Friday, December 31, 2010

Spanner Chapter 17: Power, Corruption, and Lies

The Neo-Confederate reaction against the upcoming election in Cascadia is getting increasingly violent and hysterical. It’ll only get more so once people start learning what’s behind the Confederate dictatorship in the first place. Cynics like to call it the “Golden Rule” — no, not that one. The one that states: “He that hath the gold, maketh the rules.” I’ll get deeper into this subject in later chapters. But always keep in mind that in Spanner, nothing is what it seems.

Scenarios from the Project Notebooks of the early ’00s: the school assembly and the Big Baddd incident.

I’m running out of “liner notes” right now, so I’m putting part of the story onto the main page this time.

The third act of this play has begun. Now it’s time for Shira to start dropping bombs.

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Book 1: Rock City Blues
Chapter 17: Power, Corruption, and Lies

Knowledge itself is power.
Sir Francis Bacon

Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, I won’t get fooled again.

George W. Bush

7 October 2014
The world hasn’t been the same since the Infowar brought down the Internet and made the Neo-Confederate coup possible. Hackers didn’t bring it down. Governments did.

In 2012, America declared war on Iran. The Chinese and Russians entered the war on the Iranian side. The U.S. government, in conjunction with Israeli intelligence, used NORAD and Echelon to take over every computer system in America in an attempt to bring down the entire electronic infrastructure of China, Russia, and Iran. Predictably, they struck back in equal force. The Internet was designed to withstand a nuclear war. But it could not survive the transformation of entire nations into gigantic botnets. The last remaining freedom in most of the world was obliterated by the rising alliances of extremist factions and criminal gangs. The one big winner was not the Church of America, nor the newly founded Cartel, but Echelon.

Today, computer and telephone ownership is a luxury. Only the privileged are allowed to have online communications access, and they are strictly controlled by Echelon.

That’s the law, anyway. Most people who can afford it are back online. But their access is illegal. Their computers and phones must remain in stealth mode. Their only means of access is the Darknet. As long as the Darknet stays up, at least a thin sliver of freedom will remain. But it gives the Mafias a citadel from which to attack the nations.

For the low-tech, there’s the Sneaker Net. To share information and pirated media content, they walk on their sneakers whose friction powers their personal area networks. They meet secretly like adulterers. They set up secret mail drops, or use the ones the Mafias created for the illicit trade in drugs, weapons, pornography, slaves, and exotic animals.

For the truly dedicated, there’s the Pony Express. Thrill-seekers eager to risk their lives work as couriers who deliver the mail personally. They deliver it by car, bus, bicycle, gypsy-cab taxi, and hoverboard.

Shira rides the storm’s air currents southward high above the parallel corridors of Interstate 5, State Highway 99, and the railroad and light rail tracks, her cargo secured behind her feet on her hoverboard. Her intuition informs her that this particular cargo may be very important indeed. But all she cares about right now is getting it to the man who is paying her to send it. He seems rich and connected enough to buy an order to keep the sky-darkening flocks of black TSA drone aircraft from interfering with her flight. Right now he drinks a spiked milk drink at Loco Moloko and waits.

The rain washes the Tacoma Aroma out of the air as she approaches the city. From above, poverty-stricken and crime-ridden East Tacoma looks vastly different from prosperous trendy downtown. She crosses the I-5 barrier between them, locates her destination, makes ever narrowing circles in her descent, and lands in the alley behind the door. Carefully she unfastens the cargo box from her hoverboard, then extracts the leather pouch containing the cargo from the box. The RFID reader at the door detects her courier company ID, and the Russky doorman lets her in.

All eyes fix upon her when she removes her helmet and shakes her copper-red hair free. Shira Thomas has a heavy rep in the underworld. Some of the mobsters there fear her uncanny ability to turn their own weapons against them. Some fear her unpredictability. But the ones who fear her most have seen her, or her twin or alter ego, in Rebel Rebel and in Aya-Chan’s Little Love Hotel. Rebel Styles haunts their nightmares. Shira opens her wet jacket to reveal the courier-firm tank top that hints at he fabulous figure. She walks up to her client like not a messenger, but a herald of the gods.

He has Russky muscle. The Russky is Maxim Rodchenko, amoral son of Shepherd Peter and brother of Socialist Revolutionary war chief Bram. He notifies the client that his courier and her cargo are here.

Leonid Stroman walks in to meet his visitor personally. “I have heard that little Rebel Styles has grown into a spectacular young woman. But I need to see you with my own eyes.”

Shira turns to him, strikes a ravishing pose, and looks at him with both suspicion and curiosity. “Seems I’m the most famous person here.”

“And the most beautiful. You’re definitely a sight for sore eyes.”

