42)   Saturday 9:11 to 10:00 PM 2/10  Like the Peasants with the Pitchforks After Frankenstein… !”


Summoned forth by Tenison’s bullhorn to pay homage to their overlord, the staff, security and even customers with no idea who Big Sonny was crowded around Giga-Plex’s  henge of televisions… portraying a flashing montage of fashions, abs and ass in lieu of Presidential declarations… while Big Sonny, mounted upon a stepladder so as to confirm his Bigness to the slavering crowd, declared…

          “Welcome!  Welcome to Gigaplex.  My name is Leland Buford Sonnenschein, but folks hereabouts just call me Big Sonny.  Not necessarily because I am so tall as Shaq, nor massive as your own Skins’ front four… but because I create the Big Deals.  Look around!  We have the latest digital imaging technology out there in Cameraland,” and he pointed, moving his finger northwards across the center of the store, “smart clothing and the latest in surveillance and security from the Double-o-Seven Club, smart washer/dryer combos in Appliantology… even the latest Moondreams smart beds.  And here, behind me, the best that Sony, Panasonic, Haier, Tungwa and many, many others have developed to take advantage of the latest high definition, multi-pixel technology…”

          In the stockroom, Craig Synch whistled to Tom Eppert, up in the crane…

          “You plan on taking your break before close, take it now!’ Craig hollered.  “Big Sonny’s about to turn on the Dominator…”

          “Roger!” Tom answered, from the cab, and started climbing down.

          Ray Wilson was on his way towards the 007 Club when Craig, Tom and Pablo emerged from the stockroom…

          “Hey Candyman…” the seventeen-year old interim stockroom manager hailed.

          “Craig?  You look kinda used up, man, need some refreshment?”

          Ray dug into his pocket – handing over a little square of wax paper.

          “On the house, bro’.  Maybe you share a little taste with my man… Tom, is it?  He looks used-up, too… gotta fly, places to go, shit to shovel…

       Tom looked over his teenage superior’s shoulder.  “That crank?”

Craig nodded, placed a pinch of the stuff up to his nostril and inhaled.  “Uh huh!  Keep you awake… since we’ll probably be around here until two.”  He extended the rest of the envelope’s contents to Taylor’s replacement on the big cherrypicker..

          Tom Eppert was not unfamiliar with dope, in its various guises, but… since taking his job at FREECOCK (with its relentless rigmarole of scheduled and surprise urine testing)… he’d cut back his intake to alcohol…plenty of that!… and an occasional, risky painkiller.  This was good meth!  Tom’s vision sharpened, his outlook improved… and the sight of the four Giga-Grrrlz posing and gyrating around the big boss didn’t hurt, either.

“Feel like a new man!  That Big Sonny?”  He knew it had to be… they’d been waiting on the little fuck for hours, but he felt he had to say something…

“Yeah, don’t say it… like he’s not so big?  Wow…” Craig added as the jealous Sabra, still intent on proving that she deserved the accolades heaped on vapid Effie Lou, slipped into an audacious bump and grind…

          Business transacted, Ray slipped back into the spy shop, catching the attention of the heavily-muscled but ever-polite Jurgen Jenssen as he pointed to the glass box in which an array of tasers reposed.

          “Think I’ll need one of those.  Maybe more than one… you hear those wolves howling outside?”  He gestured to the window, beyond which the angry queue of shoppers just being allowed to exit the CD store were studying their watches and complaining…

          “Is store property…” Jurgen smiled.

          Ray smiled back.  “Well, I understand, but if we don’t have possession of these things, and those guys outside get in, well, there ain’t gonna be a store anymore, and there ain’t gonna be us anymore either, you catch my drift?”

          “This logic is formidable,” Jenssen frowned.   “I find necessity superior to my duty.  Of course, you shall sign a receipt for temporary usage of company property…”

          “Of course!”  With that, Jurgen unlocked the glass, letting Ray select a fully-charged taser, then boosted one for himself… meanwhile, across Giga-Plex, the giant Dominator television flickered on at a click of Big Sonny’s remote; 8192 pixels @ resolving into the image of a nearly-naked supermodel sashaying down the runway as the boss crowed…

          “…and so, from Voivode Technologies, I present… the Dominator!”

