American Phoenix

- a novel -

by Joel A. Wendt

Chapter Two

Escalation and Intensification
(as well as a few quite strange events)


President McHenry signed the orders.  He would not capitulate to blackmail!  The Army would obey, or would be charged with treason, or worse.  Even though two generals had resigned, the press was in a uproar, and his own staff severely divided, he knew what he had to do.  He knew who he owed for his presidency.  He knew who really held power, who made things happen, and he knew he was a servant, not a leader.

He had slept on it.  He had talked with his mentor, the now old british financier Boxlieter.  He had acquired his mentor during his years at Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar.  He knew that this man had formed most his political moral concepts, had helped him see the need to be part of the great power structure of wealth, to see that without a strong hand from these sources governments could not endure.  The people could not be trusted.  Only this brotherhood of the powerful could see wide and far enough.  The people were too emotional, too reactive.  They had to be guided, at whatever the cost.

    So he signed the order.  The Army was to interveen, and the cities were to be restored to order.  Without order, without the given lawfulness, everything that had been gained would be lost.  Such a course was too terrible to contemplate.

    Unfortunately, he didn't understand anything at all.  Like his wealthy friends, he lived in an illusion, one that was about to rise up and bite him in the ass.

 *

news item: major international corporations today won their law suit in the supreme court, permiting them to own the air.  plans went forward then, for breathing fees to be placed on all living beings, including plants.  it was anticipated that bills would soon be sent to everyone, with an estimated breathing fee for all persons in the home, all animals and all plants.  already existing computer data would be used to develop these estimations.  it was not yet worked out, what would happen once your bill was unpaid and overdue.  since killing you seemed out of the question, laws were now being developed in committee, which would recreate the debtors prisons of the 18th Century, and people unable to pay their air bills would become essentially forced laborers for the crime of unpaid debt (using the word slave was considered not politically correct).

*

    The politican, who was often surprised by what he said in public (since he only spoke spontaneously), spoke to some academics.

    "I'd like to talk to you today about the exercise of power by politicians.  In laying out what I mean to say today, I'd also want to encourage you to judge my own efforts at politics by these ideas.  If you don't think I am following this understanding, then I'd like to hear about it.  As you know, it is hard to see ourselves clearly, and we really need those around us to be honest in how they reflect back to us, the nature and meaning of our own actions.

    "It is also necessary, in discusing the exercise of power by our political leaders, to consider the nature of their education.  I believe that in this exercise of power we see the consequences of their education, and it is this aspect of the situation that I wanted to point out to an academic community, since education is after all your speciality, so to speak.  Our political leaders have been educated in our universities and colleges, for the most part, and we ought not to overlook how their actions reflect something of the nature of that education.

    "We have, for example, Santayana's comment that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, so in perhaps seeing some politicians repeating the mistakes of the past, we also might wonder how it is that these lessons of history didn't become part of them during their education.  I can't really answer that question - why education has not given us truly educated public servants, but this seems to be the case. and I urge you to set aside any suggestions that I am attacking you personally, but rather just that we have this problem, a problem the whole polity shares, and somehow a big aspect of this problem has something to do with the nature and the condition of the education process itself.

    "I'd also like, as an aspect of these preliminary remarks, to make reference to a forgotten part of Eisenhower's Farewell Address.  We all remember that in 1960 he wisely pointed out to us the danger of the military-industrial complex, a danger we ignored unfortunately.  What we don't remember was that he also pointed his sword of wisdom at modern universities.  Here is one of his comments: "The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded."  That's just one statement and it won't hurt if folks bother to find and read the whole of what he said.

    "The fact is that commerce has entered deeply into the conduct of our universities, defining programs, dominating research, and seducing students.  I am of the opinion that we really don't educate most of those who graduate from our universities and colleges anymore at all.  Instead we train them according to the needs of commerce, and our whole society becomes corrupted from within by these failings, which has consequences for the minds of many who end up in government or as heads of corporations.

    "Now I am sure you are well aware of these problems, but since they stand behind any rational dicussion of the nature of power and its uses and abuses, I thought we should have this clearly before us.  It is my view at any rate that government leaders and corporate leaders don't understand the world we live in precisely because they are more trained then they are educated.

    "Now you might think that I shouldn't speak this way, but the fact is that I have degrees in philosophy and in law, and I only really began to become an educated person when I took up the process of self-education.  I basically became aware that whatever it was that I got at university, it was not enough to enable me to come to grips with life and with our shared social and political existence, so I had to make up for the lack, on my own hook so to speak.  The academy didn't educate me, and I ended up having to do it myself.  In point of fact, the academy really never even came to me in a practical way concerning the nature of mind, which is something that ought to be the most basic subject of education.  How can there be any true self-education without founding it on an exploration of one's own inner life.  The source of that flaw, however, probably needs to be laid at the foot of natural science with its materialistic biases.  How could the academy have a real knowledge of inner life, amidst a fundamental paradigm that denies the existence of that very inner life - a life of soul and spirit?

    "Of course, you might say I did a bad job at school, or I did a worse job at self-education, but whatever your judgment in this regard, in what follows in my discussion of the exercise of political power, it represents my own efforts and not what the university did. 

    "I like to work from what I call first propositions sometimes.  It seems to me that there are fundamental truths, principles and realities, and that these need to be appreciated first.  In America, for example, if we are going to discuss the exercise of political power, we ought to consider what was intended by the founding documents.  Now in this I am not going to quote them endlessly, because it is my own thinking I wish to exercise, albeit restrained somewhat by a respect for the founders.

    "Clearly they feared the centralized exercise of power, having learned from their own experience and history that power does corrupt.  So they divided up the powers of government, and set them at cross purposes to each other, all the while at least keeping in mind the ideal that the powers of government were derived from the consent of the governed.  Whatever power that was to reside in the political was a grant, and as a grant it could anytime be withdrawn.

    "They also understood education in its more true sense, and for this reason created the Electoral College, wanting the sound judgment of prominent individuals to determine who were to be the trustees of the Executive power.  They didn't want the popular election of such individuals, knowing that whatever the capacities of the citizen, such clearly would not personally know the character of those who needed to be placed in highest office.  For while they appreciated that limits had been set upon the executive, it was still an office that very much needed substance and character, otherwise the exercise of even those limited powers could lead to disaster.  So they believed that the Electoral College would be the creation of a group who could then select on the basis of personal knowledge those most qualified.

