Archive for July 16th, 2008

16
Jul
08

Cleansed By Fire, Part 5

For the previous installment of this story, click here, or click on the “cleansed by fire novel” link under the Tags heading for this post (or click here) for a complete listing of installments. 

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 1, Requiem for the Red Pope (continued)

By the end of the day—a day that had stretched well into the evening hours, in fact—Lyseena’s three admin officers were as exhausted as if they had run a marathon in full templar armor. Tomorrow promised more of the same, if not worse, and all three of them were ready to put the Templar’s Tower behind them for a few hours at least. Maree, Paulo and Kevan paused at street level, gave each other weary—and wary—nods, and set off their separate directions.

For Maree sup-Juris, her destination was fraught with contradictions and even heresy. I am about to continue a path of betrayal in the shadow of the Lamb’s Tower, she thought. Perhaps I’d be better to shit on the keystone altar at St. Paul’s Cathedrium, record it and put it up on the grid, and be done with everything.

But in the end, duty was all she had—duties by day and duties by night that could not be reconciled and which were mixing and churning together with increasing regularity. And that growing regularity was something that she was about to confront with a certain someone in mere minutes.

She was acting outside of normal protocols, but she had minimal fear. If anything, being caught at this point would be a relief in some respects. But everything had been too well-crafted, for too many decades, for something like this to derail the situation. That nonsense with her slipchair this afternoon, now that was something else entirely. I don’t fear death, or even torture, but out of professional dignity, I shall not simply be put in jeopardy merely for someone else’s convenience.

Maree was known among the templar to be a creature of habit and of very particular sentimentality. That is why no one made a fuss about her desire to still use the twelve-year-old slipchair she had received when she was promoted to man-Juris, even though that model had been discontinued long ago and at least four new technological advances had been made to the Templar slipchairs since then. And her regular visits to the nearby park beneath the Lamb’s Tower for a quick stroll, particularly after a busy day—which gave her separation from her colleagues and allowed her to order up a livery slipcar—were nothing of note. Her desire to often stop midway between the park and the nearest slipgate and have the slipcar wait for her while she bought a cup of caff, and sometimes drop a piece of memorysheet in the wastebasket while she ordered, was likewise of no consequence. Even the fact that she lived in a small cottage several towns outside the city proper—a fact that made it logical for her to order up slipcars instead of standard livery groundcars in the first place—was nothing strange, as it had been left to her by her grandfather.

These things had been a part of her character and routines for the nearly sixteen years since she took her vows with the Office Templar and went from being logistical officer Maree Deschaine to senior officer Maree Juris, and then on to Maree man-Juris and now Maree sup-Juris. For most of those sixteen years, she had done nothing untoward during her forays. And if agents of the Office Inquisitorial had ever been watching her, Lord knows they would have given up out of boredom after the first few years. So the past six years of subterfuge gave her little worry. Even the way she was being used now still didn’t worry her.

But it was insulting, and she was angry.

Her stroll was brief, and she called up a slipcar from a local livery service from her linkpad. Minutes later, it slid quietly up to the curb and she stepped in. The driver turned his head slightly, “Where to, ma’am?”

The man had a very small brown mole on his right earlobe. Such an inconsequential thing that hardly anyone would notice. Maree’s eyes drifted casually to his right hand, where she saw a simple silver ring on the middle finger. Two simple things, hardly of note to anyone, but of course not something that many people would have, certainly not in combination. Only from slipcars from this livery service. And even then, only on special occasions. The face was always different, and the gender and ethnicity varied from ride to ride.

Normally, these rides would be in silence. Data would be transmitted to the vox in her pocket, so that she could listen to it at her leisure between music and news feeds the next time she slipped the vox onto her ear. Or data would be pulled from the vox on rare occasions.

Silence was the order of the day on these rides.

Being unobtrusive was the standard goal.

This was not a normal day.

Maree cleared her throat and said, “910 Sweetser Lane, Astoria.” She paused as the slipcar pulled away from the curb and headed toward the slipgate station several miles away. “Are you Stavin?”

“Of course. That is who you stated you needed to speak to. Quite irregular, but these are irregular days.”

