Friday, November 12, 2010

Spanner Chapter 3: The Whole Point of No Return

Back during JulNoWriMo, I wrote a chapter which consisted of a bunch of episodes. This was the original version of Spanner chapter 3, which had a working title (“Playing the Angel”, as in the Depeche Mode album) that I’m not using in this final version. Some of them are related to Chapter 1 and what is now Chapter 2, and those are what make up the August section of the new Chapter 3 below. Together with the beginning of the next chapter, they make up the extended opening of Spanner. The rest are going into Chapter 5, to be posted next week. The final section with the Becket brothers is entirely new and intended to both fill out this chapter and fill a plot hole I didn’t know existed. (I originally put a title drop there, but now both the original title and the title drop are gone.)

Even earlier, I wrote a script for the first four issues of the proposed Spanner manga for Script Frenzy. Two scenes taken from that script (for the first issue), the “magic show” and “exploding café”, I appear here in condensed and hugely modified form.

If you think the story’s getting interesting (read: insane) so far, well, read on, faithful readers...

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Book 1: Rock City Blues
Chapter 3: The Whole Point of No Return

reality distortion field (RDF):
the aura projected by an extremely charismatic person,
so powerful that it distorts perception and/or judgment
(from Star Trek; used in 1981 by Bud Tribble to describe Steve Jobs)

25 August 2014
In the evacuation of Manhattan, a veteran archaeologist disappeared. His disappearance never made the news. In fact, as far as the Corporate media are concerned, he never existed in the first place. He carried some ancient scrolls he’d smuggled out of Egypt and intended to sell to a downtown antiquities dealer. He never expected the dealer to double-cross him. He is presumed dead.

The antiquities dealer had no intention of paying for the scrolls. He intended to make a fortune, and no one else was getting a cut. The man he intended to sell the scrolls to was Richard Becket, Incorporated. He was known to pay top dollar for ancient scriptures, sometimes well into eight figures. He never knew that the Chairman had no intention of paying, either. He too disappeared and is presumed dead.

Chairman Becket never got his scrolls. They vanished in the chaos caused by Spanner’s attack on Madison Square Garden that night. He ordered a search for the scrolls. His spies have not found them yet.

two. The corporate media report that a mysterious terrorist known only as Spanner has attacked a United Corporations meeting in New York City. Spanner successfully infiltrated the most airtight security operation in history. No information is released about the nature of the meeting; that information is parcelled out only on a “need to know” basis. Spanner’s political orientation is presumed to be anarchist, but he is connected with no known terrorist organization, anarchist or otherwise. The only other information known about him:
  1. Spanner is a terrorist.
  2. Spanner is an anarchist.
  3. Spanner is a man.
  4. Spanner has been dead for two years.
A $25 billion reward is being offered for the capture of this terrorist. Anyone with any information about him is urged to contact the National Police Agency at once. The number is...

three. Alex Plus leans forward on her couch and stares at the face of Steve Jobs projected on the big widescreen monitor, the only light in the living room. “There’s something odd about him,” she says.

Nick Cyphers, slouching next to her, says, “From what I see, he doesn’t look well.”

“No, I don’t mean that. There’s something wrong with his reality distortion field. I think it’s starting to consume him.”

“You mean he’s starting to believe his own lies, right?”

“No. Even worse. It’s scrambling his brain.”

Behind them, a deep voice booms: “It’s what happens when you turn to the dark side.” Alex and Cyphers turn around to see the long-bearded old hacker Paul Wellspring enter the living room, cerveza in hand. A master programmer with decades of experience, Wellspring is one of the longtime stalwarts of the open-source movement, driven underground by the coup. “When you allow yourself to be seduced by power, your power will devour you and eventually destroy you. This explains Steve Jobs.”

Cyphers taps his remote. “And many others besides. Like they say...” The picture changes: security cam footage from within Madison Square Garden, before the Spanner incident. “Anyway, you wanna talk reality distortion field? Take a look at this.” He presses another button, and the picture divides into six: the incident from all the different camera angles. The smoke bombs rocket in, but Spanner is nowhere to be seen. The smoke spins into a vortex, and out of it the helmeted figure on the hoverboard appears like a divine epiphany. “Now there’s a reality distortion field for you.”

