Monday, October 3, 2016

Apotheoclypse Now: 9/26/16 - 10/2/16

"We Believe In the Future of the Human Race..."

(Randolph Scott - Outlaw Reporter)

(Art by the Lemonade Project)

* * *
* * *
"My fellow Americans.

"It is with a glad but heavy heart that I come to you, tonight, to tell you that operations on Mars have successfully concluded. We have won.

"The last traces of the Decreator have been fought and destroyed by the Mars Expeditionary Force. The means by which they were coming back was shut down and buried beneath the sands of Mars. 

"We have won. But the victory comes at a very high price.
 "I am sorry to report that, so far as we can tell, all members of the Mars Expeditionary force have perished. 

"That includes the head of the UN Space Service, George Straffer, and a large complement of his staff. It also includes several members of the Freedom Force, Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz, the Aesir, occupying the bodies of many of Europe's Strategic Talents, and the Olympian known as Raitha. 

"Our hearts and prayers go out to their families and loved ones, tonight. We celebrate our victory, but also mourn the sacrifice of those who died to achieve it. 

"I am informed by the Olympians that, with the Goddess of light gone, things may seem a little dark for a time. But they also assure me that, before long, a new Goddess will come forth and assume her duties. Life will continue on. 

"I can think of no more comforting a thought to those who have lost loved ones, either before this final battle, or after it. 

"The whole world has been supremely tested, this last year. But we have struggled and survived. We have persevered.

"And we have done so together, as one world, with our many faiths joining hands to stand against a foe that ran counter to everything we stood for.

"At a time when we seem more divided than ever, more troubled than ever, it is a good and wonderful thing to know that our differences have not destroyed us, but saved us.

"In that spirit, I ask for your prayers, tonight. For those lost. For those saved.

"And, finally, for peace. May it ever reign."

"Good night, and God bless America."

Monday: 9/26/16

 "You have to be !@#$ing kidding me," the bald fellow says, his Scots' brogue somewhat slurred due to having just woken up.

"Well, that would be a !@#$ing lie," SPYGOD says, gesturing to the door of the small, comfortable drinking room so his Roaring Boys can leave as quickly as they entered: "This is about as real as it !@#$ing gets."

"You !@#$ing abducted me?"

"Guilty as charged. Want a drink?"

"A drink? I want a !@#$ing lawyer."

"What damn good would they do?" the superspy asks, marching over to the wet bar and pouring himself a rather large tumbler of something potent, and then doing a passable imitation of his guest's accent: "'Help! I've been stolen by the COMPANY for super secret spy !@#$ I'm not even supposed to !@#$ing know about! Send guns, money, and a ton of preposterous hash!'"

"That's not funny," the writer sighs, rubbing his bald head: "Not even remotely funny."

"Neither is the damn world, right about now," SPYGOD says, drinking about half of what he poured in one long, well-considered gulp: "I'm sure you've !@#$ing noticed."

* * *

"Wait, he's... where?" the Interim President asks Josie, looking rather incredulous as he stares down from the big screen in the Flier's bridge.

"SPYGOD is in Isolation Room One," the COMPANY Second repeats herself, not really impressed with how this conversation is going: "He'll be in there until Sunday."

"Does he know... does he know what's going on?" the former Speaker of the House asks, clearly incredulous: "Mars? The situation at Standing Rock? The Aesir? The state funeral?"

"He got a briefing just before he went in, sir," Josie says, grabbing something off a passing AGENT's clipboard and looking at it: "He is well aware of what took place."

"You don't suppose he's in there drinking himself into a stupor, do you?"

"No sir," the pink-haired, burly clone smiles: "He does that in plain sight."


"If he's in there, it's because he needs someplace to plan where nothing and no one can get in his face and interrupt him, sir," Josie interrupts: "Which means things might actually be even worse than you know."

She smiles at the look on his face, making a mental bet that he fumbles through a goodbye and hangs up in less than a minute.

(A bet she wins, of course...)

* * *

"The fate of the whole world, eh?" the writer asks: "You think I can help with that?"

"I know you can," the superspy nods, pouring himself some more booze: "You've done it before."

"That was !@#$ing different."

"How so?"

"Look, you came to me for help with your plan, for one thing. None of this kidnapping !@#$."


"And I was happy to help you with that whole thing. I was."

"I remember."

"I mean, I kind of liked the thought that 'Best Man Fall' could be used as a !@#$ing mnemonic trigger to get your people out of their clone bodies and back into their real ones."

"Some of them still have their issues," SPYGOD grins: "Thanks for autographing them, by the way."

"Hey, anything to stick it to the Terre Unifee. You know what their Minister of Culture called me?"

"A bad influence."


"And you used to !@#$ing eat out on being a bad influence."

"That's not true," the writer insists: "Now, I admit, I reveled in being the punk rocker they let conduct the whole !@#$ing  orchestra. But at the end of the day I just think the world needs more and different ideas out in it."

"And ideas can be really !@#$ing dangerous," SPYGOD says, bringing over a few bottles he thinks the comics writer might like and dropping them down by his feet.

* * *

"So, now what?" Velma asks Randolph as they sit by the graves of their children -- close enough to almost touch one another, but not able to cross the chasm that's grown between them. 

"Now..." Randolph muses, looking at her with his one good eye, and then away: "Now I guess we have to decide what to do about what we've made."

"I can't go back to that room," the Toon says: "Not without them."

"Neither can I," the Outlaw Reporter nods: "It's not THIS IS BULL!@#$ without them."

"No," she agrees.

"Even if we got more staffers, more people? Even if I trusted Jello to do news instead of commentary? So much of it was them."

"They were our backbone."

"Right. I could go scour the world for the truth, but they're the ones who held down the fort and let me turn the truth into a story."

"And now..." she sighs, looking at the fresh tombstone in front of her. The one that reads KARL.

"Yeah," he says, looking at JANA, and then HELGA and HELMUT. 

"We should have one for Gunther," she says, reaching out to take his hand.

"All of them," he agrees, letting her. 

And for a time, they sit in silence -- content to hold and be held in the sight of their greatest failure. 

* * *

"So," SPYGOD says, after the Scotsman finally joins him in a drink: "I have a situation-"

"I was busy, man."

"Yeah, yeah. Working on Heavy Metal with the wife."

"Right!" the writer says, shaking his glass about for emphasis: "In the middle of a bottle of champagne, picking out things for the next issue-"

"She doesn't even realize you're !@#$ing gone."

The bald man blinks: "What?"

"I got a shapeshifter pretending to be you," SPYGOD explains: "He'll be you for a couple days. She won't have any idea otherwise-"

"Oh, I think she'll notice eventually-"

"He's not into women. She won't notice a thing."

"That's !@#$ing crazy, man."

"'We are operators at the highest levels!'" the superspy quotes, winking over his glasses.

"Jesus !@#$ man," the writer says, looking at those eyes: "Where did you get those?"

