Monday, June 13, 2016

Valhallopolis: 6/6/16 - 6/12/16

"Too High To Drag Me / Cause I'm Too Late"

(Director Straffer)

(Art by the Lemonade Project)

* * *
* * *

Monday: 6/6/16

In the chamber of the Gods, in the very top of the White City, blinded Kanaan sits in the dark, and weeps -- the ruined pits of her eyes stinging as the tears soak her unhealing wounds.

She weeps not for the pain, though, nor the indignity of her injury. Pain can be overcome. Injury borne with pride.

No -- Prophetess of the Olympians cries for she can no longer see the shape of things to come.

That ability is gone, along with her eyes. It ended the moment her knitting needles flew out of her hands, and right into her pupils -- as though invisible hands guided them in, at the biding of a will that desired her to see no more. 

Blinded in this fashion, she can no more tell the future than she can see who stands before her. All she can do is see the shape of what is, at the given moment.

And nothing she sees is of any comfort.

Kanaan looks to Eurasia, and sees that the martial dead of Hel are stirring -- even more than before. 

From Norway to Afghanistan, and Moscow to Gibraltar. In Turkey and Germany, Syria and France.  Anywhere within the confines of their current landmass, these Viking dead might appear.

The pattern is always the same. The ground erupts, the dead pull themselves to the surface. And with the flashing of old, rotten steel -- and long, blackened teeth and talons -- they attack the living.

There is never any warning. No reasons are apparent. No sane motives are to be had.

There is only the sound of the world coming apart, and then the dead come to take innocent life, transform it into its own, gruesome image, and then disappear as quickly as they appeared...

Kanaan looks up to the sky, and sees that the massive geyser of ruinous, dark spheres Mars has sent to Earth is coming ever closer -- much too close for comfort.

The line of destruction laid down by the platforms brother Hoosk created -- one score of perfect weapons, all in orbit past the Moon -- is well within the sight of that cold, grey satellite. A massive ball of fire created by particle beam, buttressed by laser and missile, sometimes so bright it matches the very Sun.

But even the great crossfire of those weapons is not enough to overcome the doom that approaches. It can only slow it down, however incrementally.

As the line comes closer to the Moon's orbit -- and the end of the platforms' ability to aim and fire -- it slows down more and more. It's almost maddening to watch, now, and perhaps Kanaan is grateful that she is not seeing this with her eyes, but only sensing it with her mind.

She can only imagine the special, horrible hell the UNSS Specialists who remotely direct the platform must be in, right now, to be so acutely aware of how close it's coming.

And to know that there is so much more yet to come, behind that ever-advancing firing line...

And Kanaan looks further past that zone of fire and destruction -- all the way past it, to blackened Mars itself.

Past the smoky, undulating syrup of its new crust. Down into the massive womb-cathedrals, endlessly giving birth to titanic eggs, seething with monstrosity. Along the rushing, deep veins of blood and filth, past the cyclopean wells of ancient thoughtforms.

And then into a meaty, pulsating chamber, where the monster of this aeon sleeps in its wet, upright coffin -- awaiting the hour of its rough rebirth.

It sleeps ringed by a shuddering, wet obscenity of half-beings, scrabbling and rutting before their master. They sing the slithering insect lullabies of their broken realm -- dark and cancerous songs, filled with concepts that curdle the brains of men, and cause the fabric of time and space to unravel into quivering, rotten slop.

And as they sing, and screw, and kill, and eat, the beast begins to wake at last....

And Kanaan sees this and weeps, for she can no longer know how it will all turn out.

Except how badly...

* * *

"... the new Director wants to bring us back home," Hanami says, shaking her head as she relays the news to the rest of the Freedom Force: "He's saying that the Interim President has told him that we're being wasted, here."

"Well, he's not !@#$ing wrong," Red Wrecker grumbles, crossing and uncrossing her legs on the chair she's sitting on, in the center of their temporary quarters at the Moscow Forward Firebase: "All we're doing is sitting on our ass, waiting."

"Not all of us," Dr. Uncertainty says: "I'm using this opportunity to observe the Aesir."

"How?" Mr. USA asks, clearly mystified.

"The Russians have some very good surveillance equipment I've managed to piggyback," the masked, two-fisted detective says: "I guess they never really got rid of all their Soviet-era cameras."

"Somehow I'm not surprised," Myron says: "It's not like anything really changed down there."

"Figures," Gosheven sighs, changing the subject: "We just got here, so of course we have to leave. We're just too fabulous for this place."

"Speak for yourself," Dragonfly says: "I don't like running out of here. Not with unfinished business."

"So, do we want to finish it?" Shining Guardsman asks, looking around the room.

"Can we?" Mr. USA asks, looking at the armored cyborg, and then at his own wounds -- still healing after that last tussle with Thor: "There's some scary forces at work, down there. I don't know that we stand much of a chance."

"Dragonfly's right," Hanami says, standing up on still-unsteady legs: "It would be shameful to leave, now. Not after everything that's happened. Everyone we've lost..."

She doesn't have to elaborate. Most of them look down at the ground, either in sorrow or shame.

"Then let's not," Dr. Uncertainty says, looking around: "If they think there's no reason for us to be here, let's give them a reason."

"How the !@#$ are we going to do that, mystery man?" Gosheven snorts: "Dare them to come out?"

The masked detective looks at Hanami, who -- knowing something the others do not -- nods, somewhat imperceptibly.

"Let's just say we've got more going on inside Moscow than just control over their cameras," Uncertainty says, and then begins to tell...

* * *

"... us where the !@#$ she was going," Yellow Snow grumbles, not liking the looks of Morgue Anna's fancy room.

"I don't like it, either," Red Devil says -- hands on his hips as he looks around: "Something bad went down, here."

"Is that your powers talking, or you?" Porcelain asks, pulling his white facemask up and over his face.

"Well, I don't think our leader had a tendency to poop on her carpet," the red-clad suggester says, pointing to the brown trail leading from her bathroom to the bed: "And for Hell's sake, look at her closet. She just threw some stuff together, tossed it into a takeaway bag, and..."

