Monday, February 15, 2016

TechnOlympos: 2/8/16 - 2/14/16

"Say it To Me / Let's Embrace the Point of No Return"

The Candidate, with Karl, Jana, and Odal Associates

(Art by Dean Stahl)

* * *
* * *

Monday: 2/8/16

... and Randolph Scott watches the sniper line up the bridge of his lover's nose in his crosshairs...

* * *

... and Myron presses the red button that's supposed to destroy the whole of the Green Dome..

* * *

... and the Freedom Force's transport is seconds from crashing into Syphon's Detroit Temple...

* * *

... and then...

* * *

... Velma's head moves quickly, just a second before a strong, evening wind knocks her white, knit hat from her head.

(She must have felt it would happen before it did.)

It's too late for the sniper, though. The trigger's just been pulled.

There's the shot, but it misses.

But just not by enough...

* * *

... time has gone by for Myron to realize the bomb is not going off. 

(Did he really want it to, though? Or was this just another dumb attempt to forestall the inevitable?)

He stands there, somewhat stupidly. He looks at his finger, then the woman he just spat upon. 

The woman who's got a gun aimed right at him.  

"I told you," the Chess Master says, a wicked and crooked smile crossing her old face: "Now, let's try this again..."

* * *

"... because the last time I came to one of these places, I beat the stuffing out of everyone there!" Martha Clutch shouts at the red-clad Midwives who've come out to see what's going on: "And I was just mad, before.

"Well, now? You've got me good and angry, folks. Righteously angry, I should add!

"And this time?" the very pregnant woman shouts, gesturing behind her: "I've got friends with me."

"In other words, you might want to just go home," Mr. USA says. Red Wrecker and Blastman both nod.

"Unless you feel like taking some displaced anger right on the damn chin," Blastman growls, punching his fists together...

* * *

... on the fancy, old desk as it becomes apparent his sniper's failed to kill that stupid woman. 

"Feurer wieder, verdammit!" Helvete shouts: "Schnell!" 

Randolph sees Velma lying in the street. Blood coming from her nose.

(Concussion? He hopes so.)

The crosshairs line up again, and...

* * *

... Myron's in motion before she can say another word.

He all but hurls the useless destruct box at her. She puts up her off hand to block it. 

He pivots quickly and brings his other hand down on her gun hand, right at the wrist. 

The gun goes up and out of reach. It clatters across the room. 

Then she puts her foot somewhere she used to put her lips, on him, and...

* * *

... every single Midwife looks at them, and then move to form two, parallel lines

They stand at some kind of attention, staring across the space at each other -- their bodies a human corridor leading into the temple.

All but inviting them in.

"I don't like it," Red Wrecker says: "This is way too easy."

"After the week I've been having, I'll take too easy," Martha says, and quickly moves...

* * *

... to surreptitiously pull something from inside his belt. 

"I'm so sorry," he whispers to Karl and Jana, who clearly aren't in control of themselves right now. 

He presses the screechbomb's button, and closes his jaw as tightly as he can.

The sonic weapon goes off. He is ground zero. 

And the only one with smart earplugs.

His kids scream as their ears betray them, and every bone in their body vibrates painfully...

* * *

... as they both scramble after the gun, each one trying to slap, slam, punch, kick, and gouge the other away from it. 

He never knew she could fight that well. She seems to have known his limits all along. 

But he's not giving up -- not now. No matter how many times she hits him somewhere very tender and sore. 

By some chance, they reach it at the same time. 

And as they wrestle for it, they realize they're no longer alone, here...

* * *

... in my own home, again," the large woman in the blue business suit says, glowering: "This is getting to be an unpleasant habit. One I told you to break."

"That was before you stole my son's body," Martha says, pointing a finger at the Olympian as they march into her office: "And I know you did it, too. So don't-"

"You have no right to be here and demand anything of me!" Syphon says

"Perhaps not, sister," someone says from behind them, and all eyes turn to see Mister Freedom standing there, in the room: "But I think you owe me an explanation. And you will give it to me."

"How dare you, Brother Restriit," she hisses, but it's too late. He waves at a viewscreen, nearby her desk. 

And it...

* * *

... explodes, along with every other glass object in the room. 

Randolph throws his kids off him as gently as he can. He gets to his feet, wondering how he can get them out of here. 

But then Helvete looks at him -- ears bleeding -- and holds up a small, black box.

He presses a button, and something red starts flashing on the belts of both Karl and Jana.

The message is clear, even over the white, painful noise...

* * *

... of the approaching mob, their hands and faces wet with others' blood. 

"We can fight each other, and they'll kill us," the Chess Master says, looking him in the eyes.

"Suits me," he lies, punching her in the damn face. 

She loses her grip. He grabs the gun.

He gets to his feet and holds it up, wondering how many bullets he's got...

* * *

... a little while to go before his body's natural healing turns back on again," Syphon explains, gesturing to the image of Thomas' mutilated body, floating in a tank: "It might be days, or weeks. But he will recover."

"Even after all that?" Martha gasps, astounded: "Even after..."

"An autopsy?" Mr. USA says, even more astounded. 

