Note: I finished this a little late because of my traditional first-week NaNoWriMo writer’s block. However, I got some new ideas for this section in the meantime, giving it a new opening scene. Interesting that, in a NaNo novel I started writing exactly a year ago, I’m still writing on the fly. However, it’s NaNo in-story too. Go figure...
← ...from previous
Chaos Angel Spanner — Chapter 24: Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud
Part 2: The Innocence of Murder
Part 2: The Innocence of Murder
6 november 2014.
Bangor High School. For all its problems, at least Bremerton is trying to be a city, if a small one. Bangor, the military-industrial suburb to the west, was designed to avoid anything resembling city. Near its shared boundary with Bremerton, the squats sit in an abandoned warehouse district along the long #11 bus line connecting the Bremerton and Seabeck ferries. A thriving community has grown up there, even if it is of questionable legality. But the #11 goes only through the heart of Bangor, on the Seabeck Highway and Northwest 80th Street. Away from the bus lines, past the military-industrial warehouses and factories whose tenants have abandoned the civilian world altogether, are the subdivisions where no public transit has ever been allowed. Before the Crash of 2008, Bangorites were proud of their isolation from Bremerton’s persistent urban problems. After the crash, though, the problems left Bremerton and settled in Bangor. In the subdivisions, there is no escape.
In the middle of the military-industrial district’s abandonment and the subdivisions’ chaos sits Bangor High. At least for today, Shira, Jennifer, and the Shelley twins are being assigned here. First they must run the gauntlet of armoured guards, identification stations, and metal detectors. Beyond this point, they enter hell. Bangor High turns out to be a school dedicated entirely to Tournament.
They are immediately surrounded by Bangor’s counterpart to Bremerton’s now defunct Valiant Team. “You don’t belong here,” says the school’s Head Boy. His name is John Paul Rossiter.
“Who says?” asks Shira defiantly.
“Is this a Challenge I’m hearing? Team Bremelo have to fight Team Nucular just for the right to enter your school? You’re so desperate to prove yourself against us, and you’re not undefeated? Let us pass, or lose.”
Jennifer looks around. She notices the hostile racial cliques. “You know, this looks just like the ghetto schools I’ve been hearing about on the news.”
“As Team Bremelo’s leader,” Shira continues, “I can confidently say that you and your army don’t stand a ghost of a chance against me. Let us through, or lose now.”
Team Nucular back off. “Hey!” demands Rossiter. “Get back here, you chickenshits!”
Shira passes by him, followed by Jennifer, Leila, and Rob. “Thank you.”
Before class, they find Marina Reyes, Irina Lanskaya, Elizabeth McPhail, and their friend Daisy Kwon. “We wanna join your team,” says Liz.
“You’ll have to fight,” says Jennifer.
“We do anyway.”
First period: the four audit (read: scout) various classes. Afterwards, they meet and pool their findings: all the teachers are Party hacks, the classes are all Party indoctrination sessions, the nonwhite non-“Americans” violently resent being constantly insulted by the teachers and the politically correct students, and everybody belongs to an ethnic gang, counting the Junior Patriots. “This is much worse than Bremerton,” says Rob.
Shira pats the twins on the back. “Remember, we’re not in the city anymore. We’re out in the sticks.”
“At least in Bremerton the gangs merely barge in to ruin our day,” Jennifer adds. “Here the gangs rule the school.”
Second period, same as the first. Instead of joining Shira and Jennifer in battle during third period, Leila goes to the library. Since reading is politically incorrect at a school like Bangor High, dominated by Junior Patriots and riven by gangs, there are only two uses for a school library: hiding from the gangs and committing suicide in the study rooms. Leila finds Daisy staring out the window, seriously contemplating suicide. She puts an affectionate hand on her shoulder. Daisy turns around and gasps. Leila looks empathetically into her eyes: she knows her despair. Daisy throws herself into Leila’s arms and sobs. Leila holds her tight and kisses her on the cheek.
The group don’t stick around for lunch. Marina drives Oliver Thorwald’s abandoned serial-killer van and abandons it at the main downtown bus stop, where they catch a #11 back to Bremerton.
calculus class. Shira, Jennifer, and the Shelley twins sigh with relief upon setting foot on the college campus. Olympic College did not suffer quite the devastation that Bremerton High did, despite its close proximity. Most of the college survived relative intact despite the ferocity of the Minuteman attacks. Most strangely of all, the math and science buildings were almost untouched, though the Church of America considers anything intellectual to be blasphemy.