    "Unfortunately, as political parties grew in strength, their interests, as against the true interests of the public, came in conflict, and so the parties agreed to set aside the the meaning of the Electoral College, and gave us exactly what the founder's feared - the popular election of the trustees of the Executive power.  This then lead naturally to those processes in our polity by which we more and more began to create a false picture of the character of those to be elected in popular elections, with the result today that we have a situation where the parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, are more interested in their own power then they are interested in the needs of the Republic.

    "In spite of the fears and good works of our founders, power has continued to corrupt, and we recently had a situation in which both the executive branch and the legislative branch were being operated by the same party, who, corrupted and intoxicated by its power, began to believe that they no longer needed to care for the whole of our society, but could rather only care for a certain limited and small group.  This group itself had been able to more and more participate and control matters, because the popular election of our chief officials began to require vast sums of wealth, and so a natural affinity arose between excess concentrations of wealth and the presumed guardians of our Republic.

    "The effect of these processes, which are obvious to anyone with the courage to look at reality, was that the Republic basically disappeared and we ended up with what has essentially become an oligarchy of wealth.  Wealth rules and anyone in denial of this needs to join a 12-`Step group.

    "Of course, these meant then that self interest dominated all decision making, and moreover, little thought was given to long range consequences.  Power was exercised for immediate gains, and the future was left to its own devices.  We now live in that future, which is the consequence of power corrupted and short term thinking that put off difficult decisions, as if that deferred account would never come due.  Now it has come due and it is the people that pay the price.  The oligarchy of wealth remains safe, while great suffering enfolds the great majority of those who the Republic was meant to serve.

    "Does power always have to corrupt?  No, and we know this through history, for certainly Washington and Lincoln held great power, and while themselves still human, managed nevertheless to understand the trust that the grant of power which they held represented.

    "Why?  Because they actually thought about power and its uses and dangers.  The uneducated fools that have lately occupied the highest offices, placed there by their association with the oligarchy of wealth, could not have stood before this academic community, or the public, and given any kind of rational discourse on the uses and abuses of power.  They never thought about it at all, except to use that power to fillful their own ambitions.  Nor did they have any self-knowledge in spite of higher education, and being the sons of privilege where any appetite, especially the hunger for power, is to be indulged, they knew nothing of the earning of wisdom, or the power of reflection.

    "Now our polity lies in ruins, and the wolves and pirates of other nations and corporations circle around, waiting for the final spasm which is to preceed their feast.

    "While then you might ask, what power is there that can oppose this situation?  What is or can be done to overcome the hubris of this oligarchy of wealth and its squandering of our Nation's material and spiritual resources?

    "There is only one thing, and that is the power of the truth.  Excesses of political power cannot stand before the truth, for the evil and darkness that loves to live there cannot stand the light.   We must be self honest, and we must find and speak the truth to each other, as raw and hard as that may be.

    "Politicians must cease manipulating and spinning the truth in order to achieve election, and must instead sacrifice electability on the sacred altar of the truth.  Being popular is of no use whatsoever, and speaking only of that which seduces the public into granting one power will only lead to more of the same.   Our current history is all the history we need to learn from, for all the mistakes are there to see, if we but bring the truth to bear again in all our considerations.

    "The truth is a power that trumps any excess, but it will not be easy to return it to our political dialogs, for we have fallen in love with our opinions, and being poorly educated, do not really appreciate the difference.  Yet the fact remains that opinion is not truth, and our worship of our opinions is as much a cause of the current disaster as any other.

    "And it is here, of course, in the academy, that the guardians of truth reside.  So I leave to you to take up that aspect of the problem, and perhaps refuse any long to suck at the teat of wealth and power, and instead serve the truth in this place, which is its natural and true temple."

*

interlude and event report:  a massive earthquake rocked the Middle East today.  Centered in Iran, and measured at 9.1 on the Richter Scale, the quake cause effects as far away as the coast of Israel, where two high rise apartments, apprently improperly constructed, collapsed killing hundreds.  People were running in the streets talking of the End Times.

*

    Emma and Ace sat side by side, backs against a cold, but painted, concrete wall.  Yet, as their clothes were many layered, they were well insulated.  They watched Jumbo and Hex move about the room, although they didn't know the names of these gang leaders, they knew they represented a kind of power.  So far, the best part of sitting in on this meeting was the fresh hot food that had been passed around on paper plates.

    An odd kind of silence descended on the room, as some shadow warriors, with a couple new faces, walked into the former restuarant.  One of them Emma had seen before.  He was a story teller, the one she liked so much.  He sat crossed legged on an old table to one side of the room, and everyone turned toward him.

    He began to speak.

    "My name is Madrid", he said, "Jonathon Cornelius Madrid.  People call me JC for short, its kind of a joke.  I don't mind.  Jesus Christ is central to my life.  But don't worry.  I don't preach.  That's not what this is about."

    He smiled and laughed a little.  So did others.  Everyone relaxed.  People understood things were not going to be heavy.  Life was too short.

    He began to speak again.

    "One of the things I've learned in this life, is that matters are seldom what they seem.  Take what we call 'the collapse'.   Wise people are not surprised.  Our culture has been very arrogant in its economics, in what we call economic theory and science.  We've made all kinds of assumptions, and many, as is frequently the case in human history, have been wrong.

    "Our economics has been more a belief system, a kind of false religion, than an appreciation of the truth of things.  So hard times come, big changes come, and those of us at the bottom, or apparently at the bottom, have to muddle through.  Hopefully we'll learn a few things, and do some things better on the other side of this time of chaos.

    "Let's take an example.  One of the things that our culture has done is call certain people 'the homeless'.  This is a truth, of a sort.  But it is based on a vocabulary of status - status in this case being a kind of myth.  It is more true to see these people as casualties in a war.  Moreoever, they are that odd thing we call today 'colateral damage'.  They haven't been participants in this war. that is they didn't take one side or the other.  The 'war' was between others, between various elements of an aristocracy of wealth, and their political lackys.  So, out of this conflict, this vicious struggle for dominance and control of wealth, there are casualties - among them the so-called 'homeless'.

     "Well, thank you no, but we don't want to play this game.  We do not want to be 'homeless' and we do not want to be casualties in this war of others, of greedy selfish profit-worshiping idiots.  Except they don't care, and here we are, 'colateral damage'.