The client clears his throat to catch her attention. He wears a noirish black fedora to conceal himself from behind. He spins around in his chair and reveals himself as—

Arvid Shield?

Shira gasps. “You?”

“Indeed,” he says in his sexy Irish purr. He puts the hat on the table before him and shakes out his beautiful long black hair to its full length.

Shira crosses her arms and peers suspiciously at him. “So what’s this about?”

“I watched my great-grandfather’s little city-clearing Sunday revival and saw you completely own my father’s expensive robot police force. I knew it had to be you. Any ordinary cracker would have just turned his bots into Terminators. You had them arrest the cops. Watching them pound each other into scrap was priceless. You proved to everyone that it was a complete waste of too much taxpayer money and foreign tribute.”

“So what do you want with me?”

“Remember the last time we met?”

“You were trying to kidnap the twins back to Pretty City, if I remember right.”

“No. I came for you.”


“I had heard that Leila had fallen for the legendary Rebel Styles. I came to test you. I wanted to enter your presence and feel your charisma. The moment you got in my face, I knew it was you. You’re as shameless as ever, Rebel Styles. Leila deserves you.”

“So where’s the money?”

“Money is useless. I offer an equal trade.”

“And what does that mean?”

“What you’re carrying is very precious to the government, and very dangerous. What I offer you in exchange is the means to destroy both my father and Admiral Fleer.” He holds up an SD card. “What is on this card will not only end my father’s career, but his life.”

“Who’d he rape?”

“Me. It was before the Internet, so he recorded his crimes on videotape. Years later, I found the tapes. I digitized them and copied the files to this card. If the media get hold of them, he’s as good as dead. I’ll enjoy watching his execution.”

“And Fleer?”

“It’s an open secret that he’s a notorious philanderer. Like so many men of power, he has a weakness for women who have a weakness for powerful men. Edie wanted to blackmail him so that she can control him, so she set up a secret camera and recorded his adulterous liaisons. There’s two or three that might be of special interest to you.”

Shira holds up her cargo. “So what about this?”

“Open it up.” She takes it out of its pouch. She finds a miniature sonic disruptor. “This is the new generation of sonic weaponry. The weapons designers at Dictel Research have found a way to miniaturize the sound processor to create a more destructive weapon at lower cost. This is the sonic equivalent of a briefcase nuke.”

“Your nuke for mine?”

He holds the SD card out to her. She takes it and gives him the sonic disruptor core. “You now wield a weapon even more destructive than this. Sonic disruptors can kill people. The weapon you hold can destroy governments and powerful men. Be extremely careful with it.”

North Seattle. Arisa Saionji used to walk Aurora Avenue, disguised as a teenage prostitute, stalking the serial killers who prey on whores and luring them into the Slasher Hunters’ traps. Now she walks beside the younger but taller Shira and gives her the tour. Tonight they are not disguised. Tonight they stalk bigger prey.

Recently the pimps who purvey child sex have fallen on hard times. The sexbot brothels of downtown and Bellevue have become all the rage. Upstart enterprisers like sexbots because they don’t run away, talk back, go on strike, or get hooked on drugs. They’re more hygienic because more easily cleaned. If they break down, they can be fixed; if they glitch out, they can be reprogrammed. The godfathers don’t like this. They send bought cops to destroy their mechanical competition. In response, the bot pimps buy guard robots to defend their merchandise. Under Corporatism, business is war.

So is politics.

Shira and Arisa march up the parking lot of a shabby strip mall and enter one of its storefronts. There is no sign because the business is illegal. Two juiced and surly cops in uniform confront them. “What are you doing here?” asks the bigger one menacingly.

Shira reaches into her jacket and flashes out a sheaf of bills. “Business.”

The big cop tries to take the money away from her. She jerks her arm back; he grabs only air. He laughs and then growls, “Ladies, we have a right to know your business.”

“Sorry, but this is on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis, and, frankly, you don’t need to know.”

The owner walks in behind them and moves them out of his way. He looks like a Respectable Businessman. Shira and Arisa aren’t fooled. “May I help you, ladies?”

Shira subtly exposes her bounty hunter’s license. “You have a client we want. If you let us have him, we will reward you handsomely, and no one will know anything ever happened.”

“And if we do not cooperate?”

She smiles. “We’ll be more than happy to ruin you.”

“Well then, I’ll be more than happy to help you ladies.”

“Thank you.”

He buys dark-skinned girls of tween age from war-torn Third World countries and prostitutes them. In the Confederate tradition, slaveowners have greater rights than mere freemen like the Richter-Thomases. The respectable pimp chooses a girl he thinks his client will like, strips her naked, has her bathed, and puts her on the bed of the room the client always reserves. No one notices Shira and Arisa sneak into the room and hide there. Shira switches on the flash on the Droid’s camera.