"That's part of the problem," SPYGOD says, handing over a scrawled list of things: "I'm in the middle of the biggest, craziest time loop I've ever had the !@#$ing displeasure of sitting in. The past, present, and future have their fists so far up each others asses I can't tell who's getting the damn reach-around, anymore. It's science and magic and time travel and gods.

"And one wrong move and it all falls the !@#$ apart..."

 * * *

Who started the fight in New Orleans? Who can say?

Was it the Loa, still smarting from the beatdown the skull-faced Olympian gave them? Was it the members of the Pantheon of the Nile -- newly-arrived and seeking the kind of sanctuary the Big Easy could offer them? 

Or was it the magicians both camps attracted, high on the fumes of having their own gods walk among them...?

Who started the fight? No one may ever know.

But by the time it's over, the streets of the French Quarter are broken and burned -- the storefronts blown out and ruined -- and at least three gods lay dead or dying.

The COMPANY gets called in, maybe a little too late. An Olympian or two shows up to help handle the mess. It's all in hand in a short period of time, really. 

No muss, no fuss -- just cleanup. 

But the look on the face of the civilians says it all. The ones that say that their proud city, that has withstood fire and flood and all manner of disaster, might yet fall to another, more divine sort of calamity. 

The look that says they are no longer certain they want to live in a world where gods walk among their flock...

* * *

Two bottles later, the bald writer raises an eyebrow and looks at SPYGOD: "Obvious question."

"Smart-ass answer," the superspy says, downing the last of the one they were working on.

"Why didn't you ask Alan? He does time wraps and gods, too, you know."

"I don't !@#$ing trust him."

"You shouldn't !@#$ing trust me, either."

"And he's apparently kicked his wife out of their flat and taken up with that damn snake god he !@#$ing made for himself after it came to life and told him his novel was !@#$."

"Well, then," the writer sighs: "Neil?"

"Amanda's threatened to !@#$ing castrate me if I come near him again."

"She !@#$ing well will, too. Warren?"

"Useless as tits on a bull."

"You're kidding me."

"He writes about magic, but he doesn't believe in magic. You do."

"He's also !@#$ing bribeable. A couple cases of Red Bull and he's all yours."

"Well, he's not the only one with a weakness," SPYGOD says, pulling a big bag of something dank and gnarled out of his coat pocket.

"What... what is that?" the writer asks.

"This, my friend, would be the best hash this side of Hyderabad," the superspy says, dangling it in front of the writer's face: "The same sort of thing you were on when those silver globs from otherspace came to take films of your asshole and give you the idea for The Invisibles."

"That's not what !@#$ing happened, man," the writer says, but his eyes grow rather wide at the thought of having some of what's in the bag.

"You and me," SPYGOD insists, holding it out: "This room. That list. As much booze and hash as we can handle, but we stay here until it's good and done. Or Sunday. Whichever !@#$ing comes first."

"What's in it for me, other than a bag of !@#$ you probably got down the street from the boot of someone's car?"

"The satisfaction of knowing you did what that comic didn't quite do," the superspy grins: "You get to rewrite reality, here and now, and spend the rest of your life knowing that you !@#$ing saved it. For real."

And Grant Morrison nods, ever so slowly, and pats his knees: "Please tell me you brought a !@#$ing lighter."

Tuesday: 9/27/16

 "Look, we don't want any trouble," the police officer says, holding his hands up as high as they'll go in the bulky riot armor he's wearing: "We're just enforcing the law."

"So am I," the Great Mystery says, pointing a crackling finger at the man: "And so are they."

He cocks his head back to the people they were going to arrest -- Native Americans disrupting the workers with their bodies and their prayers.

"Whose law is that?" one of the workers shouts: "I got a right to be here, pal."

"You're trespassing on sacred land," the old man says, not deigning to look in the man's direction: "I were you, I'd get off it really quickly."

"Or what?" the big-bellied guy in the hard hat snorts.

He doesn't have time to hear the thunder before the lightning knocks him off his feet and onto his ass -- fifty feet away. His shoes remain where they were, smoking on the ground.

"Or I barbecue some pork," the Great Mystery chuckles, looking around: "That's the other other white meat, right?"

The workers drop their tools and leave. The police follow soon after.

And the Great Mystery pretends to be pleased at the cheers of his people, knowing too well what this means.

And what's going to happen because of it...

* * *

"You wrote all this !@#$ down?" Grant asks, still flipping through the large stack of notecards they decided to attack today: "It looks like !@#$ing gibberish, man."

"That was your specialty, once," the superspy groans, wondering what they can make to eat in this damn room.

"It only looked like gibberish,"  the writer insists: "Every word was planned. I wanted to evoke emotional states. Get the reader to ascend up to a different level of consciousness, so they could absorb the information on a different plane."

"Oh, like Mexican Chocolate Cookies?" SPYGOD asks, wondering if he's got something like that stashed, somewhere.


"Icebox cookies you make with chocolate dough," he explains as he rifles through the cupboards: "Only you sprinkle some !@#$ing cayenne pepper in."

"Why the !@#$ would you do that?"

"Well, it's not like you're getting a lot of it. Just enough to awaken your taste buds to different sensations. So you taste the damn chocolate on different parts of your tongue."

"Oh..." the writer says, nodding: "I can see that. You got any?"

"No," SPYGOD grumbles: "I got the recipe, though. The Living Dead Girl used to make them all the time."


"Never mind," the superspy chuckles, reaching into the back of a cupboard and bringing out a big, fresh bag of off-brand rainbow chocolate chip cookies: "Here we go."

"All right, man," Grant grins, taking a few when offered and shoveling them down: "So you still think having me try my hand at a plan is going to help you see what's !@#$ed up with yours?"

"Or what's !@#$ing right," SPYGOD grins: "Why?"

"Because all this !@#$? It's !@#$ing gibberish. It's like you stuffed ten perfectly good plans into a pinata and then had some spastic whack at it for a few hours."

"That's how I do my plans, writer boy," SPYGOD says, tossing a few cookies into his own mouth and washing them down with a fresh bottle: "Ten cards at a time, five plans at a time. Dotted lines and Venn diagrams. Contingencies and redundancies. Back ups for my !@#$ing back ups."

"And a whole lot of booze."

"Damn skippy," the superspy grins, popping the cap on a fresh one.

"No wonder you !@#$ing needed me," the writer sighs, assembling a few words together: "This is like playing Scrabble with William S Burroughs."

"I used to do crosswords with a Grey Man, son," his host says, taking a few of the cards and looking them over before handing them back: "Made Bill sound like a goddamn proponent of sobriety."

"I'll !@#$ing bet," Grant says, puzzling over the meaning of a word on a card.

* * *

"This wouldn't be so damn bad if we had something to read," Red Wrecker grumbles, looking around the holding cell her and Dragonfly woke up in, a day or so ago.

"Or some damn Aspirin," the white-clad, former assassin says, holding her head: "Jesus !@#$ing Christ, what did we drink?"

"Half the bar, I think."

"I think you're right," Dragonfly says, getting off the concrete bunk and looking around the room: "Right after the President got on TV to talk about !@#$ing Mars..."

And then she remembers what she'd done her best to forget.

