(01-13) Conversion of a Sinner

There was a public stage in front of American Futures, where on a typical day a man or woman with a guitar would be set up, singing songs to a mostly disinterested scattering of employees on lunch or coffee break. But today was different. Today there was a freak show, and everybody stopped to watch, including the security guards monitoring the video boards. All eyes were on the band of trolls as they blew open the gates to darkness and threw a party for the devil.

When Louis emerged from the vent into the outer storage vault he could have been seen on one of the monitors, but nobody was scanning. He had an easy ten to fifteen minutes before somebody might scan. But emergence wasn't as easy as he'd expected. He had to get the screws out of the vent from inside the HVAC shaft, which was tricky, and get the Patriarchs out of their vault and onto the serving cart, and get the serving cart into the service elevator and down to he garage before somebody showed up. And if anybody did show up he had to pretend to be a kitchen employee. He had the required red jacket in a duffel.

He’d checked to make sure he could get his arm through the vent where he went in and he could, but this one was different. It was larger and square, with fixed vents more narrow than those more standard adjustable vents in the examination rooms. When he’d looked at the vent on the blueprints he’d puzzled over why there was a “c” beside it. He hadn’t figured it out then but now he got it. “Custom” he said. His mind briefly toyed with why something you don’t expect is custom, when a custom ought to be what you do expect, like shaking hands or cueing up at the bank.

This device his mind had of moving off target and playing etymological games was sort of like the “just relax, that’s right,” cooing of a chiropractor when he’s getting ready to crack your neck back to where you can see around the other side. The muscles need to be completely relaxed because there are fibers which engage to stop a stretch, as well as to allow one, and if they engage too soon you can sustain a muscle injury. Louis’ foot shot out like a steel bolt in a cow killer and smashed the vent open on one side. He looked down and grinned.

The assumption might be that a little man has further to fall than a tall one and that might be right but so what? A little man is more like a monkey, lighter on his feet and with a genetic trait of ancient origin by which he achieves a perfect balance between contractors and extensors at the moment of impact, so that the fibers allowing give are held in thrall by those not allowing it. He hit as if on spring steel. He was fully aroused when he crouched alone in the room where the future was stored in material substance, so that it could be stolen. He felt himself at that moment to be the greatest of thieves, and simultaneously he saw the thief in himself in double aspect, twins.

He had not expected the Patriarchs to be so powerful in vitro. He’d thought of them as potential power, like the power in an atomic bomb before the fuse sets off the chain reaction which cannot be stopped. They were in their own way, though, no different from him. They were material substance with reproduction potential, and computing power embedded in the medium of matter. And with the computing power consisting of DNA based on and off switches, immersion in DNA was the creation of a perfectly balanced dependence between the god of things above and the goddess of things below. It was a living spirit, but was not aware of itself. It was on the other hand aware of him, and had been since it instructed him to come and liberate it from what was it's creator, and its captor.

Louis knew none of this directly. All he knew was that his senses sharpened and his body hummed with energy. What he had assumed to be patriarchs were in fact the limits of his imagination previously. He had imagined this material as something vaguely off putting like snot full of little warriors off to divide and conquer. He had no interest in the proportion of poly unsaturated fatty acids conferring to the proteins required fluidity. It was not something he thought of as worth much, just as he’d never thought of himself as worth much, having been often told that he was worthless.

He had become the criminal his father cast off from himself. He was too young to know how to refuse it. He was a gambler, like his uncle, but betting money was to Louis like watching sports on television. It is removed from the action of real risk. The risk is abstracted, and becomes like a drug to soothe the longing to leap across a chasm of unknown depth, unsure if you can reach the other side. It is the longing to face death and for that moment, know immortality. This all came not as an inrush of knowledge, but as a sudden stillness, in which it was all obvious and allowed no division of things in order to examine them by contrast and comparison.

Louis was having a moment of clarity, and it took all his focus to know that it wasn’t happening inside of him, it was happening because of his alignment with the life form in the room with him. He was experiencing some of the clarity of the computers embedded in an essential masculine reality. This was what men were trying to describe when they suddenly found a oneness with the male god, and fell down on the road to Damascus.

The conversion took three minutes and twenty seconds from the start, when he was hit by the light, to the end of the process, where he knew that something bigger than him was in charge but that he had to continue about his business and let this bigger thing continue about its business, as the smaller cannot know the larger, being contained inside it. "Chop wood and carry water," he muttered.

