Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shiloh Mackenzie in 'I Remember Halloween'"

The noise from the streets awoke him in bed, and that’s when he knew. The Waterloo-capital. He rose from the bed and saw through the hospitaler vision-quest the desolation of the mourning republic. The barricades smashed, dead heads hanging from poles.


He remembered All-Hallows Eve.


Texas. Godstate. Lone Star Empire.


Silence lurked in the shadows of the crypt they kept him in. Maybe if they kept here long enough, he would be forgotten. Meta-ologists would dig him up with their sonic tools and say, ‘here lay the former David of the Godstate, charged with treason.’ His skeleton would still be chained to the wall, and they might think ‘well, we can’t very well paint a picture of his skeletons in chains, can we?’


He would though. They’d remember him for his treason, he’d make sure of that. He would make sure they captured him in his state of subjugation and, now, he finally understood the mission of his cousin, why she had killed the King of Texas, and what he must do—even in this hour of defeat.


That’s what Shiloh Mackenzie did. That’s why he drove his captors crazy. That’s why they’d tried to break his will, and instead, settled on his knees—but in the end wanted to break him as the ancestral cowboys of the old republic had done to those archaeo-horses so in fashion as statuary, or for the Original 300, offered as robots to ride wherever they pleased.


They meant to break him and ride him. He would be their charger for the even-greater-race in the future.

His captors’ intentions merely inspired him. That day, he began to write his movie. The purpose was twofold. He would show the dixiecrats why they needed him. Behind his rationale, he could make a stronger case. Self-preservation. The act served, in his hands, as a matter self-worth, worth doing. For the wrong things would help make things right again.

***


Shiloh nearly tripped on the artificial turf. The hunting horns were loudspeaker announcements for an unseen predator. His head should have been in the game but it wasn’t, even if he and everyone else heard his name. Loud and clear.


Shiloh Mackenzie, please report to the backyard!



Shiloh knew today was the most important day of his life.


The Great Lawn. That seemed like the better thing to call it. Rolling hills and trees as far as the eye could see. All pre-fab of course, lifted in from the technocentrist re-designers of Texas and installed at the good graces of the centenarians of Vegas.



Yee haw.



Lord Justinian Thorogood had it all. It was a pasture really. The tall brown grass had all the reality of a 2D TV screen. The trees should have perfumed themselves in the fake smell of plastic. Even the piped-in air from ducts far above his head failed to move him to believe that any of this was real nature. Not now, not ever. Not in this bleak technocentrist dawn.



It was enough for the military dictator of the Godstate of Texas and the Lone Star Empire. A dome covered his personal acreage of plains and small groves of trees. They sky looked real, and Shiloh guessed it was. Magnified maybe by some unseen projections. But real enough for anyone to think they stood on the contested plains of the middle Americas, with nothing but them and wild nature. A whole lot of nothing. Except where the deer and the antelope played.



Shiloh heard the gunshot before he saw the party. It was an antique, by the sound of it, a real explosion of...he couldn't remember what the moderns (did he use that term right?) had used to ignite one end of a gun, spark a fire, and propel some infernal cylinder across a distance to strike some poor object, usually with disastrous results.



Another gun went POW! and Shiloh heard it louder this time. He walked in that direction. Towards a low hill. A group sat on the bluff. He could see lawn chairs and umbrellas. The smoke from another whiff of grapeshot announced the spot of the Waterloo-capital in absentia, where the thermidorean sun betrayed the location of the old southwest, which all Texians called part of Big Texas, anyways. The near abroad.


Shiloh walked up to the party, as men in cowboy hats threw death at a distance. A standard bearer stood off to the side. Shiloh would have thought of him as an after thought. Except he held the Ancient Lone Star.


-Took you long enough to get over here, boy. Didn't hear your name on the loudspeaker?-


Everyone did idiot.


It was Jefferson Davis. Good friends. He looked as if some deus ex machina had lifted him up and dipped him in a can of scumbag. Everyone was crazy about a sharp dressed man.



Some kind of dress code seemed in effect, and no one had told Shiloh. He was lucky to even make it inside, privy to the private party, where the entourage all stood around and leaned on their big antique rifles.



