Monday, September 26, 2016

Apotheoclypse Now: 9/19/16 - 9/25/16

"I can see you're going to crush them now / I can feel you're gonna win"

(The Turd Crab from Beyond)

(Art by the Lemonade Project)

* * *
* * *

"How is this even !@#$ing possible?" SPYGOD asks, holding his lover for the first time in a long time.

"Thank Raitha," Straffer says, kissing him passionately in his fiance's office -- suddenly no longer as dark: "This is a hard light projection. Same principle that keeps the lightships together."

"That's not the only thing that's hard," the superspy says, kissing him back.

"We could do that, too," the blonde cyborg says: "If only we had time."

"That seems to be a thing, these days."

Straffer nods, and then holds SPYGOD's head in his hands: "We have a plan. We're about to do it. But it won't come cheap or easy. And I'm going to have to do something..."

"What?" SPYGOD asks, not liking what he sees in his lover's eyes.

"Someone's going to have to go into the hole and stop whatever's on the other side," Straffer says: "It might not have to be me."

"But if it is, you'll !@#$ing do it," the superspy says, nodding.

"Tell me you understand," the cyborg pleads: "Tell me you back my play."

"I wouldn't !@#$ing love you if you weren't the one who jumped feet first onto Planet Mother!@#$er with a laser gun between your teeth," SPYGOD says, after a second: "And it wouldn't be !@#$ing fair if I got to jump, and I didn't let you."

"That's why I love you," Straffer says: "You get it. You get me."

"Is that the only reason?" the superspy asks, giving him a kiss that could stop a normal man's heart.

"It's in the top ten," Straffer mumbles around his lips and tongue.

"But please," SPYGOD says, kissing him with each word: "Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please come back to me."

"I'll do my best," Straffer swears: "I will. The caterer will be furious if we !@#$ing cancel."

"Yeah. And I got my tux being specially made in Dubai."

"That guy in Satwa?" 


"The one with the Thai place across the way?"

"The same."

"Black and gold?"

"!@#$ yes."

"I love you," Straffer says, looking him in the eyes: "I will crawl through hell, fight through heaven, and kick ass all the way through time and space if I have to, just to come back to you."

"Then go and do it," SPYGOD says. 

"And you promise me you won't !@#$ing brood," Straffer insists: "Go jump in your work. Make your stuff happen. Do what you have to."

"You know it," the superspy says, kissing him one last time. 

There's one more look between them. And then Raitha is there, smiling, instead of his lover.
And then she's gone, and there's just the office -- dark and foreboding, as ever.

And SPYGOD sighs, adjusts his sunglasses so no one can see he's crying.

And gets back to the !@#$...

Monday: 9/19/16

"...shock and revulsion nationwide as the interview between outlaw reporter Randolph Scott and the being claiming to be the Great Spirit goes viral..."


SCOTT: "So what would you say to the people of this nation? What would you want them to know?"

GREAT SPIRIT: "I'd want them to know that the time of silence is over. You think that because you hear nothing, there's nothing out there. That's not true. We've always been out there, listening and watching. We've heard the silent cries of our people. Cries of sadness and anger. Cries for justice and peace.

"The silence is going to stop. You will hear their cries. And you will hear our reply, and see it."

SCOTT: "What form will that reply take?"

GREAT SPIRIT: "Sometimes you hear the thunder after the lightning. This time you'll feel the lightning first."


"Well, Gretchen, I don't feel comfortable with some self-proclaimed god lecturing white people like myself about what some people did in this nation's past. We need to get past that, just like we need to get past this nonsense about slavery, and interning the Japanese, and profiling Muslims after the Computer Hell virus. We're a post-racist society, whatever the liberals might say, and we need to act like it."


GREAT SPIRIT: "All I can say about the American Indian Movement is that they shouldn't have stopped fighting. Words are fine, but there's a time to talk and a time to fight. Wounded Knee showed the people what happens when power feels threatened. It should have made them discover their own power, and respond to that threat in the only way power understands."

SCOTT: "What's that?" 

GREAT SPIRIT: "More power."


"... news coming in from Mars, from Freedom Party Candidate Ted Cruz. They have been fighting for just under a day, now. We hear they are breaking through the enemy's defenses and approaching their objective... whatever that is..."


 "Well, Fred, the President has considered the situation. And he's decided that, given what's been going in at Standing Rock, it's best to just let this issue lie for a time.  We do not believe that our nation is under any threat from this entity, or his cohorts. In fact we've enjoyed some very fruitful dialogue with them, lately..."


SCOTT: "Is there anything you would say to your people, at this point? It's been a while since you've spoken to them."

GREAT SPIRIT: "We speak to them all the time. They just don't listen. They let this world blind them to the light from our fire, and deafen them to the drums from our circle. They can't hear the call to come dancing because they've lost the connection to our world."

