by Karl Wenclas
The journalist sat in a New York City coffee shop looking at a tablet, watching a video of David Devol giving his pitch. A fresh-faced white guy.
“I’ve never heard of him,” the journalist– Stewart Linton– said as he handed the device back to the man across from him, who billed himself as a political consultant.
“That’s what makes it great,” the man said. “He has a perfect resume– brings no political baggage to the table. Hasn’t been running for office the past thirty years. He has, in fact, been doing things, in the community.”
Stewart read the bio sheet he’d been given. Harvard grad. Successful businessman. Head of nonprofit charities. Small-town mayor. Attractive wife. No children, yet, but two cute puppies. “Fur babies.”
“What do you think?” the consultant asked.
“I agree. He’s the perfect candidate.”
Stewart knew he was being used. At the same time, he was using them. His editor agreed it’d be a great story. The magazine was covering his expenses, including the flight to Montana. Stewart Linton sat on the plane now, staring out a window at generic clouds, pondering his approach to the assignment.
What was the hook? Every story needs a hook.
Vance Parrker of Parrker Political Consultants, gun for hire, waited for word from his advance man in Montana, who’d present the candidate to the journalist. Focal point of the early stage of the plan. “The Plan.” What he’d sold to his backers in Chicago. Or they’d sold to him.
(Parrker looked out the window of his office in Manhattan, much preferring this location, on the island of money. A person in his business needed to be as close to the levers of power as possible. D.C.? Maybe, but the publicity machines were located here. In the silver and gray and blue skyscrapers on all sides around him.)
The Montana meetup was the first of two important tests Parrker had arranged. Two of the individuals at the important lunch were being tested. No. He corrected himself. All three of them were.
“Can you believe?” prospective candidate David Devol told Kaz Kaczek, the sketchy-looking advance man as they took seats in the diner where they were to meet the writer from New York. “This is the first time in the two years and eight months I’ve lived in this town that I’m in here with someone other than Jenny and Mitch.”
Jenny was the mayor’s wife; Mitch, his aide. Kaczek looked at his phone. Stewart Linton had texted him that he was in town, had checked into his hotel and would be over directly.
Kaz looked at the young mayor, who seemed absurdly pleased to be here with someone other than Jenny or Mitch. Well, he would be.
“That’s nice,” Kaczek replied.
Everybody knew Kaz Kaczek, Parrker thought as he waited in his New York office. Even Stewart Linton had heard of him. Hypemeister. The quintessential Gen Xer– combining obvious talent with gaping, self-destructive flaws. Not quite a full burnout, because supposedly he’d escaped his demons.
In the early 2000’s Kaczek had promoted a series of alternative rock bands– was so over-the-top he became as well known as the performers. Every show carried a sideshow atmosphere. WWE-style, transferred to music– a band’s tour announced as if a circus was coming to town, accompanied by blaring radio ads, colorful posters and a blitz of press releases.
Then he vanished, victim– so the story went– of his indulgences. Chiefly alcohol and cocaine, according to those who’d known him then.
Now he was back, rested and eager, albeit as worn-looking as the faded leather punk jackets he still wore. On the surface, not a natural fit for Mayor Dave. David Devol was buttoned-down and wonky, Kaz Kaczek anything but.
No one would easily guess that was why Parrker had wanted Kaczek for the job.
“My best subjects are STEM,” David said as alternative to sitting silently. “But they didn’t highlight that in my biography.”
Kaz faced Mayor Dave but watched the entrance from the side of his eye without seeming to, an old poker game trick.
As he walked up to the diner Stewart Linton could see the mayor in a corner booth, along with another man, who had to be Kaczek. One smooth and neat, the other rumpled and rough . Mayor Devol sat upright. Kaz Kaczek relaxed with an arm against the back of the booth.
Kaz figured Linton for the magazine writer the moment he walked in the door. Too bougie for this town. Too New York. Casually but expensively dressed, with a neatly trimmed beard and designer eyeglasses. Laptop case over his shoulder. Tall and lean, with the sober face of what passed as an intellectual.