"Even after that," Syphon answers, a prideful smile on her face: "That's part of why I've been so infuriated by your issues, woman. I've given your son an eternal life in an immortal body.

"Some gratitude would have been nice..."

* * *

"... to see you, again," Helvete says through black, bloody teeth, now that the bomb is done: "But you remember, Herr Scott. Regardless of whether your whore is dead or alive? I have your children. And I know how to hurt you.

"Remember that, before you print what you think you know about my puppet."

Randolph Scott looks at the pale, red-eyed man, and flips him the bird: "The truth will be told, you Nazi !@#$. They'd want it that way."

"Yes, but you don't," Helvete says, grinning. And Scott knows he's right. 

"Now run, little man, or I'll blow up one to break the heart of the other..."

* * *

... wall of the morgue, where she must have stepped out of. 

"Well, !@#$," Myron sighs, realizing he's alone in this, now. 

There's a dozen of them. He doubts there's that many bullets in the gun. 

But as he sees them stalk towards him, their eyes glassy with bloodlust, he thinks. 

He remembers. 

And, putting the gun into the waistband of his pants, raises his fists... 

* * *

... and points to Syphon: "I charge you, sister. You will tell them when he is whole, again. You will deliver him whole to his mother. And you will interfere with their lives no more."

"He is my property," she hisses: "I do not interfere with your doings, brother. How dare you do so with mine?"

"Because he is mine as well," Mister Freedom says: "In the sense that he is part of us. You have made him one of us."

"Wait, what?" Martha gasps.

"Congratulations, Martha," Mister Freedom says, smiling: "You are the mother of a god..."

* * *

"... damn !@#$ mother!@#$," Scott hisses as he retraces his steps, knowing how hard it's going to be to get out of here alive.

He shoots when he has to, dodges when he doesn't. He prays he won't run out of ammo, but knows he eventually will.

He thunders up the steps, tossing another screech bomb ahead of him. It screams and knocks most of his assailants down.

But as soon as he's outside, he hears the telltale click of at least a dozen rifles. 

And he realizes he's surrounded, just as several camouflaged men and women appear from...

* * *

... out of the sick bay, covered with bruises and sporting a black eye and at least one broken finger. 

They couldn't fight, most of them. But what they lacked in skill, they made up in numbers. 

Still, Myron got through them. He even managed to avoid killing any of them. 

But he's broken, and he hurts. And he's certain he's still waiting for just one more shoe to drop.

But he's got his life, now. And a gun. 

And he knows...

* * *

... they've won, even if it feels like they haven't.

(And Martha hasn't said a word this whole time -- stunned, and maybe scared.)

"Should we trust her?" Mr. USA asks Mister Freedom, who's smiling mysteriously -- as always -- as they walk quietly between the line of Midwives.

"No," he says: "My sister has her own agenda. She always has. But she will comply with this, because she knows I can say what I know. 

"And she does not wish to explain to the others what she has done, and why."

"How could the others not know-" Mr. USA asks, but then throws up his hands as bright lights...

* * *

... shine down from the Space Service transport, just after it finishes gunning down his would-be assassins.

"Nicely timed," Randolph says, running up the half-deployed gangplank and buckling himself in.

"I thought there were meant to be two more passengers?" the Indonesian pilot shouts as they fly off.

"They... can't make it," Randolph Scott says, trying to place a call back to San Francisco: "Tell the Director I said thanks for the save."

And then he prays to a God he's not sure is looking out for him, right now, that the worst hasn't happened...

* * *

... as the hallway to his right lights up with explosion after explosion.

!@#$, Myron thinks. The Chess Master has control of the explosives.

And the !@#$ is trying to kill him,.

He runs. It's all he can do. And he hopes he can make it to safety in time. 

Only more explosions come ahead of him, now. It's almost as if...

* * *

"... you're completely surrounded, and outnumbered," the huge leader of the Arrow Security team shouts through his megaphone, walking in front of the pack of heavily armed and armored goons: "And we have orders to detain you for breaking your agreement with the city of Detroit."

"What do you mean?" Mr. USA shouts back, not liking the looks of the security vans pulling up (or the media trucks, for that matter).

"You just had one rule, pal," the guy says: "No costumes inside Detroit."

Everyone turns to look at Blastman, who's wearing his helmet, of course. 

"Hey, come on," he shrugs: "No helmet, no powers. You know how it is."

"So, we can do this easy, or not," the guy says, not caring: "You can let us detain you, and we can get it all settled. Or else we beat you down on live TV, and you look damned stupid..."

* * *

"... jackass, just put me through to the hospital!" the outlaw reporter shouts as the transport reaches NEO, heading for the West coast:  "I don't know what hospital, dammit! Just... yes, I'm her boyfriend, dammit.

"Velma. V-E-L-M-A. I think she was... wait... please, no... you have to...

"Look, she was shot, right? I think she was shot. Just please tell me...

"Damn it, you're the only Toon hospital in town! She had to go there. Please..."

And Randolph Scott feels small, and stupid...

* * *

 ... as Myron realizes the blasts weren't meant to kill him, but to kill other people. 

The mob wasn't alone. Others were on their way. 

Not anymore, though. The nasty !@#$ has seen to that. 

It seems she was telling the truth. She does need him alive. 

