Friday, December 24, 2010

Spanner Chapter 15: Start the Violence

Faithful readers, school is now out. Sure, there’ll still be scenes set at school, but that’s not where the main action is anymore. It’s out in the streets. All the high school kids are about to find that out for themselves once class resumes next chapter. This weekend belongs to the emperor of the world, his would-be assassins shooting for eternal glory, and the Angel of Chaos out to pwn them both. The final act of Spanner Book 1 begins here.

The original canon of cyberpunk science fiction coincides with the end of the political thriller’s heyday, the Eighties. The Left died with the Soviet Union as Stalin’s last and biggest victim. But still there is a political strain within cyberpunk, even if a minor one; naturally, it tends anarchist, just like punk rock itself. (Fortunately there’s still no fascist strain corresponding to Nazi street punk.) Even The Matrix skirts the edge of political cyberpunk, even if the sequels lose themselves in tech-gnostic obscurity. Now, I’m not yet avoiding the problems with political thrillers; the masses have even left the city to avoid getting hurt or killed when the assembled “Cons” (Neo-Confederates) start trashing it. But the Cons and “Corps” (Corporates) are the American Imperial élite. The masses will make their début soon, and then they will make their presence known.

Scenarios taken from my Project Notebooks of the early ’00s: the first visit to Ariel’s New Age shop (which occurred earlier in the 2008 Script Frenzy script) and the police riot (in Seattle, no less); from the early Notebooks of the Nineties come the names of the three networks ABCNN, QVCBS, and ESPNBC.

Now we start rockin’...

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Book 1: Rock City Blues
Chapter 15: Start the Violence

For what is a man profited, if he shall
gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?


4 October 2010
Holy City.
King Patriot, newly risen from the dead, holds out his hands in triumph as the assembled masses cry out in unison and worship him as their God. And then — chaos...

Doctors 8 and 15 struggle to wrest a writhing Precog 218K out of the Crime Prevention lab. Doctor 6 hurries into Dr. Henry Becket’s dark office to report. He salutes. “Chief, we’ve lost another precog.”

Dr. Becket stares through him grimly, chilling him to the bone. “He has already arrived.”

Bangor Jail. Frank Becket and his now ex-girlfriend, Irina Lanskaya, stare angrily at each other in their cell. Irina is Russian, sexy, an absolute slut, and fifteen. Like Shira, she has no qualms about selling her body for sex. Unlike Shira, she has no scruples and no integrity to betray. She always dyes or bleaches her hair because she hates its natural brown color. Today it’s bright red verging on pink. Blond Frank is prettier than she is, but his personality is far uglier than even hers.

“You don’t look quite so sexy in jailhouse orange, now, do you,” he sneers.

“You make me sick,” she spits.

He protests, “Irina, you know I had to—”

“You didn’t have to bring in stupid Satan shit! I help you kill Wog rats, but I don’t get off on watching naked pretty girls get snuffed by devil priest out of cheesy horror movie! I’m not into torture porn crap!”

Frank stares at her in open-mouthed shock. Then his expression changes to cold rage. “Maybe I should snuff you sometime.”

Irina crosses her arms contemptuously. “Hmph! I steal you of fun.”

Willa’s house. Today, the house of Willa Richter-Thomas belongs to her elder daughter, Alex de Lacey. She and the assembled Skeleton Krewe greet the three newcomers. Assembled around the dining table with Alex sitting at the head are Nick Cyphers, Deth Pussy, Evil the Cat, El Kabong, Simon Sez, Shira, and Jennifer. Sitting around them in folding chairs are members of Team Bremelo: the Shelley twins and their sister Fiona, Brandi, Marina, Connor, Cory, and Kio. John Peck, Lars Ulquiorra, and Arisa Saionji of the Slasher Hunters sit in the living room couch, moved nearby. Boadicea the tortoiseshell cat happily rides her Roomba as it moves back and forth throughout the living room.

“So you’re the Cockroach Twins,” says Alex.

“Yeah,” says the girl in a thick Los Angeles drawl. “I’m Moon Roach. Like, that’s my real name. And this [looks to her left] is Wolveroach and [looks right] Punisheroach. You’re, like, Alex Plus? You’re my hero!”

“Why, thanks. We’ve been hearing some pretty good things about you. So how come you got caught by Frankie the Snake and his goons?”

“Like, we’re not real spies or anything...”

“Good thing you guys got rescued by real spies,” says Shira. “Even if we’re not official or anything.”

“You’re, like, a Tracker, right?”

Jennifer goes, “Ding ding ding!” Alex and Nick roll their eyes in unison.

Shira continues, “You’re right! We weren’t looking for you, but I followed the dog tracks all the way out to where Jen and I got a serial killer named Ole-Ole Olson to pull a Steve Irwin suicide. We found Frankie the Snake himself there and caught him. You didn’t see it, but Leila got to skewer his fave devil man in mid-sacrifice too.”

Moon puts her hands on her cheeks, stares open-mouthed at Leila, and slowly says, “Wow...” Leila smiles shyly back and blushes.

