Monday, September 12, 2016

Apotheoclypse Now: 9/5/16 - 9/11/16

"Punishes disclosure / And never gets rattled..."

(The Time AGENT)

(Art by the Lemonade Project)

* * *
* * *

So, you want to know why we're still here, on this line, standing for our land, our people, our water?

I could just bull!@#$ you. I could just say we're too proud to bend. Too tough to fold.

Too strong to be scared by private guards and angry dogs.

But the truth is that, today, we know we are not alone.

Today, we were expecting more fighting, more guards. We were committed to non-violence, but we were ready to defend ourselves.

Things could have gotten ugly. 

But we remembered to pray, today. We prayed to our spirits. Our ancestors. The ones who walked the land before us, and the ones who will walk it forever and ever.

We prayed, and this time they didn't just send us their strength. 

This time? They came.

So if you're wondering why the feds are allowing an injunction, and why the private guards are gone, and why their dogs are whimpering like they got whipped?

Well, you just look up at that cloud, there, in the sky. The one that doesn't move. 

The one that looks like the face of an old man. The one with lightning in its eyes, and its mouth.

You hear the boom of thunder in an otherwise clear sky, and know that our spirits walk with us, today. 

So you let us have our water, our land, our rights. You stay away from our sacred land, and do not dig under it.

And you take your oil pipeline, and you shove it.

Because the thunder comes from lightning, sir. And you don't want to be standing there when it hits...

Monday: 9/5/16

Labor Day. Supposed to be the day we all !@#$ing put up our feet, crack a beer, cook a couple dogs, and do a whole lot of nothing to celebrate our tradition of American working practices, right?

Well, not here, son. Not anywhere !@#$ing near here, frankly. I got the whole !@#$ing COMPANY on high alert, after the last couple weeks, which means every available AGENT is doing double shifts, and two-timing duty stations on top of it...

Why? Jesus !@#$ing Christ in a go-kart going over goddamn Niagara Falls backwards in a barrel full of horse!@#$ and dead monkeys, son, have you been paying attention?

 First off, I got a ton of Gods all coming back to the world and wanting to !@#$ing set up shop like nothing's changed over the last couple centuries or so.  And for some !@#$ing reason, known only to those Gods, they all want to !@#$ing come to America. It's like some lousy modern fantasy novel coming to life or something...

And then I got a dead Japanese Prime Minister, blown away at the !@#$ing Olympics. Which wouldn't normally be my !@#$ing business, except I thought it was done by my evil twin from Alter Earth. Not that the Japanese, the Brazilians, or the !@#$ing Olympics people wanted to hear what I had to say.

Of course, it's just as well they didn't !@#$ing listen to me, as it was actually done by the !@#$ing Wandering Shadow, himself. I hear he hates me now, and actually tried to have me !@#$ing killed while I was still brainsmashed, a while back. 

But now he's got that damned alien supergun the Nazis used to have, and then the Soviets, and that I stole from them for safekeeping, only I gave it to one of our people and she got snatched by my evil twin, so he had it, only now he !@#$ing doesn't...

Confusing? !@#$, son, just wait. It turns out that assassination by !@#$ing proxy was just his funny way of saying 'hi,' and 'oh boy do I have a deal for you.'

That's right, son. Turns out my doppelganger's rightly freaked the !@#$ out about the god thing. Except that he's !@#$ing telling me he's got a way to kill them. And he wants to do a deal with me where he tells me how to !@#$ing kill them.

And in return I let him have Africa. Like this was !@#$ing Risk, or something. 

Got all that?

Now, on a more personal note? I got an outlaw reporter minus one eye because of that
!@#$ing bastard. And he's got some real !@#$ at home, waiting for him...


And I've sent a bunch of my heroes and turned villains off to !@#$ing Mars so my fiancee can turn what should have been an aerial bombardment into a full on ground war... underground, at that. 

And Myron decided to take !@#$ing Ted Cruz with them, since they're up against bits and pieces of the goddamn Decreator, which means one of the people who might be President is on what might be a one way trip to the red planet, with a bunch of supervillains along for the !@#$ing ride. 