The target arrives on time. The darkened room grows bright and then dark again as the door opens and closes. This man clearly possesses the respectability the pimp lacks. He exudes money. Slowly he removes his expensive clothes. The hunters hear his low scary laugh. The slave girl fears him but knows she cannot resist. Once he is fully naked (Shira resists the urge to voice her disgust), he stands above his intended victim and stares down at her. He does not notice the two women watching him from the shadows. He jumps the girl and starts raping her.

Arisa flips the light switch on. Shira leaps out of hiding to the edge of the bed and whips out the phone. He looks up at her in shock and terror. “Say cheese!” she coos. Arisa takes out her camera, and the two women take pictures.
Amanda Currie: This just in: City council leader caught in clinch with child prostitute! Full story after the break!
Willa’s house. Jennifer stares at the screen in shock. “How come that woman’s back on the air after what we did to her?”

Willa takes the remote control wand, switches to the TV’s app menu, runs the DVR app, and chooses a clip from yesterday.
Amanda Currie kneels before Shepherd Drusilla AMERICA! at her Tuesday night revival and wails.

Amanda: Forgive me, Lord Jesus America, I have sinned!

Drusilla places her outstretched hand on top of her head and intones:

Drusilla: Do you accept Jesus America as your personal Lord and Savior? Will you serve Him with your whole soul?

Amanda: Yes, Lord! Yes! Praise Jesus America!

Drusilla: In the name of Jesus America, thou art HEALED!

Slain in the Spirit, Amanda falls backwards into the waiting arms of her catchers. She twitches and channels the Unknown Tongue.
Arisa snarls in disgust. “You mean the bitch can get away with anything?

Willa shrugs. “She can do anything she wants, up to and including murder, as long as she does this afterwards.”

“She’s done it before,” says Shira. “I’ve got thirty-two clips just like this.”

9 October 2014
before school.
Lesbian rumors now surround Debbie despite all the suspiciously specific denials her cousins the Fleer sisters can publicly throw out.

Polly says, “Shira, is it really true that Debbie’s in the closet?”

“Well,” Shira replies, “it’s a pretty well-built closet if you ask me.”

“So why doesn’t she get out of it?”

“Consider this: Big Chief One-Eye’s already suffered a black eye when it turned out his elder daughters were doing each other.”

“You mean the twins?”

“She wins the Cheezy Prize™.”

A nasty idea makes Polly smile. “Hmm, maybe there’s rumors floating around Charmian and Dorian?”

“Them doing each other? Nah. But me doing ’em? I’ll just keep teasing ’em and let the rumors fly.”

“Don’t say that, Polly!” complains Mimi. “You’re only giving her ideas!” She stands behind Polly with her arms crossed.

Shira lets a wicked smirk grow on her face. “Well... I’m sorry, Mimi, but I’m afraid you’re already too late. That would make an excellent rumor, even if it isn’t true. But Kelly, on the other hand...” She turns to Mimi. “The question is, which twin’s she in love with?”

hallway. On the Bremerton High football team, Bart Green is only a linebacker. The linemen are so huge that they make him look merely human in contrast. Bart, the master fighter, is relatively calm; they are violent.

Defensive end Ned Jovanovich is particularly agitated today. He yells at any student or teacher that gets within his hypersensitive aura and threatens to beat them up. Shira gets in his face and refuses to move. “I know something that you don’t,” she sings.

“What is it?”

“Joe Fisk is laughing at you behind your back. He knows he’s bigger than you, and he’ll always be bigger than you. He calls you a runt.”

He explodes in rage. “That motherfuckin’ bitch! I’ll kill him!” He runs down the hall in a screaming fury, knocking over anyone unlucky enough to get in his path. He finds his locker room rival, defensive guard Fisk, and attacks him.

Jovanovich and Fisk battle like two enraged bulls. Unlike a formal Tournament challenge, they fight by no rules and try to kill each other. People flee to the distance that seems safe to them for now, far enough away to avoid becoming collateral damage but close enough to watch in horror. They dent lockers, knock holes into the walls, break windows; they fight and fight and fight till they both drop from exhaustion.

library. Polly says angrily, “I’m glad you survived, Shira. Did you have to get those two to kill each other?”

“Hey, babe. Anything to keep them from killing us.”

Jennifer complains, “I wish we didn’t have to go to that stupid assembly they’re holding.”

“I’m going whether you like it or not, darling,” says Shira. “No less than Rexelle Steele is scheduled to preach, and I gotta stick around to see the fireworks.”

Polly holds her hands out. “I’m going home to get as far away as possible.”

Shira puts her arm around her shoulders. “I don’t blame you. It is true she doesn’t like witches.”