He can apparently get them home, or at least she thinks he can. 

And that might be the best weapon he has, right now...

* * *

"... (REDACTED)," Josie says over the communicator as the heroes back into one another: "This won't stand, but it'll take time to get it sorted."

"Look, ma'am, we've got a very pregnant woman here, and these security people aren't well known for their kindness," the older hero sighs, looking at the advancing Arrow Security forces.

(And the cameras -- so damn many of them)

"I can look after myself," Martha says, looking at Mr. USA: "Any one of them lays a bad hand on me..."

"We can all look after each other," Red Wrecker says, putting her fists down: "It'll be okay."

"Alright, then," Mr. USA sighs: "We'll surrender. But you might want to get help here as soon as you can, Josie. I think this could get really damned ugly..."

Tuesday: 2/9/16

"... thing?" the nude, middle-aged woman is screaming, her hands red with the blood that's soaked through the grass beside Rosi's pyramid: "How could this happen? How?"

No one's got an answer for her. All the people who came here with her, intent on making love to celebrate the coming of morning, are just as shocked and speechless.

The pyramid has been defiled. Someone has made a hideous mural of human bodies, up on the side that is just now catching the early rays of dawn. A massive human chain of exsanguinated, partially-eviscerated people, arranged to spell out one phrase.


She keeps repeating the question. The others take it up. How? Why?


There's no answer from on high, either. The stern, burning face of the sun goddess, Rahmaa, comes up over the horizon, but seems unable to see the mess someone's made of her sister's part of the White City.

One among them is not shrieking, or crying, or asking questions of the gods they walk with, though. She's looking up at the sticky, red mess, all the way up there, and making some gruesome deductions.

But the Red Queen isn't sharing them with her traumatized neighbors, much less their gods. 

She's finally feeling more at home in her old skin, and with her all-too-human limitations. It's taken her this long to not wake up screaming from an intense sense of loss. Not have to stagger around as though drunk, unable to move through the world with so few senses -- so little input.

She looks once more, and then turns to leave the crowd before it descends into despair. With each step she becomes more certain of at least one fact.

There is no way any one person did all that, in the time it would have taken to arrange it.

That person had to have help.

And she's got a very uncomfortable feeling she knows who...

* * *

"... did it?" the redheaded Toon in the purple clothing asks, stirring her Dynomutt coffee as she sits in the ICU visitors' lounge at St. Joseph's.

"Like, the All Stars got him, but he blew himself up," the Toon sitting with her says. He looks like he just got back from Hawaii, with long, scraggly hair and a chin-beard: "Some suicide commando or something."

"Jesus," remarks a Toon with blonde hair and a red ascot poking out of his white shirt: "I'll have to ask Antonia about that. She might know something."

"Is she even allowed to talk about stuff like that with you?" the woman says, trying not to sound bitter.

"Not always, but in a case like this, totally."

"Like, shouldn't you be back with her, man?" the scraggly Toon asks: "I mean, you got a miracle baby at home-"

"She's fine," Fred insists, really tired of hearing about it: "I'm more worried about Velma, right now..."

They all turn as Randolph Scott comes down the hall from her room, looking like someone stole his guts while he had his back turned.

(Walking between a cordon of American All Star Security agents, in their distinctive armor -- here to make sure whoever tried to kill her doesn't send another assassin.)

"Any news?" Fred asks, getting to his feet.

"She's still out," Randolph says: "They say... well, they think there was no brain damage. It's hard to tell. You know how normal bullets are when you've had the treatment."

"Like, no, thankfully," Shaggy says, shivering: "That's why I didn't do it, man."

"So, best case scenario, she's just got a concussion, she'll be out of it soon, and then... home?" Daphne asks.

"Yeah," Randolph says, plopping down next to Fred: "And then I have to tell her that I almost watched her get shot live on Hitler TV. I bet she'll !@#$ing dig that-"

"Shhhhhhhh!" an old Toon lady hisses at him from the other end of the room. She and some others are watching the news, apparently.

"So, what now?" Fred asks: "Can you get them away?"

"Asshole had them wired to pop," Randolph sighs: "He also made some very clear threats about what would happen if I said anything about what I've discovered."

"So, like, what are you going to do?"

Randolph looks at the beatnik, and then down at his hands. He thinks of the woman he loves, lying in the other room -- the woman who could have been shot dead yesterday if it hadn't been for the wind.

"I don't know, yet," the outlaw reporter says, patting his hands together: "I need a better plan, clearly. This bastard's got something major going on."

"Obviously," Daphne says, sipping her coffee: "He's got that scary rug-head under his thumb."

"Yeah, but it's not just him," Randolph says: "That skel I beat the !@#$ out of to find out where their headquarters was? He told me all kinds of stuff."

"Like what?" Fred asks.

"Well, this group, Odal? It's making alliances with countless racist and fascist organizations throughout Europe, North America, and even Russia.

"I'm not sure if it's the end result of what the Terre Unifee turned into, or if it's the next step in the chain. But it's big. Scary big."

"Well, like, don't you know scary people?" Shaggy asks, shrugging and crossing his legs: "Don't you you pal around with assassins and superheroes? Can't you bring them down, man?"

