Monday, October 31, 2016

Apotheoclypse Now: 10/17/16 - 10/23/16 + Non-Epilogue

"Lock the Target, Bait the Line, Spread the Net, then Catch the Man"

((REDACTED) and (DETCADER) - together at last)

(Art by the Lemonade Project)

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* * * 

Today he has no means
He's alone and anoymous
But written in his cells
He's got the marks of a genius

"Headhunter" - Front 242

Thursday: 10/20/16

"So," SPYGOD says, looking at the nightmares crawling, marching, and flying through the streets of Neo York City: "You ever get the !@#$ing idea someone's a poor damn loser?"

And all the heroes that stand with him, on the bridge of the Flier, can only gasp at the wide array of monstrosity that the Republican Candidate has summoned up to stop from being arrested...

* * *

"Now, you have to explain this to me, again," the Interim President says, pointing to the report as though it were a dog turd on his Oval Office desk: "The man we've got in prison right now... he wasn't really to blame for all of this?"

"Not entirely, no," SPYGOD says: "That damn Loki got into his head at some point after his !@#$ing magical teflon fell the !@#$ apart, thanks to his hoodoo connection getting !@#$ing box-jobbed in Detroit. And the only reason he went to that !@#$er was because the super-Nazi who'd been telling him what to do since the damn 80's let him !@#$ing go after he didn't need him anymore."

"Really," the man says, nodding in clear non-understanding.

"Well, it's pretty !@#$ing complicated," SPYGOD says, pointing back to the report: "I put a big damn flow chart in the appendix, if it helps."

"Maybe I'll look at it later."

"Not a bad idea."

* * *

In the opulent living room of the Manhattan penthouse mansion, the last of the Aesir stands before a massive window and watches his nightmare armies howl and scream.

It took some doing, this massive summoning. Every last gram of free magic Loki had left was sacrificed to the effort, along with whatever he could prize from those who called him master, here and now.

But it was worth it -- all of it -- if only to see this beautiful sight, for however long.

And the best part? The city has its defenses, yes, but they apparently only work on things wholly of this world.

But legions of trolls and dwarfs? Flocks of drakes and dragons? The great snake Nidhogg, and the wolves that race after the Sun and the Moon?

Oh, this city has no defense against them. None whatsoever. 

He grins as he drinks from the Candidate's precious wine collection, deciding what to do when this city is truly at his knees, and he can claim it as its own.

And deciding what to do with that fool who still will not accede to his demands, and join with him and the fat-faced man in becoming one flesh...

* * *

"So we all came to the Flier," SPYGOD explains, waving his hands around: "Everyone I could get my !@#$ing hands on. Freedom Force, my secret team, the people who were on Mars when everything went !@#$ing pear shaped, a couple Olympians, a god or two who were still on our damn side... everyone."

"And you went into the city to restore order?"

"Oh, !@#$ that," the superspy chuckles, shaking his head: "We went in there to kick some ass..."

* * *

 "The center of the disruption is coming from the Candidate's tower," Machinehead communicates to the heroes as they enter -- coming in from as many different directions as they can: "I cannot do much about it with my normal defenses, unfortunately. Beaming them out isn't working."

"That's !@#$ing fine," SPYGOD says, leaning out the side of the Transport he's in as they cross the Brooklyn Bridge and head for 5th Avenue -- shooting an energy weapon that shouldn't exist in this world as he goes: "You beam out any civilians in our path between here and his !@#$ing penthouse, and try to throw up as many damn barriers as you can to keep those !@#$ing things slowed down!"

"Thanks," the rehabilitated AI snorts: "I hadn't really thought of that. Really."

"Damn thing's still got an attitude," the superspy grumbles, using his weapon to atomize something that looks like an ice giant's rabid rottweiler. 

"Well, at least it's on our side now," Myron says as he pilots his Drill Tank through the Lincoln Tunnel, glad that New Man's on the roof to zap whatever they come across (undead legions, mostly) "The Nthernaut wanted me to fix him, not make him Mr. Nice Guy."

"I could be more physical, if you need me to," the AI that runs the city says.

"Not !@#$ing yet you don't!" SPYGOD shouts: "That's the ace in the damn hole."

"Speaking of the Nthernaut, where is Thomas?" Hanami asks, flying over the skyline and zapping flying lizard after flying lizard as she goes.

"If we're lucky, he's with the guy we're after," Straffer radios in from his position, walking up a long set of stairs to a certain run-down apartment. 

"And if we're not...?" Shining Guardsman asks, targeting the flying things that Hanami can't.

"Then The Owl is gonna be really !@#$ing pissed off at me," the superspy grumbles.

"He's not the only one," Green Fury says from his position along East 59th -- using the Owlcar's sonic weaponry to knock Trolls into next week as he and The Talon close in on their objective...

 * * *

"The only problem was that the mother!@#$er knew we were coming," SPYGOD goes on: "And I don't know if he really !@#$ing thought all those monsters were going to stop us, but just in case they couldn't... well, he had one last trick up his damn sleeve."

"Which is why 725 5th Ave isn't there, anymore."

"Well, it is..." the superspy equivocates: "It's just not what it was, anymore..."

* * *

"Is it my imagination, or is the tower moving?" Winifred asks, looking at the image on the Drill Tank's screens as they get closer to their objective.

"I don't think it is," Myron says, noticing that the tall, glass building is unfolding, for want of a better word -- growing a pair of legs and what might be several short arms, ending in long-fingered, grabby hands. 

"Well I'll be !@#$ed," Black Freedom says -- halfway through beating down a large number of rat-faced dwarfs with Dragonfly, coming down Madison Ave: "Looks like you were right, boss-man."

"Figured," SPYGOD grumbles, his transport coming on the scene just in time to see the Aesir's last line of defense: "Okay folks! Change of plan. Fliers? !@#$ the dragons. Stop that damn tower!"

"You got it," Gold Standard says, flying in at the head of her drone army and encircling the animated tower like a cloud of metal bees...

* * *

"Is that what happened to her?" The Interim President asks: "The attack on the tower?"

"Yes," the Superspy admits, looking sad: "A real tragedy. I liked that kid."

* * *

"Oh my god!" Green Fury's shouting, doing his best to pull Antonia out of her wildly-malfunctioning armor -- the suit's defenses attacking him as he does: "I need a medic down here!"

"We're all gonna need one in a minute, here!" Shining Guardsman shouts, dismayed to see that every weapon his suit has isn't enough to stop the Candidate's tower from rampaging towards Central Park.

"I'm going to try brute force," Hanami says, flying straight up into the clouds, and then slowly looping around: "Everyone duck and cover your ears!"

"What's she trying...?" Winifred asks.

"Oh boy," Myron says, turning off the audio feeds on the Drill Tank: "I hope everyone's got window insurance..."

And the Japanese android comes roaring back down -- breaking the sound barrier as she goes -- and plows right into the penthouse of the tower.

Or tries to, anyway...

* * *

"And that's what happened to Hanami," SPYGOD sighs: "The Revolutionary Men are still !@#$ing vacuuming pieces of her up. They say she'll recover once she's back together, again. But..."

"Now, she's been destroyed before, right?"

"Sort of. She took a major !@#$ing hit during the Reclamation War and was never the same since. She went from being a perky can-do person to being like Commander Data in a miniskirt. And when we got back from dealing with the Decreator, well, she was more human, but a real !@#$ing grump."

"So what will she be this time?"

"!@#$ed if I know," the superspy shrugs: "As long as she's okay, I guess I'll be happy. But still..."

"Yeah," the Interim President nods.

They're both silent for a moment, and then SPYGOD takes a deep breath, and continues: "So, that's when I !@#$ing decided to roll the damn dice..."

* * *

"Machinehead?" SPYGOD orders: "You're !@#$ing up."

"Oh, good," the AI that runs Neo York City says:  "I was hoping to use this..."

And, a few blocks away -- in a tall, imposing structure that hasn't been used regularly in some time -- all the lights come on in secret areas, and strange machinery hums to life.

The sidewalk outside cracks, and crumbles as the foundations shiver into motion. The building seems to float up a few stories, and then surges forward to land on the street in front of it. 

And as it turns to face the Candidate's eponymous tower, the B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G. turns on every single conventional weapons system it has, and begins to rain fire, steel, and ions down on the enchanted structure...

* * *

"Which is why that tower is sitting in Central Park, right now," SPYGOD admits: "With my old house wrapped around it like two plaster people !@#$ing clutching each other at Pompeii."

"Yeah," the Interim President says, raising both eyebrows: "I've been getting some very upset calls from the Mayor of Neo York. He wants federal disaster money to clean it up."

"We'll take care of it," the superspy says, waving a hand: "I can clean up my own messes."

And the former Speaker of the House coughs into his fist...

* * *

"Oh good grief," Myron shouts as he gets out of the Drill Tank, looking at the horrible wreck in the center of Central Park. The Candidate's tower is a smouldering, broken wreck -- frozen between what it was and what it was remade into -- leaning over the B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G, which wasn't quite torn in two by the tower's dying rampage.

"Is it safe to go in?" Winifred asks, not quite certain how to proceed from here.

"They're not moving, anymore," Shining Guardsman says, rocketing around the top floors of the Candidate's tower: "But there's some kind of shield surrounding the thing. That... that must have been what happened to Hanami."

"Do we still have a game plan?" Dragonfly asks, loping over and being very careful where she treads.

As if to answer, SPYGOD's transport flies in, and he leaps down -- right next to what used to be half of the ground flor of the tower -- now twisted into a gnarled, smoking leg with half its panes blown out.