It's small and functional, this room. Two concrete cots and a toilet with a built in drinking fountain (that doesn't work, of course). The door's just steel, but apparently there's a whole legion of Riot cops with very large weapons on the other side of it.

That's what the Chief of Police told them, anyway, when they woke up here to find out they'd trashed police cars, wrecked private and public property, assaulted several law enforcement officers, and resisted arrest.

Supposedly the COMPANY was sending someone to get them out of here, but that was really a case of being out of the frying pan and into the inferno -- especially when Josie gets her large hands on them.


"Any regrets?" Dragonfly asks, sitting back down. Walking isn't a damn good idea, right now.

"Not coming here sooner," Red Wrecker says, patting her knees: "Not !@#$ing standing up sooner."

"Is that what that was?"

"I can't be the hero they want me to be, anymore," she says after a moment or two: "I can't sit there on the Freedom Force and pretend what happened to me didn't happen. I can't be a hero to a country where people like me get shot by the police every damn day just for being black."

"Can't blame you," the former assassin says: "Ever since I came back, it's not the same. I mean, everyone was happy to see me alive and in one piece, sure. But I won't kill, anymore. And now they don't know what to do with me."

"And I don't know what to do with them," Red Wrecker says, nodding.

"Well, after what happened... maybe there won't be a Freedom Force, now."

"They'll always find someone," the small heroine says, shaking her head: "But !@#$. All our friends, gone. Myron and (REDACTED)."

"The tin can man," Dragonfly sighs.

"And New Man... we just !@#$ing got him back, dammit! And now he's dead again?"

"Maybe we should team up and do our own thing," Dragonfly says: "Sort of like Power Man and Iron Fist?"

"Who?" Red Wrecker asks, clearly confused.

"Luke !@#$ing Cage?" the former assassin asks, incredulous: "How can you not know who he is?"


"Because he's the man, girl. He's big, he's black, he's a hero for hire."

"Never read him."

"He's gonna be on Netflix this Friday."

"I !@#$ing hate superhero shows,"  Red Wrecker says.

Dragonfly looks at her. She looks back. They both bust out laughing.

And they don't stop until the pounding of heavy, COMPANY-issue boots on the floor outside the steel door tells them it's showtime.

Wednesday: 9/28/16

HOLT: "Well, I don't expect us to cover all the issues of this campaign, tonight, but I remind everyone that there are two more Major Presidential debates scheduled, and three Minor debates for the parties that didn't pass the threshold vote to be up here tonight.

Hopefully by the next one, the Freedom Party will have someone here. I'm sure we're all shocked and saddened by the news that Senator Ted Cruz may have died on Mars, this last Sunday."


HOLT: "That being the reason we are doing this tonight, rather than on Monday, as we planned. We are going to focus on many of the issues that voters tell us are the most important. And we are going to press for specifics. I am honored to have this role, but this evening begins to the candidates-"

SANDERS: "Speaking of which, Lester, and I'm sorry to interrupt at this point-"

HOLT: "Senator Sanders? Is something the matter?"

SANDERS: "Well, yes, it is. I've conferred with my other two colleagues, up here, tonight, before the show. And Ms. Stein and Mr. Johnson, like myself, and I hope also Ted Cruz, were he here, believe that there is something we need to clear up before we start this debate."

CANDIDATE: "You didn't talk to me about this."

SANDERS: "I will in a minute-"

HOLT: "Senator Sanders, this is rather out of line."

SANDERS: "I agree, and I apologize. But we think we deserve to know who we are debating, here, tonight. I think the American people need to know this as well."

CANDIDATE: "They already do. They'll know even more if you'll let them."


SANDERS: "I ask this question, sir, or we walk off. And if we walk off, there is no debate. So one simple question, Lester. And please let this man take as much time as he needs to in order to answer it. We won't interrupt. I hope you won't either. One question and we'll continue."

HOLT: "If you walk off, we won't invite you back."

SANDERS: "We're okay with that, I think...? Yes, I think we are."

CANDIDATE: "Let them ask me. I'm not afraid of the truth."

SANDERS: "Maybe you should be, sir. Here's our question. There's been a lot of things that have been laid at your feet since this election began. Some of these things have not been proven. Others have, both by evidence you cannot deny, and the words from your own mouth. I'm talking about the Toon Town massacre, the death of Secretary Wheeler, your association with the Odal movement, and other very disturbing things. 

"But the thing that bothers me the most, as a child of a man whose family was killed by Nazis in the Holocaust, is that you have admitted that your candidacy was initially put into motion by one of them. That would be a member of the now-thankfully-defunct ABWEHR, the so-called Super Nazis who'd been hiding in Antarctica since the end of World War II. 

"According to you, you were mind controlled by this man from the beginning, even before you put your hat into the last election cycle. Everything you've done and said since the 80's has been at least partially authored by this man. And since this election started, a whole lot of things you've been saying and doing have been the result of this man telling you what to do, what to say."

CANDIDATE: "Is there a question coming?"

SANDERS: "There is, and it's really simple. If your whole decision to run for President of the United States of America was not something you decided for yourself, but was rather authored by a Nazi war criminal, then who are we actually debating tonight -- you, or him? Because if it's you, and your policies and ideas haven't changed that much since you started, then I wonder who your people will actually be voting for in November."


CANDIDATE: "I have to answer that, huh?" 

HOLT: "Well, you don't have to-"

SANDERS: "He answers or we walk. That's the deal."

CANDIDATE: "Wow. All our heroes are dead on Mars. We win the war and lose all our people, and you're all worried about something I've already explained in detail. Unbelievable-"

JOHNSON: "Sir, just answer the question."

CANDIDATE: "Okay, then. You want to know what's going on? I'll tell you. It's really simple, folks. Really simple. I'm a decent person at heart. You all know me. You ought to know me by now. There's been so many stories about me. So many stories. Good stories. About the people I've helped. The businesses I've made. I've brought so much business and money to so many people. I've brought opportunity. I've brought jobs. I have brought a lot of jobs to so many people. And that's the truth, Lester. 

"Now, you want to talk about what happened? Yes, I was a victim. I hate to say it, but it's true. I was a victim of this man. He made me a puppet for years. He told me what to say, when to say it. What to do, when to do it. I didn't always make the best moves. I didn't always say the best things. But at those times when he wasn't telling me what to do or say? That was me. I was in control. 

"So the jobs? That was me. The money? That was me. The businesses? That was me."

STEIN: "The racism, sexism, nativisim, Islam-baiting, and homophobia? Was that all yours, too?"


HOLT: "Ms. Stein? Please, I agreed to this deviation with the proviso he'd be allowed to answer the question in his own time." 

CANDIDATE: "See, all the Democrats and Greens can think about is nasty attacks. Just nasty stuff. I'm just telling people the way I see things, and guess what? That's the way a lot of people out there think. A lot of people. Only it's not racism. It's being realistic. You all call it racism because you don't want to be tough. You don't want to make tough decisions because they'll cost you votes. 

