Z-anon-sensei Speaks #75
“He had made the Church great by adding so much temporal to its spiritual power.” Machiavelli
Radio sat at his desk and looked through his notes. Xenon’s apartment at EkoLivin Village was a sub-let, nothing at all on file about her. Their security cams only archived one week’s recordings—minimum legal— and the only visitor to her place during that time was Pettifogger. ^zetateam tracked the leaseholder of her place as far as a plane ticket to Shannon, Ireland back in February, well before the Covid shut down travel. Nothing came up on the grid since then, not even credit card stuff from Ireland, which Radio found a little strange. But tracking him down in Ireland was touchy. The Director seemed to think it might be worth the risk but didn’t say any more. Radio was struggling to get an ID on Xenon, and that was the strangest thing of all. Nobody is nobody, nowadays.
Her social media wasn’t much more helpful. Everything there was linked to the protests and her streaming. She had over 500 followers, but her posts were never personal. It seemed that she had created the Xenon persona on Facebook just for this purpose. Radio would ask the Director to work on that angle, too.
Radio had spent three nights with the protesters. It wasn’t hard to fit in. He had ^zetateam set him up with a livestream identity on Twitch; ^RadioRiot was his handle. He had to go to a sporting goods store all the way out in Oregon City for his protest gear, since all the shops nearer in to Portland were sold out. But, conveniently, Hammy’s Sporting Goods had a ready-made multi-sport protest package already bundled up for a decent mark-up over retail— a baseball catcher’s chest protector, some hockey shin guards, skateboarder’s elbow-pads, topped off nicely with a ski helmet and some ski goggles which, with duct tape over the side vents should work real nice for tear-gas. Radio already had a gas-mask in the closet (who doesn’t, right?) and ^zetateam standard filters were built for far finer-particled air-born toxins than anything in standard police-issue CS, so he was good there. He used reflective tape to put the word “PRESS” on his black helmet, and on the outside of a black hoodie sweatshirt he wore over the catcher’s pad.
Then Radio just wandered in and started filming and running away from the cops along with the media crowd. He said hello to people who talked to him, and I’m sorry to people he banged into. It wasn’t easy, moving around fluidly in all this gear while trying to keep his video stream steady and pointed at some action. But he got better at it by the second night. One by one the other streamers got close enough to him to chat him up a little, “Watcha up to bro, haven’t seen you before,” kind of stuff. Radio just lied, told them he’d been at a bunch of the protests but just now got his livestream gear booted up. He was older than most of them, but the mask and helmet disguised the physical side of that, anyway. Some of them asked if he was a cop to which he always replied, “Fuck you, no way. Black Lives Matter!” That was good enough, because as it turns out cops never say “black lives matter”. It’s a union rule, and they stick to it. So by saying just that, Radio became cool in the eyes of the other protesters and media folks. Seemed to be quite a bit of paranoia going around, but it was justified. Radio detected at least one undercover cop among the streamers, and felt the presence of several more out in the crowd. Their vibe was so clear and stood out from the jumble of the protest.
As near as Radio could pick up, no one was especially suspicious of him by the end of the second night.
But even after he’d fully gained their confidence by chucking a few tear gas canisters back at the police and in the process taking a shot in the thigh from a rubber bullet well-aimed by none other than Fatuo Asole, Radio still couldn’t get much info about Xenon from the livestreamers or from the other protesters he was able to talk to. He was trying not to raise any eyebrows, so he couldn’t be as direct as he wanted.
One dude, a live-streamer with the handle @anycanoewilldo told Radio “Xenon kicks ass!” with real enthusiasm. He said he had seen her leg-sweep a passing ^goonie one night near the Fed building to help another streamer escape a clubbing and possible arrest. Dropped the cop straight on his face, he said, obviously approving. And got away with it. A lot of people had “seen her around but not the last couple days”, or “not since the Fed, man” She was cool was the universal reply. But no one at all admitted to knowing any more about her. Radio didn’t sense that they were lying. And, as near as Radio could tell, Mick Pettifogger hadn’t been seen around the protests for a while, either, not since RiotRibs shut down. They both seemed to have dropped out of sight at the same time. A lot of people had drifted away from the protest scene after the ^goonies backed down and things moved away from the Federal Courthouse, so nobody seemed to have really noticed Xenon wasn’t around.