“You’re just in luck, Roaches! The big day’s tomorrow, and we hear the Cons are bringing an army of combots and copbots from every military branch and secret police agency in the Empire. I’ve got some rootkits and a mole in the government. We’ve bought several dozen police badges and uniforms so the Slasher Hunters can fit right in. You’ll be staying behind at Hack Central with Alex and Nick so you can show ’em what you’re made of.”

“We won’t be acting as Slasher Hunters tomorrow,” says Peck, “because we won’t be catching any killers.”

“We can’t go as Team Bremelo, either,” adds Brandi.

“No,” says Arisa, “we can’t take ’em on as some high school fight club.”

El Kabong says, “And everybody knows the Krewe are ace hackers but shit spies.”

Shira stands up. Everybody stares at her. A mischievous cockeyed smirk grows onto her face, then evolves into a full grin. “How’s about we call ourselves — Team Spanner?

Ariel’s shop. Downtown Port Townsend has all the charm of a nineteenth-century boomtown that once held the promise of turning into a great city, and may still become one sometime in the future. Port Townsend has long been one of Cascadia’s most liberal towns despite the looming presence of the Indian Island naval base, and despite not having its own major college like Bellingham, Olympia, or even Bremerton. But the threat remains that the paranoid conservatism native to small towns will destroy the town’s spirit: sinister MIBs from the National Police patrol the streets to enforce the grim rule of conformity. But Port Townsend is outside the Metropolitan Seattle boundaries, so it remains safe from the lockdown and chaos that is already afflicting Seattle. The streets of Downtown, Uptown, and the City Center are crowded with people fleeing the big city for the weekend in addition to the usual tourists. Only tourists from out of the area gawk when they see married sisters Charlie and Desiree Richter-Thomas stroll arm in arm down Water Street and kiss openly.

Charlie is openly in love with the town. “I wish we could stay here.”

“We need to move here. I’d like us to get away from Drusilla, and take Shira and Aira with us.”

“But then Drusilla will start thinking she’s rid of us, and then she’ll be unstoppable. We’ll move here one of these days, but we have to stay close to Seattle if we still want to stop Drusilla.” They sigh in unison.

They walk together up Water Street, past crowds of tourists and refugees charmed by the town, past shops and restaurants and art galleries and kiosks, till they reach the door of the store that is their destination. Much smaller than the famous Phoenix Rising, it’s called the Sky Dancer Metaphysical Bookstore, and it belongs to the woman the men of the Synarchy fear most: Rukmini Ariel Shield.

When they enter, they feel like they’ve passed through the portal to an entirely different world. Glowing crystals, the smell of sandalwood incense, and music of sitar, tablas, Tibetan bells, and Mongolian Buddhist chants put them into a state of near trance and give them the feeling that genuine magic lives here. The magic is concentrated in the beautiful form of Ariel Shield herself, who greets them wearing a long frilly black skirt yet openly bare-breasted. Ariel holds out her arms. “Charlotte! Desiree!” she calls out in her beautiful Irish-accented voice. “I’m so happy to see you!”

The sisters rush right into their arms and take turns kissing her joyfully on the lips. Ariel takes Charlie’s right hand and Desiree’s left hand, and raises them up so she can see the wedding bands on their ring fingers. “I see you took my advice and got married. I’m deliriously happy for you. But I’m terribly sorry I couldn’t be there for you.”

While they are still in Ariel’s embrace, Desiree takes Charlie’s face in her hands and plants a long passionate kiss on her lips. She says to Ariel, “Charlie’s always been the one true love of my life.”

“It’s not very often that a woman finds true love with her own sister,” says Charlie. “But Desi’s a special woman. I wouldn’t give her up for the world.”

“You two are a very special couple,” says Ariel. “That’s why I love you two so much.” She kisses them both on the lips.

“When we go back to Europe to make our marriage official, we want you to marry us”

Desiree looks upward in a reverie. “We’ve already got it mapped out. Charlie and I are going to be completely naked, and we want to make love in front of everybody, just like our friend Marc and his father Vincenç when they had their beautiful wedding in Barcelona.”

“Oh, they’re so totally in love, we couldn’t help but fall in love with them ourselves. And they’re so gorgeous together! We want our wedding to be just like theirs, and we want them to be there for us just like we were there for them.”

“And we won’t need an Exception, either, not in Spain, France, the Netherlands, or Russia.”

“You know,” says Ariel, “Father let me marry my daughter, he says, so we won’t breed. He thinks that’ll get us out of his hair.”

Charlie laughs. “Just as Shira’s about to start ripping it out.”

“And knowing her, I know he’ll be ripping his hair out over her.” The three women laugh.

On the walls, the sisters see large tapestries of dancing Indian and Tibetan goddesses. Ariel points toward them. “These are the goddesses in whose honor I named my store. They live here; they’re not for sale. This is not just a store, you see. It’s my shrine to them. I worship them here. Their Tibetan name, khandroma, and their Chinese name, feitiannü, both mean ‘sky dancing woman.’ But in Sanskrit they are called collectively by the name dākinī, which means ‘she who calls out.’ Their unenlightened sisters, the mātrikās or mamo, are the savage Daughters of Kali, death goddesses like the Valkyries. The Dakinis still carry the flesh stripping knife and the cup of blood that are the Matrikas’ emblems, and they still wear the skull necklace of their mother Kali. But the Dakinis heard the message of the Buddha and followed him on the path to enlightenment. They dance in the sky with absolute freedom because they embody the truth of Emptiness. Their call is the call to enlightenment.”