Wellspring puts his free hand on the back of the couch and leans forward. “I’m impressed. This Spanner knows his power, and uses it as a weapon.”

Alex half-stands, open-mouthed, stunned. “Scary...”

Spanner shoots down the sniper-infested catwalks, spins clockwise, throws a large wrench into the giant screen behind Chairman Becket, and uses the monitor’s explosion to escape without notice. Cyphers says, “And nobody found him after that.” He looks at Alex and then at Wellspring. “Do we know anybody who is capable of anything like that?”

Alex doesn’t look back at him. She stares at the monitor with a wide-eyed grin, impressed at what she sees on screen. She doesn't want them to know the full details, at least not yet. “I think I have an idea.”

four. There is a tribe of phone hackers who have found a way to piggyback their signals onto others carried by the Bell Communications monopoly without “Ma Bell’s” hypervigilant spybots noticing. They are Communications’ shadowy nemesis, known as the Phreaks.

Before the “Spanner Fiasco” begins to die down, one particular Phreak hiding among the Mole People beneath the empty city, Deth Pussy of the Skeleton Krewe, forwards the tapped security video to mafia-owned servers in Nigeria, Russia, and Mongolia. From there, guerrilla hackers edit, tweak, and transform the raw footage.

Other Phreaks throughout the EuroAmerican Union receive, in separate transmissions, a series of bootleg concert videos of DisneyPop SuperStar Minty Fresh and a Sudoku game. The number of possible solutions of a Sudoku puzzle is 6.71 × 1021, which comes out to somewhere around 70 bits binary. DES encryption uses a 56-bit key. The Phreaks use the Sudoku puzzles to decrypt the video and reveal the Spanner footage within the Minty Fresh video. The Spanner video is then posted to clandestine Darknet servers worldwide.

The time: 26 minutes.

five. The holy warrior sits on his couch and watches the Cartel initiate Steve Jobs on his television and sees Spanner appear out of a cloud of black smoke. Before he left the Holy Caliphate to jihad against the western infidels, his imam had warned him about the Dark Angel of Chaos. Now he sees the angel’s epiphany before his eyes and feels an unaccountable dread.

Something feels wrong about this Angel of Chaos. Something familiar. His perception begins to warp, slightly but noticeably. His senses went haywire in the same way when he — but Allah shields him from the memory. He stares at the television numbly as the man the television news presenters call Spanner destroys the Cartel meeting. He should thank Allah for sending this angel, but he finds himself cursing him instead. His wife calls his name. He does not listen.

He dreams of television. A huge widescreen monitor stands before him in an alien moonscape, beckoning to him. He sees it as a portal to Hell.

A girl with cinnamon skin and wild copper hair calls out seductively to him from the screen. She is a seductress. She is a child. “Come here, lover,” she says. “Come to Rebel.”

“No!” he screams at the apparition. “In the name of most merciful Allah, go away!”

“I know you want me. Come and get me.”


“You can’t resist me. Surrender to me. Come.”

He recoils in horror from the child demoness on the screen, but he cannot tear his eyes away. Her beautiful green eyes stare into his. He tries to look away but cannot. He screams the Shahada as loud as he can to steel his faith, begging Allah for protection from this demon in the form of a girl-child. A force emanating from the television begins to draw him toward it. He digs in his heels and tries to run away, but he cannot stop. He trips himself and tries to crawl away unseen, but he cannot stop.

Now he stands before the television as before the idol of an alien heathen god. The lips of the child seductress fill the screen. She tries to kiss him. She must not kiss him! He plants his hands on the lower frame of the screen and tries to push himself away. The screen curves to the contours of her lips. They come closer to his face. He panics. “No! No! Please don’t!” The lips touch his face and muffle his screams. They draw him into the screen. Slowly, the television swallows his body. And then he is gone.