SCOTT: "How do they get it back, then? Come sit by your fire? Groove in the mud here?"

GREAT SPIRIT: "Well, a good start would be to deal with their so-called leadership on those sorry reservations they live in. I've seen what passes for tribal elders, there. It makes me sick. They're more interested in using the law to make money. They let their people get sick on poison. And then they blame the white man for their problems."


JOE TWO MOONS: "How dare he claim to speak for our people? We don't even know who he is. All I can tell you is that as the leader of my Tribe, and the CEO of a casino that's brought countless jobs to this reservation? We're doing just fine without him."

REPORTER: "Sir, what about the pending investigation into your possible involvement in a heroin trafficking ring...?"

JOE TWO MOONS: "This interview is over."


"... still unsure why a police officer shot an unarmed man, his hands in the air, who seems to have simply been returning to his stalled vehicle. The Governor of Oklahoma has promised a full investigation..."


SCOTT:  "So what should they do, then?"

GREAT SPIRIT: "They should remember that they are a proud and worthy people. They should leave those pits the white man gave them and move out into the land beyond them. They should work hard, act well, and contribute to that world. Add to its culture. Create harmony. And bring the songs of our people out into the open."

SCOTT: "Conquer by assimilation?" 

GREAT SPIRIT "Up to a point. But they should also remember that they walk with their ancestors, and we spirits. When they encounter trouble, we will be there. When there is danger, we will aid them.

"And if there is trouble, we will come to stop it."


"I, Seranu of the Olympians, state now and clearly that we bear no ill will towards our cousins. We find their cause to be just, and their concerns to be correct. 

"We only ask that they be considerate of the very delicate balance we gods find ourselves in, right now. With so many of us coming back to this world, it is only natural that its inhabitants may be afraid, or at least worried. 

"If we say or do too many things at once, that fear may turn to panic.

"And panic is often the author of tragedy..."


 SCOTT: "You're here in South Dakota, at Standing Rock. You've chosen this place to congregate, and make yourselves known to be here. One might wonder if this conflict is the trouble you speak of."

GREAT SPIRIT: "All troubles are one trouble, now. The trouble is that our people are not taken seriously by the government of this land. They're used to handing off beads and trinkets, and hoping we quiet down and go away. They're also used to pointing a gun at us, and saying go back to your hovel and make no more noise."

SCOTT: "But you're not going to be quiet, are you?"

GREAT SPIRIT: "No, I am not. We are not. We are going to say that this pipeline goes no further. We are going to say that these lands be left alone. We are going to say that all sacred lands be left alone."

SCOTT: "And if they say no?"


GREAT SPIRIT: "That will be our answer. Only on that day, there will be lightning and thunder.

"And they won't like it when the lightning flies up their asses...."


"... oddly enough, there has been no comment forthcoming from The COMPANY, which has taken the point in maintaining some semblance of order among the various pantheons that are now appearing, or wanting to emigrate, to America.

"Attempts to get a comment from SPYGOD as to the seriousness of this threat resulted in our reporter being tossed out of the Heptagon with his microphone crammed somewhere unsuitable for broadcast..."

 Tuesday: 9/20/1

"... coming through on this channel? Are you receiving us? This is Myron with the Reclamation Force. We're having communications issues, right now...

"... still advancing on the enemy position. We've lost about half of our remaining Lightship fleet to their defenses. It's like they've turned the caverns into crap and weaponized it. Every corner is a mine or a beam emplacement. We're lucky that...

"... Aesir running ahead of us. They're taking the crabs down, the combat troops are finishing them off, and some of the talents are clearing a path. Others are up with the lightships, dealing with the defensive grid.

"... lost some people already. A lot of Aesir are going down. I'm not sure if they're coming back up again..."

"... and... oh crap. Oh God, no. Um... you have to tell SPYGOD we lost-"


* * *

"How do you lost a comatose patient?" Rakim asks, looking over the mounds of data he's been feeding the Brain Computer all morning.

"He was never !@#$ing comatose," SPYGOD says, holding up one of the security tapes: "All the time Martha was there? He was constantly blinking in and out. Sometimes he was an illusion, sometimes he was moving so fast he couldn't be seen to move."

"And no one had any idea of this?"

"Yeah," the superspy grumbles: "Syphon was always missing the !@#$ing obvious."

"Well, I bet she's not missing anything now," the former Brainman smiles, stroking his long beard as the computer digests what it's been given: "I'll let you know as soon as I have a prediction, sir."

"Yeah, that reminds me," SPYGOD says, taking a stroll out of the room and down the hall, and calling someone on one of his many phones...

* * *

"... yeah, he's still here," Frankie sighs, putting her hose on one leg at a time as her on-again, off-again calls up about his 'little favor.'

"Don't worry, I've got Holly looking after him... yes, she'll make sure he's okay. She's flighty, not stupid."

