Monday, October 24, 2016

Apotheoclypse Now: 10/17/16 - 10/23/16

"I'm Looking For a Man / Who Knows the Rules of the Game"

(Anubis, who is not taking your !@#$, anymore)

(Art by the Lemonade Project)

* * *
* * *

So... that's him? one Watcher asks the others with her as they observe and participate in the Fiction they have written for the six people they've plucked from Bastogne, on Christmas of 1944: The uncouth one?

Yes, the one who brought them here says, pointing to the one who can make swords come from his hands: That is (REDACTED), as he was then.

He seems rather... unimpressive, one of the others says, observing a bit closer as he shoves a very large mouthful of the fine food they've created for this meal into his mouth.

His speech is tiresome, another opines, clearing the plates from the table: He seems capable only of annoyance and self-satisfaction.

And his attempts at humor are... lacking, yet another chuckles.

True, their guide says: But consider how far he came. How he grew and changed. Also what he did, when it was truly important to have one clear, far-seeing person to usher in the changes of the 21st century.

So what is the purpose of this lesson? the least shy of the Watchers asks: Are we to glean the future from his excessive profanity?

No, Shift says to his five apprentices: You are, under my direction, going to decide how the future is to be shaped, and why.

They look at him with some confusion, so he elaborates: This meeting we have constructed is not so much a contrivance as an intervention. If we had not acted, they would have killed one another, and the world would be without six of its most influential men.

But they cannot all survive, one of the Watchers says: They cannot all prosper. That one there, the one known as Heimdall? He dies in a Soviet camp, not many years from now.

Yes, but why does he have to? Shift asks: Why does he not live? Why does that other one? What is the purpose of their survival, or death?

The Watchers look to their silvery leader, and slowly begin to comprehend.

We must not see the weave of history, the least shy one says: We must understand the pattern itself.

Yes, Shift says, pleased to see his words are likewise understood: You must be with them, now. Examine their lives from all angles. See what was, what is, and what could be. Collaborate, compete.

And when you have learned what you need to see... well, I will be here to answer any questions you may still have.

With that, they all take their places behind the men they have each chosen to explore. They wear the faces of people from their past.

And then -- as (REDACTED) gets up to relieve himself -- they make contact, and the lesson truly begins.

But as Shift's most fearless student begins to explore the life, potential, and possibilities of her chosen subject -- the one called Major Force -- she happens to come across another life that has crossed his, and becomes much more interested in that one.

The shining, nighttime crusader of Chicago. The man who gives rise to an entire line of heroes -- stretching all the way into their present, and beyond.

The Owl, eternal.

And as she looks at him and his life -- public and private, recorded and redacted -- she realizes that she, somehow, has become a part of it...

She looks up to her teacher in alarm, only to see him looking back at her. His eyes are as sad as ever, clearly knowing what she has learned this day.

And in that white-hot instant of total understanding, she knows that this is not merely a lesson for her, but prophecy -- both beautiful and terrible...

* * *

It's Sunday morning, in Washington DC -- oddly still and quiet after the tumultuous week it's had to endure -- and the Interim President really, really needs a !@#$ing drink.

He looks at the man sitting across the Oval Office desk from him, as if he just heard the most incredible and outrageous thing ever. And in a way he has. 

"I..." he starts to say, shaking his head. 

"I know," SPYGOD says, leaning back in the chair he's parked his butt in, and adjusting his new eyepatch: "It's some !@#$ing crazy !@#$."


"I mean, I'm having a damn hard time believing this crap. And I was there. Hell, I even knew it was gonna !@#$ing happen before it did, and I still can't take it all in."

"And you're telling me that... this whole thing was all part of the plan?"

"Sort of..." the superspy defers, looking this way and that: "It's more like I was following a !@#$ing flowchart. This !@#$ing thing happens, then that thing !@#$ing happens, then this other thing is gonna happen, except that something else happens inbetween..."

