47)   Super Sunday, 2/19: 1:30 – 2:00 AM  GIGA-Gang Besieged!”


Tenison, aided by Anjelika, Captain Capps and his security people, had marshaled the besieged into a line that stretched out the service door and into the loading dock area.  Banging and cursing resounded behind the metal gates there, but the Manager pressed his ear to the fire door in a far corner, heard nothing, and smiled.  First in line to get the hell out of Dodge was Lester, the elderly Greeter, still full of smiles.  Placing his left forefinger to his lips so that the besieged would know better than to make remarks during the escape process, Mark opened the door and cautiously pushed Lester forward… three rats (one glowing red, the other two green) scampered in and a wall of hands and faces, teeth and weapons dragged Lester out, still screaming: “Welcome to Giga-Plex!”  Three of the zombies actually forced their way inside before Mark and the Screaming Eagles could slam the door, provoking a short, bloody battle… the intruders fighting with tooth and claw, trampling the Manager and a couple of elderly, female cashiers before Anjelika shoved one against the wall and cold-cocked him with a right to the jaw, worthy of a heavyweight.  Captain Capps, shoving his way through the crowd, shouted: “Outa my way!  Outa my way!” 

          He fired his taser at the nearest lunging zombie, but the fellow turned aside at the last moment, and the prongs sank deep into the robotics salesman behind him.  Blick collapsed in seizures to Tenison’s floor where another zombie tripped over him; stumbling forward on hands and knees; the invader looked up… only to find another Eagle, this one with an old-fashioned billyclub, poised to put his lights out.  The last of the zombies, slashing and biting, actually made it out of the loading dock through the office and into the store before a single gunshot through his nose, fired at close range, dropped him like a puppet with its strings cut.

          Capps, wielding the smoking gun, looked to Big Sonny for assurance.  “He was askin’ for it,” said the Eagle.

          Though Fred Faubourg put his hand over his face… not necessarily in disgust nor sympathy, but apprehensive of the litigation to follow… Sonnenschein nodded.  “That’s how we do ‘em in Waco,” said the big boss.

And then, one of the elderly female cashiers, gouged and bitten during the scuffle, her blouse hanging in strips, wailed…

          “They’re infected!”

          There was no foundation to this apprehension, but enough people had seen enough movies that panic snaked through the line of putative escapees, even after… having re-secured the door… Tenison and Anjelika led her back out through the office and around the corner to a bench in the employees’ locker room, leaving the rest of the besieged to wander back into the store, except for Ed Skinner who, without authorization, picked up the receiver of the Manager’s ancient rotary phone and dialed home…

          “Ma?  Yeah, I’m still in the store… it’s kinda crazy.  I tried to call, but… what?  Yeah, we got TV, plenty of televisions, nobody says anything.  Typical.  Really?  Well, needless to say, I’ll be late.  Probably at least an hour before things settle down…”

          Thunder tapped him on the shoulder.  Behind him, half a dozen employees… Craig, Vicki, Marko Mosrovich, the kid from the DVD section, two Mexicans… were waiting to use Tenison’s phone.

          “Gotta go… yeah, love you too.”  He hung up, but, before McHale could grab the phone, he announced: “Somebody’s been blowing up all the cellphone towers…”

          “Why they doing that?” said the puzzled, battered Marko.

          “Somebody must have figured out the connection,” Thunder opined, “…the government sold off broadcast television frequencies to the cellphone companies so, in a way, the cells are to blame for their losing the Superbowl…”

          “But how will we stream?  The President said they would show the Superbowl for the poor people…” Vicki objected.

          “Yeah,” Thunder allowed, “but how would people know, if they don’t have cable or hi-def…”

          Ed proudly volunteered new information.  “Ma says all the neighbors were throwing their old sets out in the street.  Some high school kids in a truck came by and took ‘em to the school and blew them up with M-80s… boy, are they gonna be sorry tomorrow…”

          “But tomorrow is today…” pointed out the finicky Richards.

          Marko shook his head.  “Crazy Americans…”

          As Thunder reached over Ed to grab the phone, Vern Cooth... roaming Appliantology, surrounded by smart brooms, washer/dryer combos and the purring Moondreams smart bed… was giving his disloyal, now ex-employees another piece of his mind, whether they cared or not…

          “Some way, somehow,” he accused David Lee, “it’s you who’ve been aiding and abetting Trent Lockett, and I’m going to find out everything.  You’ll be investigated – maybe under the Revised Patriot Act.  I’ll bet you and that nig… that…” and then he bit off another n-word, though barely, “that the both of you have something to do with those goddam vans driving around broadcasting filth n’ lies that are messing with licensed frequencies…”

          “They’re not messing with anything…” David said.