"What?" Krokodil asks, picking callused skin from his forearms, which he always does when he's nervous.

"She didn't take her ties," Red Devil gasps, looking at the rack, and all the white, silken ones neatly looped there: "She never goes anywhere without them."

"So... she's in trouble," Yellow Snow says, nodding: "Ran the !@#$ out on us. Didn't even leave a damn note."

"Which is totally unlike her," Porcelain says -- looking very worried, now: "So... maybe someone got to her? Someone scared her?"

"No one is scaring that crazy !@#$," Krokodil pronounces: "She is the one who is doing the scaring."

"Then maybe she finally saw the light," the Penitent says, moving up behind the others with a speed that makes them rather uncomfortable -- and a look in his eyes that's downright terrifying: "And maybe it's time you all did, too."

And before anyone can say or do anything...

Tuesday: 6/7/16

... the COMPANY Transport touches down on the pre-dawn Flier deck with something of a weird flourish. Sign that whoever's piloting it is either drunk, in a goddamn hurry to land, or both.

The answer becomes strangely apparent a few moments later, when the back door opens and an entire phalanx of very unamused AGENTS pour out of it -- forming a human barrier around their very unwelcome "guest."

"Look, son," SPYGOD mutters as he stomps along with them: "If you're gonna !@#$ing treat me rough, at least buy me a goddamn drink first."

"Shut the !@#$ up!" the AGENT in charge of this sorry meat parade orders him, but it's as hollow as a cheap chocolate Easter Bunny. The kind you can't even eat the ears off of for fear of the whole thing shattering like a sugary light bulb.

SPYGOD stops in his tracks at that. The AGENTS lose cohesion a second later, and then alternate between trying to encircle him again, or pointing their guns at him.

"Sir, you need to keep moving," the one in charge insists, stepping forward with both hands on his sidearm, and the barrel aimed at their guest's silvery, round glasses: "I am authorized to use lethal force."

The superspy looks at the guy, and the gun. Then he takes two slow, swaggering steps towards him -- smiling all the way.

"You aren't one of mine, are you?" SPYGOD says, looking over his glasses at him -- letting him see the white, blind eyes behind them: "I mean, I know my !@#$ing memory's not what it was. But I think I'd remember seeing you around before I left for bull!@#$ beach, wouldn't I?"


"Which means either you got brought in during Josie's reign, and I just didn't make it down to the !@#$ing training camp for Hell Month. Or else you're just some !@#$stain of a sorry, lower-case Agent from some other Alphabet Agency that got seconded in when the new Director found out how little loyalty he actually had. Just like the last !@#$ing time I wasn't in charge of this show.

"Which is it, son?"

The AGENT doesn't say, which is all the affirmation SPYGOD needs.

"Well, let me tell you, something, son," SPYGOD says, tapping the Agent's gun with his finger: "Whoever trained you? They !@#$ed it up. And that's why I'm not !@#$ing scared of you. At all.

"See, they forgot to tell you the secret of a good threat. And that's to not only believe it, but to !@#$ing follow through in your goddamn mind the moment you say it. To be ready to turn thought into !@#$ing action without having to really !@#$ing think about it.

"So... AGENT," he says, using the finger to push his glasses back up his nose: "You ready to dance with me? Or you too chicken!@#$ to get your back up off the damn wall?"

The AGENT just stares at him. SPYGOD nods, and then, slowly, continues to walk in the direction the others were trying to herd him in.

"Let's get this bureaucratic bull!@#$ over with, kids," he says as they head for the nearest door to belowdecks: "I got more important things to do than..."

* * *
"... be grateful that the man is still alive," Senator Sanders says to the reporter who won't stop asking him gotcha questions: "While the Senator and I may have some very acute differences of opinion, he is a human being, and deserving of our respect and kindness. I was sorry to hear of his death, and that of his wife and father. And I am happy that he is somehow alive, again.

"And if Senator Cruz wants to pick up where he left off, and try and take the nomination? I say more power to him, and I look forward to debating him sometime."

"What about the other Candidate, though?" the reporter asks, still trying to get a good, juicy soundbite, just ahead of the big vote today, here in California: "After everything that's happened in the last 48 hours alone, what would you say his chances are?"

"What other candidate?" Sanders asks, deadpan as a fish. Then he smiles, just a little, and moves away.

And the reporter jumps up and down so quickly he almost flies out of his shoes, happy to have what he came for....

* * *

"... crying out loud" the Interim President sighs, turning the Oval Office's television off and tossing the remote onto the desk: "That's... well, that's just perfect, isn't it?"

"I don't understand what you mean, sir," COMPANY Director Kotzbrocken says, standing at some semblance of attention between the desk and the nearest door. 

"Well, you're saying that the Senator... he's, what, superpowered?"

"As near as we can tell, sir, yes," the man says, nodding: "It would appear that he's very resistant to damage, and can heal himself at a slow but remarkable rate. He can even come back from the dead, if we're accepting what we were told from before."

"Just what this country needs," the former Speaker of the House says: "A President we can't kill."

"Well, that would be a nice change, sir," the Director says, trying to smile:  "After the last few, I mean."

The Interim President looks at him for a moment, then away: "So, you were going to tell me about your initial debriefing with SPYGOD, this morning."

"Yes, sir," Kotzbrocken says, adjusting his glasses: "As you might expect, he was surly, profane, rude, and very entitled. But he was also very forthcoming with what happened. And he told me everything."

"Everything?" the President says, somewhat shocked.

"Yes, sir. I think that, given what happened between him and the former Director, he thought my replacing her meant he'd get brownie points with me for coping to giving her a massive runaround for months."

"So, what are we looking at, then?" 

"Insubordination, subversion, treason, and a few other things we don't really have words for, sir," the Director says: "Coupled with the utter takedown of the worst terrorist threat we've ever seen, the return of the man who's saving our bacon in space, right now, and a few other fringe benefits along the way."

"Except that the Turkish Prime Minister's been calling me all day to request aid for whatever's going on in that air force base of ours," the Interim President says: "Apparently, firebombing isn't doing the trick. So he's left us with another rolling problem, hasn't he?"