A very long man lay on the ground with a picnic blanket under him. He wore the same outfit as everyone else. A white suit with a matching white hat. He pointed a rifle towards the long horizon of painted rocks and winded mountains. He looked through the scope on the top. Shiloh guessed he squinted and looked to see what lay on the horizon. For a second, nothing. Then, against the technicolor horizon, a shape rose from the ground. Its head was barely above the long grasses. A wind had begun to move them and they swayed. Shiloh almost saw the appeal to this activity.



The man pulled the trigger and Shiloh watched as the object on the horizon exploded in a cloud of red mist. The noise made him jump and he smelled gun smoke. Everyone else in the entourage clapped politely, none more so than Jefferson Davis.



-Damned if that aint varmint vapor, milord!-



Shiloh saw the titular Vaquero of the Plains turn over on his side. The man held his rifle for an attendant to grab, which they did, and satisfied, the play-pretend cowboy looked up at Shiloh. He had the same face Shiloh remembered. Long and straight. A good knife. With two beady eyes on either side of the sharp edge and a long moustache that drooped down his face. His mouth curled upward.



It was hard to tell what sounds might come out of the mouth of this porn-star looking fucker. But he looked the same as Shiloh remembered him. Justinian Thorogood. Imperator of the Godstate of Texas, Autarch of the Lone Star Empire, heir to the William Robert Kings, self-proclaimed Emperor of the Americans.



-You're late, Shiloh. Late. And dressed inappropriately. Someone get this boy a good bolo tie. He's a Texian of the Esta-cado, for chistsakes.-



They changed his outfit like a rock star. Around his body, Shiloh was supposed to feel as if a miraculous change was going on to his wardrobe. A great humanitarian mission was afoot to change his appearance. Attendants slipped a coat on the man. A big heavy coat for a sharp dressed man on the plains. You had to look good. On the lapel, the lone star standard. Visigoth Spain was redeemed.


He tied his own bolo. Looked at Justinian. The southwest skyline had begun to bruise with purple and Shiloh could not bear to watch the beating he knew must happen.


Justinian rolled over on his back.


-You forget that I’ve known you for a long time. You forget that your family hunted with mine. Just like this.-


Shiloh remembered that Justinian, upon his coup, had ordered someone to hit his shins and knees with a tire iron. He’d always been a bully.


-A little early in the day for this. You know, you’re going to hurt someone. It’s in your case history.-


But Justinian was right. Justinian’s words fell against Shiloh’s defenses and scored deep hits. He almost believed Justinian.


-I’m not going to hurt anyone, Shiloh Jacinto.-


This line was new to him. Some things weren’t. Not the guns, not the target practice. Shiloh could almost imagine Kirsten’s head on one of them rodents…there might be little change in her attitude.


-You wish it was her, huh? You wish you were putting a bullet right between her eyes.-


All seven feet of Justinian got off the ground. Pieces of the turf from the Great Lawn clung from his slacks and jacket.


-I haven’t enjoyed the things you’ve been saying about me, Mackenzie.-


Justinian acted much better than Shiloh’s premonitions of blood and guts that he’d imagined would commence once Lord Thorogood stood in the same room with his wayward, rebellious ex-David.


-I had to say those things.-


Shiloh recognized that upon realization of the word’s meanings, Justinian went dark. Pained.


-I have a picture of you somewhere. Just like this….-


This. Justinian showed him…this. Free land. Games with children, and their cruel weapons. Shiloh had grown out of those games. Justinian once pretended, not he intended to rule the Earth. He gave Shiloh a severe look.


-And I don’t know if I can trust you.-


Shiloh knew if any moment existed to get back to where they’d started from, this was it.


-We talked about what you expected of me. And I was able to do that because I trusted you. I knew that I could do the things I’d always wanted to do.-


Shiloh recognized his voice’s plaintive tones. Real desperation seized the moment. Justinian knew it too, and to increase the tension, he did not take his eyes off Shiloh.


-How’s that movie of your’s going?-


Shiloh had to lie. Not much. There was a bit of truth.


