From Chicago

Gene Tweaks had not planned to pull the trigger. He was part of a Special Security team, an expert in urban guerilla warfare, with seminar training in explosives and damage control. The main subject of damage control wasn't about developing a soft footprint. It was mostly media relations. Gene was pulling down over a hundred grand a year because he was the perfect combat soldier except for the voices.

What characterized Gene was that he had no inner life of which he was aware, not because he couldn't have but because he didn't choose to know anything about it. He had two children, a boy and a girl, and though the boy was still a toddler Gene was teaching him one important truth: "Go ask your mom." He didn't think about why or when he said that, it was more a twinge, the kind he'd get in the back of his neck if somebody was aiming a gun at him. That twinge was hard wired to his gut, so that there was no space between it and his body's reaction.

Most of the time Gene didn't know what happened until later, when he was back to his normal self. He took no personal responsibility for the body count, or even for his own survival. He had seen it too many times, how his body felt something coming down and flowed into a series of actions. The actions were trained into him, but the twinge he'd been born with, and without it, he wouldn't survive. Another thing he'd been born with was the joy to destroy.

Gene couldn't remember a time in his boyhood that wasn't filled with his doing battle and winning. His imagination was filled with combat situations, and he might fight Indians, Mexicans, Arabs, Russians, rustlers, thieves or terrorists, but he never lost one. Gene was building up his testosterone in preparation for being in combat. His survival depended on it. If he had been just a little bit introspective as a man he would have seen how introspective he'd been as a child, imagining himself as ruler of the world.

But the fish can't see the water.

It was the part of him that never lost who was inside, imagining a million victories and never a defeat, practicing how to kill them before they killed him or his mates. He was the warrior who nudged Gene with the twinge, the way the Patriarch nudged people with a moment of pure silence, before he went into action or went still as a coiled snake, tasting the air for the scent of hot blood, or squatted underneath the muddy water, breathing through a reed.

That part of Gene separated from him when he turned eleven. He said, "You work point and I've got your back. You don't even have to look." Gene said, "I like being the point man." And he did like it. He didn't have much to say, having no inclination toward emotional thought. Donald Rumsfeld explained it after he was forced to sit through a program of poetry and modern dance in Prague a few years back. When asked for his reaction to it, said, "I'm from Chicago."

Gene was from Chicago. He understood. His wife wanted to go to the ballet because she thought the dancers were so beautiful. He thought so, too, but he was offended that the show was ruined by men in tights. "Jesus," he muttered, after his first exposure. "Why don't they let the girls dance with each other for god's sake? That's disgusting."

Because he resisted introspection, Gene never really examined other men by any criteria other than power, and in that mode, the mind of the warrior is a sword that divides until it finds the point, the truth, that which is indivisible. It was no surprise that he was a dedicated monotheist, which like everything else was unexamined and so seemed to be the very ground from which he'd sprung. He didn't even want to think about there being more than one god, or that one not being one all powerful male god, in control. It might fuck up the chain of command.

There was another way of thinking but it went in the wrong direction. It was like a musical scale of do ray me fa so la ti doe, where, between do and ray, there was a sub scale. Had Gene ever looked at this he might have fallen down through endless weavings of subtlety and developed a taste for Manhattan or Paris. Had he done that he would not have resisted consciousness of the old Navajo woman patiently weaving a rug in his dreams, but he seldom remembered his dreams, which he thought of as "just dreams." As it was, he elevated his sword above it all until his arm eventually began to tire and he began to have tiny lapses of control through which madness would leer out at people.

His wife noticed it but she pretended not to. She thought if she admitted she saw it she'd have to deal with it and she didn't know how to deal with it. Suddenly a stranger would take over for a second and laugh with a strange abandon, or look out at the world with a lust that reduced her to soldier's pay.

She had a dream in which Gene was Paul Revere. She had no idea why he was Paul Revere because he wasn't riding the roads warning people about the British invasion. He was warning her about the British invasion, and telling her that he would hide her from it. He led her down a dark stair, by the light of an oil lamp, and to a locked cell. "You'll be safe in here," he said.

"Are you locking me inside?" she asked.

"Just until it's safe again," he said.

So she went inside and he closed the door. The ending of the dream was what made her scream out loud. She saw a woman huddled in the corner, grinning hideously, and she knew the woman was criminally insane. In the dream the mad woman was Gene's first wife, though in reality his first wife was a very sweet woman who taught Pilates in Denver, and didn't look much like the mad woman. It was just something she knew in the dream, the same as she knew that Gene was Paul Revere.