Maree snorted. “Not that I’d know what Stavin looks like, of course, or what he sounds like. And I sincerely doubt Stavin would actually put his ass in this slipcar and expose himself to a very potential risk that he was entering a trap. But I’ll pretend for the moment that you really are him. If you aren’t, you’d better have both a very good memory and ample knowledge of operations. Because I want my words to get to him exactly as I speak them, and I expect responses from you that are appropriate for someone who knows what is going on. If I find that I am getting neither, particularly that second part, you will be trying to figure out how to drive this slipcar away from Astoria with a broken collarbone. Do I make myself clear?”

“Very clear,” the man said mildly. “I wasn’t aware that you were in a position to dictate orders, but you are very clear.”

“Good. I want to know why the fuck you have accessed my slipchair so frequently lately. Are you trying to get me executed? The holo emitter has flickered three times in the past week!”

“The flash-dump of data requires a bit of energy. The security protocols we have in place are very good, but speed is of the essence. We have to get as much data as feasible from your storage cells in a very precise amount of time and the lightdesk holo will flicker. It is an unavoidable consequence and precisely why you have held onto such an old slipchair for so long. A small glitch like that would not be unexpected from time to time.”

“Three times in the past week,” Maree said with a growl slowly slipping into her words. “Do you think Lyseena xec-Juris became commander templar of this region by lacking an attention to detail? At best, she will become annoyed and make me replace the chair soon. At worst, someone will poke around and find your…additions.”

“Look, Maree…”

“Admin Officer sup-Juris if you will,” Maree interrupted fiercely. “Don’t try to get buddywise with me tonight, or I’ll get a start on that collarbone right now. I’ve earned my rank in the templar, even if it makes me ill to have it.”

“…Admin Officer sup-Juris, the protocols in your chair are entirely random. We do that precisely to avoid patterns. A random process, by its nature, means that the data dumps will not be at regular intervals. You were bound to get a slight cluster at some point. Putting you in jeopardy is hardly a value proposition. We would not…”

A slight cluster?” came Maree’s savage reply. “Three times in five office days that my chair has randomly initiated flash-dumps to you? Three times in that week, around the same time as the Red Pope’s death and days before the the Fourth Millennial Celebration? Do you take me for an idiot?”

“Officer Juris…”

Admin Officer sup-Juris, you piddling stand-in for Stavin! Don’t make me reach across your seat and break one of your fingers as a prelude to your shoulder. My family has given its years, its legacy and now my life to your cause. If I am taken prisoner in doing my duty, I will accept that. But I will not be taken advantage of. If I die in the course of my actions, I accept that. But I will not have my life thrown away casually.”

“Admin Officer sup-Juris, no one questions your loyalty, your attention to duty under very trying circumstances and your irreplaceable value…”

Maree’s hand shot out with a tiny leafblade between her thumb and forefinger. She held it to the driver’s ear firmly. He said nothing, but she could feel the tension. She was more certain than ever that not only wasn’t this Stavin, it wasn’t even one of his lieutenants.

“Look, you baseline operative, I will remove your fake mole by relieving you of your ear if you try to smooth my grade with psych bullshit one more time. There is nothing random about my slipchair’s flash-dumps now, if there ever was. You are planning something very large, you are planning it soon, and you desperately want data from my chair in the hopes that you can get something that will be of use to you in keeping the templars off your neck.”

“You are keeping me in the dark about it,” she continued, “I am willing to bet good debits that the frequency of my little holo flickers will increase, and you plan to get as much as you can, and you know that I will probably be revealed as a spy before the millennium arrives. I have not spent this many years rising in the ranks of the Office Templar on behalf of the Secular Genesis—having to pretend loyalty to the Vatican and do things that still make me sick—just so that I can be used like a common tripslut.”

Though the man clearly wasn’t a high-level member of the Secular Genesis and was probably a hair away from pissing in his trousers, Maree was at least impressed that he was still driving straight and at a constant speed. He might have potential if she didn’t do anything too obnoxiously detrimental to his body.

