Monday, June 20, 2016

Valhallopolis: 6/13/16 - 6/19/16

"Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

(The Colonel about to lay down the smack)

(Art by the Lemonade Project)

* * *
* * *

So, where were you when we all saved the damn world...?

Monday: 6/13/16


"Okay," the Interim President says, holding a cold compress to his brow and trying to deal with the mother of all end-of-the-world-bender hangovers: "Just walk me through this one more time, Mr. Straffer-"

"Director Straffer, if you please," the blonde cyborg says through the Oval Office viewscreen, smirking just this side of schadenfreude at the man's situation: "The full council voted this morning. It's official. Again."

"I apologize. It turns out that bottle of emergency whisky in the Kennedy bust by the window is very dangerous stuff."

"I've been told. But please, Mr. President. Ask your question."

"Okay, short and sweet?" the former Speaker of the House says, dabbing at his left temple -- for all the good it does him: "How is it we're all still alive?"

"Well, how about I let you talk to the man who really saved the planet?" Straffer says, doing something with the view controls on his side of things: "I think he can talk and shoot, so.... Colonel? Are you there?"

I am, yes, Buzz Aldrin says, coming up on half the screen -- his voice a deep and loud thing.

And the Interim President gasps and goes cross-eyed to see what's become of the man...

* * *


 "...sir?" one of the Specialists in the room asks, over the din of alarms and klaxons and mechanical voices warning that the massive, black geyser of 8-Balls is 1000 feet from the cutoff point.

(900... 800...)

"Keep firing!" Straffer demands of his staff, his vision blurred by tears: "If it comes down to this, then we have to give the interceptors the best chance we can!"

"Sir, there's something else coming into the field of fire..." someone else says. 

(700... 600...)

"What?" the blonde cyborg shouts, trying not to lose his concentration: "Identify!"

"It's... sir..." someone gasps.

(500... 400....)

And then they all see it, and join in the shock.

A golden blur of divine, swirling rings -- twisting and turning around a central gyre -- that glows as bright as the sun...

(300... 200...)

... and, when it gets just ahead of the firing line, burns even brighter.

For a brief second, the Sudarshana Chakram hangs in space -- the brightest light in the sky.


And then fires upon the incoming, massive spheres with all the fury of a thousand angry stars...

* * * 


... about a third of the distance from Earth to Mars, now, Mr. President, the transformed man says -- his skin like gold, his eyes and hair of fire: I'm rather embarrassed to say how easily this is going. But not too surprised, either. This ship is amazing.

"Are you saying... you're beating them back?" the President gasps.

I am, yes, the astronaut says, smiling: I have to be in close quarters to do it, but I'm only going halfway out, in case something else comes our way.

"Well, that's good news," the man says, putting the compress back on his forehead: "It's good to have some backup."

"I agree,"Director Straffer says, smiling: "And, as the head of the United Nations Space Service, I'd like to remind you of your promise regarding the interceptors..."

"Yes," the Interim President says, nodding somewhat shamefully: "I have to apologize, Director. Some very weird things have been happening in this office, lately."

"You can say that, again," Straffer says, thinking of the horrible mess they found when they finally kicked the former UNSS Director's door down, just before Midnight.

"I'm going to make calls and make it happen. Today, sir. No excuses, no delays."

"You can't believe how happy I am to hear that, Mr. President."

Well good, Buzz says: I'll leave you men to figure that out. I've got an invasion to repel, out here.

"Sir, on behalf of your nation, thank you for-" the Interim President starts to say, but then that side of the viewscreen goes blank.

"I think he's busy, sir," Straffer smiles: "And I suspect you are, too, what with Moscow and everything."

"Don't remind me," the man says, his face falling a bit -- knowing how much crow he's going to have in his pie, tonight...

 * * *


"... I believe I have your attention," Ve says, holding the knife of fire just a little closer to the young boy's neck -- making him cry a little more, and maybe wet his pants again: "I will tell you what is to happen. And you will do these things, without let or hindrance, or these people shall begin to die."

He grins at that -- flaming teeth behind black lips.

And then he frowns, because the child is no longer in his arms.

"What is this...?" he demands, but stops when he sees there's someone else in the room, with him. Someone who wasn't there a second before.

A tall, beefy, and young Indian man -- his face scarred and burned, his hands balled into very large fists.

"Chodu Bhagat," Anil curses, and then punches the lord of the Aesir right in the damn face.

And teleports back out of the room before he can react.

"What is the meaning of this..." Ve says, stumbling around in shock -- either not realizing, or not caring, that he's still projecting his image over the whole of the city.

A city that's being rapidly depopulated of its remaining human population.

Teleporters snatch people from where they stand, both singly and by the dozen. Reality slides apart and is refitted to not include whole work gangs. Citizens are vibrated just out of sync with their surroundings and led out of the city limits. 

And a silver-haired streak of a man strobes through the streets and buildings of Moscow -- grabbing one person at a time, zooming them well past the dangerous wall of warbots, and then going back in to repeat the process with the next person.

And the next. The next. The next. Over and over and over, almost too fast to be seen...

* * *


"... who would have thought a reporter knew that many superheroes?" the Interim President says, holding up the morning's New York Times -- Randolph Scott's on the cover, arms raised in triumph with both his team and the Freedom Force.

"Well, he did use to hang out with my fiance," Straffer says, smiling: "I think it sort of rubbed off."

