Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chapter Ten: Waterfall

Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
~Mao Zedong

Edward woke to the sound of his doorbell ringing. He opened the door and was greeted with the sight of Epiphany, smiling and perfect looking. “Hey, you.”

“Good morning. And here I half expected to see you with a suitcase or something.”

She laughed. “I’ll have time to clear my stuff out.  My lease runs through the end of the year anyway.  I left my landlord a note letting them know that I wouldn’t be staying on.”
Edward smiled. He figured this was how things would work out, but he was glad to see it materialize all the same. “Well, please, come in. Um… Welcome home.
That made her smile even broader. “Thank you,” and she kissed him as she walked through the door.
“I’m afraid you kind of got me out of bed, what time is it?”
“Seven-Thirty. I couldn’t sleep much. Woke up early.”
“Hey, no problem. If you don’t mind, I’m going to take a quick shower and then we can grab something to eat and talk a little, OK?”
“Sounds great,” she answered.
As he showered, Epiphany looked around her new home. She was already familiar with the place, having spent just over a week here already, but this was the first time she looked at it from the point of view of it being hers; of it being her home.  Although not a fan of extravagant decoration herself, she still felt like a few touches were needed, even if just so she no longer felt like an outsider.  It wouldn’t take much – they shared the same preference for simplicity and function over form.   It was overwhelming compared the spartan studio she had occupied in Alexandria, but fell well short of the warmth possessed by the home she grew up in.  That was all right with her though. As enthusiastic as she was about what they planning to do, she didn’t think her Grandmother would approve.   So letting go and putting that part of her life behind her would only help her, at this point. 
Looking around she almost had to laugh at the stereotype that was Edward’s place.  His computer, stereo and television were all fairly new and likely top of the line when they were purchased.  This fit well with her image of where a single, male engineer’s priorities in life might be, as did the glass-top table in the dining area and black leather sofa and recliner set in the front room. Tan-painted walls, drawn vertical blinds and dim lighting gave the place a kind of warmth, but a more sterile one - as if someone went too far in avoiding the harshness of white walls and bright lights and unintentionally ended up with something that was borderline depressing.  All of this lost on Edward who, for all his technical and political savvy, seemed apathetic to judging the feel of a room, or attaching any emotion to its decor.  She had no complaints though – there wasn’t a single part of the house that wasn’t more comfortable than her tiny apartment.
She reclined on the stereotypical, yet immensely comfortable, black leather couch and pushed a button on what she assumed was the Televisions remote.  It kicked on the stereo instead and she was immediately surrounded by the sound of lilting acid guitars, an overpowering bass line and a voice that she didn’t recognize as belonging to a very young Ozzy Osbourne.
The first time that I met you I was looking in the sky
When the sun went all a blur and the thunderclouds rolled by
The sea began to shiver and the wind began to moan
This must have been a sign for me to leave you well alone
I was born without you baby, but my feelings were a little bit too strong!
Edward came down the stairs, freshly dressed but with his hair still wet.  His smile seemed a bit self-conscious as he lowered the volume of the dark and pulsing melody. “Sorry about the music. I’ve got a lot of different stuff…”