"I hear that!" Holly shouts from the other room, to which Frankie responds by flipping her off.

"I heard that, too," Holly protests.

"Yeah, no problem, handsome," Frankie grins: "So after this, it's Hollywood, huh? That's what you always say.

"Yeah," she sighs: "Love you too, you big ngo. Bye bye."

Then she hangs up, puts the phone down, and does her nails with total precision -- wondering who'll be paying her bar price tonight. 

Wednesday: 9/21/16

Dear Lord, forgive me. I may have forgotten how to pray.

I'm about to go into battle, Lord. I don't know if I will survive.

They say I'm invulnerable, now. They say I have powers that let me reform my body from almost nothing.

They say I should be able to walk through all the living toxic sludge that we are about to battle, and not only survive, but strike the decisive blow.

They're all confident in my abilities, Lord. They think they know how I'll do even better than I do.

But I'm scared, Lord. I was scared when I went up against that giant Antichrist, in Russia. And I'm scared now.

There's something about this place, Lord. This dead, red planet that's full of holes, and crawling with filth given form. This broken world we've come to reclaim.

This hole in time and space that someone's going to have to go through and seal.

They say it'll be Straffer who does it. They won't say why, though. 

All that I know is that when he spoke with SPYGOD, last, the goodbye they had made me cry. 

(Is it wrong that I don't care, anymore, that they're gay? That all I see when I look at them is the love?)

Lord, something tells me the plan is going to change. Something tells me I'm going to be called upon to do more than I bargained for.

Something tells me I won't be coming back from all this.

Lord, I am your instrument. Your servant. If you tell me to fight, I will fight. And if I must die, here and now, then I am ready.

But I am afraid, Lord. I am surrounded by the darkness, here. By shadows come to life.

And in the valley of this Shadow, I need to know that you are with me...

It's starting.The drilltank is coming up into the place where the lightships and the Aesir have been fighting, the last few days. We're about to do this.

And we're all here in this drilltank, surrounded by the light of a woman who says she's a god -- a woman I mocked, not too long ago -- and heading for the most dangerous part of the planet.

Oh Lord, protect me. Protect us. Have mercy on all of us. Let us succeed.

In your name...

* * *

My name is Randolph Scott. I'm an outlaw reporter. 

If you asked me what that means, I'd tell you that it's simple. I get the truth, no matter what, even if I have to become the story in order to report it.

Sometimes it means I just kick in the door instead of knocking on it. Sometimes it means I stick a gun under someone's nose until I get the answers.

Sometimes it means I fire that damn gun, too. I don't do !@#$ by half-measures, anymore.

There's no !@#$ing room for half measures, these days. Either you're in or you're out. 

And damn am I ever in. 

I wasn't always like this, though. I used to be fairly safe reporter, not too long ago.

I worked for Alternet. I stuck to topics that were easy to understand, and held positions it was easy to be self-righteous about.

I wrote whiny, self-indulgent columns about how the Republicans were screwing the country, or the world. I got on TV and gave the business to the talking heads from the other side, and took their business in return. 

It sounded important, at the time. And maybe in some ways, some of the things I talked about, and the views I held, were actually pretty damn important from time to time. Maybe I changed some minds. Maybe I even changed policies, though I !@#$ing doubt that. 
But it was all predictable. All boring. 

All safe. 

And then I managed to get onto a real sweet deal. A press conference with SPYGOD, himself, who'd just kicked major supernazi ass down at the South Pole, and was holding court on what he'd done, and why.

And me? I just had to !@#$ing stick my foot up his ass...

Randolph Scott looks at what he's just written, makes a sour face, and then considers nuking it all.

Too long, he thinks. Too much of him, not enough of the story.

Self-indulgent. Smug, even.

Not the sort of thing you could consider for a eulogy, let alone an obituary.

He takes a deep breath, considers having some more of the scotch he's been nipping at since Helga died, this morning.

Jana is having trouble breathing. He can hear her in the room next door. They call it "respiratory distress" -- when the body's shutting down, but the lungs and heart haven't gotten the message, yet, and are putting all their energy into keeping the brain alive, no matter what.

It sounds awful. It looks even worse.

He sat in the room for exactly and hour, watching. Trying to write. And then he realized he couldn't do it.

(Velma told him to get out. Bless her for that. )

So he's here, next door, trying to write up how they all met. How he started this whole story that led to them becoming not just a story, but his own family.

And how he's losing them -- watching them die because they just weren't built to last.

"So much for German engineering," he mutters, and considers if he should put that in there or not.

(Write though the pain. kid, he tells himself: write through the pain.)

And after a genuine snort of the good stuff, he does. Especially after he realizes that the reason he can't talk so much about his kids is because he can't really accept what's happening to them, now...

Thursday: 9/22/16

"How is this happening?" the Candidate gasps, looking at the latest poll numbers: "I'm losing ground to this Socialist twit across the board?"