"Okay folks, here's the !@#$ing deal!" he shouts, pointing to the hole: "The objective is up there. We can't go in the damn roof or the !@#$ing sides, so it's up the goddamn stairs."

"Should we all go in?" Green Fury asks, still shaken by what just happened to Gold Standard, back there.

"No," the superspy says: "I need all my fliers and heavy hitters outside, dealing with anything else the mother!@#$er conjures up."

"Where does that leave me?" Myron asks.

"You and New Man hold the damn perimeter!" SPYGOD shouts, pointing every which way: "Raitha! Ra! Shining Guardsman! You're on dragon detail! Swiftfoot! Get civilians out of the line of fire!

"Rest of you, follow me!" he shouts as he heads into the hole: "There's a fight we got to !@#$ing have, and I've got gun enough for every last bastard looks at me funny!"

* * *

"And inside, well..." SPYGOD says, after a moment of thinking: "That just... sucked. Big time."

"All those people," the Interim President says: "All turned into... what exactly?"

"Well, as you know, my doppelganger had a really nasty !@#$ing trick up his sleeve,"  the superspy explains, miming the action of rolling a ball from one hand to the other: "His version of the Chandra Eye, what he called the Eye of Horus? He !@#$ing used it to reprogram people. Turn them into folks just like him."

"You mean people from Alter Earth?"

"Exactly," he said: "People with no kindness, no mercy, no compassion. People you could get to do the most sick and !@#$ed up things." 

"And he did that to everyone in the tower?"

"!@#$ing everyone," SPYGOD hisses, scowling rather deeply: "I'm not even !@$#ing sure how he pulled it off. But anyone who lived through the goddamn tower coming to life, and then getting the !@#$ blown out of it by my building? They were all over us like a bad rash as soon as we got in the damn door..."

* * *

There's really nothing to say -- nothing at all. 

SPYGOD looks around to everyone who's with him, in the stairwell. All the heroes he's led this far. All the people he's commanded, time and time again. 

He sees the fear and horror in their eyes, and it burns him.

He sees Green Fury struggling with a rabid, naked woman who swings a baby at him like a club -- a loop of intestines draped around her neck like some gruesome trophy. 

He sees the Talon right beside him, moving like the team that they are -- her young eyes filled with tears to see this sort of depravity, and have no recourse but to fight it.

He sees Black Freedom kicking down a mob of interns, all wielding letter openers -- each one missing their nose in some hideous rite of passage. 

He sees Free Fire at the head of the pack, mercilessly clearing a pack with his signature fire wheel -- slashing left and right at the near-suicidal hordes who throw themselves at him.

And he sees Dragonfly at their rear, doing her best to not kill any of the wild-eyed people who are terribly and totally intent on killing her. 

He could say to just keep hitting. He could say to show no mercy. He could say all the words in the world, right now, and none of them would mean a goddamn thing.

All he can do is use his vantage point to shoot his guns -- up, down, and sideways -- and do his best to safeguard his people as they take this tower. 

Floor by floor by floor...

* * *

"You never know how goddamn tall 55 stories is until you've had to !@#$ing wade through blood and guts every step of the way up them," SPYGOD says, cracking his knuckles: "And I wish I could !@#$ing say the way got easier as we went up, but..."

"It didn't."

"No, it didn't," the superspy says after a moment or two: "You'd think they would have !@#$ing run out of brainwashed janitors and homicidal secretaries after the 30th floor, but no. It's like the goddamn gates of Hell got opened the !@#$ up."

The Interim President just nods, not knowing what else to say.

"All I know for sure is that, by the time I realized the stairwell was !@#$ing ending?" SPYGOD goes on after a minute: "I felt like we were at Heaven's door."

"Were you?"

"Well, not really. That was just the entrance to the damn last floor before the penthouse. And when we got through it..."

* * *

"Alright, everyone look !@#$ing sharp," SPYGOD commands as they rush past the thick, steel door -- kicked down courtesy of Black Freedom and Green Fury -- and file into the service hallway, leading to a bunch of room that only repairmen and maintenance persons ever really see up close.

"Holy !@#$," Dragonfly says, looking out a busted window at the view, below: "SPYGOD... I got some bad news for you."

"What?" the superspy shouts, looking down past her -- almost expecting Ragnarok Pt II from the way she said it.

But no. All that's there to see is his penthouse apartment, perched on the top of the B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G.

Or what's left of it, anyway...

* * *

"Your penthouse," the Interim President says: "You know, I kind of forgot all about that."

"Yeah," SPYGOD admits: "After I finally got out of the goddamn hospital I didn't really spend a lot of time there. I was mostly out on !@#$ing assignment, or holed up in the goddamn flier, waiting for Straffer to come back from Mars. Just one goddamn thing after another and then I didn't really make it back there too often."

"And it's totaled...?"

"That's one way to put it," the superspy says, shaking his head: "You know, when I !@#$ing moved in there, after we got the B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G under control? I never !@#$ing thought it'd be forever, you know? I figured I'd be back at the damn Heptagon in a month or so. I was just going to kick my feet back, smoke a cigar or two, and then enjoy having !@#$ing kicked mad scientist ass."

"But then you discovered you liked having your feet up on his chairs," the Interim President says: "You enjoyed sleeping in his bed, and using his bathroom."

"And I claimed it like the big damn spoil of war it was," SPYGOD nods, chuckling darkly: "And lived there like a !@#$ing king for a long damn time."

"A lot of history there, I bet," the man says, nodding in sympathy: "I'm sorry you lost it."

"Thanks," SPYGOD says, and then takes another deep breath: "So, after I maturely dealt with that..."

* * *

"Goddamn monkey!@#$ing son of !@#$ asshole freak trickster god bastard !@#$stain !@#$catcher..." the superspy growls as he stomps down the hallway, studying the schematics of the building on his pad as he curses: "!@#$ing !@#$ in a bag of !@#$ with a !@#$ up his !@#$ and my foot in his goddamn !@#$ !@#$ !@#$..."

"I think he's !@#$ing angry," Dragonfly says, still breathing ragged from all the not-killing she just did.

"I think you're !@#$ing right," Black Freedom agrees.

"Stay out of his way?"

"Totally."

"Ladies, please," Free Fire says, following SPYGOD: "I think we're going to be tactically useful in a moment or two."

"How do we get up there?" The Talon asks: "Is there a private elevator?"

"Not exactly," Green Fury says, indicating that she should turn her suit's sound-bafflers on -- a full second before their leader pulls a very large gun out of seemingly nowhere, and aims it up at the ceiling...

And then the hallway loses what windows it has remaining, and everyone's hair goes up and down and back, and there's a large, round hole in the ceiling that leads up to the penthouse. 

"Last one up's a !@#$ing commie," SPYGOD says, putting his gun away and jumping right up into the hole -- clearing a path for the others to follow, one at a time...

* * *

"And what was up there?" the Interim President asks, wishing he did have something to drink, right about now.

"About what you'd !@#$ing expect," SPYGOD says: "The bastard had !@#$ing ruined the place. I mean, I'd been there, once or twice, for one society do or another. It was !@#$ing beautiful."

"I remember," the man says: "I can't even recall why we were there. Maybe a party back in 2000 when he was thinking of running. But I was astounded at how opulent it was."

"Right. Say what you will about the marmalade sasquatch who owned it, but that penthouse was a damn thing of beauty..."

He thinks of better, older times, and nods, going back to the story: "But by then it was just him. No more servants, no more soldiers. All his damn tricks were used up.

"Or so we thought..."

* * *

"I suppose you have come for the view?" Loki asks, still wearing the Candidate like a glove, and drinking his best champagne from the last intact crystal goblet in the house: "I can't blame you. It is still quite spectacular, even in extremis."

"Yeah, yeah," SPYGOD snorts, pointing a rather menacing looking gun at the last of the Aesir -- the black revolver with the upside down crucifix attached to the butt: "Handy hock, asshole. The game is !@#$ing over."

"Is it?" the Trickster god asks, grinning ear to ear: "I prefer to think of it as merely on pause. Especially as there is nothing you can do to stop my having already won."

"You think so, huh?" the superspy asks: "What if I told you I could kick your frosty ass with a single goddamn phone call?"

"I would say you direly overestimate your chances."

"Well, let's see about that," SPYGOD grins as he hits a certain autodial -- hoping his beautiful fiancee is still in position...

* * *

"See, the moron was so high on his own !@#$ing bull!@#$ that he forgot something damned important," SPYGOD says: "One of the first things you learn as a spy. You never !@#$ing leave your resources unsecured. I don't care if it's some damn Harold, toiling in the Pakistan Embassy. I don't care if it's the General you !@#$ing blackmailed into handing you the goddamn nuke codes. You watch those bastards. You look after them.

"And when the time comes, if you need to? You be ready to bury them six !@#$ing feet under before they get caught, get rolled, and tell their governments everything they !@#$ing know."

The Interim President nods: "A harsh policy, but I suppose that's the spy game."

"Damn straight. And this !@#$er? He was so damn busy hanging onto poor Thomas Samuel's body, and dancing around pretending to be the Candidate? Well, he !@#$ing forgot about the first guy he took hold of, in order to leave where he was and come here.

"He forgot about poor FAUST Agent 78, last seen in a goddamn coma in the Habitrail..."

* * *

"... and currently in a secret location I control," SPYGOD says, holding up the phone: "So let's get this !@#$ing straight, blue boy. You stop this horse!@#$, or I stop you."

