|Mark Kalvin <Sahtori@***.COM>
|This is part 2
|Sun, 19 Mar 1995 13:57:41 -0500
concert. We've got a context filter searching the boards for any mention of
you or anyone like you for the time we expect to move if it finds anything,
we scrub and you can take all the Bang & Olafsson back to Germany"
"Because we are supposed to protect you and because I got a nervous wish to
live forever. What do you care? We're on expenses and we know lots of
restaurants-you'll eat even better than you did where they worked on you."
Stevens looked at her face and saw that all the muscles around her eyes had
contracted but her pupils remained exactly the same size, fixed and dead.
"cheap eyes," he thought. "no pupillary function."
"Yes?" she said, "What do you know about it?"
Redding looked at her with calm, hazel eyes. His voice was distant,
distracted, like a doctor diagnosing a frequently-seen ailment.
"It's the belt-dead giveaway-the only thing that isn't fresh off a shelf and
it's notched way downxsays you used to be thin, thin like sick. Guess they
fed you up real good didn't they? First Ringer's drip, then protein shakes,
and then everything they could put in your mouth. You're fashionable now but
the belt says you're a junkie someone found somewhere."
Her mouth opened and closed again. She seemed to think of one thing to say
and then found something else.
"You were a bastard, yes? Your mother hated you."
Redding ignored her. "We are watching you. Nothing can happen to you while
you are with us. You are about to prank someone who doesn't want it and can
do something about. If it was anything else, they could have called the
Girlscouts for escort. Oh, and while we're here, do you have any special
nutritional requirements we should know about-anything that wouldn't make it
For an instant, something like hope appeared on her face. The ghost of a
smile tugged at the corners of her mouth, before she fought it down. The hope
disappeared and her eyes narrowed. Her voice again took on the tone of
repeated phrases, coaching-her English becoming oddly fluid and natural; "a
receptor check for morphine derivatives, another for methedrinexsome
antidepressants that I will give you the names for later. They are your
responsibility and the cost for them is in your budget."
Stevens saw that she had folded her hands on the tabletop in front of her.
The muscles were tight; the tendons standing out like surgically implanted
rods. He had to look away from her: he had a very clear recollection of the
seventeenth time he himself had turned down someone with an injection
whistlexhow much he had wanted to scream.
"Fine," Redding said. He turned to Stevens, "Can we do that?"
"That?" Stevens said. "That's an easy. He laughed, "shit...that's
legal." He looked at her face in one of the mirrors: there was a fine network
of lines around and under her eyes as they had belonged to an older woman.
"How's she doing on truth so far?"
He turned back to face Redding. "Full truth for the last six answers; a
little less sure on the others-nothing important." His eyes brightened. "She
really does think your mother hated you."
"Quick. Ask me if I care."
"I tell you the truth now." She volunteered.
"Now?" Redding ventured.
Stevens tilted his head back and rolled it onto his shoulder in her
direction, smiling. "Oh, we know that, dear-we are very sure about that. Oh
yes, I forgot, we want to have a look at your equipment."
"My contact knew you would want to see it. He gave me the specifications, a
readout of it on chip."
Redding said, "Any bells and whistles for ultrasound? MRHD-that kind of
"No." she said, quickly as if convincing them were important, "They knew
would ask-they told me no protection."
Stevens laughed. "Good," he said brightly, hIs face full of sudden energy.
"That means it won't melt when we scan it."
It was a good week to be in the city, a tourist's summer-hot but not lethal;
almost a good week to be in Brooklyn. They went from place to place, Redding
and Muller and Stevens; three pseudonyms stepping out on a clockwork schedule
from the Condemnables in Cobble Hill where they had set up house on bedrolls.
It was a week of evenings: Stevens had a crippling allergic reaction to the
substances his skin produced in sunlight and nothing that medicine had ever
thought of would allow him to spend more than three hours under daylight
without complex and meticulous preparation. They went out in the last hour
before nightfall and walked to the promenade in Brooklyn Heights. Stevens
and Muller held hands like lovers and watched the sun sink into the thick,
red air that people breathed in New Jersey.
The deckers they had hired used messengers to take jobs and deliver answers
and the promenade was the contact point. The preparations were in place: a
janitor from Fukien province had been approached by a member of a Chinatown
gang and given money to tape a package under their seats the night before the
concert. Redding had gotten a tourist's guide to New York in high-definition
VR and drilled them in the location of every exit. They arranged meeting
places for contingencies that separated them; made plans for the worst
things. They arranged meeting places around the Garden, niches and doorways
that they visited each night; walking from the doors of the Garden to each of
them and back again. Stevens contributed; sketching out sociology from the
downside-telling her which emergency room to ask for when you had a little
money and you were hurt and bleeding: he told her the local lore of what to
tell the police if she were arrested.