One particular tapestry, depicting a bronze-skinned goddess whose hair is flame, captures Charlie’s attention so violently that she gasps in recognition. She points at it. “That one looks just like Shira!”

Ariel smiles. “Her name is Kurukulla. She hails from the Indian kingdom once called Uddiyāna, which today is the most desolate Afghan wasteland ruled by the Arab Caliphate. She is a love goddess, representing sexual desire, the one thing Ba‘al Moloch, the cruel and jealous god of Islam, hates most. She dances naked because she is free from the masks that make up the false self. She bears the flowery bow and arrow of Eros and Cupid. She is the daughter of not Kali, but Tara, the goddess-Buddha of Tantra. Her magic is Vashya Karma, red magic, the power of the Charmer who seduces people and brings them under her control.”

“That really does sound a lot like Shira to me.”

Desiree asks skeptically, “Are you saying that she’s an avatar?”

“Yes, she is,” replies Ariel. “And so am I, and so are both of you. We take human form because our mission is to help humanity evolve and realize that they are all gods, just like us. We are the Gods of Light who fight for the sake of all humanity. But there is another kind of god that works against humanity, and therefore against us. I believe you’re all too familiar with them.”

“The Corporations. They actually do claim to be gods. And I strongly suspect Dictel actually is one.”

“It is. After abandoning his fallen prophet Hitler, Ares, father of the vampires, took Dictel Corporation as his body. Dictel, and the many corporation-gods like it, are the Gods of Power whose sole purpose is universal tyranny.”

“So what does this have to do with Shira?”

“Soon she will need to know her true identity and her true mission. When she does, she will be a very powerful Goddess of Light indeed. She is one of the keys to defeating the Gods of Power and saving humanity.”

“Well,” says Charlie, “she intends to take on the Power tomorrow. What do you think about that?”

Ariel smiles. “Soon, the whole world will know who, and what, she really is.”

Willa’s house, night. In the room in the basement where Alex and her dead wife Lya Cassir once slept, she sits on the side of the bed and gazes upon her beautiful young brother Connor Blair and his even more gorgeous new boyfriend Rob Shelley, arm in arm and nude together. “Oh my god! Jen’s right! You two are too beautiful together for words. I’m so glad you two are in love! I agree with her, you’re going to have to get married. I insist on being best man at your wedding.”

Connor laughs nervously and blushes intensely. “Come on, Alex, we’ve only been together for a few days. We haven’t been together long enough to know for sure if it’ll last. As much as I love him, I still don’t want to ask him to marry me so soon.”

“But if I ask you to marry me and you turn me down,” Rob protests, “you’ll break my heart.”

Connor kisses him. “Rob darling, before I ask you to marry me, I want to get to know you much more intimately.”

“Okay... I still love you beyond all reason.”

Alex grins. “The same way Leila loves Shira?”

“Exactly! Yeah, I’m just like my sisters that way. If we’re in love with you, we love you with everything we’ve got. That’s how Leila loves Shira, and that’s how I love you too, Connor.” Rob pulls Connor into a tight embrace and shocks him by kissing him on the lips with all the passion he can muster.

Outside, the night streets are utterly desolate throughout Metropolitan Seattle. The only people out tonight are cops. They are far outnumbered by combat androids and small surveillance hoverdrones. The warriors who crave eternal glory lurk in the shadows and hope they can get themselves close enough to the king that they can claim it.

25 August 2012...
The world explodes in fire. Mechanical angels of death fly above the Washington Mall and drop hellfire onto the democratic masses. God speaks again and again; his voice destroys the world with fire.

Shira tries to find her sister among the charred torn corpses on the killing field. Again and again, she screams her sister’s name: “Kira! Kira!” But Kira is gone now, as if she had never existed.

The one-eyed man stares down at her with wicked grin and murderous intent. He points his pistol at the tempting target between Shira’s eyes. One-Eye Jack says he has unfinished business. Shira stares back as hard as she can, stares with all the hatred she can summon, stares into him and through him and into his black heart. She runs away to resume her search for her lost twin, leaving him screaming and twitching on the ground.

The next day, as if an assimilant has transformed them into a botnet, the government and the corporate media announce with one voice that the humanistic heresy of democracy has been abolished and the Kingdom of God established at last on earth...

5 October 2014
Downtown Seattle.
In the cloudy and drizzly weather that foreshadows the oncoming storm, they come to Seattle. They are white. They are richer than most Americans. They are overwhelmingly middle-aged and old. They are devout Americas — members of the Church of Jesus Christ, American. The Church of America preaches that 1) the Second Coming of Jesus Christ occurred on July 4, 1776, and that therefore the Federal Government of the United States of America and its successor, the Imperial Government of the Confederate States of America, is quite literally Christ incarnate; and 2) the Confederate American tribe that their Yankee enemies, most Europeans, and nearly all dark-skinned “Un-Americans” consider savage, primitive boors are in fact the Thirteenth Tribe of Israel and therefore as much the Chosen People of God as the Jews. They come from all over the vast reaches of the American Empire to worship their leader and hate the liberal city of Seattle, which they believe is infested by demons because of its rational grid structure and dense development.

