Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 18.33

Chapter 18.0

“I gotta freshen up,” Bridge muttered. His head was spinning, fatigue beginning to take its toll. “Where’s the can?”

The scientists all looked at each other in puzzlement. Janicki pointed out the double doors. “Down the hall.” Bridge strode out of the room shaking his head, barely noticing the others. His mind was racing from idea to idea, analyzing the events of the last days and formulating plans he couldn’t even consciously grasp through his weariness. He half-staggered down the hall to the bathroom, absentmindedly walking through the ladies’ room door before realizing where he was and turning around.

He stood before the mirror in the men’s room, the water swirling loudly in the sink. Reaching his hands into the cool water, he splashed his face. The shock of the near-freezing liquid took his breath away for a moment, but it crystallized his subconscious musings into concrete conscious thoughts. The scheme he was cooking up was big. It would require some long-range commitment on his part, but if it worked, he would personally benefit as much as the geeks. One cold, hard look in his own eyes, the mirror reflecting his desperate cunning and fatigued sparkle of insanity, then he self-consciously straightened his clothes. The last thing he needed was the grin, the cocksure slight uptick of the corner of his lips, the expression that said he had the situation under control.

When he returned to the lab, the four scientists were huddled around whispering in conspiratorial tones. They went deathly silent when they saw him. “You geeks ready to perform the biggest magic trick in the history of the universe?” Bridge said with that crazy confident smile.

Their stunned silence was answer enough. “Here’s how it’s going to go down. You’re dead, all of you, even your buddy Carl out there. In fact, you never existed. You cannot exist now or in the future. To even leave a hint that you were ever here during this clusterfuck is to sign your own death warrant, for realz.”

“How do we do that?” Lydia asked.

“Magic, baby. Magic.”

“There’s no such thing as magic,” Balfour scowled.

“Flying fucking dragons, guys tossing around fireballs like baseballs, energy shields, football golems, need I go on? You guys are wizards if ever there was one. You show one-tenth of what I’ve seen to the knuckle-dragging rubes on the street, they’ll either think they’re in a movie, or you’re some kind of magic man.”

“But everything we’ve done is a side-effect of this dimensional-particle technology,” Balfour insisted. “We can’t quite explain all of it, but there has to be a rational, scientific explanation for it. Just because we’ve discovered how to use it doesn’t mean we’ve been able to understand it all. Marie Curie discovered radiation without understanding the dangers.”

Janicki snickered. “Until the radiation sickness killed her.”

“Yes, but that’s what I mean. Eventually, science found a logical explanation, and we can find one for all of this.”

“And until then, you guys are magicians. Wizards.” A name he’d heard on science-fiction TV during his childhood leapt to mind. “Technomages, technomancers. Wizards whose spells are created using technology. Does that sound more acceptable?”

Balfour shrugged. “It makes as much sense as wizards. One doesn’t weave spells from technology, one just applies theorems to practical…”

“Yeah, you? You don’t get to speak to the public. You could ruin a wet dream.”

Lydia interrupted. “Great, we call ourselves technomages or technomancers then. Are we going on television to reveal ourselves to the world?”

“No,” Bridge sighed. “I’m creating an event here, lady. Do you want the Chronosoft’s of the world finding you and picking your brain for every little trick you can think up?” She shook her head. “Then you have to distract them. People are going to want to know what happened here, and the less they know of what actually happened, the less chance you five have of being blamed for the deaths of thirty thousand people, got it?”

“But how does calling ourselves technomancers help us?”

“You guys know anything about history? Probably not, you’re more concerned with the Big Bang than with history, am I right? Anyway, you know about the Crusades right? Good.”

Bridge crossed his arms with casual confidence as he began to tell the story. “Well, the Christians, these Frenchies and Germans and whatever captured this town called Antioch from the Muslims. One of the priests with the army, guy named Peter Bartholomew, claimed to have a vision. This vision told him that a holy artifact was buried in some church in Antioch. He probably made the whole damn thing up to inspire the troops. After all, the Crusades hadn’t been the cakewalk most of the idiots thought it would be. So, he goes and digs up the floor of the Church and lo and behold, there’s this lance head buried underneath the Church. ‘A miracle!’ he says. ‘This is the Holy Lance that the Romans used to pierce Christ’s side on the cross,’ he says.”

“The Spear of Destiny?” Wong asked.

“Holy Lance, Spear of Destiny, who knows? Not important. They find this lance head and show it off to the army. The head Crusaders, they’re real skeptical. I mean, it looks just like one of their spears, so they figure this guy’s yanking their holy chain, right? But as soon as the grunts see this lance, they go ape shit. I mean, any army that carries the Holy Lance of God cannot possibly be defeated. They’ll just rampage over the heathens. And these happy assholes believed it.”

“Maybe it was the starvation, the heat stroke, the fasting, or maybe the lance really was some kind of magic holy mojo, but whatever it was, the army starts winning. Guys are running into battle getting shot to shit by arrows and shit, but they don’t care. They’re totally oblivious to their own wounds, slaughtering Muslims left and right, just batshit crazy suicide bombs in armor tearing ass from one side of the Holy Land to the other. They drive off the Muslims, but instead of thanking old Peter there, the leaders of the Crusade accuse him of making the whole thing up.”

“You know what an actual trial by fire is, right? Light up this stretch of ground between two points and force the accused to walk through the fire. You live, you’re innocent, you burn and you’re a liar, liar pants really on fire. Well, they put Peter through one of those and he comes out totally unscathed. Scared shitless, but unharmed. They make him do it again. Once ain’t enough proof, get it? It makes them look bad. But he makes it through again. Now, he’s probably thinking he’s either the luckiest motherfucker alive, or maybe God really has blessed him. What’s that got to be like, going from scared of being a crispy padre to thinking you might really be some kind of messenger from God? The crowd fucking loves him after that. Here’s the guy that’s brought them the bomb, the divine intervention that will save their asses from a slow, scorching death in some fly-ridden foreign shithole. They start to cheer. They start to paw at him, ‘cos everybody wants a piece of this lucky divine son of a bitch. Everybody wants a bit of hair, or some of his robe, because if this fucker is blessed, maybe I can lucky rabbit foot’s my way to surviving this crazy ass war by pinning a pound of his flesh to my armor.”

“And they pick at him for days. By the time they’re done, he’s been trampled and ripped apart by this insane crowd of fanatics. He inspires them to victory and he gets ripped to pieces for it. I heard that story when I was twelve. Not sure how much of it is true, but it always stuck with me.”

The scientists stared at Bridge in confusion. Balfour asked, “I’m confused. In this allegory, are we supposed to be the crowd or the priest?”

Bridge grinned. “You’re the Lance, Mr. Wizard.”

Go to Chapter 18.66

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