“What do you propose, Admin Officer sup-Juris? If what you accuse us of is true, what do you suggest we do? These are, as I said, irregular times. Field operatives are often in jeopardy. Even operatives as valuable as you. Do you expect to be given less risk? Do you expect operations to be cancelled for your benefit?”

Maree released the driver’s ear and settled back into her seat. She was calmer now. Physical threats against another could be very cathartic, particularly when they were justified.

“What I propose is that you tell Stavin I want him at my cottage tonight. I want to know what I am part of and I wish to be an active part of it; not a pawn or a tool. I will have my skills put to work on something more than just pretending to be a loyal templar and waiting for an inquisitor to haul me away. If Stavin doesn’t come himself—or even worse, if no one comes at all—I swear to you that not only will I turn myself in, I will personally hand my slipchair over to Lyseena xec-Juris.”

The driver sighed. “Look that won’t accomplish anything productive, even for petty revenge. Any tinkering with the chair’s modifications will activate a…”

“…swiper application that I located and disabled two days ago. The three backup apps as well, which were very well hidden, I must admit. Plus, I have a data sniffer hidden away that has monitored every one of your flash-dumps for the past year, and might therefore help Lyseena triangulate the position of some of your data posts. I think that would be very inconvenient for the Secular Genesis. Particularly in such irregular times as these.”

Silence reigned for the last minute or so of the drive. The driver eased the slipcar into an open collar at the slipgate terminal and began the slipspace calculations for Astoria station. “I’ll tell Stavin myself. And I have an eidetic memory. I’m not some mere flunky.”

Maree wasn’t sure if that was meant to reassure her that nothing would be lost in translation, or be a thinly veiled threat that he wouldn’t forget this night, or combination of both. And frankly, she didn’t much care.

“Glad to hear it,” she said as the slipgate hummed with its power-up protocol and a vague sense of ghostly pressure began to exert itself against her skin and even her thoughts. “You made good time to the station. I can almost guarantee there’ll be a nice tip on your account when we finish up the debit at my home. And you probably won’t even need to spend it on first aid for your collarbone.”

(This marks the end of Chapter 1. To read part 6 of this story, which begins Chapter 2, click here.)

16
Jul
08

Smoke and Mirrors

Awareness Prevention Education.

OK, go back and read that again. Let it sink in.

You back?

OK, those are the words I saw writ large on the monitor of my wife’s PC, on some Web site she was on just recently. Those words made me stop in my tracks.

Now, as it happened, that wasn’t a sentence or even a phrase, nor a title of some initiative or program. They were three separate words putting forth the general mission of a non-profit group devoted to issues around brain injury survivors. They advocate: awareness, prevention and education. So, we can relax for a moment. Heave a sigh of relief if you like.

Better now? Yeah, OK, so you weren’t thrown off by those words like I was. Congratulations.

The visceral shock and dismay those words made me feel—before the real context of them had sunk in—was amazing. For just a split second, I feared for the world that we might somewhere have in place a program or initiative or stated goal of awareness prevention education.

But wait a minute! We do have awareness prevention education all around us, don’t we? Not simply one such program, and nothing official of course, but rather a general effort to keep us in the dark by the powers that be. I’m being realistic here, not paranoid. I don’t believe the government is smart enough or secure enough to carry out real wide-scale conspiracies. But still, in so many parts of our society, there really are folks who are working to prevent us from having any kind of awareness about what it really happening around us, whether individually or as organizations. I mean that in terms of politics, the economy and even the spiritual and religious realms. Like the “Wizard” at the end of The Wizard of Oz, they are telling us: “Pay no attention to the man behind the mirror!” And too often, we comply.

I’ll rant about the political and economic stuff in a moment just because—well—well, because it’s my blog and I can, even if the rant doesn’t fit my usually religious and spiritual ramblings. But let’s start with the religious/spiritual side.

One of my regular readers and commenters around here, WNG (who has her own blog called A Whole New G), recently commented on my post “Choosing Satan” a couple weeks ago and quoted a great line from a fantastic movie called The Usual Suspects that goes like this: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

Think about it. How many preachers really preach about Satan? Not many. My father in law does with fair regularity (he’s a preacher, yes), and he’s even trying to write a book about the reality of Satan’s existence, the tools he uses and the defenses we can bring to bear—and I presented a smidgen of what he wrote in my post “That Ole Devil” recently. But most preachers don’t talk about the devil, or they talk about him in casual passing ways, or they even sometimes act like he doesn’t exist at all—or that he’s not active in the world itself but just in Hell.