"I don't even know who half these people are," the man says: "Anil? Skyspear? Bewegung?"

"Teleporters, Mr. President. He's been friends with Anil for quite some time. The others kind of come with the bargain. They're a tight-knit group."

"And the ones I do know... I thought he was dead?"

"Who, New Man?"


"Well, that's... complicated."

"And Swiftfoot? I thought SPYGOD blew him up?"

"That's even more complicated," Straffer chuckles...

* * *


"... got a report for me, Josie?" SPYGOD demands, rocketing towards Moscow at all due speed -- bringing all of Hell with him.

(Or, at least, the version of Hell that comes from the White City)

"Well, we got a very large and growing group of civilians, right at the lip of the forward fire base," the large, pink-haired clone says, watching that bewildered crowd grow by the second: "Looks like there's a speedster involved, but..."

"Well, I'll be !@#$ing damned," the superspy says, knowing full well who that has to be: "Guess I'm losing my touch."


"Never !@#$ing mind," SPYGOD says: "I got the war host of Olympus riding right behind me, expecting to throw down with the damn Aesir for the sake of those people. And if there's a single !@#$ing civilian still behind that circle of killer robots, they'll !@#$ing crack and damn planet open to get that lucky bastard out."

"Yeah, well-" Josie starts to say, but then gets cut off on her own damn channel.

"SPYGOD, that you?" a strangely-familiar voice says -- a shimmering, purple face appearing on a viewscreen.

"New Man?" SPYGOD says: "Holy !@#$ it's good to hear you."

"Good to be heard," the purple man says: "Listen, I'm running coms between the Moscow team and everyone else. We've got the city two-thirds depleted. You think you can hold the Olympians back a little?"

"I'll try..." SPYGOD chuckles, looking back at Seranu, who looks ready to fist-fight an entire continent for the sake of Moscow...

* * *


"... The Sound. Wasn't he a supervillain?" the Interim President asks, tapping the paper.

"He was, yes," Straffer sighs: "But you know how this works."

"I guess I do," the man shrugs: "I just wasn't ready to... hold on, I think the phone's ringing."

He reaches into the desk, and pulls out a telephone he put into one of the larger drawers. It's ringing, alright.

"Oh dear, it's the Russian President," he chuckles: "Probably wants to talk logistics or something."

"Well, I can log off if you need to take this privately," Straffer says, pointing off-screen: "I do have a lot of paperwork waiting for me..."

"Hang on, this won't take a moment," the Interim President chuckles: "Besides, I bet you could use a laugh, right about now?" 

And Straffer nods, smiling, because he does...

* * *


"...I refuse to believe what my own eyes reveal to me,"  Ve curses, looking at the rapidly-emptied rooms where they kept all of Moscow's children, up until a few minutes ago.

"They do seem to have taken us by surprise, from within," wise Braga says, holding onto his shirt as if he were lecturing his students in war and wisdom: "This is not a good augur for our efforts, going forward, Lord Ve."

"As ever, friend Braga, you have a true gift for saying what needs only be seen to be understood," red-headed Tyr sneers.

"Indeed," Thor rumbles, clearly desirous of battle against this swift and unseen foe: "A pity your perception could not have been employed to see this surprise before it came upon us."

"Such was never my gift, friend Tyr," the god smiles: "Now Heimdall, of the golden eye? He could have said as much. And Vor, gifted of saying the runes? She could have prophesied such a thing.

"A pity, then, that they are both dead."

There's silence, then -- dark and gloomy.

And then wise Braga screams as he catches fire from within, and burns down to his boots within the space of three seconds. 

"I think you should all take care in how you speak to me for quite some time," Ve says, his eyes smoking pits of fire: "And remember who leads, and who must obey."

"I remember well, brother," Vili says, putting his hand on Ve's shoulder: "But if I might venture a word of wisdom to my beloved kin? We will need all our brothers and sisters in the days ahead, even ones who cannot still their tongue."

Ve's eyes burn brighter at that, but then cool -- his brother is right, after all. 

"Very well," Ve says: "We must learn to fight against these new foes, then. For when next they appear, they shall have no shields of flesh to spirit away from us. They shall merely come for us.

"And we must make ourselves ready for them..."

* * *


"... well, you have a lot of people to thank, I suspect," Straffer says: "I'll let you get back to that?"

"Can I ask for some advice?" the Interim President says, very sheepishly.


"It's... well, SPYGOD. I've never had to really deal with him before..."

"And since he's my fiancee, you think I got a hot tip?" the Director of the UN Space Service asks, smiling a little wider: "Well, sir, I don't need to tell you he's not happy with you. And I know you're not happy with him."

"And with good reason," the former Speaker of the House says: "I mean, you've heard what all he's done...?"

"To save my life? And the world? You know it," Straffer says.

"But, the way he did it. I mean, he stole the Flier. Reinstated all the clones. And everything he did before..."

"Well, Mr. President, you have to understand, I love him," Straffer admits: "But even I won't say that if he was my subordinate, I'd be very happy with how he goes about things."

"Wait... you wouldn't?"

"Hell no. He flies by the seat of his pants, most of the time, and sometimes those pants come back with some awful stains on them. Sometimes he comes back buck-ass naked, and drunk as hell.

"But after the last couple days we've had? Well...if the world's still turning, and we're all still here, I'd just be glad he had a hand in it."