"You think to threaten me with my connection to that fool?" Loki hisses, clearly enraged by this indignity: "I can sever it any time I care to-"

"Can you really?" SPYGOD chuckles: "Because from what I hear? It ain't that !@#$ing simple. Not from your end, anyway."

"You would not dare-"

"Hon?" Straffer asks on the other end -- calling from Frankie's small but fabulous apartment, and the bedroom that contains the unfortunate Agent: "I'm in position. Are we go?"

"That depends on his Frostiness," the superspy says, looking at Loki: "What do you say, Lauffeyson? You want me to smash your !@#$ing horcrux, or you want to end this?"

"You would not dare-"

"I heard that," Straffer says, and cuts off the phone call. 

"Are you really going to kill him?" Frankie asks, lounging near the doorway (as opposed to her roommates, who have been hiding in the bathroom the entire time.)

"Just a little bit," the Director of the UN Space Service says, pulling out a small, black energy weapon of alien manufacture and aiming it at the comatose man's sternum: "Don't worry. He won't feel a thing..."

* * *

"The Isarx call it the Cold Sleep," SPYGOD explains: "It's used in urban pacification on their planet. Basically, it slows someone's !@#$ing metabolism down so much that they might as well be !@#$ dead."

"That sounds pretty darn drastic."

"It can be. You're supposed to zap them again within.... oh, I think it winds up being 34.4375 minutes on their damn world. Otherwise they do die, and it's pretty !@#$ing messy, too."

"It must be interesting working with someone who has access to all the cool ET toys," the Interim President chuckles, in spite of it all.

"Sir, you have no damn idea," the superspy grins -- raising an eyebrow to let the man know he was taking that line of thinking down an avenue that his boss probably did not intend to go down...

* * *

 "Well, look at that," SPYGOD says, watching the last of the Aesir get back to his feet after the rather shocking display of pain and fear he just showed them: "I do believe that Mr. Loki has !@#$ing !@#$ himself."

"You will regret that," the trickster says, his eyes shining a poisonous green: "You have not accomplished anything."

"We made you soil your damn trousers, son," the superspy grins, aiming the blasphemous revolver at the god's head: "I'm calling that a goddamn accomplishment."

"Yeah, and what the !@#$ do you mean do you mean we're gonna regret that, you crazy ass mother!@#$er?" Black Freedom spits, pointing outside the window: "Our friends are wiping the damn floor with your monster squad! You got no more troops, no more big guns. What you got, fat boy?" 

"I have my family, you silly wench," he sneers, pointing a finger at her and snapping his fingers: "Or had you forgotten my daughter...?"

Suddenly, the air around them all becomes thick and heavy -- moaning, angry faces forming in the folds of atmosphere. 

Ghosts, brought up from Hel to bedevil the living. 

And very hungry for having been in Her grey and cold realm for so long...

* * *

"I thought she got dealt with before Moscow?" the Interim President asked: "That whole thing with that one necromancer from Detroit?"

"Morgue Anna, yeah." SPYGOD nods: "But there's only so !@#$ing much you can do with a god, you know? I mean, if it's the God of left-handed British accordion players, maybe you can !@#$ing kill the bastard with god bullets and it'll stay mostly !@#$ing dead."

"Or shoot it with a god bullet, like the Great Mystery?" the man asks, raising an eyebrow: "That was some of what got us into this mess, after all?"

"Well, that's another story...." he says, smiling a little...

* * *

"And besides, it is not as if there is any reason I should lose," Loki goes on as his "guests" are pecked and harried by ephemeral beings they can't even fight back against: "My servant has the means to kill any god I choose. They will fall in line behind me when I make it clear they can live or die at my whim."

"No one will !@#$ing follow you," SPYGOD hisses, trying to duck the claws that threaten to render him to ribbons: "You're done, you !@#$ing twink! Done!" 

"Oh, I beg to differ," the last of the Aesir grins: "Your attempt to sabotage my glamour was successful, but only in the short run. Soon I will make this returned Senator kneel at my feet. And he will rule in my stead."

"I do not seem to be encumbered by these beings," Free Fire says, looking around at his fellow heroes as they struggle against the dead: "Is it because I have no soul?"

"Who cares?" Dragonfly shouts, holding up her hands to protect her eyes from the thing intent on chewing them out of her skull: "Get that !@#$er!"

"My my," Loki says, looking at the orange-armored android as it advances upon him: "A toy, come to test me? How delightful."

Free Fire opens his mouth to say something, but then falls through a hole in the floor that wasn't there a second ago -- snow and a cold, bitter wind howling up from the doorway between worlds -- and then closes up a swift second later. 

"Oh dear," the last of the Aesir smirks: "I think he found my emergency exit. How unfortunate."

"Well, now you can't !@#$ing use it, either," SPYGOD hisses, getting to his feet in spite of the pain and re-aiming the gun: "So you're !@#$ing trapped here with us, aren't you?" 

"I prefer to think of it as you being trapped here with me," Loki goes on, helping himself to more champagne as the show continues: "And if you think what I have done, here, at my lowest strength, was quite spectacular...? Well, I believe that..."

He stops for a moment, no longer hearing the sounds of ghosts tearing into his victims. 

He turns to look back at them, and sees them all standing there - bloody but unbowed, and very, very angry.

And then -- as the light in the room seems to grow brighter, and the air ripples with an entirely different kind of energy -- he realizes why the ghosts are leaving.

"Surprise, mother!@#$er," SPYGOD grins as he puts the gun away, and then pulls out another, much larger one: "We were just the big damn distraction."

"What...?" Loki howls, dropping the goblet and throwing up his hands to try some last kind of magic.

And having none at all to spare...

* * *

"And that was, in essence, what your plan was?" the Interim President says, somewhat mystified: "Just stall him, weaken him, and make him use up all his magic until the cavalry turned up?"

"Yes," SPYGOD nods: "I knew they'd get there. I didn't !@#$ing know exactly what time, or anything like that. But I knew it got worse just before it got better.

"So all we had to do then was stop a certain someone from doing the wrong damn thing to the wrong damn person..."

* * *

"I don't care what you !@#$ing know, or what you think  you !@#$ing know, son," a very rough and bloodied SPYGOD says, holding a very large gun up towards the time AGENT, who's got an equally-large one aimed at him: "This man is going to be the next goddamn President of the United States of America, and it's my !@#$ing job to protect him."

"You don't understand!" the time AGENT says -- all camouflage dropped, all secrecy in shambles -- "That man destroys everything! If he wins... the future I came from won't exist. The world won't exist! Can't you understand that?"

"You think you're the first mother!@#$er who came here, claiming to be from the future, and telling me I had to !@#$ing bend over and let them kill someone?" the superspy says, narrowing his eyes at the silvery intruder.

"No," the AGENT says: "But-"

"But you're the one I've been waiting for, son," SPYGOD says, putting his gun down and putting up a hand to the heroes with him -- indicating that they should take no action: "Just don't do anything !@#$ing stupid just yet, okay?"

"What...?" the time AGENT says, clearly confused: "This... this doesn't happen like this...?" 

"It does, yes," one of the beings he came with tells him -- silvery and lithe, and coming to a halt between the two men.

"Time Chamber?" the man from the future asks, recognizing the voice of the thing silver cylinder he walks through to go into the past.

"Shift," SPYGOD says, reaching out to shake the Olympian's hand: "Good to !@#$ing see you, again."

"And it is good to see you as well," Odin says, stepping from the rippling wound in space and time, and soon joined by his fellow Aesir, along with one other ghost.

"Holy !@#$," Gayle says, looking at the spirit of the man who almost killed her in Key West, now so long ago: "Green Man...?"

"Indeed," the dark-bearded ghost says, handing something small and gunlike over to SPYGOD: "A gift for you, from both past and future. I am told you will need it, someday. Or someone else will..."

He gives the time Agent a meaningful look, and then steps back from the gods, who clearly have other business here.

And step forward -- swords and shields raised for battle -- to take it up with the last living member of their clan...
* * *
"Wait," the Interim President says, shaking his head: "What...? What is all this?"

"A very long game, Mr. President," SPYGOD says: "One that stretches all the way back to when I found Odin's ghost, and going forward into the future after the Aesir died on Mars during their really !@#$ed-up version of Ragnarok. And there's a few big damn stops inbetween, a few of which apparently involve my own !@#$ing timeline... which I really shouldn't know a damn thing about..."

He sighs, and reaches into his boot to pull out the last hidden, very tiny flask he's got on him: "Chateau Adolf. Might be some of the last in existence now that the wellspring's !@#$ing gone. You want some, Mr. President?"

The Interim President turns up his nose and shakes his head. And SPYGOD, not one to waste a drink, downs the whole thing in one gulp.

"So there was Odin, and all the Aesir who died on Mars," he goes on: "The same ghosts that Loki had run into at the Void at the end of creation, where Mister Freedom stuck the !@#$ing Decreator after he had it all gathered up. They tried to stop him from taking it, but he !@#$ing got it, and then somehow got past them."

"Is that what happened?"

"Yes. And that's why Thomas Samuels looked like !@#$ing Benjamin Button when we found him. He was so close to the void that it !@#$ing aged him, like cheese. The only reason he's not dead is because of that body of his, and even that's in horrific shape."

"The poor kid," the Interim President says, looking askance: "So these ghosts... they chased after him?"

