Riots of the Righteous
Premiered 9/9/9 (9 September 2009)
The continuation of The Myth and Legend of D'PTah, an original novel by Dan Sewell Ward.
Riots of the Righteous
The Friendly Force of Four (less Bill) were already winging their way to the target, music from the helicopter attack used in the movie, Apocalypse Now  playing in their headsets. The sky was dark, with black and prophetic thunderclouds moving into the region. Consequently the Force's approach was going to be a no brainer... in almost every respect. Fortunately, the city lights kept them on target. As they approached the penthouse, they could see a lone figure leaning over and focusing on something near the railing. Alpha One (his self proclaimed name, but one which the others found a bit much) had quickly decided that they could just pop the guy from the air. But then the man on the balcony straightened up and moved toward the interior. Moving targets are harder to hit, but from a moving helicopter flying amongst buildings with their random up drafts... no way.
'No problem,' Alpha One thought. 'We'll just repel down from the helicopter in unison, and then pop the guy on the spot. Then with the element of surprise no longer needed, the helicopter can come in for a landing on the overhead, and within minutes the whole operation will be complete!' Alpha One smiled with the supreme confidence of the ultimately arrogant. 'The whole thing was in the bag!'
Despite the noise of the helicopter, which was making the approach under slightly less than stealth conditions, the three still managed to scurry down onto the terrace of the penthouse. As they released themselves from the lines and the helicopter was able to recover some of its altitude, they suddenly became aware of a double platoon of men with automatic weapons pointed in their direction. The helicopter pilot, being an observant man, was already attempting to gain a great deal more altitude than had been originally anticipated in their planning.
As Alpha One and his Force Mates raised their hands in surrender, Alpha One kept thinking that this had all the earmarks of a serious failure in up-to-date intelligence – as already pointed out; a genuine no brainer. Had his direst thoughts been voiced, Beta Two and Gamma... correction: Delta Farce, might well have agreed with him.
As they were taken into custody, Alpha One also noticed that the density of soldiers on the penthouse would probably have been sufficient to balk the Normandy invasion. His mind kept asking, 'Shit! Did someone else know about where the target was?'
Hosea smiled. Two of the bombs had already hit their targets. There were now two jails that were going to need a lot of repair and renovation.
But then within the hour as intelligence reports reached him, it began to become obvious that there had been no causalities at either site. Hosea's first thought was that these were just more lies of the Satanic forces. Certainly, he knew that in his own country, no one ever reported the truth if it conflicted with official government policy. Obviously, it was the same the world over.
But as the other soldiers filtered back in, each with their own eyewitness reports, it became apparent that the media reports were more likely to be true than not. It was then that Sadr approached him, his face in a strained despair.
“A lot of concrete destroyed, but no people. Who's going to care?”
Hosea declined to answer the question.
“Do we abort the other mission?”
“No,” Hosea quickly answered. When Sadr's expression seemed to require an explanation, Hosea added, “Aborts are really tricky when you've got someone pumped up and ready to commit suicide for the cause. You just can't turn them on and off. Bad for morale.”
“Yeah,” Sadr thought. Then he smiled, adding, “As long as their intentions are pure...” Mauri looked at his mate as if the man had suddenly become inexplicable.
“What!!? Some stinking amateur beat us to the punch? Are you shitting me?” Three's enraged indignation was enough to question his otherwise detached professionalism.
“By the time we had a firm location... the target was already in mid air and on his express train to the ground.” Two was also livid, but in his own personalized way.
“So how the hell did they find out about before we did?” Three wanted to be madder than Two.
“Because the shits footing the bill,” One answered, comparatively calmly, “have such a devious path of communicating – and thus covering their asses with go betweens – that the time it takes to make the circuit – which in this modern age of worldwide communications probably covers the whole damn planet – someone else gets a couple of hours head start.”
“Shit,” Two commented. “What's the fucking world coming to when a trained professional can't make a decent buck?”
“All I can figure is that whoever got wind of the location didn't bother with selling it to the highest bidder, but fucking went and sold it to every bidder!” Even One was starting to get into the righteous indignation thing.
Three was similarly not to be persuaded by appeals to logic. “I'm all set to kill someone. And I'll be damned if I'm going to let some loose lipped shit screw me out of my doing just that.”
“Hey,” Two suddenly interrupted, “how about we start a riot? You can get a lot of killing done in a riot.”
“Not the same,” Three answered. “There's no skill, no planning, no challenge. It's boring.”
“Of course,” One mused, as the thought rambled about his brain, looking for some form of relief. “Some body might pay us to start a riot. After all, the whole purpose of wasting the target was probably just to create riots. There might be some nice money in making sure the riots get out of hand and people die.”
“We'd get paid for it,” Three asked?
“Why not,” One answered?
Three looked at Two and together they said, “Count us in.”
Norman was conflicted. On the one hand, he was pleased the mission had been accomplished. On the other... his intelligence source, either the prime source, or one of the go-betweens, had obviously sold the intelligence on the open market, and thereby created chaos. The Man, the professional that Norman had relied upon had reported that there were almost certainly five different attacks planned or executed in addition to their own. The damn playing field was littered with would be assassins, with at least one group -- already becoming known as the three stooges -- being caught red handed. What a load of crap! You can't operate a business when everyone and his dog can get into the act! Why the hell do we have a free market if it's not to eliminate such chaos?
Then his mind turned to the more relevant subject: What now? Could his on-the-ground intelligence sources... all of them... be trusted, or was the failure in the pipeline? Time to make some inquiries. This kind of shit could not be tolerated. Things were getting entirely too close to all out, unprogramed war. To top it all off, Norman's professional was going to be keeping his 'retainer fee'. Damn!