"You are, yes," his campaign manager says, shaking his head.

"How can this be happening?"

"Well, there's a number of factors," the kid says, looking around: "But I'd say your son's stupid post about skittles had a hand in it."

The two of them are standing in the man's large hotel room -- an executive suite the size of a small airplane hangar, with a genuine Chihuly chandelier dominating the high roof. It's full of big time donors, fellow travelers, and the like.

All of them trying to put on a brave face, in spite of the weird turn the news has taken for their great, orange hope. 

"This can't be happening," the beefy, big-faced man says, sitting down in a chair worth over $5000 and shaking his head, touching the sigil the late King Whip gave him: "This is supposed to be protecting me..."

"Well, King Whip is..." the campaign manager starts to say, and then doesn't finish the thought.

He really does not want to ever have to think about what they found in that box -- not ever, ever again.

"This is just incredible," the Candidate says, putting the polling data down and reaching for a glass of champagne -- one handed off by a waiter who doesn't even bother to smile at him, anymore: "The fact that a city like Detroit can just get taken over by super criminals. Unbelievable."

"Well, the city's always had a really weird relationship with heroes-"

"That's what happens when a city gets run into the ground by useless people," the beefy man says: "It just gets really bad. Totally bad."

"Well, it's a bit more complex than that-"

"All I need to know is if this thing will keep working even though King Whip isn't around," he interrupts, tapping the sigil: "Just through October. Can we count on it?"

As if to answer him, the sigil crumbles under the weight of his finger -- just enough to send a few crumbs down his suit jacket.

The moment that happens, it's like a switch gets thrown. The mood of the party sours. People stop talking and start grumbling.

Some of them even look across the room at the man they were lauding, just seconds ago, and give him that look. The look he knows too well from countless soirees and parties and get-togethers, from all the years before.

The look that says "who are you to say such things?" and "what have you done for me, lately?"

And all he can say is...

* * *

"...please tell me you're fucking joking about fucking the horse," the Alter-Earth SPYGOD says to his new master as they step through time and space itself.

"I never jest about my romances, my good and faithful servant," the adoptive son of Odin chuckles -- his wide smile taxing the facial muscles of the person he's wearing.

"A horse?"

"The true question is not why I chose to masquerade as such a beast, but rather what was in it for me."

"I'm guessing your life was on the line?"

"Oh, to be certain," Loki chuckles, waving a hand to bring them out of where they are, and back into reality -- emerging in a large, dark cave.

"And then you gave birth to... what?"

"Faithful Sleipnir," the trickster says, looking around the cave: "Currently ridden by the All-Father, himself. Eight legs has this steed, graceful and swift. There are none better."

"And for that you laid with an animal."

"Have you, not, yourself laid with another to gain some advantage?" 

"All the fucking time. I just violate some dumb beast. That's..."

"Wrong?" Loki smiles: "Unseemly? Perverted? This from you, who have done so many delightfully wicked things in your time?" 

"I never raped a thing that couldn't say no," the Alter-Earth SPYGOD insists, disgusted at the idea: "Animals are food or beasts of burden. It's not right to make them suffer."

"SvaĆ°ilfari hardly suffered," the trickster says, considering something: "In fact, I think I was the best..."


"Can you not feel it?" Loki asks, waving a hand around in the air: "We are not alone, here, friend (DETCADER). The ghost in time watches us, even now."

"Then get what we fucking came here for and get out," his new servant insists: "This time bullshit gives me a fucking headache."

"Very well," the person wearing Thomas Samuel's amazing new body says, and reaches down to take a certain very powerful gun from where the time ghost in question left it for the future to find.

And then...

* * *

"... Odin is down. I repeat, Odin is down..." Shining Guardsman says, doing his best to haul what's left of his friend back behind the lines. 

It was a bad idea, either way. The latest crab to come crashing through the dimensional portal was a lot larger than the rest. A lot meaner, too.

(And something about the sacs on its underside gave the others pause)

But Odin? He had no fear. He hadn't shown so much as a hint of it this entire time.

(Especially after the death of his son, Thor, on the first day of battle...)

No, not Odin. He leaped right at it -- spear in hand, sword at the ready. And those battle-hardened Aesir that remained followed shortly after. 

At which point the beast exploded, showering everyone within close proximity with the kind of poisonous, acidic sludge they've been wading in -- and losing people to -- every inch of the way. 

Odin took the brunt of it. He shielded the others as best as he could, but it wasn't nearly enough. 

And now Mr USA is dying -- his lower half a mess of melted flesh, torn muscle, and weeping organs, all showing under the skirt of Odin's armor.

Which suddenly isn't there...

"My God," the hero says in his own voice, and then gasping in pain.

"(REDACTED)?" the cyborg asks, gently putting him down: "Is that you...?"