And Radio hadn’t gotten much more than that from the occasional thoughts he could snag from the mostly stoned and over-excited protesters. The protests were exceptionally difficult for Radio, who didn’t like crowded places in general. A flurry of thoughts would impose on him if too many people were too close, random images and emotions brushing his mind like leaves in a thick forest. But being in this close-combat urban battleground felt like walking naked through a sandstorm of shattered glass, each shard containing a fragment of a lifelong story told by a unique, compelling voice. And so many of the voices echoing in his head were fearful and angry and determined to be heard. Radio’s best shielding efforts would last only a few hours. Then he had to flee, walking away alone until he found an empty street somewhere and the voices went quiet in his head.
For now it seemed that the protests were a dead lead. He paged once more through the pile of print-outs then dropped the bundle onto the floor beside him. Nothing to work with. The next step was to get into her apartment, by hook or by crook, to see if he could find any clues there.
Z-anon-sensei says despite the best efforts of psychological science, humans remain unpredictable, both individually and in their group manifestations, though the latter come closer to mathematical possibilities for prediction, especially when the subtleties of chaos mathematics are included in the models. That natural human unpredictability is the source of much of the trouble in this world. And that same unpredictability is the only thing that will save it.
Z-anon-sensei says weather systems are as unpredictable as human beings. But predict they must, in both respects. Now two hurricanes are approaching the southern coast of the US at the same time. The convergence of two storms like this hasn’t happened since 1933 during the great depression. Symbolism. Suggestion. Or coincidence? The exact storm paths may not be predictable, but the outcome is not hard to see.
It isn’t pretty.
Blake Steele climbed the stairs from his basement lair and stepped into the brightly-lit kitchen. He slid up behind his wife who was working at the sink and wrapped his arms around her waist. He always felt a little randy after a spell downstairs. “Good morning, Darlin,” he said. “How’s my girl doing?” She turned toward him and smiled up into his eyes, still holding a dish towel in her hand. He pulled her against him at the hips and leaned to give her a kiss, but she reached up with the towel and dabbed at his cheek. “It’s just a little splash, dear, I got it.” She dropped the towel with its small red stain onto the floor at her feet and kissed him deeply, leaning in.
Steele was feeling better. He had convinced the Pretendident to get a little more PR out of his brother’s death by holding a funeral ceremony at the WhoreHouse. Blake knew well the strange psychological attractiveness of death, and he had studied the way images of death can be used to trigger emotions in target subjects. Subliminal advertisers had explored this aspect of human psychology in detail. They found that placing unseen images of skulls or contorted, demon-like faces in an ad for a brand of soda pop or bath soap would dramatically increase the sales of that brand. Against all intuition, it turns out that frightening, death-and-fear-evoking images had as much benefit for sales as sexual images did. Liquor advertisements in glossy magazines began to embed skulls and other frightening images right next to the words “sex” or “love” hidden in the swirls of ice and glass and beads of water on the tumblers of golden liquid, and the combination proved more effective than either alone. So Thump’s bro’s funeral, especially if Melancholia wears a short dress, showing a little leg you know, would have much the same effect, and could help Thump in the polls. Sex and death. Thanatos and Eros. The old, tried and true combo. Thump could use his brother’s funeral to make up some of the ground he had lost over the last few days. Steele felt good about the plan. Making lemonade, as they say. Singin’ in the rain.
He kissed Darlin’ Gyrl for a while more, squeezing her plump behind while he did. Then he bent down and picked up the dish towel, handed it back to her. “You go ahead and finish up, Darlin. I’ll go say good morning to the kids.”