Randolph sighs: "Yes, Shaggy. I can. But I have no idea who else is being ordered around by their leader. They could have people in the COMPANY, Freedom Force, other governments' supers agencies. All sort of !@#$ing places-"

"SSSHHHHHHHH!" the old lady says again. And when Randolph turns to tell her to shove her shhhhh up her !@#$hole, he realizes what she's intent on watching.

It's the puppet in question, up on a podium in New Hampshire, and he's delivering a speech on America's many ills:

"... I mean, when people say, what's the worst that could happen? Let's let in all those Muslims, those Martians, those Mexicans. We're a prosperous nation. We have good police. Why not let them in? And I'll tell you why, because they'll become just like the Toons."

There's applause, then -- thunderous and frightening.

"I mean, have you been to San Francisco, lately? Ever since they made that place an enclave for Toons? I mean, you can't go anywhere without running into some really weird people. Their economy is wrecked because no one goes there, anymore. Business isn't happening. Jobs aren't being made.

"And as for safety? It's just like the Muslims going into Europe. They bring the violence with them. Why, just yesterday, there was an assassination attempt on one of them. Why them? Why her? Probably because people feel the same way about Toons that people feel about Muslims. And do we need that kind of crazy in our country?"

The crowd shouts "no" so loudly the TV's speakers almost blow out.

"Well, there's your answer," Fred says: "If you do nothing, we'll get that in the White House. And then we'll all be in trouble."

"Oh, he's got no chance of winning," Daphne shrugs: "Rubio will pull ahead."

"But, like, you can't even vote if you live in the enclave," Shaggy says. And before long he and her are back into one of their old, endless arguments, and Fred's just rolling his eyes and feeling useless.

And Randolph's wondering how long he can sit on what he knows, even if saying it will mean the death of one or both of his stolen children.

And what he's willing to risk...

Wednesday: 2/10/16

... to get out of this awful place. 

Martha's been in this holding cell for two whole days, now. And she is not willing to be here for an hour more.

At her peak, she could have been out of here by now. There's several ways out of this place -- concrete walls and steel door or no.

She counts them down, one after the other, when she feels antsy or afraid.

She prays to God and talks to her child the rest of time. One tells her she'll be out of here, soon, and she passes the message along to the other.

(Joseph, if it's a boy, after her father -- The Owl before her. Rachel, if it's a girl, after her cousin -- Kaitlyn's mother.)

Her body feels sore and angry. She's cold and uncomfortable. It's been too long since they brought her anything to eat, and the last time they almost didn't give it to her.

Serves her right for asking 'how much longer,' apparently. How dare she expect to be treated with dignity and rights in a private security lockup?

How dare she, indeed.

She's been in worse situations, of course. She's been captured, before. Beaten. Tortured. Starved. Used as a hostage.

But this time? Somehow it feels worse. And not just because she's pregnant, this time. Not just because of the circumstances.

It's because she knows -- she just knows -- that her allies are in trouble.

She heard the guards chuckling about it when they walked by her room, the first day. Something about the Federal Strategic Talents database. Something about the file marked K.

K for Kryptonite.

She thinks of Red Wrecker, down there, somehow powerless. Blastman without his helmet. Mr. USA, somehow bereft of his strength and stamina and at their mercy.

(And Mister Freedom... is there anything they can do to him, really? She shudders to think.)

Every so often, she thinks she hears a scream. She tells herself it's just her imagination, but she's sure she's wrong.

Very wrong. 

And every so often, she thinks about what Mister Freedom said, back in that temple -- about her son being a god, now. Was that just speaking metaphorically? Or have they actually elevated his body and spirit, somehow?

And when she wonders if it's true, she's even more afraid for him than for her, right now. 

So she closes her eyes and prays to God for help and deliverance. Especially if she has to break out.

God only knows what she'll be forced to do...

* * *

... once Myron's had more than enough time to consider his next moves.

He's holed up in Number Two's office. It was where she seemed to be herding him with her explosions. And, thanks to them, no other mobs have come to bother him since then.

Still, here's stuck here. And while there's enough food and water to hold out for quite some time, it's not very comfortable.

(Especially since he kicked the ball chair off its base to get the destruct box out)

He sits between it and the door, gun in his lap. He thinks of what to do, next.

Well, scratch that. He knows what he has to do next, really. What he's supposed to do, anyway.

What she's kept him alive to do.

It's just that he's not really in any damn hurry to do just that.

So he sits there, carefully weighing over each and every piece of evidence in his mind. He thinks of all that he knows, and all that he doesn't know.

And he hopes, against all hope, that there's some small, weird thing he's overlooked that would allow him to not have to go down the ORBIT tube, into the bowels of the Green Dome, and face what's waiting down there.

The horrible truth he's been avoiding all this time, like a rotten tooth he just won't go to the dentist to have yanked out.

Because he's afraid.

And for a damn good reason...

Thursday: 2/11/16

"... obviously, there was some miscommunication," the Governor of Michigan says, really not wanting to have to talk to this Josie person again: "I didn't expect them to be held this long."

"One of them is pregnant, Mr. Governor," Josie glowers down the viewscreen.

"Well, maybe she should have thought about that before her and her friends invaded private property and threatened physical violence."