Leila sits at the table and places a book in front of her. “What’s so special about this Rexelle Steele?”

“She’s Debbie’s mother.”

Leila rolls her eyes. “Oh great. So they’ll be throwing hellfire at us for the whole afternoon?”

“No. At each other.”

Sally slips by and says, “You’ve been stuck in Pretty City too long, sugah. Ain’t you heard of the legend of Rexelle Steele?”

Shira grins. “Rexie, you see, is a fervent believer in the Ex-Gay Therapy ministry. Now, consider her children. Frank’s a crime lord and serial killer. The twins, Quinn and Lindsey? They’re at least as much in love with each other as Charlie and Desiree, and they wanna get married just like ’em. So Rexie worries her twisted head off over her youngest child. She’s terribly afraid she too will turn out to be a shameless pervert just like her elder siblings. So she’ll be baptizing her precious little princess with hellfire and brimstone tonight. If Debbie gives in, she’s a wimp and she’ll lose all respect. But if she fights it, she’ll out herself, and then she’s done for.”

“So damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t,” says Leila. “Poetic justice for a mean girl.”

Jennifer sighs. “I guess I’ll stay for the party, then.” Shira winks.

lunch. Debbie picks at her food. “What’s wrong, cousin?” asks Dorian.

“Nothing,” Debbie snaps

“Are you worrying about the assembly this afternoon?”


Dorian sighs and goes back to eating her lunch.

hallway. Bart stands in Rob’s way to block him. “Well, hello there, Mr. Head Boy,” taunts Rob. “What’s bothering you today?”

Bart says grimly, “I’m hearing bad things about you, Shelley.”

“About my new boyfriend? I happen to find pretty boys as desirable as pretty girls. Too bad you’re not man enough to handle it, Bart.”

Bart takes a swing at Rob. Rob parries it, knees Bart in the groin, then stomp-kicks him in the chest so hard that he flies backwards several meters, lands with a thud and knocks his head on the hard floor, and rolls over. Bart briefly holds his head, then puts his hands on the floor and slowly raises himself back to his feet. He glares back at Rob and breathes heavily in his rage.

“Is this a Challenge, Bart?”

“You want one?”

“Don’t forget I’m as dangerous as I am shameless.”

band room. Karen presides over an impromptu meeting of the Peace Committee. “There’s been too much violence today. We need to find a way to put a stop to it.”

Shira says, “All the violence is coming from the guys who believe their manhood depends on being violent. They must have been upping the juice since the little happening last Sunday.”

“I think they’re preparing for war,” says Connor. “We need to make sure we can defend ourselves and keep those who can’t away from harm.”

“We can’t afford pacifism, that’s for sure.”

“Shira,” says Karen, “nonviolent action helped bring down the Raj, Jim Crow, and apartheid. Remember?”

“But it didn’t bring down the Third Reich or any Red Empire. Hitler himself told Churchill he’d have had his goons shoot Gandhi into hamburger at the first opportunity. Remember the Stalinist Terror and the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The Dictel clan’s more like Hitler or Stalin than a Churchill or Eisenhower. Before we can even be able to use mass action of any kind, first we must weaken the enemy. That requires weapons.”

“We can’t fight their way and still win.”

“That’s what the terrorists don’t realize. They’re fighting the enemy’s way on the enemy’s turf, and that’s why they always lose. Even if the beat the Man, they always end up becoming the Man. They’re attacking the Man’s strength. We have to attack their weakness.”

The librarian on duty, 22-year-old blond Kitty Carlisle, listens to Shira admiringly. “So where do think they’re weakest?”

“The fatal contradiction at the core of the Confederacy is between the extreme moral purism they borrowed from the Caliphate and the singleminded devotion to corruption they inherited from the Texas Corporates.”

“What kinds of weapons do you think can hurt ’em the most?”

“Mind bombs. Mind viruses. Scandals and controversies. Come to think of it, a big scandal’s about to explode right after school.”

library. The Bremerton High School library has two hot librarians, Sally Hatfield and Kitty Carlisle, and three hot student librarians in training. One of them is Jennifer; the second is Polly; the third is the Shelley twins’ cousin, student council secretary Rachel Brinkman. All of them look great in fashion eyeglasses.

Sally drums for the Naked Killers (no relation to a certain Las Vegas pop-rock band with a hunky and eccentric Mormon frontman), an all-girl punk rock trio whose other members are Shira’s sisters Charlie Richter-Thomas (guitar and lead vocals) and Ruby Shears (bass and backing vocals). Kitty plays keyboards and prefers BadPop; she’s trying to convince Charlie to restart her old pop-rock band the Sour Grapes, and would join the band herself if they didn’t already have a keyboardist who just happens to be Charlie’s sister, wife, and true love Desiree. Sometimes Charlie and Desiree share their bed with them, and sometimes Shira, Ruby, and Elle join in. They dote on Jennifer because she’s the daughter and wife of the woman they hero worship without reason, Willa Richter-Thomas, who recruited them into the Radical Librarian Underground; sometimes they share their bed too. Polly is a borderline case to them: they are secular humanists as fiercely devoted to reason as the Richter-Thomases, but Polly is a pagan and a witch.