    "So what can we do?  Or better yet, what do we do now that we are forced to do something?  Well, we have done a few things haven't we.  First off, we did a very important thing.  Probably the most important thing of all.  We refused to accept the name they gave us.  So if there is a war, then we are warriors.  So if we live in the darkest, most terrible parts of the cities, then we will be warriors of the shadows, shadow warriors.

    "Now some people think this is silly.  But let me tell you it isn't.  Not by a long shot.  There is enormous power in words, or better still, enormous power in ideas.   We don't have to accept the idea of homeless failures, and rejects from the higher spheres of life.  We don't have to believe the self serving myths of the rich and the arrogant.  We are casualties of a war among competing members of an aristocracy of wealth, and we are not going to consent any more to their bullshit.   We are warriors of the shadows, shadow warriors, and we are fighting back."

    This last was said with a certain rising passion, and brought forth some cheers.  Emma looked at Ace with a kind of love in her eyes.  He looked away, embarrassed to accept her feelings.  But just sort of.  He reached a hand out and covered one of her's.  She got all warm inside.  Warm and happy.  This is why she liked JC so much.  He made you feel good, made you feel important, made you think of yourself has having some worth.

     He started again to speak.

    "Now, this isn't just about the homeless.  It's is also about race, and poverty and family and injustice and many other things.  Here we are at this meeting, the outcast homeless, and members of gangs, drug dealers and killers, or so others say.

    "But is that reality.  Is that the true name of things.  If the homeless are shadow warriors, what are gang members, what is their true idea?

    "The thing is I'm not going to answer that question.  It is not mine to answer.  It belongs to the gangs, it belongs to your own understanding of yourselves, of the realities which shape your lives, of the truths you want to stand for, and of the star you want to steer your future course by.  I can't give you that which you have to give yourself."

    He stopped then.   Looking around the room at each one.  No judgment in his face, just a kind of compassion, a kind of love, an offer of freedom, and an offer of responsiblity.  The room was quiet.  What could be said?  It was time to think, and to feel too.  What was important, what did we care about?   These questions lived in the very air now.

    Emma watched Jumbo and Hex walk out the door.  Saying little to each other, just a glance or two.  She could see that they were thinking about possiblities, deep possibilities.

*

      Jason sat back, tired and happy.  He was finally finished.  He glanced at a clock and discovered he had been at his computer for almost 12 hours.  In a little while he would check out Slashdot and Kuro5hin and see what was up.

    It had been a good run.  The most fun was getting into ABC.com and posting the bill of information rights on their index page.  Until the webmaster there caught on, everyone who logged on to the ABC site was going to find the home page that Jason had placed there - a home page with the bill on it plus links to a whole bunch of privacy and encryption sites.

    All over the internet was the same page, in hundreds, perhaps thousands of places.  He'd heard one of the dreadlords was going to hack the Playboy site, a place that got 10 million hits a day.  Or, he should have thought to himself, one of the other dreadlords, because as of today he had earned his bones.

    God he wished he could tell somebody.

*
    After a time, a couple of those sitting in the circle and got up and starting moving about.  They went to their horses and unpacked some tent like thing and started setting it up.  Avery began to understand - it was a sweat lodge.  Some others started to build up the fire and move some rocks into it.  It was all done in silence and very efficiently.  Only the old man and Avery sat still, and no one seemed to mind.

*


    Being a priest had become more than just a simple calling.  The world had changed drastically since he was first inspired by old Bing Crosby movies or a film like Song of Bernadette.  The moral clarity his conservative breatheren believed in was an illusion, and the Church was too emeshed in the earthly spheres to find a moral center.  The sex scandles of a few years back had shown that.

    He thought about going to Father Charmichael again in confession, but after several weeks his agony had not abateded.  Inwardly he still felt that same pain, the sense of Mother Church's secrets weighing on his soul, an indigestible mass.

    He sat down at the typewriter, trying again to compose a press release that might make some sense, and salve his conscience.  But how to say it - his mind was a fractured mirror.  It was the kind of thing that was unbelievable to many, and certainly the press with its calculated jaundiced attitudes was unlikely to appreciate the necessary nuances.

    He glanced at the scattered and crumpled up pages next to the desk - the floor littered with failed tries.  He let a big sigh out, and set his hands to the keys and tried again.

*

    Avery didn't have a clue what to do.  It seemed the Indians were waiting for something, for him to do something.  For a second he thought about making some small talk, about the weather or other stuff, but that seemed silly, especially since they'd just smoked the pipe and had a prayer.  Finally he decided to just be honest.

    "I'm sorry guys.  I don't have any idea what you want, or what should come next."

    The old man looked at him and smiled.  "Good", he said, "it is always good to know our ignorance".

    Then more silence.  This bothered Avery for a while, and then he remembered when his sister had taken him once several years ago to a Quaker Meeting.  This was kind of like that, everyone sitting around silent, waiting for some inspiration before speaking.  He started to relax a little.  This was like being in Church, except maybe in these woods it was an Indian Church.

    When he had this thought it was like a little light went off in his mind, and he couldn't help himself, the words just came tumbling out.  "This is Church right, we are in Church".

    Several of the men sitting in the circle then said: "Ho!" or something like that.  Avery felt, oh yea, that is like an amen when somebody says something spiritually cool.  This was more familiar, kind of like being with the Baptists.  Maybe.  Better to be silent - lots to learn here.

*

    Arthur met with several of his co-Templers.  They discussed the results of what they had called: takeover day.

    In general matters had gone according to plan.  Each had confronted a family or group of the most wealthy individuals, in the US and in England - the true financial power centers of the world.  They had told these individuals about the drugs, carefully crafted over many years, and just as carefully introduced into as many members of each family as possible.

    These "initiating" drugs would break down in about two months, if no second ("or partner") drug were added to that individuals diet at the proper times. When the break down occured, death by natural causes was soon to follow.  Each family had been allowed to have at least one abnormal and accidental death in the lead up to takeover day, so that this could be pointed to when needed.

    Each was given a scientific paper that explained the problems that would be faced were the families to decide to have other scientists try to investigate the underlying biochemistry, and dublicate that partner drug.  The paper explained that while it might be possible, since the drugs worked at the level of the human genome, investigation by scientists sympathetic to the rich would run into very long odds in finding just where the initiating drug had attached itself to the DNA of a particular individual.  In point of fact, each initiating drug and its partner were unique to a particular individual, so that finding and saving one, would not save others.