“Surely it is obvious to every soul on the planet – with the possible exception of the so-called Regency and his henchmen – that those who object to his tyranny are subject to quick extinction. Not even a pretense to due process; instead a sham trial on television. This is compounded in its evil with unsupported claims of a Judas turncoat being the solitary criminal in this act, an allegation clearly contradicted by the signal device he carried... and of course his inexplicable death. There is no question that the forever infamous Robert V. Carlson had confederates in high places... even if they later betrayed him. With such technological sophistication at deceptions and skulduggery, who can doubt its source.”
The archbishop's audience sat at rapt attention, as fascinated by the rare appearance of a high ranking member of the clergy as by the summary indictment of the ultimate secular authority. But Monseigneur Jacques Déchirure was just getting warmed up (possibly in preparation for his eventual pit stop).
“We are now surrounded by further evidence of the fundamental lack of righteousness in the heretical actions of this self-imposed leader, beginning with the sudden appearance of plagues and famines among the poor and downtrodden, and ending with the cries of humanity for the lawlessness we're seeing every day, compounded by the atrocities of war and conflict. The coffers of the church are being depleted in their struggling attempts to ease the suffering of so many, while the Regency in his island fortress eats caviar and drinks the finest wines. The children of every race and culture waste away in misery and death, while the military forces of the tyrant seek only to contain and misdirect the aid sent by the mother church.
“We the people are suffering the just deserts of those who have turned from the one true God, our sacred beliefs, and our holy mother church. God has found us wanting, and has turned his back on all who refuse to stand and say 'no' in the strongest possible voice to all the blasphemies perpetrated by the Regency. The claims of religious tolerance are merely the rites of Satan intended to deceive. It is time for action! The righteous must witness their faith and demonstrate their allegiance to God's covenant. And it must be now! Our holy Catholic Christian soldiers must now step forth!”
“Turn it off,” Rosario ordered. Someone flicked the remote, and after a momentary silence, the Cardinal continued, “His French eminence has a distinct tendency to drone on and on. Fortunately his message is contained in the first paragraphs, so we will miss little at this point.”
“I did like the call to arms,” Goldman added, as he leaned forward from his easy chair, his elbows each on a knee and his fingers tips joined with their mirror image. “Had a lot of impact, I thought.”
Amin was less impressed, his words emphasized just enough to allow everyone to identify his target, “What others may attempt by oratorical means, my people accomplish with action. There are no need for pep talks when there are disciplined soldiers. Our people do not deign to work with mercenaries and knee-jerk reactionaries. There is no honor in such expedients.”
“Perhaps so,” Rosario answered. “But the events speak very loudly, and more importantly, they provide a focus and spark which will engender nearly simultaneous uprisings. I rather suspect that waves of indignation and wrathful action will follow the sun around the globe. Within twenty four hours, the entire world should be up in arms.”
“I hope the two of you realize,” Goldman smiling at his mischievous best, “That what's you've just seen is classically Jewish.”
Rosario laughed. “Complete with a Judas.”
Amin laughed, as Goldman's thoughts seemed to turn elsewhere. With typical Jewish humor, he said, “Too bad, really. Judas was at one point a nice Jewish name.”
Both Amin and Rosario looked at Goldman with sudden disbelief. When he saw their expressions, Goldman laughed. “I'm kidding!”
Everyone laughed. After just a bit, Rosario added, “You had me there for a moment. I had remembered my grandmother lamenting the fact that Adolph used to be a lovely German name.”
For several moments the three men enjoyed the momentary respite from the responsibilities of their offices in fomenting social unrest. A distant church bell could be heard in the distance. Inasmuch as they were still after several days duration still meeting at Rosario's favorite German chapeau, Amin looked to his host for an explanation of the bells. Rosario picked up on the unspoken question and answered, “I doubt it. These people are far too disciplined and sedate for being a bellwether in riots. Bells in this country seldom call men to uprising. If the Germans have any over-riding character flaw, it is their subservience to discipline.” Amin raised his eyebrows and said nothing.
Then Goldman brought them all back to the business at hand. “The backlash of the faithful does seem to have its purpose, but I am still concerned about any possible records of what actually happened in that penthouse. Surely, the place was monitored. And if the Regent has the tapes, then he may be waiting for us to hang ourselves before he pulls that ace out of his sleeve.”
“My dear, Rabbi,” Rosario said in his patented comforting fashion, “You overestimate the man. He has no experience in the affairs of the world.”
“I must agree with my... learned Jewish colleague,” Amin said, his hands folded as if in intense concentration and gesturing obliquely toward Goldman. When the others looked at him with surprise, he added, “I know that this is an unusual stance for me to take, but it does sometimes happen that I can agree with a Rabbi's assessment... at least on more secular matters. The fact of the matter is that my sources... those whom I trust to provide a rational and complete intelligence – tell me that much of what the Regency has done from the beginning is to expose his enemies, to identify them and thereafter to be on the higher ground of knowing exactly where and at whom to strike.”
“To commit so many blunders?” Rosario seemed amazed and perplexed. “The Regency has been nothing but idealistic and naive.”
“To which the Regency readily admits, and in the process convinces a major portion of the population that his intentions are honest and forthright. I say it's all a con.” Amin no longer had his perpetual and understanding semi-grin. He was apparently genuinely concerned. It was one thing to have the infidels kill one another... but infidels could not always be so easily assimilated. Differences in their agendas could just as often back fire upon the faithful. In general, Amin preferred that the killing of infidels was done by his own forces... just to make sure that all were dispatched.
But before Rosario could retort, his cell phone started off in a brief version of Ava Maria. He held up his hand. “Please allow me to take this. It is only for the most important of messages.”
The others waited and carefully watched him as he answered, “Yes?” Immediately, Rosario frowned. “Don't call me that! This is not a secure line.” This outburst was followed by a brief silence, after which his frown began to transform itself with every word he heard. The Cardinal's smile began to positively beam. At one point, he laughed, throwing his head back to emphasize his delight. “Very good,” he finally said, and then with a flourish typical only of the truly victorious, he refolded his phone with the flourish of one hand, and slipped it in his pocket.