And then, as if I didn't need any more !@#$ing !@#$ on my goddamn plate? I just !@#$ing found out that the daughter of the last President? The one my evil !@#$ing twin turned into a goddamn monster, just like him? 

Well, she's on the lam, now. Got the !@#$ out of the Habitrail that Mister Freedom's supposedly got locked up tighter than a drum. Somehow managed to talk her FAUST case officer into stepping into her cage, and she skinned him and wore him out like a !@#$ing human suit.

Big damn fun, son. I gotta tell you. 

So no, son. No sleep over !@#$ing Brooklyn, tonight. I'm pulling a triple shift watching everyone's double, so there's no rest to be had on the Flier until I got this god !@#$ settled, I know where my evil twin is, and Mars is back under !@#$ing control again. 

So if anyone wants to know if I got a comment about Phyllis Schlafly finally popping her clogs at 92? You tell them I said that I'd shake the hands of any good Anti-commie, but that as one of the people she wanted to deny marriage rights to? She can so take a big old suck off the Devil's pecker, as they say down in Texas. And choke on the load.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I got some !@#$ to do and less than zero time to !@#$ing do it.

Tuesday: 9/6/16
(From the Personal Log of Myron "Underman" Volaar)

Day two of a week long voyage and I just had to toss someone out the damn airlock. Not exactly my finest moment, but it was necessary.

That's what I'm telling myself, anyway. I figure if I stick to that story I'll eventually believe it, and not second guess myself into a perfect circle of blame and remorse.

The reason's pretty damn clear, though. I made a bad mistake while I was playing Suicide Squad with the Heptagon's prisoners, and brought along someone that had no damn business being on the team.

Someone who turned out to be more stupid than I realized. 

I thought I could work with Xhasm. I really did. I thought the time she'd spent down in the basement prisons had made her more cooperative, and more open to rehabilitation.

I really did, but I guess you don't know which way someone's gonna jump until they're just over 24 million miles away from the pale, blue dot we all call home, and deciding it's the right time to try and pull off a hijacking, or whatever the !@#$ she was doing.

I mean, in some ways, I can't blame her. We are heading into what well be a goddamn suicide mission. We are preparing to go down below the surface of Mars and attack things that eat conventional weaponry for !@#$ing breakfast.

We are going up against a steady stream of the last remnants of the Decreator, on turf that it's had the run of for quite some time now.

And while you can say we've brought along a great deal of firepower, and we'll be allying with the Aesir once we can get there... well, for some that's not enough.

It's not like I didn't tell her this. I told them all what they were up for, and what they'd be going into. I told them they could volunteer to take time off their sentence, or say no and continue to rot down there, in the concrete. Like I might have if a certain one-eyed maniac decided not to take pity on me.

(To this day I don't know why. I doubt it was my impassioned speech about freedom and exploration. He probably just thought I was a damn loser because I was an Eagle Scout.)

So I told them, and some of them volunteered. And, to their credit, most of those volunteers did not get involved with Xhasm's crazy scheme to try and take over the ship.

She had to know it wasn't going to go anywhere. Not with over 100 COMPANY AGENTS on board, all wearing ground combat armor and ready to throw down. Not with a number of heroes here, too, just waiting for an excuse to kick some ass. Not with a Presidential Candidate who can punch the Devil into near Earth orbit, either.

And to top it all off, we're heading to Mars in a massive lightship, with Raitha, herself on the prow. Did she really expect to convince an Olympian to heave to and let her commandeer the ship?

Like I said, stupid.

Of course, she had a plan. It involved the interesting, mostly explosive devices I brought her along for, and a few other things she thought of on the fly. I have to give her credit for ingenuity, really.

But I can't have a saboteur on board for something like this. I can't have someone encouraging the others to riot and try another go. I've seen enough bad Sci-fi TV to know what happens when you let someone live after an escape attempt.

So I told Rahine to form a hole under her feet, and drop her out into the black.

And then Xhasm was gone, flying behind us at half a million miles an hour. Normally bodies in space tend to orbit the ship, but we were going too damn fast for that, which was just fine by me because I really didn't need to see her lifeless, vacuum-pressed body bouncing along with us like some kind of grotesque pool toy...