    In addition, any family found trying to fix the problem would suffer sudden deaths, for there was a third drug that could be introduced that would activate the initiating drug immediately if needed.

    That was the iron fist.  The velvet glove was that Arthur and his friends did not want any outward change to arise.  The leading families could still rule.  They just had to consult with the co-Templers and obey any orders that were given.  The co-Templers had all left their families, and gone into hiding - into places also prepared over long periods of time.  Lines of communication had been created, most electronic, and others of a more ancient kind - carrier pigeons of all things.  The co-Templers had anticipated that the collapse could reach severe considitions, and alternatives were planned and developed.

    Of course the families were required to send large amounts of funds to off shore accounts, so that Arthur and his friends could begin other long range plans.

    The meeting then, with its general reports of success, had come to an end, and those who had gathered got ready to go to another room in this remote and very fancy lodge to enjoy a very special dinner, when all of a sudden the lights went out.

*

    Major Agustus put down the phone.  He wondered if he was committing treason.  Certainly he was in violation of orders.  He'd just called Sargent Jones, and set up a meeting - a meeting that could well place him with the resisters.    He looked again at the orders on his desk, the ones that directed his intelligence unit to prepare assessments regarding his old neighborhood, and to access certain data bases regarding gang membership and other aspects of criminal activity there.  He was to have a week, and then join the planning group as they got ready to make their strategy and tactics for invading and conquoring part of their own country.  The orders didn't say invade and conquor, but it was all the same in any event.

    He'd asked General Gordon about Possie Commitatus, the law that forbade the armed forces of the United States from being involved in domestic strife.  He was told not to worry.  The President was making a finding that placed this activity in one of the exceptions - it was all going to come under the Domestic Terrorist definition of the Patriot Act.  Leave that stuff to the politicians the General said.  Of course, what wasn't said was what was going to happen if their own forces refused orders.  Or at least he, Major Agustus, wasn't involved in that.   But he'd seen Coronel Arthur going in General Gordon's office after the briefing.  Coronel Arthur being the head of a very large military police unit that had just recently been doubled in size on the base.  Didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.  The Army was going to arrest anyone who refused orders, and by that means coerce anyone on the fence, anyone who hadn't figured it out yet.

    So he'd called Jones, and set up a meeting.  The Sargent would probably know, but Agustus knew he had to choose, and he choose not to go along with this madness.  Yes, there was a lot of chaos, but using the Army to enforce order, that didn't seem necessary.  Whatever had happened in the cities, it was over.  Territory once held by big city politicians and their police forces was now held by gangs, and others, perhaps even some militias.  The original three or four months of fighting in certain segments of our nation's major cities was over.  Lines had been drawn on maps.  Fighting had stopped.  Fires were out.  Somehow the gangs, and this strange group called the shadow warriors had stopped the initial rioting.  That was new, and it implied a lot to someone used to thinking the way Agustus had been trained to think.

    Something intelligent and organized was involved in this.  The real question to Agustus was, do we root them out and make more chaos and war and riot, or do we negotiate and make peace.  Some folks likened what was happening to civil war, but that seemed false as well.  As an intelligence officer he knew what he didn't know, and he knew mostly that he didn't know what he needed to know.

*

    President McHenry sighed a very deep sigh.  The Threats team from Defense, the one chaired by someone representing the real powers behind everything, had just put on his desk a plan they called, very unfortunately, Armageddon.  It called for letting lose a special strain of smallpox - a strain with no currently known vaccine - all over the world.  The idea was not new to him, he'd heard it before, the last time he attended a council in Davros - a council with the powers.   These  were the nameless financial people, the ones who ruled behind the scenes - the ones who had guided his political development and got him elected.

    Their idea was fairly simply - it was time to cull the herd someone had put it, and when he listened to that he had gotten very cold in his stomach, so cold he had had to go the bathroom and throw up.  These people frightened him like no one in the world had ever frightened him before.

    But there on his desk was the plan.  First a secret innoculation program, using a vaccine no one else had and based on already established lists.  Then the virus was to be released in certain areas, and as panic set in the new vaccines would be distributed.  But only 25%  were to be effective.  There still needed to be workers and soldiers at the bottom, but there were too many people in the world, and the best way to fix the situation was to kill as many of the unneeded ones as possible.  The plan had numbers and rules for dealing with the bodies and all kinds of cold, even cruel, details for what was essentially murder and violence on a scale no one had ever before imagined.

     There was concern it might set off an international nuclear war, but corrupt officials in various nations possessing that and other weapons of mass destruction were going to be offered cases of the real vaccine, as long as they understood what the deal was.  It was a risk, but a calculated one that might well succeed.  He'd heard that China was ready to go with the US at the right moment during the early days of the epidemic, and bomb North Korea.   As to India and Pakistan, the idea was to make them attack each other.  No one really knew how it was going to unfold, but since the truly wealthy and their various needed servants and political lackeys had places to hide, most thought they could survive, and then from these hidding places come out after a while and rule the ruins.

    Of course, no one was sure what the Islamists had, what kinds of weapons.  Or, how they would react.  Mostly it was assumed that they were not really prepared, and that with the convulsion that was to be delivered to the world, they'd soon be reduced to camels and their own water problems.  They didn't know what was coming and might make a little trouble in the region, but not much.  A nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel was probably right in line with the Bible anyway.  At least he'd be safe, and his family.  That's what counted in the coming days - personal survival.

    He glanced through the whole thing, a document a couple of hundred pages long, filled with charts and diagrams and maps and projections of this and of that.  It wasn' a question of if, but of when.  The recommendation was to wait until early next fall, about 10 months from now, and start the epidemic just before the coming Presidential election.  It would be called a terrorist attack and become the excuse to delay the election, perhaps permanently restrict civil liberties and initiate a continuous state of martial law. 

    He found he couldn't read it.  It was too callus, too heartless, in its language.  It reminded him of a much older text he'd studied in college about nuclear war, called: thinking the unthinkable.