"Pretend you're stupid. No matter what happens, you are the victim, apologize
a lot, and look like you're listening to them-even when they know you're
lying through your ass, they'll cut you something if they think you respect
them." Remember, he told her, "You might have rights, but you can dissappear
into the system for three days before a judge dismisses whatever they wipe on
youxin there with a lot of people who don't like you and want whatever you
have to offer them. Short of dying, they'll be the worst three days of your
They spent a week punishing their expense account with restaurants and
clothing. It was corporate money that came from the same places where people
spent lifetime incomes on things that no one on the outside ever heard about.
The last day came. Four hours before the event, they were standing on the
Promenade, an hour earlier than usual-Stevens dangerously exposed on the
gray hexagonal flagstones; his skin the unnatural flesh color of lab-quality
melanin and intricately formulated Zinc oxides. The city was spread out in
front of them from all the left to all the right like the landscapes they
painted on fans in Chinatown-the shuttles from New Jersey wallowing through
the air like fat, black bumblebees. Someone would be coming to meet them
soon; either someone would come to meet them or they would never see the
inside of the Garden. If the contact had the wrong thing to say or failed to
show up, they would pack her bags and business class her back to Europe, to
the Maastrecht Treaty wonderland, where they still had money, history and
safety. It would all dissappear: Stevens wouldn't work himself into a fury of
nervousness; pacing until every muscle in his body was as tight as a violin
string-vomiting when he reached the apex of his tension. Redding wouldn't sit
in a chair for an hour before hand, breathing slowly, his back straight;
quietly staring at his hands.
Redding stood apart, leaning on the iron rail in front of him, talking into a
cardphone; agreeing with one thing-disagreeing with another-adjusting some
element at the last minute when a normal in dirt-stiff jeans and rubber
sandals came out of the crowd carrying a motorboard. His hair was blond and
matted. He walked up to Redding, grabbed his jacket and raved something at
him in loud, hoarse French; his eyes wild-like the eyes of someone who was
using Iscariot. The normal went on to a knot of Malaysian tourists who
pointed their cameras at him; smiling uncomfortably as he stuck his tongue
out at them until it touched his chin and screamed like a woman. The Malays
took a few pictures and started to back away with their hands rising; their
Redding walked past Stevens without looking at him, like a stranger traveling
on a random vector; brushing the wrinkles out of his windbreaker. His face
was expressionless. He said, "We're on" and kept walking. There were no more
questions. There was nothing more to do.
The drums were up and running and there was something in them, a sensation, a
feeling, voices that spoke in no known language. Rabenda sang low in
synthesized Arabic. A computer turned his voice into voices; each one
one-hundredth of a second out of phase until the words melted into feeling.
The music was seeping in through the cracks and the crowd knew that they
were in the center of something new and special. Stevens sat counting the
bells in the percussion as the guitar threaded its way through it. He knew
just enough about music to know that it wouldn't hold together. It was as if
six musicians were playing different musics in different rooms, the music
they made holding together by an ephemeral coincidence. The precision of
arithmetic told Stevens that it couldn't hold together for more than a few
moments-he knew that it couldn't fuse together the way it did-couldn't be
what it was-but he was wrong. it could, it did, it was. The percussionist
played a sequence of bells faster than before and the band followed producing
seamless trance music, without beginning or ending-It was like nothing that
he had ever heard or imagined and It became more intense by the second.
The girl in front of Stevens sat bobbing her head to it, the boy sitting next
to her moved his shoulders to the exact same rhythm like two gears in the
same machine-a machine with gears as warm and soft as liquid paraffin. He
looked around him and his mouth fell open. In the light, in the spill from
the spotlights and the lasers that filtered through the smoke, he could see
the heads of a thousand people, normals, elves, dwarves, orcs-trolls sitting
in their own special sections-all the subsets that made up Homo Sapiens,
Sapiens; Keeping the same time with their bodies; moving to the same rhythm.
He could feel it reaching for him; reaching deep like ghost fingers; tugging
at the marrow of his bones. Pulling.
Redding noticed it immediately. It was one of those things that transcended
technique and redefined its boundaries. Redding knew that it was glorious and
unique: it was the idea, the notion of love with sound as its body. It was
wanting cast in the space between the drums and the guitar: it transcended
the fine distinctions of shape and gender-it was the instant of knowing that
all things were possible. Reading sat in his seat swaying to it ever so
slightly; feeling its energy and adding it to the task of watching. He
thought, "of course, how simple, this is it-this is it exactly."