Shira, an Advanced Placement student due to her homeschooling, is acing calculus even though she is only fifteen. Today she opts to wear the blue high school uniform. She finds today’s pop quiz easy enough that she has already finished it. She opens up her netbook, sets it on her lap, and returns to writing her NaNoWriMo novel.
I am filler [reads the new post on the blog Shira keeps just for NaNoWriMo, LocaFantomaNaNo.blog]. I exist just to pad my NaNoWriMo word count. I have nothing to do with this or any other story. None of the characters in this novel are doing anything here. In fact, there aren’t any characters here at all, not from this or any other novel, not even Mr Ian Woon. The only reason I’m writing about anything is that my author wants a way to distract herself from the plot and characters without writing “blah” or “yada” 50,000 times.Shira types away on the netbook resting on her lap during a test. The teacher clears her throat right next to her. Shira smiles and hands her the already completed test. The teacher waves the test at her. “And what’s that for?”
I am annoying. But I only exist to be edited out of my author’s novel when NaNoEdMo comes around in March and she finds out that her 100,000-word novel is really 35,000 after I and all my fellow filler passages have been removed. But she says I have a purpose. She says she uses me as a bludgeon with which to beat her Inner Editor unconscious. I think she’s run away with the plot now, so I’m betting it worked. So she’s going to stop writing me now and mess with that silly plot and those ridiculous characters of hers. ’Bye!
“Keeps me from getting bored.”
“And what are you writing?”
“Nothing acceptable to the censors, ma’am. That stuff bores me dead. I’d be working on that horror novel I’m doing for NaNoWriMo, but all the plotbunnies ran away screaming for now, so I decided to go back to that Team Rocket sibling slash fic. Like I said, nothing acceptable. But they eat it up in Japan, so I’m writing it in Japanese. You won’t understand a word of it, of course.” Shira winks.
“You sound like you’re talking Japanese already.”
“Fannish, actually. Not that it sounds any less foreign. I bet you don’t know a word of Tech Speak, either.”
“Probably not. Show me your screen.” Shira shows her the unintelligible “Oriental” writing on her computer screen. “You pass for now. Just don’t do anything that might get you in trouble.”
“You won’t get any trouble from me,” Shira lies. The teacher goes back to supervising her students as they take the test, and Shira switches back from her fake OpenOffice document in Japanese to the real Team Rocket sibling slash fic in English. But first, she has some business to take care of while she pads her word count further:
Dear Inner Editor, I hate you. You’re eating all my plotbunnies! And I’d bred some perfectly grotesque mutants, even! Kill him, Mr Ian Woon! Murder my Inner Editor with the Travelling Shovel of Death! Maybe I ought to borrow Ollie’s. In fact, now that he’s dead, thank you Leila I love you forever, I think I’ll steal it altogether and assassinate that pesky Inner Editor myself...Not having anything else to do but play with her little computer, she puts it atop her desk and surfs to the NaNoWriMo forums. Searching desperately for ideas, she goes to the Plot Doctoring forum and procrastinates for the rest of the period.
student center. After classes, Team Spanner’s girls in blue walk the short distance from the high school to the college to meet Shira, Leila, and Jennifer in the Bremer Student Center’s cafeteria.
Polly says, “I hear you’re Rocketshipping. Aren’t you?”
Shira sighs. “I’ve been trying, but my old friend Mr Inner Editor’s been getting in my way lately.”
Mimi wags her finger. “I hate to warn you, but if you really are Rocketshipping, remember that Cori Falls hates you.”
Shira chuckles. “Cori Fails? Hate moi? Last time I checked, she’s been doing nothing but hating on me.”
Jennifer groans. “Don’t mention that name. I don’t care for fic writers who write their issues.”
“I’d say she’s off the rails over Team Rocket, if you ask me.”
The girls laugh. Polly leans forward, elbows on table and head on hands. “So how have you been shipping Jessie and James this time?”
Shira flashes a wicked cockeyed smirk that says I’m up to no good, looking up and out. “Uh-oh,” says Jennifer.
“Well, I don’t think Miss Falls would approve of this, but I’ve been conscripting Meowth into the role of sex aid. It’s amazing the things you can do with Pokémon in fanfics. I’m thinking of having Ash insert Pikachu into Misty or May the same way, perhaps even both at the same time...”