"Uh-huh," the Interim President says, tapping the report the Director of the COMPANY handed him, a rather confusing half hour ago: "But you wrote the flowchart?"

"I think so," SPYGOD says, shrugging.

"Well, either you did or you didn't!" the man shouts, pounding his fist on the report and causing everything on the heavy desk to wobble, just a little: "Were you... were you drinking? Or worse?"

"Mr. President, let me tell you something," (REDACTED) says, leaning forward and pointing to the poor, abused report: "When you !@#$ing meet yourself from a couple months in the future? And the bastard hands you the keys to the damn future, and then tells you not to ask any !@#$ing questions, or tell anyone else exactly what the !@#$ is to go down? Especially since they might be about to die?"

"Or not die, as the case may be," the Interim President says, shaking his head: "You know how much a state burial at Arlington costs?"

"Well, look on the bright side," SPYGOD says: "Now you don't have to !@#$ing dig them a grave when they die. It's already waiting for them. Just slide them on in."

"I'm not sure I understand that either."

"What, burying them later?"

"No," the former Speaker of the House sighs, tapping the report: "The bit where the Mars force didn't die when we were told they did. And how they've been hiding all this time. And where those crabs were actually coming from...?"

"Well, it's like I was trying to tell you, sir," the superspy says, staring the man in both eyes with the last one he's got, and then leaning back: "All this past and future and present and !@#$ing flowcharts? If that isn't enough to make a man drink on the damn job, I don't know what will..."

"Yeah," his audience nods.

"Speaking of which...?"

"I had that bust taken out of here after the Apocalypse," the Interim President admits: "I guess I can't be trusted around emergency booze."

"Well, good damn thing I can," SPYGOD says, pulling a pair of flasks out of his coat, and handing one over: "Because I have the !@#$ing feeling you're going to want me to go over it all again-"

"Oh, absolutely," his Commander in Chief sighs, taking the flask with something akin to resignation -- and yet relief -- on his long face.

"And if so?" his guest says, popping the top of his with a well-practiced thumb: "Then we're both gonna need to knock back a few."

They take a snort in a weird kind of unison, which causes them both to chuckle a little -- something they clearly both need as much as the booze. 

And then, after a few more rips to loosen the mind and tongue, the Interim President takes a deep breath, drums the desk with his fingers, and says the fateful words: "From the top, then?"

"Yeah," SPYGOD says, taking another snort before he gets into it: "So, the Great Mystery was shot and killed with the whole damn world watching, which is when the !@#$ well and truly hit the goddamn fan..."

Monday: 10/17/16

"Okay, this is officially !@#$ing disgusting, now," Black Freedom says, wiping gobs of Gosheven off of her boots as she stomps through the crime scene: "What the hell is wrong with him?"

"He just saw his god die, Florence," Randolph says, trying to take pictures of the aftermath with a broken arm -- careful not to step too close to the dead: "If he needs to fall the !@#$ apart, I think he's allowed."

"How can this happen?" she asks, looking at the red puddle that was the Great Mystery, and the leather-clad woman who's been kneeling beside it since it happened: "What the hell kind of gun can kill a god?"

"Probably the same one that picked off those riot cops after the panic started," the Outlaw Reporter says, looking at the beheaded, over-armored police in question: "Which made them freak the !@#$ out and start shooting."

"Which made everything go the !@#$ downhill," Black Freedom grumbles, kicking a handy abandoned helmet: "God dammit! Why did I have to be so !@#$ing late to this? Why?"

Randolph could tell her that it didn't matter, really. Because once the Great Mystery was shot -- right in the heart, from the looks of things -- and began to melt into a horrifying, human-shaped pile of red goo in Yanabah's arms? 

Well, there wasn't anything one more hero on either side could have done. 

* * *
To Gold Standard's credit, she realized where the gunshot hadn't come from, and tried to stop things from getting out of hand. But the protesters, already on edge from the back-and-forth with the police, diggers, and Freedom Force, panicked and ran, assuming the worst. 