"Maybe your prisoners don't lose their rights when they get arrested."

"It's a private security firm, Mrs. Director-"

"Ms. Director, thank you," Josie corrects him: "And that might fly with your citizens, sir. It does not work with Federal Agents. Especially when they're following up on the remit that you agreed to."

"Well, they weren't supposed to be wearing their costumes outside of Flint."

"Mistakes happen."

"Yes, and that's why they've been in lockup."

"For a lot longer than is necessary."

"Well, obviously, there was some miscommunication..."

* * *
... because all of Detroit's police are in hiding, now.

The takeover's been a couple weeks in the making -- ever since Tommi Gun took care of that goth freak with the Crow fixation. Since then, the dozen or so of D-town's new rulers have been slowly moving their forces into town, and their pieces into position.

Deathdealer's been cornering the drug trade, one corner at a time. The General's been making sure the gun-runners are all under his thumb. Mr. Fix-It has City Hall in a bind, and the Camera Eye has put her shiny, new spokespeople on all the TV stations, and gotten the old ones to play ball with 'how things are.'

As for the assassins -- bright young things like Tommi, Pell-Mell, and the Xtrmin8er -- they're all waiting in the wings. Sooner or later the competition will spill out of the back rooms and into the streets, and then their skills will be needed to settle matters.

And then, as they've promised, Arrow Security will have all the crime it can pretend to solve.

Of course, there will be limits, as they've also promised to maintain certain standards of behavior. No menacing or harming of children, to a certain degree. No overly vulgar displays. No grotesque spectacles or gruesome gangland slayings.

In public, anyway.

A more cynical mind might believe they'll break that promise as soon as they can. They'd be wrong, though. This is actually a good deal for all involved, so long as everyone behaves themselves.

And no one is in any hurry to return to the way things would normally be, with a fully-functional police force, steadfast district attorneys, and a Chief of Police willing to do whatever was needed to get the city's crime back under control.

This way, it will be under control -- its own.

And heaven help anyone who screws that up...

Friday: 2/12/16

... at the huge, burly fellow who all but storms through the front door of the lockup. 

"Excuse me, sir," the Arrow guard says, getting up from behind his secured desk, his hand on the butt of his holstered pistol: "I'll need to see some ID-"

"No !@#$ing problem, son," SPYGOD says, pulling a handgun the size of a toaster from seemingly nowhere and aiming it right between the man's eyes: "I'm Mr. 666-caliber. Nice to !@#$ing meet you."


"Shut. Up." SPYGOD hisses, and a second later he's no longer alone -- several COMPANY AGENTS are lining up behind him, equally large handguns at the ready: "I'm here on Federal business, son. All your prisoners are belong to us."

"He means the ones from Freedom Force," the AGENT next to him says.

"Yes," SPYGOD says, allowing himself to be corrected: "Unless there's anyone else here being held that the COMPANY ought to !@#$ing know about?"

"Um..." the guard says again, putting his hands up: "I really need to check with my supervisor..."

"Hey, Charlie?" his communicator goes off: "Dude, you're missing out. The short one's taking a shower and we've got the cameras on..."

The guard gulps. Every gun in the room gets cocked.

And SPYGOD picks that moment to go very berserk...

* * *

... in the night, around Aleppo.

The nights are the best time for the beast. When the sky is black, and the Moon looks down, and all the stars are the eyes of the spirits who marvel at its brutality. Its savagery.

Its perfect dance of killing and eating.

As the sky darkens, it slides from its nest of human bones. As the night sky whirls above it stalks and kills anyone it can find, dragging them back to its lair.

And as the hated sun begins to tell, on the Eastern horizon, it retreats -- there to feast and dream.

Was this not what it was meant to do? Was this not what it was created for?

It's been too long shacked inside this woman. Too long trapped behind the painful metal.

The pathetic cunning of its prey.

Still, no prison is perfect. It could get out, but only ever so often, and even then just around the edges.

A nudge, here and there. A suggestion or two. A delicious, toothy decision that might lead to its release...

When its jailer finally died, it thought it might be free, soon. It tried to drive its vessel to despair and anger. Tried to make her doubt and hate.

But she had strength it hadn't counted on. Wisdom hard-won from a near-lifetime of sharing her body with such a creature.

And friends! Only in a horrible world such as this could the damaged vessel for one such as it have those who would stand by her, no matter what she did or said.

No matter how far she fell.

But now the prison is gone. Now it can rage, and fight, and feast.

Now, once again, the night belongs to it -- as it always must.

In the promise of its rage, it finds it's starting to become more like it should be. Vanishing are the strange, alien myths of the girl's people -- the furry, wolf-like form, with its odd fear of silver and turquoise.

Appearing in their stead are the true trappings of the beast. The emaciated, corpse-like flesh. The mighty legs of the stag and long arms of the bear. The grotesque, elongated mouth, filled with mouths within mouths, and teeth upon teeth.

The towering antlers, announcing its coming to those to slow to run, or too foolhardy to fear... 

Djinn, these people scream as it comes upon them. They have no idea.

And as it laps up a perfect line of offal, spilled from a dying man's chest, the Wendigo thanks the Creator for the gift of its life, and its freedom..

