(01-22) From Chicago

Gene Tweaks hadn’t planned on pulling the trigger; he was just sighting his scope in on the midget. Gene was part of a Special Security team, an expert in guerilla warfare, with seminar training in explosives and damage control. The main subject of damage control wasn’t about having a soft footprint, it was mostly about media relations. Gene was pulling down over two hundred grand a year because he was the perfect combat soldier … except for the voices …

“What makes a perfect combat soldier?” the executive headhunter had asked him during the second interview.

“Somebody who kills the enemy and survives to fight again,” Gene said. The interviewer nodded, but wasn’t impressed.

“That’s obvious,” he said. “But a better answer is training. A good combat solider never pauses to wonder what to do next, because he’s got procedure drilled into him. You keep doing the right things in the right order as long as you’re conscious. That makes a good combat soldier. And I don’t need to mention that you never pause to think about the enemy as a human being. You might as well tag your own toe if you do that.”

The recruiter was huge, like Gene, probably pumped on steroids. He was wearing a suit that threatened to burst apart at the seams. But his voice was gentle, almost feminine, with a slight drawl, and he was generous with his smile. He might have been talking about how to bread a fish.

“To tell you the truth,” Gene said, “When I’m in a combat situation everything is happening too fast for me to think about it. I can think about it later on, but it’s like if I was walking over here today and stepped on a banana peel, I wouldn’t think about how to keep my balance. My body takes over until the situation’s resolved.”

“That’s exactly right,” the recruiter said. “It’s never personal, because it’s not you doing it. God does it.”

Gene nodded agreement. “He gives the orders."

Gene didn’t have much of an inner life beyond his acceptance that God makes the decisions, that there is a reason for everything that happens. He had learned this from his mother, who in the face of even the most bizarre and unfair situation, would intone solemnly: “Everything happens for a reason.”

This attitude didn’t provide Gene with much intellectual curiosity, as the reasons belonged to somebody else, more powerful than him, whom he served as faithfully as he could. When either of his children asked him something he would say, “Ask your mother.” He didn’t think about why he said that, except that he had a vague idea raising the children was part of the housework. If he’d paid closer attention he would’ve realized he said that in response to a twinge in the back of his neck. It was the same twinge he felt when a sniper had him in his sights.

The twinge was hardwired to his gut, so that there was no space between it and his body reaction. When he felt the twinge his body jerked away like a shock trained dog from a rattlesnake. Nobody had trained him about it, or even mentioned it, but without the twinge he would’ve been dead more than once. He’d been born with it.

Gene couldn’t remember a time in his childhood when he wasn’t doing battle and winning. If there were no other kids to play with he’d invent enemies. They might be Mexicans or Indians or Russians, thieves or terrorists or rustlers, but he never lost one. He killed them all.

This was his inner life, which he didn’t notice any more than a fish notices the water. He knew it as a separate personality, a warrior who took up residence in his body, using the twinge to signal imminent danger, or who could lay still as a coiled snake, blending into the grass, tasting the air for the scent of hot blood. He could squat underneath dark water and breathe through a reed, invisible, deep in trance.

This part of Gene separated from his ego when he was eleven. He heard a voice say: “You work point. I’ve got your back. You don’t even have to look.” He felt the twinge then, and was conscious of it for the first time as being from the inner warrior. Gene liked being the point man, and he was proud of having no inclination toward emotional involvement with the world. This attitude was explained by Donald Rumsfeld after he sat through a performance of poetry and modern dance in Prague, once. When asked for a reaction to the program, he 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 beautiful. He thought so, too, but the men in tights ruined it for him. “Jesus Christ,” he muttered, after his first and last exposure to ballet, “why don’t they just let the girls dance with each other?”

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 doe ray me fa so la ti doe, where, between doe and ray, as between every interval, 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, and when he did he dismissed them as not real.

One day the old Navajo woman died, leaving the rug unfinished on the loom.