-It’s almost done. It just needs the last part. I suspect there’ll be some editing. But I know what it’s about now.-


Justinian nodded to the members of his entourage.


-Our Lady of TexArkany has set up a meeting with Salanasio and us. The end of this movie—is at hand.-


Shiloh tried to conceal his excitement. Thorogood would help him finish his movie after all.


He looked out at the panorama. For a second a certain dimensionality to the scenery. Unnoticed. One where if you looked at the projections of what the middle of the country was supposed to emulate, you realized those projections were merely an idea. The viewer was never supposed to see this good. It was too real. And for that Shiloh realized he inhabited a place that never existed. And of them who inhabited it? They never existed either.


Thorogood ruled this desert of the unreal, and said as much.


-Why should I shoot her if I can get you to do it right?-


Ready to give himself some congratulations, Jefferson beat Shiloh to it, and came up behind him and beat him over the head. It felt like the tire iron he had used before.


Making things right didn’t feel right.

***


Why Jefferson beating him over the head reminded Shiloh of the days when the Godstate was in near revolution, went back to the first time Shiloh disappointed that old friend of the Mackenzies, Justinian Thorogood.


Shiloh’s family, as one of the Original 300, the families who paid the bills and assumed patronage over the martial families in the Liminal Zones of the Godstate. Like the Goodes, who had served the Mackenzies after the Takeover. Justinian came from that line, in both name and a man of action, as the last of the Rangers of the Trans-Nueces.


Thoughts such as these incited a fear in Shiloh, and he half expected to wake up and really experience the One Hundred Days. The Barricades would be up, and so too…


Shiloh sprang out of bed. Immense pain awaited him. The first thing he did was cry out. Scream.

Baroness Von Evangelion stood beside the bed he was strapped to. She was prettier than usual. A petite catlike thing, and a doll with hidden claws.


-I can get you drugs.-


Yes!


-…no…got the…straight…edge…but why?...why did….-


He passed out, woke up, wretched by the side of his bed. The Baroness passed him a cup of cold water.

A shadowy form moved fanned out behind her. Big. It looked like Elvis Presley.

Shiloh really thought he was dancing on the ceiling. It was a terrible feeling.


-Why…this was…?-


The Baroness waved towards the door, whereupon a medicinalist in sky-blue robes ran through a bank of light that had suddenly erupted through the doorway. She brought drugs to Shiloh. The big fat hose going into his heart felt the first of the surge she administered. It quickly faded into a sense of awe at the little things in life.


The Baroness curtsied to his bedside, and to his sleeping ear her lips whispered.


-It was the only way the Chief would agree to meet with you. They need you Shiloh. The Chief has Lord
Thorogood convinced. That’s what you need. You need the games in your favor.-


Elvis moved back into the shadows.


-I want to talk to him first. Before he meets with Thorogood. Until then, let him sleep.-

***


Days went by and the same dream visited Shiloh. The bodies of men swung from the gaslight poles that lined the side of the old republic boulevards. Most were dressed in the red bandanas of the Jacobins, and Shiloh stood beneath them—with Jefferson pushing him in a wheelchair—as Shiloh resumed his responsibility as the David, rebel or not, and painted portraits of the dead rebels. The command had come down from the new ruler of the Godstate and Empire. The Destroyer had come, saw, and conquered. Long live the autarchy of the Imperator. The chaos had been abated.

***


Shiloh spent an increased amount of time every morning in bed. Demi-serfs, sent by the Baroness, served him the best kills from the bureaus of land management. The learn/ed-machines out to pasture. Synthetic-meat grown around carbon-tritium endoskeletons. Robots, to use the ancient tongue. Red-blooded Americans called it the Harvest. If you could bribe a land-manager you had the chance to shoot some buffalo.


-Your food good?-


Shiloh felt almost like a land manager in this Pliocene landscape. The long sunsets made right with him. There was the appeal of the scenery, the long dash towards a horizon line that never came—he understood the appeal of the place now. The near abroad of old Texan imperialism.


-Great.-


It was the drugs, however. They made Shiloh much better. He could finally do drugs….