Yes, I'm !@#$ing angry. I didn't want to have to do this. I thought we could all act like goddamn adults, here, for once.

But the last time something like this happened, I sort of let my guard down. I blinked when I shouldn't have. I trusted when I shouldn't have.

As a result, things got really damn bad. Zalea Zathros, one of the most dangerous evil geniuses in the world, got loose. It took SPYGOD forever to put her ass back in the damn box.

And I remember, after Israel, he found me, and made me buy him enough damn drinks to put a herd of elephants down under the table. Because what he had to do to stop her almost killed him, and he...


Well, he said some things. Things I'm not allowed to repeat, even to myself, on pain of death.

But one thing's for sure. The look in his eyes as he drank himself sober? The way he looked at me as I tried to apologize, and explain, over and over?

I never want to be looked at like that by anyone, ever again.

And I would space everyone on the damn villain team to keep that from happening. Even the ones I kind of like, in spite of it all.

Besides, now they know they can't !@#$ with me. So maybe all further attempts to get stupid will be nipped in the bud, which might save time and trouble later. So maybe it's a good thing the dumb !@#$ decided to get herself killed now.


In the meantime, I'm going to sit here, in my hard light cabin, have a few sips of this very potent !@#$ I brought from home for just such an emergency, and hope the rest of the trip goes a hell of a lot smoother.

And I don't have to become a worse monster than I appear to be, right now. 

Wednesday: 9/7/16

I'll say one thing about this backwards and broken world. It never fails to fucking amaze me.

Because just when I think I have it all figured out? That I have all variables accounted for, all slaves lined up, all helping hands at the ready, and all situations in hand? 

Well, that's when it all goes wrong. 

And the more certain my understanding was? The more it goes wrong. 

It's like this world was created just to fuck with me. I swear to the Gods.  

Case in point. No sooner do I deliver my offer to my wayward other, by way of that reporter he decided to adopt a few years ago, than the best thing I have going seemingly self-destructs on me. 

That would be the nigger, of course. The Wandering Shadow I turned into a madness junkie, thanks to the Eye of Horus, and gave the alien weapon to. 

Everything was fine when I left his mountain. But now, when I try to get back in? The fucking thing won't open for me. 

Which means one of three things, none of them any damn good.

One is that he's dead, which I fucking refuse to believe. Either that or incapacitated, which is more possible, but also not very likely.

Two is that he's cured himself, somehow, which I find even harder to believe. 

Three is that he's just gone out and not told me, contrary to my orders.

As the days have gone by, I think it's more likely the first option is correct. If he'd cured himself, he would have come to kill me. If he'd gone out, he'd be back by now, with the shivers coming on. 

So I have no Wandering Shadow in my arsenal, any longer. Which is not essential to my cause, now, but still would have made handling Africa once it was handed over to me a lot fucking easier. 

Meanwhile, I can't lean on the reporter and his squalid brood. They've left Prague, and are on a constant move. By the time I can scry them, they're already gone, which is highly sensible of them. 

Maybe I shouldn't have fucking told him that I knew where he was. Maybe I should have kept quiet, and paid them a visit when he failed to do what I asked, instead. 

I think coming home to find one of his children unencumbered by the iron rules of this sorry, sordid world, and putting their new freedom into practice on the others, would have gotten the point across very well...

But then, I do sometimes overdo it. I probably didn't need to eat his eye, after I took it out of his skull. I really should have just fucking stepped on it, or maybe shoved it up his ass and then made him eat it.

But I was hungry, still. And it was so juicy, and so sweet, just like so many things in this world...

How good a feeling it is to stand proud and tall, above it. To see it kneel before me and do my bidding.

Me, the son of a slave. A nameless, stationless lesser! Who could have guessed my face alone would mark me for greatness? 

Who could have said this nameless child, otherwise fated for a life of servitude, would one day hold the fate of two worlds in his hands?

I must always remember that. I must always have in my mind that I went from being someone's fucking property to being the most important person in those two worlds, almost overnight.

And no matter how bad things seem, I must remember that I planned for this. Even if I didn't know what was coming, I still have one more trick I can pull out of nowhere.

One more plan I can execute, as surely as any of my servants...    

