Military Attache’s Offices, Royal Thai Embassy, Washington DC
Major General Asanee settled back in her seat to watch the early morning news. She knew what the leading item was likely to be but the U.S. news networks always amused her. She flipped the television mounted on the wall to Fox and waited for the headlines. She wasn’t disappointed.
The death toll in the baldrick attack on the Lakeview Mall in Chicago continues to rise. At least ten humans are reported to have been killed when a lone baldrick materialized in the shopping area of the mall and started to indiscriminately kill shoppers. Hero of the hour was 56 year old security guard Philip Phelan who saved the lives of a group of teenage girls when, armed only with a baton, he defended them from the baldrick. Now, from the scene of the attack….
The General pursed her lips for a second and asked herself the same question that was puzzling people in government offices across America. Why had this happened now? Was it linked to the crushing defeat of the baldrick army in Iraq? If so it appeared to be opening an entirely new front in the war. Almost absent-mindedly she flipped channels to CBS.
An incident in a Chicago mall turned violent yesterday when two gunmen opened fire with assault rifles on a baldrick that was visiting the shopping plaza. The gunmen, both members of the NRA, had brought their guns into the mall in flagrant violation of the operation’s “no guns” policy and started shooting without warning. More than ten people were killed in the attack.
The General sighed quietly to herself, the American media never changed she thought ruefully. Perhaps it was better that nobody believed a word they said. Still, that comment about the NRA started a chain of thought in her mind, one that rotated around the phrase “a well-organized militia”. Her country already had one, the Tahan Phran and it was a key part of their defense against terrorism. She nodded quietly to herself and picked up the telephone, dialing the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “Hello, this is Major-General Asanee here. I would like to speak with Secretary Warner, this morning if possible.”
Outside the White House, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC
The television cameras had been waiting outside the White House since early morning, hoping to catch one of the Cabinet members in a limousine just after the imposition of gasoline rationing on the rest of America. So far, they had been sorely disappointed since the only footage they had got was one sequence of Condoleezza Rice on a bicycle and John Warner jogging into the building. The cameraman was about to give it up as a bad job when he felt a tap on his shoulder. A small, nondescript van was pulling into the White House driveway and, significantly, it passed through security with hardly a moment’s delay. It wasn’t much but it was better than nothing.
White House Conference Room, White House, Washington DC
“You all got the warning about the television cameras then?” President Bush glanced around the assembled members of the Cabinet, reassured by the nods he received. “Right let us continue. Just what happened in that mall? And why did it happen?”
Secretary Michael Chertoff looked down at the brief he had been given. “The eye witness accounts are pretty confused as one might expect. As far as we can make out, the baldrick just appeared within the mall and started killing people, more or less at random. It carried on doing so until it was shot dead. And that’s pretty much all we do know.” The Homeland Defense Secretary looked up at the meeting. “It’s critical we don’t confuse what we think with what we know here. We can make all sorts of guesses but the amount of hard information we have is very limited. We can really screw ourselves up if we start thinking our guesses are facts.”
There were a series of nods around the table. In some ways, it had been an unnecessary comment, not confusing facts with deductions from those facts was a caution that everybody knew. In another way, the warning was timely and vital for, although everybody knew the principle, they forgot it with dreadful regularity. People treating their opinions as facts was called the Rumsfeld Syndrome in this room.
“Another fact for the pile.” Secretary Warner spoke quietly as was his usual practice. “That baldrick took a lot of killing. It got hit 15 times with pistol fire, OK six of those were .32s but the rest were .45s. Also eleven rifle-caliber hits. Only the last three really hurt it.”
“Not quite so John.” Secretary Michael O. Leavitt consulted his brief. “My people tell me that the .30-06 hits would have killed the baldrick eventually but the .416s really hurried things along. This fits what we’re getting back from Iraq I believe?”
“It does Mike. Baldricks appear to die from bleeding out, they can take quite devastating hits but if they don’t cause massive blood loss, they can keep going for some time. Some of our snipers report that baldricks have kept going after taking .50 caliber bullets to the head. On the other hand, fragmentation damage rips them up and causes extensive bleeding that finishes them quickly.”
“Very interesting.” Bush was a little annoyed, this was all very well but it didn’t answer any of the key questions he needed to deal with. “But why did this happen, how likely is this attack to be repeated and what can we do to stop them? If this thing just appeared in the middle of a mall, it can appear anywhere – can’t it?”
In one corner, General Schatten coughed gently. “If I may be permitted Sir, we have brought along about the only expert we have on how and why baldricks think the way they do. If I may be permitted to bring her in?”