"It is," Mr USA says, blinking eyes dilated by what must be extreme pain and shock: "I'm... I'm me. I can feel..."

He looks down at his midsection, and then up at the face of his younger ally: "I guess that's why I can't... feel the cancer..."

"Man, don't move," Shining Guardsman says: "Let me get you to the drill tank. We can stabilize you. We can..."

"No," the older hero dies: "It's okay. This is... this is how it happens. I saw this a long ago. When I was somewhere else. When I was with someone else... I can't explain it... take too long..."

"Please don't die," the hero begs his friend: "Not now. Not after we got you through the cancer, and..."

"The cancer was just delayed..." Mr. USA says, smiling in spite of it all: "Last treatment used up. I would have died in Moscow if Odin hadn't... if we hadn't..."

He closes his eyes again, and then opens them -- panicking.

"Tell Straffer..." he says, taking Shining Guardsman by the arm with such urgency it almost breaks his armor: "Tell Myron... it's not what they think it is."

"What is?" the cyborg asks, unsure if this is warning, delirium, or both.

"The war," he gasps, looking up at the flaming roof of the massive cavern as something explodes nearby: "All this... it's been planned... all plans... everyone..."

"Whose plan?" Shining Guardsman demands of him: "Tell me, man! What's going on? Give me a hint..."

"Naglfar..." the older hero says, pointing weakly to the roof of the cavern, and beyond it: "Look out for..."

And then he smiles, in spite of dying -- or maybe because of it...

Because here comes a large, gorgeous redhead to take him away from all this. 

The woman he's only ever seen tangentally, and then only because of the glowing dragonflies in her wake. 

"Tombo," he says, shaking her hand: "It's good to finally meet you."

"Come on, handsome," she says, going for the hug instead: "Your wife is waiting for you."

"What about... Charles?"

She winks: "Him too. They've hooked up over here, believe or not."

"Oh..." he says, and then chuckles: "Of course they did. I loved them both. Why wouldn't they love each other."

"It doesn't always work like that, silly," she playfully corrects him as she leads him away: "And no looking back, now. That's done."

"I know," he says, smiling: "It's all taken care of, anyway..."

And Shining Guardsman takes the time to weep, having seen America's greatest hero die a second time...

Friday: 9/23/16

"...I can't !@#$ing believe this," Josie mutters, watching the news feed: "I just can't..."

"Oh, I can," Dragonfly says, chuckling: "And I say good for her."

"This isn't funny, Agent," the COMPANY Second insists, pointing at the riot on the screen -- the one with a short, human dynamo in the center, tossing armored cops every which way: "This is a law enforcement situation. Red Wrecker has no business being there, let alone joining in..."

"Unless it's a revolution," the former assassin says, rubbing her hands together: "And then it might be a good idea for us to all know whose side we're on."

"And all of our heavy hitters are on Mars, fighting time crabs," the burly, pink-haired clone goes on: "And God knows how that's going...?"

"Still can't get through, ma'am," the harried communications director sighs.

"And Yanabah's at Standing Rock keeping that from boiling over. Gosheven's on top secret assignment. Swiftfoot's in the wind, again. Hanami's taken personal time at the worst time possible. Mister Freedom isn't answering his phone..."

"Free Fire's still a pile of scrap," some AGENT says, thinking he's being helpful.

"Rakim's sort of available," someone else offers.

"No, he's helping The Owl find her son," yet another AGENT corrects: "Been in with the Brain Computer all week trying to figure that !@#$ out." 

"And our Director is doing... whatever the !@#$ he's doing," Josie finishes the thought: "And now this. This!"

"You want me to bring her in?" Dragonfly asks, smiling as she watches the loop of Red Wrecker decking riot cops left right and center, one more time: "I will, if you make it an order."

"I shouldn't have to," she grumbles, but then nods: "Just do it gently."

"Like a lamb, ma'am," the white-clad, former assassin grins, heading out with absolutely no intention of obeying orders...

* * *

"Yeah, well, no," Slam Bang says, walking away from what's going on -- both armored arms up -- as yet another massive crab comes scuttling through the flowing rift in time, a few cavern entrances away.

"You don't have a damn choice!" The Sound shouts, his voice strange in the light atmosphere of Mars's massive, underground caverns: "You came here do to a job! Do it or-"

"Or what?" Kweekweg asks, his combat suit not slowing him down at all as he points his rather large harpoon gun at the intangible villain-turned-hero: "You'll set us straight, mate? Is that what you think?"

"We agreed to this," The Sound says, waving his hands at the frenzied battle just behind them -- the one Earth's forces are clearly losing: "All of us!"

"That was before this started going to !@#$," the armored bank robber says: "Me, I say we get the !@#$ out while the getting's good."

"What the hell is going on here?" a voice asks, its owner quickly whooshing over to them from the melee. 