Their object of worship and obedience is not President Sarah AMERICA!, though she too has come to Seattle to bask in the adoration of her people. Their true leader is the old and seemingly immortal man once known as Roger Steele Becket, Incorporated, founder of Dictel Corporation and its chairman from 1947 to 2013. Today he is known and worshipped as Patriot the First, King of Texas, Emperor of America, and Messiah of the End Times. His word is not the law of the land. His word is the Word of God.

The world calls them a wacko cult.

Once America was the beacon of liberty to the world; now it has turned into an Anglo-Israelite version of the cult kingdom of North Korea, with the important difference that America is an aggressively expansionist world empire. The vision of the dead American Republic’s founders seems as inconceivably radical today as it did in the 1770s, during the brilliant peak of the rationalist European Enlightenment. But the Enlightenment is no more. This is the Age of Islam now. Faith and violence rule. Reason is treason.

The Americans assemble and merge into a massive crowd with one mind. They chant the praises of their God, their Nation, and their Messiah in the Unknown Tongue. They stone the many concrete and steel giants that populate the city and command these silent Anakim to begone back to Hell. The impassive buildings do not deign to notice them; they neither flinch nor move. The pilgrims converge on the great plaza of Westlake, where the infidels preach liberal blasphemy, where they will hold the biggest America Revival in the history of Cascadia and where the King’s youngest daughter, Shepherd Drusilla Becket AMERICA!, will bind and banish the demons of Humanism, Liberalism, Socialism, and Democracy.

There is no public transit. The taxis and jitneys are parked. The buses, streetcars, and trains stand idle in their barns. Few cars with Cascadia license plates interfere with the arriving Hummers, monster trucks, and motor homes. For one day, the big city shall belong to the foreign invaders. But when the invaders are done, they will pat themselves collectively on the back and return whence they came. The cast-out natives will return to their city, clean up the mess, and extort their insurance companies into paying for the repairs. This is how it always happens in America. Indeed, this is the way of the world.

Union Station. A motorized short freight car arrives at the end of the line. Its riders, Shira Thomas and J.T. Sparks get off. She wears stripeless black tights, sleeveless white button-up blouse with the top two buttons open, brown flight jacket, thick-soled black lace-up fighting boots, and a gray fedora she has secured with hairpins. She has stashed her Go-Yo in the jacket’s left pocket, her Droid and a Miniature Companion Cube in the right. He wears his regulation FBI windbreaker and cap.

A burly Transportation Security Administration agent approaches and attempts to intimidate them. “What’s your business here?”

J.T says bluntly, “I’ll give you my business on a need-to-know basis. All you need to know is that it has to do with terrorists. Now make way and let me do my business.”

The TSA man turns to Shira. “Identify yourself, citizen.”

Shira takes the strap out of her blouse and holds up her cards: bounty hunter’s license, Trackers Guild membership, Incorporation card. They register on the TSA agent’s RFID reader. “She’s with me,” says J.T.

“Okay. You can go about your business, Agent Sparks. But make sure you keep Girl Friday in line.”


Port Townsend. The wind blows strong but the rain does not fall. Exiled Seattleites crowd the downtown streets because the state government has severed their foot ferry lifeline for the weekend.

Four religious leaders and one infidel hold a meeting around one of the tables at the end of Union Wharf. The religious leaders are Evangelical Christian minister Reverend Brandon Williams, Catholic Christian priest Father Josue Montoya (a Jesuit), Sunni Muslim imam Idris Malik, and Neopagan priestess Rukmini Ariel Shield. The infidel is Desiree Richter-Thomas, underground reporter and open atheist. Rev. Williams represents the venerable tradition of Afro-American Evangelicalism. Imam Malik, also Afro-American, converted to Islam in prison and heads a ministry for convicts and homeless youth. Father Montoya represents the world’s largest Christian denomination and the ancient religion of Europe. Ariel is a leader of the post-Christian revival of ancient paganism in the Western world. Desiree, of course, is one of the most outspoken champions of the embattled Enlightenment, which she identifies with Western Civilization itself.

Desiree asks the religious leaders, “So what’s your opinion of the goings-on over in Seattle?”

Rev. Williams answers first. “Your city’s being overrun by a monstrous pagan cult.”

“Pagan? That’s an interesting way to put it when they constantly call themselves the only true Christian church ever.”

“They’re not even Christian anymore. They started out Christian like the People’s Temple and the Children of God, but like them it’s become a monstrous pagan cult. It was all downhill from there once they set up the nation as their Golden Calf.”

Ariel adds, “Cults have a bad habit of departing far from their origins. We in the New Age movement have been plagued with cults since the day the first Hindu guru came to America.”

“It’s not enough that their insane infatuation with end-times prophecies sends America’s soldiers to die for Israel. What really bothers me is not just their ‘Anglo-Israelite’ heresy they share with sections of the Klan, but their mania for ‘God wants you to be rich’ to the point where they base their entire gospel on the one verse ‘unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.’”