Speaking of juicy and sweet things, and of servants, that cunt I set free a few months ago has freed herself, and now wants to rekindle our previous relationship. And that complicates matters even worse than not having the Wandering Shadow on my side, any longer. 

Not that I didn't enjoy her company, and what it provided. She was quite instrumental in making her sorry shithead of a father lose his mind, and play into my hands. And very useful in dealing with my wayward other, though she completely fucked up the job, as it turns out. 

(How hard can it be to do a simple cascading neuron failure? I showed her a dozen times on those prostitutes we failed to turn. Apparently she wasn't paying fucking attention, or else my other is made of sterner stuff than I credit him for.)

At any rate, the cunt is back. She sent me a note by way of the emergency channel we established before she let herself be taken. And now she wants to meet somewhere and talk strategy, and what to do from here, and how she can help me in whatever I'm planning now. 

To her credit, she'd guessed some of it. Not all of it, of course. No one has any idea what I really want, or they would never have sent me over here from my world in the first place. Not without some severe mental alterations, first. 

I think I will let this play out for a time. She may prove useful to me. And if she does not, she will provide quite the distraction as I get away. 

Meanwhile, I need to think about what to do now. I have not heard from my other, which means he has not taken my offer seriously. 

Which means I will have to up the ante, as they say here.

A good thing, then, that I fucking planned ahead. Because he is nothing if not slow and stupid. 

And I am nothing if not prepared for all eventualities...

Thursday: 9/8/16

(Notes of Randolph Scott, Outlaw Reporter)

The first thing I noticed, when I got to Standing Rock -- and got through their impressive guerilla security -- was the dining facility.

I know it sounds like a weird thing to fixate on, but there it was, dominating my attention. A kitchen some people set up, going all day and into the night, to make sure everyone who's there gets fed and taken care of.

I've been to mass protests before where there wasn't so much as a !@#$ing thought put into things like that. Everyone got wrapped up in the idea of sticking it to the man, or whoever, and before you knew it there was a sprawling mob with no coordination, no facilities, no nothing.

(The Bundy Ranch people's lack of snacks being an amusing example)

Not here, though. Not at all.

Not perfect, of course. Nothing is. It's hard to keep a crowd like this going without housekeeping issues. But they're sincere about keeping drugs, guns, and alcohol out, and keeping a cool head, in spite of what's going on.

Case in point -- they didn't just let me waltz in here and set up shop. They made sure I was who I said I was, and not some outside agitator sent in to cause trouble. I'm currently wearing two badges and a yellow wrist band, and they wrote on my rental car so no one messes with it.

I'm impressed. Very !@#$ing impressed.

Also more that a little unnerved, but that might be because there's a !@#$ing god over at the campfire, telling stories like it was another family campfire, or something.

Yeah, you heard that right. The gods are here, walking among their people, again. And considering how many tribes have a representative here, that's a lot of gods.

I can't really tell who's who, at least by sight. It's taking some practice just to see through the prosthetic, by itself. But I'm discovering that they shine at the edges, more than normal people do.

And sometimes, if you look at them long enough? They shift, just so. Like they were made of water.

Yeah, it's quite a thing. Which is one way to say this is !@#$ing amazing. And another say this is !@#$ing scary.

What's really scary? How these folks are just so accepting of all this !@#$. Like they're used to having this happen, which I know they were in theory, but not to this extent.

This? It's like someone took a Leslie Marmon Silko novel and turned it into magical realism. It's like something out of American Gods by way of N. Scott Momaday.

And I don't know whether to be amused or insulted that, in a campground full of activists, seekers, and gods, no one -- and I mean no one -- wants to talk to me.

Yes, I flew my flag. I'm the guy from THIS IS BULL!@#$. I am here to cover this situation, and help expose what's going on here, at a time when the national media would rather focus on a football player not doing the national anthem, or the latest load of !@#$ that imbecile who's running for President is saying.

But they don't want to talk to me, for some reason.

Not that I can really blame them for that. The bad side of having the press suddenly give a damn about their situation is having the usual establishment vultures show up, cameras in hand, and wait for someone to bleed so they can !@#$ing lead with it. It's almost like they want something to go wrong so they'll have a headline, a byline, and a chance for an award or two.