"Well, when you put it like that? Yes, sir. He has."

"So in other words, it's just like he never stopped being the Director of the COMPANY," the Interim President sighs, putting his feet up on Lincoln's desk: "Is it?"

"No sir," the new Director says: "So, what do we do from here?"

"I'm glad you asked that," the former Speaker of the House says, and...

Wednesday: 6/8/16

"... did I ever mention you're a crazy, racist asshole?" the now-former Campaign Director is shouting on the Candidate's answering machine: "No, really. Don't answer that. I bet you can't even see the damn problem from where you're sitting-"

"Well then," his last remaining assistant says, turning it off: "I guess he's resigned."

"I guess so," the beefy-faced man says, looking at the morning paper on what's left of the man's desk, shrieking the surprise headline: "And all it took was me losing California to a dead man."

"Well, there is that," she says, looking at him over her thick glasses: "Along with all the support of the party, who knows how many other people who were standing by you just a week ago, the Interim President refusing to say anything, not that he really is supposed to anyway."

"Elevator pitch it, hon," the Candidate says, having heard too many words to handle at this time in the morning.

"Short and sweet? Well, this could be pretty bad, sir."

"So why are you still here, then?" he asks, siting down in a chair and trying not to hear it creak. Literally dying for a cup of coffee. And a good breakfast, cooked by that Hispanic cook he brought with him to California.

(The one who walked out along with everyone else, this morning.)

"Well, sir," she says, walking over to him: "To be honest? I've put my whole life and career on hold to do this, because I believe in you and what you stand for. All of it."

"Is that all?" he asks, feeling more than a little suspicious, given how badly he's been burned, lately.

"Well, that and I'd feel really bad leaving now, now that things are just starting to get interesting."

"Well," the Candidate says, nodding and looking around the deserted office -- all the tables turned over, all the equipment taken away: "You know what the Chinese people say about interesting times."

"May we live in them?"

"That they're a curse," he says, trying to smile, and wondering what he'll say tomorrow, when...

* * *

... red-headed Tyr gets bored with the woman he's with, in a few hours or so.

It's nothing new for him. He never really liked the idea of leaving spent women behind to bear his marks, or carry his seed. It always smacked of unfinished business to him, at best.

And a threat at worst, given how often sons came to rival and best their fathers. 

The sword he plans to run her through with is over beside the bed. She's seen it the entire time, and probably knows what it's going to be used for. 

But as she's high on some very potent drugs -- some cheap and nasty thing that would rot the meat off her bones, if she kept using it -- she's too gone to care.

So Tyr has his cruel and brutal way with her -- the blankness in her eyes leading him to go that harder, that faster, just to see if he can get some kind of response. 

At least one damned tear.

All the while, he can hear the man he once was screaming in the back of his head. That sorry scribbler of god-mocking books, who claimed that there was no divinity to be found in the world, and that those who rightly bent at the knee to a higher power were somehow damaged, or lacking. 

A man willing to throw in with the likes of the others to try and throw the most dangerous faith out of Europe, and then the world. A man willing to do anything their white-skinned leader asked of them to make that goal a reality.

Only he had no idea he'd need to bond with a god to do it....

Oh, how he's screaming now -- a broken shell of his former self. He has seen blood spilled and lives taken. He has seen the dead come to life and feed. He has touched the mind of the Aesir and been burned by its holy fire. 

If Tyr did not need him to maintain so full a grip upon this world, or any other? He'd run him through like the weakling he is -- cast him from his mind and body, and leave him to lie on the bloody streets of this city. 

Leave him to perish in the gutter with the rest of the weaklings they didn't kill the other week, but now see the need to extinguish...

Wait. Was that a tear, finally? Some sense, coming up from the depths of the waking sleep the drugs have put this wench into?

Yes, Tyr thinks it was.

And having seen it, he allows himself to stop keeping time and actually move forward with this thing, so as to be done with it -- and her. For this Moscow needs his hand upon its rudder, as it needs all others. 

And then, a moment later, he's good and...

Thursday: 6/9/16

... drained. There's no other word for it.

Straffer leans back in his chair, gratefully handing his helmet over to a fresh-faced Specialist who's been waiting to take over for him. The look on her face is almost beatific -- as though he was being given the chance to wash the wounds of Christ.

(And the thought of that makes him wince, deep inside, on several levels.)

He gets up from the chair so she can almost leap into it. He reaches for a bottle of water someone hands him. His hands are shaking so bad that someone needs to help him get his first sip, and then his second.

Said someone finally gets him a straw and a couple paper towels.

On the screen, the fire rages -- half a million miles from the lunar line. On paper, that sounds so far. But when you consider the Moon's just under half that distance from the Earth, then it doesn't sound too far at all.

And with every hour, they lose about five thousand miles.

And there's still so much more waiting for them to destroy, behind that flashpoint...

100 hours, then, if it keeps its current trajectory. Just over four days. They have that long to find a way to turn the tide, somehow, or else it's all over.

Or else the enemy will win.

Or else the world will die. 

Straffer does not dare cry in front of his own people. They need him to be the firm, steady rock from which they leap into the unknown, and the dangerous. They have to believe he is the one thing that will never break, never bend.

Never go wrong.

But now, watching as that bright kill zone gets closer and closer to the point where they can't shoot at it, anymore -- after untold days of sitting here, doing his damnedest to stop it cold, or even send it backwards -- he realizes he's so !@#$ing exhausted that he doesn't care.

Let them all see him fall apart. Maybe that'll make them work harder. Fire smarter.

Make them kill that black cloud of 8-Balls and send it back to the hellworld it came from.

But no. He can't do that. He won't. He never, ever will.

What he will do, though, is take a page from one of those albums his fiancee used to listen to, before he lost his memory ("anger is an energy / anger is an energy") and stomp out of the room, down the hall to his office, and get ready to have a very loud, very demanding conversation with his Director, and any UN officials he can get his hands on, or around, and get something else to fight this battle with.

It's what his fiancee would tell him to do, after all. And he's usually right, even if he is a massive pain in the...