“Are you kidding? I want this played at my wedding!” Epiphany laughed, before they shared an uncomfortable moment of silence. “Uh-oh. Awkward!
Edward flashed his lopsided grin and answered, “Yeah, well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. ‘Til death do us part’ might be a very, VERY long time.”
Epiphany nodded. “So… What the plan?  I mean… the plan.” Her eyes widened in emphasis as she said this.
Edward nodded, understanding what she meant. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.  Coffee?”
“Downtonwn?” she asked, less than enthusiastically, preferring to stay put.
Edward laughed. “Ha-ha.  Nice idea, but no. I do have a kitchen in this place, you know! Well, we do, I mean.”
Epiphany appreciated his correcting and looked on as pulled a now familiar looking, beat-up percolator from its place in the lower cabinet.
“Just like an engineer. Function over form. I’ve been meaning to ask you… Where the hell did you find that thing?”
“Hey, this belonged to my Grandmother. 1950’s, maybe early 1960’s vintage I’d say.  And they still make this model today, you realize.”
“So why don’t you buy a new one?”
“I did. It broke within one month. This thing would survive a nuclear war. The skillet was hers too. It’s just as scary looking as the coffee pot but the Eggs slide right off it with just the slightest bit of butter.  Bacon drippings work better though.”
“Well. Why don’t you cook us up something and we can get cracking while we eat?”
As he had done most mornings when Epiphany was still just crashing on his couch, Edward cooked breakfast.  It was different because this was the first day that she was not either panning a funeral or figuring out how to push Edward towards executing his idea. As they sat down, Epiphany wasted no time in getting down to business. “So, what do we need to do?”
“Two things.  First of all, I want you to save that manifesto you wrote onto my hard-drive and take down the old blog entry.”
“Because, in the event that the evidence of what we’re doing be made public, I don’t think you’ll want people noticing the similarity. It’s the internet, after all. And someone is bound to go looking.”
“OK, that makes sense.”
“And you’ll need to edit it a little.”
“Make it exactly one hundred lines long?”
“Sort of.  I’ve been doing some thinking.  And I don’t think a hundred is going to cut it.”
“Yeah.  It will make a dent, sure, but I was thinking that it might be worthwhile to take away the new majority in the House and restore the filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. And we can’t do THAT and address anything else if we limit it to 100.   There’s another number that I’ve been kicking around that is both large enough and will have a special significance attached to it as well:  235.”
“Whoa. OK, yeah that’s definitely large enough – I’d have been fine with a hundred even – but what’s the ‘special significance’?” she asked, making air-quotes.
“You don’t see it?”
She thought for a moment then shrugged, giving up. “No.”
“It would represent one person for every calendar year this country has been in existence.  It would seem random at first, but it’s exactly the kind of detail that conspiracy nuts have wet-dreams over.”
She nodded as she thought about it. “So… My little one-pager is going to need some elaboration then, huh?”
“A little yes.  It needs to be 235 lines long. No more, no less.  And I will have my work cut out for me as well.”
“Finding all 235 people?”
“Yeah, that. And some of it won’t be as difficult as it sounds.  The media folks, the religious nuts, the celebrity lobbyists… Fox makes that pretty easy.  As for the legislature, right wing blogs and magazines rank their favorite ‘conservatives’ all the time.  It will just be a matter of compiling and cross-referencing all of those lists and doing a little research to make sure we’re only hitting up the worst of the corporatists and religious whackos.  Same goes for the Right’s favorite Democrats. This isn’t about Party after all but social, economic and Constitutional Philosophy.  I’d be happy to keep Snowe and Collins around forever, but Liebermann’s got to go.”
“So… Your token Democrat, isn’t even a Democrat?”
Edward laughed at that observation. “Yeah, that’s true. But… let’s wait until I’m done before nit-picking the partisan bias.”
“Putting that aside, you do realize that these seats will be filled pretty quickly with appointed replacements, right?”
“In many states, sure. Although don’t forget that there are some Governors on the list as well. That will bollocks up some of their back-up plans a bit.  And some states will require special elections and thus stay vacant for a while. In any case, the appointments that do happen will likely be done rather hastily and in many cases include primary candidates that the Tea-Bagger beat out.  In any case, the opposition here is going to be left far too shell-shocked to just go back to business as usual. The power vacuum will simply be too big, and their pool of developed talent will be left too thin to fill it.”
“OK, so if finding them is the easy part, what’s the hard part?”
“Well… I figure we can work on that bit together, since we should finish up with our immediate tasks about the same time.  The hard part will be spelling out what we want them to SAY. What STATEMENT they will give before…”
“Wait, I thought that was what they manifesto was for?” she asked, interrupting him.
“Yeah, but that’s what they’ll leave behind, as part of their penance.  First they need to make a confession: A confession of their sins as we see them, and as we would have the public know about them, followed by their penance. And all of it captured on video for posterity.”
“…Along with a manifesto written by each, one line at a time, in their own blood,” she finished for him.
“Precisely.  And it’s going to take some time to get all of that exactly right. Well… approximately right. I’m thinking we should target having this all go down on New Years Eve.  Let this be that last year they cling to power and 2011 can be the year things go back to being on the right path.”
Epiphany didn’t think it would take them over a month to do all of this, but she nodded in agreement. “Sounds good. Shall we get started?”
“Yeah. Let’s save the world, shall we?”
Over the next few days, taking only a short break for Thanksgiving dinner, Epiphany worked on the new manifesto while Edward compiled the list.  Edwards had tendered his resignation to his employer but Epiphany agreed to go back to work while Edward finished up his part.  It wasn’t always easy to track down the names of the people that were truly behind all of the Right-Wing think-tanks – The American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, etc… He was able to find out who managed them, but he was more interested in the ones behind the puppets; in the money that was pulling the strings.  He wasn’t the least bit surprised however to discover just how many doors the offer of a large donation can open.  The checks would all have stop-payments applied to them, assuming he had to go so far as to actually send them one but within a couple of weeks and after a few trips into the city, he was able to get what he needed.