27 August 2014
“Heya, cub! How’s it goin’ down there?” Cedric Anthony (Ric) Thomas III, a veteran rocker, has aged extremely well: his unkempt red hair has very little gray in it, and he looks every bit as beautiful as when his face made the Band With No Name (in)famous in 1982, when he was not much older than his youngest daughter Shira is now.

Shira rolls herself out from under the lemon yellow 1969 Boss Mustang. She wears grease-covered mechanic’s overalls and wields a wrench. “Just a few more tweaks, and she’ll be ready.” She winks, then slides back under the car. She has inherited his bad attitude and love of mischief along with her unmanageable red hair and emerald green eyes.

“You know you could make serious bucks as a mechanic.”

“On the side. I’ve got bigger plans.”

Ric grins. “I so adore your ambition.”

“Hey, remember who I got it from.”

Her mother (Ric’s current wife), Hope Maureen Reston, strolls into the garage. “Hey Shira! How was the trip?” She’s the source of Shira’s bronze skin and Native American nose.

“We survived it.”

Hope laughs. “Seriously.”

“Saffron, Karen, and I had dinner out with the Tachibanas before we headed for the airport. The way the Imperial and Corporate authorities overreacted, I say we really were lucky to survive.”

Ric says, “Keep up the good work, cub. I wanna have a little talk with your mother.”

“You mean you want me to stuff strawberries in your mouth,” jokes Hope. The three of them laugh. Hope grabs her husband’s arm and pulls him with her back into the house.

In the darkest corner of the garage, Shira’s hoverboard leans against the workbench, waiting for her to tweak its lifters.

31 August 2014
It’s the last day of this year’s edition of the Bremerton Blackberry Festival. Right now a country-hits cover band is playing on the boardwalk stage. Shira and her childhood friend Polly Parker walk the boardwalk, flanked by vendor tents and crowded with people. Polly, a pretty girl with long brown hair, is a witch with powers she claims to be hereditary. Earlier, they had a private meeting in which she told Shira that she has just married her own mother, just like Shira’s own cousin, Jennifer.

“So why would you do that?”

“Haven’t you heard, Shira? Some big guys high up in the Cartel hierarchy have gotten big on eugenics, and they’re having their corporate headhunters looking for pretty girls. So the girls’ mothers, starting with your very own beautiful Aunt Willa, have started marrying their daughters to keep those big Corpos from stealing their daughters and turning them into breeding slaves. It’s becoming a lot more common lately.”

“Don’t you need to buy yourselves an Exception for that?”

“Of course! We knew we got lucky when the official started mumbling about Wold Newton or something and granted our Exception.”

Shira grins. “Isn’t that bit ‘ew’?”

“That’s what the eugenicists say. They’re supposed to. They won’t touch a girl then.”

“Ohhhh.” Shira looks mock-sternly at Polly: “You know what you and your new wife are supposed to do now, don’t you?”

Polly blushes and sighs. “You know, I’m not really lesbian, not much anyway. And I don’t mind it if Rosalie makes love to me. I totally love her. But...” She stops talking and blushes redder.

A pretty girl catches Shira’s eye. She’s standing at one of the water-side booths, listlessly looking at a brochure. Her dancer’s body is long, lean, and curvy; her silky black hair is cut in an elegant bob; she wears a purple bikini top, a matching skirt, and flip-flops. Shira can’t avert her eyes. As she approaches closer, her stare forces the girl to look back. Turning to look at Shira is the most delicately beautiful face she has ever seen, with beautiful and sad violet eyes. Shira smiles sweetly at her and waves. The beauty smiles back wanly.

Polly glares at Shira.

“What’s that for? You aren’t jealous, are you?”

“Oh, no. But I know you, Shira Miranda. I know what you do to pretty girls.”

Shira leans closer to Polly and smiles seductively at her.

Polly pushes her away. “Oh no you don’t!”

Behind them they hear a splash. Panicked voices scream and yell. One woman says, “Oh my god, she’s drowning herself!”