* * *

"... assholes!" Randolph Scott says, almost dropping his coffee in shock: "You have to be !@#$ing kidding me!"

"I wish that I was, friend," his informant says, shimmering in the corner of the outlaw reporter's hideout, down in the bowels of Moscow: "But I am there, now, within the White City, as I am here, now, talking to you. And the things I say are being said now, word for word."

"So they're just going to blow this city off the map?" the outlaw reporter says: "Sterilize it with solar fire? Flood it with the rivers? Kill the dead to keep them from coming back? Really?"

"Yes," Shift says, rather sad: "At least, that is what they intend to do."

"And what about the issue we got with Mars?" Randolph asks, pointing up: "The way I hear it, things are getting worse with each day. Why don't they help with that, first?

"Because we are proud, and have been insulted by those we gave the gift to," the shimmering Olympian explains: "And as such, we await the moment your actions redeem you before we will help."

"Well, then," Randolph says, looking at the rest of his team -- down here in the shadows: "Sounds like we got ourselves not one but two !@#$ing deadlines, people. Anyone got any good ideas?"

Fortunately, they do...

* * *

"... when we get there...?" the white-haired wisp of a necromancer asks, shuddering in her back, window seat as the airliner takes her to Europe.

"Oh..." Morgue Anna says, her eyes getting larger: "But that will... yes... I know, yes... I know. You don't have to say it to me.. please..."

Her eyes well up with tears, and she puts her hand over her mouth to stop from screaming. But she's shaking so bad it's a wonder the seat doesn't come loose from its bolts.

"Honey, are you okay?" the well-meaning man in the aisle seat asks, leaning in and whispering: "I've been worried about you since we left Detroit."

"I'm fine," Morgue Anna insists, not looking back at him: "I just don't like flying is all. It scares me."

"Miss, I know from fear of flying," he says: "And I also do family counseling for the state, which means I know from abusive relationships."

"What are you trying to say?" she says after a few seconds, casting one eye in his direction. It's red as an apple, and wet as dew.

"I'm saying if you're in some kind of trouble, and need help, it's available at the end of the flight."

And she looks at him, and just laughs -- deep and slow, and incredibly hollow.

By the time they get over the Atlantic he's moved to an empty seat, leaving the crazy girl to talk to her invisible slave-driver -- flying outside the window on a cloud of dragonflies.

Because Tombo is not letting her new "friend" outside her sight for a moment...

Friday: 6/10/16

... except that there's not enough goddamn guards on this !@#$ing boat to really keep an eye on me, right now, son. Which is why I'm cooling my heels on a newly-installed bench outside the !@#$ing Director's office, watching hardly anyone run like mad while the alarm WHOOPs itself silly like something off of a !@#$ing rave track. 

See? I am relearning my musical tastes in my barely-present spare time. In fact, I've made it up to the 90's, now. 

I still think I like disco, better, but I'm really digging this Belgian techno band. 

(Frame 313? Is that it...?)

Well, never !@#$ing mind that, now. It's not important, compared to whatever's so goddamn important it's got this ghost ship up in arms. 

I'm not entirely !@#$ing sure what the hell's going on, though. I guess things in Moscow got a little weird, all of a sudden, which is why my big damn firing got interrupted. 

Yes, son. You read that right. Me. Fired. My fine gay ass just officially got handed !@#$ing walking papers.  

And yet, somehow, that's not so bad...


It happened about an hour ago. I got called up from the room they've had me cooling in, under some !@#$ing poor excuse of "house arrest." They hauled me into the Director's office, and he launched right into the mother of all !@#$ing desk-pounding, wallpaper-peeling, foot-stomping chew-out sessions. 

I guess they call it "come to Jesus," these days, except that the good Lord wasn't anywhere !@#$ing near this !@#$-show. He was off the damn cross, out of the tomb, and partying down with Noah and Moses at the club at this point. 

You could just tell there was gonna be no !@#$ing resurrection, this time. 

I have no !@#$ing idea who Herman Kotzbrocken is, other than short, pasty, and damn angry. But he !@#$ing did his homework, son. The other day, when he had me in the hot seat? He grilled me on !@#$ing everything.

Yes, son. Everything.

Stuff I did in the old days I can remember. Stuff I did after I got the damn Chandra Eye in that I can't !@#$ing remember, including all the !@#$ I did while I was being hunted by the COMPANY, then reclaiming it, then losing it again. And everything I did after I got the damn thing out of my head, after I came out of that !@#$ing coma from hell, got my eyesight back, started up as a regular damn AGENT for Josie.

What could I !@#$ing do, son? He had all the damn files in front of him. All those triple-black, code Omega reports that were Directors' Eyes Only. All the !@#$ we only let the President see if he agrees to take drugs that wipe his !@#$ing memory for the last hour.

He knew it all, son. Stuff I didn't even !@#$ing remember that I maybe once remembered but then somehow !@#$ing forgot.

So, yeah, I told him all I knew. All I'd done, and why. 

I told him about my team to take down the !@#$ing Mahdi. My plan to use it to find Straffer. How I got Peg out of the damn way, which I thought he'd chuckle over, seeing as how all the clone ladies are gone, but just made him !@#$ing angrier than before. 

And how I dealt with the !@#$ing Mahdi, sort of. And found Senator Cruz, and got him back home, costing us only the base at Incirlik due to the fact that the Mahdi isn't exactly as dealt with as I would have !@#$ing liked...

Yeah, that's another story, Son. Hopefully a moot one if the Turkish air force did what I told them and turned that city into a !@#$ing pit large enough to barbecue !@#$ing three Godzillas in, with enough room for a King Kong on the side. 

Otherwise we got ourselves a real damn problem. And maybe that's why everyone's running around...


Now, it's not like this hasn't happened before, son. I mean, you know I didn't always !@#$ing run the show, right?

No? Well hell, son. I ever tell you about the time I almost got fired for shooting a machine gun out of a horse's butthole?

Well then... seeing as how I've got time...