"You're afraid to tell Black people they need to be less violent and do less crime. I'm not afraid of that. You're afraid to tell people that don't belong here that they're not welcome. I'm not afraid of that. You're afraid to stand up to the terrorists we're bringing in. The ones we already have here. You love mosques and hate churches. It's true.

"As for homo... as for gay people, you know what? I honestly don't care. I'm in favor of Gay marriage. Always have been. It's good for business, you know. And I'm all about business.

"But trying to pin all this Nazi stuff on me. I'm the victim, here. I am the victim. And I thought the left was all about victims, you know? Coddling them and wiping their noses and saying oh I'm so sorry you skinned your knee. 

"Well, this guy made me do a lot of things I didn't want to. Being President? I didn't want to be President. Who would? It's crazy. You put all your money in a blind trust. You can't do anything to help your situation. You just sit there with all the weight of the world on your shoulders for four or eight years, and get grey hair and look terrible, just terrible. You've seen all the before and after pictures, right? Grey and haggard. Every one.

"And you think I wanted that? You think I wanted to be President...?"

HOLT: "Sir? If I could interrupt here, if only to get you back on track. Senator Sanders wanted to know if you're the candidate for President, or if it's the part of you that was manipulated by this Super-Nazi. Are you now saying that you don't want to be President after all?"

CANDIDATE: "Well, Lester... I mean.... what I mean is... well..."


CANDIDATE: "Oh.. it's gone. It's...." 

HOLT: "Sir? Are you alright?"

SANDERS: "What's that schmutz on your shirt, there, Donald? Did your lucky charm fall apart?"

CANDIDATE: "I... uh..."


HOLT: "Sir, can you answer the question? I think we'd all like to get on with the debate."

CANDIDATE: "I think I've answered it, Lester. I think... I think this is an insult. I think you should all be ashamed of yourself for acting like children. I think-"

SANDERS: "I think you have answered my question, sir. I'm happy to continue the debate at this point, Mr. Holt. And thank you for indulging this."

CANDIDATE: "!@#$ you, you Socialist asshole."


HOLT: "Well... it looks like the Republican Candidate has, uh, just left the stage. I think he's decided to decline to participate."

STEIN: "Good riddance."


HOLT:  "Let's cut to commercial. Can we do that? Okay? We'll be right back."

Thursday: 9/29/16

"So," Grant says, taking a long and languid puff off of the third pipe of the day: "Your evil twin."

"Yes," SPYGOD says, wondering if he should stop drinking, or start again.

(How long's it been since he had a drink? Days? Years? Time is damned uncertain, now.)

"He's a bit of a !@#$ villain, really," the bald writer says, rubbing the back of his head as he looks at what they've been working on: "I mean, talk about self-indulgent excess."

"I didn't !@#$ing make him up."

"No. But consider the parallel, here," Grant says, pointing to his host: "You're both Rabelaisian figures, in a way. Like Lord Horror, or that Dexter arsehole from the telly."

"I kind of liked that show."

"Well, you should. You both kill people in cruel and inventive ways. You both do things to extremes. But you're the good guy, at least so far as we're concerned. And he's bad.

"Now why the !@#$ is that?"

SPYGOD just looks at him, and is about to say something, but then closes his mouth.

"Ah, you see?" the Scotsman says, waggling his finger: "Not so easy to define, is it? I mean, I've seen your !@#$ing living room. Those heads in bottles you're making booze out of. Hitler's liquor and all that."

"!@#$er had it coming," the superspy insists...

 * * *

"So is this a good time to ask what your angle is, now?" the servant asks his master, as they travel through time and space to get to where they're going.

"Acute, I should think," Loki quips, flitting his hands this way and that as they navigate the strange shortcuts between here and there, then and now.

"Very funny," the SPYGOD of Alter-Earth snorts, doing his best to not flip out as the Aesir's flippancy: "I was under the impression that you needed my poison to kill some damn gods."

"That is, indeed, still the plan."

"But you also said you wanted to do it to level the playing field for your kind," his servant says, hefting both the gun and the box full of poisoned bullets for it: "To ease the way for the Aesir."

"That has not changed."

"Hasn't it? I thought they were all fucking dead. Unless, of course, you know something I don't...?"

Loki looks at the doppelganger, and for a moment his servant's not sure if he's going to be kissed or kicked.

"I just want to know what the damn point is, now," (DETCADER) says, shrugging: "I will do whatever you command of me. My word is my bond. I'm just not certain what our plan is, anymore."

"And do you truly need understanding in order to obey?"

"It helps if I need to improvise," the counterworld man says, smiling as disarmingly as possible.

"You know, I had no idea you were truly so stupid," Loki says, smiling gently: "If I had, I might not have chosen you, much less kept you."

"I can't guess-" he starts to say, but falls silent as his master puts a large, fast hand over his mouth.

"Guessing is not the issue, servant," the Aesir hisses -- eyes flashing a poisonous green as he does: "The issue is one of understanding. And for a man who claimed to come from a world of gods, your lack of understanding of their ways is both disquieting and disappointing."

He squeezes once -- very painfully -- and then lets the man go, content to let the lesson end there.

"Have no fear, my good and faithful servant," Loki says, taking them out of the holes in timespace and delivering them somewhere rather impressive, and frightening: "Our errand shall be fruitful. Our cause shall be undertaken. 

"And never doubt me, ever again..."

And as the SPYGOD of Alter-Earth stares up in amazement at the void, itself -- endlessly devouring all that falls into it, from this dangling redoubt of a prison perched just below it -- he wonders how much effort it would take to hurl his benefactor into that hungry, universe-devouring monstrosity.

And what he would do after that...

* * *

".. did they all have it coming, though?" Grant pushes him, taking a hit off the bottle they've been passing back and forth (and that SPYGOD's forgotten he forgot about, just now): "You've told me about how quick-tempered you are. How often you shoot people in the arse just for filing their reports wrong."

"They know the damn score. If they make it through Hell Month, they ought to be !@#$ing ready for anything."

"Including blowing people up on suspicion of working for the enemy?"

"You're talking about Swiftfoot. That was..."

"Complicated," Grant says, raising a scornful eyebrow halfway up his forehead: "Not as complicated as all the supervillains you've bunged down the toilet over the years, though. Sacrificed in one plot or another. Or just !@#$ing shot in the back to give you cover when you did something too damn stupid to reconcile, and needed a patsy."

"They had it coming."

"Maybe they did. But at some point we all have to realize that Amanda Waller is just as much a monster as the worst cases on Suicide Squad."

"It takes a monster to run monsters, you slapheaded clod," the superspy says, scowling as he yanks the pipe back: "And that's the difference between us. I punish people for doing wrong, either by me or the country. He just !@#$s people up because he thinks it's !@#$ing funny-"

"Or because that's how things work on his world," Grant says: "That's what you fall back on, anyway. He's !@#$ed up, here, but back there? He's a bloody hero. Because over there they all butcher and rape one another as a matter of course, and people who don't are seen as amoral."

"So what's your point?"

