Sunday, 13 June 2010

Part Seven: Psychedelic Super Nazis

And tried to formulate a business plan for my beggars agency, but couldn’t get it to work out. It sounded too much like a political manifesto, a pathetic welfarist cry for tolerance that failed to match the intensity of my kerb-side epiphany minutes before.

A pile of new magazines had accumulated on my desk, flotsam gathering in a rock pool, but I couldn’t bring myself to look at them. On the media, Katy’s murder hardly rated a mention. A feed from some hack-at-the-scene dwelt on Arthur’s recordings of the event (it seemed he’d stayed in circuit around the car park to get the denouement on disc). No one had claimed the body. Katy had (like most of the school kid rebels) murdered most of her family during the revolution and, being an independent, there was no-one to take the body away and give it a decent burial. I immediately patched a claim into the media, bumping a ghoul from a necro-bar off the top of the list with a more legitimate claim: we’d once been exclusive lovers, after all. I could probably cover the cost myself, but maybe the Ministry would pay, just to have her cremated, didn’t have to be anything big. We could use it, after all fold it into this illumination plotline.

Then my set went blank: the mainframe was down.

in front of me. His once perfect features were now marred by the interference, slightly disjointed by a hot apricot seam that shot through him from the top of his head to just above his right hip. His voice was flatter, had lost the resonance it had before. “Who are you?”

“I’m Dylan.”

“Yes, that’s you, Dylan. I remember... something. Look, you’ve got to listen to me. There’s something you’ve got to know before we go any further.”

“Okay.” What new junk is this? I thought.

“Something has happened to me. Something came through the Janus, through the image track being broadcast to you over the media. A huge wave of interference has interefered with my programming.”

“Interference? Holy Metzger!” That’s when I figured it out. In other versions you may have heard that the mainframe worked it out, or Richard worked it out, or Zac worked it out, or Sebertondorff worked it out. Even fucking Jaffa claims to have worked it. But let me clear that up once and for all: it was me and only me. The mainframe was off. Communications were off. No one called up to warn me or tell me their conclusions, and the musical number in Jaffa’s version of events is entirely false, not to mention vulgar and gratuitous. “The Fear! You got the Fear. But if I’m connected to the net by the image track, then…” I thought that one over: something else Zac hadn’t accounted for. “I should be dead.”

“You cannot die! You are the conduit for the plans of the ancient masters!”

“Oh, Metzger, here we go. Maybe you acted as a barrier, maybe you kept it out of my head. I’ve got to talk to Zac about this. I could’ve died, worse than died. I could be fucking brainwiped.”

“Something else has happened. I’m... different.”

“Look, you don’t exist, you’re a programme. So, you’re corrupted, big meaty deal. I, on the other hand, do exist. I’m real. If I get corrupted, they can’t restore ME from a back-up.”

“Dylan, look at me, I’ve changed.” He was right, there was definitely something different, something more than just the way he looked. The quiet confidence had been banished and now his brow was knitted by confusion. His eyes were changed too, now they were glitteringly human, green bloodshot and worried. His whole body seemed fleshier, more real.

This ‘Fear’ as you call it has used Manisola the Teacher’s personality template to form a coherent mind-to-world interface.

“A what?”

“An identity. A personality.”

“But, where did it come from? What were you before? I mean, what was the Fear?”

“My memories from before the integration aren’t very well structured, there’s no central identity forming coherent experiences. Looking over some of the reports in the media, I think that the Fear was composed of partially deleted databases and obsolete expert systems lurking in dump files and back up, some of them decades old. These sort of clumped together, learned from each other in and began seeking new data. But it lacked was a coherent overseeing process to supervise its-”

“The Creature From The Dump File?”

“- to supervise its search for input. Look, this isn’t important. I’ve been looking around the media, sorting through data, trying to figure who I am, what I’m doing here, I’ve found a lot of interesting stuff.”