 It was part of a weird !@#$ing op we had to do to smuggle some Soviet scientist out of !@#$ing Yugoslavia. Not my plan, not my call. But I got the job, so I said "yes sir, thank you sir," !@#$ing saluted, and got airdropped into !@#$ing Zagreb dressed like Mr. Ed.

End of the day, we had one defecting scientist with his ass shot full of holes, three dead AGENTS, and a bunch of dead commies. That and the sad but certain knowledge that SPYGOD does not look !@#$ing good dressed up like a horse.

Especially when I have to shove a goddamn browning 50 caliber out the thing's damn rear end and gun down commies that are !@#$ing running after me because whoever designed the costume did not remember to include the !@#$ing thing's genitalia, and I guess the guards had a thing for animal dong.

Of course, the op is !@#$ing good and blown. And while we succeeded, just !@#$ing barely, we got that mother!@#$ing atomic scientist to the states in such bad shape that he almost !@#$ing died on the way there, and twice when we got him to where he was !@#$ing going. 

Which made him not very happy to cooperate with Uncle Sam, all things !@#$ing considered..


So, a day after Operation Groovy Glue Van concluded, I had my fine, gay ass hauled into the office of my Director, who spent the better part of an hour !@#$ing chewing it off my bones, spitting it out, and stabbing it with that !@#$ing cavalry saber he sometimes chased people with when he got good and !@#$ing drunk after another galling trip to the White House. 

He smacked me in the face, son. He screamed until my ears almost !@#$ing fell off. He threatened to !@#$ing fling me through a goddamn plate glass window as many times as it took for me to understand the words "covert," "quiet," and "discreet."

And believe it or not, son? He !@#$ing liked me. A lot.

He thought I was the son he never had, which made him the abusive, drunken, tyrant that my dad never was, but my Grandmother occasionally could be. When she wasn't on the goddamn wagon, that is. 

(She was just abusive, then. And scary as !@#$.)

Anyway, time went on. I moved up the !@#$ing ranks. Eventually I became the Director of the COMPANY. And did my best to carry on the tradition of scaring the everliving !@#$ out of AGENTS and Strategic Talents who !@#$ed up. 

Because that's the only way you learn, sometimes, son. Having the person all the way at the !@#$ing top of the !@#$ing pyramid threaten to rip your heart out, shove it down your throat, shove that up your ass, and roll you down the side into a pool of goddamn alligators. For America.

Sometimes we only learn to not fail through absolutely, total fear of being called to account for it. 

So I never lost that fear, son. The nervous sense of awaiting doom that lies behind the !@#$ing big, heavy door of the person above you. 

And in some ways it made me a better AGENT. But in others it just made me worse, because I didn't always !@#$ing toe the line, son. 

In fact, the higher I got? The more I broke it. I just got really damn crafty about how I did it. And scary, too. 

True fact, son. No one will !@#$ with you if they're !@#$ing scared of you. I learned that from Tricky Dick, of all people. 



But that's all over, now, son. Time has !@#$ing come, today. All my sins laid bare, all my contrivances exposed, and nothing to show for it but bitemarks in my damn ass and the knowledge that I will most certainly not be pulling a damn !@#$ing pension for this.

I saved the day, got the man who can save the world back, saved the life of a Presidential Candidate, smashed Al-Hidhah... and all I !@#$ing got for it was a lousy t-shirt that says I'M !@#$ING FIRED WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE 

Me, son. I spent the better part of a century building this !@#$ing organization up from nearly nothing into the premier superspy organization. More than 50 years of fighting threats no one can ever know about, much less !@#$ing understand. 

Half a century of shooting commies for goddamn breakfast, wrestling gods after lunch, screwing the goddamn !@#$ing hell out of hypertronic messiah robots from some other planet between then and dinner, and then jumping between itchy nukes trying to defuse them on the !@#$ing fly after that.

Jumping out of planes with no goddamn parachute. Strangling cyberninjas on speed with a line of !@#$ing dental floss. Taking on entire armies with a !@#$ing shotgun with only six shells. Arguing logic with a !@#$ing space-hippie that wants to blow up the damn planet.

Yes, son. I have done all these !@#$ing things and more. Without goddamn fear, or at least with a sensible amount of fear in some cases, because some of those space hippies can really !@#$ you up. Without hesitation. Without concern for my well being. Without a godamn lick of sense. 

The !@#$ing COMPANY, son. I made it.

And yet...?

Yet, if it does all come down to this... I'm strangely !@#$ing okay with it.

I mean, yeah. It'll suck. I'll go crazy without living this kind of !@#$ing life where people are constantly trying to !@#$ing kill me, or I'm trying to !@#$ing kill them. And not having a hand on the damn wheel is going to be a major !@#$ing adjustment.

But on the other hand? I don't really remember everything I've !@#$ing lost. It's all pictures and words and what other people !@#$ing tell me. 

Postcards from a country I don't !@#$ing remember visiting because I was goddamn drunk, strung out, and come-blind through it all, and only got in and out of customs because someone !@#$ing felt sorry for my blasted, gay ass.

I mean, !@#$. I got my fiancee. I got friends. They tell me I got enough money to !@#$ing buy Montana and New Jersey both, pension or no.

So do I really need this !@#$, son? Do I really deserve to spend however long I got !@#$ing left on this rock dealing with grumpy political appointees who want to remake what I made in their !@#$ing image?

Somehow, son, I don't !@#$ing think so.  

And if I really need some !@#$ing action, maybe my fiancee can hire me in. It'll mean working for the !@#$ing UN, but hell... only Nixon could go to China.

If you want to feel sorry for anyone, feel sorry for Josie. She got the mother of all raw deals, her and her sisters. The COMPANY's all they've ever known. And now they're out to pasture, too. Just like some broken down nag.

Not that I really !@#$ing helped with that...


Here, hang on. Someone's calling me. A moment?

Yeah, hello? ... Myron! ... Yeah, I'm okay, son. I'm in the Flier right now. 

Yeah, getting my ass chewed out by the new Director... yeah, he's a real !@#$er.... yeah, and I need to tell you something-

Wait, what? ... What?