(And no, they don't want to talk to me, either. I'm something of a pariah, right now. The guy from Alternet's flipped me off twice.)

But the real people, here? The ones I've come to watch, and support? I want to scream at them. I want to jump on top of someone's shoulders and say "hey! I just tried to have that orange-skinned mother!@#$er assassinated! And do you know why? Because he !@#$ing kidnapped and brainwashed my kids! He had my girlfriend shot! Killed dozens of my friends in Toon Town, just to !@#$ with me!"

And I would, too. Except that we're not !@#$ing talking about that.

No, I'm not. SPYGOD's !@#$ing orders. And Velma...


I wanted to be honest with her. I did. He lied on my behalf, and I was going to tell her the truth. I was.

But then Karl and Jana and Helmut and Helga came into the room, looking like utter !@#$. And they told me something that Velma had begun to fear, and I hadn't even had !@#$ing time to suspect because it happened while I was away, in Kenya, trying to do that thing.

They're dying. My kids are !@#$ing dying, and there's nothing I can !@#$ing do about it.

* * *

It's ABWEHR's fault, of course. It always !@#$ing is.

My kids are clones, all descended from Martha and Joseph Goebbels. At some point she turned into some obscene baby-making shoggoth, and they'd get together and make supernazi love, there in the Ice Palace, and she'd !@#$ out dozens of fully-formed kids for the master race at regular intervals.

Which was fine for ABWEHR, seeing as how they were never going to use them as shock troops for the Fourth Reich. They were too busy researching ways to end the world that they never really put into action, and trying to get back at one another for dozens of years' worth of slights and insults.

So these poor kids got used as toys. They were screwed, beaten, and eaten, and not always in that order.

When the Ice Palace was liberated, there was one last group in the tank. They decanted while we were there. And SPYGOD, in something approaching wisdom and compassion, wanted me to be the one to look after them.

Why me? Why not. I thought it would make a good story to take these poor kids around the world and show them what they'd been missing. What they would have never seen.

And I did. And somewhere along the line they became more than a damn story. They became my family. My soldiers. My helpers.

My family.

 But the whole time, I knew something horrible. And that was that these kids came with a !@#$ing time limit.

The ABWEHR folks didn't really breed them for longevity, you see. It's like that NIN song, you know, you have a copy of a copy of a copy, and sooner or later it all breaks down.

So they had only years to live, really. And one day they'd start growing old, and begin to fail.

And what's what's happening, right now, while I'm in !@#$ing South Dakota.

* * *

Not that I had much choice in the matter. I literally got !@#$ing marching orders.

Velma handed me the camera and the ticket. It was her way of welcoming me back. It was also her way of telling me I was going to have to work to get back into this thing we made.

Not even a damn kiss. Just told me to go get the !@#$ing story, even if it killed me.

And yeah, it just !@#$ing might. Especially if what I hear is true.

They've activated the National Guard. Supposedly it's just to have people police the highways, but some fear it'll be to turn people away from coming at all. Which means supplies won't come, and the camp might falter.

And there's a good chance they'll come here to kick some ass if the Governor decides private guards with angry dogs can't stop the people. 

They're also talking about drones flying over, and as this state is one of the few where it's !@#$ing legal to let police fly armed drones into lawkeeping operations...?

Yeah. That sound you hear is the sound of things possibly circling the toilet on their way down.

But tomorrow's make it or break it. Tomorrow the Federal Judge might call a halt to this whole !@#$show, and halt all further work.

But then again, the Judge may not. And then it'll be protests and citizen action until it's stopped from higher up, or something ugly happens to force their hand.

And if that happens? I have a hard time imagining these American gods will stand idly by as their people are beaten and brutalized, or told that their ancestors' bones are just clay to be shaped, and dirt to be bulldozed.

Which means I might be standing here, camera in hand, as the cloud face in the sky brings down the lightning.

Me, I could use a good rain. It'd make me feel clean, again. It might even make me feel whole.

I just don't want anyone else to suffer because of my needs. I've had enough of that, lately.

I've had enough.