And as soon as the police were killed, well, the blue line did what it always did in a case like that -- assume everyone that was not them was involved, somehow. 

At which point they went from contain and control to cripple and confine, with terrible results. 

The shame of it was that, if it'd been just the police, Gold Standard could have turned things around. She could have literally pulled Gosheven back together and gotten him to spawn extra copies to do crowd control. She could have gotten Free Fire or Black Falcon to investigate where the shots came from, or done it herself. 

But Free Fire had his orders, and carried it out on the side of their fellow law enforcement. Before she could call him back he'd turned into a one-android rampage -- knocking protesters this way and that using his fists, feet, and the dull ends of his signature flame wheel. 

Thankfully he was aiming to subdue his targets, and just going for broken bones and serious sprains. But Black Falcon wasn't holding back. Something in his dark eyes lit up as soon as he saw that he had a clear reason to cut loose.

And that is exactly what he did. 

Randolph was so caught up in the melee -- a whirling dervish of camera and commentary, along with the occasional kick to a rampaging cop or protester -- that he didn't even see what was happening until the Toon hero came at him, fists and feet wet with the blood of others. 

"Worthless flesh !@#$!" the caped crusader shouted, bearing down on him. Randolph instinctively went for his handgun, only to realize that he didn't have it on him. 

(He'd left it at the tent with the rest of his weapons, just as Yanabah did...)

The gesture got him grabbed by the maddened Toon hero, who managed to break his arm and fling him over his head with the same fluid maneuver before going on to the next victim.

And the next. And the next...

And all Randolph could do, other than try and secure his busted arm as best as he could, was sit on his ass and continue to film, knowing that the whole world was watching this craziness unfold. 

And hoping, somehow, that their seeing it would cause things to calm down elsewhere, rather than getting worse...

* * *

"Unfortunately, it didn't  !@#$ing help," SPYGOD goes on: "The whole world saw that !@#$ go down. And what really stuck the !@#$ out was that someone actually managed to kill a god."

"Which is why our country exploded on Sunday," the Interim President sighs.

"And burned on Monday," the superspy agrees: "All these gods, thinking that the police had a !@#$ing way to kill them? Of course they panicked. Of course they flipped the !@#$ out."

"And you knew this was coming?" 

"I did, yes," SPYGOD says: "But here's the thing. I couldn't change it."

"Now that's... that I can't accept-"

"Sir, you !@#$ing watch television, don't you?" the superspy asks.

"Well, not as much as I'd like..."

"What' the one thing every show that deals with time travel !@#$ing teaches us?"

"That you shouldn't go back in time and try to change things," the Interim President says, nodding.

"Yes," SPYGOD says: "And by !@#$ing extension? If, by some weird damn miracle, someone from the future comes along and says 'hey, here's what's about to happen?' Then you don't change a damn thing.

"Even if it's gonna be !@#$ing painful."

"Well," the Interim President says: "A good thing we had people to help with that."

"Yes it was," the super spy says: "And people you all didn't even !@#$ing know about, at least until they all showed back up again..."

Tuesday: 10/18/16

"You will not continue this rampage," the glowing purple man says, pointing his finger at the five Egyptian mortuary deities he's addressing at the other end of the burning street: "This has gone on long enough. You will cease your actions, return to your homes, and think of how to make amends."

"Amends?" the Jackal-headed god sneers -- looking somewhat ridiculous dressed like some kind of gangster, complete with a ball cap and baggy pants: "Do you hear him, my brothers? He thinks to scold us like naughty children!"

"Well, that is much better than putting a god-killer bullet in our buttocks," one of the other four says, pulling out a golden gun that's festooned with Egyptian hieroglyphs: "What say we anticipate his actions?"

They all grin and pull out their guns. New Man looks at them, and allows them their moment of seeming triumph.

And then, as soon as they start firing, he sends Anubis and his posse of visceral protectors sprawling down the road, and tumbling into the nearby river.

This is St. Louis. The Arch has been turned into an ankh.

And the dead are walking...