Are you !@#$ing kidding me?

Hang on... are you sure? ... Well, no, I haven't made it over to Moscow, yet.

Oh, you're there? Fast !@#$ing redeployment...

Oh.... Oh... Well, that's no !@#$ing good. Not at all. No. ...

Okay, yes. ... Yes.... I'll do what I can... yeah. Don't worry about that.

Tell Russia to expect the goddamn cavalry, and I'll tell FAUST to stand down and let us fly in...

Don't worry about that, son. I got that !@#$ covered. Just tell (REDACTED) to hold the crew together as long as he !@#$ing can and that we're coming to deal with the !@#$.

Yes, right. See you soon.


Well, son. Change of plans. Sounds like the Olympians have decided to up the damn ante a bit. Which means the Aesir will !@#$ing respond in kind. Which means the Russian Legion will do something really !@#$ed up and bad.

Which means we need to change !@#$ing tactics. Like !@#$ing now.

And that means I don't have time to sit in this !@#$ing hallway and wait to finish getting !@#$ing fired, now do I?

No I !@#$ing do not, son. Not at all.

So, if you'll excuse me? I got a band to put back together. Starting !@#$ing now.

Be seeing you...

Saturday: 6/11/16

"... can see the flames rising from the city center. It's just awful. The Turkish Air force has been bombing Adana day and night for the last 48 hours, claiming it's been taken by a hostile force. But they won't say why.

"All we know for certain is that this follows whatever happened at the Incirlik air base, within the city itself, over a week ago. They evacuated a 50 mile radius and were bombing the air base. Now they've moved on to the rest of the city, and have helicopter gunships patrolling the zone.

"It's just like Miami, all over again..."

 * * *

"... you only call me if you need a ride," Martha Clutch chuckles, letting SPYGOD into the passenger side of the Owl Car.

"Yeah, well, been busy," the superspy chuckles, tossing a large bag into the back seat before he leaps in: "And you got a fast car."

"I want a ticket to anywhere," she sings.


"Who the !@#$ is that?"

She shrugs and smiles: "Never mind, (REDACTED). Just get in before someone notices there's a cloaked air car across from the Lincoln Memorial."

"Or that America's Most !@#$ing Wanted is getting into it" he says, doing just that, and buckling up: "Atomic Turbines to Speed?"

"Finally, we're communicating," she laughs, and the invisible car...

* * *

... drives up to ten miles before what the soldiers have come to call the Red Zone, mostly because there's red marks all over the landscape. The splattered, flyblown remains of the people who tried to get into the city to join the White Power revolution, at least until enough of died horribly for the message to sink in. 

"Are you certain this is safe?" the Colonel asks the large, old woman in the white uniform -- her hair pulled back into a bun so harsh it almost looks plastic. 

"I am certain of nothing, Colonel," Dr. Thokk says, getting out of the car and looking at the floating line of hovering warbots -- their chainguns pointed both inside and outside of the city: "We could both die at any moment. We could both live to see a century."

"I doubt the first not at all, and the second very much," the Colonel says: "But I am in no hurry to rush one or test the other."

"Then pull back a bit," she says, smiling and turning to walk closer: "This should not take too long."

He drives the jeep backwards too fast for safety, and as soon as he's gone she drops both the smile and the mask.

"So, my metal friends," Loki says, looking at the robots -- as they, in turn, all turn their heads to look at him: "I hope you are all ready for your part in the plan..."

* * *

"... to call up everyone on my damn Black Book," SPYGOD explains as the Owl Car zooms them towards their destination, fumbling in his pocket for something important: "But looks like they're not !@#$ing picking up their damn phones."

"Well, the end of the world is nigh, hon," the Owl says, looking up at the sky out of her window: "I think that's Wormwood, up there, burning so bright you can see it during the day."

"Naah, that's just my fiancee at work," the superspy chuckles: "Not that he's having a good time of it."


"Yeah, he called me up yesterday. Said he !@#$ing called everyone, trying to get some backup, and no one can help."

"Not even the new President?"

"Especially not the new President. !@#$er won't even pick up his damn phone. And his Director is shouting at him... it's just a damn cluster!@#$, hon. With a cherry on top."

"That's not good."

"Yeah, well, I'm working on that," he says, grinning as he finally finds the two things he was looking for, and hands his driver a round, white button she hasn't seen in a while: "Meanwhile..."

* * *

... in New Delhi, patrons at a new restaurant are surprised, then scared, and then killed by a ravening horde of corpses that erupt from the ground beneath their feet. 

They're strangely dressed, these zombie assassins: dressed in slimy, thick leather armor with rusted plate and conical helmets. They wield swords and axes that are coated with black, dried blood. 

And as they kill, their victims fall, only to rise seconds later -- dressed as their killers, and carrying the same sort of weapons. 

And they, in turn, kill others, who fall and join their murderers in an endless cycle of death and rebirth.

Eventually, Hel -- their owner, observing in disguise from across the way -- decides she is bored, and has harvested enough new souls for her liking. 

So she gives the signal. As one, her servants -- new and old -- leap back into the hole in the ground, and vanish. 

For a time she walks among the survivors, savoring how they weep and mewl for the loss of their loved ones, and stagger in shock at the ferocity of the attack. 

And she imagines the entire world like this, only minus the survivors. A dead world filled with shambling dead people, going about their business as though nothing had changed.

And watched over by angry, equally-dead gods, all under her command...

* * *

"... decided it was best to pretend nothing !@#$ing happened," SPYGOD explains as the Owl Car comes upon the one solid object in the weird, shimmering world of black and white that they entered as they put on the white buttons: "But it's not like you can !@#$ing disappear a big damn destroyer escort like her, now can you?"

"So they towed her here?" The Owl gasps, looking at the USS Eldridge -- somehow half-in and half-out of several ghostly buildings. 

"Not exactly," the superspy explains, pointing the way for her to park: "They lost track of her for a decade. By the time we figured out how to recreate the Philadelphia Experiment, only a lot !@#$ing safer this time? She'd drifted here, somehow. The organization that became the COMPANY took her under the wing, and sort of used her as the ultimate !@#$ing dumping ground for anyone or anything too damn weird for us to handle."