"I don't think I can let it go at that, sir," the Interim President sighs: "There's a lot of water backed up before the bridge, here. I'm not sure I can just let it go under, just like that."

"Well then, maybe take a page from the last man who actually got elected President?" the Director says: "Invite him over to the White House for a beer. Talk it over. See what you can come up with that doesn't leave him hating you, or you wanting to fire him."

And the Interim President nods, purses his lips, then smiles: "I might just do that, Director. Thank you."

"And good luck to you, Mr. President." Straffer says.

"And to you, Director," the man says, and lets him disconnect.

Then he sighs, leans back in the desk, and wonders if there's another bottle of that whiskey somewhere. 

He thinks he might need to bring it to that meeting.

Tuesday: 6/14/16

"Alright, then," SPYGOD says, watching the FAUST transports crest over the hill: "We all know how this might go, right?"

"I believe so," Hanami says, looking at the Freedom Force -- now a lot stronger for all the battlefield additions she's okayed over the last 48 hours: "We let you talk, until it's clear they don't want to talk, anymore."

"And then we unleash the hell," National Man chuckles, pounding his fists together -- the Russian heroes he leads chuckling along with him: "I was never liking these Devil-people, anyway."

"FAUST is German for fist," Randolph Scott says, not liking all the testosterone on display, suddenly: "How about we just all get along, for a change?"

"Son, I can't tell you how damned glad I am that you stole my black book and called up everyone on it to pull off that stunt with the city," SPYGOD says, turning to look the reporter in the eyes: "And you've done the work of the angels, today.

"But if this goes how I think it's going to !@#$ing go? I think peace is going to have to suck itself."

"It often does," Randolph grumbles, not liking how this day has gone.

At all.

* * *

It was too good to last, really.

The plan had worked, somehow. They'd managed to get every single person out of Moscow, right under the nose of the Aesir. They'd even done it without having to engage any of the gods, which was something Scott was hoping to avoid.

(If one of them took down one of his, that would be both a confidence blow and an added complication they did not need.)

And best of all? They'd done it on time. The last citizen of Moscow to be rescued -- some bewildered 47 year old welder named Anatoli -- was dropped out of the air by Skyspear just ten seconds before the Olympians touched down.

And when the war host of the White City saw that all the people they'd come to rescue were here, safe? Well, that took the wind out of their sails, and put the war fever back in its box.

(A good thing, too. Nemesis was with them. That could not have ended well, for anyone.)

So was the stalemate kept. The Russian Legion -- now completely autonomous, and apparently uncooperative -- kept both the Aesir in and all others out. The Olympians had no reason to enter Moscow.

And the Aesir clearly did not dare to step outside. 

That meant that all that needed to happen was for the Russians to take care of their own people, old friends to reunite, and the victors to celebrate the war that wasn't. 

They had done it, after all. The Earth was saved from annihilation by the last-minute intervention of the Colonel. Moscow was saved by the mother of all surprise team-ups. And the world was saved from a titanic, sanity-blasting battle at the last damn second.

It wasn't completely smooth, of course. Shift was clearly in some kind of trouble with his own people. New Man wasn't quite himself, which made explanations rather difficult. And poor Velma was having to apologize for having led everyone to think she was a middle-aged, masked, and male detective. 

(Especially to Red Wrecker, who had been developing a crush on "Dr. Uncertainty.")

And as for Swiftfoot, well, he still hadn't had a very necessary conversation with SPYGOD by the time FAUST came to call. In fact, he was staying quite some distance away from everyone. 

(He had been rather standoffish and weird, before. And maybe almost getting blown to kingdom come by your team leader does that to a person. But Randolph suspected there was more to this than that...)

But then, late last night, they got word that FAUST was seriously infuriated that the COMPANY Flier was operating in their backyard without permission, and an additional team of heroes was there without the decency of a courtesy call. This in addition to a number of other things SPYGOD or the COMPANY had done, over the last year, was just one insult too many. 

And so, here came the reckoning...

* * *

"So," the head of FAUST says, stomping down the gangplank of their transport -- his silver hair shining along with his silver hands: "You have the courage to finally face me, Herr SPYGOD. I did not think you were capable."

"On a good day, you might !@#$ing be right," the superspy says, holding up his hand to indicate all the heroes on his side of things should stand the hell down: "I'm not always so damn good about admitting my !@#$, much less !@#$ing facing it."

"So what is this, then?" the man says, slightly surprised to hear this man call him by his name: "Have you watched that Civil War movie, then? Are you hoping for some half-hearted fight between forces?"

He raises his right hand, and suddenly there's a noise like a marker on a white board. 

And above his transport -- floating, flying, or carrying those who can do neither -- the entirety of the Union appears. 

"No," SPYGOD says, not even looking at them: "I'm hoping we can settle this debt between us before things get any !@#$ing worse."

"I am, as you say, all ears," the man says, smirking and pointing to the sensory organs in question.

"Werner, I didn't kill your father," the superspy says: "I know what you were told-"

"I saw you!" the old man shouts, pointing an accusing, silver finger: "You shot him in the head, sir. Right before my own eyes! And a moment later..."

He flexes his hands, clearly uncomfortable with their presence.

"And a moment later, his hands became yours," SPYGOD says, nodding: "That's what he thought might happen. He was hoping to outlive you, so you'd never have to bear their weight."