Shira and Polly stand bolt upright, eyes wide open. They look at each other. Shira says, “You wait right here.”

She weaves, dances, and shoves her way through the crowd. “’Scuse me, ’scuse me, comin’ through!” On the other side of the booth where she met the girl, she throws herself through the gap and over the railing, into the water. She sees the girl’s silhouette in the water below. When she hits the water, she reaches for the girl, grabs her, drags her to the surface. She plugs the girl’s nose, puts her mouth on hers, draws water out of her lungs, spits it out, breathes air into her mouth. The girl coughs. Shira swims her over to the nearest marina walkway and helps her climb onto it, then follows her up. They stand up; Shira puts her arms around her; the girl collapses against her. “I’m sorry,” says the girl weakly.

The girl finds the will to gather back her strength and stand back up. She holds Shira tighter and looks up into her eyes. “Thank you,” she says in a beautiful Irish accent. “I’m Leila...”

Nearby, tires squeal at the lower end of Second Street. A van door slams shut loudly. And then the screams begin. Stan Green and his gang of born-again musclemen, former FSU punk-rock bullyboys now calling themselves the “New Wine Power Pushers,” are on the rampage again.

Leila stiffens tight in anger, then spins to face the their direction. Shira is already looking that way, weight on one leg, annoyed. The muscleboys are yelling at people and beating them up for wearing “sinful” clothes. Nervously, Polly says, “Uh, I’ll catch you guys later.” She follows the fleeing crowd down the boardwalk.

Big Stan Green finds his way suddenly blocked by two angry young beauties. “Yo Stanley!” yells a grinning Shira. “You and your boys ’roid ragin’ again?


Leila says to Shira, “I gather you’ve tangled before?”

Shira smirks. “He and his bullyboys like to rampage a lot — for Jesus America, of course.”

The big man shoves his twitchy finger in Shira’s face. “We’re trying to save your immortal souls! If we gotta beat y’all back onto the righteous path, we’re gonna!”

Another of Stan’s muscleboys approaches from near the ferry terminal. “Hey! Looks like superslut here’s got a new girlfriend!”

Another comes from the opposite side. “We’re gonna have to do somethin’ ’bout that!”

Three sides. Shira slowly shifts into fighting position. Kick Stan in the balls and slam his bullyboys’ heads together... should be quick and easy. But then, a police car blasts a short siren burst from Second. Shira stands back upright and grins. “Well, well, well. Saved by the bell.” Disappointed, the muscleboys slink back to their van.

Leila says, “Do you think you could have handled them?”

Shira winks at her. “Gets easier every time.”

Shira tracks Polly further down the boardwalk. She takes her hand firmly and walks her back to the ferry terminal, to the bus deck. They watch the buses come in and wait for the #20 that will take Polly home. “Why do those guys always have to ruin everything?” sighs Polly.

Shira echoes Polly’s sigh. “’Cuz Jesus America keeps telling ’em to. After all, they gotta defend the most sacrosanct principle of the American Religion: ‘One Dollar, One Vote.’” Shira winks. Polly sighs angrily.

Suddenly a man spots her and screams a piercing war cry. Shira says “Speaking of which...” and rushes off.

The holy warrior feels his upraised arm get yanked out of its socket. Shira breaks the arm at the shoulder, bends his elbow backwards, breaks all the outstretched fingers that once formed a tight fist. The terrorist now screams in pain.

She kicks his knee to bend it inward then backward, then stomps his foot to crush it. He falls to the ground screaming and twitching in agony. She kicks him in the groin several times as hard as she can. As an afterthought, she yanks the detonator out of his bomb jacket.

It takes less than five seconds for her to demolish him.

Police and soldiers swarm the bomber. Shira slowly walks away and shrugs. “I hate serial killers,” she sighs.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Puget Sound, it’s the last day of Bumbershoot at the Seattle Center. A suicide bomber blows himself up at a Tom E. Breydon patriot country show. The Socialist Revolutionary Organization claims responsibility.