"We're having some trouble with our part in things," the harpoon-hunter says to Shining Guardsman - - noting how loosely the cyborg's armor is hanging off his frame.

"All you have to do is hold this position until the crabs come this way," the armored hero insists: "Then you nail them from one side while we get them from the other. How damn hard is that?"

"Not hard at all, provided we forget we're cannon fodder," Kweekweg insists: "Or we forget that these things turn everything to poison when we do kill them."

"And then we forget that we're all supposed to climb over that poison to get to the next objective," SlamBang adds.

"We're all taking the same damn risks, here," Shining Guardsman insists: "All of us."

"We're not all immortal, though, are we?" the harpoon hunter says, gesturing to the fight going on -- especially to all the Aesir who are chopping their way through the enemy: "Some of us have to sell our lives pretty dearly-"

"How dare you say that..." the cyborg hisses: "After what just happened? How dare you say that!"

"I'm a villain, mate," Kweekweg chuckles: "Nice isn't in the description-"

"It sure isn't in mine, either," all the villains hear over their suit intercoms just then.

"Um, yeah," SlamBang says: "Is that you, Myron?"

"It is, yes," the former Underman says: "And I've heard every word, and I have to say I'm really !@#$ing disappointed. I thought we had an agreement."

"Well, it's like this-"

"Save it," Myron says: "You will stick to your part of the plan. You will do exactly as you're supposed to. Or I'll just blow your suits open from here and you can all suffocate for all I care."

There's a moment of silence, and then the villains nods: "Yes, sir" they say in near-unison.

"Stand your ground and aim your damn guns," Shining Guardsman says, rocketing away: "Don't make me come back to tell you that."

The Sound smiles, and then beams it at his two companions, thinking he's won.

But as soon as he's turned away, SlamBang and KweeKweg look at one another, and are clearly thinking the same thing.

There's going to be a reckoning. And soon...

Saturday: 9/24/16

The old man stands on a bluff overlooking the sprawling camp at night, hands on his hips, and studies the motions of those below.

He pretends he doesn't hear the woman as she approaches -- stealthy and sly, and quite unlike the creature she's got inside of her. But as soon as she gets within a few feet the Great Spirit chuckles.

"How long did you know?" Yanabah asks, not bothering to sneak up the rest of the way.

"How long did I know you were there?" he asks, his voice deep and firm: "Or how long did I know you were coming?"


"I knew you were there because I heard you before you got to the bluff," he chuckles, adjusting the campy, offensive tie he's wearing today: "You walk pretty loud."

"I thought I was being silent."

"Maybe to most. I really should teach you how to move as I do. Without disturbing so much as a blade of grass."

"I'd love to learn that," she says, with no little amount of reverence: "I still don't know why you're being so nice to me."

"Because I knew you were coming," the Great Spirit answers: "All this has been foretold."

"All of this?" she asks, gesturing to the camp below.

"This great battle we stand on the brink of," he explains further: "The struggle that was. The conflict that is. The things yet to come..."

He looks far away for a moment, as though he's seeing through things, again. When he looks back at her it's as though he's seeing through her skin and into her soul.

"Bad times are coming, granddaughter," he says, putting a hand on her shoulder: "Will you still walk with me?"

"Yes," she swears, putting a hand on his hand: "Forever, if you'll have me."

"Will you fight with me?"

"You have to ask?"

"I do."

"Then yes," she swears as well.

"And will you not fight for me, when the time comes?" he asks: "If I tell you to lay down your gun and your bow and your knife? To let the being inside you rage but not let it out? Will you do that as well?"

"Of course," she says, not sure where this is going: "I swear it."

He nods, and then slowly turns from her to look down at the camp.

"The storm's coming," he explains: "First the wind changes. Then the sky darkens. When the rain comes, some will hide. And when the lightning strikes, more will run.

"It's going to be some sad times, that storm," he promises: "But after the storm, there will be sunshine, again..."

She stands by his side, proud to be there -- thinking she understands what he means.

And he stands there, doing his best to hide his sadness -- knowing she wont' realize what he means until it's too late...

* * *

"... and no one's here, I swear," the weird-acting security guard whispers into a sub-dermal communicator, located between his jaw and his ear: "Well, other than me. And that other guard. But he's on the other side of the building-"

"!@#$ing focus, you goddamn goofball," the person he's talking to growls at him: "If you screw this up I swear I'm tossing your ass into a blender."

"Whatever, boss," Gosheven sighs, looking down yet another long corridor and wondering if the secure room he's looking for is here: "Just don't blow me up, okay?"

"I told you-"

"Yeah, yeah," the shapeshifter (currently disguised as Jose Rodrigo, 34) snorts: "Tell it to poor Swiftfoot, if you can find him."

SPYGOD falls silent at that, and Gosheven doesn't know if he said the right thing at last, or maybe said the last thing he'll ever say.