Gasps answer her. Mimi says, “Oh my gawd—” All the girls collapse into uncontrollable giggles, except for Brandi, who turns away open-mouthed. Shira sits serene in her malicious intent, grinning a gleeful Joker grin.
“Quiet down over there!” yells an annoyed college boy with a laptop at a nearby table. “I’m trying to study!”
“This ain’t the library, boy!” snaps Shira back. “Deal!”
Debbie, overhearing the conversation, walks up behind Shira and bellows, “You’re having Jessie use Meowth as a dildo again, aren’tcha.”
Shira gets out of her chair and turns around to face Debbie with her arms crossed while the other girls shriek and giggle at the sheer perversity of the idea. She glares at her for several seconds, then smirks cockeyed and says, “Yes. Why? You jealous?”
Polly stands up and says, “Debbie? Jealous of that? That’s a Leila thing.” The other girls giggle uncontrollably; Mimi nearly falls out of her chair.
Jennifer, grinning wide-eyed, says, “I can see it now. Leila jamming a Pikachu up her vajayjay. Now that would be something to read.” Now the whole student center’s erupting in helpless laughter.
Shira replies, “No, Leila tells me she’s had too many bad experiences with cattle prods during photo shoots down in Pretty City. She wouldn’t like that idea. However, I’ve read Rebel Rebel fics in which Rebel Styles does just that. I’ve actually read one in which Rebel jams a Charizard up Joe Pyro’s butt. But Meowth, maybe, if you believe those fics in which she has something of a fondness for rats.” Another round of uncontrollable laughs is this time punctuated by screams. But the laughs suddenly subside when people see the black-haired beauty now standing behind Shira—
“Are you talking about me?” demands Leila.
“Fan fiction about you, to be exact. If you’d been around eighty years ago or so, you’d be a Tijuana Bible superstar, just like Mae West and Betty Boop. Alas, today we’re stuck with fanfics on the Darknet...”
“Where can I read these fics where I have at the rats?” Jennifer tosses her a 2GB MicroSD card; she sticks it in her phone. Everybody laughs. Shira gets up to kiss her; she holds her off so she can select the fic on her phone. “Oh, here’s one. I’m only eleven...” She reads further, amused and appalled at the same time. “...and I’m exterminating rats the hard way. If I keep this up, maybe I’ll grow big and turn into a giantess so I can crush men the same way. Who wrote this?”
“Person or persons unknown, writing under a handle,” says Jennifer. “Several handles, actually. Specializes in writing real-person fetish fics in which he or she crams the most amazing things up the nether orifices of various celebrities. You just happened to be the lucky victim of our author’s fetish in this case. Actually several such cases. I think he or she’s infatuated. He or she especially like you, probably from afar.”
Shira gives Leila a sidelong conspiratorial smile. “Well. Who do you or I know who doesn’t like you, worships your body, writes fetish fic, and has a mutant personality? Hmm?”
Leila’s jaw drops to the floor. Then she gasps. “Oh no! Not her!”
“Hmm,” says Jennifer conspiratorially, “maybe we should sic Cori Falls on Lala sometime?”
“There’s a big-ticket grudge match,” Shira chuckles. “And speaking of the ever-popular Poké-dildo: Lala doesn’t just write it. I’ve seen her actually do it. I know men whose fetish involves sticking rodents where the sun don’t shine, but Lala’s the only female I know who actually gets off by doing it to herself. I mean, really.”
“She actually tried doing it to me with a mouse. It was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever been through in a sexual situation. But that kind of thing’s far more common in Pretty City than you think. Some of the kinks they disguise behind those artificially perfect bodies, you wouldn’t believe.”
Pretty City. Lala Sun-Microsoft taps steadily on the keys of her laptop. Her boyfriend, Ian Woon, bursts through the door, flipping through a file on his tablet computer. Indignantly he recites: “‘There it was, Ash’s precious Pikachu, all alone and crying. “Pika?” “There you are,” I said soothingly, “you’re mine now.” Pikachu panicked and tried to zap me. I grabbed it with my gloved hands. It sobbed and screamed and begged. “Pika! Pikaaaa!” I crammed it into my hungry cunt, jammed it all the way in. It zapped and zapped and zapped me to ultimate orgasm. Meowth covered his eyes. “I can’t look!” he complained. “You’re disgusting, Jessie!” I was too overcome by extreme pleasure to listen...’ Lala, where the hell do you get these crazy ideas?”