          Tom blinked.  That was really good crank!  “Sheesh, I can see her fuckin’…”

          “Pixels?” Craig suggested.  “Modulated definition!  Ain’t it wonderful?”


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Reverend Godwin had been on edge since the start of the post-rally rally in Nakonset Park.  The same local police who’d fired on his congregation the previous night were on hand, unpunished, as were National Guardsman… even a contingent of soldiers from Fort Meade whose commander, Colonel Knox, was visibly cognizant of both the First and Second Amendments… and the lurking media… as he marched beside Godwin, Trent Lockett and… in a golf cart… former Senator Werbele.

          “You have my word, Reverend, no man under my command will injure, harass nor impede any person in this demonstration so long as you peacefully proceed to the FCC offices, present your documents, and depart within a half an hour.  Will these people comply?” asked the Colonel.

          “Will the local police and Guard also comply?” the minister answered back.

          Knox exhaled a burst of steam, nodding… but not in a favourable way.  “Well, it seems we may be at a sort of impasse then…” and the Colonel glanced out over the marchers, another nod drawing Godwin’s attention.  There was a common purpose – resolution in the air – even the Nation and Tribe were marching together, talking together, some of the shadier characters from Dempstertown and Purley also on hand, sporting an air of… anticipation?

          Senator Werbele eased off, drawing his golfcart level with the Colonel and the clergyman with a disturbing twinkle in his eye.  “Ever tell you folks about this fella I knew, back in the swamps out back o’ Charleston, where we’d go a frog-giggin’?”

          “Why no, Senator,” replied the ever-polite Colonel, “I do not believe you have.”

          “Like fishin’, sort of, except with only a few inches of line, a stick and a big, sharp hook.  Take a sack and a flashlight out onto the waters… best time’s an hour or so before dawn when the critters are lazy and tired; shine a light into a bullfrog’s eyes, it freezes up and Whomp!  Hind legs ain’t so bad… it’s a French thing, mostly, but to each gigger his own…”

          “All God’s creatures gotta eat,” Godwin said, to keep the mood light and positive. 

          A white girl in dreadlocks who’d crawled behind the Reverend’s entourage shook her head and interrupted.  “He meant nigger, sir.  A gigger, well that rhymes with nigger and that’s how the white bosses communicate their microaggressions…”

          Shonuff,” Godwin shushed her as Knox pointed to security and the politician rambled on…

          “One night, Jody shines his light over the swamp and sees this big ol’ eye, blinkin’ back at him and he thinks, well… mus’ be ol’ One-Eye Ted - biggest, meanest bullfrog in the swamp.  Now the big ol’ frogs… a’tween you boys an’ me… well, they run sorta tough and sour, but if you let one stew couple hours in the pot with salt an’ pepper, maybe some of them Eye-talian spices, well, damn things taste just like a couple turkey legs, so Jody gets excited.  Throws his gaff, but it ain’t bullfrog that he gigs, see, it’s just some big ol’ gator with the other eye off lookin’ out over the swamp for dinner.  So, instead of findin’ a meal, Jody becomes the meal…” and then, before the Colonel or clergyman could talk back, Werbele gunned the golfcart up to ten miles an hour, scooting up towards a phalanx of large ladies of the church, all in their Sunday best, to whom he tipped his hat and smiled…

          As Knox smiled to the troubled Godwin: “Of course, if things do go south,” the Colonel advised, “well… America’s sort of like the Boy Scouts.  We’re always on hand to help an ol’ lady across the street, but if trouble arises, we’re prepared.”