"Have you heard anything from Mars, yet?" he asks, trying to defuse the tension after a minute too long of stonelike silence.

"If I did, don't you think you'd have !@#$ing heard it?"

"With you? I have no damn idea," the shapeshifter says, shrugging: "For all I know you've heard from Straffer every half hour, you've made it there and back twice, and Elvis called up the other night to complain about where you stashed him."

"He's in no shape to complain about a damn thing," the superspy says: "And I don't have time for your chatter."

"Okay," he sighs, but a second later he realizes he's found what he's looking for.

"Almacenamiento Especial 52," he reads off the door: "No abrir puerta de alarma. Peligro, no entre. Me chinga su esposo."

"You !@#$ing wish," SPYGOD snorts: "You got the way in, right?"

"Got it," he chuckles, using Jose's stolen keycard to gain access to the large storeroom. He's inside in less than a second, and then using everything he learned from the guard -- once he got him into several complicated and compromising positions -- to turn off the security systems made to keep those guards from snooping too much. 

"Do you have it in sight?" SPYGOD demands, not liking the silence.

"Do I !@#$ing ever," Gosheven says, whistling at the sight of what's dominating the room. 

"Well good, then," the superspy says: "Hold the damn fort as long as you have to. I'll have the Roaring Boys there in exactly five minutes, ten seconds."

"And then what?"

"And then, there's someone else I need you to procure for me," SPYGOD says.

"Who's that?" the shapeshifter chuckles, wondering how long it'll take the other guard to get to this point, and what he'll do to him when he does: "The guy who knows how to work this thing?"

And when SPYGOD tells him, Gosheven's only response is "who...?" 

Sunday: 9/25/16

"... Director Straffer of the UN Space Service, you !@#$ing acid-!@#$ing piece of garbage!" the blonde cyborg screams, shooting the latest emissary from the hole to pieces as he does.

"Sir!" Senator Ted Cruz says, clearly aghast: "Language!"

"I don't think that really means a damn thing, right about now," Shining Guardsman says -- his cobbled-together armor barely holding up in the face of what they now stand before.

They've finally done it. They've broken past the final guardians, the last defenses. They've strode past nightmare barriers and spiritually-toxic emplacements.

And now they stand on the shores of the great hole in time that has haunted the Lunar Planum for countless ages.

The enemy can't send any more of those massive crabs through, anymore. The moment they appear, New Man fires down the way and kills it before it even gets started towards them.

All they can do is send these horrible little things -- strange mockeries of the human form, some of them wearing faces both familiar and tragic -- to try and broker some kind of truce.

(The last one was a Lightship pilot they'd lost early in the siege. Seeing her made Straffer furious. Hearing her talk... well, that brought out the guns.)

"So now what shall we do?" Orn of the Vanir asks, patting his borrowed hips as he looks through the bag of tricks his vessel brought along or made here: "Is there a trick or a toy you shall require to travel into that?"

"Yes," Myron communicates from back in the drill tank, some distance away -- his team settling matters with the nasty things the last few batches of crabs gave birth to after they died: "I'm sure we'd all like to know what to do now?"

"There is, yes," Straffer says, grinning: "This has been a long, slow crawl. It ends only one way. We get in there, and we stop it up on the other side."

"And how do we do that?" Myron asks: "You and Odin sort of hashed that out. I only got every other word."

"And what do you mean by we?" Ted Cruz asks, hoping that this cup might yet be lifted from him.

And Straffer smiles, and is about to explain.

Until someone pulls a sword and something really stupid...

* * *

"... like get right on television and talk about us," Karl says, holding Randolph's hand.

"I want to," Randolph says, trying not to squeeze his son's hand too hard. It might snap the brittle bones under that papery, clear skin.

"So you don't lose any of the feeling?"

"So they know," the outlaw reporter says: "They know what happened to you. They know who you are, and what you did. They know all those special things about you, your brothers, your sisters..."

"They're all in here, still," the withered old man smiles, tapping his forehead: "The link between us. When one of us dies, it's like the rest of us get something of them. A little piece of their soul, maybe."

"I wish I could do that," Randolph says, trying so hard not to cry: "Have you in my head."

"You do," Karl says, putting his other hand down so he can hold his father's with both of them: "You always will."

With that he smiles, and closes his eyes. 

And the last piece of the tragic legacy of ABWEHR dies...

* * *

"... if I fucking drop this," the Alter-Earth SPYGOD insists, looking intently at the vial he's just concocted using the Wandering Shadow's rather impressive laboratory. 

"And this poison, you say, can kill a god?" Loki asks, seeming rather incredulous. 

"It doesn't look like much, does it?" the doppelganger chuckles darkly, putting the vial down into a safe container: "Just gooey water. If you rub some of this shit over a non-porous surface it'll dry up in minutes, but still be good for at least a whole week."