*

    Margaret, Joyce and Gail looked at the plans.  Gail's husband was a contractor, and had almost gone out of business, but Margaret had talked her banker husband into putting off his eviction from his work sites, main office and materials and machine yards.  Joyce's husband was an architect, and under the instruction of the three of them had drawn up some plans.  They were going to build what was beginning to be called the Enclave - a place to retreat to that would be fortified to some degree, or at least made defensible.  They really needed someone from the military, but didn't know how to find someone safe and discreet.

    Fortunately, the survivalist folks had put a lot of material on-line over the years, so they had been reading up, buying books and talking long into the night.  For some reason their husbands were content to let them run with this.  They'd be around sometimes and sit in the background and make an occassional suggestion, but there was no macho take over this is man's work stuff.  The ladies were pleasantly surprised.  Carl, Gail's husband, had come over one night and played them part of a tape of a movie called Species, about some kind of alien dna half human being that got loose in Los Angeles and was walking around trying to mate with humans.  The funny part was when the scientist responsible said they had made the alien/human female because females were more docile and more easily controled.  To which the hunter character replied: you don't get out much do you?

    Seems like nobody needed to talk about mother bears and cubs, and who in the end could be more vicious if the need came up.  Joyce had taken self defense before, and was teaching them all, while Bill, Margarets husband, had been an avid hunter and knew something about guns.  So there was gun training too.

    Margaret found that even with all anxiety, the Prosac didn't call to her anymore.  Being active this way was providing some kind of natural balance.  Funny was, the same thing was true with Bill.  Once they decided not to let the world run them over, he'd become stronger somehow, even at work.  Not letting himself get pushed around at the office and, most interesting of all, being more assertive in bed.  To top it off, his blood pressure was coming down.  Go figure.

*

anonymous internet weather report from a website called: Weird things you ought to know. apparently it was raining small frogs and lizards in a bunch of places, but the regular news channels were not reporting this.  a link was up showing how to download an Austrialina movie from the '70's called: The Last Wave.   also a more recent movie called: Magnolia.  both had scenes about frog rains and freak weather.  there was also a link to a site called: DocWeather, and to a paper there about how to work with spiritual beings called elementals and make it rain.

*

    Rachael shifted down as the big rig came into the distribution center.  She was worried at bit, and glanced over at her guest rider, the seemingly homeless man who had stood up at Nick's Truck Stop and basically changed everything.  He'd told the gathered crowd of drivers that they had friends - friends they didn't know about yet, and while he spoke further a couple of tough looking blacks in colors had moved among all the getting-a-bit-agitated drivers handing out laptop computers.

    Basically what was being offered was a means of coordinating the truckers.  They'd make their own decisions, but these computers (and many were being handed out in other places all over the country during this same week), were encrypted and linked.  Ways to contact the shadow warriors and the gangs was explained.  The whole work of a significant number of shadow warriors and gang members was now being devoted to make it possible for the truckers to keep food and medications moving on the blood stream of the highways.  They wanted each the truckers' convoys to each have at least one laptop.

    Soon, however, there was too much shouting and confusion, so the shadow warrior just sat down and waited.  After a while the crowd had quieted, and questions started coming out.  The first one was about the repossessing of the rigs, which would hamper the whole thing.  So the shadow warrior told them about what the militias were up to, and that it was thought by some that an alliance could be made with these folks to protect the driver's rigs as well.

    People had to understand that events were moving pretty fast, and that even these measures might not do much over all.  They were mostly a stopgap.  Something else was going on, and things were going to get a lot worse before they got better.  Taped to each laptop was  a high density DVD.  This was called: the Library.

    The DVD had a storage capacity in total of about 30 plus gigabites, which had enabled the dreadlords to store a huge number of books on survival and other related matters.  These were being distributed as widely as possible, but not everyone could have this, and so the major distribution problem was to get a fine "mist" of these laptops and the Library out in as many places in America as possible.  Each Library steward (not owner) was urged to immediately get their hands on very specific items, which basically included a stationary bicycle of some kind, a small electrical generator that could be attached to the stationary bicycle, and very specific items from Radio Shack, which would allow the current generated by riding the bicycle to properly tickle the laptops battery and kept it alive.

    The Library was being initially given to the trucker community, in the hopes that they would start to see to this fine mist distribution of the material all over the US, and perhaps Canada and Mexico.  This seemed to be something happening in other places in the world as well.   It all had something do with what was called the open source internet community.  But all the truckers needed to know was what was happening in North America.

    The Library had information based on the question of what happens if civilization actually collapses in a severe way.  How do we keep the knowledge we have acquired from disappearing.  Fortunately for years, between the survivalists and the Whole Earth Catalog people, all kinds of texts and information had been created.  All the dreadlords had done was collect what was on the net, and have a number of books not on the net scanned in.  A couple of shadow warriors, who were serious former academics, had taken on the problem of indexing the material and making it easy for people with almost no computer experience to access and use it.  Search programs had been created, which was an obvious tool.  But the most interesting matter was what was called the problem solving tree.

    What you did was list your current problems and needs - water, medicine, shelter, whatever.  You put this in the tree program and it would access those files to meet your most immediate needs.  How to deal with dysentery, cholera and other infectious problems that would arise if the macro infrastructure of society were to fail was all in the Library.  Herbal lore was in there, organized according to your physical location.  Camping books, cooking books, stuff on making traps for small animals.  All kinds of things that had been saved from what Native Americans knew.

    The whole thing blew everyone's mind, even some of the most hardened and conservative truckers.  Even the ones a bit intoxicated sobered right up.  It was getting very serious now, and Rachael, like a lot of others, was also getting very angry.
That's why they were at the distribution center - in convoy.  Two dozen rigs, and four outriders.  Everyone was armed.  They had stuff they wanted and it was time to confront the system and force it to work for the ordinary people instead of against them.

*
    The Indian, who had been talking to him before, gave Avery some instructions for the sweat lodge.

    "You might find it hard to breathe after a while.  Don't be ashamed.   Just lean over and put your face by the ground and the edge of the lodge.  There will be cool fresh air coming in there, 'cause the heat rises and draws it in.  No one expects you to even stay long.  If it gets to be too much, and you want to leave, don't worry.  Everyone remembers their first times and will respect you more if you take care of yourself and don't overdo anything.  We don't do serious talking until we've been ritually purified, but this is the last part of the rite."

    Avery went along, but was still filled within with a lot of questions - serious talk about what?