“Inspiration.” Lala winks.
Ian waves his tablet around. “Perverted fetish is more like it! If people find out you wrote it, Nintendo will sue us, our reputation will be ruined, and we’ll have one hell of a time finding jobs outside! Can’t you control yourself?”
student center. Jennifer says, “You know that ‘and then X was a zombie’ meme that’s been going around lately?”
“You know,” replies Shira, “that sounds like the huge personality changes we’ve been seeing in too many people these days.”
Jennifer flips out a sheet of paper on which she has printed a very, very short story called “Doom: Repercussions of Evil.” “Most of the Cool Kids are too busy being Cool to do TV Tropes or read badfics, so they don’t know it comes from this.”
Shira looks at the sparse text printed on the sheet. “Doesn’t look like much to me, Jen. Shouldn’t there be more of it?”
“That’s the whole thing. It’s one of the most infamous badfics on the Web, so infamous it inspired any number of parody videos all over the pre-coup Internet. They even kept the bad spelling. That last sentence is the meme.”
Shira reads the story. When she has finished it only a few seconds later, she turns her head toward Jennifer slowly and gives her a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me look.
Jennifer replies with a hopeful look. “Well?”
Shira grins wickedly. The girls around them say, “Oh no...” She says, “Colonel Willie Johnson said, ‘Whoa, Jane, you just screwed all the demons.’ And then my next john was a zombie.” The girls all laugh.
With trepidation Polly asks, “And then what happened after that?”
“Oh, his head popped off.”
Some of the girls laugh again. Polly only says, “Ohhh.”
“And then his other head popped off.” All the girls laugh hysterically now; some fall to the floor and roll, unable to control themselves. “And then it got stuck.”
“Oh my god...” Polly loses her self-control and starts to laugh.
“And it wiggled and wiggled...”
“Hey, young lady!” scolds a nearby male voice. “That’s going more than a bit too far.”
“Hey, mister, don’t you know your pop lit?” says Jennifer indignantly. “That kind of stuff has been par for the course in paranormal romances since Anita Blake turned incubus and jumped the shark.”
Shira says mock apologetically, “Oh, that’s going into that parody of bad fanfics I’m writing. I’m calling it Doomy Dooms of Doomful Doom.” She winks wickedly.
college library. Clover Richter-Thomas, whose short choppy brown hair makes her pretty face cuter, leads a reading group that meets late afternoons; her cousins Shira, Jennifer, and Connor belong to it. They are impressed enough with the Shelley twins’ intelligence that they have brought them to their first meeting as candidates for membership. Clover takes each twin by the hand and says, “You must be Leila and Rob. Shira tells me about you all the time, so much in fact that she must be in love with you.”
“Yeah,” says Leila bashfully, “I’m her girlfriend. And you are?”
“Clover. You know Courtney and Sky?”
“You’re their big sister, right?”
Clover gives them a huge smile. “Good guess!”
Other reading club members, mostly college students Leila and Rob have never met, walk in, come over, and take their seats. When the entire club are seated, Clover starts the meeting. “Okay, for those of you who are new to our reading club, Thursday’s our science fiction day. Anybody read any interesting science fiction this past week?”
One handsome but conservative-looking young man says, “I just finished reading Ender’s Game. I was touched by the ability of innocence to overcome even the ultimate horror by making the necessary sacrifices, up to and including innocence itself.”
Another young man says, “I read it when I was a kid. I just thought it was a cool space adventure story with a wicked twist ending. I read it three times!”
Leila stands up. All eyes turn to her, the smart beauty with the delicious Irish accent. “I’ve read it too. I’ve read it very carefully, in fact. What I got out of it was that if you’re a superior person with superior intelligence, sensitivity, virtue, and mental powers, all lesser people will hate you and try to kill you, so you are entirely justified in killing them as long as you do it rationally and feel remorse like Ender. If you’re not rational, you’re like his enemies, who are immune to reason and want only to kill him. If you don’t feel remorse, you’re like his evil big brother Peter, a classic psychopath the Slasher Hunters would love to catch. I met him once under the name Frank Becket. Yes, the gangster. He and I fought. He had something I wanted from him, so I simply took it.” She finds most of the club members staring at her wide-eyed, a few even scared. “Am I getting a little personal?” The club members (except Rob and the Richter-Thomas cousins) nod. “Oh well...”
