(Saturday, January 6, 2035)






          "We all have our memories, do we not?" Dr. Shore asked of the group, not expecting, nor desiring replies.  "Some good… others, perhaps more than we should wish, not so good… as is often the case, those who excel at faculties mere mortals simply struggle with to put bread on the table are often envied, persecuted… even… by a world that chooses not to understand them.  And, we also must admit to having made mistakes… even I!  Even those policemen on the dais… all of us might say or do something different than we did, had we a second chance.  Now, in this game of memories, I ask each of you to imagine that you are exactly half as old as you are today, and that the time is that which it would be when you were this age… meaning that you might… might…have had the opportunity to change a course of action that might have made a difference in your life.  You see?  For example, I am forty-two years old, so I would go back in time twenty-one years to this date in 2014, before the k'ball.  And, of course, if I had spent less time drinking and chasing the girls and reading bad magazines, and more time in study of the phenomena that Triple-J was only then becoming, well…

          "Pardon," exclaimed Homer Sack, raising his hand, "but what has this to do with crime?"

          "Exactly!" Shore pointed, "there'll be no putting things over on this group, I see.  What are the root causes of crime - those apparently insignificant decisions whose ramifications down the road… a year, or ten, or twenty… well, what might you have done differently, Wilson?  Besides move your base of operations to safer ground, of course…"

          "Go keb yourself," Dr. Wilson snarled.

          Shore took the refusal with a stoic disconcern, evaluating his talents… seeking out signs of hesitation with a pitiless glare that caused Norlin to revise his estimation of the Doctor's analytic qualities.   "A volunteer?  Anyone?  As they used to say on peevee, when it was teevee, come on down!"

          "Why not Fido, there," Bobby pointed towards the dais.  "How old are you, anyway?"

          "Younger than you," Homer Sack answered the boy from Basilisk.  "When I was… created… the parameters were such that genetic longevity was nearer a dog's life than a man's.  You are… what?  Fourteen?"

          "Sixteen!" Bobby shot back, indignantly.  "They held me back… so what?"

          "I am thirteen," Norlin's remaining subordinate replied.  "Physically, at least, I would be a man in his seventies… which, Dr. Shore, begs the question of whether you would desire my contributions from six or seven years ago, or from the turn of the century."

          "And such a vexing question it is," Dr. Shore backed away from the dais, as if to distance himself from the complication

          And Norlin had an insight he kept to himself… solar suicide might not be so great a sacrifice after all, for one of such advanced age…

          But Homer chose to interpret the Doctor's retreat as a gesture of contempt.  "We do have a purpose, just like you," he growled, every bit the Trouble Factory's bad dog…

          "Ain't it the truth, Off'cer!" King Jack tipped his crown.

          "Right on!" Lola nodded.

          "Doops and mutes do more for the commonwealth, but are rewarded less," Brother Pisgah chimed in.  "While alien politicians conspire to dilute our Baratarian vissure with illicit caffeine and chocolate…"

          "The game…" Dawn reminded Dr. Shore.

          "Oh… that, yes… the game, the crime… all beginning with common bank robberies, isn't that so?"

          "A superior scientific intellect would find money useful," Henry Hat conjectured, "…but not an end, in and of itself…"

          Despite himself, Norlin took another bite of the vapid cookie, quickly coating his tongue with brackish smilk… a spasm of unease rippling from his larynx to his groin.

          "Jack!" Shore settled on an easy target… "financial peculiarities are your special broth; how about telling the group how you got started in the game.  And, as you are perhaps only a few years older than I… your memories from around the time of the k'ball…"

          "Well," the King couldn't help but smile, "there was plenty of money to be made, in the right places, of course..."

          "Robbing the dead," Judson Crawford flinched.

          "Look… the two of them are rich men," Dawn Dancingfeather appealed.  "What the keb do they know about money - things you have to do just to keep going, to feed a family…"

          "How many bastards have you whelped?" the other murderer, Zihei, broke in…

          "Not as many as those men I helped over to the other side.  For him!" she pointed at Wilson, who looked upwards and sighed.