Friday: 9/9/16

(Yanabah's Private Journal)

Not every day I get to tell the Interim President to shut the !@#$ up and listen to me, but that is exactly what happened, early this afternoon.

Why me? Why the !@#$ not. But I guess there was a practical reason. The boss man always !@#$ing has one.

He drags my ass off Freedom Force duty this morning. I tell him we're already shorthanded, what with our heavy hitter on their damn way to Mars and all. He says shut up and get in the car, we're going to DC.

Now, when he says we're going to DC? That means the White House. And he never !@#$ing takes any heroes to the White House unless he needs us, either as an example or a peace offering. So of course I'm !@#$ing wondering if this is the moment I pay for what went down the other week, in Taos.

But no. He's actually got me along because I'm the only one who can really tell the asshole in the Oval Office what Taos meant. Because I'm the only one who's actually talked with Grandfather Thunder long enough to get more answers than questions.

So we drive there. It's his new flying car, which he says he got from one of the Olympians. It was their way of making amends for Moscow, and everything. Or maybe he's full of !@#$ and it's just something else. He's always lying.

He has no idea I know this, now, and I find this !@#$ing hilarious. The monster in me can tell when people aren't being honest. I can actually smell it on them, somehow. Big lies, little lies, half truths, they all have their own smell. And I know them all.

(Which is how I know he's also lying about his new eyes. He tells people they just grew back, but I know there's more to it than that. I just don't know what it is, yet. But I will.)

He talks !@#$  for fifteen minutes, and then we're over the White House. He spirals the thing down and parks on the front lawn and just gets out. He even has the nerve to toss the keys to one of the Secret Service Agents and tell him not to scuff up the paint.

Then we're in the White House, and I think it's the first time I've been in here since they used Grandfather Wayfinder to try and find SPYGOD, all that time ago. They were scared of me, then. Now they're not sure why I'm there, but that's okay. They let us keep all our guns, and in we go.

Of course, the President knows why we're there. He's got word the Federal Judge is going to tell the Lakota that the pipeline isn't going to stop. He just doesn't know what will happen next, what with all those Gods there in the camp.

Can SPYGOD do to them what he did to those Voodoo gods, last week? That's what he wants to know.

And that's when SPYGOD just chuckles, that way he does. He takes a step back and lets me have the floor. Calls me the expert in these things.

And I am, so I talk to the Interim President. I tell him exactly what he's facing, there. I tell him it would be a very, very bad !@#$ing thing if the gods that take their power from the people of this land, and from that land, were angered.

SPYGOD? He tells them there's nothing the Olympians can do in this case. The Voodoo people were coming here. The Spirits? They're already here.

(And that's a lie, too. I think he's playing a larger game, same as !@#$ing always. But it's what I want so I go along with it.)

What to do, then? Well, the Interim President doesn't want to call that judge and interfere. But lucky for us all I remember the Army Corps of Engineers didn't really get what you'd call timely permits from those pipeline people.

So the Interim President makes a call. By the time he's done, the Corps and a few other Federal things are ready to issue a joint statement telling the pipeline people to stop !@#$ing working for a while, until it all gets sorted out.

Of course, this means it won't get sorted anytime soon. The Feds are nothing if not wrapped in bureaucratic bull!@#$ when they want to be.

Which means we haven't won or lost, right now. It just means we're in a damn holding pattern.

But we can at least call it progress.

On the way out of the White House, SPYGOD leans in and delivers the !@#$ing punchline. He tells me to tell the Great Spirit that he just came through for him.

"Now it's his !@#$ing turn," he explains. And he tells me exactly what he wants in exchange.

I can't argue. It seems pretty !@#$ing sensible. But I do tell him that, from now on? If he wants to me to be a go-between, he's got to tell me the whole plan, well in advance.

He doesn't !@#$ing like that. I don't expect him to. But he agrees, however reluctantly.

And for once, when he opens his damn mouth? I don't smell a lie.

I'm calling that progress, too.

Saturday: 9/10/16

"Hey love, this is your fiancee, just checking in with you from Mars. If the picture gets a little weird, it's because we're having to veer around a lot, just to avoid getting hit by giant frozen balls of acid poop crab spit.