"I'm saying that it isn't that he's this !@#$ing messed-up, mentally-unbalanced, very powerful, and cunning foe that can pretend to be you, or anyone, really, that makes him so dangerous to you," the writer chuckles, taking the pipe back: "It's that he is a dark reflection of you.

"And what he's reflecting is pretty damned evil..."

* * *

"That void up there," the SPYGOD of Alter Earth says, shaking his head in disbelief as he stares at the giant, sucking hole in spacetime above: "Looking at it makes my head hurt."

"Then stop looking at it," Loki commands, patting him on the shoulder: "Look instead to your immediate vicinity. This maze without walls we stand upon."

His servant does as he's bidden -- considering the wide, twisting, steel-grey walkways they stand within, and the wider gaps between them. 

"Are we expecting company?"

"Always," the last of the Aesir says: "Hold this position until I return."

"Where are you going?"

Loki smiles and points up, and then floats in that direction.

"What are you going to do?"

"You shall see in due course, my servant," the god smiles: "In the meantime? I would make ready the weapon. You may have need of it, sometime within the next few days..."

The Alter-Earth SPYGOD watches him float up there, wondering if he should ask about the timing.

And then he realizes that no, he really shouldn't. He knows about relativity, after all. 

And this might just be turned to his advantage...

* * *

"So why is he !@#$, then?" SPYGOD asks: "Sounds to me like he's a goldmine of psychological discovery."

"Because I've done the black/white, opposite sides of the same coin story before, a time or two," Grant says: "And once you realize that the conflict can only end when one side embraces the other, instead of trying to destroy it, all the drama goes away, and it's just like the action movie ended with a !@#$ing joke instead of explosions and a gunfight."

"I thought you liked that kind of thing."

"Once," the writer says, smiling: "And !@#$ me if I'm ever doing that !@#$ again."

"Not with your wife's !@#$, Grant."

"You know what I !@#$ing mean, (REDACTED)," Grant sighs: "If we are going to rewrite reality, here? This scheme of yours gets a better ending than positive arse-!@#$ing negative until white alien clouds eat up the world in a prolapse from upper-space."

"I'd settle for how you ended The Filth at this point."

"No, my friend," the writer says, shaking the remaining cards in the stack in front of his host's bleary, stolen eyes: "You go to all this !@#$ing trouble to kidnap me and get me to proofread your !@#$ty narrative? You get something entirely new..."

Friday: 9/30/16

"It really does suit you," Rakim tells the Owl, rather astounded by the changes to her costume: "I like the design."

"I let Mark give it a workover," Martha says, showing off the new, improved gauntlets and boots: "He's been itching to dress me up since before we got married."

"That's probably more information than I needed to know," the former Brainman laughs, and Martha blushes a bit.

She's come to the Flier, and to the Brain Computer room, to see how the search for her missing son is going. So far it's narrowed down the most likely places he'd go, but searching those via satellite -- seeking out the unique signature his new body gives off -- has turned up nothing new.

Still, the massive computer churns and clunks -- gears and punchcards whirling around -- and an answer could come at any moment.


"I can't help but think we're going about this the wrong way," Martha says, crossing her arms: "No offense to your hardware, of course."

"None taken," Rakim says, stroking his long, grey beard: "If you have a better idea I would love to hear it."

"What would be involved in using the satellites to just look for his bio-signature, rather than zooming in on specific spots and then looking?"

"A lot of satellites," the former Brainman sighs, sadly: "More than we have, after our fight with the 8-Balls. We lost a lot of orbital infrastructure."

"Darn," she mutters: "I thought it might be something like that."

"That having been said..." he says, thinking as he checks something: "There might be something else we could try..."

* * *

"How the !@#$ do you keep all these people straight, man?" Grant asks, looking at the massive, floor-to-ceiling cascade of plans they've constructed over the past day or so.

"Kind of a special skill," SPYGOD explains, tapping from person to person: "I used to be able to look at people and see how they fit in with other people."

"Used to."

"Yeah, when I had the !@#$ing Chandra Eye in my damn noggin."

"When you were immortal."

"Who says I'm !@#$ing not?"

"You do, man," the writer chuckles: "I mean, taking me into your confidence like this? All this !@#$? These are not the actions of a man who can go on forever and ever."

"Immortality's !@#$ing bull!@#$," SPYGOD insists: "Not without people you care for along for the damn ride."

"So you're trying to save them."

"I'm trying to !@#$ing save as many people as I can," the superspy admits, sitting down and regarding their counter-plan: "The whole damn world's a piece of !@#$ing cake. It's like it wants to keep spinning around, you know?

"But people? I lose them left, right, and !@#$ing sideways if I'm not careful. One wrong move and boom, this hero's dead. Another wrong move and blam, that friend is dead."

"And here I thought we were all just pawns on your damn chess board."

"Doesn't mean I don't love some of them," SPYGOD admits: "Doesn't mean I wouldn't die for them."

"And the rest, you'll kill," Grant says: "If it's how you save them."

The superspy shrugs and looks at his collaborator: "'Kill your !@#$ing darlings'?"

And there's nothing the writer can say to that.

Saturday: 10/01/16

"Hello, dearie," the Great Mystery chuckles, hearing his favorite person trying to sneak up on him again. 

"Hello," Yanabah says, kneeling down next to him by the fire he's been sitting at, all night: "I didn't want to disturb you."

"It wouldn't have been a disturbance," he says, gesturing to all the now-empty seats around the fire: "You're welcome in council, now. I don't see how you wouldn't be any worse than some of these people I have to deal with."

"The spirits?" she asks, awed at the thought of being at the same fire with them. 

"Yes," he says, looking up at the sky, and then around into the darkness: "Gibbering fools and self-important clods, one and all."

"Maybe I shouldn't sit by the fire, then," she says, looking around: "I want to have some respect left over for them."

"That's... a wise thing to say," he smiles at her. Static crackles between his teeth. 

"Thank you," she smiles.

"But you didn't come here kiss my ass, girl," he says, having a sip of the coffee he's been nursing all night: "What's going on?"

"I just got back from DC," she says: "They're looking to reform the Freedom Force."

"They are, huh?"

"Well, we lost a lot of people on Mars, last week," Yanabah explains: "Good friends, good people. They're going to need more."

"You think you should join them, then?"

"I don't know," she sighs, looking up at the sky as a gout of sparks flies up from a crack in the fire: "I should. I could contribute a lot."


"But my place is with you, now," she says: "With my people. And the government I'd be working for doesn't really respect our people, or you." 

"I know," he says: "But you know what I said about assimilation."

"I also know what you said about making a stand," Yanabah sighs: "I'm confused."

"So am I," he chuckles, and loops a grandfatherly arm around her shoulders: "But if it helps?"


"A true saying is this. Those who take much will have much taken from them. But those who give much? They will receive."

She thinks, and nods: "I'll consider that."

"A good idea, dearie. Now, what else did you learn?"

"There's some concern about the next protest," she says, not really sure why he seems so affectionate -- and chalking it up to the council he was just in: "My contacts tell me the COMPANY might show up."