The big change came when Gene started taking steroids and extra testosterone to make himself bigger. Western men are special when it comes to defining their masculinity. Given instructions to draw themselves in relation to women, American men draw themselves larger than they are, and if asked to draw themselves the way they believe women would find them attractive, they draw themselves even larger. This in spite of the fact that women, when asked to draw what is to them an attractive man, draw one more normal sized. Asian men tend to have a correct sense of their size in relation to women, and when they estimate how their women want them to look, keep themselves only a little larger.

Now Gene was sitting in the dunes, watching an Inn that catered to little people. He was not one of the little people. Not only was he becoming massive in his muscularity, he had a carapice of body armor, like a turtle, could see in the dark, like an owl, and had the firepower in his squad to blast a small town to hell if they really turned loose on it. He was the leader of the four man squad and his orders were to take the Patriarch. They had tracked him here from Paris' blunder in thinking she could say her mind was in a fog and the analyst wouldn't check and find fog up the coast, and determine they were sailing in it. Then it was a simple matter of searching for any place on the north coast where little people might hide out. The computer found 401 Beach Street in a review of Troll Daddies. It was one of their venues.

Corporate decided on a four man team because they wanted the advantage of surprise, and they didn't want any interference from local Sheriff's or Highway Patrolmen. They didn't want any publicity. They wanted a crack team they could trust to go in under cover of darkness, once the Inn was quiet, and just take the Patriarch out of cold storage, then transport him back to headquarters. It looked like an easy operation. All they had to do was get to the Inn and slip a canister inside. It would make sure nobody in the Inn woke up until morning.

When the midget came outside to smoke Gene sighted in on him. There was no particular reason to do that. He'd been told that that they were most likely not carrying anything except sidearms, if that. "So you're the little fucker who shoots for the balls," Gene whispered. His own balls had shrunk up into the crack of his ass from the steroids until they looked more like a pussy than a sack of nuts.

There was a female voice that spoke in his head, right then, and said, "Kill him." He didn't pull the trigger. It must have been the other one, the one that had his back. The round caught Louis beside the right eye. It creased him and he was bleeding a lot but it was superficial. He sat down like a baby, just plopped back on his ass and stared out into the darkness, stunned, not knowing how bad he was hurt. He tried to yell, "We're under attack," but his voice sounded far away and tinny. The next round caught him in the throat and blew out his cervical spine, disconnecting him from his body. He floated above the scene, then, watching as four men in full combat gear rushed from the dunes, firing weapons that blew through the barn wood like it was paper.

"You have no choice," the woman's voice said, and Gene knew he was just along for the ride. Once he'd killed the little fuck on the porch he'd have to report it as a firefight started by the terrorists in the house, and as his trainer at Chicago Security put it, "Dead men don't contradict you."

Inside the house the hard rain hit and smashed everything. It smashed through wood and glass and small bodies. Wine and blood ran together on the floor of the dining room. Rounds tore through the refrigerator and they blew apart the glass beakers of smart DNA stored in sperm, so that the many samples mixed together into a midnight stray dog bitch party, and there were just two survivors, and one was Indian Shadow. He heard the first round and he was looking at Louis when he got hit. He was standing near the porch, pissing on the backside of a scrub oak tree. He heard the Patriarch's voice. "Don't leave me here."

He had opened the refrigerator when the lead rains came blowing through the Inn. He was hit by flying glass but not badly injured, because he was the only one who knew what he was doing next, which was grabbing the bowl of cream corn and running to hide behind the only other survivor, a stuffed Grizzly Bear. He didn't know why no rounds were hitting the bear, but it wasn't one of those moments to ask why. It was the way the Spirit moved, and so he got behind the bear and waited for the first assault to end.

The shooters were all coming from the same direction, probably so they didn't accidentally shoot each other in the dark. He couldn't run into the open. He knew they had night vision and would see him no matter where he went. He knew they'd come through the house and kill anybody left alive. His only chance was to take a weapon away from one of them. It was long odds but better than no chance at all. The stench in the room was making him nauseous. He glanced down at the bowl of cream corn, hidden behind the left leg of the bear.

The Patriarch had been blown to bits but the bits had dripped into the creamed corn. Somebody else could deal with that problem. His problem was getting out alive. If he couldn't do that he couldn't save what was left of the Patriarch. He was sure of one thing: he was prey, and prey are expected to run. He hadn't run. The firing had stopped and the gunmen were fanning out so that two were covering the sides while the other two went inside to finish off any survivors. Indian Shadow did not know how this information was coming to him. It was like there was a weak television picture in his head that was reading the heat from the bodies.