"I don't know if I mentioned this the last time, but the giant bastards have learned how to shoot their crap into orbit, now. There's giant frozen balls of acidic goop floating around up here, which means the pilots have to be careful not to fly too close, or the flakes around the balls unfreeze and start to eat the ships.

"So we parked in a higher orbit, just to make sure we have room to maneuver. We're also trying out various ways to nudge the balls out of orbit without unfreezing them, but so far that's been too dangerous.

"Since the crabs broke through our bottleneck, down below the surface, they've developed a definite pattern. They come up to the surface in groups of three to five, and start trying to hammer us. Then we send down lightships to strafe them, just to cover the Aesir's approach. And then, while they're shooting at Naglfar and the lightships, the gods smash their legs and deal with what's left.

"It's a good strategy, at least for now. So far they haven't caught on. I worry what will happen when they do, but I'm hoping our ground forces get here and break through before that becomes an issue.

"Anyway, what I really wanted to talk to you about was my communication with the Martians. Thank you very much for facilitating it for me. From what they said you had to yell down the phone for a while, so I hope you didn't have to burn too many bridges to make that happen.

"I spoke to their eldest, and he confirmed what I suspected. That area under the Lunar Planum has been known to be a temporally unstable location for quite some time. They say that, in ancient times, the elders would go there to talk to their ancestors, and receive visions of the past and future.

"And when they depicted it? They made it look like a ring.

"So I think we've found our culprit. There's a hole in time, down there, and it appears to be stable. Which means, to me at least, that it was artificially created.

"The real question is what's on the other end of that hole, and how strong of a grip the remnant of the Decreator's got on that side of things. That'll be one of the things the ground forces are going to find out. But when the moment comes? I'm going to be down there, with them, finding out.

"I know you're not going to talk me out of this, love. This is what I do. I'm the one who goes into the crashed spaceship, shakes the alien hand, and shoots it if needed. I'm also the one who pokes his hand into the anomaly to find out what's going on.

"And I can afford to lose a hand, as you know.

"So let's have none of you asking me if this is a good !@#$ing idea? Because you know all I can say is 'no,' followed by 'I'm doing it, anyway.' And you know why.

"And hopefully you love me for it. Because I love you for having to be the one to grab your gun, strap yourself to something fast and explosive, and fly it right down the throat of whatever giant threat to America's on the horizon, today.

"As for me, I was worried about you after our last communication. I know you can handle that backwards Earth asshole. But what you told me about the kids... well, that's got to be hard. Even if we knew it was coming, that's not something I think anyone can really be ready to face.

"I love you. I'm here for you. Hopefully we'll be able to do something about this. Hopefully I'll be home soon, and we can face this together, as we should.

"In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed that the ground forces do a fast job down below, and I manage to make it back to our time zone in a timely manner. Now that we actually have a wedding date booked in, and the deposit paid, I'd hate to have to miss it because of some weird Doctor Who bull!@#$, right?

"I love you. Be strong. Be amazing. Be you.

"And when you catch that other you? If you happen to blow his balls off? You step on one of them, just for me, and tell him I said hello.

"See? I made you smile, in spite of it all. That's love. And I love you.

"Bye bye from Mars, for now."

Sunday: 9/11/16

... punching punching kicking flailing end over end over head over barrel over and over and over again the two combatants struggle up and down the time stream over and under the water here and there then and now everywhere and everything the moment of birth the second of death and all points between...

* * *

"... the giant balls of what look like frozen sewage," Straffer says over the com system: "If you hit one, well, Raitha might be able to soak the damage. But I'd hate you to suffer an explosive decompression this close to the goal."

"I hear you there," Myron says, nodding to the Olympian in question -- spread-eagled on the prow of the massive lightship she's been maintaining since they left Earth -- who must have heard it, because she veers well clear of the crud in question.

"It'd be best if you just rendezvoused with Naglfar," Straffer says: "I'm sure you all want to get your boots on the ground, but-"

"I think getting out of here is all they really want, right about now," the former Underman says: "The ship, the planet, hell I think they'd take a long spacewalk right about now."

"Is everything alright?" the Director of the Space Service asks.

"Long story short? No," Myron admits, looking back along the length of the ship -- at one person in particular: "I'll tell you more when we meet. Quietly. In private..."