Bush nodded. General Schatten left for a moment, then returned with a companion whose appearance stunned the room into silence. It was about six feet tall and was wearing a cape-like red robe which did not hide the fact that it was naked. Its skin was the sort of shiny black normally associated with insects except around the head where is faded to a corpse-like white. Its hair was pinkish-blonde with two red-tipped horns emerging from its lank folds. Its the mouth large and vivid red, the eyes sunk deep in shadow, their yellow gaze darting around from one person to the next. On closer inspection, it was female.
“That’s a baldrick, are you insane bringing that thing in here?” Secretary Warner’s voice almost cracked with the shock.
“Ladies, gentlemen, this is Lugasharmanaska, a succubus who has defected to us. She has provided us with a significant amount of intelligence over the last few days. Secretary Chertoff, you stressed the need for facts, not opinions. Luga is the only person who can give us facts.”
“Take a seat my dear.” For want of any more appropriate attitude, President Bush dropped into his genial Texan host mode. Lugasharmanaska took a vacant seat, appreciating how those nearest to her shifted away. “You heard what happened yesterday afternoon in Chicago?”
“No.” Her yellow slitted eyes darted around again, measuring up the people in the room with her.
“Show the film please. Lugasharmanaska this is film taken through our video surveillance system at the mall. It shows a baldr…. a demon …. Attacking the crowd.”
Luga watched the film without any real interest. “So?”
“So why this attack, why now?”
“Why not.” Lugasharmanaska shrugged, a curiously human gesture. “This is nothing new. Just another berserker attacking. Odd your people fought back though, usually they do not.”
“Wait a minute.” Secretary Rice jumped on the last phrase. “Usually, this has happened before.”
Lugasharmanaska was almost impatient. “Of course it has. How many times have you had mass killings in your schools or parks? How many times has an isolated community been mysteriously wiped out? Always it was either us or Yahweh. Sometimes our berserkers would do it themselves, other times they would possess another human to do it.” She stirred slightly in excitement. “That was always very good because we would let the person see what they had done and know they would be punished for it. Their despair was joy to us.”
“Yahweh did things like this?”
“Of course.” Impatience had become scorn. “Most were his, to keep you frightened and depending on him. Ours were just for sport.”
Bush glanced around the assembled cabinet, gathering in the expressions of horror and disgust on their faces. What must it be like working daily with a monster like this, listening to these horrors?. “Always the attacks were on schools and malls?” The question was soft, he was controlling his voice very carefully.
“Of course. That is where fear and terror would be greatest.” Lugasharmanaska paused for a second. “You were very wise keeping your guns out of such places, it hid them from us.”
“But you can go anywhere, appear anywhere.”
“No.” Impatience returned again. “We need nephilim to home in on. In malls and such there are large concentrations of people so the homing signal is strongest there.”
“So you can only appear where there are concentrations of people.”
“That is what I said is it not?”
“So the timing of this attack has nothing to do with the fighting in Iraq?”
Bush glanced at General Schatten who shook his head. They’d told Lugasharmanaska nothing of the battles in the Iraqi desert. “Your army invaded us. We defeated it, totally. Wiped it out at little cost to ourselves. What isn’t dead is running. And don’t think this will end there. We fight to win.”
“Defeated? Which Army?” Lugasharmanaska was stunned, she knew humans were unexpectedly powerful but to defeat an entire Army? Lead by who? She gathered herself, noting the renewed confidence in the humans. Her shock had cost her ground. “No, this attack has nothing to do with that. The Duke who launched it may not even know the war has started yet. Hell is a big place and communications are very slow. By messenger mostly. Many parts may not have got the word yet.”
The interrogation went on, pushing Lugasharmanaska for added details of the berserker raids. In the background, one of James Randi’s JREF observers was filming the whole process.
DIMO(N) Conference Room, The Pentagon, Arlington, VA
“Notice something odd about this film Robert?”
“About a demon in the Conference room? Nothing at all odd. I’d guess in some previous administrations there were several. I’ve always wondered about Robert McNamara myself, he’s a good candidate for a fiend from hell.”
“Not bright enough. No, look at how this meeting starts. See how everybody is disgusted by Lugasharmanaska, repulsed by her. Combination of hatred, loathing, abomination, abhorrence, you name it, every negative emotion imaginable. Now look at these scenes at the end of the meeting. What do you see?”
“Doesn’t look very different to me. The President is being charming but if looks could kill, Condi’s laser gaze would have fried poor Lugasharmanaska on the spot.”
“Right, and what is it we’ve noticed about people meeting Lugasharmanaska?”