He almost believed he had concocted this whole adventure—running away to the Sea of Kansas to be with the Empress—just to wean himself off the junk she he could get his tolerance low again. And getting caught by Justinian was just an excuse to do drugs once more.



-The people are sick of El! Pepsi! my interests are to the chorus and its entertainarchy. That’s why you can help out, Shiloh Mackenzie-


The room spun just a little, the white light of his body suspended in a shaft of the suns rays.


-That’s what everyone else seems to think.-


Shiloh went down the long list of so-called well-wishers, since shortened lately to Jefferson Davis, who’d led him along the burning, partisan choked streets of Kansas, only to pluck him out of the fire. To bring him here.

A big man walked out of the glare of the angry sun. Big. He had double chins, a big, thick neck, and gold-linked chains hanging tightly around the cowl of flesh just under the mutton-chops on both sides of his face. He had more of that to go around. Around his waist, his white jumpsuit bulged in his midsection, ready to erupt, too tight in the shoulders and thighs. He was almost a walking sausage, way more fat than meat.

But that was plenty of beef to make some big sandwiches. Hammurab de Salanasio stood on two hind legs, more a bull than anything, though long ago his horns had been sanded down by his Nipponese master. If he missed the former holder of his leash, Shiloh could not tell. For big wrap-around shades reflected gold but hid his eyes, and with it, any sign glimpse of the mood of the Chief of Ancien’ Vegas.


-All my promises mean nothing if there isn’t a race.-


Shiloh had seen the sky-traffic over the city and already knew rumor-threadz buzzed around the hive of the Eye-NC with news. Apparently, the entertainarchy would grant an event not seen since the days of the assassins, when only a bright star hinted at the delivery of Ceres.


-You have a funny way of playing, O’ Grand Chief and Father…,-


…and Shiloh used the old honorific, knowing there wouldn’t be much room for it later…


-…the programz are lit up with your condotierri shooting up the town. Chasing some scared little girls. You big bully.-


Shiloh meant to add insult to the injury of time that had inflicted Salanasio. Most would agree. The Chief had seen better days. A lifetime duchy over Vegas, a reward for services for the then-Nipponese crown prince, had taken the steel out of the Blade of Hirohito. All that was left was soft from the comforts of the centenarians’ creatures.


Yet Shiloh knew. Behind the gold tinted shades and sequined jumpsuit of wide white lapels stood a man who only fools would doubt. Beneath the grotesque, puffed up thing that had once murdered hundreds, the heart of a killer still pumped red, red blood—ready to spill even more if he must.


Just the man Shiloh needed to tease out his plan to perfection. If Shiloh could survive one predator, in order to evade another, it was this man. The Blade of Hirohito. Sheathed for a few generations, sure. But, if like his freedom, ready to be worn out from taking his sword out. Once more—if he had to.


-Let me explain things, Shiloh Mackenzie. Eat up while I tell you, because you’re not going to have another chance when you’re strapped to a nuclear bomb, with the rest of Lo Magnifico’s stirrup-artillery on your tail.-


That…was exactly what Shiloh did not want to think about now. Better that he could get the whole enchilada cooking, then realize he’d be served along with dinner. Shiloh stuffed a piece of vat-grown/range-hunted steak into his mouth, chewed slowly, and listened.


-I had to attack those girls back in Vegas….-


…and here Shiloh knew Salanasio told the truth. That much was known on Shiloh’s end- of-things-in-perpetual motion, a great place to be…


-…I not only had to convince that bitch from Ohio about my intentions, I couldn’t let the rockarolla mistress relax and think I’d just let her send her girls into my city...not after her behavior…that’s why I’m here.-


Shiloh still had to justify to everyone his place in this. Why he was here. Bad enough Justinian didn’t trust him. Shiloh now had to figure out a way to get back into this game. Salanasio provided him an opportunity. He was, after all, the Games Commissioner. And what games they were, or had been, and might be again…if only Shiloh could get people not act so tense and lose the passive out of their voices. The time called for action.