"Yes, but he's a wily one, Loki. He had them !@#$ing chasing him all over time and space. They might never have found him, either, except that he !@#$ing ran into someone else who was looking for him, and after he tossed his ass into space and time, well, they all got together and compared coordinates.

"And after that, finding Loki again was just a matter of !@#$ing time..."

* * *

"My son, there is no point in this," Odin sighs, holding out his hands to his errant, adopted child as the man flees him: "Your schemes are over. You have lost. And our time is long since gone, now. It is time to come home to us. Time to be done." 

"Done!" the Trickster rages, his eyes glowing green within his borrowed head: "You dare speak to me of being done! You who were done so long ago..."

"What mean you by this, brother?" Thor asks: "What excuses this vile behavior?"

"All I did was bring that which was inside outside, once more," Loki claims, standing his ground at last: "The impotent rage of a people denied their due!"

"What mean you by this?" the All Father asks, furrowing his brow: "Speak plainly that we might understand, my son."

"What happens when centuries of desire to go forth and meet their fate is halted by the man who should be leading the charge towards it?" the Trickster asks, his eyes welling with tears: "All I did was give them their hearts' desire. All I did was make them see that prophecy is in the hands of those who are Doomed by it! 

"You, my father!" Loki accuses, pointing the Candidate's finger at him: "You could have called the Wolf Time any hour that you wished it. You could have ordered the sounding of the horn, and the raising of the shield and sword and spear! You could have led the armies towards the Wolf, and allowed us all to play the roles we have been promised since the dawn of our age!

"But you became soft. You became complacent. You grew too much in love with the hole that you all retired to, with its women and wine and songs that went on, night and day. 

"What warrior king longs for these excesses over fresh and new glories? What god desires the small comforts over the great responsibilities?"

"You dare to speak these words to me?" Odin rages: "What know you of glory? What know you of responsibility?"

"More than you!" Loki screams: "See how you condemn me for having kept my part of the bargain? For being who and what I was always meant to be? The poisoner of wine! The whisperer of lies! The one who offers a hand in friendship but holds a knife in the other..."

He looks to Odin, and then to the floor: "If you would condemn me, my Lord, then you must also condemn yourself. Look to yourself for this fault of mine. You will find my sins staring back at you from within."

Odin looks at his adoptive son for quite some time, and then sighs, and nods: "He is not wrong."

"I beg your pardon?" the Time AGENT spits: "What-" 

"Keep it down, son," SPYGOD whispers: "Never get involved in another damn family's fight."

"Once again, I see the wisdom in my mercy. I see again, clearly, the reason why I have suffered such a wretch to live. For in mischief there is a rough and honest truth, and also within evil."

He looks back at SPYGOD, and nods: "He shall relinquish his hold upon your people. He shall be taken from here, with us. He shall trouble you no more. Is this sufficient price for his misdeeds?"

"It isn't, but we'll !@#$ing get to that in a moment," SPYGOD says: "First things first. Let's get him !@#$ing naked."

The All-Father raises an eyebrow at that, but nods, and waves his hand. The trickster screams in pain, and then falls to the ground, leaving two men standing where a moment before there was but one.

"Oh my God," the Candidate says, putting his hands to his face: "Oh my god. I can't... oh... ow. My head."

"Thank God," the wizened, old man who was once Thomas Samuels says as he falls to his knees: "Thank you Jesus. Thank you..."

"Thomas!" the Talon shouts, running to hold him, right along with Green Fury. He holds them both in his arms -- still powerful, in spite of everything -- and cries along with them. 

"So, here's the deal," SPYGOD says, pointing to Odin: "I could make you !@#$ing fix the whole damn city, bring everyone he killed back to life, all that crazy !@#$. And you'd do it to."

"I... suppose so," Thor speaks for his father, who looks rather weary just now -- perhaps overtaxed from forcing his son to let go of his servants.

"Well, here's the easy way out," the superspy says, now pointing to Thomas: "That young man's had one !@#$ of a rough go of it for years, now. I want a damn happy ending for him. I owe his Mother, her father, and his father that much. So fix him back the way he was before Loki took hold of him, and we'll call it even."

Odin smiles and nods, and, with a wave of his hand, the wizened old man becomes a powerful young man once more, much to the gasping and delight of all who are there. 

And Loki shudders, ages, and falls down dead -- only to rise a ghost within moments. 

"With that, we should depart," Odin proclaims: "Our age is done. This is a new era, with new gods to protect it. We shall step aside to allow them their Doom."

"A moment, please," the ghost of the Green Man says, striding over to Thomas and his family: "Son, do you remember me?"

"Of course," Thomas says, taking his hand: "Thank you for saving my life, father. I love you. I wish I had the time to know you better."

"I am glad I came to know you," the assassin says, smiling: "I love you, Thomas. Be well. And know that I will always be with you."

With that, he turns to go, and the Aesir head towards the hole they stepped through. 

"One more goddamn question," SPYGOD says, looking at Loki: "Where the !@#$ is the decreator?"

"Oh, that," the trickster ghost grins -- his smile like a hideous jackolantern: "My servant took it with him, after he finished playing with the people here. I think he said something about going where it all began.... whatever that might mean..."

"Enough," Odin commands. And then they're gone.

There's a moment of silence, then -- not even the breathing, groaning, and sighing of a force that's fought and bled up 55 stories can be heard.

And then the Candidate ruins it by trying to talk...

* * *

"Which is why the former Republican Candidate is sitting in the Heptagon with a broken jaw?" the Interim President asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, I couldn't let the time traveler actually shoot the fat !@#$," SPYGOD explains: "But about three sentences into him trying to weasel his !@#$ing way out of it, and we both kind of looked at each other, and he gave me that look, which I usually give to other people. And... I sort of gave him the look back."

"And he punched the man in the face."

"Yes. He did."

"And then you arrested him."

"Yes. I did."

"Alright, then,"  the man says, wishing he'd taken that drink after all: "So tell me what happened with your evil twin..."

Friday: 10/21/16

... round and round the dancers go -- flesh and steel and red, hot blood. 

One feints, the other dodges. One thrusts, the other bleeds.

Around and around, up and over. They spin and whirl so fast that they seem to be one body, one motion.

One mind, intent on a bloody, shared death.

Though, from the looks of things, the one who came here to fight is not going to be the one to leave...

 * * *

"Are you certain you need no help?" the FAUST Agent asks as their transport puts down, just outside of Oswiecim, in southern Poland.

"No," SPYGOD says, ruffling his long coat as he gets out and looks towards his destination: "You did evacuate the whole !@#$ing town, right?"

"A five mile radius, as you suggested to our Director."

"Good," the superspy says, checking that he's got everything he needs: "No one gets too !@#$ing close. No one interferes. If I fail, you !@#$ing call Straffer at the Space Service and tell him to use that one last orbital defense platform to cauterize the whole damn area."

"And if that doesn't work....?"

"Call the !@#$ing White City," SPYGOD commands, heading off: "And pray..."

* * *

... to a god he doesn't know the name of, anymore. Praying for speed. For fortitude.

For some kind of way to beat this gruesome counterpart, who he now realizes has merely been !@#$ing toying with him. 

"And you fucking call yourself a master of blades..." the enemy sneers -- slashing him so quickly across the chest that he doesn't realize he's been struck until he starts to bleed from neck to navel.

A wound that, like all the others, just does not want to heal.

And then... 

* * *

... he realizes it's been a long time since he's been here, in this cold and cursed place where it always feels like it's freezing -- even at high noon in Summer.

The first time was right after the War, operating behind the Iron Curtain to thwart ABWEHR from digging up some kind of leftover weapon, hidden in plain sight. He managed to get to it before they did, denied it to both them and the Soviets, and got away before anyone even knew he was there.

And all the way home, he couldn't help but feel the ghosts of those who died there, hounding his every step. He imagined they were begging him to hear their names, their lives.

To tell the story of their sad demise...

He'd been back, since, of course. Mostly ceremonial things, though every so often he found himself there because some group of racist supers decided to make a stand there, or else fall back for spiritual protection when their stupid plans came crashing down. 

Something about the stark, cold purity of the place invited such lost and broken persons to its brick and iron bosom, he thought. 

Which is why he finds it darkly amusing that his opposite number has decided to make his stand here, "where it all began."

Where he hid out, while the woman he came with -- the woman who pretended to be Gertrude Hoffstatler, and was then transformed into Geri Tomorrow -- made the moves necessary to make her a desirable asset to the Allies. 

Where he lurked, watching as the butchers of the Third Reich put millions to death for the crime of being different in mind or body. No doubt cackling at how crude their methods were, at time. 

No doubt helping, here and there, just to amuse himself...

Here in the torture garden of Nazi Germany. The last stop for far too many people. The place where the sign promised Arbeit Macht Frei -- "Work Sets You Free" -- but the jailers' idea of freedom left a lot to be desired. 

Auschwitz, where his adversary stands by the large, brick gates at the end of the train track -- naked and smiling, and with knives in both of his hands.

And not far from the prison of the Decreator...

* * *

 ... so close. So damned close.

All he'd have to do is run and grab it. All he'd have to do is turn his back on this freak and his knives, sprint over to the !@#$ing thing, and take it away.

He could run. He could call for backup. He could have a million people here in minutes, all ready to peel this freak a new damn grape.

Or he could explode with knives and swords. He could slice the fool to ribbons. Who would blame him?

But then he'd never know... would he?

He'd never know if the monster could be beaten by a man.

So he continues to fight, though it's going badly. He continues the dance, though...

* * *

... he doesn't seem much to write home about, this last survivor from the seriously broken parallel Earth.