"So much for our understanding, then," the Great Mystery chuckles, shaking his head: "I didn't think I could trust that guy."

"He's not running things, right now," she explains: "He's in isolation."

"Truer words were never spoken," the old man says, nodding as he takes his arm off her shoulder.

"Well, he did lose his fiance," she says: "I can understand, sort of."

"You and that Underman guy," he nods, smiling: "You like him, then?"

"Not that much," Yanabah says, wondering for a moment how he knows about the time she and he were together -- now so very long ago -- and then realizing he knows a heck of a lot of secrets: "It was stress relief. That's all."

"But it hurts, all the same," the Great Spirit says, reaching to put his hand over her heart: "That empty. That hole. That hunger. It feels like you could drop a rock into your chest and you'd never hear it touch bottom, some times."

"I didn't think it meant that much," she nods: "I don't know what I feel."

"You have to figure that out, dearie," the old man says, putting his hand away: "And soon."


"Because it'll help you decide what to do next," he replies, smiling enigmatically: "Especially when it all changes, again."

After that, neither of them have much to say. They just sit and watch the fire as it slowly winds down into embers. 

By the time the sun's up, they're both gone. 

* * *

"So what did you tell that Great Spirit bastard, then?" Grant mumbles, trying to fight his way past the hash.

"The truth," SPYGOD says, grinning.

"And what the !@#$ was that?"

"What I learned from the future," the superspy says, leaning forward to try and grab the pipe from the writer's fingers, and failing miserably.

"Which is, according to you, what your whole plan is !@#$ing based on."

"Damn straight."

"A five minute conversation with someone who may have been yourself."


"Who gave you..." Grant waves his hand in front of his face.


"And told you all about that wee girl from the future."

"Nothing wee about Space Commander."

"Ach, another disposable female!" the writer spits, disgusted: "Christ, man. It's like women just show up and then you don't know what to do with them, so they just do one thing and then !@#$ing die."

"That's bull!@#$ and you know it," SPYGOD says, finally succeeding in wresting the pipe from his guest's fingers: "I'm an equal opportunity collateral damage kind of guy."

"Really?" Grant asks: "Then what's your plan for the poor President's last living daughter, eh?" 

And SPYGOD just looks at him, and then realizes he really !@#$ing forgot something important in his plan...

* * *

Winifred looks at the letter she's been handed -- seeming to regard it as though it were a summons to court, or something even less pleasant. 

"Myron wanted you to have that, in case something happened to him," the tall, blonde lady at her door is saying: "And... since it has, well..."

"You're not very !@#$ing good at this," the woman says, patting her very pregnant belly and listening for the sounds of toy destruction from within her small, country home. 

(Long yard in need of mowing. Roof about to fall down. Truck up on cinder blocks.)

"No, I'm not," Dragonfly admits, feeling really weird being all wrapped up in a COMPANY dress uniform and in front of a near-stranger's home: "I'm sort of on probation, here."

"And they put you to work passing out last wills and things as punishment detail?"


"Sounds like the !@... the darn COMPANY," she mutters, turning and indicating that her unexpected houseguest can come in: "No smoking and no swearing, please. I'm trying to run a clean home, here."

"Thanks," Dragonfly says, accepting the offer and looking around the place: it looks like any geek mom's home -- complete with the unmistakable whiff of diapers -- only with fewer toys on the floor and a broken television.

"One of the kids," Winifred lies very quickly, sitting down on a raggedy easy chair and sighing as the weight leaves her feet.

"We kind of lost track of you for a while, there," the former assassin says, choosing not to sit down. (That's protocol, here, right? She thinks so.)

"That was intentional," her host says, looking around for something and not seeing it: "After everything that happened in that... that treehouse? Everything I remembered from Kelly's Island? I just wanted to get as far away from it all as I could."

"I don't blame you," Dragonfly says, remembering the last, crazy days of the Reclamation War, and the things she saw as she stopped being Whisper and became the Red Queen. 

(The things she did...)

"So I came back home, but there was nothing for me there," Winifred goes on, her face as sour as a bag of old lemons: "I'd been out and helped save the world, right? What's my room in my parents house after that?"

"What's this?" the former assassin asks, looking around. 

"Excuse me?"

"Look, hon, I'm not going to lie to you," Dragonfly says, deciding to just say it: "What am I hearing, two kids? And a third on the way? And it's only been four years since then?"

"One of them's not mine," she glares: "I babysit for a neighbor. It's all I can do to pay bills."


"And that was four years of therapy, nightmares, and post-whateverthe... whatever the !@#$ they're calling it now," she hisses, pointing at a dusty rack of orange medicine vials on the table by her chair: "Pills I can't take because I'm pregnant, and I can't afford to go get different ones, even with Quaylecare. 

"And yeah, I let it all go," she goes on, trying not to cry in front of this woman who's come and wrecked her whole !@#$ing day: "I found someone who said he loved me. I let him !@#$ me without a condom because we were drunk. I let him talk me out of the abortion because he said he'd marry me. And that was three years and a caesarean and a busted condom and do you see a !@#$ing ring on this finger?"

She holds up her hand for effect.

"I'm sorry," Dragonfly says, finally.

"For what?" Winifred asks, her voice a fake, syrupy sweet: "Dropping off that fat asshole's letter? Judging me?"


"Who the !@#$ are you to judge anyone?" she shouts, throwing the useless TV remote at her guest, which she sidesteps and allows to go out the window with a resounding crash.

"Oh," Winifred says, looking at the window, and then at her hand: "Oh."
"Mommy?" someone yells from the other room.

"It's okay, Myron," she says, tears streaming down her face: "Mommy had an accident. Nothing's wrong."

"Yeah," Dragonfly says, looking at the human wreck she was completely unprepared to deal with.

"I don't like your tone," Winifred says. "You can leave."

"If you want, I can just take the letter back with me. There's probably nothing in it you need to read."

"Just... get out," Winifred demands softly, holding the letter in question to her chest -- perhaps fearful it'll be prized away from her.

"If you're in a bad situation, we can help-"

"You really suck at this, you know?" her host says, looking up at her -- eyes like poisoned rats: "Stick to !@#$ing killing people, Whisper. You're !@#$ at being human."

"That's not who I am, anymore," Dragonfly insists, turning to go. 

But as she leaves the sad little house, and hears Winifred screaming in rage as she closes the door behind her, she wonders if she didn't just kill someone today.

Sunday: 10/02/16

Sunday Morning, at Arlington, and the Torchbearer shines in the misty sunlight.

Dew drips from the freshly-mown grass. Chairs are assembled and cordons drawn.

Cars begin to arrive -- long and black, with Federal plates. People fly or run in, or simply appear.

Colorful costumes mix with COMPANY dress uniforms. Black suits and sunglasses stand at the perimeter, guns both hidden and not.

It's a lovely day to bury our friends. 

 * * *

"Alright, then," Grant Morrison says, looking at the sweeping thing he's spent the last week assembling -- drunk as !@#$ and high on hash: "I think this is as good as we're !@#$ing getting it, and I'm homesick."