With the others still looking at him, he enjoyed the momentary I-know-something-you-don't feeling. Then with the others just starting to show irritation at the delay, Rosario relented and relayed the news. “A very reliable source has informed me that they have failed to obtain the tapes from the penthouse.” When the other mouths had dropped, bounced off the floor, and slowly began regaining the posture normally attributed to Homo sapiens, Rosario smiled again. “The tapes were obtained by other parties, who just happened to have the same agenda as ours.”
“Can we trust them?” Rabbi Goldman always had an issue of trust. It apparently came with the title... or the heritage.
“It's not a matter of trust. There is no slight question that they will do anything and everything to ensure the fall of the Regency. Of this I can absolutely assure you: They can be trusted in that agenda. I dare say, I will be allowed to view the tapes before they are summarily destroyed, something I would not want to miss. The drama might be worthy of an Oscar. From everything my intelligence sources have been able to learn, the happenings on that fateful night should be quite extraordinary.”
“While I apparently don't share your glee at the prospects,” Goldman replied, “I will be happy to know that there are not duplicate or alternate tapes with which we could be blindsided. I don't want to be the one sandbagged by that poker playing Regent.”
“You really do worry too much,” Rosario commented.
“It comes with the territory,” Goldman replied.
Amin suddenly looked perplexed (albeit amused). “Which territory exactly are you talking about?”
Jaffa in modern day Israel has always been one of the truly ancient cities on the planet. Accordingly, in its four to five thousand years of existence, it has seen more than its fair share of bloodshed. A port city to the Mediterranean located in the center of Israel, it had always been prized for its military significance – and thus the recipient of a number of sieges over the centuries. In modern times, however, it had become notably more peaceful. With a heterogeneous mix of perhaps 10,000 Jews, Christians, and Muslims, life had become sufficiently pleasant that there was no need for conflict. Tel Aviv, just to the north, might lend itself to conflict, but Jaffa seemed unaccountably immune from such things.
Thus the paradox: the city which avoided the recent conflicts over religious differences was now swinging into action with a demonstration. The demonstration had in fact become a sufficiently significant break with its recent past that it had quickly attracted the media. Such is of course always a mistake from the viewpoint of the citizenry. The presence of media inevitably adds fuel to the fire – rather like asking the Flame of The Fantastic Four fame to aid fire fighters in trying to put out an oil well blaze.
As it turns out, when the first demonstration along Jaffa's promenade adjacent to the sea was televised, the crews had to use some creative camera angles just to make up for the lack of massive numbers. But then with the prospect of even greater notoriety, many of the inhabitants began recruiting their friends and families to join in the entertainment of future demonstrations. The unspoken thought was to increase the respective populations of the different factions and religious communities, and thereby demonstrate even more forcefully whatever it was that their varied agendas were attempting to proclaim.
The difficulty arose when the recruitment of the sheer numbers of demonstrators for subsequent demonstrations turned into a competition among the religious sects for numerical supremacy Then the competition turned sour even more so, and the peaceful demonstrations escalated into one Jaffite competing against... well... whoever – it's not as if in such activities that who you're competing against ever makes any significant difference. It's the modern, much more civilized fashion of competing without discrimination of any kind (mental or otherwise). Meanwhile, the good news was that these confrontations allowed the media coverage to be quickly ramped up to an even higher intensity. The bad news, however, was people of all philosophical persuasions (including at least two television cameramen) being killed, and numerous individuals being seriously injured or wounded by the multiple encounters. The even more serious side effect was that the Jaffa boardwalk was just too small for really massive demonstrations. Tel Aviv, on the other hand, has a much preferred organizational landscape, one alongside the shoreline.
Sol had watched the transformation process of his city with almost stunned bewilderment. Had he somehow managed to leap from the Jerusalem frying pan into the Jaffa fire? Surely not! But how could he counter the growing animosity? How could he avoid becoming involved, of becoming yet another victim in a long, long list of those who had seen their lives compromised? What was Sol supposed to do now, particularly now with the... oh... the other... small... miniscule... added complication?
It seems that Sol's view apartment had been rented to a young woman from Chicago – her name of Ave Maria Emiliano being the first clue as to her religious and cultural persuasions. Furthermore, the pre-paid arrangement between Sol and Maria's rather domineering father had included the understanding that Sol would be available to Maria as a papa (in loco parentis)  in the event that she, as a stranger in a very strange land, might need assistance. To a significant degree Sol had almost immediately been obliged to act as male protector of the innocent, albeit gentile female in what was becoming an ever more hostile land. Moreover, in addition to spending more time at guardian duties than he would have ever imagined, there was also the character of Ms. Emiliano. Maria had, in fact, been born a rebel... such that the idea of having a liaison with a Jew had a certain, highly desirable degree of shock value. Daddy Emiliano might well go ballistic... but then that was the whole point. It was such fun to watch him do so, particularly from the viewpoint of the cherished daughter. Maria, in fact, knew how to live life! Accordingly and clearly, Sol was outclassed by Maria, the latter who being raised in Chicago, had had a great deal more experience in matters of the heart, pocketbook, and tit-for-tat relationships. For better or worse, Maria was going to be in charge of this relationship... while Sol was going to be oblivious to anyone being in charge, or for that matter that all romantic relationships inevitably had one leader and one follower.
Maria knew the rules. She would allow Sol to act as the official protector against the evils of Jaffa. This was a task that Sol undertook willingly (albeit unknowingly), particularly with the increasing levels of demonstrations going on in the coastal city. His military training came in very handy, even to the point of his thinking he could pretty much take on any small gang. Se la military retirement.