Rachel is her cousin Leila’s antithesis and archenemy. As intellectual and literate as she is (two characteristics she shares with Leila), she is also a devout Jew obsessed with Kabbalah. She regards the others coolly because they are lesbians, or at least bisexuals, who strike her as promiscuous, while she is a strict heterosexual who prides herself on preserving her virginity. Leila calls her “butterfaith” (slang for “she’d be the perfect girl if she didn’t belong to a cult”), mocks her superstitious red-thread bracelet, and insists on asking her why she doesn’t wear an Orthodox shawl; in turn, she calls her cousin a dirty whore. Sally, Kitty, and Jennifer are far more gentle and tactful with her; they believe she will eventually see reason. Even so, Leila warns them that Rachel is not just the hated Governor’s loyal granddaughter but a loyal agent of the even more bitterly hated school administration.

After Rachel leaves, Jennifer brings Shira and Leila to join Sally, Kitty, and Polly in the library’s meeting room. It has one large table surrounded by ten chairs; the walls are lined with bookshelves crammed with reference books. “Let’s talk about the Rachel problem,” says Sally.

“Let’s,” Leila concurs.

“So,” says Shira, “is our council secretary gathering blackmailable information on us?”

Jennifer winks at Shira. “If so, we know someone who can steal it.”

“Is it true,” Leila asks Shira, “that Rachel refuses to shower after P.E. class because she doesn’t want you to stare at her naked body?”

Polly rolls her eyes. “After what Shira pulled on Charmian recently, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“No, it’s not that,” Shira says. “My gaydar tells me Charmian’s almost as deep in the closet as Debbie. But Rachel? Doesn’t register. She’s just a prudish stuck-up breeder, that’s all. I think she’s here only ’cuz she was assigned. I predict she’ll marry young, probably to some handsome yeshiva student, and be a stay-at-home. I don’t think she even wants a career. Still, I’d love to see that lovely body of hers naked, if only at least once.”

school assembly. The burly armoured guards herd the students, willing or unwilling, into the gymnasium. A few lucky or determined ones, like Polly, Cory, and Kio, escape on the city bus before the guards can catch them. The rest take their seats in the bleachers and chairs. On one side, the bleachers are folded up for a stage set up in the manner of a tent revival meeting. The gym serves as the tent. The preacher today is Rexelle Steele, Shepherd and evangelist of the Church of America.

Her daughter, Deborah Steele Becket, is seated front and center. Her fiancé Barry Longmuir sits to her right, her cousins the Fleer sisters to her left. Shira sits next to Barry. Debbie blushes and sweats nervously, not because she’s afraid that her mother will use her as a prop yet again (though she is), but because Shira’s gaydar is on full power and Debbie can feel it. Barry looks at Shira suspiciously and whispers into her ear, “Say nothing.” Shira smiles and pretends to pull a zipper on her lips.

When everyone is seated, the lights go dark to signal silence. The spotlights turn on and shine onto the stage. Falconer announces with obvious fangirlish glee, “Let’s welcome, Shepherd Rexelle! Praise Jesus America!” Rexelle Steele is a slim woman of average height. Her hair is bleached blond, unlike the natural blond of her children and their father, Police Chief Jack Becket. She shows obvious signs of plastic surgery. She is obviously very, very rich; she wears expensive clothes and tons of jewelry. She receives a standing ovation, though much of it is less than enthusiastic or feigns enthusiasm out of fear of punishment.

When Rexelle notices Shira, she nearly panics. Shira smiles sweetly and waves. Rexelle shoots an angry look at her. Shira pretends to zip up her lips.

Rexelle takes the microphone and yells into it, “Praise Jesus America, and thank you all for coming!” Amidst the cheers, some as faked as orgasms under the stress of performing, she looks down and spots her daughter right in front of her. A feeling of dread comes over Debbie: it’s clear to everyone in the front row, or otherwise in the know, what Rexelle plans to do to her.

“Oh my darling little daughter! I can feel the demons that have come over you again. They’re trying to lead you back into the sin of lesbianism! By the power of Jesus America, I shall cast out those demons and cure you so you can be the obedient wife and mother God made you to be!”