-I think I can help you O’ Great Captain of the Straits…-


…and Shiloh liked to call Salanasio by this title, most of all. What else connected Ancien’ Vegas to the riches of the orient, but the Straits of Anian? There was the sky, but the busy spaceport served little more than a token gesture. The worlds beyond lowercased-earth, closed forever by the restriction on migration…


-…and for this, you got to get me out of that front seat. If the beast is going to ride for the Empress, I need to be in a nice booth somewhere diagraming plays up with one of those maddenesque-lites. People love the smash mouth. And I am the color analyst. After all, they used to call me a Texan. So, I’m a motherfucking modern…-


Salanasio jiggled towards him. Big man bounced, ready to pounce. Shiloh felt himself mentally high-tale it outta there.


-Watch the tone, rococo-n-roll…-


…and with that remark, Shiloh felt fully chastised, just one more reason he couldn’t ride shotgun next to Hessia. It would look bad on the Eye-NC. The authorshipz would never relent and immortalize him with a sponsorshipz that would serve as him epitaph. He couldn’t die just yet. Too much to do. Too many minds to impress. And there was his movie after all. A director’s title card that elicited laugher from the viewers wasn’t even worth the trouble of getting his name in the credits…


-…you gotta get more than the snake-girl to concede to the whole deal. If she throws herself on the fire, so what? I know people want to see her burn, die, take the hemlock. But no one is going to play a game if they know they’re going to die. No one is definitely going to watch it. What chance will the others take? What will the winners get?-


Shiloh inwardly acknowledged Salanasio’s point, and a vital one at that. There had to be more to the plot. Sure, victory might provide the Terms of Redemption for Kirsten and save her neck from the execution’s blow. But she had to willingly leave her neck on the block—or American gods forbid—the whole exercise would fall apart. Sure, Shiloh knew it would only end in tears, but not yet. Not so soon.


Something else had to compel Kirsten to choose her horrific destiny.


What would Kirsten gain from liberation?

With that million-dollar question, Shiloh knew Americans need one more thing to cheer for.


But what would the challengers win during the championship?


It was time to go big or go home. And as much as Shiloh hated sports analogies, he was always willing to play in them. He knew the game they might now play, if they did, in fact, win the championship would only accelerate the Empress’s downfall. But he knew that would happen in the end.


He took his last bite of bison steak and chewed, as Salanasio told him what he could do to rig the game in Shiloh’s favor. While he listened, he plotted about the best way to end his movie and bring down the house on everyone’s heads. The only problem was he would not get off looking good.

***


Since his first moment with a brush, a pen, or a vector-tool, Shiloh’s family had expected great things from him. Each member of the Mackenzies who viewed his art reminded him of destiny, how he might fulfill his potential, and illustrate the ancestral home in the baroque flourishes of the divine, the coercive power of government, and the land of the seven rivers of the Nueces to the Red.


His grandfather had, after all, dominated the visuals of the messages from out of the mouth of the community, and the public sphere, which danced around, never was the same after the art of the Master David of the Texans.


The academies schooled him—prepared him—to finish what his grandfather started. To fill the shoes of the man who once filled the canvases, and the parks, and the city squares, both ancient and revived, with images of heroism on the great plains of heritage, the muddy waters of eastern capital and poverty, where reckless men immune to pain once drove beasts over the trails, and shot six-shot revolvers into the sides of the savage dryads who hunted with spear, knife, and rope.


That was Texas. Born to rule the plains and unite the lands under one god, one nation, invisible, and only for a select all.


The American of Americans.


Shiloh’s grandfather had illustrated the foundation story of the disappeared moderns for the Texian descendants. And, before Shiloh first showed his gifts of stage, song, and ritual, the Godstate and its Hegelian Ultras had thought they would never this kind of talent to breathe life into myth, again.


They had expected great things from Shiloh Jacinto Mackenzie.


The goal, surpass his grandfather, old Mirabeau Lyndon Baines Jacinto Mackenzie, the Master David of the Texans. Shiloh fretted to escape the shadow of his ten-gallon hat…


Shiloh’s leadership over the communismo revolt against the Godstate, his erection of the barricades, the Jacobin street-fighting men he’d inspired with electric songs—it had been for liberty, or so he told himself, why he’d raised his hand against his home.