Curiously, however, it was not the general threats routinely encountered by tourists that concerned him. For Sol, to some degree, the threat was more abstract, and thus more pervasive. In his mind, what was happening in Jaffa was simply wrong. His recent, highly informal education on the topic of religious tolerance had thoroughly convinced him of that. Instead, what he was seeing was more like some contagious form of insanity... and with which he and a woman of another religious persuasion might have to contend. The weapons that Sol had borrowed (on a long term lease) from the military might well come in handy if they were to avoid becoming one or two more victims.
Fortunately (from at least one perspective), what little good news there was for the City of Jaffa's tourist bureau turned sour as other cities joined the rioting sweepstakes and begin to quickly eclipse Jaffa's small, modest, but highly original efforts. Meanwhile, the seeds of intolerance had been sewn, while the mercantile advantage of such sowing could no longer be reaped by Jaffa. For better or worse, Jaffites were just not cruel or mean enough for the world media. No blood; no coverage.
Accordingly, Sol's continuing evolvement with his neighbors, local authorities, and... Maria... had turned from a bewildered, apparent loss of faith, to something more akin to pragmatism: simply asking if all this crap was really necessary. Where does it say that because of his heritage... or for any other reason whatsoever... that he (and/or Maria) must be the victims of such happenings? Sol didn't know the answer.
Nevertheless, there is nothing like asking the right question to begin the process of positive change.
In a city far from Jaffa, Shirley was finding her own entertainment. A relatively slight woman and habitually lacking in aggressiveness, she had recently become enamored with a golden tongued devil, the leader of their ever growing flock of spiritual seekers. He had the charisma and she had the devotion. It didn't quite make them a team – more like a leader and just one more of his ever present aides/accolades/disciples. But now the two of them were marching side by side, protesting... exactly what she couldn't remember, but which nevertheless kept the two of them in a momentary, almost intimate relationship.
As they marched, her GT Devil man continued to sway those in their immediate vicinity with his rhetoric, while Shirley cheered and tried diligently just to keep up. She was in her element at last, she thought. Raising her voice in protest – her arms being busy staying in touch with the suddenly surging crowd – she tried to imitate her new partner in devotion to the cause and/or criminal acts... whichever. It was when she was reaching out for him, watching with admiration as he raised both hands to demand others listen... that a second surge from the opposite direction rammed into the two of them.
Shirley stumbled and fell to one knee; her link to the man who had inspired her was severed by the rush of bodies. She might have been able to quickly regain her feet, but for two other, larger people stumbling on the obstacle that she had suddenly become. They went down in a melee of arms and legs, while Shirley's head and face were shoved directly toward the stone work of the street's curb, the area in the middle of the street which had originally been designed for the safety of pedestrians.
The crushing force again the curb stunned her, even as a swath of others fell into an ever larger pile of bodies. Very quickly the stunning pain of meeting the curb was ignored as the problem had become one of breathing. Her breath had been knocked out of her and now she had scarce access to breathable air, and almost no lung capacity to bring it in. Within moments she had blacked out.
'Shirley you jest' was an expression which Shirley would never again have to hear.
In yet another city the screams were deafening, but certainly no more than the last home game when the always losing bums were making the greatest comeback in the history of the franchise. The difference was that here on the streets of the inner city, the screaming fans were not constrained by seats, banisters, burly security officers and the typical furnishings of crowd control now found in almost every major league stadium. Consequently there was a lot of jostling, pushing and elbowing as everyone tried (and failed) to go with the flow of the mass of people surrounding them.
Then there were the egomaniacs who had to carry signs which more often than not ended up punching others in the head with their sharp, square points... all of course, in the time honored tradition of weapons of mob destruction. More than one such sign had been retired on the spot after someone got the message a bit too up close and personal. Naturally, the suddenly sign-less demonstrator was ready to go to war. Only the surging people preventing him from expressing his anger and fury at the signacidal maniac who had initiated the foray. This was truly fortunate inasmuch as without the infamous surge, there would have been far more hurt feelings, bodies, and egos. Sometimes surges work; sometimes not... and different sides of the question will never agree one way or the other.
The key in such a mob's billowing mass was to stay on your feet no matter what, avoid being trampled at all costs, and in general keep the arms up in order to ward off unwanted intimacies. Such advice was, of course, impossible to follow, inasmuch as the chaotic, random walk of heaving humanity seemed to have no purpose other than to swim one way and then the other. There were also the obstacles of curbs, fire hydrants and the like. The only good news was that, occasionally, as a phalanx of those just ahead stumbled in near unison, the rest were quickly warned and for the most part managed to traverse the step or other hidden obstacle without undue distress. Of course, the sign carriers with far less interest in fancy footwork were the most likely to stumble, using their signs to remind those just ahead of them that not watching your back was never a wise precaution to ignore.
Despite everything, however, Jack was really getting into the melee. It definitely caused the blood to flow, and the release of endorphins occasioned by screaming at the top of his lungs was very psychologically stimulating. It didn't seem to matter – at least to Jack – what exactly was being said; just as long as it was sufficient that one's anger was being displayed and that everyone in ear shot was fully apprised that Jack was sick and tired and was simply not going to take any more... whatever it was he had been taking.
Then into his world-in-motion, a well buttressed but attractive female entered with just enough fanfare for Jack to happily recall that he had already slipped his wedding ring from his finger and stored it safely in the watch pocket of his jeans. The woman came up only to Jack's shoulder, but then again he had always preferred less statuesque women.
From Rachel's viewpoint, however, the view from six inches below the average height of those around her had left her with precious little perspective of what was actually happening. Her world was in fact limited to the people immediately adjacent to her. This had become increasingly intolerable until she had seen Jack and decided that he could be approached without undue danger... essentially any port in a storm. Grabbing Jack's arm, she yelled into his ear, “Can you see them?”
Jack had no clue as to who 'them' were – or for that matter 'why would anyone care'. “See who?”
“The Cadre,” she yelled in return.
“What's a 'cadre'? Jack asked.