Debbie holds her hands up in front of her, gestures wildly for her mother to stop, and pleads, “Mother, please don’t! Don’t do it!” Rexelle, blinded by her own self-importance, doesn’t even notice her. As she prattles on about her daughter’s need for Ex-Gay Therapy, Debbie’s terror turns to rage, and her rage turns murderous, until Rexelle can no longer even pretend to not notice.

“Mother!” shrieks Debbie.

She pulls herself onto the stage and rushes her mother. Rexelle’s face shows a flash expression of shock before settling into fury at her impertinent child. Debbie takes a wild swing at Rexelle’s jaw. Rexelle lunges forward, puts her hands around Debbie’s neck, and starts to squeeze. The Fleer sisters scream in horror, and the horror spreads contagiously throughout the assembled student body. Assistants swarm the stage to pull mother and daughter apart before they kill each other.

“You monster! I hate you!” screams Debbie.

“I’ll kill you, you evil little bitch!” yells Rexelle.

cafeteria. “Wow,” Jennifer marvels. “The disasters have been piling up lately.”

“Aw, c’mon, Jen,” says Shira. “This one was building up for months.”

“But for it to happen now? I doubt it’s a coincidence.”

“Sounds more like desperation on Rexie’s part.”

Jennifer shakes her head. “I never thought I’d ever see a mother be so cruel to her daughter, and so publicly...”

“Hey, you don’t know the Shepherds and Prophets of Jesus America. Drusilla used to do this to Charlie and Desi all the time.”

Debbie stomps up to Shira and growls, “What did you tell my mother.”

“Precisely nothing.”


“Like Rexie, of all people, would ever listen to some infidel mudblood like moi. Who needs moi, when her own bloated ego’s more than enough?”

“I don’t believe you!” sobs Debbie.

Shira takes her into her arms and looks deep into her overflowing eyes. “Debbie, believe it. I know these people. Your Aunt Drusilla’s been trying to ruin my life since before I was born. She’s pulled this stuff on me, and on her own daughters, longer than I can remember. Now do you realize what you’re up against?”

Debbie collapses into Shira’s arms and cries.

Shira’s bed. Shira and Leila lie next to each other, bodies touching each other but not moving. “I thought I’d left this kind of shit behind when I told Drusilla to fuck off,” says Shira.

“Debbie’s lucky.”

“Really? After her own mother just outed her in front of everybody?”

A hint of anger slips into Leila’s voice. “Did she ever get raped by her own grandfather?”

“Considering how my gaydar deafens everybody in range whenever I even see her grandfather, no. But her father? Knowing One-Eye Jack, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.”

“You mean the police chief?”

“Who got his eye sporked out when he tried to publicly strangle Charlie.”

Leila stares at Shira. “You’re not serious, are you.”

“Dead serious. The spork broke when he tried to take it out. That gave Charlie, Desi, and me time to escape. By the way, I made a delivery run to Tacoma and found your Uncle Art at the other end.”

Leila half-sits up in surprise. “Artie? What did he want with you?”

“He wanted to make a trade. For the little something I was delivering, which turned out to be the latest war tech from Dictel Research, he gave me this.” She reaches to the endtable, takes the SD card, and shows it to Leila. “On it is your revenge and Wally’s death.”

office. Shira makes sure her laptop is completely offline before she slides the card into its reader slot. Avast detects no viruses, Windows or Linux, that can infect the laptop, not even its Wine installation. Dolphin opens to the card’s root directory. She navigates to the “Wally Loves Art” directory and picks a video. Leila gasps in horror when she sees her grandfather, the Governor, rape and torture his son.

Leila insists on watching all the videos. Afterwards, she says quietly, with a touch of angry mania in her voice, “You have to show these to the Slasher Hunters.”

Shira winks. “Now that you mention it, you bet they’ll get a kick out of this. Come to think of it, I’ll make them copies, them and the Krewe. Gotta make sure our defense systems are redundant like the Internet used to be.” Back in the card’s root directory, she clicks on the folder icon labelled “Al’s A Dog”. “But wait, there’s more.”

Alan Fleer takes various women into his bed and makes love to them in locations he believes are hidden from his wife. They aren’t. Eden Becket Fleer has paid the owners to put hidden cameras into the rooms. Most of them are famous and highly connected conservative socialites and the wives of several of his colleagues and allies. These women are already known to be attracted only to politically powerful men, the same way certain women have a fetish for serial killers. The surprise comes near the end: the woman he is having the best time with, a young blond with long wavy hair, turns out clearly to be his own daughter Vivian. Leila gasps; Shira laughs.

“What’s so funny?” scolds Leila.

“Now I know how Edie keeps him under control.”

“But watching this makes it clear to me that not even his wife can control him.”