Gene didn't notice that she was missing or that someone else had moved into her hogan, a woman who talked to herself and had a lot of cats. He didn't notice that the coyotes, who came around to catch the cats, were pissing on the unraveling strands of the rug. He elevated his sword above it all until, eventually, his arm began to tire and the sword would fall, suddenly, like a pencil dropping from the hand of someone falling asleep during testing. During these lapses the madwoman would leer out from his eyes.

Gene’s wife noticed these lapses but they were so fast she couldn’t be sure that she’d actually seen another face jump to life in his face. It would happen in an instant and then the stranger would be gone, but she would remember the intruding face, with its expression of pure lust and maniacal laugh. It was easier to ignore it than to confront it, because what would she say, after all? "There's a crazy woman making random appearances in your face?"

Then one night she had a dream about Paul Revere.

Gene was Paul Revere, and he was warning her about the British Invasion, while leading her down a dark stair, into a cellar. “You’ll be safe here,” he said.

“Are you locking me in?” she asked. She felt a suppressed horror of the cellar and of this man who was ostensibly her protector.

“Just until it’s safe again,” he said. He pushed her inside the cellar and she heard the bolt close shut.

It was the ending which caused her to scream aloud, and wake him. He asked if she was having a nightmare and she said she must have, but that she couldn’t remember what it was about. She did remember. Huddled in the corner of the cellar was a woman, unkempt and grinning hideously. She was insane. She looked like Gene’s first wife, though in reality his first wife was a very sweet and sane woman who taught Pilates in Denver.

The big changes came after Gene started taking steroids and testosterone to make himself bigger. Slowly his wife realized that the face appearing with increasing frequency through his was that of the crazy woman in the dream. The voice became a regular feature, though he didn’t think of them as a problem. He thought of them as belonging to an ancient warrior who inhabited his body, and protected him from all harm. The crazy woman hadn't said anything yet. With crazy women, timing is everything.

Gene sat in the dunes, watching an Inn that catered to Little People. He was massive in his muscularity, had a carapace of body armor, could see in the dark, and had to firepower to blast apart a small town. He was the leader of a four man squad and his orders were to take the Patriarch. They had tracked him here after an analyst heard Paris say her mind was in a fog, and he checked and confirmed there was fog on the coast. From there it was a process of deduction. They discovered 401 Beach Street in researching Troll Daddies. It was one of their venues.

Corporate decided on a four man team because the element of surprise was important, and they didn’t want to interface with local law enforcement. They needed a crack team which could move in and out under cover of darkness. All they had to do was get close enough to the inn to slip a canister inside, and nobody would wake up until morning. It was just a matter of collecting the Patriarch and getting him back to American Futures cold storage.

When the midget came outside to smoke, Gene sighted in on him. There was no particular reason to do this except that Gene enjoyed the feeling of holding somebody else’s life in his hands. He’d been told they were probably not armed with anything more lethal than sidearms. “Squeeze.”

It wasn’t the warrior who spoke, it was a female voice. And it wasn’t him who squeezed ever so slightly on the trigger. It must have been the warrior, the one who had his back. The round caught Louis beside the right eye. It was bleeding a lot but the wound was superficial. He sat down like a baby, just plopped back, stunned. “Squeeze,” the female said,and the warrior squeezed off another round. The second shot went through the little man's neck and blew out his cervical spine,disconnecting his brain from his body.

Louis floated above the scene, watching as four men in full combat gear rushed from the dunes, firing weapons that blew apart the barn like it was made out of paper. Then a gust of wind blew him away, like a leaf.

Gene didn’t consider this a firefight. This was just killing, and he could do it in his sleep. He’d have to report that the first shot was fired from inside the house, at him. As his urban warfare trainer told him, “Dead men don’t sue the company.”

Inside the house the lead rain hit like a hailstorm. 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, 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."

Posted: Thu - August 28, 2008 at 03:49 PM