"And you smell like ass crack," SPYGOD observes.

"Well, you try working to the crack of your whip sometime, you bastard," the writer grumbles, looking about for something else to drink: "I know I lost a day in there, and a !@#$ing shower with it."

"You'd just get !@#$ing dirty, again."

"Too right," the bald Scotsman agrees: "And now the moment of !@#$ing truth?"

And SPYGOD grins, and pulls out his own plan for comparison...

* * *

I managed to get a last minute invite to the funeral. No one gave me any !@#$ about being there. Maybe it's because of my kids, and maybe it's because of everything that's happened since the last time, but I was actually warmly greeted as soon as I walked by the Torchbearer.

(Josie was especially polite. I was shocked, given what happened the last time we talked, back when SPYGOD was supposedly brain dead -- now so very long ago.)

They sat me down next to Gosheven, who, of course, talked his goofy ass off most of the time until it was time to start. He was sorry about what happened to my kids, wanting to know about Velma, offering to hook up and be a team again -- yammering ten miles a minute and not taking the hint that I really just wanted to watch and listen. 

The speech was not the Interim President's best. He tried to mix the joy of victory over Mars with the sorrow of dead heroes. It came across mawkish and smarmy, and I think he spent the last half of it wondering whether to just fire his speechwriter, or boil him or her in oil, first. 

I wasn't really paying attention. I was looking at the new graves, behind him. The ones sitting on undisturbed ground, since there's nothing to bury. 

George Straffer, head of the Space Service, who was being buried here as a mark of respect. Shining Guardsman, whose real name was not placed on the marker, apparently at his request. Myron Volaar, who, conversely, was not identified as Underman. 

(New Man was already buried once before, so they're just adding a date to the stone.)

Two graves stand out. One is Senator Ted Cruz, who's being buried here as a hero, given his work on the world's behalf -- both during the Antichrist situation, and now. 

And Mr USA, real name (REDACTED), who's given a place of special prominence nearby, given his long and illustrious career. His stone is twice the size of everyone else's, and somehow whiter than theirs, too.

They say they're also commissioning a statue. I bet it'll look like !@#$.

SPYGOD was not supposed to be there, but he came, anyway. He was clearly drunk and gave a riotous, rambling speech that was somehow more coherent and human than anything the President said. It was about heroism and humanity, love and loss, time and regret, and the fact that we all have to face the fact that one day we'll be here, buried, and all we'll have to show for it will be the world around us -- still alive, still spinning.

It was magnificent. But then, partway through, I realized it wasn't SPYGOD who was giving it. I've spent enough time around Gosheven to know when he's being a few different places at once, and what he's like when one of his other bodies is nearby. 

At that point, I also realized why Josie was being so subdued. She had to have known. So this was probably her just doing her best to not flip out. 

Especially when the fake SPYGOD picked that moment to utterly upstage the whole event by introducing the new Freedom Force, and who would be on it...

* * *

"Oh, honey, it's great news," The Owl says over her communicator, marching down a long, stone hallway with several well-armed and armored COMPANY AGENTS in tow.

"I agree," Green Fury says, head still buzzing from having stood up in front of the whole world at the funeral: "I'm just sorry I had to keep it a secret."

"I understand."

"They threatened me with some very dire things."

"They probably meant some of them," Martha Clutch chuckles: "This is The COMPANY."

"Will... will you be okay, though?" he asks, looking around the after-funeral party at all the faces -- many unfamiliar: "I hate to leave you and Kaitlyn in the lurch."

"She and I will be fine, John, " The Owl gently insists: "The Owl and The Talon have been able to handle Chicago for generations."

"I know that, but..."

"Having you with us has been a blessing," she says: "I thank God for you in our lives every day. And you will always have a home and a place with us, no matter where you are or who's shooting at you."

"That means the world to me, Martha," Green Fury says, tearing up a little: "I love you. I love your family. I would do anything for you all."

"I know that, hon," she continues, stopping her march as they reach the ominous, stone, entrance to where they were headed: "But you've got to go be your own man for a while, I think. Go spread your wings and see what life's like outside of Illinois."

"I liked it better than LA."

"I hear you there," she says, remembering her very short -- and very unpleasant -- time there.

"I was worried about leaving you while all this is going on with Thomas," he admits: "I don't think it's right. I feel like it's abandonment."

"Well, if everything goes well..." she says, nodding to the AGENT at the door as he makes ready to knock on Restriit's domain: "That might not be a problem for very much longer."

"What is going on, Martha?" he asks.

"God Willing? I'm getting my son back, today," The Owl says: "I'll talk to you soon."

* * *

The Alter-Earth SPYGOD stands up, adjusting the creaks and kinks out of his spine -- colorfully cursing with each crack and pop. 

He's completely lost track of time, here. Normally he's painfully aware of the ticking of his own internal clock, but since his master went up into that weird, sucking void up above their heads, he's had a very hard time figuring out what time of day it is, let alone what day.

Not having had to eat or drink since he got here has screwed with that, to be sure. He tried to urinate over the edge of his walkway, in defiance, but failed to make anything come. 

(He couldn't even masturbate, weirdly enough.)

For what may have been the first day he just watched his Aesir "master" float up to the void, wondering if he could shoot him from here, or if he should. He finally decided he needed him to get out of here more than he needed his freedom, and let the idea go.

Getting out of here is the only thing he can really think about, honestly. This place feels wrong. Haunted. He thinks he can sense the presence of that Time Ghost Loki was going on about. 

And every so often, he thinks he can hear something coming for him, but it's always gone before he can see it. 

The gun is no help. It can't tell him where he is, or target what's around him. If he didn't know any better, he'd have thought its batteries were running down, though it assured him that was not a problem...

But then his ears perk up, because he thinks he can hear something coming. 

Several somethings, in fact. 

There, on one of the walkways below him. It's a large party of people. COMPANY AGENTS in that ridiculous armor they wear when they think they're going to go up against someone with powers. 

And in the middle of them, a woman dressed like an owl...

"Oh my," he grins -- wide and sickly -- and raises the gun up, turning it into a sniper rifle: "Finally some fucking sport..."

* * *

"I'm really sorry, sir," the person on the phone lies to the Candidate: "He's not accepting your calls at this time."

"I really need to speak with him," the beefy man says, sitting all alone in a campaign office that's been ransacked and trashed for the second time this campaign: "I need help."

"That's not in dispute, sir."

"Tell him I'm willing to listen," the Candidate says -- almost pleading: "Tell him I'm willing to deal."

"Sir, as my memory serves, Mr. Priebus gave you ample opportunity to listen to him, and, as you put it, deal," the head of the RNC's secretary acidly replies: "You treated him like dirt. You told him how you wanted it to be. And he told you what his response would be when the inevitable happened."

"Yes, but-"

"But nothing, sir. We are done with you. You are done."

The Candidate blinks, unsure what's just happened.

"We don't command the Secret Service, luckily for you," the secretary goes on: "You can still show up to the debates and whatever stadiums you can fill at this point. But we're done supporting your sorry excuse of a candidacy. You can go be racist and hateful on someone else's dime."