What used to be called a hipster, before hipsters became not an unusual species of animal, but the norm.
Settled in the red circular booth with them, on one end, Kaz Kaczek in the center, Stewart Linton answered the standard questions about his flight and hotel. Then the presentation began.
As if on cue, the boy mayor faced him and began reciting several of his goals. Reasons he was considering entering the primaries. His eyes were focused, looking straight at Stewart Linton. A serious individual, Stewart thought. How old was he? According to his bio, thirty-seven. He looked younger.
“Do you agree,” David Devol asked, “that to defeat the incumbent we will need– we’ll require– a candidate such as myself, who carries the traits which that person does not have? Youth. Intelligence. Integrity. Responsibility.”
He recited the traits as if they belonged not to himself, but a third person.
An elderly couple leaving the diner waved at the mayor, who smiled modestly and gave an awkward wave back. Kaczek’s face wore a smirk.
“When did you know you wanted to run for President?” Stewart asked.
“As far back as I can remember,” David admitted.
Linton gave him points for honesty. Stewart was forming a question in his head about the campaign itself, its preliminary fundraising, but something told him the young mayor wouldn’t have the answer.
Linton instead asked him questions about those who’d already entered the race, or were considering entering it. Potential opponents. Devol wouldn’t commit himself. His target was the incumbent, leader of the other party. Kaz Kaczek moved his coffee cup.
“Well,” David said, putting his hands flat on the table. “I must be going. I have a busy schedule. I will allow both of you to discuss other details.”
He stood up.
“Good day,” he said, nodding his head and walking efficiently from the room in his perfectly fitting suit.
“What do you think?” Kaczek asked.
Stewart saw David Devol pause on the sidewalk for a full minute, as if in no hurry. As if waiting for someone. Cars moved down the street. When Stewart glanced back the mayor was gone.
“Many politicians are better at giving speeches to large groups from a podium, and not as effective one-on-one,” Stewart Linton told Kaz. “I’d put Devol in that category.”
Linton thought to himself that the mayor’s experiences had left few marks on him. None, in fact. He was, if anything, too perfect.
But maybe he was contrasting him too much with Kaczek.
“Did he buy it?” Vance Parrker asked Kaczek that evening on a video call.
Kaz knew Parrker wanted to see him. A sign of mistrust?
The video call worked both ways. Kaz could analyze Parrker.
“The mayor did well,” Kaczek assured the man. “You already know his flaws. Linton implied he was stiff. Nothing to be concerned about.”
Kaz Kaczek sat stretched over a sofa in the cabin he’d been renting, sipping on a Mountain Dew. The cabin was a mile out of town. Close enough for him to monitor their prospect.
“Linton is who I’m worried about,” Parrker said. “Stewart Linton, award-winning journalist. What’s your impression of him?”
“You chose the guy.”
“I know I did. But I want your opinion. I know mine. What did you think of him? How did he react?”
“He was impressed, but not sold. A level of skepticism. Linton’s no dummy. He’s a pro, after all.”
“The question is, how much of a pro? Everyone’s told me you’re good at handling people. It’s what we’re paying for. Give me your full assessment.”
Kaz could’ve given instead an assessment of Parrker. Mr. Cool, supposedly, but in the man’s hazel eyes Kaz glimpsed anxiousness. Or fear? A lot was at stake.
“Linton’s a smart guy, Vance, but he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. Has too high an opinion of himself. I’ve known smart guys like him.” (Like you, he could’ve added.) “Linton’s interested in David Devol as a potential candidate because he sees himself in him. Overachievers. Went to the right schools. Plays by the rules. Smart guys with the right answers.
“In other words,” Kaz added, “he’s hooked.”
A pause. On the video screen, the consultant’s face couldn’t help but show he was mulling this over.
“Good,” Parrker finally said “Maybe brilliant. I knew there was a reason I hired you.”
Later that night Vance Parrker spoke by phone to his superiors in Chicago.
