach well-past empty. He's already calculating exit strategies and clean-up, like he was taught so long ago. But he's also all too aware that his dead-drop's going to have a heavy package in it, within the next day or two.
And God only knows what that monster will cut off his daughter this time...