Saturday: 2/13/16

... from the pain of whatever wounds brought him low, here on this battlefield.

"Hey," Mr. USA hears someone say to him -- someone familiar.

For a moment he thinks he's back in the War, all those years ago. Maybe in France, waking up after a fierce battle. All those dead German soldiers lying around them, their war machines all smoking wrecks in the morning sun.

Sgt. Shatter looking down, extending a friendly hand to get him up...

The older hero opens his eyes, then. Slowly, at first, then wide open. Blinking.

"So, you gonna !@#$ing lie there all day, old man?" SPYGOD asks, looking down at the hospital bed the man's currently in.

"If I can get away with it," Mr. USA says, closing his eyes again: "I'm tired."

"Yeah," the superspy says, pulling up a chair and sitting down next to the bed: "That's an aftereffect, I hear. That and you might have some damn itching on your skin for a while."

The older hero hears that, and then snaps his eyes back open wide. Remembering. 

"Oh... oh !@#$," he says, trying to get out of bed: "What... where am... where are-"

"Woah," SPYGOD says, holding up his hands: "One !@#$ing thing at a time, (REDACTED). First of all, it's over. You're safe. Everyone's okay."

"Where am I?"

"Back on the Flier. You had it the worst, so we !@#$ing evaced you out. Everyone else is back in the field. Well... Florence is taking some time off. Well !@#$ing deserved."

"What happened?" the older hero demands, clearly angry: "What did they do?"

"They got access to the K File," SPYGOD says, clearly unhappy about that: "Some goddamn bozo somewhere in the structure between here and the !@#$ing White House thought it would be a good idea to hand it over to that podunk security firm."

"Is Martha okay?"

"Yes. She is. She's fine, the baby is fine. She's back in Chicago."

Mr. USA nods, clearly relieved: "Blastman?"

"They just took his damn helmet off. But they did work him over a bit. He's okay, though. Nothing having it back on didn't !@#$ing heal."

"And you said... Florence?"

SPYGOD scowls a bit: "They... well, they didn't touch her, at least. They had that much !@#$ing sense."

"Oh God," Mr. USA says, trying to sit up: "What happened? (REDACTED), what the hell happened?"

"They took pictures of her," the superspy says, looking askance: "Hidden cameras. Apparently all the damn cells had them."

"Pictures," the older hero says, knowing full well what that means.

"Oh the toilet, in the showers," SPYGOD goes on, not realizing he doesn't need to elaborate: "Changing. !@#$ like that."

"Oh God," Mr. USA says: "And the pictures are out there already, aren't they?"

"Yeah," SPYGOD says, putting his head in his hands: "Jesus Christ, it's like that time with Mrs. Liberty, all over again. Only this time I can't !@#$ing firebomb the !@#$ty little men's mag that got pics of her changing, can I?"

"Well, you could kill the internet," Mr. USA says.

"Can I?"

"You did it before."

SPYGOD coughs into his fist: "Well, I don't !@#$ing remember that. And maybe I shouldn't advertise."

"Maybe not," the older hero says, looking at the window by his bed, which is showing him a lovely view of DC from however many feet up.

They sit in silence for a while.

"So, thanks for the save," Mr. USA says, looking back: "Why didn't you come sooner?"

"Official !@#$ery and misdirection," the superspy explains: "You were only supposed to be in there, overnight. The Governor's office !@#$ing told us you were out and back in Flint. But the Agent who was supposed to be monitoring didn't !@#$ing call to check."

"Oh," the older hero says, rolling his eyes.

"Yeah, we had to learn of the mistake from a !@#$ing news broadcast, wondering where America's heroes were when Flint needed them."

"Well, thank God for a free press. What happened then?"

"Well, it turned into three-way arguing with that !@#$er in Lansing, and his scared-stiff lackey Mayor in Detroit, and trying to get the CEO of Arrow Security on the phone. And Josie couldn't make a move because the White House was riding her to do it right."


"Yeah, that's what I thought. So, you know me..." SPYGOD shrugs: "I decided to cut to the !@#$ing chase."

"Well, thank you," Mr. USA says, smiling: "And... my weakness?"

"Flushed it down the !@#$ing toilet as soon as we got back on board," the super spy says, miming the action: "All in a day's work."

"Can't believe this has happened," the older hero says, stroking his chin and finding his beard is coming back (and wonders if he should grow it back out again).

"Well, I can," SPYGOD says, getting up and walking around the room: "Something is not !@#$ing right, (REDACTED). The President is being a putz. We're being jerked around. And I do not like not knowing who to trust."

"Well, you can trust me," Mr. USA says: "I know that hasn't always been true. And I keep kicking myself for all of that. But..."

SPYGOD lets him trail off into silence, and nods: "I finally !@#$ing caught up with all of that. I figure we owe each other a million damn apologies for being so goddamn stupid, and neither of us got time for that !@#$. Especially now."

Mr. USA nods, wondering how much the man knows: "So, we're good?"

"We always were," the superspy says, walking to his bed and taking his hand.

The older hero smiles at that: "I hated you for so long, after the War. And that was stupid. And then I was afraid of you because of what I thought you were doing to me. And I tried for so long to get you thrown under the bus so I could save my family.