"What..." the old man says: "How do you... what?"

"Werner, I knew your father," SPYGOD tries to explain: "We met during the war, at Bastigone, on Christmas. It was... well, it was !@#$ing weird is what it was. For the longest time I thought it was some !@#$ing dream, or something. 

"And after the war, well, I knew him as Jaeger. We were on the same side, but never met. Not ever.

"But not long ago, I met him again. He came to a party I threw, just to see me. And we realized it hadn't been a damn dream. We had met. We had talked. And we became something beyond just allies or enemies, that night. 

"I'm not sure what, but I'm !@#$ing glad we never crossed paths in battle, again. I think if I'd killed him it would have torn out my damn heart."

"And yet, you shot him," the head of FAUST insists: "Right in front of me! You called him a Nazi and said this was for the war-"

"Werner, I couldn't have done it," SPYGOD explains, holding out his hands: "I was in space, then. Waiting for the !@#$ing Decreator around Mars' orbit."

"Ah, but your friend Disparatre could have teleported you here and back, could he not?" the old man insists: "How far would you go for your revenge?"

"Yes, he could," SPYGOD admits, taking a step closer, and taking off his glasses: "And I would go pretty damn far for vengeance. I'll admit that.

"But look at me, Werner. Look at my eyes. Look at me."

The head of FAUST does, and shivers.

"Look at how I move," SPYGOD says: "Look at how I carry myself. My body language.

And Werner shivers again, remembering that awful moment when SPYGOD stepped from out of nowhere -- a terrible weapon in his hands -- and blew his father's head clean in two.

"He would have said something !@#$ng horrible," SPYGOD goes on: "Just after he said whatever he said about your dad's wartime record. And it would have been grotesque. Something as sick and awful as a grown man screwing a baby in a cradle."

"You..." the old man gasps, remembering all too well what that assassin said, and how it made him sick to hear it. 

"And he would have left you alive, Werner," the superspy goes on, putting his glasses back on so he can see who he's talking to: "Because he knew you didn't want this damn job. But he knew that when your father died, his hands would pass to you, and the NEU would !@#$ing draft you.

"And he knew that you'd do the best you could, but just wouldn't have the !@#$ing style your dad did. The kind of smarts you get from fighting !@#$ing commies in secret for decades, after the war. The kind you hone after ages of cloak and dagger !@#$.

"The kind that would have smoked out all the !@#$ that evil bastard was doing, all that time, right under the noses of FAUST and the other agencies of the NEU."

And the head of FAUST looks at the man he's hated for all this time, and suddenly no longer feels as secure in that hate. 

"This... evil bastard," the old man says: "Your doppelganger?"

"Yes," SPYGOD says: "The same one who ran the supers organ trade with the !@#$ing things we're blowing apart on the way to Earth, right now. The same one that killed that club in Ibiza, just to tell us '!@#$ you and leave me alone.' The one that's got the gun your dad's friend Heimdall used to use, during the war, and the Alter-Earth copy of the thing I used to have in my head, only he's using it to turn people into !@#$ing psychotic monsters."

And Werner, head of FAUST, looks like a man who's just had his reality shift gears without a clutch.

"So," the superspy says: "We've got enough strategic talents here to have a whole !@#$ing slew of Captain America sequels if you feel like throwing down. I mean, hell, that's how we do it in the !@#$ing comic books. Male bonding through mayhem. Understanding after a big damn fight.

"But how about, just this once, we cut through all that macho !@#$ and talk," SPYGOD says, taking a step closer and extending a hand to shake: "Your father and I were enemies, once, then something not quite friends, but certainly not enemies, anymore. I regret we never met after the War, before that party. I think we would have been real friends, and not just unknown allies.

"I can't be your friend, today, Werner. That requires trust. And that !@#$ needs time to grow in. 

"But I'd sure like to leave here knowing we settled this !@#$ between us, and can at least move forward."

He stands there for a full minute -- hand out, eyes hopeful.

And then, at last, the son of the man SPYGOD met in a dream walks down to take it.

"No promises, Herr SPYGOD," Werner says: "I do not give my trust easily, or make friends over a handshake."

"I wouldn't ask you to," SPYGOD says: "But how about we start with the handshake, and see where it !@#$ing goes?"

Some damn fool starts applauding. Someone else cheers. It's all downhill from there.

And Shift smiles at something, behind his silver mask, but keeps that !@#$ to himself -- same as always. 

Wednesday: 6/15/16

"So," the Candidate looks around the table at the new, hungry team his last remaining campaign staffer's brought together, here in this hotel room in DC: "I guess we need to figure out where to go from here."

"Well, I'll be honest with you, sir," the person who seems to be the most outspoken says -- some kid, fresh out of Dartmouth, knit tie as crisp as a fresh carrot: "The best thing you could do is announce you're leaving the race, duck the hell down, and stay out of sight until November."

"Next November," someone else says.

"I'm not doing that," the beefy-faced man says: "I've put too much into this. Too much effort, too much time. And I've got a lot of people still behind me."

"You also have a viable contender against you," one of the others says: "Someone who came back from the dead, literally."

"Someone who's got a massive following," the outspoken kid says: "Almost messianic."

"Sickening," some goth kid in the corner mutters -- wrapped up in a black trenchcoat, face hidden under long hair and dark glasses.