* * *

"So tell me how they didn't die, again?" the Interim President asks.

"Well, that is !@#$ing complicated," SPYGOD admits, knocking back some more hooch: "But it has to do with what was !@#$ing sending those turd crabs to us, down that long damn hole in time."

"Which was the future?"

"Right. Where some small pieces of the Decreator had !@#$ed off to, after the pounding they took when Mars got liberated the first damn time. And there, in the future, they hunkered the !@#$ down, spawned, mutated, all that !@#$..."

"And then started coming back to us, here in the present."

"Right again," the superspy says, noticing he's drinking too fast and slowing down a bit: "Well, while our people were blowing the !@#$ out of them, and planning to go into that hole to close it the !@#$ down? There were other people on the other side, working on pushing those things into the hole, and trying to close it up from their end."

"What sort of people?"

SPYGOD smiles, somewhat ruefully: "Believe it or not? We have no !@#$ing idea."

"Really?" the Interim President asks, raising an eyebrow: "How is that even possible?"

"Well, my fiance tells me he could !@#$ing tell me..."


"... but then he'd have to !@#$ing kill me," the superspy grins.

"Well then," the Interim President says, frowning somewhat: "I fear for our country's safety if you can't completely share intel."

"You're a married man, aren't you, Mr. President?" SPYGOD asks: "Isn't the key to a good marriage knowing when not to !@#$ing tell the damn truth?"

"Fair enough," the former Speaker says after a moment, nodding: "So, all other considerations side, there was a hole in time. And our people went in?"

"Not like they had much of a damn choice," SPYGOD chuckles, deciding that was worth a slug of the good stuff after all: "Not after how things went down..."

* * *

"How does it feel?" Winifred finally asks from her co-pilot's chair in the new and improved Drill Tank, looking at the weird, new arm that Myron's sporting.

"I don't know, yet," he says, looking at how strangely the skeletal fingers and thumb move as he fans them, this way and that: "It's like... I can feel them, and I can feel with them. But they're distant, somehow."

"Not as good as what they gave you there, huh?"

"No," Myron smiles, remembering that nice prosthetic their hosts set him up with -- and then, sadly, took back before they all returned to their regularly-scheduled lives: "Not at all."

"Hey Myron, this is Dragonfly," the white-clad, former assassin communicates with the drill tank: "You there?"

"Yeah, we're here," the former Underman says, wondering why she's talking with them directly: "What's up?"

"We're being asked to keep eyes out for Black Falcon," she says: "He took off after what happened at Standing Rock, and no one's seen him since."

"Good," Winifred frowns: "Hopefully he just crawls under a !@#$ing rock and stays there."

"Well, if you do see him? Keep it on this channel," Dragonfly requests: "He doesn't need to know we're after him."

"Any word on Yanabah?" Myron asks: "Randolph hasn't broadcast since Monday, and he didn't mention her."

"I think she's at the camp," Dragonfly says: "I don't really know. I... well, I was hoping you knew...?"

"Because we were in the future?" he sighs: "Look, Gayle, our guests had us housed in some seaside village and didn't let us see where or when we were. We were told some things then, and learned more when we got back to this time. But we didn't get told every little thing about what's going to happen, or what happens to everyone involved. Frankly, I don't want to even know."

"Yeah... I'm sorry for asking. It's just..."

"I know," he says, smiling: "It's okay. If we see that sorry suicidal son of a !@#$ we'll let you know, okay?"

The white-clad former assassin nods, and disconnects.

"You two... right?" Winifred asks, holding his hand.

"Just once," he admits, squeezing hers: "It was more stress relief than anything else. Our clones were both about to get taken off the board. Or we thought so, anyway..."

"Oh yeah," she smiles: "That's some crazy !@#$, man. You'll have to tell me all about it, someday."

"Why not?" he asks, leaning over to kiss her: "We got time-"

"What have we got, folks?" Josie interrupts, doing her best to coordinate the chaos according to the rather long flowchart she's working from: "We're supposed to be getting past Chicago by now."