          And the Reverend’s stomach lurched again.   He found himself wishing he’d thought to secrete a small carton of milk in the great big coat that his father had passed down to him… milk, milk of magnesia, better yet, or something even stronger…


¾        ¾        ¾


Tom Eppert, stretching and yawning and feeling damn good, followed Craig towards the media center as the Grrrlz danced with customers and the gigantic 2-D models, posing and swaying at the base of the Dominator like some god-damned harlots in a Cecil B. DeMille epic.  His intent, however, was General Westmoreland Soames, whom he’d clocked staring at a cleared space on the floor, formerly occupied by the lowest-priced fifteen and nineteen-inch sets.  Passing Cyberia, he removed a handkerchief from his pocket and lifted a small ink cartridge off the rack before confronting his co-worker…

          Westy, my man…”

          Soames fairly leaped back, startled.  “Oh… Tom?  Hey, they told me you got something to hold you over, I didn’t think…”

          “Yeah, funny world,” Tom cut him off. “Small world.  So where’s my money?  You owe me a hundred bucks, thirty-five for the fuckin’ converter, the rest for my set that you and your fuckin’ putz of an uncle blew up… I’m a nice guy, otherwise I’d be wanting something for the pain and sufferin’…”

          “Pain and suffering?

          “Just a hundred will do,” Tom snapped his fingers, repetitively, “…I know you have it, ‘cause I know why you’re here…”

          Westy tensed for a fight.  Tol’ you, man.  That was Raoul’s business.  He’s a grown man, I don’t have to answer for him…”

          “Really?  Then let’s shake on it…”

          Before Westy could draw back, Tom had thrust out his right hand with the cartridge still embedded in his handkerchief, grasping the other…

          “What’s…” and only now did Soames look down, “…you cut yourself, or something?  Burn your ass on… never mind.  What’s this?”

          Tom jerked his hand back, stuffing the handkerchief in his pocket and shouting out…

          Cappy?  Captain Capps… over here!”

          Capps, taking time off to watch the Giga-Grrrlz’ gyrations, waddled up… red-faced and out-of-breath…”

          “Dammit man, don’t call me Cappy…”

          “Sorry,” Tom apologized.  “I was just looking for Mark to ask him about… about inventory stuff… I seen this, this gentleman slip something in his pocket.  He denied it, of course…”

          “Bull-sheeeit!” Westy cried out, stepping back.

          Tom grinned.  “But it’s still right in his hand, there, see?  Caught him red-handed…”

          Capps pried the cartridge from Westy’s fingers, shoved him around and patted him down…

          “You carrying any weapons?”

          “Weapons?  I ain’t even carrying what this fuck… what was I carrying?”

          Capps placed a meaty fist on Westy’s shoulder.  “Over this way, sir…” he said, marching Soames towards the tech and credit tent, cuffing him to the detention pole… one more suspected (if not charged or convicted) criminal fettered to five of its six corners, now.

          “You’re makin’ a big mistake,” Westy complained.  “This man…”

          “Shut up.  You’re on the verge of resisting arrest, an’ that’s a compound felony, you know.  Might even fall under the Patriot Act,” Capps declared.

          “Patriot Act, you crazy… you gonna send me to Gitmo on the say-so of that down-low?”  He pointed to Tom Eppert, shaking with rage.  “Well, then I want a lawyer.  You ain’t even read me my rights…”

          “Don’t have to.  You’re not being arrested, only detained.”  And the Captain smiled, hitching up his belt and leering at Giga-Grrrl Crystal’s buttocks, shaking like jelly not more than six feet away.  “Hey, lookat that view… and, if you came in and pulled this shit tomorrow night, you’d have been able to watch the game on a Dominator!  Who says crime doesn’t pay!”

          “I didn’t steal nothin…”

          Ignoring him, Capps turned back to the giant set and dancing Grrrlz.  A kid in a long overcoat, six sizes too big for him and a dead-ender with broken, ratlike teeth and the yellow complexion of a terminal hepatitis victim commiserated as a smartly-dressed customer, stuck in an impenetrable discussion of bandwidths with the impossible “Billy Obvious”, threw up his hands and marched off…

          “I’m innocent, too…” sneered the kid, a great loop of snot running down from his nose.

