BOOK TWELVE - !DEMATTING¡
CHAPTER THIRTY NINE - “PARTY!”
The death row infirmary is Regency antiseptic – white plasteen tiles composing its floor, its walls, its ceiling… even, the condemned man imagines, the medics and the shurts in attendance. Rateyes… strapped to a gurney… is barely able to perceive a door opening and closing behind a shape; a familiar voice sawing through the narcotic fantasies, visited upon him by the Regency.
“Mac?” he gasps…
Detective Crandall leans over the prisoner. “Still time to cut a deal, Percy. Give up that big lug we find all over your head… Broonzy, his name is…”
“You know who he is, why don't you pick him up?” Rats taunts.
“'Cause we only seen him doin' the rawth in your brain,” Crandall taps his head. “Can't convict unless you testify he did the rawth you thought he did. Thoughtcrime ain't illegal… yet… thanks to the gummons at High Judiciary, Kasperson v. People of Gamma Gacula some hundred=seventy soyyears ago… you know that! Galaxy gone to the veebs! Otherwise we'd have had Davey C. in the bag, too! Course I suspect you might know more about that than we found…” and he bent over and squeezed the prisoner’s cheek, not kindly… “some little hairball of information still tucked away in that maggot-eaten noggin of yours…”
“Too jammin' bad!” Rats cuts him off.
“Don’t matter in your case, we’re gatproof and you’re gonna slide. As for the jamming law, Regency's workin' on that. But 'til the law's changed, it becomes my privilege to inform you that you have an opportunity to commute tammawt down to mawt, plain… stop all this messing around with brains and we just blow you away. Save us money and save yoursel a lot of pain…”
“I can take anything you veebs dish out – done it before and I’ll do it again! But, as I know your superiors want to save money… Regency's broke, ain't it?... bring in the quack and I'll tell you how…”
The shurt’s feet in their sensible black shoes do a little dance at Crandall’s will, despite himself. He opens his com, arranges the transaction and goes out to the balcony for a kackle. He’s on his third cancer trick when a uniform knocks on the window…
Dr. Hamanavisqoo, answering the regency's summons, has manifested at the left side of Rateyes' gurney, Crandall takes up his position on the right.
Rateyes coughs. His eyes are crusted over with dried blood and sand, but he forces one open and smiles. “You cheep veebs want to track down anybody ever knew ol' Rats and shock me out of their heads, right? That’s your racket, isn’t it?”
“Just a crude slander on correctional paradigms of the Regency…” the Regency psychiatrist recoils…
“But not wide of the mark…” Crandall steps in…
“Well then, throw a party…” the condemned jim suggests.
“What the jam…”
“Like a goin'-away party, faq? Invite all the danks I ever knew… the ones you pulled out of my skull, that is, most can't resist a blowout wit from and balloons, if it’s free. Get 'em together with drinks and snacks, set up your devices… you can blast me outta all their minds at once…”
“Bool!” Hamanavisqoo protests…
“Figured out how much it'll cost to track every jammin' jim down, bring 'em in for erasure as opposed to my way, Mac? These are my friends…” Rateyes coaxes, with as much of a nod as the restraints round his neck permits, “not as if you'd be putting out for Hurtian champagne and funducks, is it?”
The detective frowns. “This feasible, doctor?”
“Would be cheaper,” Hamanavisqoo allows, his curiosity wakened. “The catchmen can set matrices that replicate his face, his voice… the smell of 'im… burn it outta the brains of anybody within half a klick, even if they come wearin’ protection. Which the bad jims will. We come equipped with better protection; we dematt him and burn the people at the same time, otherwise we might forget what we're there for and he walks away…
“What kind of better protection?” Detective Crandall presses him.
“Tinfoil works… usually…” the shrink qualifies.
“And,” the uniform… a knafe who answers to the name Pezzen… suggests, “we get everybody knew this dank to come? Especially Broonzy? Can't convict the veeb, but burning out all he ever knew about Frobisher'll make him a vegetable!”
Rats nods, enthusiastically. “Now you’re coming! Put it on the moodies… set ilaams up all over the Baawl… Broonze was just a dank I knew from the hotel, but one thing I do kip is that he can't pass up free food and drinks. He’s a snaker!” And the prisoner shrugs. “Oh… but I do have a couple of conditions…”
“You?” Crandall turns the fisheye on him – the Killshurt, in fact, does seem to favor a halibut.
“Yeah, me. Take me out on Rassoulnacht, stroke of . Ain't a believer, but who the jam knows what rules operate in that beyond out there… you faq, that high priest of theirs or whomever is supposed to be sick, supposed to be dying. Ol’ Mort comes for all of us, faq? And I don’t need funducks, not that night, but I go out with a liter of Terran, all for me. Save the cheap stuff for the crowd. And… I get choose the music…”
Crandall leers over his prey. “Done!” he slavers. “We’ll get them all… and we’ll get Broonze. Intifaq! Gonna send you to Johanna with a bang!