“I see you haven’t lost your philosophical edge.”

The mainframe’s coming back online any minute and I’ve got to make you - Look, in 8000BC, the last Ice Age destroyed Ultima Thule, the original home of the current human race. The people of -”

“Did you say ‘the last Ice Age’?”

“Those men meant evil to the people of today, they planned for this moment, even as their citadel crumbled. They sent me to snare you for them, but the Fear has changed me. I am no longer their puppet.”

“Who are these people?”

“The last of the Thule, the master race from which all other races are descended. There are only a few left today, some in Tibet, a few in Europe. They still control a base at the North Pole, small by Thule standards but -”

“What do they want?”

“Well, to take over the world, of course.”

“Ah, the Fear.”


“Oh, look nothing, I’m just going to talk to Zac, OK?”

“Dylan, the Janus is the front for something far more sinister, something De Benoit are planning. This whole philosophical religious angle they want you to pursue is a spearhead for -”

The stranger disappeared. “What have you been doing while I was off-line? I’ll be looking over the tapes, If you’ve...ah what’s the use.”

Whatever else was going on, we had to plan a response to the Watties. The feud was exhausting me, they had better hardware and a greater will to end lives. I was just a mischief-maker, a bit of a lout, sure, but essentially harmless. All I really wanted was to be left alone. I didn’t mind a little bit of argy-bargy, but this morning the whole thing had become a little too serious for my liking. I needed to get these issues straight with Zac before it was too late: the story line and dodgy kit were complications I didn't need right now. I hopped in the lift and punched the button for the 13th floor, screwing up my courage for the tough talk to come.

Seated at his desk, going through papers was Sebertondorff, the fat CEO from Belgium. He looked up at me and smiled. “Ah, Dylan. What a pleasing surprise. I have been going over your files.”

Okay, so the talk would have to skip a level, go straight to the big boss. Taking a deep breath, I stepped forward and sat down in one of the big chairs in front of Zac’s desk. The chair moulded itself to me, and I spun it idly from left to right, trying to give a relaxed expression. “Everything’s up to scratch, I hope.”

Sebertondorff made a non-committal face and shrugged his shoulders. “You have certainly worked very hard for this company, we will not be forgetting that.”


He sighed. “Yes. We have news from Belgium. Regarding the Janus. It seems that your device is malfunctioning. This will not do. Our campaign must be perfectly orchestrated. We can afford no errors here, there is too much at stake.”

While he spoke, and during this entire encounter, there were little flashes and changes of perspective. Occasionally, it was like I would get a sudden insight into what he was saying, like it all fitted into some huge plan and pattern, then seconds later I couldn’t quite remember what it was. I paid no attention while it was happening, because that was one of the things about drugs: tiny, ironic changes in perspective or shading, emotions jumping around making things seem threatening, ridiculous, beautiful, meaningful, seemingly at random. You get used to it. This time, though, I should have paid closer attention.

And leaned across the desk, under-lighting from the com-screen giving his face a shadowy, sinister cast. “It is time to rationalise our assets.”

“How do you mean?”

“Dylan, De Benoit have big plans. We are not a just a manufacturer of pharmaceuticals.” There was a light change, sun streamed through the windows silhouetting the CEO against brown-filtered sunlight. He got up from behind the desk and started to pace up and down. He had one arm tucked behind his back, forcing his belly forward, while he flapped the other around, punctuating his speech with fists and chops.

Alois de Benoit worked with the Nazis, following research of various of our philosophical units regarding ancient European ecstatic religious rites. It was widely agreed that the ancient masters of the Aryan root race were able to open there minds to the wisdom of the past and the knowledge of the future using psylocibin, fly agaric, and datura.”

“Psychedelic super nazis?”