          “Well how would you know?  Aha!” the Manager pounced.  “You wouldn’t… unless you were behind all of this.  You and the Russians.  And North Koreans.  Interfering with frequencies someone else has bought and paid for is theft, some kind of theft, subverting police and fire calls, that’s flat out treason… it’s people like you who are make it impossible for the law to crack down on all that, that…”

          He waved to indicate the chaos still audible outside the store…

          “You should know better, Vern,” Kristi stepped in. “We’ve been telling the world… at least that one percent paying attention… that the frequencies aren’t going to be operable for weeks, if not months.  All this shit is happening because the police are overwhelmed.  People have been seeing their real incomes fall for three decades, now, they’re losing their homes, can’t buy gas, milk, can’t afford to take their kids to see the doctor.  They’re angry… they’ve been angry for a long time and now that hey’ve realized that the President isn’t going to help them, that he’s just another billionaire who’s used them and dumped them… but as long as they could go home after working at jobs they hate but can’t complain about, watch some dumb fucks eat bugs for money or cop shows or the Superbowl, not only do they sit back and shut up, they blame more or less anyone that we in the government and industry and the talking heads on the box tell them to blame.  Until now.  The Superbowl is gone, the talking heads are gone, and they’ve finally woken up, just as they always do…”

          Cooth wilted.  “You never loved me, you were just using me…”

          “Well, duh…” Kristi answered.

          And the zombies were weaving through the Mall, now, tugging at the heaviest chainlink gates that still protected a few of the most lucrative shops like the liquor, jewelry and auto showrooms.   Godwin snored loudly on the bookstore floor; Uncle Raoul peered furtively around the white, larger-than-life-sized statue of a NASCAR champion, commissioned but not sold.  Looters fled Giga-Mart with increasingly incongruous treasure… armsful of mops, canned mushrooms, even pushing gigantic boxes of the fabled Gross of Toilet Paper across the floor… 

          Meanwhile a demented man with an old fashioned, military-issue can opener was patiently trying to carve a hole in the metal fence guarding the Third-Fifth Bank…


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Leland Buford Sonnenschein, seventh son of a seventh son of a shoe salesman from Mascara, Texas, hadn’t made himself over into the international entrepreneur Big Sonny (he had five franchises in Canada, two in Matamoros and one each in Juarez and Monterrey, now, in addition to his American properties) without cultivating uncanny instincts about danger and opportunity, and developing the initiative to act on his instincts.  So, upon finding his cellphone dead, he snapped his fingers… quickly enough, Mark Tenison gestured to the hundreds on display near his rotating white statue at the entrance to the store.

          “Help yourself, boss,” said Mark.  “Anything you could want, we got it right here…”

          Had the Manager made him the butt of a joke?  “I should think so…” Sonny answered.

          But, after trying twice and failing twice on the devices, he hurled the second cell across the store, almost as far as the men chained to the Tech and Credit Tent, their ranks now enhanced by the three groggy and moaning zombies from the loading dock.  Like a clueless puppy, “Billy Obvious” picked up the smashed device and loped across the floor, holding it out towards the entrepreneur like a stick…

          “I’ve let one of my people use the phone in the office,” Tenison revealed as Sonnenschein slapped the offering away.  “Under the circumstances – sometimes it helps to bend the rules?  That one works…”

          Sonny wasn’t particular gratified to learn that his Manager was such a soft touch, but… under the circumstances?  “Then let’s give it a try…” he said.

          There were still half a dozen people, including some of Sonny’s own… the trombone player, a clown with its mouth painted like Jack Nicholson’s as the Joker, and Jarlo Knupp… waiting in line to use the old phone.  Capps, preceding Sonny, snatched the receiver away as the insolent clown took it from Sammy Mulaire of the 007 Club, ignoring the man’s threats…

          “The union isn’t going to like this…” growled the Joker.

          “Screw the union…” Lester said, and… after wiping about six ounces of greasepaint off the mouthpiece… he handed the phone off to Sonny, who dialed a Texas area code.