"I still got more people," the Candidate insists: "Also, I'm ahead in the polls. And the delegate votes."

"And the people in the RNC who don't like you are going to use Cruz against you at the convention," one of the others says: "Which means all the polls and delegates get taken from you, and given to him."

"And your national polls are going down in flames," yet another person at the table says, stuffing his face with luxury cashews from the glass tray meant for sharing: "Which means even if you do win the nomination, you may just lose to Colonel Sanders."

"So..." the person who's brought them all together says: "That's what you're working with."

"And you want me to quit?"  the Candidate asks, looking around the table.

"No, sir," the crisp tie kid says: "We just want you to be clear that we're going to need a miracle to not lose."

"We live in a world of miracles," the Candidate says, thinking of his former puppetmaster -- now stuck in Moscow, apparently powerless: "Let's go make ourselves one."

"Alright, then," the woman says, looking to the kid in the trenchcoat in the corner: "That's your department."

And the kid in the coat smiles -- rueful as someone from an Oscar Wilde play -- stands up, straightens out his Killing Joke t-shirt, and lights a black cigarette with a snap of his fingers.

"King Whip," he introduces himself: "Political Magician for hire."

And something about how he looks at the Candidate makes the beefy man realize he's either made the best decision of his life, or the worst.

* * *

All things considered, the Russians who went to arrest Dr. Prisluga were damned lucky.  

Lucky that, by the time they got there -- treason warrant in hand -- the doctor was well and gone.

Luckier still that the person she'd been looking after, as part of the bargain she'd made with the being claiming to be Loki, had woken up and left as well.

And so very, very lucky that she hadn't bothered to set the same kind of self-destruct she'd had waiting at her previous hideout, in Buryat. 

So the well-armed battalion that ran into her lair found nothing more than wiped and destroyed computers, and no clear clues on how to reprogram or deactivate the Russian Legion. 

But they at least lived to tell the tale, unlike the poor soldiers in the motor pool who tried to stop the fleeing doctor, hours before, and were quickly and quietly cut to pieces for their pains. 

Some days, it just doesn't pay to do your job.

Thursday: 6/16/16

"Are we ready, then?" Vili says, looking around the circle of Aesir -- here, in this room they hadn't intended to use, except in the worst of emergencies.

"We are," the gods murmur.

"We are!" Thor shouts, disappointed by their lack of enthusiasm: "Say it with pride, brothers and sisters! If they would pen us in like cattle, we shall kick down their fence and foul their stream!"

"At the very least," Ve grins, holding up his hands for those on either side of him to take, as all others do in turn -- creating a circle of power.

"And so do we cast this Doom upon this world," Tyr grins, pleased to be a part of an even higher form of warfare than he normally thirsts for.

And then...

* * *

"... reports coming in of... this can't be right. How many car accidents are we seeing, here?"

"...mid-air collision over Reagan. The two airbuses made the same exact navigational error..."

"... slipped and fell, but then he planted his face right on the pavement. Worst sound I've ever heard, that crack..."

* * *

.. they chant, these Aesir. Over and over, word after word. 

Words of power. Words of intent. 

Words that curdle milk, hasten disease.

Words that can cripple. 

Words that can kill. 

* * *

"... just about to concede to Senator Sanders, but then the podium gave way. He was lifeflighted to the nearest hospital, but the helicopter crashed on the way, killing fifteen and injuring thirty-three..."

"... Newark is out of power after a worker poured coffee down a control junction. Authorities estimate thousands out of power, on a day like this we could be looking at heatstroke without air conditioning..."

"... the gun went off. I had the safety on. I know I had the safety on. Those kids..."

* * * 

The missing nail. The broken tool. 

The rusty gear. The neglected weapon.

On any day, they might not carry the day. 

On this day, they are all that matters. 

On this day, they kill. 

* * *

"... it's like that Pre-death thing, the other month. Only this isn't the accident happening before it does. This is the accident happening, and having the worst outcome. Fender-benders become multiple pile-ons. Accidents with firearms become mass murder. Kitchen accidents are disembowelments..."

"... authorities are telling people to do nothing. That's right, folks, do nothing. Go nowhere. Don't use any tools. Just.... well, maybe watch TV."

"... reports coming in of televisions exploding, igniting the houses...."

* * *

Everywhere, anywhere. Anyone, everyone. 

Luck is turned on its head, even more than before. 

Doom has come to the world, harsh and unyielding. 

And it will stay, until the Aesir get what they want.

Freedom for them, or death for the world...

* * *

"... reports of something else leaving the surface of Mars, only a lot faster than what we've had hurled at us, thus far..."

Friday: 6/17/16

"Well, that was the worst trip from New York to DC, ever," SPYGOD sighs, stepping into the White House situation room, all bruises and cuts: "I had to walk the last mile, and every single damn mugger in town tried to !@#$ing hold me up."

"Well, sorry about that," the Interim President sighs, wincing at his makeshift sling: "I broke my arm walking into a door, this morning."

"I won't shake your hand, then," the superspy says, looking around the room: "Is this everyone?"

"My Secretary of the Interior died trying to leave his apartment, this morning," the man sighs: "So... telecommuting is the order of the day, so long as the screens don't explode."

"Fewer moving parts the better, sir," the President's Metaphysical Advisor says -- all bedecked out in charms, over his suit and tie: "That seems to be the common denominator, here."