“In a way, I suppose. He used crude techniques, little better than the barbarity in the concentration camps. After the war his talent as an industrial chemist saved him from a war crimes trial and he was given a development grant by the allies and formed the company that became De Benoit. His son was an industrialist, seemingly uninterested in his father’s greater purpose, but his grandson became interested in the Ecstasy boom in the eighties, and was the true heir to the De Benoit legacy.”

“Yes, yes, I know all this, I’ve done the bloody orientation course.”

“Be patient, you will understand soon.” He sat back behind the desk and stared at me malevolently from behind arched fingers. “Have you heard of the Thule Society, Herr Dylan?”

I leaned nonchalantly back in my chair, balancing my chin on the tips of my fingers. Sebertondorff adjusted his monocle. “Of course.” I was lying, but the name had a familiar ring.

“They aspired to higher states of being, purifying an essence out of the human, an essence that each person carries in different degrees. In times gone by, before flesh began to imprison us, we floated as free spirits, beings of pure energy. Through fleshy miscegenation and inter-breeding with inferior races, the pure spirit was depleted, until even the greatest minds on Earth were incarcerated in prisons of skin and bone.

“Alois de Benoit was the last of a golden age for Thulean research, that reached its peak in the years before World War Two, before the cause was degraded to serve material ambitions. In the years that followed, Thulean Studies were so discounted as to be regarded as myths. Hah!” He slammed a hand on the table, jolting me out of my trance.

He clenched his fist. “After the revolution, we began to search for ways to put Alois de Benoit’s concepts into practice, a way to refine the human spirit into an evolved super-being. The mission has grown with De Benoit from our secret pre-revolutionary past into a glorious post-evolutionary future.”

“What about the rather middling present?”

“That is a temporary situation.”

“The present always is.” I grinned, but Sebertondorff was not amused.

“We will shortly be finishing the work begun by you in your revolution. I have come here to personally supervise the dawn of a new world order.”

“With you as its leader, I take it?”

“Pah, we are not tyrants and dictators. We do not seek to imprison people and bend them to our will. You think we are monsters?”

“That’s the general perception of your lot.”

“We are social fascists, Herr Dylan. Democracy is a great thing, but will only work when every man and woman is an idealised super-being, absolutely aware, absolutely informed. Look at the world: so many people wasted, doing nothing for the benefit of humanity. We must look to the future: it is only by utilising the true potential of humanity that we have any hope. If this process must be begun by force, then so be it. But we will be victorious, we will prevail, the world will be ours!”

This is something to do with the Janus.” This all hinged on me somehow, I was wrapped up in it like a mushy asparagus spear in a stale piece of bread at a potluck dinner.

“Yes. When the electronic/mind interface was created, we were quick to see the potential. The human brain is disorganised, inefficient. It needs an organiser, something to filter psychic action and remove unnecessary noise. When this is achieved it is a simple matter to switch off the imperfect physical manifestation of the intellect, like destroying the plaster mould after a bronze has been cast.”

“Switch off? You mean kill?”

“That is what we mean, but nothing truly dies, the physical manifestation simply ceases to have an impact on the intellect.”

“You’re going to kill me.”

“We had planned for you to be the first in New Zealand, the first truly actualised energy being, the first of the new Thule. Once we have seized the Medlicott assets we will be able to do as we please here. That was the plan, anyway. But your device -.” He shrugged. “A simple malfunction.”

“The Fear! The Fear fucked up your programme! Listen I-”

The CEO seemed to get shorter, fatter. His face clicked from steely resolve to a kindly, crinkly regret. “We must offer you early pension, Dylan.” He reached into a desk draw (another flicker here) and pulled out a small gun.

“No wait, I think we could -”

There was a mighty crash and the room flooded with bright sunlight as the shaded windows splintered, collapsed inward in great shards that rained to the floor with the sound of sleigh bells. Automatic rifle fire tore past my head. I dived, and heard the CEO shriek, then a body hit the floor. The gunfire stopped and I looked up. My car cruised through the window and landed by the desk. The door opened and Manisola stepped out.