"Chicago's taken care of," Myron radios in: "Slambang and The Sound got the south side under control."

"Excellent," she says: "Once they're back, you need to rendezvous with Transport 112. You're needed in Green Bay."

"Don't tell me," the former Underman sighs: "More restless native spirits?"

"Actually, Sumerian agricultural gods trying to barricade the city," the pink-haired clone replies.

"Why Green Bay?" Winifred asks.

"Maybe they thought it was green?" the clone offers: "Maybe they're Packers fans? Who the !@#$ knows?"

"My money's on the latter," Myron says, seeing that his two teammates are coming back: "Speaking of teams you hate to love, when are we going to !@#$ing calm everyone down by telling them we didn't shoot the Great Mystery?"

And Josie looks to SPYGOD, who looks back at her with that look. 

The one that says...

* * *

"You couldn't," the Interim President says, looking over the report. 

"No," the super spy admits: "And before you ask? Yes. I !@#$ing hated doing that. But there were other considerations."

"Such as...?"

"Well, the only reason the whole damn country didn't burn the !@#$ down in those couple of days?" SPYGOD says, taking another hit from his flask and leaning back in his chair: "It's because a number of the Gods were scared as !@#$ of official reprisal. They thought that we could kill them."

"So when the stupid ones got all violent and crazy...?"

"They did the smart !@#$ing thing and stayed the !@#$ inside and down,"  the Director of the COMPANY says, nodding as he taps the President's desk with his free finger: "So the only ones we had to put down were the ones who were going to be a !@#$ing problem, anyway."

"Yes, I'm looking over that," the Interim President says, marveling at the arrests made: "That's a lot of them."

"Well, good thing we've got someone on the team who can !@#$ing handle arresting a god," SPYGOD grins...

Wednesday: 10/19/16

"I cannot believe this indignity!" a very battered Anubis grumbles, being marched off to a hole in time and space -- his hands and ankles shackled by high-tech manacles.

"The irony is quite inescapable," Mister Freedom says, overseeing the prisoner transfer: "As are those chains. Please do not strain yourself?"

The Egyptian mortuary god grumbles, but shuffles off to his waiting cell.

"One down, a whole lot more to go," Gold Standard sighs, looking at the long line that her drones are herding towards the hole -- all overseen by one of the Revolutionary Men.

"There is always room for one more in Hell," the manacled Olympian says, smiling at her.

* * *

"How long are they going to be kept there?" the Interim President asks, looking at the rather long list yet again.

"Well, some of them need to !@#$ing stay there," SPYGOD says: "Especially that one !@#$ing freak from Baltimore. The one who was eating kids and !@#$ing out food for street people?"

The President picks that moment to turn very, very green.

"Easy does it, now," the superspy says, holding up a hand: "Deep breath. Slow deep breath."

"I... I didn't see that," the man says, shaking his head: "Did we... did he...?"

"We most certainly did not allow him into the !@#$ing country," SPYGOD insists: "He came in illegally before the Haitians showed up during that last damn hurricane. We were going to deal with his !@#$, eventually. We just didn't have time."

"But all that's taken care of, now?" the Interim President asks, somewhat weakly: "All those gods are locked up, and going to stand trial for what they've done?"

"Yes," SPYGOD lies, deciding not to get into the really deep details of the whole damn thing.

Especially seeing as how it might color his perceptions of certain individuals...

* * *

"You dare to stand against me!" the slithering snake-diety hisses at his assailant, deep within the darkest recesses of the Void -- a place so far from the light of the all-consuming maw that one can only see in shades of darkest black. 

"I do, yes," Senator Ted Cruz says, raising his fists -- bloodied with the ichor and entrails of several, now-dead entities, all sprawled out about his feet: "You're a monster that has no place in this world. And I'm the !@#$ing cure."

"How dare you speak to me in this fashion!" Yig-Damballah screams, rearing back to strike with its many, sharp fangs: "I will devour your soul!"