*

    Augustus and C. J. sat there dumbfounded and speechless.  They'd taken a three-day leave, ostensibly to go home and do some recon if they could get inside the territory controlled by the gangs.  Even in their civies, they'd been identified within about half an hour, picked up and brought before a local council.  Some homeless guy, or shadow warrior or whatever, who called himself J.C., had just given them a briefing on the situation.  He knew more about what was going on in the Army than they did.

    But that wasn't the half of it.  After J.C. came this bespeckeled young black man, who claimed to be one of the dreadlords of cyberspace and who called himself Hex-man.  He started by talking about what the dreadlords were finding in their incursions into the Pentagon, which he accompanied with a power point slide show of all things.  As he listened and watched, Augustus started making connections in his mind that he didn't want to make.  The gangs and the shadow warriors had anticipated some kind of heavy response from the Federal Government, but when the dreadlords had stumbled on certain diagrams, and certain research in the Pentagon, it began to look like the response was not going to be strictly military, at least in the sense of movements of armed troops trying to take back the cities.

    These were projections and statistics covering the whole population of the US, as well as Canada and Mexico.  On the surface it looked like some kind of biological warfare scenario.   But at the same time it didn't quite read that way in the titles of the documents.  There was, for example, a sequence of maps of "proposed distribution alternatives".  Augustus, as an intelligence officer, had seen various biological attack scenarios before, and this title was inconsistent with those, which tended to have names like: "anticipated strike or entry points".

    When Hex-man was done, Augustus couldn't contain himself.  "This is not a defense strategy, this is an offensive plan for distributing biologicals throughout North America!"

    C.J. said: "Shit", and J.C. and Hex-man just looked at each other, and them, and nodded.

*

    The politician, who sometimes thought of his speaking as singing, spoke to a small group of citizens.  He told them things they didn't like to hear.

    "Government", he said, "isn't going to do what you want.  It isn't really designed to do what you want, or what you need.  We've been living under an illusion - an illusion part of which we are responsible for ourselves.  Think about it.

    "The fact is what you want is for governmenty to do what is right, to do what is moral.  But the reality is that wasn't and isn't the role of government - or at least a central government or a constitutional government.  At the same time there is a force, a power even, that is better, more honest, less compromised, and really in the end more capable.  It's the government on which the constitutional government rests.  Its you.

    "When it really comes to doing what is right to do, you're the best people to do it.  Central governments, like our federal constituitonal government, or our state and municiple goverments can do certain things, but there are limits.  There are things that can be done, in a kind of confused and problematic way, and with a certain natural degree of corruption.  People in and around government want to have certain things for themselves, whether it is power or wealth or both.  Government attracts such souls much the same way the honey collected by bees attracts a bear.   Governments become collections of wealth and power and this treasure trove attracts those who want to have some or all for themselves.

    "We know the current crisis is rooted in this very fact.  Those seeking power and wealth came to government and corrupted it, so that it became incapable of doing what we really needed it to do, so it failed, and then the social systems needing a wise governance also failed, with the result we have what we are now calling the collapse.

    "We have to not be surprised at this.

    "If you are old enough, you saw this coming for a long time.

    "Now we are where we are, and certain necessities flow from this.  Clearly we need to rewrite the Constitution.  We've learned certain things, and we ought to become wiser through this time of crisis, just like we do as individuals in life.  With this new wisdom we can again exercise our fundamental power, which is superior to any sitting government, and set new rules and new standards.  All the same, we need to recognize that the more powers we give to a central government, the more this will attract those who hunger to exercise it for their own benefit.  So we need to think carefully about these issues, about fundamental matters of power and human nature and governance.   We also need to take the time to do this right.  Don't expect to do this in a couple of years - more likely we are looking at a decade of work, at least.  Hard work too, deep thought, lots of conversations, and much compromise.

    "We also have to recognize that a lot of what we asked government to do, and a lot of what we hoped private enterprise would do, was not done well by either.  Those things they didn't do well, we will be right to take upon ourselves.  For example, we will have to ourselves see to certain kinds of care of those individuals in need of special attention.  Before, we gave this over to government bureaucracies and to various corporations, and frankly they didn't do that well with these tasks.  At one point, they threw a lot of the so-called mentally ill out on the streets, and left it to Divine Providence to care for them.  They ended up caring for each other, but clearly as we go into the future, we are going to need to find another way to do this, and not leave it to the natural weaknesses of governments and corporations to provide what we know as the true moral response to these needs.

    "This is just an example of course, but these things need to be said.  We've been co-dependent with social institutions that really didn't perform well at all, and we need to take more power and tasks to ourselves, and give less to them, and expect less from them.

    "For example, we can still have them collect taxes, but maybe when it comes to spending that money, at least that portion we want to share equally among ourselves for the care of those in need, and which is why we tax ourselves, we need to have it distributed directly to where it is needed, right into our local neighborhoods, and skipping right past any levels of government or business interest.  We need to keep right beside us those in need of our care, for these are our own mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters, and we all know we really want to oversee this care, whether we have the time or the skill to do it ourselves.   So we use the central government to collect the funds in some way, and then distribute them equally, no one getting more, no one getting less.

    "Now maybe this isn't the best solution.  I just wanted to flesh out the situation with a kind of example, and to show how we have the power to redefine matters anyway we want in these situations.  The fact is that we have an opportunity to recreate our social order from the bottom up, in the ways that we decide are wise.  We make the rules, and we keep the power and we take the responsibility; and, that is what Lincoln meant with his idea of a government of the people and for the people and by the people.

    "Of course, those still clinging to power will resist.  But whatever they claim or assert, the fact is that it is we who hold the moral high ground, and from who any grant of power to a sitting government must flow.  They can insist, twist, jump, shout, demand and have any kind of tantrum they want.  As was stated in the Declaration of Indepence - just power only comes from the consent of the governed.  Any other assertion of power is unjust and wrong.

    "All this said, now I'd like you to turn your chairs into a circle and talk to each other about what you are going to do with that just power, and that responsibility.  Thank you."

*

    The renegade priest was finally starting to find his writing voice.   He'd been too academic before, and then too religious.  He knew he needed to speak plainly, and briefly.  Just a few straight forward facts, most of which could be checked.  In the quiet of his room at the YMCA,  he began to write an e-mail as follows:

    "I know a lot of people aren't religious, and given what has been going on, especially in the institutional hierarchy of the Catholic Church, this is understandable.  But all the same, in the 20th Century something rather remarkable happened, something that changes everything, and which the Church has known about and still systematically ignored.