“Ah, yes,” says Desiree, “the next-to-last sentence of the famous Parable of the Talents, which proceeded to end: ‘But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.’ God takes what is not rightly his and reaps what he doesn’t sow, just like Caesar and Herod. Don’t forget that the Beckets live by this verse, too. I should know. I almost didn’t survive them living up to it.”

“But he said that in a parable and warned us to read between the lines. The king in the parable was a Herod. Nowhere did Jesus say of himself that he came to steal from the poor and give to the rich. Instead, he said God is for the poor, the widows and orphans, the sick and the crippled, the throwaway people of the Empire. He said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. The Romans crucified him for that! The false prophets of ‘Jesus America’ can’ edit this out of the Bible, so they write a new one and worship it! They’ll have to answer for this before the throne of God on Judgment Day.”

Imam Malik says, “It’s a well known fact that we Muslims are cursed with the same thing, to the point where it is now said the ‘curse of the chosen people’ that still burdens the Jews is now said to rest upon the Arabs. Islamism has departed so far from Islam that it’s become a new religion entirely. A cult that mirrors Americanism exactly now rules the Islamic world. How America is any different, I have no idea anymore.”

“The New Prophet du jour and his ‘companions’ are trashing Seattle as we speak,” adds Desiree. “They claim to be the ‘real’ Jews, but we know what they really are.”

“If Christendom had kept to the traditional faith, none of this would have happened,” says Father Montoya.

“The Cathars would have argued with that,” Ariel counters.

“They were a cult, too, Miss Shield.”

“So was the Inquisition. And it had all the swords.” Ariel smiles; the priest can only stare back.

“The thing here in America,” says Desiree, “is that people are turning away from religion altogether. Our religious establishment is trying to stop evolution cold by turning America into a North Korea with bigger nukes. They’re only killing it.”

“Sometimes,” Rev. Williams sighs, “I wonder why somebody doesn’t just kill those people so we can take our freedom back.”

“But Reverend, that’s exactly what the old man wants us to do. He wants to be a martyr.”

“What are you saying?”

“If you want to become God, first you have to be crucified.”

Pioneer Square. Shira peeks out of an alley dumpster. There’s no smelly rotting garbage in here, but there are reams upon reams of unshredded documents discarded by various tech, science, medical, and security companies and institutions. She is dumpster diving, or what the hackers call trashing. What she finds is an identity thief’s wet dream. She picks the most incriminating ones and hands them over ream by ream to J.T. Sparks as he passes by in his FBI windbreaker and cap.

Security androids walk past without noticing them; surveillance drones hover by and see nothing. As they pass in proximity to Shira’s Droid, the phone detects them and implants augmented reality filters into them that block her out. They transmit the filters to other machines with their hardware and OS until she becomes completely invisible to the security net.

A Seattle cop (human, this time) comes by and taps J.T.’s shoulder with his billy club. “What are you doing?”

“Following Chief Radisson’s orders. We’ve got a fraud case we’re investigating and a lot of people stupid enough to hand us the incriminating evidence on a silver platter. But this is federal business, so you’d best move on and get on with your business.”

From the dumpster, Shira looks at one of the several sheets of paper she holds in her hand, then points at the cop. “Say, aren’t these yours?”

Alarmed, the cop peers into the dumpster. Shira holds the papers in front of him. “Hey!” He tries to snatch the papers from her; she whisks them away.

“You shouldn’t throw your ID number and password into the trash basket. Do you realize what would happen if a malicious hacker got his grubby hands on these? He could swipe your identity and commit who knows how many crimes in your name and make it look like you did it, and the whole department would have all kinds of egg on their face, just like in L.A.! The SPD’s already in enough trouble as it is. You don’t want a scandal on your hands, do you?”


“Aren’t you supposed to be a cop? Shred it, officer! It’s a matter of basic security!” She hands the papers over to the cop. Sheepishly, he scampers away.

As Shira and J.T. finish taking their collection to his black FBI van, a security android in MIB getup watches them. A bird-sized surveillance bugbot flies around it in a futile attempt to distract it. Shira gets into the van’s passenger seat and slams the door. But before the van leaves for its next stop, the MIBbot suddenly grabs the camdrone, crams it into its mouth, and eats it.

Public Safety Building. Before the coup leaders nationalized all law enforcement, this was home to the Seattle Police Department. Now it is the National Police Agency’s North Cascadia field office. The NPA section chief for Cascadia is here: John Cameron Becket, decorated strike cop, son of the head of the NPA’s Crime Prevention Division, and grandson of the King himself. He wears an eyepatch over his missing eye. The NPA chief himself, Karl Radisson, watches him as he watches the many screens in the situation room in the basement.

“I hope you know what you’re doing, John.”

Jack Becket takes a drag on his Cuban cigar. “The beautiful thing about robots is that they always obey and never talk back. They do what you program them to do and nothing more. They make the perfect cops.”

“I’m afraid they can’t replace human detectives.”

“Human detectives don’t have expert systems in their meat CPUs or telephoto lenses in their eyes. They’ve got biases computers don’t have. Humans need policing, Karl, but they make lousy detectives.”