"As if," the man says, allowing the thing to think it's got the upper hand -- right until all its teeth strike his skin, and break into small, white pieces upon it. 

The toothless beast howls and skitters away, looking rather pathetic with its face broken and teeth missing. One eye stares off into the wrong spot as the other rolls about loose in its socket. 

And Ted Cruz says one more prayer for forgiveness, and then administers a two-fisted coup de grace -- beating the brains out of the proto-human snake god before it has a chance to heal. He punches with fists blessed by the God he used to pray to, every day, until the head of the thing is nothing but bloody pulp and pulverized bone.

Then he kicks its neck-stump for good measure, just to make sure it doesn't come back to life.

"Mr. Senator," he hears SPYGOD in his ear about ten seconds later: "I need you topside, fast."

"A moment, here, (REDACTED)?" the man scowls: "I just killed 34 gods with my bare hands."

"Which you've !@#$ing known you were going to do for, what, five years now?"

"Yes, but I'm not exactly ready for primetime," the Senator says, wiping venomous slop onto his pants: "I need a shower. Fifty goddamn showers."

"Yeah, well, make 'em !@#$ing quick," the superspy insists: "Our mutual opponent's about to get on the !@#$ing TV to make his case. We need you ready to give the other side."

"Right," Cruz says, looking at his messy hands: "Maybe just one shower?"

"Don't !@#$ing blow dry."

"I never do," the Senator chuckles, and turns to find Shift standing there, waiting to take him to where he's fated to go...

 * * *

"... which is why we don't have the internet, right now," the Interim President says: "Right?"

"I'm !@#$ing getting to that," SPYGOD says, downing his own flask for the hell of it: "Hang on, sir. Hang on..."

* * *

"Good evening, America," the Candidate says to the camera he's sitting in front of, in the rather opulent living room of his three-story Manhattan penthouse: "I really must apologize for intruding upon your normally-scheduled television and webcasts. But, seeing as how our historic, first ten-person Presidential debate has been called off due to a national emergency, I find this is the only way to get my message across, one last time before the election."

Loki smiles through the beefy-faced man he's riding, thinking of all the technological wizardry his servant's press-ganged into existence, here tonight, just to make this possible. Most of them look rather scared.

(The others are rather changed -- most likely by the magic eye his servant keeps locked away for safety...)

"Speaking of that national emergency, I am being told, as are you, that this is currently under control. We are told that the gods who were raging through our city streets have been dealt with. We are told they are being locked away, or otherwise punished, and that this will never, ever happen again. 

"We are being told that. 

"But I see the fires and I am not comforted. I hear the screams and I am dismayed. I see a dark world growing darker with each day, each hour, and I am not satisfied with their progress.

"And so I am certain you do not need to be a reader of minds to know that this truth they peddle is not something I choose to believe. 

"One thing you can say about my forthcoming Administration. You will always know what is foremost on my mind. And that is because I will tell you, without reservation or hesitation. 

"And I tell you now that this problem will not go away," Loki says, preparing the glamour to end them all -- borrowed eyes glowing a poisonous, bright green: "That you should be afraid. That you should listen to what I have to say on this matter, and with rapt attention, for mine is the only plan that will stave off this danger. Mine the only voice you should listen to, for comfort and direction. 

"Mine the only-"

"Sir?" the person behind the camera says, looking rather afraid.

The Candidate looks up at him, furious to have been interrupted in mid-spell, but soon realizing the fear on the man's face has a purpose: "Well?" he demands.

"The camera... it's working, but," he says, pointing to the television feed from the other room.

It's blank. There's nothing but a black screen on every channel they flip to -- eventually replaced by the ubiquitous NO SIGNAL indication.

"I think they've... they have, yes," one of the more willing participants in this says: "They fucking pulled the plug, sir. They killed all the broadcast mediums."

"And the internet!" someone else shouts: "Oh my god..."

"Hey," yet another one of his helpers says, pointing to the window: "Is it just me... or is it getting lighter outside?"