"And if I'd just trusted you... if I'd just said that this man who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me during the war, and then after, couldn't be doing these things? We could have exposed that bastard so long ago."

"Yeah, we could.have," SPYGOD says, squeezing his friend's hand: "But that's not the way it happened. And that's sad, but it's behind us now.

"I love you, (REDACTED). You're an ally, a friend... !@#$, you're my brother. We went shoulder-to-shoulder time and again, during the war. And even after, when the !@#$ hit the fan, I knew that if I needed help saving this world, you would be there beside me.

"Even if you didn't like me. Even if, as it !@#$ing turns out, you didn't trust me. You'd be there, all stars and stripes and that big, white smile."

"What, you've got a problem with my smile?"

"Of course I do, man. It's a !@#$ of a lot better than mine."

"Well, go see the damn dentist once in a while," Mr. USA says. And they both laugh at that -- long and well.

"So," Mr. USA says: "Do you know how long I'm in here before I can go back to work in Flint?"

"Not long, I don't think," SPYGOD says, looking out the window: "But they might be gone by the time you get !@#$ing bounced. I think Flint's about to become a Federal baby, soon."


"Oh yeah. The Governor !@#$ed himself in the ass, this time. He's having to answer questions about poisoned kids and imprisoned Strategic Talents, now."

"Couldn't happen to a nicer nerd."

"Nope," SPYGOD grins: "I wonder who the downhill-rolling !@#$ is going to land on, this time?"

"Hopefully the deserving," Mr USA smirks, thinking of...

Sunday: 2/14/16

... the sad fact that he can't keep hiding, anymore.

Myron looks at the gun. Then at the door.

Then back at the chair, as best as he's been able to stick it back on the dais in the center of the room.

The mob is outside the door, now -- raging and screaming for his head. His blood. His guts.

Revenge for the crime of failing to lead them back from this madness.

He gets up and walks to Number Two's desk. He puts the gun in the back of his pants, and grabs a few others things.

And then there's just one more thing to do before he can earn his...

* * *

... Freedom, as he shakes SPYGOD's hand in the elevator, accepting his offer to be on his new team.

"I thank you for this opportunity to solve my new mystery," the Olympian says. 

"Think nothing of it," the superspy says: "We need someone who can think outside the !@#$ing box."

"And, I suppose, effective Godhood doesn't hurt?"

"Not at all," SPYGOD says, handing him a rather thick file: "However, the assignment comes with homework. Big !@#$ing pile of it."

"Looks... dense," Mister Freedom says as he takes it in hand.

"Very. And the plot sucks, the pacing is !@#$ing off, and I can't guarantee a happy ending."

"No one truly can," he says, opening it up and running a finger down a page: "We can only do what we can, until the time comes to do even more."

"Did you !@#$ing get that from Chinmoku?" SPYGOD asks, raising an eyebrow as the elevator slows, and then moves over a lane.

"Wisdom is everyone's birthright," the Olympian smiles, closing the file and holding it close to his chest, as though it were a long-anticipated book: "And we all get to share, in our time."

"Yeah, well, that's another thing," SPYGOD says, holding up a finger: "And I am !@#$ing, dead-dog serious about this, my friend. No telling your fellow Supergods about this. At all. I need the secret kept."

"Absolutely," he says, nodding with firm sincerity: "You can trust me in this, as you do all things."

"Well, see, that's something I'm worried about," SPYGOD says: "You also promised that Gosheven would be locked up, but there he was, pretending to be a goddamn sex pachyderm."

"I said I would look after him until it was no longer necessary," the Olympian smiles: "And I did. He was there for as long as was necessary for him to be there.

"And then, when it wasn't... he left."

The superspy raises an eyebrow at that, and then nods: "Well, alright then. But for future reference? On my !@#$ing team? No turning my words into a tantric sex pretzel. I say jump, jump. I say duck, duck. I say stick that damn shapeshifter's insubordinate ass into an escape-proof trap...?"

"Consider him trapped, then," Mister Freedom says: "But, as for your concern about my family? I can assure you that won't be an issue."


"In fact, this comes at an opportune moment," the Olympian says as the elevator opens up in the secret room, deep inside the Flier, that SPYGOD has gotten for his team: "I'm not really welcome in the White City, right now. They have nothing to say to me, for I have said far too much. And so, anything I could say would go unheeded."

"Well halle-!@#$ing-lujah," SPYGOD says, exiting and waving a hand to the room, and the talents who are there: "And in that case? Welcome to the team...

* * *

 "... players, rabblerousers, malcontents," Myron goes on, thinking it's strange to hear his voice over the speakers throughout the Green Dome: "As well as those who thought they knew better, or knew too much.

"They brought you here, and didn't tell you why. They left you to fight one another, and maybe they thought you'd give up the information, or at least be a good little slave. A cog in the machine, once again.

"So of course, they had your number, right from the start," Myron goes on: "They had all our numbers. They knew how to push our buttons, how to make us jump. When we got out of line, they nudged us back into place.

"And when we became expendable, or more trouble than we were worth... well, they knew how to get rid of us, or make sure we got rid of ourselves.