“Only a strike cop could say that, John.”

Becket and Radisson stare at each other until one of the cops manning the monitors cries out, “Did you see that?”

“What?” the two chiefs say in unison.

One screen has turned blue. The picture returns. The camera hovers around a MIBbot staring down a Pioneer Square alley. Suddenly, one of the android’s hands whips out and grabs the camdrone. The camera tracks the drone’s trajectory into the android’s mouth. Once the camera is inside, the screen turns blue again.

Becket and Radisson stare at each other in shock. “What?!

subway. The way to International District Station is on a footbridge over the railroad tracks and across Fourth Avenue. Shira and J.T. do not bother to wait for the traffic that does not come. The car awaits them inside the subway station. Deth Pussy sits at the wheel. They get in. He drives them up the empty train tunnel.

“Yo, J.T.! You ’n’ redhead takin’ the Amazon tour?”

“Yo, Steve,” says J.T.

“Heya,” says Shira.

“We figured, since nobody’s around, we might as well hang out.” J.T. points at the security cameras above. “You sure those cams up there aren’t picking up our position?”

“Filter’s installed in the rootkit. They can point their cams at us all they want, but they can’t see a thing. Can’t desniff their bomb detectors, though.”

“Trying to prevent the V option?”

“Yeah.” Deth pats his steering wheel. “No explosives in this baby but highly expensive gasoline. Shit costs plenty of velveeta these days.”

They pass through Westlake Station, directly beneath the Revival in the plaza above and the throne the Imperial government has built for the King. Shira says, “I wouldn’t wanna be up there when the shit starts hitting the fan.”

Deth laughs. “Babe, I’d kill to be up there when the shit hits. But I gotta jet. Got other biz goin’ on.”

“Me, I’m up there whether I like it or not,” says J.T. “Gotta do my duty. All the hardest motherfuckers in the underworld are here gunning for eternal glory at the expense of His Imperial Majesty, so I gotta save his ass and keep him from getting martyred and achieving immortality, y’know.”

“You doin’ it with the Man again? How come?”

“Revenge. I want that motherfucker to squirm.”

Deth chuckles and thumbs up. “Gotcha!”

Westlake Plaza. The mind-melded pilgrims sway and chant to the JesusPop rhythm; they sing along with the lyrics written in the Unknown Tongue, musically glossolated by the cute blond girl singer on the Westlake Center platform dressed in laces and frills of red, white, and blue. The wind rides on the sea of Confederate flags swaying above them. Giant flocks of camdrones fly above to send the sight to every television in the Empire, across the globe: whether anybody likes it or not, the TVs cannot be turned off, for they too are worshipping Jesus America and His Anointed King.

Away from the congregation, rats scurry and pigeons forage. Copbots chase them, capture them, and eat them bloody raw as the cams watch from above.

Public Safety Building. “What’s with these bots?” cries Agent 40125. “Are they malfunctioning?”

Jack Becket smirks grimly. “Somebody’s playin’ with my toys.” To the techs in their cubicles, he barks, “Get me a trace on this bastard, now!”

“We are tracing him, Chief!” replies Agent 686454. “There’s no traceable signal coming from anywhere!”

Jack punches the wall. “Damn! Figures it had to be a rootkit!”

“A rootkit, Jack?” asks Radisson. “Where would our cyberterrorist find that?”

“Only everywhere on the Darknet. Whatever your operating system is, they got a rootkit for it. Once you install it, the computer’s yours and you can do whatever you want with it. Wipe the victim’s hard drive, steal identities and intel, assemble a botnet for a DDoS, you name it.”

“So what makes you think it’s a wedge end of a cyber assault and not a malfunction or an employee prank?”

“I’ve had a bad feeling in my gut all day. I’m expecting the worst.” The doors open for J.T. The security system says in a soothing female voice, “Welcome, Agent 98393. Your request has been approved. Please come in.”

“Thank you,” he says. As they enter, Shira chuckles and fingers the cube in her pocket. “What was that about?”

“You don’t play games?”

“No time.”

“Well, somebody in security used to work for Valve.”


They wend their way through the labyrinthine complex. Because the elevators have been shut off, they take the stairs, all the way down to the vast basement, several blocks in every direction. The loud hum of countless thousands of parallel processing mainframes nearly deafens them and disguises their presence.

“Wow,” says Shira, stunned at the vastness of the complex. “So these are the fabled servers of”

“This is almost bigger than NORAD.”

Shira spins around with her arms wide open. “And tonight, their power is ours.”