Now, he was not so sure. Now he had begun to think he only meant to help others so he could feel better about himself.


***


Octopi Incorporated bestowed gifts to the Waterloo-court ever since the immortalized year-zero of 2882 and the inaugural Years of the Incorporated Lords. Even though Texas had fought on the losing side at Elvis Downs, their William Robert Kings proved compatible to the Von Strauven Imperium through their embrace of American Revivalism.


In the orbital Lagranges, the 8Fold Lords stocked their zero-gee stockyards with retro-cloned re/animals and sent the best to the Godstate of Texas, who could do as they wish—and did quite often. The creatures of the past, culled back from extinction, made it to the family dinner tables of the Original 300. Those that did not become steaks and roasts and cutlets and ribs and thrown into stews had another use. The families gave them as presents to the William Robert Kings to hunt for sport on the Great Lawn.


That’s what Shiloh was doing now.


Born an American, but a Texian by the grace of god.


The head of a rodent geysered near the line of site Shiloh sighted him. Her. For a second the crimson spray made a rainbow in a sun that attempted for the better part of an hour to rest in the spine of the Nevadan plateaus and its captured seas.


-Damn shot, you’re a killer Shiloh! It’s time someone signed you up for the StarSoldiers.-


While people laughed behind him, coming from the robots in some lost-to-time reichstag, Justinian smiled the bully smile. The one Shiloh remembered from the trips into Hill Country and the random chance that they’d gas a hive of fire locusts in the Springs-lands. When Shiloh had first found out that Justinian Thorogood—“the Destroyer”—possessed an army ready to pass through the Staked Walls of the Esta-cado and enter the Waterloo-capital, he failed to think of it as serious, because the young Comancheria warlord didn’t seem the type to massacre an entire city. No, not hard at all to put that insect-torturer kid with the man who now ruled the Godstate and Empire.


Shiloh felt the drugs cascade through his system, pulled the bolt-action rifle down from his shoulder, and was glad that he still had a relationship with Justinian where he could get beat up one moment and be best friends the next. Like nothing happened. Friends.


It would keep Shiloh alive longer than without privilege he could have been expected to survive.


He looked back through the sight. Waiting for another unfortunate varmint. He heard Justinian breathe. Deep thoughts.


-So what’s going to happen with your cousin, poor Kirsten? Our star-struck empress.-

Shiloh looked down the gun line towards the waves of grass. The grasses of the Great Lawn. The mountain of the far-away matte painting seemed so far away. So did his connection to any part of this conversation. Since he had practiced for this conversation his entire life, auto-pilot would do.


-What’s going to happen is you’re going to get her to grab for it all. She is going to put her neck out there with the expectation that she won’t only get to keep her head—she’ll have even more power than ever. That’s what she wants. She’s a power -


A rodent the size of an Arkansas 40-year old waddled into Shiloh’s sight. He readied and pressed his fingers down, as his veins flushed with opioids. Vapor…brains…came downwind. He felt better.


-And for this?-


The bullet casing dropped to the ground. Chu-chek. Shiloh reloaded.


-My cousine is sick—to use the ancient tongue—and not right in the head. But she gets it…that no government is worth a Comanche, if it won’t submit itself to the fantasies of being a willing sacrifice to the people…prepared to water the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants…time after time….-


Shiloh sang that last part while he looked at Justinian. Long enough to see Lord Justinian Thorogood loom, and there beside him, an entourage of the sharp-dressed state. Besides the Waterloo-court lackeys and the military attendants of the Thorogood private army—that regular constituents of the robots in the Reichstag—Hammurab de Salanasio smiled with a mouth full of golden teeth. He looked good today. He was a bit of neo-cola classicist himself, so Shiloh had heard. Dr. Pepper, he went by, along with that other crap. “The Chief of Land and Sea, Over Ancien’ Vegas, Gate of the Straits of Anian.”


Jefferson Davis attended the traditional outing of varmint vapor too. But no one cared, even when he complained.