"Even a door?" the President grumbles, gesturing to his broken wing.

"Even a door," the advisor says, looking around the room.

"Okay, then," SPYGOD says, deciding not to chance the rolling chair reserved for him, and turn down the coffee in the corner: "I skipped long-overdue morning-after sex with my fiance for this damn meeting, ladies and gentlemen. So let's save the !@#$ing world, shall we?"

And the Interim President sighs, nods, and decides that it's better to work with the man than against him...

* * *

"Luck," Mr. USA sighs, lying down on the hospital bed his Russian counterpart insisted he get into, after he collapsed this morning.

"My friend, this is terrible," National Man says, looking at the readings he's getting from his medical scanner -- between bouts of the thing shorting out bad enough to kill a normal person: "How long have you been fighting this cancer?"

"Quite some time," the older hero says: "I almost died from it, once, but I got some... well, special medicine for it."

"Are you still taking it?"

"It's gone," the older hero says: "One dose, and that was it. And once it wears off, well..."

He looks around, half-expecting Shift to be nearby -- looking at him sadly -- but he sees no sign of the Olympian, anywhere.

(Probably standing guard with the others, well outside the line of Warbots, making sure the Aesir stay inside that line.)

The Russian Hero -- an oncologist in his civilian life, of all the luck -- nods. And then puts the scanner away, and takes Mr. USA's hand.

"My friend, do not take this wrong way but... do you believe in God?"

And the older hero could make a joke about 'which one,' or knowing several, as he does. But he knows what National Man is trying to say, here. 

So he nods, squeezes the man's hand.

And together, they pray.

* * *

"Alright," the Interim President says, wondering if he should chance sipping the lukewarm water in the plastic cup with no ice, or if he'll choke on it, again: "So it's settled. We have to stop the Aesir to stop this, because we are not letting them out."

"That is quite agreeable," the head of FAUST says, communicating over a special radio they brought in for the emergency: "But do we know how? This is my question."

"I think we need to !@#$ing send them back where they came from," SPYGOD says, tapping the table -- pounding on it, earlier, almost cracked it in half.

"How do we do that?" the harried Secretary of Defense asks.

"Look, there's things that happened, a long !@#$ing time ago," SPYGOD says, not wanting to tell anyone what all he knows -- especially since he barely remembers it: "But what it comes down to is that there's a good damn reason those !@#$ers took over Moscow, and then came out of it. There's something there that, well..."

"The beehive," the Metaphysical advisor gasps, turning white at the idea.

"How the !@#$ do you know about that, son?" SPYGOD shouts.

"Um... I read a book..." the charmed person says, sinking into his seat: "Just a book. Llewellyn publishing. Please don't kill me."

"What is the beehive?" the Interim President asks.

"Something SQUASH made, back in the !@#$ing cold war days," the superspy grumbles, clearly not happy to have to let this big damn cat out of the bag: "They used it to make contact with other realities. !@#$ing killed people, harvested their soul energy, and used sacred mathematics to do... well, magic. Sort of."

"Wait, this is real?" the Secretary of State asks: "Are we serious?"

"Sir, there's Gods cursing the world, right now," the Interim President says: "And another group of them willing to stop them, though we really don't want them to. And defense platforms above our head dealing with a Martian invasion that were made by that other group of Gods. And, if what my advisor is telling me, I got messed with not long ago, too, right in the Oval Office.

"So... I think we all need to have an open mind, here...?"

* * *

 Well, then, the Colonel says, watching as something he thought he dealt with a long time ago comes back for a rematch: I guess I didn't step on you hard enough, last time.

The thing in his Chakram's viewscreen doesn't answer him. Somehow he didn't think it would.

It's ugly, this thing -- hideous on all spectrums and frequencies. A man made of bugs, filth, and the dark between the stars. A soul sewn together from an evil man, a terrible truth, and a killing word.

The name that brings the end of the world. The concept that breaks all others.

Anti-matter. Anti-life. Anti-reality.


Caustic, rotting slop contained within necrotic, black armor, it hurls itself towards the golden sphere of knives and fire that stands between it and Earth -- screaming the choicest obscenities from a thousand fallen civilizations.

And the Colonel realizes, perhaps too late, that he has been in error. He has not faced this foe, before.

And, for all his new power, may not live to tell the tale...

* * *

"... so they grab a bunch of bastards and bigots," SPYGOD says: "I mean, Odal breaks out the worst of the worst. Hatecrime supporters and organizers in prison. KKK !@#$ers that hate anyone too brown to be white and neo-nazi scum who want Europe for Europeans, whatever the !@#$ that means. New atheist leaders who hate Islam and sci fi authors who went crazy after Computer Hell. !@#$, anyone who might drink the damn haterade.

"They get them all to Berlin, then move them to Moscow. They use their connections to smear the Russian mobs into the !@#$ing pavement. 

"And then, when they hold the city? They unearth the beehive, and use it to travel to wherever the !@#$ these Aesir have been, all this time..."

"Valhalla?" the Secretary of Defense asks.

"Gold star for you," SPYGOD says, a little confused: "Don't tell me you read a damn book?"

"Well, yeah," the Secretary says, clearly miffed at the suggestion he slept through Introduction to Mythology at Harvard. 

"And then, these people?" SPYGOD goes on -- clearly on a big damn roll, here: "They actually join with these gods, somehow. Let them take them over. Become them."