For a moment the woman looked at him, wondering if her choice had been a good one. But before she could explain that the 'cadre' was a loose confederation of priests, deacons, mullahs, rabbis, and fire and brimstone preachers... there was an abrupt surge crossway to the general flow of the mob. Rachel was pushed forcibly into Jack's arms, with the two of them falling toward others in a general domino effect. Jack, holding on to Rachel (and vice versa), very nearly managed to keep his feet. But then a second surge and people were going down in waves. Jack ended up on his back on top of the legs of several others and with Rachel on top of him – the former position which was only marginally comfortable and the latter which was really quite delightful. Rachel looked down at him, thinking that this any port in a storm bit really was a good thing, and that this particular port looked friendly -- clearly a bonus in and of itself.
With everyone now enraged in struggling to their feet, Rachel was able to disentangle herself enough to get to her feet, even extending a hand to Jack as he scrambled to his feet as well. Jack was thoroughly cursed by those whose bodies Jack kept stepping on, but as the melee eased, Rachel managed to look around, her view now considerably improved by the number of people now in the semi-prone positions. Suddenly she smiled and grabbed Jack's hand, the latter with considerably more vengeance than before. With his attention fully hers, she began leading him toward an open doorway. Jack eagerly followed... initially because he and she had apparently created a momentary bond -- not quite a one-night-stand type, but instead one-moment-stand. Moments later, he became clued into what this somewhat diminutive woman was attempting to do. With his greater stature, he was able to grab Rachel and make the crossing to the doorway, practically carrying her over several semi-prone bodies.
They had just reached the doorway and gained a momentary respite from the surging crowds that had by then become even more dysfunctional... when the explosion occurred. The blast was a fireball with about as much real danger as a Hollywood special effect, but it was sufficient to terrify the crowd even without harming it. It's explosive center was a foot or so above the mass of heads now regaining their feet and struggling against the resumption of the flow by those in the rear with no clue about the collapse of the wave ahead of them. But the fireball had gotten their attention – as did the second one some thirty meters away. Panic spread faster than the sound waves of the explosions as everyone took a whole new tack, hopefully sailing toward what might conceivably be construed as safety.
Jack had turned to see the explosion, when Rachel grabbed his jacket and with a strength empowered by adrenalin, she pulled Jack through the now open doorway. She then slammed the door behind her and threw an antiquated dead bolt. How strong it was became apparent when there ensued a series of heavy thuds against the exterior of the metal door. Rachel was only momentarily comforted. She turned and grabbed Jack's hand, and together they began running up a set of stairs. The relatively dark hallway below was unlikely to be vacant for much longer.
At the first landing, Rachel began looking around to get her bearings. Then she smiled, shared the smile with Jack for a second, and then led him down the hall to a door marked “2__” -- the second number long since missing. She then turned, slid her hand under the loose carpeting on the stairs leading to the third floor, and extracted a key. With an even broader smile, she opened the door, and with a flourish led Jack into the interior of a small apartment. Once in, she turned and promptly closed the door, locked it, and threw all three deadbolts. Then she turned and smiled her victory smile.
Jack was impressed – and just slightly excited. Glancing around, he made a quick appraisal of the apartment, assessing it as a male bachelor's digs. “Friend of yours?”
“Best of friends,” Rachel answered. Then looking at him intently, she added. “Do you have any idea of what just happened?”
Jack saw no reason to be coy. “Not a clue.”
“Me neither. But you got to admit it was pretty damned exciting.”
Something about the look on Rachel's face told Jack his next move. “It's still pretty damned exciting.”
Rachel did a 'hmmmmm', along with a quick appraisal of Jack, before answering, “Exactly what I was just thinking.” Rachel would probably have made a really excellent hippie -- complete with exercising free love in all of its initial and condemned at the time glory... but she had missed the cause by several decades. Her attempts to recreate the times was just now bearing some fruit... or so she hoped.
With nothing of substance being said thereafter, Jack and Rachel closed ranks (so to speak), and quickly found themselves in the midst of a passionate intent to justify their already considerable blood flow (including blood surging to fill certain extremities). Meanwhile outside the apartment house, bedlam had broken loose in earnest. The noise and shouts added to the heat of their excitement.
Outside, there were still no police, soldiers, or anything but protesters run amok, but by all accounts after the event, the scene had been one of massive brutality by the authorities, using every crowd control weapon routinely condemned and outlawed in every civilized society on the planet. Such extrapolations from the relatively mundane facts of the event were considered nothing more than good business by the media. Brutality sells much better than mobs turned on themselves.
But during the height of the melee, neither Jack nor Rachel really cared. They were otherwise focused.
Three was in his element. Standing on the three story balcony and watching the crowd below, he smiled with all the arrogance of someone feeling vastly superior to the mob mentality.
“Oh, I see what you mean,” Two said. “Man, you really don't want to be down there in that shit!”
“Fuck that,” Three said.
“Get back, you idiots!” The other two turned to face One, who was pulling out bottles from the backpack. “Don't let them see you! And give me those rags.”
As the other two complied and became considerably more business like, the Molotov cocktails quickly took shape. Once they had a dozen such weapons, One parceled then out four to a man. He then pulled out a miniature blow torch, the kind used to put the final touches on crème brulee. Besides being a committed homicidal professional, One was also attending a chef and cuisine college. Multiple careers are pretty much the rage these days, and One had loftier ambitions.
Without further instruction they began heaving the professionally prepared fiery cocktails into the crowd, trying to literally enflame an area as wide as possible. Then they turned and ducked back into the building. It was time once again to become scarce. Duty had been served. Pay day!
“Wife... what you know about news?” Jianyu Yongrui had just returned from viewing a tiny TV screen his friend had stuffed into the back of his own small stall. The scenes had been graphic and the commentary incendiary. Jianyu's personal firewall which for many years had been deflecting such unpleasant possibilities had somehow now been breached.
His wife, Désirée, however, was a paragon of intense nonchalance. She was always the Dragon Lady and thus it was necessary to maintain facades and/or appearances, even in the midst of chaos... and by extension, the onset of opportunities. Accordingly, her answer was only, “What you don't.”