          “We’re all innocent…” agreed the yellow man.

          And that brought Billy out of his virtual fugue.  “Innocent?”

          But, while Tom had been settling his score with Westy and Craig… deserting his post to marvel at the Dominator’s many thousands of pixels, showing far more supermodel anatomy than the Bravo producers probably planned (sending Pablo back to take charge of the loading dock)… another cheap bastard with a receipt for a Tungwa ’27 appealed to Marko….

          “I paid for that set, see…”

          “All out.  You go back, put receipt towards better model.  Or come back Tuesday.  No refund!”

          “I can’t come back Tuesday, the fuckin’ game’s tomorrow.  Look around again, I don’t believe they’d sell people inventory that they don’t have… ah shit, I’ll make it worth your while…”

          Marko was about to tell the guy to go to hell, or call one of the pissed-off, increasingly aggressive security people, when he spied a Tungwa half-hidden under a moldy blanket.  It had a sold/hold note, handwritten, but Mark was not around, Craig had wandered off… he swaggered back to the dock, tugging the set.

          “Maybe can help.  How bad you want to see the game…”

          Greed and outrage warred for supremacy across the customer’s face, greed winning out…

          “Alright, you got a ten-dollar tip…”

          “Fifty!” Marko countered.

          The customer hesitated but, after all, tomorrow was Super Sunday.  He forked over a trio of Hamiltons and took the set, ripping off the hold note and tossing it in the direction of the “Screaming Beagles” van…

          “I ain’t comin’ back here, you know…” he protested, once the Mongolian crap was safely in his grasp.  This bothered Marko not at all…

          “Is free country,” he acknowledged.


¾        ¾        ¾


On the Ninth Floor, Mick Updegraff took a call from Mandy who… alone on a Saturday night… had opted for shelter from the elements and the consolations of the admittedly lucid charms of normal digital TV over a risky venture into town in search of revenge sex.  Of course, not only the weather but the mounting civil insurrection has kept her inside, watching the horror unfold on the liberal independent station that had suspended its rerun of “SVU-Memphis” to cover the fallout from the Presidential speech.

          “Mick,” she stuttered, “did you know that there… there’s a mob of people on the way.  A man on TV said they were going to burn your building down…”

          “They said that?

“They did.  I’m scared…” Mandy added.

          And it wasn’t even as if her ass was on the line.  “We’ve got security.  But I’ll check it out… call you back.  Luvya…”


          Then as Mick had ambled to the window, stretching and yawning under the gun of mandatory overtime, looking south towards the District… David snuck up behind him.

          “See anything?”

          “Mandy called.  Said there was this mob marching here to burn us out… I sort of figured that they’d be coming like the peasants in Frankenstein, you know, torches you could see from miles off…” Mick answered, somewhat disappointed…

          “Wrong weather for torches…”

          Still, David opened his cellphone, activated the TV function to a nonpartisan cable news channel and a panel popped up on the two-inch screen… Ted Fraser, Evan Augsberg, FCC Chair Yunis and a young woman… soon identified, only, as Jill… who sounded as if she represented some poverty lobby

          “Commissioner, what do you make of the President’s address to the nation?” Fraser said.

          “Well, needless to say we opposed the decision to turn the clock back.  We all realize that some people are going to be inconvenienced… technical change always provokes resistance.  If we’d caved in to the buggy whip lobby a century ago we’d never have developed the automobile.  Of course that’s something Jill, here, would probably say is a good thing…”

Jill Whomever had that sour, offended expression peculiar to Washington liberals.  “That’s a deliberate slur, an unfair and typically stereotypical remark, consistent with everything that the FCC now stands for…”

“OK, if we can get back on track, save the personal stuff for Sunday morning,” Fraser waved his smooth, white hands, “…Evan, you’ve been paying a lot of attention to this issue as it arose… seemingly from nowhere… to, as it were, hijack the attention of a new administration - much as President Bush had to contend with Nine-Eleven at the start of his term, or Bill Clinton with gays in the military…

       “There is an obvious difference, that…”

       Fraser, showing an uncharacteristic resolve, cut Jill off cold.  “Evan?”