And before the Candidate can call to them to come back and attend him, they're all at the windows -- basking in the first proper sunset they've seen in weeks.

"Looks like something fucking shifted, sir," the SPYGOD of Alter Earth says, coming up behind his master and leaning down to speak into his ear: "What's the plan, now?"

And the Candidate glowers at him, but then looks askance.

He has no plan. None at all.

* * *

The sun's light flares, at least so much as the people of the world can see.

For the first time since the debacle on Mars, everything is bright and shiny again. No lack of light. No growing false shadows. Just the sun, burning and beautiful.

As the light shines, it begins to coalesce in various places -- in front of every television and computer screen in America, every iphone and communications device.

And it takes the form of the face of Senator Ted Cruz, long since thought to be dead and gone in the fighting to retake the red planet, all those weeks ago.

He smiles, looking out at the nation he loves, and speaks to it -- his words somehow traveling from the hard light projections that the reborn Raitha is creating.

"My fellow Americans," he says, raising his hands to them: "I'm sure you know who I am. I'm also sure you thought I was dead, which is something I'm probably never going to get tired of hearing.

"But I apologize for the confusion and distress. It was not my intention to deceive you, or cause you to worry. I was simply unable to tell you that I was alive, due to the nature of what happened to us, and where we were for all that time.."

He smiles again, and the world smiles with him: "But I have returned, now. And I do so in the proverbial nick of time, in several senses of the word.

"I return in time to help stave off this current crisis which has embroiled our nation. As I speak to you, the last vestiges of rebellion and strife are being dealt with. But I want to say to all Americans at this time to be understanding, as what has taken place is an understandable reaction to what happened at Standing Rock.

"When a movement attracts a leader, and that leader is killed, several things can happen. Sometimes the movement embraces peace, and turns the other cheek. And sometimes it turns to violence, and forgets itself.

"And none of us can say that we would raise a hand in friendship rather than a fist, unless we, too, faced this awful thing.

"And so I ask for understanding and forgiveness, in spite of the damage done. The guilty will be called to account, and put to work righting the wrongs they have done. I hope that, when they have made restitution, you will join me in offering them another chance.

"The same chance we would all want in their place..."

He pauses for a moment, and then looks humble: "Speaking of other chances, I would like to ask for one of my own. In the past I have said some very awful and untrue things about a group of those gods. I picked a fight with the Olympians, out of fear and ignorance, and also to try and gain an upper hand politically.

"I humbly and deeply apologize for this. I now know how good these people are, even though they seem strange and unusual to us. I have seen the good they do with my own eyes. I have witnessed what they can be when they work alongside us, as allies and friends.

"And I promise, from here on out, to be an ally and a friend to them, whether or not I am elected President.

"Speaking of which," he smiles again, a little less humbly: "I want it said now, and clearly, that I wish to still be the Candidate of the Freedom Party. But the party I left here on Earth, before my apparent death, is not the party I have returned to. Neither is it something that currently embraces my feelings, as they have changed in many other respects.

"As soon as the internet resumes service, in 24 hours or so, please go to our new website. There you will find a new platform, a new ethos, a new vision for America. I hope you will join me in embracing free markets and free destinies, and help us all to usher in an America where we can all join in.

"There are some things that are about to happen that will not be very pleasant. All will be revealed in time. But for now, please go about your day secure in the knowledge that this nightmare is passing, and soon a better, stronger dream will unfold for us all.

"Thank you for your time, and may the Gods bless our country..."

With that, the image fades. All over America people put their hands to their hearts, thinking that they have never been so uniquely touched by such a message. So uplifted, so ennobled.

So filled with hope...

* * *

"Which was, of course, when things really started to get !@#$ing ugly," SPYGOD explains to the Interim President, pointing to the report.

"Right," the man says, almost afraid to turn the page...

(SPYGOD is listening to Headhunter - Beefcake Remix (Front 242) and having a Freedom Lager)

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