"Then you're giving the White House away to that socialist twit?" the man almost screams down the phone: "What the hell are you thinking?"

"Well, we were thinking of throwing our weight behind the Freedom Party," the secretary says: "Only now their candidate is dead. So I guess we'll just settle for re-electing as many Congressional seats and Governors as we can to make sure that Socialist twit, as you say, doesn't have a chance of pushing anything on us."

"Good strategy," the Candidate admits: "I can't fault that. Not-"

"You can fault or not fault whatever the goddamned hell you want," the person on the other line says: "But speaking for myself? You can kiss my gay, married, black Republican ass. And if my mother, who immigrated here to escape the situation in Haiti, was still alive? She'd kick yours to the curb."

The other person hangs up at that. The Candidate sits there, phone in ear, until it sinks in that it's all over. 

He thinks to call for his Campaign Manager. He remembers he found him in the bathroom, hanging.

He wonders what to do, now. 

* * *

"So was this actually any !@#$ing help?" Grant asks as he dries himself off from a much-needed shower, and drinks more water to try and un!@#$ his head.

"A lot of help," SPYGOD says, putting his secret plans away: "Thank you."

"You'll be making the usual donations to my causes, I expect?"

"You got it," the superspy says: "And I promise I'll !@#$ing leave you alone, after this."

"That's what you said the last time!" the Scotsman proclaims, and they both laugh at that. 

(INSERT: Winifred looking at the envelope. Remembering when Myron lurked outside her house, afraid to see her, not knowing she saw him

(Debates, in turn: burning it, reading it, suicide, escape.)

"You're a bloody terrible person, (REDACTED)," Grant says after he comes out of the bathroom -- dressed in clean clothes and looking a hell of a lot better. 

"No argument there," his host admits, deciding to actually lay off the booze for now: "I got one question, though."

"Oh no. Not again."

"This is a good one, though," SPYGOD says, holding up a finger: "Time twists. Things slipping the !@#$ back on themselves."

"What about them?"

"How often do you think they happen?"

"Probably all the !@#$ing time," the writer says after a moment, drinking some more water: "We just don't notice them, is all. Sort of like you told me about time getting changed. If you're in it when it happens, it's like it's always !@#$ing been that way."

"Or they make it so it has always been that way," SPYGOD thinks.

(INSERT: The remaining Olympians, going onto Raitha's pyramid in the White City, there to find her essence to give to another. They are sad for the loss, happy for the gain.)

(They are astounded to see her essence is not there, for some reason.)

"Oh, the whole future makes the past !@#$?" Grant asks: "Done that before a time or two."

"Case in point," the superspy chuckles: "You really like redheads, right?"

"Damn straight," the Scotsman says, doing his best SPYGOD impersonation. 

"Do you !@#$ing know why?"

"Does there have to be a !@#$ing reason?"

"Well, try this one on," SPYGOD says, getting up to show his guest to the door: "Say you've got a fan. Say she really loves your writing. Say she's a redhead, and say she's probably one of the most powerful, non-weaponizable psychics of her generation."

"I like her already," Grant says, relieved to be shown to the damn door at long last.

"Now, say she dies, young and tragic," the superspy says: "And say that when she gets over to the other side, the powers that be over there give her a job. Make her a psychopomp of sorts. Guardian of the living and the dead. That sort of !@#$ing thing."

(INSERT: The Great Mystery, walking towards another line of cowed police coming out of armored "rescue vehicles." Lightning crackles between his fingers and teeth. 

(He hates this more than he can say.)

"Kind of a raw deal, but okay," Grant says, wondering where this story is going: "What happens next?"

"Well," SPYGOD says, opening the door and letting them both out of the isolation chamber: "Time works funny over there, in the land of the dead. Past and present and future's all !@#$ing !@#$ed up and jacked up on bad speed."

"I expect no less. Go on."

"So once she's got her bearings, she decides to go and visit some folks she really likes," he says, smiling: "Only, since time's all messed up, she doesn't always see them in order..."

Grant blinks at that, and then stares: "You're !@#$ing kidding me."

"Maybe," SPYGOD says, winking over his glasses: "But what if it's true, anyway."

"Go !@#$ yourself," the writer says, laughing: "You and your weird disposable women."

"You and your word salad," the superspy laughs in return -- shaking his hand as the Roaring Boys appear from nowhere: "Take care, Grant. Not a word to anyone."

"I wouldn't know where to !@#$ing begin," he replies, shaking his head.

"Well, just try not to be too surprised at what my talent picked for the next issue of your magazine," the superspy chuckles "Probably be all gay and !@#$."

"I'm okay with that," Grant says, ending the handshake: "You just... just keep it all safe, eh? Keep it all alive and spinning."

"You got it," the superspy says, grinning as the Roaring Boys lead him away.

And then...

* * *

... The SPYGOD of Alter-Earth decides to shoot The Owl last, and go for a wound. He has other ideas on what to do with her...

... as something approaches him from behind, very panicked and afraid...

... as the new and untested Freedom Force rushes off to its first emergency -- a fight between rival deities in San Francisco's Chinatown...

... as Velma and Randolph each light a match, and stand ready to watch the place where they've been making THIS IS BULL!@#$ burn down to the ground...

... as the Candidate takes a mostly-deserted private jet back home to New York, wondering what to do from here...

... and an invisible AGENT from the future sits two seats back from him, wondering when the right moment to kill the man is going to come around, and whether it will kill him, too... 

... and the sun goes down over Arlington, turning the wet on the Torchbearer's face into something akin to tears...

* * *

... And Grant Morrison -- still chuckling over SPYGOD's bull!@#$ story of a dead, time-traveling redhead -- realizes, halfway home, that he's got something in his coat pocket that wasn't there before.

It's a plastic bag full of round, flat cookies. Chocolate ones. 

And as he sniffs one, cautiously, he thinks he can detect cinnamon and cayenne...

"Well !@#$ me sideways in time," he grins.

"What was that, sir?" one of the Roaring Boys asks.

"Nothing, mate," the writer says, winking as he imitates John Lennon: "A banjo-playing spastic just warped across me grave, is all."

He puts one right on the tip of his tongue -- letting the chocolate go places it's never been before.

It tastes even better than he might have imagined...

* * *

 ... and SPYGOD marches out onto the Bridge of the Flier -- chucking those nasty, black heroin cigarettes his evil twin loves so much down the nearest trashcan he can find -- and smiles as everyone salutes and stands ready for whatever he's going to do.

(Scream in anger at his immense loss? Rant and rave? Demand they blow up something...?)

"Be ready, kids" he says, calmly popping the top of a long, tall can of beer: "The future's about to happen."

Everyone nods and gets back to work double-time, both mystified and relieved that he seems to be taking this all so well. Some of the wiser, older hands wonder what he knows that they don't.

They might just be surprised

(SPYGOD is listening to Rhythm of Time (Front 242, Ionnokx remix) and having an Invisible Weizen Bock)

No comments:

Post a Comment