“Well,” Augsberg mused, “I thought it was an expedient and long overdue capitulation to reality.  I do not believe any of the auction winners are going to be able to utilize the capacities of the 700 megaherz frequency blocs for months, if not years, so the question of harm becomes moot.  Whether the President’s change of heart is going to put an end to civil unrest… well, that is more problematical.  Unfortunately, the very persons that the Chief Executive was trying to appeal to probably never even heard about the rescinding of the order because they had no way of knowing that the analog and unmodulated broadcast signals have been temporarily restored.  Many have even tossed their TV sets in the trash… we hear stories of dozens, even hundreds of old sets being dumped at intersections, even set on fire.  So, the President’s speech calls to mind the old saying that, if a tree falls in the forest without any human beings around to see or hear it, has it really fallen at all?  The police and Federal forces…”

          And it was there that a very disgruntled Kristi Chaine ambushed them from behind…

          “Are you slacking off watching television on the job, or just looking out the window at the scenery?”

          “We’re here to research a situation,” was Mick’s snide reply, “I would say that finding out about a mob coming up from the ghetto to burn us out qualifies as research…”

          “The District, Maryland and Virginia are Quentin’s special project… you have your own areas of interest, and I’d suggest that you return to them.  No mob is going to burn us out…”

          “How do you know?” Mick persisted

          “Because…” and Kristi begin stamping her foot, pointing out the window, “…because it’s raining again…”

          David wasn’t caring much about protocol either, by now.  “May we presume that Vern is as much in the dark as you are?”

          “Vern knows what he knows, he has sources that I…” and, enraged, she pointed to the tiny face of Harley Yunis on David’s cell, “…turn that off!

Instead, David punched the Manager’s extension and handed his phone to Ms. Chaine

          “Just tell him yourself… something you picked up in the course of research, you don’t have to say where.  Credit Quentin if you like… he’s probably downloading hardbodies or something weirder… we just want to know that he knows…”

          And then Vern himself was on the line, mad as a hornet…

          “Vern,” Kristi began,  “I’ve been getting info… multiple sources… that there’s some sort of march against the FCC, people coming this way?  Uh huh…”

          And David watched as she listened, offering only an occasional grunt, except for one explanation…

          “No, sir, I haven’t heard anything from him… these reports came from the District, with backup… it’s on television now, I understand, but…”

          Eventually she hung up, turning on the two researchers.

          “He knows.  He’s known all along,” Kristi said, “and he wants to see me, now.  Which means he wants to see you!”

          “Us?” worried Mick…

“Just David.  You are Trent’s nominal supervisor, of course… for all the supervision that you have managed with that,” Kristi fairly spat, “…that traitor!

Vern Cooth looked like shit.  The view from his eleventh floor was grander than that from the ninth, but David couldn’t see much appreciation in the Manager’s eyes, nor, at least, any approaching arsonists.  Nevertheless…

          “Kristi tells me that you knew people were coming up here?” he inquired.

          The Manager wasn’t listening.  “What about Lockett?  You hired him,” he pointed, as if his finger were a rapier. “You were his supervisor all that time that Pete Myers ran the show, him and that idiot Gobelman… what’s your role in this?”

          “I don’t have a role,” David demurred.  “And, by the way, I didn’t…”

          “When he gets here, were you supposed to open up one of the side doors and let ‘em in to trash the place?” Vern cut him off.  “Or, when my security people went out to stop ‘em, would you be in the lobby with a gun, shooting ‘em in the back?  Do you even have a weapon?”

          Instinctively, David tugged at his ear.  Something about this place that attracted lunatics… as the clouds parted, momentarily, he could see the moon, only three-quarters full.  “You’re nuttier than Goblin!”