          "When I sell my fex," Vona Rae reminded the Crisis Room, "I'll be rich, too…"

          "Every centsworth of every bodywaste must be registered," Peg Reilly reproached both of the ladies across the circle…

          "Children," Dr. Shore coughed… Norlin feeling a momentary resentment, as disciplining those four talents in the center of the circle was his responsibility… “perhaps, as these policemen suggest, money is not at issue.  Other motives… planetary convolutions, as seem the foundation for events in Blue City.  The influence of Mars and Venus, the existence of canals of curvature on the former implicating…”

          “The canals of Mars are linear, any fool with a telescope can see for himself!” Judson Crawford scoffed.  “Just because somebody went into the Vitreopaedia to move history and science around doesn’t negate plain fact…”

          “Jud, uh…” and Shore shot Dr. Wilson a helpless look of silent appeal, but that worthy folded his arms and shook his head… no, it was no controversy he wished to be on the wrong side of.

          Nagged by a suspicion that he should be taking notes, Norlin squirmed in the rotating chair, uncomfortable spasms shooting through his gut like rotten lightningbolts.

          “Well… Rocky, then.  You must also have been about half your age during the k’ball, and where was it you were born?”

          Breaklyn,” grunted the he-she, “…what they call it, now, cause everything that wasn’t broken got washed away.  I swam for my life,” he added, proudly.  “Even as a kid, I always felt that I was different, you know, but at least there wasn’t all this fex with lines and curves.  Curves was what life threw at you, see?  And lines… they was what we stood in, days on end, lines for a little food, water, fex that other people threw away…”

          “But lines are abstract, despite what anybody wrote down in the Vitreopaedia,” Tony Debris insisted.  “They also represent the feminine excesses of nations… polyglottal programs for distressed hearts…” 

          Artisticity through angularity?” retorted the shaven killer, Zihei.  “Baroque!  Fatally baroque…”

          Indifferent to the other’s menace, Bobby leered, “…then what about bent lines?”

          Henry Hat stood, causing the Crisis Room to fall silent.  "We may agree that the initial crimes were fundraising ventures and occurrences in Blue City were geometrical.  Our criminal's desperation then intensified to its logical next step at the Tulane Hotel - murder by proxy.”

          “Why don’t you ask Dawn to share her memories of the Tulane?” Zihei thrust.  That’s where you used to turn tricks, wasn’t it?”

          “It was honest work,” Stimwood’s other blue-gowned assassin parried.

          “Lucy, you had an experience at the Tulane,” Dr. Shore prompted.  “Why not let these people hear about it.”

          But Lucy shook her head, then stared resolutely at the floor.

          “I used to do a little business at the Tulane, speaking of happenings half a lifetime ago,” Lola abruptly interjected, “…I had an encounter there with an efrit, a British efrit

          Zihei, meanwhile, was looking right to left – Dawn to Lola.  Jesk’ball… I’m surrounded by whores!” he said, nervously.

          “Worse than you think,” Lola rustled in her chair, but did not stand.  “Anyone similarly situated, human or spirit, does what they must to keep on living… some on their backs, others on their bums in high office in high places; keys to the ur-knowledge in bank vaults in East America or London… finance, gentlemen, enticed Americans to buy stock in ceramic minstrels.”

          “Blue stuffed poodles,” Peg Reilly nodded, “tea and grrrlie magazines…”

          “My Ethaniel is not stuffed,” Troosh replied, over her shoulder before looking back at Officer Sack, who had been following the others with deep, disturbed concentration.

          “God sent his messenger, Triple-J, to bring undinomics down from above to save the Baratarian economy from… from…” Homer stuttered.

          “From the cosmopolitans,” Judson Crawford pronounced, bringing an angry Dr. Wilson to his feet.

          “Old sphincter-spiritualism in digital art, practiced… if not perfected… one thousand years ago by the Islamic carpetweavers…”

          “On flying carpets?” Kid MacBeth asked, replacing the coloured scarves in the tall hat on his knee and removing several of his rubber balls.

          “They seek to replace the people, those international financiers,” Lola addressed Wilson, then Zihei.  “Those who control capital, financialism and publicity have made us all that which we are, today…”

          Miles F. Shore passed through the circle to stand behind the already-edgy Zihei, facing Lola.  "They made you stop caring about yourself!  These efrits - men of substance and dignity, being who they were, seeing you for what you were?  Until you realized that all you were to them was a hole to be plugged, a shoot-chute?  And then, it was easy... wasn't it... to have recourse to lifestyle criminality?”

          "What the keb would you know about these Lords?" Lola replied, brave facade imploding - crumbling like a mansion on a straw foundation.  And, while Norlin... angered by Dr. Shore's exploitation of one of his talents... strained to rise from his spinning seat, she slowly descended into her chair, eyes overflowing with tears.