One trembling girl asks her, “You really did kill that psycho ex of yours? Rationally, right?”
“Rationally was the only way to do it. He was not my ex-boyfriend or fiancé. I was being sold to his father by my grandfather, so I had to take extreme measures to break the contract and defeat him, his father, and my grandfather, in an especially devastating and humiliating way. In a sense, it was just like Ender, except I was entirely conscious of the consequences. It was not the moral thing to do, but Corporates are not moral, and this was necessary.” She finds more library patrons are now staring at her in terrified fascination. “May I continue?”
All the club members nod this time. Clover says, “We’re not stopping you.”
“The other thing I learned is that good and evil lie entirely in the intention and never in the act. This makes it possible to actually be an innocent serial killer who commits genocide innocently. If Ender had learned that it was right to kill in self-defense, as we were taught, he would still have been entirely innocent, and the Law acknowledges this. But that’s not the author’s point. He’s really saying that it’s necessary to coerce innocent people to do evil, and even make them hate themselves for being evil, for the sake of the good. Cruelty is kindness, and kindness is cruelty. Got it?” The others nod. “ So Peter’s evil because he’s incapable of self-hatred. Intention is really moral alignment in the D&D sense, and he’s saying moral alignment is inborn. You’re born good like Ender or evil like Peter, so to kill evil people is to do good. I should add that he considers sexual orientation to be moral alignment, thus sexually incorrect people are born evil and therefore to kill them is good.
“Here’s the important part. Not just this book but the entire series is required reading for everybody, meaning you may be coerced into reading it for your own good. And the moral of the story, that good intentions justify even the ultimate evil, specifically genocide? That’s official Church of America doctrine, adopted from Card’s own Mormon Church. As long as Ender wills only good, he can do all the evil he wants as long as he tortures himself with remorse and always considers his crimes to be self-torture and self-sacrifice. But if your intentions are evil, by Church definition anyway, nothing can justify any good you do even if you do only good. They recognize no such thing as inherently evil actions.”
Shira interrupts. “But isn’t sexcrime the ultimate evil, the inherently evil act they deny exists? Now what if I committed, say, rape with good intent? If my love for you were my highest value, wouldn’t I be justified in raping you if I found it necessary?” Leila answers Shira’s mischievous smile with a wide-eyed blush. “Card would justify my murdering you. In fact, from my reading, I’d even go so far as to say murdering out of love is perfectly fine with him. It was Ayn Rand who justified rape, in that famous scene in The Fountainhead. And if what’s good for me is right, then anything is justifiable, and rape is love. And here’s the great American contradiction: Card would call Rand a selfish bitch, but she already called him a moral cannibal. But combine Rand’s egoism with Card’s justification, and you get your psycho ex who couldn’t stop complaining about how awesome he was.” Some giggle, others groan.
“No. You get me. A self-destructive walking contradiction, ready to implode at any moment.”
“Okay, let’s think dialectically here. You’re trapped in a contradiction, the classic double bind. Thesis and antithesis. But what’s the synthesis?”
In Leila’s head a blinding light comes on. Her eyes go wide and her mouth drops in realization. “I never thought of that before.” They notice the others staring at them, but they keep their focus on each other.
boardwalk. Jennifer insists on walking with Shira in one arm and Leila in the other, all the way back downtown. “Wow. You were getting pretty intense there, Leila. But then you joined in, Shira, and I was afraid the place would explode. And all that over just a book.”
“Does that happen often?” asks Leila.
“It isn’t every day that two minds like yours combine and build each other up to near hurricane force.”
“I know,” says Shira, “maybe should read Atlas Shrugged for next Thursday’s book club meeting. We might not leave any survivors.” The girls laugh.
Suddenly they sense danger and stop cold. A Moral Enforcer screams and pulls out his gun. Shira appears in his face, fixes him with her Charmer power, and commands: “Jump overboard and swim on the bottom till you drown.” He runs past her, between Leila and Jennifer, somersaults over the railing, and disappears into the water below. Shira smiles ironically and shrugs.
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Copyright © 2011 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
[Revision 1, 11/2/11: To the original scenes from NaNoWriMo 2010, the first and the last two scenes were added.]