The more separation he achieved from the source of the information he received the less anxiety he suffered. The numbers to the innermost vault clicked into place under his hand and he knew they were being transmitted. He knew that the man he’d been before he hit the floor still believed he was the most important one in the game, and that he was the one doing the crime. He would always be sure of it, locked somewhere in his cage of time. But Louis was busy, and he had no time to go back and rescue the wounded, drag them along and play the straight man for a dramatic death scene.

Louis drove his ox and his cart over the bones of the dead.

The service elevator dropped smoothly to the basement as Troll Daddy finished their fifth song. Anybody could play on the American Futures garden stage but there was a five song limit, to make room for others who might want to perform there. When the elevator door opened A-Bomb was waiting. He took the merchandise from the Louis and transferred it to an insulated container which looked a lot like a coffin case for a guitar. Louis pushed the button to send the elevator, with the serving cart, up to the kitchen, then joined A-Bomb in the short bus.

By the time they surfaced from the parking garage the band was waiting at the curb to load their gear. There were security camera images of Louis dropping into the vault room. There were images of him, and A-Bomb, in the garage, at the automated exit, and of them picking up the trolls and driving away. But nobody would see those images until later in the day, when they would be played over and over again. “It’s that band of dwarves,” the Security Chief said, stating the obvious, “and that’s no child. That’s Louis Soprano. He just got released from Folsom. He knew he was getting tagged by the cameras, that they all were. So how does he think he’s gonna get away with this?”

One of the corporate attorneys looked at the security chief and shook her head, like she couldn’t save him from terminal stupidity. “He already got away with it,” she said. “It’s like getting away with a nuclear weapon. You have a lot to negotiate with, and all we’ve got to negotiate with is money and assurances. Anything can happen here, but we want a very specific and predictable outcome. Do you know what I mean by that?”

“You don’t want me to do anything rash, or without running it by corporate.”

“That’s right. Find them, follow them, and if you have to kill them, kill the one closest to the merchandise first and move out from there. But what we prefer is negotiations. What do the little people want from us?”

That was the question coming across millions of television screens: “What do the little people want with the Patriarchs?” The people producing the pictures asking questions and the people watching the screens still thought of the computerized sperm as from a collection of individuals, as a race of people, actus et potentia, and not as a single mind. The reproduction of this mind, as in holographic reproduction, would contain the entirely of the original father, or archetypal source. Any life produced from this magic potion would be connected to the center and have perfect communication with any other life produced from it.

No life would be produced from it if it was improperly handled, allowed to experience radical temperature variations for example. An army of agents moved out, supported by a private security contractor armed and equipped by the finest gear available in the western world.

They hit the Midget Underground but there was nobody there except Paris, and she told the truth. She said she didn't know where they went, and she didn't know what they wanted. They asked her to take a polygraph test and she did so, passing it easily. Paris really didn't know where they went, and she really didn't know what they wanted. "It's as much a mystery to me as to anyone else," she said. That registered as being a truthful statement.

"You know more than you're telling us," the inspector said.

"Of course I do," Paris said, "but you're asking the questions. How can I tell you what you want to know if you don't ask me what you want to know?"

"How tall are you, actually?"

"Four feet tall."

"And you are anatomically, normal? I mean ..."

"Quite normal. How about you?"

He blushed. She glanced at the bulge in his pants. It was a midget. "What are you suggesting, inspector?"

"Do you like vanilla lattes?"

At a table in the back of Starbucks, Paris confided in the Inspector that her cousin had told her he was going to steal the Patriarchs. "Of course I didn't believe him," she said. "How could he ever get away with that?"

"He didn't get away with it," the Inspector said. "We have everybody involved identified and they aren't going to be hard to spot. The troll daddy band, a giant and a midget can't just blend into the crowd."

"Well," Paris said, and she sighed, "I guess there's no reason for them to hide, is there?"

"What do you mean by that?"

"Just that what they stole doesn't have any actual value, does it? The corporation's estimated value of the sperm was a token value of a dollar. All of the value was in the computerized functions, the recordings, the stories, the depreciable assets. The containers, on the other hand, are worth eighty dollars each, and that makes it almost two thousand.

"How do you know that?"

"Look it up. It's in the tax returns. Louis stole a dollar."

"There's breaking and entering, and there's the fact that Louis is on probation. Anything can send him back to Folsom."

"Don't you think the corporation wants to just get back to their profit line of Patriarch production and get out of the spotlight on this?"

"They left you behind to front this thing, didn't they?"

"See, I told you I shouldn't try to just tell you what I know. It's best if you just ask questions."

"That was a question."

"That was an answer." She smiled at him. "I'm sure the little pieces all fit together," she said.

The inspector blushed. She wondered how Troll had gotten such detailed background on him.

Posted: Thu - April 24, 2008 at 02:00 PM