He's (REDACTED), yes -- but yet not. He's skinnier, somehow. More lithe, more springy. 

His hair is darker, and straighter. His skin is quite pale, almost sickly, and covered in numerous scars -- old and new. His remaining eye is darker, and deep set. 

(His penis an inch longer, he can't help but notice)

And his smile is cruel and thin, as though someone took a few squirts of tissue out of them at some point. 

"Well, hello," the counterworld man says, and his voice is just like his, though his accent is totally different: "I was wondering when you were going to show up. Or if."

"Wouldn't !@#$ing miss it for the world," SPYGOD says, shrugging his coat off his shoulders, and then losing his shirt.

"I wasn't sure if that fucking fool who thought he was my master would pass my message along."

"He did," the superspy says, wondering if he should lose the pants, too, and then deciding to keep them on. 

(No use giving the guy a free shot at his ding)

"I'm glad," his counterpart says, smiling: "In a way, I feel sorry for him. I know what it's like to be a slave. To want to be free to forge your own godsdamned fate."

"Is that why you all !@#$ing killed your gods?"

"It was... complicated," the counterworld man says, no longer smiling: "Not a subject I want to fucking get into. We've got more important business, you and me."

"Yeah. Speaking of which... would you really !@#$ing kick that thing over?" SPYGOD asks, pointing to the prison -- subtly vibrating as it rotates through millions of locks, puzzles, and combinations to defeat its terrible, world-killing occupant.

"Fuck yes," the SPYGOD of Alter Earth insists: "In half a godsdamned heartbeat."

"You could own the whole damn world with that !@#$ing eye of yours. Why kill it?"

"I don't have the Eye of Horus, anymore," his doppelganger grins -- wide and toothy, like a Jack O'Lantern carved from a pale gourd: "I sent it along to someone who might make better use of it than I did."

SPYGOD blinks at that: "Who...?"

"Who the fuck do you think?" (DETCADER) sneers: "Use your brains you stupid fool. I made my own daughter, here on this sorry and contemptible planet. And if she actually survives this, she'll fucking turn it into our image. Stronger, more honest-"

"Yeah, yeah," the superspy interrupts, waving his hand in annoyance: "I had to !@#$ing shoot my way through a preview of Planet Mother!@#$er, yesterday, asshole. You're not really selling me on the goddamn concept."

"Then there's not much to say, is there?" the SPYGOD of Alter Earth says, looking a little dejected: "You know, it's fucking sad. Tragic, even. I spend decades fucking with you. Messing with your super friend in your name to make him hate you. Doing shit to undermine your image everywhere else. I even pinned the assassination of that nigger president on you.

"Hells, I did things you still don't know about. Things that'll fucking come back to haunt you in years to come, provided you actually fucking walk away from here alive."

"And I will," SPYGOD insists, making a pair of knives appear in his hands.

"And now...  here at the end of our story?" his pale opponent says, waving at him: "You're not a worthy adversary after all. You're just a mouthy lout with a lot of big fucking guns, a massive crowd of friends you don't deserve, far too many human shields, and a lot more luck than any one man should have.

"You're the shittiest nemesis I could have ever had, (REDACTED)," he says, shaking his head in disappointment: "You don't fucking deserve me. And I deserved a fuck of a lot better."

And SPYGOD looks at him, cracks a grin, and starts laughing.

"And what in the Hells is so fucking funny about that?" the SPYGOD of Alter Earth demands, confused: "Your life is a waste. I'm going to fucking kill you, here and now, and it won't mean a damn thing because you're..."

He shakes his head, not wanting to talk anymore, and  assumes a fighting stance that his counterpart doesn't even recognize: "There's really nothing else to fucking say, is there?"

"Not a goddamn thing," SPYGOD chuckles, raising his knives: "Not that can't be said with these."

"Then let's fucking talk," his doppelganger grins, breaking his position to all but hurl himself at his foe...

* * *

 ... who delights in the short but delicious moment that his knife tastes the flesh of his foe's eyeball, at long last.

SPYGOD shrieks in pain, almost losing control of his knives. He gasps and staggers back, putting a hand up to his maimed socket.

"Ah, there it is," his doppelganger grins, licking the blood and jelly from his knife: "The fucking moment. The second that you realize that you can't beat me, and that you're going to die here, today."

SPYGOD howls and drops to his knees, his face contorted: "What... did you..."

"Oh, it's poison, (REDACTED)," the SPYGOD of Alter Earth chuckles: "One specially made just for you, that I've been keeping nice and warm for you all this time."

"You... !@#$ing..." SPYGOD groans, lashing out with a knife and losing his balance -- all but falling onto his face.

"It keeps your oh-so-useful healing factor from kicking in as soon as it should," his opponent says, easily sidestepping that sorry flail: "So even if you were going to live through this, you'd fucking keep those scars. And you're never getting that eye back, either...."

SPYGOD howls at that, the pain really hitting him now.

"Not that it really matters," the man goes on, frowning in disappointment as he prepares to do what he came here to do: "I had wanted to fucking take my time with you. Make you eat your own shit after I raped your asshole for hours. Slice you to pieces and put you back together all wrong. Whore you out to the sort of people who get off on gang fucking human intestines..."

He goes on and on -- describing all the things he wanted to do, here, and how his foe just isn't worth any of it. (Not even the gut-!@#$ing)

But SPYGOD isn't listening, anymore. He's seeing through the pain. Through the fire in his blood and the slowness of his body.

Through the memory of what it was truly like to have a piece of that monster inside of him

And in that moment, as he realizes that he now knows his pale opponent, yet again, he understands exactly what the man is going to do.

And when...

The poisoned knife would have come into the back of his neck -- paralyzing him with a swift and deep stab into his spiral cord. But he spins out of the way at the very last moment, and brings his fist straight up into his opponent's face.

The SPYGOD of Alter Earth staggers back,still holding onto his knives but just barely.

And before he can think of what to do next, (REDACTED) back up on his feet, and then in the man's business -- a perfect rain of kicks and punches, strikes and blocks.

All done without his knives, because he no longer needs them. 

So does the flesh whirlwind begins again, between them -- only this time it's SPYGOD who is leading this dance. SPYGOD dictating the terms.

SPYGOD bringing the pain.

(Along with a parallel whirlwind of curses and oaths, of course.)

At some point, his enemy begins to panic. But by then it's too late. He's extended himself too far for too long, like a rubber band well past the snapping point.

And at the very second he thinks about edging closer to the Decreator's prison, and kicking it over to burn this world down? That's the moment SPYGOD closes the gap, at long last, and slams his palms into both the man's temples.

(DETCADER) falls to his knees a half second later, but his opponent doesn't allow him the dignity of an incident-free fall to the earth. He's on him the second he's on his way down, continuing the painful barrage of well-placed, well-deserved punishment.

The fight lasts another sixty seconds, but feels like an eternity. A the end of it, the SPYGOD of Alter Earth is a bloody, battered bag of flesh and bone, laying in a twisted heap on the ground of Auschwitz.

But yet he smiles, wide and red -- however distorted by swelling and gross damage. And that smile is clearly a dare to his opposite number.

A taunt to do the obvious thing, and just finish him off.

SPYGOD raises his fist up. He could do it, he knows. Maybe he should...

... Wayfinder's corpse, too gruesome to describe. 

The remnants of Dr. Kwri, raped to death in his sanctum. 

What was left of Disparatre, scattered all over his apartment floor. 

The First Lady in pieces in the walk-in freezer, leaving them for her husband to find.

What he did to all those girls in Asia, turning them into monsters.

What he did to Gayle's body. To the President's daughter's mind. 

What he turned Jess Friend into. What he did to Randolph Scott.

And all the years lost with Mr. USA because of his sick little games...

... "Do it..." (DETCADER) hisses, blood bubbling up: "It's all you're fucking good for, you waste. Fuck me to death. Screw my heart with your cock after you stab me through it.

"Beat me. Become me-"

But SPYGOD just smacks him upside the temple one more time -- hard enough to knock him the !@#$ out.

Then, as soon as he's sure the bastard is not getting back up again, he rolls off him, and sits there for quite some time, bleeding from a couple dozen cuts -- long and short, large and small.

And as he waits for his backup to arrive -- knowing that they saw the whole damn thing -- he gets used to monocular vision, once again.

And considers what to do next...

Saturday: 10/22/16

"So," Josie asks her boss as soon as he gets out of the Flier's sick bay -- his new eyepatch covering a gauze bandage -- "What now, sir?"

"Now..." SPYGOD says, looking down at the burly, pink-haired clone as if he was going to give her an immediate answer, and then looking away.

"Sir?"

"Now, we settle some long-overdue business," he says, adjusting the neck of his shirt and heading down the hallway: "A whole !@#$ing lot of Goddamn overdue business..."

* * *

First thing first: he heads down to the Heptagon, and goes straight into the medical wing. No one bothers to !@#$ing ask why, or who he's here to see.

He does, however, respectfully knock at the Owl's door before entering. She might still be holding Thomas in a motherly death grip. Or breastfeeding her youngest.

"Come on in, (REDACTED)," he hears her say, and when he does he smiles to see her there, in bed, surrounded by everyone in her family: her son, her husband, his daughter, their baby, and Green Fury. 

"Sir, what happened...?" Green Fury asks, pointing to his eyepatch. 

"Fun with knives, son," the superspy smiles, coming towards the bed and pulling kneeling down into the chair that Thomas thoughtfully vacates for him: "You know how it is."