“But this talk of revolution. Will that hurt business? Will the tourists no come?”
“Revolutions always hurt business. Best to stay far away.”
“Are we far enough away?”
“Of course. I always take care of you.”
Jianyu had no immediate response, and instead sat down on his stool. Désirée assumed the exchange was completed to everyone's satisfaction and turned to other matters (including thinking about business, revolutions and the low number of tourists in recent months).
Small white dog, however, having no such thoughts, took the action of Jianyu's sitting as being an apparent signal for leaping into his lap, snuggling in a bit, and then reaping the windfall of Jianyu's gentle massage. Especially behind the ears! 'Oh, do some more behind the ears!' In exchange, small white dog shoved his head against Jianyu's midsection and enjoyed the bliss of their unique bond. There are rewards for a job well done (including blissfully stoned policemen); and there are rewards.
That, at least, was small white dog's intended effect. This particular afternoon, however, his ability to bring Jianyu back into a balanced state was just not enough. Not that small white dog was to be criticized for the failure; Jianyu was making his own choices about such matters. And despite the fact that life seemed pleasant enough... and despite the fact that Jianyu and Désirée were prospering more than most of their compatriots... none of this was really quite enough. It's not always one's absolute condition that counts, it's where one's condition is apparently going, and its relationship to the condition of others. (The latter is, of course, directly attributable to the Theory of Relativity... the one concerning Relativistic Economics.)
For example, one might be leading a comparatively pleasant life: no threats to one's survival, no calls from collection agencies, no bureaucratic wranglings about property (and/or stall) values, no impending presidential elections, and very importantly, no local wars (gang, military, and/or domestic)... nothing in short to cause any real panic or even concern. And yet, if one has been recently subjected to financial losses stemming from various forms of litigation... You know the kind: the malpractice of police, lawyers, judges, and the like -- a surprisingly common affliction -- it is perfectly natural to dwell on these financial and peace-of-mind losses... particularly when the losses stem almost entirely from a lack of justice, of fair play, or anything with a hint of ethics or legitimate morality. It can become an emotional frustration of the highest order... plaguing the mind concerning the dismal failure of a justice system to obey its own dictates... even if such losses are in general no greater than more random losses without the clear evidence of malfeasance.
Jianyu's dilemma was not dissimilar to this scenario... albeit Jianyu had been singularly blessed with never having had to deal with lawyers and judges... the latter the bane of civilized existence. Jianyu's ill-at-ease option was instead one of momentarily loosing faith in the idea of blissfully coasting through life. There was all of this contrary evidence that perhaps life was not so singularly blessed. There was even the suggestion that perhaps Désirée, despite her most earnest and best of intentions, would be unable to protect their family. Could she really take care of everything? Or would Jianyu be obligated to step in... and as a rank amateur in such matters, be very likely to fail as well... not to mention more spectacularly?
The frustration of being unable to understand or to counter unpleasantries can indeed be overwhelming... but of course, only if one allows it. The motto may well be: 'Don't sweat the small stuff... and incidentally, it's all small stuff.' This is clearly a truism. But then again, on the other hand, there is the occasional need or desire for drama in our lives, and thus the idea of making big stuff out of the small stuff... emotional big stuff. This is the route sometimes chosen... the kind that can really consume the mind with all manner of imagined disaster.
Mild mannered Jianyu was now being tempted with precisely such a choice.
“We can do this,” Craft said. “But only if we all pull together. Divided we fall; united we kick ass!” He smiled at the other fifteen guys of equal... or nearly equal... mind.
Larry was the one guy whose mind operated at a slightly higher level than Craft's. “You don't think the whole thing seems a bit suicidal?” Larry had once been a Craft, but had grown a bit more discerning.
“I would never accuse you, Larry, of cowardice,” Craft quickly retorted. “I've seen you in battle. I know you when the shit hits the fan.”
“Maybe I was just a bit insane at the time.”
“Fighting alongside your brothers at arms is not insanity. It's bravery; it's the highest calling a man can attain. Facing deadly force as a unit, disciplined and worthy to the end... is not madness. It's reality.”
Larry looked around at the others, all seeming captives of Craft's oratorical skills. Larry felt himself alone, standing up against the tide of pre-battle madness when all things seemed simpler and less complex. Walking out on this group might be suicidal in and of itself. Larry knew that he had several choices: One, he could go along with them and take his chances in the heat of battle. Two, he could pretend to go along with them, and then bail at the first opportunity. Then there was the third option: Say hell no and walk away. All three choices carried a lot of unknown consequences.
“So, what's it to be, Larry,” Craft asked? “Want to be a hero? Or a coward?”
Larry hesitated for just a nano-moment, before he smiled. He had made his decision.
The hint of incense, suggestive of Tantric style activities, coiled and meandered about the room. As she alternatively set in a meditative stance and laid back amongst the many cushions and brightly colored pillows, she contemplated the latest reports that had insisted upon her attention, but which she was attempting to ignore. Being able to withdraw from the bedlam was a rare privilege for her, but she knew that at this juncture, it was absolutely essential. She could not allow the more mundane distractions to deter her from her one goal, her one overriding mission. She could not be allowed to fail, to even contemplate the possibility of failure. Her commitment was absolute.
In the extreme silence, she could sense certain aspects of the truth. So many of her compatriots, so very many, were staying out of the limelight, distancing themselves from the demands of revolutionaries and malcontents. A hopefully much smaller minority meanwhile were succumbing to temptation and reacting in the spirit of mobs from time immemorial. Many were never clear what it was that they were exactly doing, and instead were pawns of those who had other less exalted goals. For the powers that be anything was permitted, as long as their agendas were consummated.