          “I… Hugh?” the Manger stammered.  “Hugh!”

          The Screaming Eagle outside, protecting Vern’s door and his person, flung the door open, discovering his employer cowering against a window pointing at the two people from downstairs whom Hugh had seen around, but didn’t know… the woman more often than the man.  Now, the Manager was pointing, and frothing at the lips and sputtering…

          “Him!  Him!  He has a gun, I think he means to kill me…”

          Hugh drew his own sidearm.  “Sir,” he requested, “place your hands in the air and turn around.  Slowly.  You too, ma’am…”

          Unarmed, choosing deference in this hotbed of three-quarter lunacy, David nonetheless continued speaking to Cooth over his shoulder while on the receiving end of an aggressive body search.  “What I was going to tell you is that I didn’t hire Trent, the department did.  Civil service, all the way.  Not that it makes any difference, you shitcanned his research, same as you did mine, and that of everybody else on the ninth floor…”

          “He’s clean, sir.  Shall I search the woman?” Hugh asked.

          Kristi stared directly at Vern.  “You order that and not only do I sue for harassment tonight, I’ll Weinstein you… bring up all those other instances, too, starting with your wife…”

          “No, just wait outside, Hugh,” said Cooth, wild-eyed and panting.  “Wait… what do you know about a mob, supposed to be headed this way?  Is there an FCC employ… a man, probably at or near the head of it, Trent Lockett?  Colored guy, medium height, probably dressed in a suit and tie, trying to look like something that he isn’t…”

          “We have received intelligence,” said the Eagle, wondering why Cooth needed to be asking him, seeing as he, Vern, was in charge of the whole outfit.  Maybe he was just sloppy – or drunk, that might be it.  “They came up out of the city, an illegal march… but tolerated, and strictly monitored… anyway, it seems to be breaking up since they reached Giga-Plex.  I know a fellow there… it’s getting hairy, but they’re probably just getting with reality and going shopping.  As for Lockett, I can check with surveillance in Waco, even send a couple of people out to take a look, if you authorize it…”

          “Yes, do that.  Thank you.  Wait outside, I’m going to be needing you…”

          Hugh closed the door with an indulgent smile.  “Certainly, sir.”

          “He won’t get away,” Vern promised.  You won’t get away… the Eagles have satellites, they have data banks and operatives overseas… even in fuckin’ Africa.  They can look down from space and tell what kind of rum Pete Myers is sipping on his fuckin’ island.  We’re gonna nail that bastard to the cross…”

          “Pete?  Trent?” David wondered aloud.  “In any case, a bad analogy, Vern.  Do you want to tell Rommel there to order his spies to tell Trent and the mob that the President’s turned the idiot boxes on again, at least until Monday night?  Because that’s what this was supposed to be about, remember?”

          “I decide what this is about,” Vern puffed up like one of those aggressive lizards that David sometimes saw behind the mailboxes in his apartment building… little green things that swelled up when menaced, frightening old ladies and postmen.  “Anyway, who gives a fuck?  Well,” he straightened, “there isn’t anybody who’ll claim that I don’t know how to stand up in a crisis.  You get your wish, lazyboy… I’m evacuating the building.  Or… no, the sheeple can go home but you… you, too, Kristi!… you are both going with me down to Giga-Plex and explain to Fred exactly what your purpose is in supporting this insurrection…”

          “Fred?  Do you mean Fred Faubourg?” Kristi flinched, as if smelling something that had crawled into the woodwork and died.

          “Well he’s Lee Sonnenschein’s mouthpiece, isn’t he?  Who do you think you’ve been fuckin’ with all the while… politicians?  Not only Giga-Plex but the other retailers, not to mention the phone companies and manufacturers…”

          “The Chinese?” David taunted.  “Russian hackers?”

          Vern glowered.  “Get your coat and an extra umbrella… looks like it’s getting unpleasant out there, again…”



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