1 September 2014
In the meeting room inside the Kitsap Regional Library’s East Bremerton branch, Shira Thomas and her blond cousin, Jennifer Richter-Thomas, are holding a magic show for an audience dominated by children. As the magician, Shira wears an outfit inspired by Marlene Dietrich: top hat, tails, dress shirt, bow tie; but instead of the slacks you would see in a man’s tuxedo, she wears a black leotard, fishnet stockings, and high-heeled lace-up leather boots. The boots make her look taller than Jennifer, who is in fact taller than her by an inch. Jennifer, acting as Shira’s assistant despite her greater knowledge of stage magic, wears a lacy white dress, flat-soled shoes, and her usual rimless round glasses.

Shira’s an excellent magician, and she’s just as good a comedian. But it isn’t just her magic skills that carry the show. With her Charmer’s charisma, she enthralls the audience and holds their full attention. Shira may have the charisma, but Jennifer makes up for it with an exotic accent: she sounds English because she grew up mainly in Victoria, the old British colonial capital and the only place in Cascadia where the accent is not Midwestern Standard.

The children cheer and the adults with them clap when Shira makes her entrance onto the stage. She bows and tips her hat; a small flock of doves flies out. The children laugh; the adults who try not to laugh fail to suppress the urge.

She places the hat upside down, dead center on the table in the middle of the stage. Into the microphone she clears her throat. She smiles at her audience and holds out her arms as if she’s about to hug them all. “Thank you, thank you, everyone for coming to my magic show! I’ve got some really, really cool tricks in store for you tonight.” She takes the hat by the brim with both hands, leans forward, and winks conspiratorially. “You’ll never guess what I’m gonna do. I might do the expected just because you don’t expect it!” The audience laughs. She stands back upright and smiles. “So let’s get it started!” Bigger cheers this time; Shira’s enthusiasm is catching.

She picks up her wand off the table, waves it a few times over the hat, taps the hat three times, and puts it back down. She reaches down into the hat and pulls out a rabbit. The children gasp in delight; the adults smile nostalgically. She cuddles the rabbit, climbs down from the stage, and gives the rabbit to a little girl in the front row of the audience. The girl gasps, her parents smile. “It’s adorable!” she says to Shira. “Thank you!”

Shira hugs the girl. “You’re welcome.” She winks. “By the way, you’ve got something in your ear.” She reaches behind the girl’s ear to pull out a quarter, which she shows her. The girl’s eyes and mouth open wider; her parents smile wider in amusement. Shira gives the quarter to the girl and rubs her head affectionately.

She hops back up onto the stage. She says to Jennifer, “I think you’ve got something in your ear, too.”

“What could it be?”

Shira reaches into Jennifer’s left ear and yanks out a scarf. She pulls the scarf out of her ear. She pulls and pulls and pulls as the scarf turns out to be a whole long string of scarves tied together. The audience laughs...

Once the show is over and the curtains close, the girls turn the stage into an impromptu dressing room illuminated by a small battery-powered portable lamp. Quickly they strip off their stage clothes and pack them up. They pause so they can stare at each other’s naked bodies. Jennifer puts her hands on Shira’s hips and caresses them gently. “God, Shira, you’re so beautiful,” she whispers. “If we had the time and we could get away with it, I’d make love to you right now.”

Their reverie is interrupted by a child’s gasp backstage. The girls look in that direction. Jennifer says, “Don’t worry. We won’t hurt you. It’s okay to come out.”

A tow-headed boy of about seven shyly emerges into the light, his sweet face blushing bright red. He whispers, “If you scream, I’ll tell.”

The girls smile at him. “Don’t worry,” says Jennifer. “We promise not to say a word.”

Shira leans down closer to the boy and puts her hands on her knees. “It’s your lucky day. You get to see us naked.” She winks.

“I’m Jennifer...”

“...and I’m Shira. What’s your name?”