"So, just so you all know? I don't blame any of you for this," he says, amazed to hear himself say these things -- much less believe them: "None of you. All this blood is on someone else's hands. We've been used, all of us.

"And I think I now know by who.

"I'm going down below, now," he says, getting into the ball chair, and hitting a specific combination of buttons on the controls, causing the dais below to slowly sink into the office floor: "When I get there, I'm going to confront Number One. I'm going to ask questions and get answers.

"And then, when I'm done? I'm talking us home.

"I'm taking us all home..."

 * * *

 "... not everything you wanted?" the strange-looking, grey-robed man asks the lost woman.

She looks up at him. His hair is unkempt, and his eyes are wild in the light of the living Moon, above.

And he seems to be off somehow, beside that.

"What do you mean?" she asks, holding herself in her arms, shuddering on the bench by Restriit's pyramid -- strangely darkened.

"We all came here because we felt unwelcome out there," he says, kneeling down before her: "But even here there are divisions. There are those who serve willingly and blindly, who are given everything. But those of us who came here to find answers, and not orders? We are unwelcome here as well."

She looks at him, and his glittering eyes. She swallows, and nods: "I've felt it, too. There's something !@#$ing wrong with these people. It's like they're rushing to a cliffside and they can't even see it."

"Exactly," he says, taking her hands in his: "But you can see it. And that's why they're pushing you aside."

"Who are you?" she asks, cautious -- especially when she sees there are more of these grey-robed people coming out the gloom around the abandoned pyramid of an exiled god.

"Liberators," he says, raising her to her feet, gently but firmly: "Emancipators. We will no longer serve these gods. We will have the answers they promised us."

"How can we do that?" the woman says, trying to sound more scared than she is -- or maybe less. 

(She's not sure, anymore.)

"Come with us," the man says, gesturing to the gloom they've all come from: "Let her explain it to you, as she explained it to us. It'll all become so clear."

And the Red Queen nods, and lets them take her into the dark...

* * *

... below the main level of the Green Dome, not far from where the ball chair stopped descending.

Myron looks at the tunnel marked ORBIT, realizing that every single choice he made, upon waking up in the Village, has led him here.

Every betrayal, scripted or otherwise. Every manipulation, planned or accidental.

Every coincidence that wasn't, every friend that was a foe.


He can hear shouting behind him. The mob has come down here, knowing this is where he went.

(Maybe two wall shifts behind. One change in the scenery and he's done.)

So he makes sure he's got the gun, turns on the headlamp he brought, and steps into the breathing tube.

And lets it take him...

* * *

... and Jana into his new office, in their new building -- a whole country away from where they were before. 

"I am sure we will all be quite comfortable, here," Helvete says, sitting behind his desk before his towering cabinet. If they didn't know any better, they'd swear it was the same office, cut out of the Frankfurt base and moved here whole. 

"I'm sure we will," Karl says, trying to smile: "At least, until our father finds us again."

"You think he will?" the leader of Odal asks, leaning forward.

"I can guarantee it," Jana says, sitting down across from their leader: "You should consider yourself lucky you failed to kill Velma. For now, he's by her side, wondering what to do next..."

"...but if she died, there would be nothing to stop him from looking for us..." Karl picks up, mid-sentence.

"... and then he would be here, killing you..."

"... and this time, he won't be alone."

"Well, then," the pale-skinned Super says, steepling his hands before his face -- red eyes burning behind black lids -- "I think I shall have to give him yet another restraint..."

 * * *

.. vanishes from around the platform below Myron's feet. And then he's only surrounded by the cold, still dark, which reeks of iron and burnt things.

The cavern is hard to see in, even with the headlamp. He looks around as quickly as he can, trying to get a sense of his surroundings. 

The walls are metal, down here. And there are stalagmites, reaching up...

No, wait. Not stalagmites. They're thick conduits -- ones he somehow knows will be warm to the touch. 

He steps off the bouncing platform that brought him here, and looks down. As soon as he does he sees a body. 

It's burned to a black cinder, and stuck in fetal position. 

And it's not alone. The floor is littered with bodies -- so much so that he has to step carefully to get around them. 

(How many bodies? How long has this been going on for...?)

And then, from behind him, there's a whoooosh and a bright light. A horrible warmth.

A bass chuckle, all too familiar...

* * *

... from behind the desk of the leader of El-Hadhih, as he learns from one of his spies that his enemies know who he is, and from whence he came. 

And he can only smile, because that knowledge just makes what must come next so much easier...

* * *

"... way to say this," the Indonesian Minister of Space says, seeming very apologetic on the viewscreen in Director Straffer's office. And he talks of dates, of arrangements, of security.

And surrender...

* * *

... his will to his far-away master, once again, as the head of Odal tells the Candidate what he must do to guarantee victory from here on out.

And what he must say about a certain Outlaw Reporter, and to who...

* * * 

... is standing right behind Myron, breathing like an iron lung.

Myron turns around, and looks at the enemy he thought he was done with so very long ago. 

"Hi, Moloch," he says, regarding the bronze-muscled, hollow minotaur that towers before him: "It's been a while."

And then comes the Hellfire...

(SPYGOD is listening to Magnets (Disclosure) and having a Moloch)

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