And that kind of ignorance is exactly what allows Satan to move in stealth mode to influence people and events. If every time there’s a horrible natural disaster or some personal problem in our lives we’re blaming God because we don’t realize that we humans empower Satan here on Earth and that he actually has a lot of free rein to cause shit because we’re mostly a sinful, godless lot who allow him to run free…well, that gives Satan a lot of power. You can’t fight what you don’t even believe exists.

Also, the general societal penchant for misinformation on important issues of the day would also have us believe that every prominent pastor or other religious leader is a crook, a kook or both. Rev. Jeremiah Wright may have had some thorny opinons and maybe a couple radical views, but it wasn’t until Barack Obama took center stage that the media played soundbites from his sermons in ways that made him look like a crazy and much more radical guy than he was. He’s not the only religious leader to be painted thus, but he’s one of the most recent.

And yet the supposedly religious leaders who make us feel good and give us self-help-style advice instead of telling us the truth, like Joel Osteen, get major book deals and no one tries to paint them in a bad light. And folks with truly crazy and hateful notions like Pat Robertson, John Hagee or Jerry Falwell often get a pass in the media. People looked to them and people like them, and still do, for public commentary or private political advice without ever shedding light on their very shady sides. Yet Pastor Wright points a bright light at some of our nation’s very real spiritual problems and tells us we need to do better, and he’s a painted almost as a madman.

And as far awareness prevention education in the political realms, our government has had people believing that gasoline would always be cheap and that we could build sprawling suburbs and sell gas-guzzling tanks instead of devoting money to public transportation, intelligently designed communities, fuel efficiency and alternatives to fossil fuels.

Our government also managed to paint an opportunistic war in the Middle East as an attempt to protect us from terrorists, playing on the fears generated by that national tragedy we simply call 9/11. Billions upon billions sunk into a war and a postwar effort that we might not be able to get out of for years, all for greedy and petty reasons—money that could have rebuilt our thousands of old and sometimes failing bridges, helped our school systems, repaired our roads, fixed our Social Security mess and maybe gone toward getting health insurance for those who cannot afford it now. We can find the money for war, but we can never find it for promoting peace and building up our own house. And that’s because the government entities (and the businesses who both manipulate and serve government) always have us looking at boogey men instead of speaking truth. And we buy into that nonsense and let ourselves be led.

And if we focus on the “education” part of awareness prevention education, we need look no further than our public (and often private) school systems that teach a sanitized view of history that paints the United States as the paragon of democracy and capitalism and wisdom while glossing over the enslavement of Africans, the disenfranchisement of Black Americans, the genocidal efforts against Native Americans, our abuse of child labor and adult labor too, our successful attempts to steal land from Mexico and our unsuccessful ones to steal land from Canada, and so on.

The news media, which once actually served as the “fourth estate” to keep tabs on our three branches of government, is now focused almost solely on generating ad revenues and satisfying sponsors; getting higher ratings with fluff and bullshit while slashing funding for real coverage of world events; and putting blowhards in front of the camera to spout ideological claptrap instead of practicing any kind of balanced journalism and real examination of the issues. At this point, the media is one of the biggest promoters of “awareness prevention.”

Awareness prevention education is real, folks, and it’s been active for quite some time. Like I said before, it’s not a formal thing and it’s not even a secret conspiracy. But it’s a mindset created by the rich and powerful that we choose to accept as reality. We see something on the news or on the Internet and we just swallow it as truth without even thinking twice. We support “awareness prevention” all the time. We embrace it (either actively or by our silence) and we live by it. By avoiding awareness of what is really happening, we put our souls in peril, we are running our country into the ground, and we are destroying the future that we should be building for our children.

Be aware. Be educated. Don’t be led by people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Use that brain God gave you.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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Jeff Bouley

To find out more about me professionally, click here. To find out more about me generally, click here.

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