    "New Revelations of the Christ have come to be the possession of humanity.  The Divine Mystery has spoken once more, through Its chosen voices, to our time of need, and to the nature of our need.  The thing is you don't have to believe to appreciate what has happened.

    "A bridge has been build between religion and science, uniting them.  While it is understandable that many on either side would not like to have to set aside their dogmas and assumptions, something that must occur to both if they are to become one, nonetheless the fact remains that their unity is a deed that has been done, and that Mother Church has been and is even more aware of it than is the scientific community.

    "Now this New Revelation, among other effects, has added to our knowledge in all fields of human endeavor.  It is not only profoundly religious, but has increased our understanding of medicine, education, science, philosophy, sociology and so forth.  All fields of human activity have been enriched.

    "But what does the Catholic Church do?   It complains about other people's morality, while at the same time horribly failing at its own.  It not only denied the terrible abuse of children, but has sat on progressive developments in healing and in agriculture.  Possessing a power to publicize these New Revelations and make them available to all, the Church has chosen instead to hide its eyes and cling to earthly power instead.

    "Thinking then only of itself, the Church kept from applying its social power to those transformations of society so badly needed as an antidote to the materialist anti-spiritual tendencies of science as well as the amoral worlds of finance and politics.  A great moral power had spoken upon the Earth once more, and the Church instead of embracing it with joy, turned its back, just as it did on the victims of the holocaust, to the dimishment of all of humanity.

    "In so doing Mother Church has committed a grave spiritual crime, and in the process forefitted completely and finally any assertion of moral authority.

    "Now I should say a few words about the nature of this New Revelation.  It holds, for example, the greatest respect for human freedom of thought and conscience.  It affirms what many assumed about the Gospels, that the teachings of Jesus were not meant to confine humanity to a rigid moral order, but instead to free us to find our own true natures.

    "Moreover this New Revelation potentially speaks to all minds and hearts.  There is to be no longer any higher authority, such as Popes, Cardinals, Bishops or Priests.  The human being is to decide all for themselves.

    "For the benefit of the rational in the human being, this New Revelation roots itself in the soundest philosophic principles and aligns itself with a whole new mathematics.  No where does it require leaps of faith, or new dogmas of belief, although true Faith, Hope and Charity are all enriched.  It brings back together the Kings and the Shepherds, for the Kings were in the Gospels the symbols of the Ancient Mysteries, the Mysteries of personal gnosis and direct experience of the Divine Mystery.  The New Revelation unveils the forgotten power of the individual human spirit to rise out of its own efforts toward contact with the Divine.

    "In each arena of human endeavor, this new cognative power has been applied to questions very much needing new answers.  In agriculture, medicine, education - all manner of places where human beings see difficulties, the New Revelation has found a way to speak through striving human beings to all of humanity.  What the Creationists hope for, that is proof of the Divine in evolution and in the cosmos, can be found through the methods of thought and observation carefully developed under the influence of the New Revelation.

    "Here now I will list some books that can be read by anyone who seeks to encounter this New Revelation.  First we shall start with the writings of Rudolf Steiner, who is just one of many who have participated in the process of this New Revelation, and ..."

    At this point a shot rang out, and as the renegade priest gave up his last breath on the altar of the Church's perfidity, he was able to click on the send key, and out went the message via e-mail to a number of publications and individuals.  The assassin tried to pull the plug on the old computer, but he was too late.  Even so, the assassin believed that hardly anyone would bother, for without the living priest to back up his story, most would just assume it was just the message of another crank conspiracy theorist.

    What was odd, was that the assassin was not from the Church itself, but from another point of view entirely, acting a part in an age old battle over the control of knowledge and the guidance of humanity.  He was a tool of the Gray Council, an occult brotherhood that believed, like Satan in the story of Job, that mankind was too childish and not to be trusted with higher truths.

*

    When the lights came back on about 3 seconds after going out, Arthur and his friends in the co-Templers found themselves sitting in the presence of old man, who had not been there before.  He was puffing on a very large cigar, and chuckling to himself.  Arthur jumped up and tried the door to the room, which had been locked to prevent interruptions, only to discover it was still locked.  As the old man looked at each one in the room, their questions and murmers went silent.  They all were having a very strange experience, for the eyes of the old man were clear - there were no whites in his eyes.  Rather those very bright blue eyes sat in orbs as clear and transparent as crystal.  He then began to speak, and the fact that his deep melodious voice was resonating from his whole body brought them further into a full silence.  They could not even really think in the face of a presence which saw right through their souls to look upon their naked spirits.

    "I'm going to tell you a story,.." he said.  "You don't have to believe a word of it.  Consider it a gift and perhaps a warning.  You have wandered into a territory where you ought not to have gone, and now at the very least you deserve to understand your true peril."

    "The world is the creation of Divine Order, whatever the modern scientists want to believe.  It is an order that even the religious have trouble fathoming, for not even Evil lies outside this truth.  Now the governance of this world is quite complicated, for it allows, and even compensates, for human freedom.   Christ actually made this clear in the Sermon on the Mount, in the original Greek of course, that you will be sentenced to that sentence to which you sentence others.   Take that as a literal communication - what you do will come back to you, or as the wisdom of the street would have it: what goes around comes around."

    "In the course of human evolution, a matter still secret to most, many people obtained to powers of various kinds.  Some powers would seem magical to you, and others were simply of the seership kind - an ability to see and visit the invisible worlds.   Many of those who encountered these powers in the past, find they have to live lives that make recompense for past errors in this regard, and so they remain hidden from the modern world, which assumes that there is no guidance to history.  Since people have also long denied the idea of any dominance by the great financial powers whom you have sought to defeat and enslave, we should not be surprised that knowledge of an even more secret power would remain quite hidden.  Yet, these lords of finance are people who end up being controled by even another group, who can only be called: occult lodges or brotherhoods."

    "This is their fate, karma and destiny of many of those who have played with powers and seership in the past  - to become part of these lodges which frequently pressume a great deal as regards the main portions of humanity, the meek and so forth.  Of those who are called in their biographies to labor in these fields, there are three general kinds of groups in which one can become involved: the Whites, the Blacks and the Grays."