At the other extreme was the Regency. Not the “we”, but the man formerly known as Daniel. He was showing the first symptoms. There were, for example, his apparently knee jerk, ineffective reactions to what should have been expected. Admittedly, his journey was along a particularly rock strewn path. And clearly, he could be nudged away from the razor's edge, where he had been balanced for so long. From almost any perspective the nudger would have to be Pytor Alexanderovich, the faithful friend who was perhaps the only viable means to initiate important, desirable changes in the Regency's attitude. The question then was how to influence Pete?
The priestess smiled. The method was more than obvious, it was the time-tested manner in which great accomplishments had been enacted for five or six thousand years... as a minimum. Those of like minds had been plying this trade for a very long time. Charlotte Joy would not be the first priestess to enact the tradition... and undoubtedly not the last. There were likely parallel missions with different targets and different intentions already in process. Joy would likely never know her sisters in the trade, but that had never mattered. She simply knew they had to exist.
As she sensed the complete assurance of her direction, her mission, Joy using a classic scissor like movement, rose straight up like a trained gymnast/performer. She smiled. It was time to pull out all the stops. There could be no half-way measures any longer. None.
Andy Lazaro could not understand what was happening. For no reason, he was out of work. It was not because of any failure on his part, but because Mr. Widg had abruptly decided to close the plant. The decision had come without the hint of a possible reason -- obviously the gossip machine having failed utterly in its ability to predict the worst in the best of times. But now, with the riots, the burning and the looting -- all of which directly affected less than 1% of the population... but which was reported to be overwhelming and capable of bringing the entire world to its knees -- the idea of business as usual was simply no longer a viable option. And Mr. Widg, being an entrepreneur who knew when to fold the tents and exit the stage, had made his decision: He had walked around handing out envelopes – each addressed individually. In the calmest of voices, he had said that the time had come to close the doors. He had left it at that, walked out the front door, and drove away in his car... not even bothering to lock up.
Andy was now among the recently unemployed. What had been a good job for so long, had disappeared over night -- or more accurately in the space of a half hour in the afternoon when Mr. Widg had made his fateful rounds. Oh sure, the severance package had been impressive, the envelopes all with generous checks, but what the hell was Andy going to do tomorrow and the next day? Find another job? How does one do that? And what do you do until another job comes along?
Worse yet, his older brother Frank was still gainfully employed at the Washington Monument... despite the fact that his superiors and anyone else with the authority to fire him had already deserted their posts. On top of everything else, Frank's monthly paychecks were still being received inasmuch as such things were in an automatic mode. There was no automatic mode at Mr. Widg's plant... and thus the long-standing argument that Andy was making more money than Frank was now a thing of the long distant path. Clearly, Andy could not tell Frank that the plant was closed and Andy was out of a job. Not on their mother's grave!
Andy had never been what might have been called flexible. Routine had always been his mother lode, one which he had mined with diligence and consistency. Now the lay of the land had heaved and he was walking around in a daze. It had been three days and nothing had arrived to replace whatever it was he had lost. He would be home even now, staring bleakly at the strange happenings on the television – none of which he really understood -- had his wife not insisted on a bit more resolve on his part to go out and find a new job. It's just that Andy knew how to do his job at the plant, but to find another job... he hadn't a clue. That was a job in and of itself and of which he had no training and a (fortunate or perhaps unfortunate) complete lack of experience. He hadn't had to do something like that in decades.
The latter fact explained his presence at the bar. Outside in the light of day there was only the unknown and unfathomable, none of which seemed particularly friendly. Inside in the bar, on the other hand, he was a whole lot less conspicuous. For various reasons he found the darker atmosphere and the quiet very comforting. In the first place, it was harder to tell if one was unemployed or just playing hooky from work. In the second place, Andy had heard that something called 'networking' might be the answer to telling him what to do next. Certainly it seemed logical to Andy that he might meet someone in the bar, they could begin talking about their abilities, and lickety split, he would have a whole new direction in his life. It's just that there seemed to be an unusually large number of other people at the bar with the same general plan. The problem was that the prospects for all of them looked particularly bleak.
What was it old man Widg had said when he announced the closing of the plant? Andy remembered that there had been no talk of failing profits or mounting losses, of slow sales, or mounting competition – the sort of thing one might have expected. Instead, the owner of a going concern was going elsewhere, leaving the concern to whomever might collect such commodities. Meanwhile, the plant was idle, the equipment in good condition but shut down, the stock pile of raw materials adequate for a few weeks, and plenty of dock space to load the finished products just prior to shipping. It was all very, very strange.
What did not occur to Andy was that there was really nothing to prevent his contacting the others and suggesting that everyone report to work tomorrow. They could keep the plant operational, with or without its owner. They could continue the business by themselves, and supposedly even keep the profits to be shared among them. Apparently, Widg didn't care. So why not?
But Andy and the others had never thought of doing that. It was a bit too far outside their boxes.
Jeff looked out the dorm window. The campus was cool enough, the trees changing colors in their typical dramatic fashion for the season. The air was crisp and cool, but still not quite sweater weather yet. And for the first time in his three years at college, he had his own room. Of course, there was another bunk and there had been the expectation of having a room mate. But Matt had come in on the second week of classes, packed a few meager belongings, bequeathed the rest to Jeff, and then walked out, whistling a tune which Jeff thought he recognized as something called Popular , a song Matt had played a lot in his brief tenure at the college. Jeff didn't know why Matt had been so enamored with it, but Jeff had to admit that it was a catchy tune.
What was considerably more curious was that Matt had not been the only one to bail. The classes had probably lost twenty percent of their students in the last few weeks – Jeff's math classes being particularly less well attended. What the hell was going on, Jeff wondered?
“You going to lunch?”
Jeff looked up to see Terry, standing in the doorway. Then Jeff glanced at the clock. 'Sure... lunch was always good. Studying seemed to have fewer and fewer aficionados. Why not lunch?' “Where we going?”