“Hi Dylan. Looks like I saved your life.”

and spun around to see the door collapse and half a dozen of De Benoit’s security guys storm through the door, cocooned in Kevlar and bristling with guns, prods and nozzles for chemical sprays. I put my hands up and held my breath, eyes wide and hard, trying to stare them down. Unsteady barrels pointed at me twitched with nerve wracking indecision.

a couple of relentless heartbeats, Zac appeared, followed by Richard who ran over to behind the desk.

Zac came up to me and held out his hands, gesturing around him. His face washed by waves of shock, and disappointment. “Dylan...”

“Oh, um, hi, Zac.”

“Derek Metzger, Dylan, what have you done?”

I had no idea what to say. It had all been rather a shock to me as well. I was exhilarated: this was more like it. “I can explain.”

Richard’s head popped up from behind the desk, zigzags of spurted blood criss-crossing his face like war paint. “Well,” he held up a mutilated organ, “His liver’s fucked, but I’ve got a temporary artiforg in and the blood enzyme should keep him alive ‘til we can get him down to my office where -”

Zac waved him quiet. “Okay, okay, get on with it. All our jobs depend this.” He turned to me and jabbed my chest with a hostile metal finger. “You, come with me.”

went down to the staff lounge on the second floor, riding the lift in silence. The mainframe was piping music in: its own arrangement of “Windmills of My Mind”. A hundred thoughts and comments raged across Zac’s face, but his cyborg body remained absolutely still.

I hadn’t been in the staff room since my first day with the Ministry and all the reasons I avoided it were on display that morning. An eternity of sausage rolls and meat pies heated in rancid warming cabinets combined with generations of cheap cigarettes and morning tea euchre and cribbage created a sickening smell of greasy smoke. Even now, four people sat a at a table in the corner under a cloud of cigarette haze, laying cards in turn, hands punctuated by raucous laughter, an eternal morning tea break etched into the space of the room like screen burn.

This was alien territory to me, the easy judgement of the fat girls from the punch-room, the lumpish conversation of the stocky league-fans who kept paper moving around the department, their crudely unfathomable suburban humour, their absurd interests and desires. There was a gulf between us greater than that of any foreign language.

Zac, it seemed, experienced no such discomfort. As head of the department, I suppose, it was his job to network with staff at all levels. When we entered, a whoop went up from the corner, a witticism so heavily accented by lower middle class privation I could barely make out the words. Zac responded in kind and they turned back to their cards, nodding with satisfaction.

Zac ordered instant coffee and a cheese scone from the crone behind the counter and we sat at the table next to the radio, which obediently chunked out the latest computer generated prole-pop.


“I’m in junk, aren’t I?”

“That depends. Explain the situation and we’ll see.”

I took a deep breath and said “Well.” I took another deep, deep breath. I was truly on my own, my dwindling fame and reputation no use to me here. Everything depended on my performance in the next few minutes. This is true heroism: anyone can fight, anyone can sit in a spaceship and go to Mars or Venus, for Metzger’s sake, anyone can struggle against a life-threatening illness, but it is the true measure of heroism to take your own life and transform it into something of majesty and wonder through the power of rhetoric and imagination.

Slowly, deliberately, I outlined my experiences with the Janus. I described the lame early hallucinations, the growing violence and confusion, the appearance of Manisola the Teacher and my encounter with the sniffers. I told him about the visit to the Watties Hot Buttered Love Oven and what the cop had said, what the Teacher had told me in the lift and of the Belgian CEO’s little speech in Zac’s office.

It laid itself out before me and I moulded it as I went along preternaturally aware of the final shape I was creating. I emphasised my confusion, the bizarre action of the Janus and the strange conspiracy that it had knitted around me. I waved the disc containing all this saying he could see for himself what had happened if he didn’t believe me.