“Everybody accepts her and gets sympathetic, warm and fuzzy about her. Oh, I see what you mean. The Cabinet didn’t.”
“And they all had their caps on so it isn’t mind control. Whatever it is that she does, it didn’t work there.”
“Must be environmental, must be. How does that conference room differ from ours?”
“It’s a lot bigger of course. And more expensively equipped. That’s all.”
“And its air is screened.” General Schatten cut in from one corner
“The air is screened, its continually drawn out, filtered and recycled. There’s quite an airflow but is through vents in the floor so people don’t notice it. You can throw a tear gas bomb in there and the air will be scrubbed clean before it hurts anybody.”
“The air gets scrubbed clean. All the time. James – pheromones sound likely to you?”
“Scents used by humans to modify behavior around them. For example, women who are ovulating use them to be particularly attractive to men, pheromones from pregnant women make people around them feel warm and fuzzy, its part of our non-verbal communication system.”
“I do not like thee Doctor Fell
Why this is I cannot tell
But I know this and know full well
I do not like thee Doctor Fell.”
“Exactly James, a lot of our subconscious likes and dislikes are determined by pheromones. We’re only just beginning to get into what they do and the field’s opening out. It may well be that our sense of smell is vastly more important than we ever gave it credit for. The conference room is big, that means Lugasharmanaska’s pheromones didn’t have time to build up the necessary concentration before they were swept out and scrubbed out.”
“Does that mean we have to wear a gas mask before we speak with her?”
“Might not do any good, there’s some evidence that pheromones work by skin absorption as well. The upside is that pheromone effects are insidious but if people are aware of them, they can filter them out, recognize and discount them if you like. Another good thing about this…”
“What’s that Robert?”
“I doubt if Lugasharmanaska understands what it is that makes people agreeable around her. I bet she just takes it for granted that they will be. That means she must be a very confused succubus right now.”
“Did you see her face when the President told her about our victory in Iraq? She was shaken to her very roots. She’s shaken up in more ways than one.”
Office of the Secretary of Defense, The Pentagon, Washington DC
John Warner sighed and rubbed his eyes. The logic laid out by the charming but ice-cold Thai General was undeniable, especially with what they’d learned from that foul monster General Schatten had brought into the White House. Baldricks could teleport into any large group of people. So there had to be guards everywhere. That meant a militia, well, the Constitution provided for that, encouraged it even. And there were enough guns floating around in America to arm it. His pen sketched doodles on a pad. Of course the term militia was out, too many negative connotations these days. His eye rested on picture of the American Civil War and the letters USV. United States Volunteers. That wasn’t right though, these people would be defending their homes. Local Defense Volunteers. That had a good ring to it and glossed over the fact that they were going to be drafted.
Every man and woman between the ages of 18 and 50 who wasn’t already part of the armed forces, that was what the new draft would bring in. To be armed and sent as patrols to sports stadiums, schools, malls, anywhere people would be gathering. Average strength on any given day, 25 million. One more burden for a nation that was already working long hours with little rest. Yet, the benefits were already showing, new M270A2 rocket launchers, M2 Bradleys, M1 tanks were starting to flow from the production line. Aircraft were the problem, production would take a long time to ramp up and bring retired old aircraft back from the graveyard could only achieve so much.
His phone beeped. “Mister Secretary. A Ms O’Leary to see you. She’s your eleven o’Clock.”
Warmer sighed again. What did she want? “Miss O’Leary, How can I help you?”
“Secretary Warner, I understand you’ll be needing a lot of guns, needing them quickly and they have to be powerful enough to take down a baldrick with a minimum number of shots.”
“That is so.” More than you can possibly realize he thought.
“I own a small custom gun producing company. We make a derivative of the M1 Garand in.458 Winchester. Our production isn’t great but we can expand a bit and we know other companies that can do the same. There are quite a few others, including Springfield who make the M1A, a semi-automatic version of the M14, who can retool to make .458 Winchester versions of that weapon. Between us we can make a lot of these rifles. They’re accurate at longer range than the .50 M16s you’re introducing and they don’t use the same industry resources. We can use furniture makers for the wooden stocks etc, and the parts are milled, not stamped. There’s lots of small engineering companies that are hurting right now, they aren’t into the high-tech stuff our modern weaponry requires. But for something at World War Two levels, they’re perfect. And they want in on the war effort.”
And in on the profits Warner thought. But she was right, and this would help arm the Local Defense Volunteers. And it did make use of small industrial capacity. “An excellent idea Miss O’Leary. Let’s talk money on this.”
Nations do not survive by setting examples for others
Nations survive by making examples of others