By the time they were finished however, even with Edward working around the clock and Epiphany doing everything she could to help, they were running short on time.  He had wanted the big event to happen on New Year’s Eve,  but there were other things he needed to set in motion a couple of weeks in advance of that if everything was going to happen on time.  He didn’t discuss all of these with Epiphany and, to his relief, her own enthusiasm prevented her from asking.  But he knew that the two of them could not manage on a mere tech-specialists salary for too long. They would need some resources, especially given what they would need to do next, and the forces that, while diminished, would still be opposing them.  Most of the confessions would therefore have to be brief, and many would be identical. “Copy and Paste” would be his friend here. That was fine. Politicians all tend to commit the same two or three crimes anyway, so their confessions would be proportionate in detail to their years in service. (And thus the amount of information Edward could find reasonably quickly.)
And so it came down to a cold, mid-December morning when everything had finally been hashed out and it was time to start putting the information into the Tablet.  They were snowed in, due the State of Virginia’s inability to cope with even a few inches of snow, let alone the nearly two feet that had fallen. On Fox, Sean Hannity was hosting a climate-change denier and making fun of the fact that – once again – some convention about global warming had to be cancelled due to snow.
Epiphany shut it off. “OK, I realize full well that Global Warming doesn’t mean that there won’t be any snow, but why the hell do the Climate-Change folks keep insisting on having their conventions in the Winter?!”
Edward laughed. “I’m sure they have meetings all year round, sweetie.” He hugged her from behind as he said this. “Only the one or two that get cancelled make Fox's headlines.”
She leaned her head against his. “I know.  But still… You’d think these scientists would have learned by now how sensitive the political situation is, not to mention how ignorant and easily led the public is.  Why do they give their opponents such easy ammunition?  Would it really spell all of our doom if they took a few months off?”
“Or alternated hemispheres?” Edward offered, as he kissed her at the base of her neck.
She shivered as he did so. “None of that! Well… not now anyway. You said we had work to finish.”
As far away as his motivation was for that at the moment, and even given how much he thought it could wait for at least little while, her reminder did bring him back to reality.  “Yeah, you’re right. Now we need to start putting it all into the appropriate pages.”
“Man… This is going to take forever.  What should we do, take turns dictating from your computer while the other one types it in?”
“Oh no.  I’ve got a much better idea. I didn’t notice it before but there are several ports on the top of the Tablet, see?” Epiphany nodded. “They’re USB ports.  And I just so happen to have a spare mouse and keyboard.  So: You transfer the info to this,” he handed her the jump drive off his keychain. “And I’ll start pulling everyone up so we can just cut-and-paste the info where it needs to go!”
“Wow. Yeah, that will be a lot easier! Faster too.  So, uh… what’s that for?” she asked, pointing to the drawing tablet he had also brought out.
“Hmmm.  A… surprise?” He knew exactly what he intended to do with it, but didn’t want to tell her about it, for fear that she’d object.
“You know what? Whatever. We’ve been at this so long, I hardly even care anymore. Have your fun. Just don’t do anything stupid.”
She must be exhausted. While they agreed almost entirely on everything so far, it was still not in her nature to trust people – even him yet – with anything of importance. And both of them realized just how important this was. He almost felt bad, given the reckless nature of what he was keeping from her; both what he intended to do with the drawing pad, and one other thing that he was going to insert into their plan without her knowledge or consent.  He figured she would be upset about it, once she found out, but they were running out of time and he figured that it would be much easier to get forgiveness later than permission now.
So, one by one, they pulled up people’s profiles on the tablet. And one at a time, Edward cut-and pasted their respective destinies into the ‘fate’ field of each, careful not to hit ‘execute’ on any of them until they had finished all of them.  It took them all day and most of the night.  Edward suggested they take the next day to check them – to make sure they got everything right – but Epiphany had faith in her work, having organized each set of instructions, each confession and each line of their manifesto into their respective files, each named for the individual they were intended for.  It was past midnight, they were both exhausted, and they were too close to the finish line to want to start over at the beginning. They sat for one more moment, the cool glow from the Tablet’s screen now the only bit of illumination in the room.  They looked at each other and she gave his hand a squeeze.
He reached out toward the screen, filled entirely by the very first profile on the list. He pressed the button below the ‘fate’ field…
… then switched to the next profile…
…and again…
…and again…
…for what seemed to drag on for hours, even though it was all over within just a few minutes. 
And now the world would change and they would be driving the change.  They would still have to do some clean-up – destroy and replace Edward’s hard-drive and jump drive, in any case – but they both breathed a long sigh of relief over the last two weeks of 2010, optimistic for almost the first time in a decade that things might finally start to be set right.  They settled in and spent a modest Christmas enjoying each other’s company.  By the time the 31st rolled around, the time they had spent implementing their personal revolution seemed almost like a distant memory, and despite the anticipation they felt on that, the last day of the world as anyone knew it, they went to bed early and slept as soundly as either had in their lives.

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