"And then?"

"And then, on contact with skin..." the counterworld man grins: "It does two things very fucking quickly. The first is that it binds the soul to its physical container. And the second...?"

He takes a narrow pipette of the stuff from the vial, and heads over to a rat in a small, glass box he's gotten from the dead spymaster's stores. One drop goes splat on the thing's head.

And a second later, the rat drops down -- its skull a hollow, red bowl that's turning to liquid as they watch.

"The second is that it consumes the body, like the venom of a Ridgebacked Wyrm," Loki says, astonished at how quickly it works: "Like a stack of dishes falling to the ground, and crashing to powder."

"I was gonna say a row of dominoes, but I don't know if they fucking have them in Asgard." 

"We have something similar," Loki says: "And you are certain this will work?"

"I've used it a time or two before." 

"On your enemies?" the trickster grins: "Or your friends?"

"A friend is just an enemy waiting for the right fucking moment to stab you in the godsdamned back," the SPYGOD of Alter-Earth proclaims: "I prefer to think of teammates."

"And I prefer to have slaves," Loki smiles: "Especially useful ones."

"So now what do we do," the servant in question asks: "Master?"

"Find the right rat..." Loki muses, holding up the glass cage to watch the red, semi-transparent goo that used to be a lab animal rolling around the bottom...

* * *

... of the cavern floor, Freyja's blade still stuck through his borrowed heart.

"I told you, husband, that I would I lay you low for this insult," she says, her knee on Odr's neck: "And so I have done."

"You crazy..." Straffer gasps, looking around as all the Aesir there -- what few yet remain -- raise their swords and point them in the direction of the strategic talents and combat troops: "What are you doing?"

"Attending to a matter of honor," the Shieldmaiden says, giving him a clear look of 'stay the !@#$ back': "One I feel no need to explain."

"I could well explain it to them, my wife," Odr gasps -- still some life in Xhasm's breast, after all: "But I think they would fail to understand."

"You should have accepted the golden tears, fool," she mutters, stamping on his neck -- breaking it not quite in two, and ending his life.

"You just killed our best chance of going there and coming back!" Straffer shouts: "Xhasm knew-" 

"Nothing of what we know," Freyja announces: "The All-Father is dead. His son has likewise fallen. All that remains for us now is the final war. The Ragnarok.

"And it lies within!" she proclaims, pointing to the hole in time and space they stand before...
* * *
"... we go in," Myron says to the others in the tank: "I'm not letting this get !@#$ing ruined at the last minute by her getting religion."

And he turns to do so, in that moment forgetting who's in the tank with him.

And SlamBang and KweeKweg look to one another, and then to The Sound, who's also not paying attention.

And then...
* * *
... Naglfar -- a ship made from the nails of thousands of dead men -- quickly turns from orbit, and begins to hurtle towards a certain spot on the surface of Mars.

And then...
* * *

... and all the remaining Olympians scream in pain as one of their number vanishes from their presence...

...Martha Samuels decides she's had enough of waiting for an answer about her son's whereabouts, and goes to put on a long-neglected, newly-augmented uniform...

... The Candidate looks at the crumbling thing on his lapel -- afraid to take off his jacket for fear of it falling apart -- and realizes he's on his own...

... and new pilgrims arrive at the protest camp, all wishing to speak to their spirits, and not caring about the National Guard that's currently observing their movements....

... as the Alter-Earth SPYGOD listens to what his so-called master commands of him, and finds it rather fitting...

... and Randolph Scott and Velma Dinkley bury their adopted children side by side, so they will always be together...

... and Hanami bows deeply before the red and silver beings she has just met, truly awed by their power and grace...

... and Red Wrecker and Dragonfly hide out in Charlotte, drinking and laughing as they wonder how long they can stay AWOL and get away with it...

 ... and authorities at Costa Rica's Laboratorias de Ciencias y de Almancenamiento Nacionales cannot explain how their central lockup at Cartago was burgled and then burned down...

... and SPYGOD realizes what a lack of news from Mars must mean, and activates the Roaring Boys to begin Operation Plagiarism...

... at which, ten minutes later, a well-known writer gets abducted between rooms in his house, and scuttled away to an unknown destination...
* * *
... as the surface of Mars buckles and then collapses in a certain spot -- doubtlessly burying everyone and everything that was there under billions of tons of red rubble -- a split second before the ship of the Aesir crashes right into it. 

There isn't so much an explosion as there is an absence of aftermath. No sound of a blast. No bright lights. 

Just a hole in reality that opens and closes, leaving nothing behind to show it was ever there.

Dust clouds churn and settle. The twin moons float on by. The sun rises, then crests, and then sets.

And if Mars itself feels it should stop silently spinning to mark the end of not one war, but two, it makes no sign.

(SPYGOD is listening to Crapage (Front 242) and having a Naglfare

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