"Wait, is this real?" the Interim President asks, looking from the advisor to SPYGOD.

"Yes," SPYGOD says, finally thumping the table -- not caring that it breaks in half, either: "I know at least two Olympians who've !@#$ing done it. And because they did, they have a better grip on our reality."

"Which is why the Olympians got their asses handed to them, when they fought the Aesir in Moscow, before," the metaphysical advisor says.

"Exactly," SPYGOD says, giving the kid a thumbs-up: "So we have to find out a way to separate them, somehow. And that means probably going back to where they !@#$ing came from."

"Why?" the Interim President asks, lamenting the broken table, and the plastic cup of water he won't be debating drinking from, now.

"Because I don't think we're going to get the answer from them, or the Olympians," SPYGOD says: "And, more importantly? I think something's wrong with them."

"You can say that, again," the Secretary of Defense says. 

"No, really," the Metaphysical Advisor says: "I mean, the Aesir are some nasty beings. They're based on the myths and legends of that part of the world, after all. But they're also honorable, in their own way, and very cognizant of their place in the world. 

"Saying this kind of behavior is not like them, well... that's..."

"A massive !@#$ing understatement?" SPYGOD asks.

"Yes," the advisor says: "It's almost like someone messed with their heads."

"And where's the wisest among them?" SPYGOD asks, tapping the table's remnants: "Where's Odin? Surely he wouldn't be letting this kind of crazy !@#$ go on? Not on his watch."

And suddenly, everyone knows what SPYGOD's been winding them up for, all this time...

Saturday: 6/18/16

"... those Gods are to blame for this!" the Candidate shouts over the television screen, on the all day, all major channels commercial he bought with the very last bit of his campaign money: "We've known they were up to no good. All of us knew it.

"Heck, poor Lyin' Ted tried to take a stand against them. And look what happened to him! Try to tell me that wasn't a coincidence..."

He goes on, at length. Words he's chosen for their effect. Words that connect with the ordinary people he wants to get back on his side, or keep there.

All those scared people, sitting at home, afraid to do anything more involved than watch their televisions, drink water from the tap, and pray the toilet doesn't kill them.

He wears a pin on his lapel. Something his new magician made for him. A sigil, he called it. Made him sleep with it, think about it.

(Smear his ejaculate on it, which was nasty, but somehow felt right.)

And now, as he speaks to the people -- live from this studio they've set up in his campaign office, in a crack hotel outside of DC -- he knows it's working. 

He just knows.

* * *
"Thanks for the lift, Anil," SPYGOD says, shaking the teleporter's hand -- or trying to, anyway. The fat Indian kid teleports away before he can. 

"What's his damn problem?" the superspy asks as he walks across the forward base, looking at all the Russian soldiers. Most of them look like they've walked into a door or two, today. And the line to the medic's is across the damn street...

"He doesn't like you," Randolph Scott says, appearing from seemingly nowhere -- Velma in tow. 

(She's got a bad scar on the front of her head, just barely hidden by her bangs. He doesn't like to think how it got there.)

"Well, I can't say he's the only one," SPYGOD says, walking up to the outlaw reporter he doesn't actively remember making an ally of -- hand extended to shake: "Glad to have you on my side, though-"

He kind of sees the punch coming, but doesn't duck it. He lets the weird-looking kid have his moment.

"Feel better?" the superspy asks, dabbing at his mouth. It'll heal, and quickly, but damn this journalist has a mean right hook.

"Not really," Randolph Scott says, his artificial eye narrowing along with his real one: "But it's a !@#$ing start."

"Testosterone," Velma says, her voice weird and mechanical, as if it wasn't coming from her own voicebox: "It's what's for lunch, today."

"Okay," the reporter says, clearly having been told, and puts his hands on his hips: "I got a German teleporter who'll take you to this place you say you need to go."

"No American talent, left?" SPYGOD asks, somewhat jokingly.

"They're all helping evacuate and rehome the folks from Moscow," Randolph answers, clearly not taking the question as a joke: "You should have seen it. The Freedom Force, the Union, and the Russians, all working together."

"Well, I don't know, son. International cooperation on that scale tends to make me !@#$ing sick to my stomach."

Randolph squints again -- seeming ready to hit him once more for good luck -- but goes on: "As for the other thing you asked for..."

"Is that why you hit me?" SPYGOD asks, looking at the shriveled human remnant in the wheelchair, over by the waiting teleporter. It's like someone made a human being out of a hickory nut, slimed it up, gave it eyes, and dressed it in what used to be a nice, black suit.

"I couldn't give two tugs of a dead dog's !@#$ about her,"  Randolph Scott says: "But if you really don't know why I'm using you like stress relief, then maybe I'll just !@#$ing wait until you apologize."

"Yeah," the superspy says, watching the cyborg stomp off -- the wires out the back of his misshapen head whipping about like some kind of weird ponytail as he does -- and deciding this lack of memory nonsense is some real awful !@#$, right about now. 

* * *

It's pretty bad, Director, Buzz Aldrin says over the communicator -- every other word turning into long-distance electronic chop: I'm firing everything I've got at the thing and it's still going.

"How long until it hits Earth?" Straffer asks, not liking the telemetry he's getting, especially with all the equipment failures they're having, now.

Only half the platform helmets are working. It was enough to take care of the last remnants of the 8-Ball attack, with the Chakram helping. But now...