“We’re past the first step. The mock debate is arranged for three days from now. Devol against two hand-picked opponents. A bigger test.”
In his hotel room, Stewart Linton thought over the day’s meet-up. Devol was more impressive on video than in person, no doubt. But that was the point. Parrker and whoever else was pushing this trial balloon wanted the ideal media candidate. Someone who could win. First, for the nomination against anyone on the extreme left. Next, in the general against the incumbent, perceived by most to be on the extreme right.
Present a credible progressive centrist with the right pedigree and a flood of money would appear behind him.
Kaz Kaczek took a tour of the proposed venue for the debate with Jenny Devol, the candidate’s wife. A pleasant northern California brunette with the air of a scholar about her. Jenny was a big part of the mayor’s career. He didn’t ask how they’d met– didn’t want to know. He simply had a job to do.
“I’m a tech geek,” she said as she tested the intercom system in the hall.
The mayor had used the 350-seat theater for events on several previous occasions. Jenny said the building was quite old– 100 years or more– and the electrical system was primitive.
“It’s not ours!” she explained about the theater with a twist of her mouth. “The city’s, I mean. If it were, it’d be state of the art.”
Kaz was certain of that, knowing her background.
Stewart Linton spent his first two full days in town researching the candidate, on-line and by phone. He wanted to fill in gaps in the bio. Human interest stuff in the form of personal testimony about Devol, to make the profile he was to write properly warm and compelling.
His first obstacle came from Harvard. Stewart was looking for names of professors and alumni who might have a few quirky anecdotes. Linton himself had attended Stanford about the same time, in the early years of the millennium– he knew friends and mentors of his might have a few stories to tell about himself, some of them embarrassing.
He called the university, both the alumni office and the PoliSci Department. They were unable or unwilling to connect Stewart with any professor or alumnus who remembered him. Devol had attended no alumni events– had only recently made a substantial donation to the university. Curious.
Devol had a degree at least, from Harvard. That he’d verified. An important point in his eyes.
Kaz Kaczek sat in at the mayor’s office as Jenny Devol and a young man named Mitch prepped the candidate for the debate. Kaz used the opportunity to study him. But what was there to study? Mayor Dave was without vanity, ego, temper, or guile. Pure intelligence– which if handled the right way could propel him far.
Why was David Devol being protected, Stewart Linton asked? If that was truly the case. Closed transcripts. Social media wiped clean, everything which predated his term as mayor. Sketchy information about his business background; undefined roles at a Chicago corporation. Biographical sketchiness, period.
Was he autistic? Borderline, certainly. Asperger’s maybe. This was beyond the limits of Linton’s training– and the scope of his article.
Beyond that, the paucity of sources was not all the fault of the candidate. The neighborhood where he’d grown up– in the rustbelt city in which he was born– had been bulldozed in its entirety to make room for an automobile factory, now shuttered. Classic deindustrialization. David Devol was certainly not from wealth.
That would make a fitting anecdote for his article. Echoes of hardship. Readers would love it.
“Money’s moving into the state. Our town’s one of the beneficiaries. New investment. Growing tax base.”
Stewart Linton sat in a local tavern with the previous mayor, a heavy-set man around sixty. He had large hands, which he used to emphasize his points.
“David Devol is the face people want on this community right now. Young, liberal, intelligent. Fresh and appealing.”
The hands gestured.
“The question,” Stewart put in, “is whether he’ll make as appealing a face on a larger stage.”
The man sat back and smiled.
“I knew people like you would come around. I knew David was big-time material. Figured he was being groomed for something.”
“His confidence. Quiet confidence. Devol has no self-doubt. You see it in his eyes. Or not see it. He’s never questioned a decision he’s ever made.”
Stewart spent an entire day talking with residents throughout the town about their mayor. “Mayor Dave.” He was universally well liked.
“He’s the perfect mayor,” one woman told him.
He’d use that line in his article.
Kaz Kaczek bought a blue suit for the debate. The first suit he’d owned in his life. Now that he was making good money again he could afford it.