Lieutenant Colonel Giardino Laurenti was shaken to his very core. It is entirely one thing to have one's destiny self-apparent and clearly divinely ordained. The comfort and continual reassurance of one's place in the firmament that stems from a constant and unremitting movement toward some grand goal was enormously addictive. Self doubt was not just a thing of the past, but one that had virtually never been encountered before. It was the supreme narcotic to know unquestioningly where one was heading.
Getting there... on the other hand... was something altogether different. First of all, there was a degree of giddiness, as if the case of spectacular success constituted a serious overdose of sweets. The sense of everything having gone according to plan... with said plans being unbelievably detailed -- was almost too much to take. Even some of his junior officers were stunned... looking around as if desperate to find something slightly out of the expected, and against which to react with extreme efficiency.
Sigh. The problem had been that they had been too efficient. The plan had worked to perfection.
When Laurenti had first been apprised of the pinnacle mission of his career, he had been suitably impressed. The goal was simple enough: Take over the Vatican Archives with an absolute minimum of damage to the contents, subsequently scan every single document and sheet within the entire library and transfer the entire contents to the new Library of Halexandria (Egypt's Bibliotheca Alexandrina , located on the ancient site)... and then to an undisclosed number of back up sites elsewhere in the world. All the glories of history that the Vatican had literally set upon and squirreled away for millennia would thereafter be readily available to the world in the form of copies of the original documents. Everything was to be disclosed (and to anyone), regardless of its effect upon any established or fledgling religion or sect.
Naturally, no one had assumed that the hierarchy of the church would allow such a disclosure of hidden mysteries and revelations -- and more than just the mistranslation of "celebrate" to "celibate". Accordingly, the ruse had been fomented that anarchists and dastardly individuals were about to attempt to sabotage the Archives. The amount of information and conjecture on the upcoming attack had been more than enough to convince the Swiss Guards to cooperate fully with Colonel Laurenti's battalion in ensuring that the holy and precious Archives would be preserved... and without so much as a scratch. Laurenti's troops had even brought with them various bombs (extremely well camoflauged), which could then be "found" and then taken out of the main buildings, where several would "inadvertently" explode within their anti-bomb casings. The three men of the battalion who were injured were almost made saints and martyrs of the church on the spot, so impressed were the Swiss Guards and the amazed Cardinals flocking about. The icing on the cake had been Colonel Laurenti's background and fluent command of the local languages. The "avenging angel" had received, for public purposes, a revised nomenclature: "Angelo di Risparmio".
But now the bad news for Laurenti, AR: 'What now?' When one has accomplished the impossible, flawlessly executed the mysterious way of a deity in favor of full disclosure, and thereafter be standing in front of the greatest depository of spiritual, philosophical, and revolutionary material in the world... what exactly was one supposed to do next? Where was the plot for the inevitable sequel?
It was the arrival of the "reserve platoon"... composed of curiously older men and women who clearly were not in the same physical shape as the rest of Laurenti's battalion... that reminded the commander that there was just this one additional detail. Scan everything, commit it to preservation in perpetuity, and then take to the new Library of Alexandria. This would require enormously more time than your standard 'shock and awe'. This would require a continuing scam. Still... Laurenti would find his way.
It had in fact been along his 'way', in his "stopover epiphany", when he had visited the new library (the one built in 2004). That visit had been the rejuvenation of his life's purpose. The award winning architectural achievement had been stunning enough (the kind that literally takes your breath away). Among a dozen other qualities, there was, for example, it's openness sufficient for someone in the basement to see the upper ten floors or so. But what had really captured Giardino's imagination were the plans by the Library to collect millions upon millions of writings throughout the world in electronic form, and then to print on a demand basis any book in the world, and for any reader, student, or researcher. This fact had greater impact upon Laurenti than a moon landing might have had upon an astronaut.
And now... Special Forces Commander Laurenti was turning to the "reserve platoon", and giving them the go ahead to very carefully, very exactingly, very, very studiously begin the process of duplicating for posterity everything (right, wrong, and indifferent) that had been under wraps and closely guarded for so long. It was then that one of his sergeants saw the commander smile... making the sergeant momentarily wonder if he had ever seen a smile on the "old man's" face.
For the moment, the mission of destiny had been given an extension. The problem now was to maintain the con as long as necessary, and in the event the latter failed, to force the extension by any means.
Based upon the above, admittedly fragmentary evidence – much of it unrelated and with serious questions of chronological dating -- some additionally comments are perhaps worthwhile. One is on the subject of bravery and cowardice. As Bulgakov once said, the greatest crime is cowardice. 
The irony is that bravery is often ascribed to acts which may in fact smack at some level of cowardice. For example, are battle heroes truly brave, or is it their training? Are they simply reacting to events and never really thinking about the consequences of their actions? Are they supported in their claims to bravery by being surrounded by like minded soldiers and unable to respond in any way other than to fight for their lives, disciplined to a point of seeing no viable alternative or possibly even shell shocked?
So it is in riots. If the very few were to dare to stand up alone and shout their personal displeasure at the gravest of crimes and atrocities, they might be heroes of a sort. But to gather enough such people together – where each can rely on the backing of others and the possible anonymity of slipping back into the crowd – you have in that case a situation ripe for creating mayhem. The point is that some of even the very bravest never live to regret their commitment to such mass demonstrations.
 In loco parentis is both latin for "in place of parents" (a phrase commonly used by universities and colleges to legally impose restrictions on the living arrangements and other matters for underage students entrusted by parents to the care of the school)... a description of what is required of any parent prior to their actually begetting children.
 http://www.bibalex.org/English/gallery/index.htm (This place has got to be seen to be believed.)
 Mikhail A. Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, translated by Michael Glenny, Everyman's Library, New York, 1992.
 V. Lakshin, “M. Bulgakov's Novel, The Master and Margarita", The Master & Margarita; A Critical Companion, edited by Laura D. Weeks, Northwestern University Press, 1996, page 79.
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