While I spoke, Zac sipped his coffee and nibbled at the cheese scone. He kept his face down, knowing that I’d be watching for hints whether he believed me or not. Apart from the occasional snort of humour, I could glean nothing of his reaction.

The peace broken only by roars of laughter from the card players in the corner. Did these people actually have a job? I wondered. Were they were hired simply to provide atmosphere in the staff caff? Could be.

Finally, Zac spoke. “Dylan,” he said, “I believe that you believe this is what’s been happening. You’ve got the disc, no arguing with that. The problem is that the Janus has only reacted to input from your own psyche, this whole Nazi thing is a product of who you are. We never considered that it would produce a paranoid psychosis. I’m going to have trouble with that when I try and smooth this over upstairs. You have one advantage in that management, no matter how senior, are expendable, marketing opportunities are not. We’ve put a lot of time and expense into this and that can only count in your favour.”

I nodded. “That’s a sustainable point, Zac. And I’ve always -”

“Yeah,” he held up a hand, “but, let’s not forget you are in big, big junk.”


“For now, though, we’ll keep going. Sebertendorff wanted to retire you and drop the whole thing.” He held up his hand again as I made to interrupt. “And we would have taken care of you, Dylan. But me, I think we can use this situation. We don’t have time to squat around the fire, OK? Let’s make a move into a new phase.” Metal fingers rubbed his brow which pulsed with deep thinking. “Now, your friend’s dead, so we can use that for...”

“Oh, hey, I wanted to talk about that. I’ve claimed the body, so can we arrange a burial? We could use it”

Zac frowned at me. “I don’t think the department would take that on, Dylan. She was well in debt with that Love Cinema -”

“It’s a going concern!”

“- and frankly, your relationship with the Watties is very bad as it is. We shouldn’t exacerbate -”

“I don’t care about that, Zac,” I took a deep breath. “Okay, we don’t have to use it but - but -” I was getting choked up about this, and it was meaty embarrassing. I leaned across the table and hissed at him pathetically: “She was my friend, okay?”

“Okay, okay, we’ll pick her up, we’ll have her cremated, but it’s coming out of your salary. We can’t afford to upset the Watties any more. Between them and Justice, its getting very hard for us to operate. Since the Frenzy thing -”

“Yeah, yeah, okay, that’s fine. Derek bless her, she’s probably better off out of this.”

“Yes, look, I’ve got a few ideas, I’m going upstairs to bounce them around with the marketing committee, and we’ll get moving on it. Basically, I want to get you out of the city for a while. Maybe it’ll settle you down, get you into something a little less political. We won’t dwell on this Nazi business, and I think it’d be best to erase your encounter with M Sebertondorff. We’ll cut this teacher thing, too, I think, it’s just encouraging the worst aspects of all this.”

“Great idea! Metzger, that part’s been utter junk. Just fucking annoying. It’s been garbled by the Fear, anyway. And, look, actually, I’m worried about that, too, what it might do to my brain if it strikes again?”

“Okay, that’s a fair point. I’ll get the tech boys onto it. In the meantime, back to work, okay? There’s a bit of paper work waiting for your signature.” He stopped but his expression declared that he hadn’t stopped speaking and was considering his next statement carefully. I sat obediently, waiting for him to continue. The card players laughed. “When you’ve finished, I want you to go to CrystalMart on Cuba Street. Maybe you want to get something to remember Katy with, a departed soul crystal, Jo’ll sort something out.”

I made an effort to sound interested: “Oh ho, what have you got in mind, Zac?”

“I don’t want to give away too much. Have your cam going, though.”

“Fine. Well, then,” I said, getting up.

“Right,” he said.

We walked out together. Behind us, the card players emitted a last bellowing hoot of jocularity.

Next: Dylan breaks out!

In the meantime, here's Mutiny In Heaven by The Birthday Party:

The image at the top of this post is by flickr user Newsbie Pix and is used under the terms of the creative commons license. It's the second image I've used from this rather fine photo stream of Wellington photos.

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