I'm keeping it from reaching maximum thrust. But if I should lose this fight, it'll be there in a day.

"Can we help?"

No. Keep firing at the spheres. Let me take care of this thing.

And then the Colonel turns off communication, knowing full well those were most likely his last words back to Earth.

Let me take care of this thing, he repeats. It's not meant for Straffer, though. It's a prayer to his new Goddess, in the hopes that she'll hear him, and take mercy.

But as the black thing turns around, and looks at him this time, he realizes there's no more mercy to be had, today.

* * *

"Alright, kid," SPYGOD says as softly as possible, looking around the huge, concrete dome of the beehive with something approaching a perfect mixture of disgust and disappointment: "Leave me and the gimp here. What we gotta do is not for your !@#$ing eyes."

"Gladly," Bewegung says, and VORrrrrrrrrPs out of the room the same way he came in -- slowly fading away like a bad special affect with a big damn noise.

The hive wasn't cleaned after the last use. The bodies of the dead remain where they were, rotting on the cold, sticky floor. The smell is horrific, and the sense of death is palpable enough to spread on hard-tack.

"Tombo?" SPYGOD shouts -- his voice echoing off the dome: "It's me. (REDACTED). I need you to do what we !@#$ing talked about this morning, in DC."

His voice replays itself on multiple loops, bouncing this way and that around the room. He listens to it getting softer and softer, until a nearly-silent, very sibilant "DC" is all he can make out.

And then he sees her -- only because they've got a real understanding, and he has something of hers in his pocket.

(Damn folded paper crane's about ready to fall apart, he thinks)

"SPYGOD, hi," the redhead says, looking really tired and out of breath as she pulls back her purple robe, her hair spilling out like a tidal wave: "Man, am I glad you called. Getting out of that place was hell."

"What place?" the superspy asks, a little confused: "DC ain't that !@#$ing bad, as long as you can read a damn map."

"No, the Deep Down," she says, bringing someone else with her into the light: "We got the info you needed on the Decreator, and things more or less went the way you expected with that asshole you wanted me to lose. But then we almost got lost on the way back. If you hadn't called, just now..."

"We?" SPYGOD asks, adjusting his eyes: "Who the !@#$ is we, Tombo? I thought we agreed just the two of us for this op?"

"Well, no," she says, clearly confused as she brings someone else forward into the light. A tall, short-haired Asian man with short, black hair, a white robe, and dark, round sunglasses.

"Chinmoku?" SPYGOD says, shaking his head: "But you're dead...?"

"Um..." the redhead says, looking between the two of them.

"Yes," the only living practitioner of the Hungry Ghost style of Kung Fu says, nodding sagely: "I am dead, now."

"Oh !@#$ me in the ass with a giant !@#$ing dog !@#$ full of beans and rat !@#$," SPYGOD curses: "Of all the damn times to get the wrong !@#$ing Tombo!"

And Morgue Anna laughs, however weakly, from her wheelchair -- perhaps not knowing why.

Perhaps knowing the awful shape of things to come...

Sunday: 6/19/16

Armilus came upon the world at Noon, Greenwich Mean Time -- full and ugly.

A golden shower preceded its approach. Bits and pieces of the Sudarshana Chakram, raining down unto the world in parts both large and microscopic.

Slivers of a divine weapon that did not burn up in the atmosphere, but rather tumbled whole through it -- creating large, booming explosions as they went, and sizable craters where they landed.

Through fourteen squirming, insectile eyes the beast looked at the blue-green jewel it had been so long denied. It cried tears of bloody sewage to see such a lovely thing.

And to desire it destroyed...

* * *

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

* * *

"Sir, it's here," the only Specialist with a working helmet says, swiveling her head around to look at the beast through the nearest platform: "And it's... my god, it's..."

She screams. Her hair turns white from fear.

And as the beast destroys the platform, her mind is likewise eaten -- right out of her skull, like an egg from the shell.

And all Director Straffer can do is call for a tactical nuclear strike, and pray that his lover has managed to make his plan work...

* * *

And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as [the feet] of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

* * *

The Flier fires at the thing as it approaches Moscow -- striding some hundred stories high, having become much larger as it came closer to land.

And where it walks, it twists the landscape. It turdscapes the ground with each thundering footfall. 

Josie screams for her sisters to hold it together. Just hold it together, for God's sake.

Just a little longer, until the nukes can land and they can all go to Hell, together...

* * *

And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

* * *

Cannons fire. Missiles launch. Phalanx systems twirl and spin.

Lasers, mines, sonics -- everything but the damn atomic sink.

Inteceptors fly and die and keep !@#$ing coming...

But it comes, anyway. Uncaring, unfazed, unharmed.

And oh, so hungry.

* * *

And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who [is] like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

* * *

... and the Olympians stand by helplessly, unable to decide what they should do.

.. and the many heroes of the world fly forth to do battle, only to be twisted or annihilated by its mere presence.

 ... and the Aesir cease in their chanting and cheer, for the Wolf-Time is come.

* * *

And in a concrete cave, deep under Moscow, two ghosts, a necromancer denied the peace of death, and a superspy work what might be the most important spell of the 21st century, and pray that it's enough.

But know full well that they may be a little too late...

* * *

So... what were you doing when the world was damned?

(SPYGOD is listening to Loads of Birds (Underworld) and having an Indra Kunindra)

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