There was some pressure involved. Both because of the nature of the event, and a curious factor few people knew about or could know about. It’d be a good test of his nerves.
In the lobby of the theater before the debate, Kaczek introduced Stewart to Jenny Devol. She appeared flustered as they shook hands.
“You’ll have to excuse me,” she said. “Much to take care of. I need to get David ready.”
“She’s almost as intelligent as he is,” Kaz said as she hurried off. “Not really. No one is. But she finished first in her class at Caltech.”
The potential candidate waited in a small dressing room off the stage. He knew he was to debate two experienced professionals, but had yet to meet them. Kaz Kaczek had arranged this on short notice. David Devol remained unfazed.
A large man in a dark suit prowled through the lobby, scrutinizing corners and behind doors as if he’d lost something. Then he approached Stewart Linton.
Stewart explained who he was and they chatted for a moment. Then the man prowled off. Security, an off-duty police officer hired for the event.
The theater lobby was garish– kitschy yellow art deco concession stand behind faded red-and-gold carpeting. In the hushed air of the almost empty venue, Stewart imagined he heard whispers of ghosts of events from the 1930’s.
Vance Parrker approached the several-doored entrance and waited. He’d seen a tall blonde woman wearing a purple outfit enter the theater at a door on the right two minutes prior. The door was locked.
He texted Mitchell to let him in. Mitch was handling audio-visual duties for the exhibition. Vance had flown in this morning from New York for it, had decided to observe things personally. He trusted Kaczek, but. . . . Parrker had to be sure Kaz was no longer drinking.
Red-haired Mitchell approached the door, with what looked like a hulking security person behind him.
Kaz Kaczek noticed Parrker’s entrance and rubbed his hands. He’d once lived for these kind of theatrical presentations. They brought him to life, as if he were a marionette whose strings were activated.
He’d had three cups of coffee at the diner down the street this morning and was wired.
The off-duty cop walked up to Stewart Linton and told him he should take his seat.
Three podiums stood on the stage under bright lights. A fourth was at the front of the stage, close to the audience at the far left corner. The lights were being adjusted by someone out of sight. They brightened, then dimmed, then brightened again. The decor of the old theater was gaudy, red and yellow. Nothing restrained. Stewart sat down at the very center of the hall, in the fourth row. What he’d been told was the best seat in any house.
An audience of one.
Kaz Kaczek took a seat in the front row and to the side. His foot began tapping, but he looked more enthusiastic than nervous. Engaged. The lights shifted again and stopped. Kaczek cupped his hands.
“Good!” he called out, his voice echoing.
Two minutes prior Kaz had introduced himself to the two opponents backstage– had previously spoken to them only over the phone. “Opponent.” He’d learned the term at age seventeen from its boxing context, when he’d helped stage a card of fights at a venue– a former church– no larger than this one.
Opponent: A willing-but-limited boxer guaranteed to put up a fight, but lose.
Jenny Devol watched Kaz Kaczek walk down the steps and take his seat. She placed her hand on David’s back for encouragement and for luck, though she well knew he didn’t need it.
Stewart Linton watched as the three performers emerged from the back and took places at the podiums, Devol in the center. They waited, motionless. Stewart read from a sheet he’d been handed. He recognized the names, if not immediately the faces. The opponents were a has-been former governor who’d run for president twelve years ago, and a never-was former Secretary of the Army.
A fourth person arrived on the stage, an attractive young blonde woman in a striking purple outfit. Linton glanced at the handout. A local anchorperson. No doubt herself eager to escape the hinterlands for the big time.
Mayor Devol registered the scene in front of him– three persons total in the audience, two on stage– one on either side of him– plus a tall woman in high heels opening a folder, down in front of him, stage right.
Vance Parrker sat in shadows in the last row, noticed by few, which is how he liked it.
As the actors waited on stage, poised and still as ballet dancers waiting for music, the red-haired young man who’d worked the lights rushed to a webcam placed halfway up the hall near an aisle, and picked up a laptop set next to it. The webcam was the only recording of the event allowed. Kaz Kaczek had been emphatic about this to everyone involved, citing his security person as backup, if necessary.