“Hi, Billy,” the girls say together. Shira goes down onto her knees and puts her hands on Billy’s shoulders. “Can you keep this a secret, just between us? Please?” He smiles and nods his head quickly. She gently pulls him into an embrace and kisses him on the lips. “It’s our special secret now.” She winks. Jennifer gets down onto her knees so she can hug him and kiss him on the cheek. They send him off, beaming brightly and blushing furiously.

Shira checks the time on her Droid Mega on the table. She flashes Jennifer a look of urgency. After a pause, they put on their street clothes as fast as they can.

Winkie’s. They accept their cousin Karen Kubota’s offer to drive them the short distance to the former Denny’s restaurant that now houses a Winkie’s. Karen is auburn-haired, sweet-faced, half-Japanese, and Buddhist. The three cousins take a booth by the front window. Karen’s paying today. Their waitress today is Jennifer’s cousin, Samantha Blair. “Hi, girls!” she says.

“Hi, Sam!” they answer in unison.

While Sam takes their order, Shira glances at one of the silent flat-screen televisions scattered throughout the restaurant. The news is about the Spanner incident. The graphic is a spiffed-up version of the now famous Spanner tag, as found spray painted on a number of subway cars shortly afterward, as the Confederate government ended its evacuation order and people started to return to New York. The NPA is upping its reward to $50 billion. Shira smirks. “I see the Man wants this Spanner guy really, really bad.”

As Sam flits back to the kitchen to deliver the order to the cooks, a large African-American group enters and files past toward their regular spot in the restaurant, talking all the while. They are a church congregation, and they’re talking Sunday subjects.

Shira leans over the table to whisper to Karen and Jennifer, “Isn’t this a Monday?”

Jennifer replies, “Haven’t you heard, Shira? Those born-again types don’t do Labor Day anymore. It’s ‘Pray For America Day’ now. At least that’s what the Cons call it in Holy City.”

At the mention of the New Confederacy’s fortresslike headquarters arcology, Shira rolls her eyes and groans. “So now we’re finding out that the New Africans are praying every bit as hard as the Cons themselves.”

“They’re praying for something else, too.”

“For God to take dominion away from Devil Whitey and give it to their own tribe. Am I right, or am I right?” Shira winks.

Jennifer points at Shira and winks back. “Ding ding ding!”

One of the church ladies spots Jennifer. She points and shouts “Hey! It’s her!”

A mob of angry church ladies crowds around the cousins’ booth. Out of the crowd emerges Willa’s old enemy, Shepherd Joe Creel. He tried to become famous by defending creationism against her, only for his faith-based arguments to be crushed by her encyclopedic knowledge of the scientific facts and the logic she used so ruthlessly to defend them with. He glares at Jennifer hatefully.

Shira winks at a worried Jennifer. She stands up and yells at the top of her lungs, “Help! This is a hostage situation!”

Creel points at Shira and barks, “You shut up!”

Shira grins wickedly. “Actually, preach, the truth is worse. You people really want to enslave us and sell us to the eugenicists, and then sacrifice our parents to Allah for being infidels. That’s the way of Islam. Am I right, or am I right?”

“We are Christians!

“The only difference between quote-unquote ‘Christianity’ and regular Islam is that your Allah’s got three heads like King Ghidrah! Hate like Muslims, lynch like Muslims, believe in Allah, and it don’t matter what you call yourselves, a duck’s still a duck, and a cultist’s still a cultist. Now get your cultist asses out of our way so we can eat lunch!”

Jennifer gestures for Shira to look out the window at the coffee shop across the parking lot. People are racing out of it and running as far away from it as they can. After it empties, a bomb goes off inside.

Shira turns back to point at Creel. “Did you people do that?”

The church lady next to him (the Shepherd's wife) protests, “We’d never do a thing like that!”

Shira fixes her with a hard look. “There were gay people in there. Infidels too, even. Right?

The church people give no answer; they only look anxiously among themselves. Creel and Shira glare at each other like Tournament archrivals, each recognizing how dangerous the other is.