"Thankfully, not often," the young hero says, wincing at the sight of it.

"Thank you," Martha says, taking his hand: "Thank you for bringing my son back to me."

"Thank you for your patience," he says in return, squeezing it gently: "And Thomas, I am very !@#$ing sorry for everything you've been through, lately. This is just been one big damn cluster!@#$."

"It doesn't matter, now," Thomas says, smiling as he looks at his mom, and their family: "We're back together, again. My mind's clear, my body's my own again. And thank God for all of it."

"Right," he says, looking at Thomas: "What are your plans?"

"Chicago for a while," he says: "I think we need some family time...?"

"Definitely," Mark says, nodding and putting a hand on Martha's shoulder, which she takes. 

"And then what?" the superspy asks, looking at Green Fury: "You think you got room in the Freedom Force for him?"

"Actually... I think I like just being the man on the streets," Thomas says, thoughtfully: "My time in Detroit... well, it was pretty darn crazy, and I wasn't quite myself. But I felt like I was doing some good, there."

"And it's a city that definitely needs some good done in it," Martha says, looking at her son: "I've heard some terrible stories about it, now."

"Well..." SPYGOD says, looking around the room: "If you, um, wanted to !@#$ing go back there, I could probably pull some strings..." 

And does his best not to let on that this was his big damn idea, all along...

* * *

... to leave him lying in this room, locked up somewhere.

The SPYGOD of Alter Earth considers his position for the third time in as many minutes, since he came to. He's in a large room with one door, strapped to a medical gurney by restraints so tight it's a wonder he can even breathe.

(He can't turn his head to look around or behind him.)

They haven't done anything more to him, at least that he can tell. He's not hooked up to any medical equipment. There's no weapons trained on him. 

And if there are guards, they're outside the door -- not in here with him. 

He thinks there's a table next to the gurney. It's probably full of things to make him talk, or hurt. Maybe both. 

He smiles a little at that. He can understand interrogation. He can deal with it. 

He just wonders what else is in this room that he can't see...

* * *

"... you for far too damn long," Straffer says, kissing SPYGOD passionately across the man's desk. 

"You mean since yesterday morning?" (REDACTED) asks, kissing him back. 

"Hey, the last time I saw you, you had two eyes in your damn head," the head of the Space Service says, pointing to the eyepatch: "Don't tell me not to worry."

"Hon, you knew that was coming," the superspy says: "I told you about the plan..."

"... and I've been living it for a couple years, now," Straffer says: "Do you now how damned hard it was to pretend to be a grief counselor since 2014? To walk by you every day? See you and me every day?"

"It was hell, I know," SPYGOD says, taking the man's hand and kissing him: "And I'm sure the transpistol wasn't goddamn fun."

"No," the blonde cyborg says: "But.."

"But here we are," the superspy says: "And I do mean 'we'."

"And there will always be a 'we,'" Straffer says, kissing him back: "You're the sun in my morning and the moon in my evening. You're my guiding star, day or night, and all the points on my compass. I begin and end with you. If I had everything, it would mean nothing without you. If I had nothing, it would mean nothing as long as you were there, with me, in that nothing.

"And that's because you are my everything."

And SPYGOD looks at the man, and starts to cry: "I... I said that to you..."

"You did," his fiancee says, smiling: "With a couple extra curses."

"Over three years ago, in that goddamn safehouse. Just after we !@#$ing broke out of house arrest...

"...And just before I pretended to turn on you."

"Best worst day of my !@#$ing life."

"Mine too," Straffer says: "But if I ever needed to know if you were worth following to hell and back? If I ever had a doubt that when you made your plans and your plots, that I wasn't just some asset to be used and discarded? It was when you said those things to me, and when I knew that you meant every word.

"And if there'd been a preacher in the house I would have married you right then and there, (REDACTED). And never been sorry for it.

"And that's why I've remembered every damn word. Because as far as I'm concerned, that was the proposal."

"I don't deserve you," SPYGOD says, kissing him.

"Hell you don't," the blonde cyborg says, kissing him back: "You broke me, you bought me."
And they both laugh, in spite of it all...
* * *
... the time he's spent in this room. Too long waiting. Much too long.

Is this part of the torture, he wonders? To make him wait?

He thinks of the man he kept waiting for an entire year. Locked in the room the size of a broom closet. Fed through a hole in the door with meals made from his own !@#$.

By the end he didn't have to touch him to get what he wanted to know. But he already knew it. He just wanted to see the look on the man's face when he confessed.

That utter, total defeat. That complete surrender.

He won't give it to his foe. He is resolute in this.

But the more he can't see the rest of the room, the more he wonders what he's in for...
* * *
 "... too long as it is," the Time AGENT says, looking rather haunted in the dark of SPYGOD's office: "I need to get back to my time. Or whatever's left of it..."

"Yeah," SPYGOD says, looking the young man up and over: "And I plan to let you. But there's something I gotta !@#$ing know, first-"

"Don't," the man says, holding up a hand: "I can't answer anything about the future."

"Can't or won't?"

"Won't," he replies, giving the superspy a very steely look: "Not even under threat of torture or death. I swore an oath."

"I bet you did," SPYGOD says, nodding: "And I bet you won't remember any of this, will you?"

The AGENT looks at the superspy with as neutral an expression as he can, but the tell is there, and SPYGOD smiles and holds up his hands: "It's okay, son. Keep your secrets. Keep your silence. I know the goddamn routine."

"I'm glad to know that-"

"But for however !@#$ing long you get to keep this memory?" the superspy says: "Just know that you've given me hope, son. Hope that it all !@#$ing turns out okay. Or that some things do."

"I can't say anything to that, either," the Time AGENT says: "I could be from a really messed-up future. Or an amazing one. Right now, in this second, I don't know any more than you do."

"Well, good thing SPYGOD knows all, son," he says, grinning: "You go back to your husband and your wife, and the kid on the way. You keep on keeping the timestream !@#$ing safe from assholes who want to break it.

"And you know that, even if I can't say I !@#$ing love you, because I just !@#$ing met you? I know what you do, and what you go through, and I respect the goddamned hell out of you for doing it."

The Time AGENT's face goes blank for a moment, and then softens.

SPYGOD looks at this young man -- who has his eyes, and Straffer's mouth -- and holds out his arms for a hug

And then they both step forward, ever so carefully, and hug one another as tight as they can, trying not to cry.

They say a few more things then -- private things best kept between a son who's met his father in the past, and a father who's met his future son.

And then, with a promise to talk about this "later," the latter leaves for home before this gets any more complicated, or weird...

* * *

... having so much time to think about things, isn't it?

But then, if he wanted to escape, he could have done it a while ago.

He could have broken his collar bones. Slithered out of enough restraints to get his hands loose. 

It would have been easy, after that. So damn easy...

But no. He stays put. Waiting. 

Sooner or later he will come in, his opposite. He will reveal everything without intending to. 

And then he will know what must happen then...

* * *

"... we're all !@#$ing square?" SPYGOD asks the man who's been lurking in the background, all this time -- down in the secret bowels of the Flier. 

"I think we are, yes," the man says, hitching up his gear and making ready to head back to Mongolia: "You keep my secrets, and I'll keep yours."

"Sounds damn good to me," the superspy says, extending a hand to shake: "Thank you for one last ride, sir. I was glad to work with you again."

"Is that what you call this?" the man says, looking rather displeased with the notion -- and not taking the offered hand "A threat, followed by a bribe?"

"Well hey," SPYGOD shrugs: "You know me."

"I do, yes," his collaborator says: "Which is why I don't trust you."

"Well-"

"But," the man says, putting a hand on SPYGOD's shoulder and looking into his eyes: "I do know Myron, and he knows everyone else. And he and I had a very long talk about making sure you keep this particular promise."

"Oh...?" 

"Yes. So if I were you, I'd be really damn good to that young man from here on out," the man goes on, with just a hint of menace in his voice: "Especially since he's going to be a father, pretty soon."

"Well..." (REDACTED) says, somewhat shakily: "I guess I do need someone to keep me on the straight and narrow."

"You got that damn right," the man says, patting the man's shoulder and turning to go.

"Hey, speaking of bribes," SPYGOD says, pointing off in some direction: "Did you want to watch what's going to happen with that freak? I mean, I wasn't !@#$ing intending on an audience, but I figure if anyone's owed this, it's you."

And the former President of the United States looks at SPYGOD, maybe weighing the loss of his wife and daughter, and what's happened to the other one...

And, clearly disgusted at something, he shakes his head -- turning to go without saying another word...

* * *

.... are worth so little. It's actions that matter. Flesh and blood. Fists and knives.

But yet it bothers him that he cannot speak.

He discovered it, just a few minutes ago. He tried to call out to his captors. To taunt them into coming in, or at least speaking to him.

And when he exhaled to speak, all that came out was air.

His lips are not moving. His voice box is silent. He has been prevented from saying so much as a word.

And now -- at long !@#$ing last -- the SPYGOD of Alter Earth is actually becoming worried...

* * *
"... we wouldn't get a chance to talk," SPYGOD says to the bald man sitting in a rarely-used conference room, not too far from his secret clubhouse.

"Oh no," Randolph Scott says, tapping the very long table he's at the head of: "No !@#$ing way were you and I not talking today, (REDACTED). No way in Hell."