Westlake Plaza. The giant flag descends over the platform. The Stars and Bars is no mere flag; it is a holy object, the idol of Jesus America, Manifest Destiny encapsulated into a single symbol: by this sign, thou shalt conquer. The Chosen People of White America explode into cheers, screams, thunderous applause, and the Unknown Tongue. (Watching the scene in the safety of the Public House, Rev. Williams quotes from the Book of Revelation, intoning: “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.”) The Marine Corps Marching Band plays, and the Army Chorus sings, the national anthem of the Confederate States of America; the masses down below break out into mass glossolalia, thanking Jesus America. (“And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.”) After the last held note of the anthem stops, the four strongest men in the Presidential Guard carry a litter on their strong shoulders, and seated in the litter is the figure of Roger Steele Becket — Patriot the First: King of Texas, Emperor of America, Lord of the World, and Messiah of the Time of the End. (Ariel: “Rex mundi venit.” Fr. Montoya [crossing himself]: “Domine libera nos.”) The crowd let out their adoration in one deafening roar. (Shira: “Now that is the biggest squee in history. And I’ve been to Twilight conventions.”) They set the litter down in front of the pulpit. Slowly he stands. He wears a robe beyond splendor, woven from fibers made out of precious metals and glowing gems. He is old, yet eerily ageless; he looks like the same Super Patriot he was when he took the battle to the Chinese Red Army during the Korean War. Two Presidential Guardsmen move the pulpit away so the King can stand between Drusilla, his youngest and most powerful daughter, and Sarah AMERICA!, his Anointed President. As they kneel before him in adoration, he holds out his arms and reveals to his congregation his godhood. (J.T.: “Now watch this.”)

Suddenly, one bodyguard breaks ranks, shoots two more, and holds up a detonator. He screams the Shahada — but a copbot interrupts him, grabbing both his arms and yanking them right off his body. He screams as his life spurts out of him in red fountains. Five men in camo armour and armed with Kalashnikovs rappel down the side of the tower, land in a pentagon around the King, and raise their rifles to shoot him. Five copbots punch their fists right through their torsos, cutting through Kevlar like butter. Eight more armoured men fly by on hoverboards and attempt to shoot him from the sky. President AMERICA! cringes in terror behind him; Drusilla cuts in front of him, holds her arms out in front of her, closes her eyes, and whispers her invocation of power. The assassins shoot; Drusilla opens her now glowing eyes; the bullets bounce off the force shield she projects. The snipers atop the skyscrapers shoot the flyers down. Drusilla collapses to her knees and pants in exhaustion.

But suddenly, a shot rings out. Blood spurts from a new hole between King Patriot’s eyes; he stumbles, collapses, and falls.

The crowd goes silent.

(Shira: “I’m watching.”)

The king’s four guards put him back on his litter and whisk it through the door. Then they emerge with another litter — and on it sits King Patriot — alive! They set down the litter in the same place. He stands up, raises his arms again as if to embrace his entire congregation, and they roar out their adoration louder than before.

Port Townsend. Patrons of the Public House scream, shout, complain. Rev. Williams intones: “And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.”

Desiree shakes her head. “If any man have an ear, let him hear...” Shira watches the spectacle on her Droid’s screen. J.T. watches as her face brightens with recognition.

“I know that trick.”

“Trick?” says J.T. “I didn’t know there was any magic going on.”

Shira looks right at him. “Kagemusha! Resculpt the face, body, and vocal cords of a willing devotee, implant a mind control microchip like the ones they use in prison factories so he can control him remotely, and you’ve got the perfect sacrificial double! Kagemusha: shadow warrior! Plant a hidden sniper, and voilà: resurrection! Pretty City’s top surgeons get a windfall, and King Rog captures the suckers with signs and wonders! You can outdo Jesus, if you know the trick!”

He shakes his head sadly. “No.”

No? Isn’t that perfect enough for you?”

“He uses clones.”

Shira stares at him strangely. “You mean he sacrifices clones? That’s his trick?”

“It’s even trickier than you think. You probably already know about the recent breakthroughs which allow the mass production of perfect clones. What you don’t know, not yet, is that they’ve found a way to imprint the mind of a dying person onto a fresh clone. So when the king’s body starts to wear out beyond repair, he takes a clone out of its vat, offers up his old body as a sacrifice to himself, and then returns in his new body. The resurrection is literal. He uses this divine power to show his disciples that he’s worthy of being worshipped as a god. But there’s nothing supernatural about it, not in the least.”

For an endless moment, she stares back at him in shocked silence. “That’s some trick. But Jolly Roger’s no magician. Who’s pulling the trick?”

“His name is R.G. Litton, but everybody calls him ‘Rat Bastard’ for reasons that’ll be obvious. Former campaign consultant, trained magician, master of spin. You’ll find yourself playing against him before long. As for the clones, the Corps are stocking up on ’em. You’ll be meeting some of Spanner’s victims soon.”

Shira holds out her Droid. “Well?”

J.T. holds out a stolen, jailbroken, and much hacked iPhone running Android. “Let’s do it.” They press the Anonymous icon on their smartphone screens, and the botnet activates.

Westlake Plaza. Suddenly, tear gas canisters fly screaming and smoking through the air, and all the security androids within the metropolitan boundaries shout loudly in unison, “You’re under arrest!” King Patriot, his court, and their bodyguard look on in horror as the androids attack every cop, soldier, and America devotee they can get their hands on. They yell “You’re under arrest!”, grab them, wrench their arms behind their backs, wrestle them to the ground, and handcuff them. When they protest and ask their attackers what they’re being charged with, the robots answer only, “You’re under arrest!” They jam their prisoners into the bombproof paddy wagons and rush them down to the King County Jail to cram them into the already crowded cells.