The young man nodded to Kaz, who nodded to the blonde woman, who turned toward the three debaters.
“Gentlemen,” the moderator began, her clear tones ringing through the almost-empty hall. “Welcome. Let’s get right to it. We have a lot of ground to cover, on issues both foreign and domestic. Are you ready?”
The three signaled in the affirmative.
“First question– “
Stewart was slumped down in his seat wondering about the two stooges up there with Devol. Either they were being paid amply, or had their own political ambitions. Their own dreams of glory.
The question concerned the nation’s economy, and was directed toward the former governor, who stood on the right (stage left). The silver-haired man appeared smug. A former consultant– currently on the board of several corporations– economics was his forte.
“The federal government needs to stimulate investment in the neediest areas,” he began.
The man’s answer was succinct and to the point, filling almost to the second the three-minute time allotted for his answer. He seemed pleased with himself. David Devol had two minutes for a response.
Jenny Devol monitored their candidate intently from the wings, for cues no one else could spot.
A red light on the webcam indicated it was recording. Colorful images shown on the laptop screen were a rough facsimile of the objects and people onstage. But not the same.
Within his two minutes, David Devol destroyed the man’s statement, citing data conclusively proving such an idea not only would not work, but would have an effect opposite to that intended. Devol’s analysis was a perfect counterpunch– a right cross over a weak left, landing directly on the opponent’s chin.
Kaczek saw it as an opponent having climbed into a boxing ring with a Joe Louis or Mike Tyson– the silver-haired pol wore the expression of a man suddenly realizing the entirety of what he was up against.
The third man on stage gaped, wide-eyed, at what had taken place, while the no-longer-so-composed ex-governor, red-faced, fumbled angrily to defend himself.
Stewart Linton studied not the two others, but David Devol, subject of his proposed article. Devol didn’t look pleased. He didn’t look anything. His expression was matter-of-fact, his eyes expressionless, as if this were an everyday task– an assignment for a class– and not an exhibition which would determine his future career and the course of his life.
In the front row Kaz Kaczek sat with a large smile on his face, as if a band at one of his rock shows were destroying their instruments while rocking the house. He was fully into the devastation.
The moderator focused on her own performance, methodically going through the prepared questions one by one, turning pages, being sure to only glance at her notes– concentrating on her voice (this was also an audition for her) while vaguely aware of how well the contestants were performing.
After ninety minutes of breathtaking exchanges, Kaz signaled the moderator to stop. They’d all seen enough. More than enough.
“Thank you, gentlemen,” the woman said in her most professional voice.
Stewart Linton stood up with the feeling one has after watching a movie far more compelling and dramatic than expected.
Kaz approached him.
“Impressive,” Linton admitted. “Stronger competition awaits.”
On stage the two wannabes congratulated the mayor, who appeared unaffected.
Vance Parrker remained in his seat at the back, in no hurry to move. He’d wait until everyone else cleared out. His flight back was several hours from now.
Down front, Kaz turned and looked toward the back of the theater– at him. Vance gave a thumbs-up sign, to which the promoter smiled.
On stage, the candidate chatted with his wife and with Mitchell, the red-haired tech guy.
“Do you understand what just happened?” Mitch asked the mayor. “That you might soon be asked to take on larger responsibilities? Much larger?”
Stewart Linton went over his notes that evening in his hotel room. He was being sold. But how good was the product? Devol had undeniable strengths. His optics were terrific. Those involved in promoting his candidacy knew this– no doubt the reason for their enthusiasm. The idea of the candidacy was as compelling. That he, Stewart Linton, could discover the next exciting political figure? Potentially, another JFK or Obama?
The flimsy resume did concern him a bit. He must not forget that. Was the little-known local politician, scarcely older than himself, truly– truly– qualified to be president of the most powerful nation on the face of the earth?
In his rustic cabin, Kaz Kaczek spoke on the phone with Parrker, who was at an airport and talking fast.