"Yeah," the superspy says, nodding as he approaches the other end of the table: "I'm sorry I wasn't !@#$ing there for you when our kids died. I was too damn preoccupied with !@#$. I should have come to-"

"That, surprisingly, I'm okay with," the Outlaw Reporter interrupts, shaking his head: "I think having you there while they were dying would have been a goddamn disaster, really. You acting like you were in !@#$ing charge when there was nothing you could do at all. Me yelling at you. Velma !@#$ing yelling at both of us..."

He smiles a little, and looks away: "As it is, her and I came together for our kids. We rallied for them. And they reminded us what was really !@#$ing important."

"What is that, Randolph?" SPYGOD asks, sitting down: "What is that, really?"

"The !@#$ing truth," the Outlaw Reporter says, smiling at him: "That as goddamn bad as what happened to them was, that it didn't take away all the good that came before it."

"A lot of !@#$ing bad in that good, son."

"There always is," Randolph shrugs: "Truth hurts. But it's all we !@#$ing have at the end of the day. We just have to get ourselves to admit it."

"Right-"

"Speaking of which," he says, holding up his cell phone -- the image of a certain, old man who can't be photographed very well, standing next to Yanabah at a certain house in Taos, New Mexico.

"Ah," SPYGOD says, nodding -- of course Randolph would have !@#$ing figured it out.

"So whats the !@#$ing deal, (REDACTED)?" the Outlaw Reporter asks: "Does your Alter Earth doppelganger not have god killer bullets, after all? Or was this all some !@#$ing con you two came up with?"

"Well, son, it's like this," the superspy grins: "You tell the truth. That's your !@#$ing thing. But me? I keep it close to my chest, and only let it out a little at a time."

"Unless you're drunk or maudlin," Randolph says: "Or shooting sixty foot women..."

"You still remember what I told you, that day?"

"I'll never !@#$ing forget it," the bald man says: "And I'll never tell, either. But I want something from you in return."

"What's that?"

"Your word that you'll !@#$ing leave them alone," the Outlaw Reporter insists, putting the phone down: "I don't know all the details, because he plays the truth about as damned close to the vest as you do. But I think he should be allowed the dignity of living with that choice without you or the Interim President or the incoming President !@#$ing with him."

"Or them," SPYGOD says, raising an eyebrow over his freshly-lost eye, which makes him wince a bit: "I think that's the deal, there."

"It's not like that," the Outlaw Reporter insists: "He sees her as he sees all his people. His children."

"And how does she see you?"

The Outlaw Reporter grins a little: "I think I'll be playing that close to the chest, too, (REDACTED)."

"Good man," the superspy says: "And for what it's worth? There was a plan, there. And I !@#$ing let him know that I knew from day !@#$ing one."

"I see," Randolph says, tapping the table: "But you won't go on record, I guess...?"

"Not a !@#$#ing chance," he says, shaking his head: "But you gotta ask yourself, son. Now that the excitement is over, and the Gods have settled the !@#$ down, and we're moving towards reconciliation and understanding... isn't it !@#$ing amazing that the pipeline's been halted?"

"Yes it has," the Outlaw Reporter says: "And yes, it is amazing. Provided you didn't know that the whole damn world's taken a massive step towards changing how they deal with their indigenous people as a result of it...?"

"It's almost like his dying had a damn purpose," SPYGOD grins: "Which means it was a damn good thing you were there to cover it, wasn't it?"

"Yes it was," Randolph nods.

"So... was that really all you wanted?" the superspy asks: "My word that I wouldn't !@#$ up the only damn thing that's keeping things from going off the damn rails again? Let him and Yanabah go live in Wayfinder's spooky old house that can't be seen if its occupants don't !@#$ing want it to?"

"Well, there's a few other things," the outlaw reporter says: "But I'm not asking for them all today. I'm banking a few favors."

"That's damned smart,son."

"I learned from you, old man," Randolph grins.

And SPYGOD smiles, realizing that he actually succeeded in his goals with this kid when he took him under his wing, over five years ago. He didn't destroy him after all.

If anything, he created him...

"So what do you !@#$ing want today, kid?" the superspy asks, leaning forward: "And does it have anything to do with that very long talk you had with Dragonfly...?"

And Randolph Scott just looks at the superspy -- knowing he had to have known what was coming -- and, as if on cue...
* * *

... the door at the end of the room opens, and his disappointing nemesis walks into the room -- footfalls echoing off the walls.

He walks up to him, not looking in his direction just yet.

And he walks.... past him...?

The footfalls clop and clip, going some distance away. The rest of the room that the SPYGOD of Alter Earth cannot see.

He mouths silent obscenities. Taunts and goads him.

(Does he read lips? Surely he has to. He must)

There's a noise, back there. A sound like a mighty engine warming up. Some machine.

Electroshock, then? Or some strange torture device? Maybe a meat grinder made for people...?

He laughs, somewhat weakly. It's all he can do with his voice box silenced and his lips frozen.

Ah, the clip-clopping comes back. Slowly, and with purpose.

The gurney he's on gets grabbed from the end he can't see. He's pulled along -- the door to the room getting further away, slow step by slow step.

The machine's hum is rather loud, now. It vibrates his bones, and makes his head ache. He can only imagine what it must be like to his opposite number.

Oh, the gurney's position's being changed, now. It's being tipped up, ever so slowly -- horizontal to vertical.

And now it's being turned around, so he can see what was on the other side of the room all along...

It's a big, metal ring -- one just tall enough to let an average-sized man walk through with room to spare. It's crackling with static electricity, clearly building up some kind of charge.

SPYGOD walks from the gurney over to a table, close by. On it are a few implements that his Alter Earth doppelganger recognizes.

It's his tissue regenerator. The one he used on his hand, not long ago. Also one of his organ storage packs from his Asia-to-Europe super-guts pipeline.

SPYGOD finally deigns to look at him, and then smiles, turning the machine on to full.

The second he does, the SPYGOD of Alter Earth realizes what's going on, here. And that's when he begins to scream -- the only thing he can do, right now...

* * *

"... is to get rid of that !@#$ing thing," SPYGOD tells Josie as they meet up on the bridge, later: "And I do mean get rid of, Josie. Have New Man !@#$ing atomize it or something. I don't want the tech falling into anyone's hands. As of today, the book on Alter Earth is !@#$ing closed for good."

"Sounds like a good damn plan to me," the burly, pink-haired clone says: "I wasn't happy to have it on board."

"Well, I wasn't !@#$ing happy to find out Costa Rica didn't smash it like I !@#$ing told them to, either," the superspy snorts: "I guess everyone's just miserable today."

"Speaking of miserable," she says: "What about the guy in the cell with the busted jaw? You know, the guy who was running for President?"

SPYGOD thinks for a moment: "!@#$ him. He can rot there until after the damn election. And then..."

"And then?"

"And then just let him go," the superspy shrugs, thinking of how defeated the Candidate looked just after Loki was gone: "I kind of feel sorry for the dumb !@#$. I figure the court of public opinion can deal with his orange ass."

"Okay," she says: "How about Gold Standard?"

"See that she's buried by the Torchbearer," he says: "Full honors. And tell Fred I'm very sorry."

"Free Fire?"

The superspy thinks: "!@#$ him," he finally says.

"Black Falcon?"

"I'm going to let a friend take care of his ass," he says, thinking of the last bits of the conversation he had with Randolph Scott, earlier.

"And the biological material you... harvested?" she asks, wrinkling her nose at the thought.

"It'll keep until Shift and I do what needs doing," he shrugs: "Tomorrow. I got a massive !@#$ing report to write up for the President. And if I'm damned lucky, he won't !@#$ing fire my fine, gay ass after he reads it."

"You think he'll do it before?" she asks, but lucky for her he's too preoccupied to really take her meaning...

* * *

... because now he's thinking about the machine they stole. The hole it punched through the worlds. 

The horrible sight of Alter Earth -- still being consumed by small pieces of their version of the Decreator. 

A world with a broken moon hanging in the poisoned and lifeless sky. Its buildings shattered and covered in colonies of living, black gunk. 

The smell coming through the ozone, of burned blood, rotten meat, and methane...

He remembers how his doppelganger -- rendered utterly powerless by the simple act of taking away his ability to speak, and not speaking to him -- screamed and howled when he knew he was being sent home. 

SPYGOD wonders if taking the man's one eye out was a mercy. Even if it was part of the plan -- allowing him to both see normally again and have enough of his foe's presence within his body to be able to think like him when it finally !@#$ing mattered -- it may have been a kindness to not let him see what ultimately killed him.

But he wouldn't have lasted long on that ravaged, dead husk of a world, with or without that poisoned eye, now would he?

Still, as he moved the gurney to the lip of the gateway, and made ready to fling his broken, blind, and now-truly-helpless enemy to the only karmic justice he could ever provide for him, he couldn't resist giving him one last punch. 

"Be seeing you," he said between the man's screams, making the Vitarka Mudra as he hurled the SPYGOD of Alter Earth back home. 

And then, with a great sense of job satisfaction, took a very large handgun from the table with the organ replicator -- about to double the eye he took out -- and shot HONEYCOMB's gateway to Alter Earth to hell and back.

And if he could have pissed on the remains, he would have. Except that he was stone cold sober for this whole thing.

For once.

Sunday: 10/23/16

"... and... that was that?" the Interim President asks, putting the report down on his desk: "You just chucked him over to whatever's left of Alter Earth and...?"

"And then I put the finishing touches on that big damn report, Mr. President," SPYGOD says, leaning forward and putting his hands together: "And, after having some !@#$ing amazing sex with my fiancee, I slept like a baby."