* * *

 ... moments and public encounters facts on record and unknown secret things the whole of a life the whole of two lives laid bare for each of them to attack and defend as they fall and rise trying to get purchase to gain advantage to feint to strike to dodge to cripple to end one another before they can even begin...

* * *

"...?" she asks, sitting next to the Outlaw Reporter, just outside the light of the largest fire, here.

"What do you mean?" Randolph Scott asks Yanabah, who's looking rather at home here, in spite of having no guns on her person.

"Last time I saw you, I was !@#$faced drunk and mean, and you told me off," she says, smirking at him over her dark glasses -- worn even at night, like something out of an 80's music video: "So here I am, and here you are..."

"I'm not drunk," the Outlaw Reporter says: "I wish I was, but you all didn't want any of that here."

"Yeah," she nods: "Looks like you could use some."

"I've had enough," he insists: "Enough wasted time, enough stupid !@#$. I need to do something worthwhile, here."

"Need to find the story, huh?" she says, looking over her glasses at him. Something about the hunger in those alien eyes gives him pause.

"Always," he says, steeling his resolve.

"Okay, then," she says, getting up and extending a hand: "Come with me, paleface. Let native guide show you the real !@#$."

He looks up at her, somewhat puzzled, but does as she says...

* * *

.. many things to his opponent and none of them are good they are hateful slithering things obscenities and threats and promises of ruin and degradation and decay the leering broken grin of the other Earth the eyes of death and pain he speaks of the rape of fathers the death of children the ruin of lovers and husbands and wives all done in the last seconds of his life as he lays broken and hopeless on the hard floor of time itself...

* * *

"... has been altered, in there," the UNSS scientist says to SPYGOD -- his face pale as he wipes sweat from his brow: "I don't understand what happened, sir. All we did was start disassembling her flying saucer, and as soon as we took the engine apart..."

"Everything went !@#$ing forwards, backwards, and blooey?" the superspy says, lighting up another one of the black cigarettes he doesn't even like as he sits behind his desk, and considers this.

"That's one way to say it. I was lucky to get out before the field enveloped the area. Anyone who goes in there gets torn apart by temporal forces. It's horrific-"

"Then stop !@#$ing sending people in there, moron," SPYGOD barks at him: "Seal the area off. Let no one go in."

"What do we do, then?" the scientist asks, too traumatized by what's happened to react to being yelled at by his Director's overbearing fiancee.

"Let me !@#$ing worry about that," the superspy says: "You got your orders, son. Do them. Yesterday."

He hangs up at that, sighs, and realizes he knows what this is, and what it means. 

He's known since he got his new eyes. Since he walked into that lake and found the time ship sitting there. 

Since he saw the weathered face of his mentor's old love, and had to cry with those new eyes...

He gets the White Phone out of his desk. He doesn't even have to dial it before the right person picks it up.

"It's time," he says to the God on the other end...

* * *

...over end over head over barrel over and over and over again the two combatants struggle up and down the time stream over and under the water here and there then and now everywhere and everything the moment of birth the second of death and all points between trying to get the advantage however slight in order to kill the other and while the Wandering Shadow won't hesitate the Time Agent wonders if there's some way this can be avoided some way to stop the inevitable some way to pull back from killing a man he's learned to respect while fighting now that he's seen his life and walked in his shoes and seen all he's done and learned even if he has become a powerful and mad dog on two legs and that's all the hesitation that dog needs to rear back and...

* * *

"... fuck..." the SPYGOD of Alter Earth says, sitting straight up in the bed he's stolen for the evening, looking at the wall with the sweat of a man who's just seen his own death.

"What is it?" the person he forced -- at least at first -- to have sex with him asks, not daring to open her eyes until he tells her he can look, again. 

He can't say, just yet. He closes and opens his eyes. Shakes his head to drive the vision out. 

But he can't unsee what he just saw. He can't remove the stray thread of what may have been dream or god-sent prophecy from his brain.

And for the first time in a long time, (DETCADER) feels something he does his best to engender in everyone he meets, friend or foe. 


(SPYGOD is listening to The Untold (Front 242) and having a Devil Dancer)

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