“This is it, Kaz. Exam time. Today was Devol’s. Tomorrow is yours. We’ll see how good you really are. Why we hired you. Go in there and close the deal.”
Kaczek met Stewart Linton in the coffeeshop of the hotel at 8 a.m. the next morning. Linton had his bags with him. His flight was in a few hours– headed back to New York. The tiny cafe was permeated with the fresh smell of the entire state. The coffee tasted better than any he’d had in New York. Clean air; clean water. He was in an expansive frame of mind, full of satisfaction about this trip and how it’d turned out.
“You know what a great politician this guy is,” Kaz told him. “I wouldn’t have signed on otherwise. I can spot a winner. Like being at a racetrack, seeing a horse before the race and knowing that horse is going to win.”
Not surprising that Kaczek had spent a lot of time– and no doubt, money– at racetracks. Still, Linton agreed with everything the man said.
“We need someone who can win in the general,” Kaz reminded him.
Both the immediate prospect and the larger picture were irresistible arguments.
Stewart Linton wrote the article on the flight (one stop in Detroit), typing away furiously on his laptop while avoiding conversation with those seated around him.
He wrote: that David Devol was the image the public wanted as the face of their nation. A modest young man from humble circumstances. Mayor of a small city– ready to make an amazing climb. Possibly, the first millennial president.
Propaganda? Sure, but necessary propaganda. Stewart had a tiny but important role to play in putting this wayward colossus of a country back on track. If America were to be saved, it needed the ideal. David Devol could be that ideal.
Stewart smiled at his own talent. It’d be a strong essay. His editors would love it. At the same time, something at the center of the story– about Devol– troubled him, but he didn’t know what.
The article appeared a week later as cover story for the magazine. In large black letters–
THE PERFECT CANDIDATE
— against a black-and-white photo with red border, of David Devol with hands on hips, looking serious.
A photographer had been sent from New York to Montana for the photo shoot. The inside spread featured other poses: David and Jenny in their backyard, two dogs nearby. “Mayor Dave” walking the streets of town, shaking hands with constituents. Speaking to workers on a job site with the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up.
“I couldn’t have done better myself,” Kaczek told Vance Parrker over the phone. “Only thing missing are people of color. For our own promos we’ll get some.”
For Parrker and his soon-to-expand team, the article meant one thing: “All systems GO.”
The formal announcement would take place in three weeks. Though the magazine was a shadow of its former self– thinner, with dwindling print circulation– enough copies would be positioned on chain drugstore magazine racks across America for people to ask, “Who is that?”
More importantly, the periodical was still a big deal in D.C. and New York, among the journalist class. There would be a viral effect– scores of online publications reposting the story, or variations thereof. Enough buzz to last three weeks. Then– press conference in the mayor’s town, journalists flown in.
Kaczek already had a pro from the music business cutting up the debate video. They’d pull a hundred soundbites from it, and create a dozen television commercials.
Before the three weeks were up, Vance Parrker was to report to his bosses in Chicago. Kaz Kaczek would meet him there, to be briefed under secure conditions. As he already had been, once– a most important briefing– when hired for his job.
The office building stood tall and ominous as Vance Parrker approached its glass door entrance, briefcase in hand. The design was futuristic to an extreme degree, glass and steel. Letters of words on the outside wall cut in sharp angles. Stainless steel on black backdrop.
When he entered he suddenly felt too crude, too real as he stepped across the cold gray carpeting. Everything was in stark lines except himself. “A New World” was the corporation’s slogan. Their headquarters embodied it.
Vance stepped into a steel-doored elevator. The door closed behind him with a hush and opened an instant later. He was on the 70th floor.
The corporation enjoyed showing off how advanced they were, to themselves– not to anyone else, because the work they did was confidential. For this government or that one.
Vance Parrker sat in his brightly-lit office and desired a cup of coffee. Within moments an executive assistant brought one to his desk.
Had he spoken the wish out loud?
He wasn’t sure. He was never sure of much in this nightmarish place.