-If she gets the corporate world-state and the global imperium…what’s that mean, for us…?-


-Total evaporation of the constitution. No more electors. She will eject the…nominalist rule and enter the higher sovereignty of being. It’s the natural evolution of democracy, the Founders will be spinning in their graves, though, but I don’t think I’m the first one to tell you that America didn’t invent freedom.-


Justinian looked stoked. Shiloh worried that the son of a llanero boss planned to beat the plowshares of John Brown Ferry’s back into swords.


-You can expect that the worst thing that might happen is, with her death, that…her protectors will rise up.-


Justinian ejaculated.


-That right there…that is what I want to happen. With the Empress dead, I expect resistance. First from Janus Southcross, her Pagani Engineers, and this illegal army she is building, as well as…-


Justinian mumbled something about ‘the rest of the rabble,’ then looked across the Great Lawn. Shiloh knew the bully looked beyond. Into the American desert. The near abroad. He couldn’t stop dreaming aloud.


-I hope there is a war. I’m counting on it. What better for my coronation as Emperor of the Americans: an invasion of the Sea of Kansas and occupation of the Palace of Kir-sten’ya? No—its destruction, justified by Writs of Non-compliance.-


Shiloh was well aware of the terms of the Regency that forbade the presence of a standing army on the place-of-the-most-hardest-rock—where the Palace of the empress’ name stood—in Kansas, all 82,282 squareamericanmiles of radioactive desert, impact crater walls, and a vast inland sea.


The Sergeant-at-Arms of the Palace should have considered herself a success. The work to secretly build an army, the Demi-corps—by her orders—now threatened the Lone Star Empire.



Impending war made it important that Hessia get out of harm’s way, so Shiloh could take advantage of the one-time-in-a-million chance of the whole corporate world-state to undo itself. That would be the final scene in his movie. So many things to look forward to.



Justinian balled on.



-And if Hessia does actually survive the race then, there is the issue of her horde, and that…will be the end of the cibolan western savages, once and for all!-


Speaking of evaporation, Shiloh turned back around. He had more stuffed animals to evaporate. There was no better chance for them to dry up, blow away, disappear. The sun was a harsh mistress. It reminded him of his ride in a Trans-Am Pontiac Firebird. And the smile of a killer. Hessia…how to put this?


-Janus will break in the end. But Hessia…you better hope you kill her. That should really be your first priority. If she lives during the race, it’s a chance for her to win.-


-That’s not entirely in my control. And I have a good source that says the race will conclude in our favor.-


Shiloh inwardly chuckled. And I have a source that says you have no idea who and what favors you. Shiloh hoped Justinian could deal with aliens. His aching head returned through the forgetfulness of drugs. More drugs.


-Maybe El! Pepsi! will forget he thinks your Texian scum. Maybe he will kill Hessia out of pure ennui, just to spite you. So you can’t have your sick Big Texas fantasies.-


-Don’t get French on me, buddy!-


A whole lotta love made its way on court. The brick house. Man, Elvis had gotten fat! Salanasio, he meant…


-Gentlemen, my role in this is pretty legit. There is a good chance that we might stamp out—once and for all—this neo-cola classists scourge. And I mean them all, I don’t plan on El! Pepsi! surviving.-


Shiloh got off a shot from his rifle in honor of Salanasio. Hard to hear him with his full grill in his mouth, but so what? Gold teeth, man! Dr. Pepper!


Justinian must have been pretty stoked to hear one of the key finer points reiterated by the Games Commissioner. Shiloh’s old childhood bully cum friend would get his war. And Shiloh—he could finish his movie.


He just had to sell it to the chorus. He just had to have a straight face and convince everyone he was willing to watch his cousin die. It failed to bother him that she was the Empress of Incorporated. It did bother him that she was the funniest person he had ever met and, with her death, the last of the Mohicans would pass from the world, the wild and wooly woods—even the plains, would never hear her call again. Big game hunters die hard, yo.


He thought back to the blood-soaked streets of his failed revolution and knew…he knew…it had all been worth it.



The Empress is dead! Long live the Empress!

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