Cops shoot them. Soldiers pump bullets into them and try to blow them up. The robots shoot back, beat them with their cattle prods, throw them to the ground, bind them, and shout “You’re under arrest!”

The camdrones hover above and capture the disaster as it unfolds.

Public Safety Building. Jack Becket watches the chaos consume the scene of his grandfather’s miracle. “Secure the building at once!” he commands. “Shoot any bots that approach!” The one-eyed man paces rapidly in front of the monitors.

“This was your idea, John!” screams Radisson.

“Chief, I had the techs set up firewalls and ICE! Our defenses were hackproof! How did I know he’d figure a way to slip through ’em with a botnet?”

Radisson stares at him in silent rage for a moment, then storms out. Jack runs over to the hotline vidphone and calls his father.

“What is it now, John?” demands Dr. Henry Becket.

“Did your precogs warn you about this?”

“I tried to convince your grandfather to stop, but he wouldn’t listen.”

“I’m convinced it really is Spanner. He’s jacked all the enforcement robots.”

“You mean hacked.”

“No, Father. Jacked. He is the robots!”

Westlake Plaza. A terrorist attempts to take advantage of the disorder by throwing a grenade. “Eat this, fascist motherfuckers!” But before he can throw it, a copbot grabs his arm and breaks it, making him scream in pain and drop the grenade. The copbot yells “You’re under arrest!”, bodyslams him prone onto the grenade, and lands its crushing weight on top of him. The explosion obliterates the terrorist. The copbot stands up and runs after a group of attacking cops, oblivious to the gore staining the entire front of its body. Another terrorist shoots bullet after bullet into two approaching copbots. When he’s empty, they chase him, grab him, sandwich him, and crush him between their bodies. Two more copbots gruesomely disassemble two more would-be suicide bombers.

The panic spreads. Terrified masses of America cultists, robbed of all reason, flee in utter panic and trample each other to death in the stampede. Cops and soldiers try to protect them and keep them from killing each other, but they cannot stop the copbot hordes as they attack and arrest.

When the crowds are almost gone, the copbots turn on each other. (Shira: “Rock ’Em Sock ’Em time, bitches!”) They box each other, punch and punch mercilessly, trying to destroy each other with their fists. Rumbling robots wreck windows, lampposts, vehicles, dumpsters, street sculptures, and each other. The National Police and the National Guard soldiers try to bring the robots under control, but they can no longer be controlled. The riot lasts for hours, through the night and into the morning, until the last mechanical berserker runs out of power. Thousands of surveillance cameras in the sky capture the chaos and broadcast it to the world.
Tucker Carlson, Sun News: Spanner has returned!

Greta Van Susteren, ABCNN: The terrorist who attacked Madison Square Garden nearly two months ago has struck again, this time in Seattle.

Bill O’Reilly, QVCBS: We have to catch this terrorist, torture and torture and torture him, and make him die ten thousand deaths!

Glenn Beck, ESPNBC: I blame George Soros and his liberal nazis! They need to die ten thousand more deaths!

Megyn Kelly, Fox News: But our King died for his Chosen People and came back from the dead to prove that he is our God! Squeeeee!
Port Townsend. The TV screens go dark. Dozens of shocked patrons pay, leave, and go home. Rev. Williams quotes the conclusion of the thirteenth chapter of the Apocalypse: “Here is wisdom: Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”

Ariel says, “Six hundred sixty-six is the gematria of the Greek word anthrōpos. It is also the gematria of the name Iēsous Christos as written in Greek.”

Fr. Montoya says, “Man is he whom Jesus died to save, and whom Antichrist lives to deceive.”

“I think we’ve gotten one step closer to Judgment Day,” says Rev. Williams.

Desiree looks into his eyes. After a pause, she asks: “But for whom?”

6 October 2014
foot ferry.
The Carlisle II, floating museum and last survivor of Puget Sound’s legendary Mosquito Fleet of foot ferries, normally steams from Port Orchard to Blake Island State Park. No one notices as it pulls away from the Argosy Tours dock near Waterfront Park and heads back across the Sound toward Bremerton.

When Shira is done laughing at the news reports, she switches her Droid back into standby mode and puts it back in her pocket alongside its Companion Cube. “Their thrillers suck, their attempts at news suck; hell, they can’t write, and their ghostwriters suck! I’d ask where they find these people, but then I take another look at the bottom of the barrel and find my answer right there.”

“I prefer not to pay any attention to the lamestream,” says J.T. “I hate having to wash out my brain with brain bleach.”

“They get sillier every year. I watch ’em so I can laugh at ’em.”

“Shira, let me ask you a question.”


“Are you Spanner?”

“That’s a silly question.”

“How’s that?”

“The real question is what.”

“So what is Spanner, then.”

“He’s a mask.”


“Spanner’s a persona that was already out there. I just use it better than most. I don’t ‘am’ Spanner. I do Spanner. Anybody can play Spanner as long as they know the rules.”

“You wear him like a fiction suit, in other words.”

Shira laughs. “If you put it that way, yes.”

“Maybe anybody can wear it, but I’ve never seen anybody wear it so well.” J.T. winks.


The Carlisle II sails away from Seattle, out of Elliott Bay, and into the night.

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Copyright © 2010 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
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