Stevens sat with his hands balled into fists, watching the holographic dragon
over the stage; trying to count the scales on its back; looking for relief
from the music. At first, he had thought that it was a spell, but he had
found that there was no magic in it. There was something else in it. It was
something that was wired into the organism, something that the organism had
always been capable of, a moment in history waiting for the technology to
bring it out, a buried treasure, looking for the mind that would find it and
bring it into the world for the first time. He looked down at one point and
saw a brown-haired orc in the distance: she was hugging herself for some
reason and bright tears rolled down her cheeks and caught the light like
silver. The music reached deeper and spoke love to him in words that fell
He wanted to understand the anger at the center of his magic. He wanted every
person he had ever met to live forever; to never know what it was to age; to
never feel the pain of loss and rejection; the pain of childbirth or the
agony of slow withdrawal. He wanted to give his life to the sick and bring
comfort to the lonely. Comfort. He knew that all the things that he wanted
were the death of the self and rebirth into knowledge that all things were
one large thing-the sum of all the living things in the only place where any
life was known to be. His breathing was ragged. He right hand was shaking, he
was going to take Ulrike Muller's hand in his and the music would win over
him, win over him and her at the same instant. She was the only person who
would understand it in the way he did. The only one to understand his point
of view; the only person within arm's reach who would never stop wanting the
kiss of a whistle against her skin. He would touch her hand and there would
be something: the birth of something something that he had feared even
without knowing what it was. As if in answer to his thoughts, her left hand
rotated so that her palm was facing the ceiling and then opened like a flower
in the rain. There was something beyond description in her empty hand: his
raised his hand to take it.
Sweat rolled down Rabenda's face as he stood on the stage. His hair was
matted to his forehead, a dark brown helmet, as he chanted and the computers
multiplied his chant; breaking it, molding it, multiplying it. His eyes were
wide like the eyes of someone who saw visions; the eyes of someone who had
taken the last step, who had said the final prayer and fasted the last day:
he was elsewhere in the center of the music. His face was the face of a man
who had climbed the last vertical inch and stood in the live sunlight that is
only found at the tops of mountains. He knew.
He spread his arms wide, his thief's face suffused with generosity and
triumph, and turned them inwards an embrace for all the audience. The
message was plain: "look, look! All this is my gift to you." And in that
instant, someone tried to kill him. Six rounds of explosive ammunition
flashed bright blue at center of his face.
Redding found himself at the center of a sudden vacuum, a dry rustle of
silence. Rabenda had stopped singing and the rest of the band turned to look
at him; retreating from a stream of bullets; confused as the impacts
registered, flashing subminiature novas, in front of his face-his chest and
belly. A darkened shape ran up to the edge of the stage from out of the
audience. Something it carried in its hand flashed. There was the sound of an
explosion and then another shadow raised something to its shoulder and leaned
forwards. More blue flashes appeared in front of Rabenda, Ondaate, and Haas.
Guards in full riot seemed to materialize on stage between the band
members-Redding realized with an instant of admiration that they had been
there throughout the performance, invisible. A color more than red leapt from
the hand of one of the guards. The air in front of the gunman nearest the
stage boiled and shimmered for a moment.
A sensation like a frozen wire moved up Steven's spine as an alarm spell
warned him of INTENT behind him. One of the amulets on his left arm warmed as
it drew energy and used it. He turned in his seat in time to see a bullet
freeze in the air and then melt into a globe of molten lead and copper behind
the base of the girl's neck as his amulet's spell translated its momentum
into heat. The wire appeared again and drew a line that crossed his ribs on
the right side. He followed its direction with his eyes and saw a shape
standing between several people who were slumped in various positions in
their seats-utterly still. People were running in a river towards the aisles
away from the figure; scrambling, the motion spreading outwards like a
funnel. They were climbing over one another. Falling. Something in the
figure's hand flashed. Lead and copper materialized in front of Stevens. He
thought, "Oh? really?"
He visualized a bottle on its side turned inside out, a twisted window. One
word with nine syllables.
Redding reached under the seat, found the small, angular pistol held there
with gaffer's tape, and pulled it free in time to see Stevens turn around
with a look of panic on his face and then gather himself for a spell. Redding
rested the pistol against the back of his seat (the faces of the people in
the seats behind him slowly changing when they saw the gun in his hand) and
looked in the direction that Stevens was looking; saw people running from a
point in a "v" shape-whoever was shooting would be at it's apex. He saw the
man. Something in his hand flashed. Redding squeezed off six shots in groups
of two at the center of his body in the same instant as a rotating column of
fire rose from the floor and engulfed him: it was green like a copper thread
held in white-hot flame. He died without the smallest fraction of a scream.
Stevens saw and heard a lightning bolt from somewhere to the left strike the
figure as it fell: he thought, "professional courtesy". The alarm spell was
quiet. He turned around and saw that Rabenda and the rest of the band were
being hustled off the stage covered by guards while the ones who had first
appeared were laying prone; shooting carefully. One of the gunmen turned
towards the body of the crowd up front and held down the trigger.
Redding slapped the woman on the shoulder and shouted, "Get up, sis,-we're
for out of here."
Copr., c1995 Mark Kalvin.