"That sounds pretty ominous," Martha says, bringing the car in for a gentle spin of a vertical landing. 

"Hey, you remember that one damn atomic freak your grandfather tussled with? Professor Plutonium?"

"Yes," she shivers: "The man who turned people into piles of radioactive ash with a touch..."

"Well, he handed him over to us. And we tossed his glow in the dark ass into a lead box, hooked him up to the electrical system, and then left him here."

"Oh, that's creepy," she says, looking around: "Is he still...?"

"He stopped banging on the walls about ten years ago," SPYGOD says: "So either he's dead, or asleep. And I sure hope we never !@#$ing find out..."

* * *

"... how you've been getting these images," the COMPANY Director says, clearly incensed: "But congratulations. If you wanted to turn this from a national security issue into a humanitarian crisis, you're succeeded brilliantly."

"I'm sorry you feel that way, sir," Hanami says, shrugging as he rages on the other side of the viewscreen: "But the facts are clear, sir. The people of Moscow are being enslaved and brutalized. The Aesir have killed millions and turned them into their dead warriors. They've burned down the churches, mosques, and synagogues to erect temples to themselves. The children are being held hostage, people are being forced into sex work, and-"

"You know, I'm getting really sick and tired of hearing you justify yourself, young lady," Kotzbrocken says: "I'm looking forward to getting you back here so I can tell you exactly what I think of your performance as Freedom Force leader."

"Are you asking for my resignation, sir?" Hanami asks, standing just a little more at attention than before.

"Oh, I think you'll have to imagine that," he sneers.

"Well, just for the record, sir?" Mr. USA says, standing right behind Hanami all of a sudden -- along with every other member of both teams: "We all stand behind her decision. 100%. No questions."

"So if you're going to toss her out?" Myron says: "I sure hope you've got some more Strategic Talents ready to step in."

The Director looks at him, and then at the rest of them. He scowls, and then turns off the screen.

"Suddenly, I don't feel bad about anything we're doing," Shining Guardsman says.

And they all laugh at that, as...

* * *

"... time went on, and we used the information we got from the experiment to make things like No-Suits, cloaking fields, and the like, actually !@#$ing coming here was less of a thing," SPYGOD explains as they make their way to the center of the ship -- and the massive control complex there: "So I !@#$ing turned it into the Third Base. I had it crewed by a few people I could trust, and put everything I needed to survive a !@#$ing disaster down here."

"It looks a bit deserted, though," the Owl says, sniffing at the dust: "What happened to everyone?"

"Well, I know we used it before I !@#$ing rocketed off into outer damn space," he says, looking around for something in particular among all the blinking, 70's-era controls: "Maybe it got demobbed after that. I don't remember now."

"What are you looking for?" she asks, coming over to help: "If you describe it-"

"Aha!" he shouts, finding the thing in question. It looks like a very old control bank -- maybe from the 60's, compared to everything else.

"What is it?" she asks.

"You ever play with a remote control car when you were a kid, Martha?" SPYGOD asks, putting a special key into the side of the bank, and smiling as it comes alive.

"I was busy learning to drive the Owlcycle," she chuckles: "But I take it you mean...?"

"I mean, welcome to the Jolly !@#$ing Roger, Martha," the superspy says, tapping a few buttons on the machine, and then looking at a very old Pad he's brought out of his coat pocket: "Time to make some naughty people walk the damn plank..."

Sunday: 6/12/16

"... salmon really needs special kind of wood shavings for a proper smoking, Freddie. That's why I use this cherry wood, here. It gives a special kind of flavor to the smoke and... hey, why are there people falling into the damn river... what the (BEEP BEEP) is going on here...."

That was the scene on Jerry's Backyard BBQ, on WBAL, this morning, as the COMPANY Flier literally turned upside down over the scenic inlet the show is filmed at, disgorging all AGENTS currently on board and dumping them into the water.

As of yet, there is no explanation for why the vehicle did this. We have it on good authority that it rocketed off east, after that, though it disappeared from radar shortly thereafter. Its current whereabouts are unknown. 

We are informed that no one has been seriously injured, though there are some cases of minor exposure and bruising from having fallen that far into the water.

We're also receiving reports, unconfirmed so far, that the Director of the COMPANY is in the hospital receiving treatment for a fish bite to the genitals.

Over to you, Kim...

* * *

"Someone find me the Flier!" the Interim President shouts down the phone he just plugged back into the wall: "I don't care how! I don't care who! You find me the Flier and-"

"Sir!" one of his people say, bursting into the Oval Office with a stack of printouts: "We just got a request from FAUST, over in Europe. They say they're detecting what might be a massive cloaking device over the Mediterranean. But they're not sure."

"Where's it headed?" the former Speaker of the House demands. 

"At the angle they're projecting, somewhere in Russia, sir," she says, tapping one of the pages: "And if I had to guess? Moscow."

The President drops the phone...

* * *

"Please, don't make me do this..." Morgue Anna whimpers, standing up on the hill outside the Russian Fire Base, surrounded by heroes who have no idea what the hell is going on. 


"I don't like this," Red Wrecker says, shaking her head as the white-haired woman tries to hold up her fancy, golden staff -- the orange stone at its apex glowing with a sickly, amber light: "She's sick. She's needs help."

"She's a !@#$ing supervillain, hon," Dragonfly says: "Calls herself Morgue Anna. Kills people, takes their souls, raises the dead, controls the living. All kinds of nasty !@#$."

"She looks like she saw something even nastier," Dr. Uncertainty says, working on something else as he stands there. Something involving remote control.

"You got that right," Dragonfly says, very able to see Tombo standing behind Anna -- her ghostly hands on her shoulders, almost as if to strangle her from behind: "Never piss off the living dead girl."

"I hate that damn name," the redhead in the purple cloak says, but smiles just a little to hear it.

"So... what are we waiting for?" National Man asks: "Where are our comrades? Where is this surprise you have been promising me?"