The police investigation reveals that one person was killed in the explosion. Deeper investigation reveals that the dead man was wanted for a series of bombings: a “mad bomber.” Apparently he had been knocked out or killed by one of the patrons before the explosion. A cop shows Shira the remaining fragments of the detonator. It looks suspiciously complicated. “Toymaker?”

Recognizing the familiar style of the device, Shira rolls her eyes. “Yep, one of his.” Asked why she insists on keeping suspicion on the church group, she replies, “You gotta make sure they’ve got nothing to do with this, and that nobody lets ’em get away with it if they did. You never know with those religious types.”

Holy City. After the coup of 2012, the New Confederate government built the Arcology called Holy City in the edge city heart of its capital, the Holy City of Colorado Springs, as its headquarters. At its core, the Law and Order Center (home of the National Police Agency and its investigative corps, the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and the National Security Center (headquarters of the Imperial American Armed Forces) flank the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral of America, guarding them like a magic fortress.

In the basement of the Law and Order Center, where the Crime Prevention Division has its headquarters and stations its precognitive agents, Dr. Henry Becket stares down Doctor 42 through the sunglass attachment on his thick glasses. “Have your precogs sensed any trace of the terrorist Spanner?”

“No, sir. He has left no trace.”

“Have they sensed any disturbance in the future that could signal his presence?”

“No, sir. There has been no disturbance since the incident.”

“Keep them on the alert, Doctor 42. Next time, we want to stop this terrorist before he can inflict any more damage.”

“Yes, sir!”

“You are dismissed.”

Doctor 42 salutes the Division Chief and leaves the office. On the monitor on the Chief's desk, his brother the Cartel Chairman appears for a video call. “What is it this time, Richard?”

“Hello, brother. I presume we haven’t yet tracked down our disappearing terrorist?”

“Even I could not Trace him. He hides himself very well indeed. As a matter of fact, the Church of America hierarchy have announced that this is in fact a supernatural incident, and that our terrorist is in fact a demon. The President herself has told me in no uncertain terms that she believes this enough that she wants to take the entire National Police Agency off the case and hand it over to her pet exorcists.”

Richard Becket laughs. “Well, well, bless her ignorant heart.”

“I have a strong suspicion that this is precisely what the terrorist wants, and that this is why he chose to attack a meeting of the United Corporations on the Day of Restoration in the Confederate Homeland.”

“He sounds like a very clever man, Harry.”

“We are right to have a low estimation of most of the terrorist organizations fighting against the Dominion of Righteousness, Richard. But we cannot afford to underestimate a terrorist who appears out of nowhere and then vanishes without a trace.”

“In the case of this terrorist, I believe you are right. Remember the Gnostic manuscripts we intended to... collect?”

“They're missing, aren’t they.”

“Right once again.”

“I am always right. You know that, Richard.”

“One doesn’t need your deductive genius to guess, rightly, that the Pope’s agents did not get their bloody hands on them.”

“I have no doubt that those incompetents of Director Radisson’s will fail to keep your precious manuscripts out of her hands.”

“Our Ariel is a dangerous enemy indeed. Another one we cannot underestimate. Do you figure she has any connection to our terrorist?”

“If not, there will be. Ariel is a determined enemy. She will find any way she can to destroy us.”

“I can’t help but feel sorry for the Pope and the head of the Church of America. But if Ariel has her way, she’ll have the dirty mudblood rabble crash the upcoming election just to satiate her sick little democracy fetish.”

“That may not be the worst of it. If Spanner gets his way, he’ll be turning the election into a full-blown revolution.”

The Chairman says nothing. Then he disappears from the monitor. Henry Becket stares at the chessboard in front of him.

on to the next...

Copyright © 2010 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

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[Revision 1.1, 11/23/10: Emended text for clarity, corrected continuity errors, updated formatting.]
[Revision 1.2, 11/27/10: New layout for the entire series, plus text corrections.]
[Revision 1.2.1, 12/2/10: Text corrections.]
[Revision 1.3, 12/4/10: Text and continuity corrections. Added new material for clarity.]

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