     "The Whites have powers and knowledge, but due to the moral nature of these times, are mostly committed to freedom and to leaving individual human beings to their own choices and the consequences of those choices.  I am one of their leaders.  The Blacks also have powers and knowledge, but have chosen to align themselves with what has to be called the Dark Powers, or the hierarchy of the Left.  These souls are lost in dreams they don't even imagine exist."

    "The Grays are the most dangerous, for they do not so much seek magical powers, but do seek knowledge and the power that knowledge grants in human affairs.  They stand in secret behind the financial lords you have sought to topple.  I know that some of you suspected such a thing, but not really having Faith or Gnosis, you acted in arrogant ignorance and produced great folly for yourselves.  The Grays are unhappy with your interference, and even now meet and make plans as regards what to do with you.  It is they who make what seems on the surface a play for the rich, at the Bohemian Grove and in the Halls of such as the Skull and Bones Society at Yale.  Little do they know, those who play at these Rites, that something is actually able to penetrate their consciousness in such places - something that allows the Grays to have control over their minds, to a degree."

    "You are not subject to their Rites, and lying outside their powers so far, represent a problem.  They are rather callus in their thinking, because they know reincarnation is real, and therefore to kill, for them, has little consequence in the long stream of affairs - since they expect those they kill to live again and again until the true End of Time.  Your deaths, and the subsequent deaths of those you have poisoned, have therefore almost no meaning for them.  Their only question is about regaining control and yet remaining secret.  A practical problem to be solved by eminantly practical people."

    The lights went out again for a couple of seconds, and when they returned the old man with clear eyes was gone.  Arthur and the other co-Templers then sat in deep silence for a very long time.  In Arthur's mind came some lines of a song, from his college days - the Moody Blues singing - Steppin' in a Slide Zone, from the album Octave: "I took a ride in a limousine, I took a road I'd never been, I met a stranger on the way, his coat was torn but his eyes were clear".

*

more strange news, which was promptly classified and only partially kept secret: the large particle accelerator in Cerne Switzerland turned on by itself the other night, and cannot now be turned off.   somehow it created a stable singularity (a very very very tiny black hole) at the point where particles, driven by the huge electic magnets of the accelerator, are crashed into each other.   from this tiny point of intersection, a very tight beam of energy began to pour into the computer network of the whole Cerne facility.  this computer network now cannot be turned off either, and from it programs something like viruses (but not exactly) began to find there way loose into the world wide web.  the speculation was that somehow a kind of artificial computer intelligence was giving birth to itself.  [this will turn out not to be true, by the way.  what actually was happening was far worse.  of course, since this is novel, we are entitled to have some fun, are we not? ed.]

*

    Avery and the Indians were now back sitting in the circle.  The sun had risen during the sweat lodge, and Avery felt cleansed in a way he'd never felt before.  He felt very very alive.   All the smells and sounds of the forest were sharper.  He kept grinning to himself, and caught others noticing out of the corner of their eyes and smiling back.  Shit, he thought to himself, these guys are way smarter than I've ever imagined.

    The old man started to speak.

    "We have a message for you to deliver to the militias.  We've been watching you in these woods, and see that you instinctively respect them in a way not many white men do.   Your camps are always carefully small, the fires well put out, and no garbage left behind.  We know you don't really understand Mother Earth, or Father Sky, but still you have this healthy instinct, and the ancestors have told me to trust you."

    Avery shuddered a little bit.  If he understood what was being said, this guy was saying he talked to dead people.

    The old man continued: "Some of your leaders play with terrible fires.  Many years ago, I was given a vision of this time, of a coming Fire of Purification, and now is that time.  I think you know things are going to get worse, but I don't think you know just how much worse.  The Sky People tell me that the white man's leaders are mad now, lost completely in the dark places inside.  This cannot be allowed to happen.  Mother Earth will not allow it.   She will destroy almost all of us first, before letting the crazy ones set free these dark powers.  I know you don't understand this, but I have read the white man's words and I know that your scientists have sought great power over Mother Earth: nuclear bombs, playing with the DNA, weapons made of terrible illnesses and other kinds of powers of death.  The white man's science has spread like a great disease of ignorance all over the Earth, and everywhere the madness of human beings, lost to the spiritual truth, threatens the Life of our Mother."

    "So the Sky People tell me that many human ones don't want this.  Let me tell you a great secret about the Lodges in the Sky.  Make this picture in your mind, and let it live deeply in your heart.  Imagine the Earth turning in the Sky, and with each movement some people go to sleep and some people awake.  As the Mother turns, different groups rest in a great rhythmic wave that flows around the Earth.  But sleep is not unconsciousness as white men believe in their arrogance.  As each of us sleeps we go to Lodges in the Sky, to be instructed for the next day of existence.  We don't remember this instruction, because on the Earth, and while awake, we need to be taught, and to have freedom."

    "All the same, in the Lodges during sleep we take council together, just as we do here now.  In sleep our shadow is very weak, and we know ourselves as beings of light.  This is what our Mystery Teachers learn, to be awake when asleep, and this is when I speak to the Sky People.  They tell me that the humans are tired now of the crimes of the evil two-hearted ones who make all the troubles for everyone else.  Most of the humans that speak in the Lodges of Sleep are ready to let go this time on the Earth.  They have decided in the Lodges of Sleep to die to the Earth in great numbers, and in sacrifice to save from the weapons of madness the sacred circle of all Life on the Earth.  The Sky People make ready to receive them and hold them dear, until the Earth has been cleansed and the green life, the winged ones and the four legged can come back in great numbers and in health."

    "We tell you this so that you can warn the good hearted among you to prepare for the great cleansing.  Rites of purification, like our sweat lodge, need to be done, and everyone has to get ready.  Mother Earth has no choice now, now that the humans in the Lodges of Sleep have consented.  She will dance a dance of life and death, of destruction and renewal.  She will knock down the cities and the dams, the bridges and the highways.  She will cleanse the world with Fire and Ice.  This I have seen.  My name is White Eagle."

    Avery started to cry.  He didn't know why, but somehow he was crying for happy.  It was hard trying to be good when so many worked even harder at doing evil.   It was as if a great weight was being lifted from his heart, and the tears flowed freely down his face.

    He was not the only one in tears, and then the whole circle, including Avery, shouted a great "Ho!"  

*

   



      



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