“Apparently Al’s got something on Edie too, then. But if this got out, it would destroy him, and Edie knows it. Especially when he’s fucking his own daughter.” Shira laughs again. “Boy, I’d love to see the look on Charmian’s face when she sees this. Or Christie, better yet. Here’s the last five.”

They’re contained in a folder of their own, cryptically called “Al B. Sure” (not to be confused with a certain R&B singer). Shira double clicks it open. She picks one at random.

Leila gasps slowly. “Oh. my. god—

Shira grins wickedly. “Well, well, well!

The woman the Admiral is having sex with on those last five videos is Honey Sue Falconer.

9 October 2014
Leila asks Hope, “What’s with all the crap that’s been going on lately?”

Hope sighs. “Haven’t you heard? Nobody in any position of power wants an election.”

“Because if we actually succeed in holding one,” adds Shira, “they know they’ll get their asses whupped.”

“I don’t get all this political stuff,” says Leila.

“Leila darling,” answers Hope, “if you wanna survive this crisis, either you have to avoid politics like the plague, or you gotta get political as hell. Either way, you might not make it. None of us might.”

Leila sighs.

ferry terminal. Team Bremelo’s #24 Outbound group huddle at the end of the terminal. Jennifer says, “You need to share it. We can’t afford to have a single point of vulnerability.”

Shira smiles and says nothing. When they switch their phones to the same encrypted channel, she copies the contents of Arvid’s card to the phones’ hard drives.

bus. The Bremeloes remain silent all the way to school. A human bomb stands up and tries to detonate himself. Shira stands up in the seat behind him, slips her arms around his neck, and casually breaks it mid-Shahada.

cafeteria. A gangster invasion beats its way past the incompetent guards. The leader is Coach’s steroid dealer, a dwarf called Little Badd. Among the four big Honkies he’s brought with him, one is so grotesquely huge he’s an obvious acromegaly case. Little Badd yells out, “Where’s Shira Thomas?!”

Shira pops in front of him suddenly, wearing her fighting gloves. “Is this a Challenge I smell?”

The Goliath-size man brusquely brushes Little Badd out of the way, stands a few feet away from Shira, glares down at her, and announces, “I’m Big Baddd! With three ‘d’s!”

Shira glances over at Little Badd. “What did I do?”

“You’re fuckin’ with our business. You won’t stay out, we’re gonna take you out!”

Big Baddd grins, slaps his fist, and growls, “I’m gonna rip your head off and shit down your neck, mudblood bitch!” He swings his massive fist at her face. She dodges the blow and punches his wrist with her plastic-armoured knuckles. He flinches, then looks at his hand. He tries to make a fist again, but finds that he can’t.

“Need a tendon stapler, Big Bad-d-d-d?” mocks Shira. “Stop boosting first.”

He responds with the irrational fury of ’roid rage. He tries to punch her out with his other fist; she severs its wrist tendon so he can’t close that hand either. He tries to slap her down, but she easily dodges the blows. She hits with both hands below his shoulder joints to sever the pectoral tendons. His arms swing behind him and stay there; he can no longer move them. He whimpers in panic.

Shira flits around him like a butterfly, making him look slow and awkward. He tries to kick her. She flits out of the way. When the leg comes down, she kicks him under the knee and severs the patellar ligament. “Die young!” she taunts. His quadriceps contract all the way to the upper leg and take the kneecap with them; the leg flexes back, permanently. He hops on his remaining intact leg. She kicks under the other knee. “Die strong!” Unable to stand, he falls backward.

Dianabol!” Students and Honkies stare on in horror as she brings her left fist down onto Big Baddd’s heart, force of muscle reinforced with force of chi. Inside the gangster’s chest, his heart explodes! Big Baddd holds his hands to his chest where his heart used to be, gurgles and struggles for breath, then falls dead. The corpse twitches and gurgles before falling limp.

Shira glares at the Honkies. The dwarf whimpers, backs up till he runs into his goons, then slips through them and runs away. Shira thrusts her left fist out in front of her and yells, “Next victim!

The three remaining Honkies stand paralyzed and stare at her terrified. Little Badd calls back at them, “What y’all waiting for? Fuck the bitch up!” They take their fallen comrade by the legs and straighten them; with all their might, they drag him backwards, out the door.

principal’s office. Seven Bremeloes barge in uninvited: Shira, Jennifer, Leila, Rob, Connor, Brandi, Cory. Six of them stand in a line facing the desk; Shira stands in between. “You sent them, didn’t you, Major!”

Falconer, shocked to hear her voice, rushes out to confront them. “What the hell are you talking about, Thomas?”

Shira has a particularly intense look on her face. “Your klan, Major. The Honkies who sell you and Coach your ’roids. Little Badd brought his boosted-up champion, Big Bad-d-d-d, in to kill me. He’s dead now.”