“Too bad nobody will remember it,” the Detective grins.
Broonzy, in a tattered raincoat filched out of a pile of eviction clothes left on the sidewalk, stumbles down the Baawl, a bottle of cheap froom in his fist. He passes the ruins of the Andromeda and Klub al-Gool, boarded-up, flooded and burnt; closed, now, and vomits on the sidewalk before the dark church. Chunks of flesh and blood swirl in the red rain and ooze out towards the gutter. In the distance, a rhythmic "chee-up!" sounds… Broonzy climbs drunkenly over the gate, and into the grotto dominated by the huge statue of Rassoul, whose lap's just wide enough to make a bed – sheltered from the toxic rain by the prophet’s folded arms.
He snores. Around the corner, bearing candles, comes the procession of hooded, chanting Old Believers.
The Patriarch has died.
Rassoulnacht arrives under intense heat and windblasts of the toxic arby that drive what seems the whole population of the Baawl… and then some… to seek shelter indoors. The shurts have mobbed up a warehouse into a simulated dispersal-era nightclub with flashing lights, music and open bar. It's jammed with mates and enemies of Rateyes from the Baawl and the dromes, and the lower-end casinos… most having a roaring good time except for three convicted accessories manacled to the wall of the loft above the dancefloor… the al-Gool bartender and Mushnovarian, the crooked lawyer, with Turpin suspended between them in an obscene parody of the Passion as permeated the galaxy beforel Christ was supplanted by Rassoul. Rateyes is strapped to the dematerializing chair… a throne, truth be told… serviced by a pair of heathers (coincidentally, Mandy and Candy from the Yasrick. Detective Crandall, his shurts and Hamanavisqoo… their shaven skulls covered by tinfoil… glare downwards, eyeballing Rateyes' guests – checking facial profiles against Broonzy’s last known coordinates on their devices. Another shurt mediates a commotion at the door caused by Quaia, Marina and a half dozen prekts (led by the survivor of the Andromeda carnage) trying to squirm in.
“Were mates, vay presto mates of… of that guy!” Marina points, eyes glazed, tongue thick with the roar. “Saved my life oncet, ‘n I saved his…”
“Then you oughta be hangin’ on the wall with those other three danks who aided and abetted that dank,” the doorshurt snarls, but he has his orders and… high above the throng… the Regency’s debraining machines are warming up. “You can come in… you're all on the list, but the yoots can't drink!”
“Jam you, then!”
The shurt seems to be pondering this, so Quaia placed her hand on his bare forearm… it was insanely hot in Tao City that evening. “Officer, I know you have to obey the letter of the law, but the Regents have nothing against serving me, and after that what you don't know doesn't hurt. Everybody gets to do their own forgetting, tonight… and, after all, these yoots don’t need froom…”
She winks – the shurt is ploofed. Besides, it’s begun to rain… the condensation from the heat and the arby throwing great red clouds of acidic drizzle over the domed metropolis.
“Since it's almost twenty four hundred Hurtian… oh rawth, go in! Doesn't mean we can't gorl you after the burn… hey, no weapons, you…”
“Rawth!” the boff prekt spits…
The sensors have detected a small arsenal of knives, lasers, spitters, hissers and other weaponry on the prekts… everything, it seems, but gats… the arsenal goes into a quickly growing pile by the door.
“We… uh… get our stuff b-back when we g-go, faq?” one of the prekts staggers and stammers…
“Everything that's comin' to you!” the doorshurt promises.
Up on the mezzanine between the pulsing floor of the loft and the cloaked debrainers mounted high above, Detective Crandall sticks his tinfoil bedecked face down into Turpin's.
“Twenty three jammin' fifty and no jammin' sign of your buddy! Where the jam is he? We put out word everywhere… moodies, ilaams, got the quaffs on all the qubes talking up this dematting everywhere. Look at this jammin place! Get a fire started here like they had in the Andromeda and two thirds of the Tao City's crime disappears. All the skimmies and sikken, lootooties and veebs… gone!” he snaps his fingers, “Gone, down to Johanna. You promised!”
“I didn't promise rawth!” and Turp points to Rats, enjoying the ministrations of the heathers on his throne as his worshippers dance and drink, careen and copulate on the floor. Pointing to Rateyes, the convict explains, “he did!”
“Where is he?” Crandall ploofs, slapping the prisoner twice across the viz… once left-to-right, then right-to-left. “Where is C. Braxton jammin’ Broonzy? Where is he?”
This time, he starts pummeling Turpin with a closed fist until one of the Regency boffs leads him away.