"Well, that's-"

"And then I woke the !@#$ up," the superspy interrupts, grinning ear to ear: "And I gotta tell you, I felt like a million goddamn bucks. So I crawled out of bed, drank enough coffee to drown a bag of cats, and had a well-deserved shower."

"Did you have some breakfast in there, somewhere?" .

"Well, that was the plan. But it got !@#$ing interrupted by the sight of my fiancee sleeping face down and ass up, which meant we just had to have even more sex, and then another shower."

"Of course you did," the man sighs.

"And then I did finally make breakfast, and enjoy it. Got dressed. Took a report or two. And then finally marched my fine, gay ass over here to deliver that in person."

"Yes," the former Speaker of the House says, smiling somewhat tersely: "You know, for someone who runs a clandestine organization, you could try to work on not oversharing so much."

"It's the New York in me, Mr. President," SPYGOD says, leaning back and holding his hands up in rapture as he lets his native Brooklyn come to the fore: "When I'm happy? We're all happy. And when I'm not? Someone gonna !@#$ing pay."

"I know," his boss says: "It's been a curious kind of thing between us, hasn't it?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that, right now? I don't know whether to fire you or give you a raise," he says, leaning back in his own seat and tapping the report: "I mean, by your own admission, this whole thing has been poorly managed. You essentially ran a massive operation based on questionable intel that could have been faked by one of our enemies. Those eyes could have been laced with something-"

"Well, they were," SPYGOD says, tapping his temple: "But that was kind of the !@#$ing point. I had to see things through his eyes. To know how he thought. Otherwise, this wasn't going to work."

"But, you had a blueprint...?"

"Yes, but nothing about the last bits," the superspy explains: "That last fight? I only won because I knew when he was going to !@#$ing zig and zag. Without it, he would have cut me to !@#$ing ribbons in seconds.

"And I don't know how you run your action plans, Mr. President, but I don't put that much detail into mine."

"Well, fine," the former Speaker says: "But to continue...?"

"Please do, sir," SPYGOD says, waving a hand.

"All that aside? You've made decisions that affected the whole country, the whole world even, without consulting me. You've run roughshod over every principle of decency I can think of. And the only reason we're still alive, after all that, is because you were..."

He struggles for the word, and SPYGOD leans in and supplies it: "Right."

"Right..."

"Correct in my facts. Solid in my understanding. Concrete in my knowledge of how this world works. And able to use those facts, that understanding, and that knowledge to plan and plot, and then execute those plans and plots, in such a way as to keep this whole world, not to mention our great nation, from falling apart under the heel of enemies both foreign and domestic... not to mention extraterrestrial and ultraterrestrial. And then to slink back into the shadows before anyone can say 'who was that handsome man?'"

The Interim President blinks: "That's... beautiful."

"Thank you, sir."

"It's also the longest I've ever heard you talk without using any profanity."

"Well, don't get !@#$ing used to it," SPYGOD grins: "But I can't take the credit, sir. It's what the person who used to handle me told me my chief responsibility was, back in the day. I had to make sure I had all the !@#$ing intel I could get my hands on before walking into the lion's den.

"And when I look back? Every time I've ever !@$ed up, it's been because I just jumped the !@#$ in, feetfirst, and didn't look before I leaped.  And sometimes that couldn't be !@#$ing helped. But sometimes I just bought my own bull!@#$ at too high a price.

"This time, Mr. President," the superspy says, tapping the report: "This time? I not only knew what was coming, but I made sure that I was the one who knew it. A perfect loop of actionable intel."

The Interim President looks at it, and nods, pushing it back to SPYGOD: "Then how about I accept it as that, and we say we had a good and productive meeting?"

"Really?"

"Really. If I look at it any more, I'm going to have to wash my brain out with soap."

"I recommend a good beer," (REDACTED) says, taking it and getting up from the chair: "Why don't you come over and join Straffer and me for dinner, sometime?"

"As your boss?"

"Well, make it after January, and then you can just !@#$ing come over."

The Interim President smiles at that: "I just might. I am kind of curious to see your beer stocks."

"Hey, you won't be sorry. I got some prize stuff back in the !@#$ing cooler."

"How do you keep it from going skunky?" the man asks, getting up from behind the desk.

"They're frozen in time," the superspy winks, extending a hand to shake: "Ben Franklin's parting gift before he vanished."

"I see," the Interim President says, getting up to shake it: "Sometime you really have to tell me what all happened with him."

"It's... a long damn story," SPYGOD winks -- quite a feat with one eye -- as he turns to go to the door: "But I figure after January, you'll have all the time in the world."

"Hopefully!" his boss says, smiling at him: "Just don't do anything to make me have to fire you before then, eh?"

"Like what?"

"Let's... let's not get into that," the Interim President says: "You go be yourself, (REDACTED). Keep the world safe. Just don't make me have to make any excuses in front of the Press Corps, okay?"

And SPYGOD smiles and says nothing more as he leaves the Oval Office, knowing a thing or two about that.

And then...

* * *

.... halfway around the world, METALMAID sits in her new lair, watching Warbot after Warbot get assembled, and contemplating what horrible fleshbags to sell her new wares to, and how this will eventually get her long-overdue revenge on her former owner...

... and Randolph Scott, Velma, and Dragonfly walk through the war-torn wastelands of the world, documenting the devastation and cruelty and, when possible, doing something about it...

... as, not too far away, the Daughter of the President oversees the induction of her latest batch of Changelings, watching them turn into monsters courtesy of her now-dead lover's Eye of Horus, and prepares to send them into unsuspecting families all over the world as maids, slaves, and foster children -- there to lay dormant until she needs to activate them...

... and the new organization, created from the COMPANY and the Space Service -- now tracking all threats to Earth, above or below -- keeps silent watch, waiting for their unseen enemies to tip their hands...

... while some of the oldest and most inhuman of Gods, spared the wrath of Jehovah's agent on Earth, fester in the darkest holes of the world to plan their return to greatness, when this age of light and reason begins to grow old and tiresome, and begin to seek their new disciples among the lost, the mad, and the damned...

... perhaps not knowing that a small and secret group of Gods and Olympians, headed by a newly-regenerated, more whole Hanami, stand ready to stop them from ruining this new and exciting era...

... which could be threatened by those who band together under a now-banned symbol, in the worst parts of Eastern Europe, and use depraved and alien science to create their own superhumans to finally see a world where their kind can at last prosper and thrive...

... except that a now-international Freedom Force, overseen by Myron, is being put together to put an end to their terror and tyranny, and make the world safe for those who would be free...

 ... and the Backers -- ever despising freedom -- stand at the gate, displeased that their promised Armageddon did not come to pass, and send their own agents into the world to try and bring it about...

... and the agent they do not dare recognize prepares to become the next President of the United States -- his chances buoyed by the collapse of the Republican party, and the hope that his own has created...

... while the Penitent stares out of his penthouse lair at Detroit, now turned into an upside-down kingdom of pain and suffering, all run by zealots under his command, in the name of his martial, inverted Christ...

 ... unaware that the foe he thought he'd seen vanquished -- Thomas Samuels -- has slipped quietly back into the city, and is making ready to bring justice and the true face of God to its long-suffering citizens, and show them that superheroes are not to be feared...
 
* * *

... and SPYGOD walks into the Rose Garden, where his COMPANY Transport hovers, waiting for him to get on board.

He looks to the bushes, there. He thinks of the time he held Nancy Reagan's hand and walked with her, talking of her husband, and all he was going through.

He thinks of how he stood out here, chain-smoking after telling Nixon and his people off, and wondering if he still really had his job after all that.

He remembers reporting to Mr. USA, here, when he was President -- a memory made more bittersweet for having lost him, and now avenged him.

And he thinks of the time he saw his doppleganger kill the President's doppleganger, live on television, and thanks the God he used to pray to that the damn bastard is finally gone, and all this is over...

But then, nothing ever ends, does it? The struggle between opposites is eternal, and life goes on -- with or without us.

"I'm not going !@#$ing anywhere, though," he says, maybe more to the ghosts here than to himself: "I'm too damn stubborn to quit. And too damned pretty."

And, with that, he grins like a mother!@#$er, climbs on board -- accepting a full bottle of his mid-morning hooch from a waiting AGENT -- and demands all the intel they have on every damn thing going on as of ten seconds ago.

The world is waiting, and he's got gun enough for it all.

* * *

SPYGOD.

Immortal. Superpowered. Drunk.

Highly conservative. Queer as !@#$. Out as Hell. .

Killed Hitler with his bare hands. Saved the lives of three Presidents. Had to shoot one. 

Director of The COMPANY. Resident of The Flier. Head of SPYGOD SCOUTS. 

About to be happily married, and back on top of the world after being under the wheel for far too damn long.

No longer threatened by his Alter Earth doppleganger. No longer shackled to his past. 

But...

Still an asshole. Still liable to do stupid things. 

And still likely to shoot his AGENTS in the ass for looking at him funny...

But right now, he's the hero this world has. And maybe the one it deserves. 

And maybe -- just maybe -- he'll one day be the hero it needs.  

* * *

(May 11th, 2011 - October 31st, 2016)

Thanks to Dean Stahl and Mr. Lemonade

(Dedicated to Pete Burns - 1959-2016) 


(Spygod is listening to Youthquake (Dead or Alive) and having a Dead or Alive)

2 comments:

  1. *salutes* Thank you for the deliciously wild ride, Sir. It has been immensely satisfying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *salutes back* thank you for buying the big damn ticket and taking the ride.

      Delete