          “Hello, Waco?  Get me Jerry Smith…” and then, cupping the receiver, Sonnenschein told Capps, Tenison and the few remaining eavesdroppers, including Effie Lou Wilson and the Clown, “I’m gonna make these bastards wish they’d never been born!”  He nodded and, because he was Big Sonny, after all, everybody nodded back.  “Jerry!  It’s bad out here, uh huh?… yeah, well send over two birds, no, three… and twenty men besides crew.  Armed up and ready for action.  There’s a dozen more in the parking lot under Sammy, tell ‘em to load up, come inside and kick ass.  Lester’s dead… no, not our Lester, some old man in the shop.  Along with others.  Wake up the lawyers.  Tell ‘em to be ready for a fight… no, the Eagles.  Well, the lawyers too!  Sons of bitches… they’re all around us, here… I’ll have the Manager post someone by…”

          Sonny listened, answered “Okay!” and disconnected, glancing at the door behind which Lester the Greeter had disappeared, lingering over the bloodstains on the wall and slowly drying on the floor.

          “Problems in Dallas and San Antone,” he felt obliged to warn his troops, “not so bad in Waco, of course, but the cells are out nationwide, it’s as if some organized group were behind this.  Terrorists!  Maybe the Chinese,” he speculated.  “Well, if it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they are damn well going to get…”

          “How long’s it going to take for them to arrive, boss?” inquired Captain Capps.

          Big Sonny grew pensive.  Coupla hours… before dawn, I’d think.  Once those guys outside get in and get going, we ought to be able to hold out.”

          “Does that mean we have to stay here all night?” Effie Lou pouted.

“Probably,” Tenison replied with, what seemed to Sonny, as an unwarranted haste.  “Best off to try and find a place to sleep and be ready to move out at sunrise.  If people are hungry, I can break out a couple of boxes of jerky…”

          “What are our chances?” Big Sonny asked the leader of the Screaming Eagles.

          “Right now, we’re armed and they’re not,” Lester Capps nodded sagely.  “As long as that metal holds and they don’t break into the gunshop, we can hold them off…”

          “What about ammunition?” Fred Faubourg interrupted.

          “We’ve got plenty more, in the van…”

          One of the escaped rats… a green one… darted across the wall towards Cyberia and Effie Lou squealed.  Craig and Vicki Gordon had returned to the latter’s register, bereft of anything else to do… at least, Craig noted hopefully, she hadn’t told him to go away, this time…

          “If it were, like, the end of the world…” he ventured.

          “Don’t say that!”

          “Alright.  But… I was just wondering aloud, if it were…”

          Vicki, after all, was nineteen.  “Are you, somehow, implying that this situation would make me want to have sex with you?” she accused.

          “N-No, but I


          “Well, of course… yes… yes, but…”

          Craig threw his hands up and began sauntering backwards, towards the general direction of the henge of televisions, almost bumping into a rack of converter boxes.  The Dominator... the red light that indicated the built-in modular antennae (twelve of them, the Romanians had promisted) would keep receiving no matter how the incoming signals were affected pulsed wickedly, the huge screen kept broadcasting what had apparently become an all-night newscast, and a tired-looking Ted Fraser gave way to Evan Augsberg again… standing tall and eerily calm right outside there, in the parking lot.

          “Thank you, Ted.  Here at the One World Mall in a suburb of the nation’s Capitol, all the stores have been closed for more than an hour, but the crowd… if anything… has grown larger.  From what we have heard, the anchor tenant Giga-Plex is a store besieged… its security keeping people out, but also keeping employees in…”

          Three young men in the curiously festive colors of the D. T. Nation suddenly surrounded the commentator, making faces for the camera, flashing gang signs…

          “Put us on television…” said a tall kid with a red and green handkerchief wrapped around his skull and a suitcase of Bud Lite in his arms.

          “You’re on!” Augsberg rose to the challenge.  “Obviously you’ve been inside the Mall… what’s happening there, at this moment?”

          It’s dope!” the kid grinned.

          Two other DT’s hi-fived… both wore the same green and red, one holding an outsized plastic shopping bag, the other had dropped his parcels, returning his hands to his pockets.