As evening fell over the west, the Devols spent a quiet evening at home. Jenny Devol read a book– an escapist novel– while their two small dogs grouped around her legs.
They never came to David.
He knew that people had affection for these primitive animals, but he wasn’t exactly sure why. Some identification with long-ago prehistory on the evolutionary scale, most likely.
But what was affection?
Did she love them? The “dogs.”
What was love? He knew the word as a concept. This didn’t allow him to grasp its reality. Some fundamental barrier remained for him. One he couldn’t get past, no matter how hard he tried.
Kaczek arrived on time, looking for a minute as creeped-out by being here as Vance himself.
“Hello, dude,” Kaz said, pleased to see him while adopting a swagger that’d been coming back to him, now that the project they’d been hired for was going forward.
Their employers– whoever they really were, behind layers of intermediaries– had ample funds.
“Engineering?” Kaz asked about the corporation.
“To an advanced degree,” Parrker said. “I haven’t been given a tour, and am unlikely to be given one. I have this office and I know how to get here.”
He sat forward. Kaczek talked too much, but his all-too-human personality was one reason he’d been hired. That, and because he badly needed the job, and would go along with the program.
The same reason why Vance Parrker had been hired.
If they broke the implicit compact. . . .
These were serious people here.
“Anyway,” Parrker said. “It’ll be a full-scale campaign, with myself as campaign manager, you as press spokesperson. Jenny and Mitch continue their roles managing the candidate. Everyone else will be new. I’ve been interviewing people all day for positions.”
“Budget?” Kaz asked.
“No limit. Donor money from a plethora of sources has been waiting to flow in, and is now doing so.”
Kaz Kaczek rubbed his hands at the prospect.
Cameras recorded the meeting between Parrker and Kaczek. In the new technological world, nothing could be left to chance.
“I’ll walk you out,” Vance said when they finished. “Been in this chair for hours. I need to stretch.”
Jenny Devol sat in the modest living room of the modest two-story house they’d been renting, and which they’d surely be moving out of very soon. Whatever else– there was a lot of “else”– she wasn’t sure she wanted to move from it.
What had she signed up for? Unbearable horrors that would become more pronounced the further along they went with this warped project? This frightening insane hoax which she was sorry she’d ever become trapped into and from which there was no escape? She– intelligent Jenny– brilliant student Jenny at the forefront of technological progress but without a gram of common sense. Not enough to see what was wrong with this plan from the start.
No!– she wanted to scream. I didn’t sign up for all of this! Not for the mass public attention that awaited, which wouldn’t affect him one iota. But she had real feelings; vulnerable human feelings which would be put under the most extreme pressure.
She looked at David, who was calm and placid as always, his eyes fixed as he waited to be shut down for the night. Jenny imagined those eyes looking inward, into his own thoughts. Would that it were possible. But thoughts about what?
As she looked at him she almost felt sorry for him– at the tragedy and nightmare of his existence. The tragedy of all existence.
As Kaz and Vance stepped onto the sidewalk, surrounded by rushing business people wearing power costumes, the two men felt relief. As if they’d been holding their breaths. The sun had vanished and put a welcome screen of darkness around them.
“My hotel’s down the street,” Kaz said.
Kaz regarded Vance Parrker as a fellow conspirator. Fellow victim. Four people outside the corporation knew the whole story.
“Who could pull off something like this?” Kaz asked. “I didn’t know the capability existed. The Chinese? CIA?”
“It’s on a need-to-know basis,” Vance said.
Vance Parrker left him, and Kaz Kaczek was alone on the street. The towering buildings around him became sudden potential enemies. Representations of inhuman technology.
Knowing the secret was like being under a death sentence. “The Sword of Damocles,” which he’d read about in high school, but never really knew the meaning of until now. Kaz Kaczek walked into his hotel, through the lobby, seeing the hotel bar to the side– glowing orange– heard clinking glasses, happy conversation, laughing, life, and thought if there were ever a time to start drinking again he’d arrived at it.
This is only our second released “3-D” multidimensional story. Others are in the pipeline.