"Just about to get it, friend," Shining Guardsman says, looking over to the west: "In fact, here it comes..."

* * *

"Friend (REDACTED)," Seranu says -- standing atop his floating platform in the middle of the Atlantic: "I do not see what this discussion profits us. We have come to do war with the Aesir. There is no alternative-"

"Oh there most totally mother!@#$ing is," SPYGOD insists -- his jetpack holding him steady with the platform, and his very large guns pointed at the massive flotilla of the gods behind it: "We got a bigger problem, now, Seranu. And if you say you love this world as much as you claim to, and want to help it? Then I got your !@#$ing marching orders here and now."

"Blow him out of the sky!" flaming Rahmaa demands, standing before the massive, churning ship she's brought to bear -- the Sudarshana Chakram, golden and swirling. 

"I shall give the orders, sister," the lord of Olympos says, but then looks back to SPYGOD with something approaching curiosity, rather than indignant rage.

"I will give you time to explain this to me," Seranu says: "Out of respect for your bravery, and our relationship. But please do not make a fool of me by wasting my time."

And SPYGOD grins...

* * *

With the sound of a backwards zipper, the Flier decloaks -- right in front of Moscow. 

"Attention to the Aesir," announces her Captain -- being Josie, in command of a deck filled with her fellow clones: "We have come to put an end to this stalemate. We demand that you lay down your arms, release your hostages, and surrender."

A second later, the massive image of pale Ve stands there -- a flaming sword in each hand: "You dare come before me in this fashion? Who are you to challenge me?"

"Just some people who've gotten sick and tired of your sorry !@#$, you hijacked racist freak," Josie snorts: "Now let those wastes of skin go and leave the world. We've already got one group of gods here. We don't need two."

With that she turns off the coms, and looks to Peg: "I sure hope the next part of this plan works, or we're !@#$ing toast."

Peg shrugs, and...

* * *

... Morgue Anna screams as the power she holds in her hands -- power she always wanted, but never truly knew the weight of -- courses over her entire body, turning her into a lightning rod for necromantic forces she never even dreamed of.

"This is what it feels like," Tombo whispers in her ear -- not liking having to do this, but not really sorry to be doing it to her: "This is what it means to walk with the Tall Lady. This is what it means to feel the beat of the dead heart of the entire !@#$ing universe.

"You still want to be the queen of the dead, you silly, selfish !@#$?" the redhead screams, no longer holding back.

* * *

And Hel screams, her body warping and crumbling as all the power she ever had is yanked straight out of her.

* * *

And Loki -- in his guise as Thokk -- also screams, feeling the pain and anguish of his daughter, but also the end to their plan. 

* * *

And everywhere around the world, the zombies his daughter raised gasp, look to the sky, and crumble into dust. 

* * *

"What in the name of a frost giant's !@#$ just happened?" Ve screams, looking at the collapse of his dead army outside his window: "Where is Hel? Where is that half-rotten whore?"

"My Lord, she is..." Vili says, looking askance, and then to him: "I know not how, but she has returned to the land of the dead. She has fallen away from her vessel."

"Well then," the pale man says, fires burning in his eyes and mouth: "Then I suppose we shall have to play for time, so that our forces will be as great as they should be when the Wolf-Time comes upon us..."

* * *

"Holy !@#$," Red Wrecker says, looking at the burned, gnarled remnant of the necromancer -- shuddering on the ground, her golden staff a melted pool of slag with a cracked gem smoking in its center: "Hardcore!"

"I thought we weren't supposed to kill?" Dragonfly asks, looking at Tombo.

And the redhead grins at her: "She's not dead, Gail. She'll live. A long, long time, in fact. You'll see..."

And then, her task done, she's carried up and away by glowing dragonflies, until she can no longer be seen.

"Do I want to know?" Myron asks, looking at where Dragonfly is looking, wondering what she's seeing. 

"No," the white-clad former assassin says, looking down at a human remnant that should not be alive, but somehow is: "You do not. And never let me get drunk enough to tell you, either."

"Deal," Myron says, extending a hand to shake.

And then there's a boom and a crash, and Ve's giant image is standing above the city of Moscow, again. Only this time, he's not alone.

He's got a small child with him -- a burning knife so close to the boy's neck that it's blistering the skin.

"Shall we try this again?" the Lord of the Aesir asks: "Let me as clear as the morning sun. Set one foot within the city? Our shields of living flesh shall pay for the affront.

"Now stand away, or we shall begin to kill them!"

* * *

"This would be an excellent moment for the Russian Legion to show the pinpoint accuracy you spoke of,  Doctor Prisluga," the Colonel radios back to the warbots' creator: "I am trying to raise Dr. Thokk, but something seems to be wrong..."

"More wrong than you know," the metal woman hisses, no longer caring to wear the mask: "But I no longer directly control the Warbots, Colonel. They have become autonomous. Sentient, even. It is up to them to decide what to do, now."

And then she turns the audio off, and looks at FAUST Agent 78 as he opens eyes full of tears, and cries for the fate of his daughter.

And then...

* * *

... The city of Adana takes another blast, but to no avail. The Wendigo lie underground, awaiting the coming of night. Their new leader has willed it thus, and in the name of Allah, the most merciful, they obey...

... and Campaign Director George Straffer fights back tears as the firing line comes within a mile of lunar orbit, and there is no way for them to stop it. The interceptors have launched, and stand ready, but still there are no backups. No more to come. And his calls to the governments of the world have gone nowhere...

 ... and the Interim President gets off the phone with NASA, and realizes he's made wrong and bad decisions every step of the way, and can only gaze up at the sky and wonder what the hell he was thinking...

... and the Director of the UN's Space Service, Broussard, sits at his desk, doing something very private and rude with his often-abused genitals as he watches the firing line come closer and closer, trying to time his ejaculation with the death of the world...

... and with the rushing of wet goo, and the death screams of everything in the sleep chamber, Armilus rises from the dead, ready to do the bidding of the Decreator...

* * *

And the world hitches a breath, as...

(SPYGOD is listening to Hare Tarot Lies (No Joy) and having an 8-Ball Stout)

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