          “We getting’ paid,” said the boy with the bag.  “Got me four pairs of shoes… Nike and…

          “He got Thom McAnns!” the tall one needled…

          “Got a starter jacket, fifteen pounds bacon…”

          “Batteries!” said the third kid, pricetags still hanging off his new clothes.  Abruptly, the tall one grabbed Augsberg while the shoe thief dropped his parcels and started punching the newscaster, rifling his pockets while pricetags pulled a long-nosed Czech handgun from his new jacket.

          “And now,” he grinned, “we gonna get us a camera…”

          The picture tilted crazily, there was a gunshot, then static… and a shaken Ted Fraser returned to the Dominator, shuffling papers at his desk…

          “I don’t know what is happening, we’re going to hope that Evan is alright and get some help out there, but what the hell is going on?  We’re seeing America falling apart before our very eyes... worse than in the riots of January sixth, two years ago… what is wrong with you people?” he accused the crowd in the world outside his sealed and, as of midnight, heavily guarded studio box.  David and Kristi were sitting on the floor, watching the Dom… backs against one of the bargain boxes of analog sets, marked down: 90% OFF!

          “What’s wrong, asshole, is that people have decided that it’s OK to stop acting human, seeing as how they haven’t being treated like people for decades…” David muttered, “chickens coming home to roost…”

          “Huh?” Kristi said.

          “Malcolm X, I think, or maybe Bobby Seale… somebody from back in the old days…” David remembered.

          Kristi shook her head.  “Those aren’t chickens out there… chickenhawks, maybe,” she appended without a trace of irony...

          Tom Eppert brushed past them, making his way to the prison tent where Westy had a new pole-mate… a living one, this time… the bedraggled zombie knocked out by Anjelika, still rubbing his chin and enduring the ridicule of the little Giga-Plex penal colony, courtesy of the other surviving invader, a fifty-something hipster in a light blue, bloodstained, Ban-Lon shirt who’d been cuffed to the opposite pole, next to the corpse of the third looter and a fat man in a dark suit and red tie…

          “‘Least I got put down by a man, by a bunch of men with guns and clubs, not no lame-ass girl…” Ban-Lon taunted.

          “That wasn’t no girl, that was Hitler’s daughter…”

          “Man, she beat him like drum,” Ban-Lon smiled a bloody smile.  “Ka-Pow!  Ain’t gonna collect a cent, beat up by a woman like that. Me, I’m gonna find a New Hampshire Street lawyer and win so much money that I can buy ten big ol’ sets… gonna find Johnnie Cochrane…”

          “Johnnie Cochrane’s dead…” Westy popped his bubble and pointed. “Like that guy.  Robert Kardashian, too.  And those girls, their stepfather’s now their stepmother.  World o’ fools…”

          And that was when a passing Tom Eppert butted in.  Speakin’ of fools needin’ a lawyer, you know anything about my set…”

          “What set?” Westy snarled.  “Whatever business Raoul and you had, that was his business and you went and made it mine…”

          “I ain’t talkin’ about that converter and the fuckin hundred bucks you owe me,” Tom disputed, “I had a twenty-seven inch Tungwa, all mine in the back, there, and it’s gone missing.  You wouldn’t happen to know where it went, would you?

          “I didn’t steal your television, but if I knew who did, I’d buy the blood a drink.  I didn’t steal no ink, neither, and what Raoul said or did, that’s his business…” Westy began repeating himself, sputtering with rage.

          “Too bad he’s not around.  An’ what happened to you is gonna be Freecock’s business, soon enough, they don’t like having thieving thieves on their staff…”

          “Like they don’t like havin’ fools who can’t even pick up a stack of money without scattering it all over?”

          Redfaced, Tom stormed off and Westy watched him engage one of the Screaming Eagles in furious conversation, pointing at the tent.  The Eagle, a big Iraq washout named Andy, took his taser from his belt and swaggered up to about a yard from Westy

          “Somebody talkin’ about breakinouta this place?” Andy leered.

          Before Westy could answer, the taser’s million volts were passing through his thigh, up his arm and, through the metal handuffs and pole, also shocking Anjelika’s unfortunate zombie.  Andy let the juice flow somewhat longer than allowable, as delineated in most police and private security manuals, then fanned the air in front of his face…

          “Something sure stinks ‘round here.  Have a nice day…” he saluted the rest of the Giga-Plex prisoners.

          While, in Purley, Miz Lottie kept dialing Earline’s phone, kept getting the same out of service message.




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