The vice principal storms into Shira’s face. Shira continues to smile and does not flinch. “This is none of your business, soldier! Leave now and forget everything, or I’ll have you court-martialled forthwith!”

“It’s everybody’s business now, Major. Either you cut the crap and stop trying to win us the freak show, or everybody’s gonna know.”

“Know what?”

“This.” Shira holds her Droid Mega in front of Falconer’s face. On it, the video Shira took of Falconer meeting with Stan Green as if they were spies, buying his stash of steroids.

Falconer goes cold. “You. little. bitch!” She tries to swipe the Droid out of Shira’s hand so she can destroy it. Shira quickly brings down her arm; Falconer grabs only air. “You can’t blackmail me, Thomas! You’re just a worthless mudblood! I’ll destroy you!”

“But I’ve got power over you now, Honey Bunny, and I’m perfectly willing to use it. What’s more, there’s more of it where this came from. And it gets even better.”

Falconer stares into her past and realizes that it is about to be released to the whole world. “You can’t do this,” she protests hoarsely. “It’s illegal. You’ll be punished.”

“Can’t you remember? The blood running through my veins is illegal. The blood of niggers. If I didn’t protect myself, I’d have been summarily executed long ago for Eugenics Code violations, the same way Kira was. Now do you realize the depth of the shit you’re in, Honey Bunny?”

“Don’t call me Honey Bunny...”

“Can’t promise you anything.”

After Shira and Team Bremelo leave the office, all the students outside their charmed circle avoid the Bremeloes and stare at them strangely for the rest of the day. But neither Bart nor Charmian issues a Challenge.

Underground City. Shira avoids the late ferries and flies to Seattle directly on her hoverboard, dressed in her bad-weather courier gear. She bribes her way into the Underground City beneath Pioneer Square, then takes a leisurely walk along the darkly lit subterranean streets to the TechnoGothic. Despite being underage, she can enter because the club itself is illegal.

The doorman says, “Not Stylin’ tonight, Rebel?”

“Not in this weather.” Her Droid sends the code to the front door’s security mechanism, and the doorman lets her in. She leaves behind a couple dozen jealous larval Stylers.

She weaves through the jerky robodancers, past the booths crowded with robosexual johns copulating with their mechanical whores, to the sound-shielded booth in back where J.T. Sparks and Deth Pussy wait. She hangs her flight jacket, motorcycle helmet, and hoverboard on their holders. “Okay, what’s the order of business today?”

“You’ve got something we want,” says J.T.

“You want it, you got it.” She unholsters her phone and removes the SD card. J.T. reaches for it, but she gives it to Deth. She smirks mischievously at J.T. The men both laugh.

J.T. takes out his jailbroken iPhone. “Sync me, Pussy.”

“Come ’n’ get it,” says Deth. He inserts the card into his no-brand custom phone, syncs it to J.T.’s, and copies the files to the phones’ hard drives. “The Big Al bit, Diana know already?”

“Knowing Big Al’s wife, she probably already has a copy of everything.”

“But she wouldn’t give it to you or Stu, would she?”

“Of course not. She doesn’t want us in on the in-palace wars.”

Shira says, “Well, somebody inside the palace gave Arvid Shield the Fleer vids. Somebody who knows somebody Edie Fleer trusts.”

“Or maybe the somebody Edie trusts. She’s been known to make enemies, you know.”

“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” J.T. chuckles.

“How come Arvid Shield seems to trust you?” asks Deth.

“He wants revenge. I suspect he actually likes me.”

Deth rolls his eyes. “For all we know, Rebel Styles was the only girl he was ever interested in.”

J.T. says to Shira, “There’s one think I have to tell you.”

“What’s that?”

“You have to realize the kind of danger you’re putting yourself in.”

“C’mon, Jim, it’s the story of my life.”

“You know you could end up dead or worse.”

“I survived a murder attempt on me before I was even born. The would-be murderer was none other than Drusilla Becket, and she’s been trying to correct her mistake ever since. When I call her my ‘Evil Stepmother,’ I do mean evil. The danger comes with the territory.”

“You better be extra careful around Diana then, J.T.,” Deth warns. “We don’t know how close she is to her Aunt Dru.”

J.T. holds his hand to his forehead and shakes his head. “Jesus fucking Christ, I’m in deep enough shit as it is...”

Before they reach the front door on their way out, a gang of five Islamist vigilantes burst in, fire their AKs, and declare they’re closing the place down and sending all the patrons to Hell. J.T. whips out his Beretta and shoots them all between the eyes.

on to the next...

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

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[Revision 1.1, 1/3/2010: Added "The Rachel Problem" scene (originally written during NaNoWriMo ’10 for Book 2) before the "Rexelle Assembly", correcting a continuity error.]

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