Then two of them were inside, going upstairs. He stayed behind the bear. There was the occasional crack of a round being put into the head of a little person who had not had the courtesy to die quickly. Then they were back downstairs, just a few feet from him. One of them was looking at the mess in the refrigerator. "Gene," he said, "what is this shit?"

"Sperm," Gene said. He came into the kitchen and looked at the ruined refrigerator. "Better bring it along."

"Me? I'm not touching it. Fuck you."

"That's an order, so fuck you." The ferocity of the gunny sergeant took the younger man by surprise but he was dead before he had a chance to express it on his face. "Fuck me?" he screamed. "Fuck you." He automatically kicked the other man's weapon clear and checked to see if he was dead. The part that had fired in rage had already slipped back behind enemy lines, and Gene was left calculating how he was going to explain killing one of his own men. "He began destroying the Patriarch," he saw himself saying. "He was cracking I guess, but I couldn't stop him. There was nothing left but goo."

"Gene! Is it secure?" one of the men called from outside.

"I'll fucking tell you when it's secure. Follow orders." He had turned toward the door and there was a moment of lapse. It was special because inside it he knew he'd made a mistake. He hadn't consciously noticed that the bear was undamaged but the inner partner had noticed and he didn't want to turn his back on it. He was whirling back around, bringing up his weapon. Except that Indian Shadow was down on the floor, and the pattern stitched across the bear's chest came at the same time he fired one round into Gene's face. It caught him in his open mouth on an upward trajectory and came out behind his eyes, taking large chunks of skull and brain with it. There were two more of them, but this was the one who needed killing.

He didn't hesitate. He slipped out the back door and crawled on his belly to look around the side of the house where he'd been standing behind the oak when Louis was taken out. The man wasn't looking in his direction. He was looking in through the window, trying to see where Gene was. The light from the window reflected in his face, making it a glowing target. Indian Shadow squeezed off a round but at the moment he did the other man moved just slightly, and the round took off part of his ear and sent him screaming and cursing backward, spraying lead in a semi-circle around him.

It was bizarre circumstance that the other man had come around the house, walking about a hundred feet out in the shadows, when Indian Shadow fired. The reflexive spray of lead from his partner hit his body armor and knocked him off balance. He sprayed the general area and hit his partner in the left knee and the fleshy part of the right thigh just before he took a round in the neck from Indian Shadow. "That's for Louis," Indian Shadow said. He drew down on the last man standing just as the last man standing collapsed.

Indian Shadow stood up and walked casually toward the wounded man, who made no move toward his weapon. "You want to stay alive?" he asked.

The other man said, "I've got a family. This is just a job to me, mister."

"Then don't commit suicide."

He gathered up the weapons and dropped them in the pond beside the Inn. The soldier left alive was staying quiet. He wasn't going anywhere on a shattered knee, and all he was interested in now was surviving. He didn't even look toward Indian Shadow, didn't even know when the big man went back inside to find some plastic wrap to put over his bowl of creamed corn.

He was going to be hunted, now. He waited for a few moments for the corporate mercenary to come back around. He was going in and out from the pain. "Where's your vehicle?" he asked.

The man motioned with his head back toward the dunes.

"I'm not killing you out of kindness to your family," Indian Shadow said. "It would be a human kindness if you just don't remember which way I went." But the other man had lost consciousness again. He was in shock. He might die from the shattered knee before somebody arrived to take care of him.

"That's neighborly of you," the big Indian muttered to the surrounding night.

In the dunes he found four dirt bikes painted in camouflage. He kicked one of them to life and spun off toward the highway. The container of creamed corn was buttoned inside his shirt protruding from his belly, and the semi-automatic rifle was strapped across his back. At the edge of the dunes, beside Highway One, he saw the pewter gray transport they'd brought the bikes in on. There was nobody with it. He gunned the bike away, down the highway. It was the middle of the night, now, and there wasn't any traffic on the north coast. When he did see a pair of lights he drove off the road and into cover until it passed. He didn't know why he was heading back toward the city, but it was the same instinct that drove him to go back into the Inn when it was being shot to pieces.

After about a half hour he realized he was shaking from the huge adrenalin rush that had begun when Louis got hit. As it processed through his system he began to shake uncontrollably, which didn't work well with riding a bike. He had to get off the road. He hid the bike in a culvert, then walked up a hill and into a grove of trees beside a cow pasture. From there anyone approaching would have to cross open space to get to him. He closed his eyes and he began to shake out the adenelin. He fell asleep.

Posted: Fri - August 31, 2007 at 03:24 PM