by Harry Lang
...blossomed like hyperactive thunderheads, hot gasoline-scented orange shimmering gorgeously on the wet pavement.
The ground shook, too. Found the sweet spot that time, thought Lin. Sticking around was risky but a smoldering hole on tri-v was impotence itself compared to the real thing.
Lin began vanishing as razor-thin sirens snaked between buildings. Rain resumed, depriving the sniffers of the deliberately planted traces of genetic evidence, bringing down chunks of the Stone City Crisis Pregnancy Center. And, oh yeah. Four people, unless you counted babies born and otherwise. People continued to fight over their worth and Lin’s circle of fellow creatures shrank a little every day.
“Did you hear that? What was that?” The yellow-skinned desk clerk at Che Flea shot the clutching questions as Lin hurried to the grimy room. Fuses, latex gloves and more stuffed quickly but with no panic into the little black bag. Lin could slip out without paying, but why arouse suspicion?
The battered tri-v in the corner whispered, “Hey you!” Why not? “News,” barked Lin in a husky raspy voice and a crowd of reporters surrounding Senator Mendoza appeared in the greasy shadows. It wasn’t even his state but it was his fault. The whole thing was his fault.
“Senator! Senator! Do you think this rash of bombings is a response to the McCorvey law?”
“Beats me,” said Mendoza. “If it is, then the perpetrator is one confused individual.”
“But McCorvey denies women their Constitutional right to choose,” pronounced the reporter, mistaking herself for the Chief Justice. “Shouldn’t we expect violence when such basic rights are curtailed?”
“I don’t know where to begin to untangle that one,” returned Mendoza. “In the first place, McCorvey doesn’t curtail any rights real or imagined. It just returns the power of decision to the states. In the second place, killing innocent women and children doesn’t aid any legitimate cause and shame on you for suggesting it does.”
“Will you try to pass a law to protect crisis pregnancy centers?”
“Last time I checked it was already against the law to blow up buildings and kill people.”
Oh oh. A computer-generated suspect profile appeared to the left of the main action. It was Lin Y all right, down to the tattoos and handlebar mustache. Pretty sharp for a hamlet like Stone City. But that was okay. Lin Y was getting to be a drag, so Lin X could take over for a while.
It didn’t matter now if the jaundiced creature at the desk got paid, so Lin grabbed the little black bag and made for the fire escape, pausing for one last look at the tri-v. How would Mendoza look through crosshairs?
The next day...
“Here you go, miss.”
Lin smiled, somewhere near pretty as she took the paper with Stone City below the fold. An approximation of Lin Y, not as accurate as she had first believed glowered fiercely along with accounts of police and Federal agents barking up wrong trees. Maybe the genetic decoys had worked after all.
It was the city and it was hot. Quiet cars swished through the remnants of last night’s thunderstorm, spraying essence of dirt and asphalt upon the jungle thick air, and she was desperate for a smoke.
She bought coffee at the little Greek pizza place and sat by the window, apart from the knots of college students and neighborhood regulars. The older ones remembered how to read newspapers, the younger ones were lost since the netblasters had unleashed the data plague. Sooner or later they’d catch on to the printed word and the news stands would be back. One could almost imagine a conspiracy.
Smoke at last, one of the few outright pleasures she permitted herself. Most others came with a price she was rarely willing to pay. The newspaper account of her latest project was sort of right in its bumbling, sleepwalking way. First the obligatory history of crisis pregnancy centers and how they’d sprung like toadstools in the days of Roe to provide “alternatives” for the distraught and confused. No mention of their function as propaganda outlets, but the press was always the last to know. Then the pertinent facts, followed by expert analysis of the monster responsible, tempered by the inevitable “But what can you expect now that the right-wingers have gotten their way?” editorializing.
Well, what could you expect? Mendoza whined about innocent women and children, as if there were such things. Collateral damage was a shame, but war is hell. Besides, wasn’t it his God who invented original sin?
Yes, it was. In washed the red tide, billowing like desire, demanding release. What goddess would inflict such an outrage upon her children? Who were they, these gods, these fathers, these men to condemn Nature and her perfect works, to judge and punish? What power did they have over the empty-headed cows that walked behind, mooing in submission, and even those who knew their strength yet drew back, not daring to raise the final weapons of terror and blood?
Her hand shook as she pulled out her father’s gold pocket watch and adrenaline shortened her breath. Yes, yes, it was too soon after Stone City but how could she wait?
Two days later...
Nervous as a virgin. Close my eyes, breathe deeply, visualize the manual. This is what I do best in all the world.
There were smells to sort, and the old wooden floor in the shadows above creaked as God’s people spread their choking revolution.
“First Baptist? Baby clothes and diapers in the back room, cribs and furniture through the door on your left.”
“No, dear, the pregnancy test is free. You don’t need insurance.”
Click! A toddler laughed in some corner upstairs and the thing was ready. Dynamite this time, acquired from a pretty daring theft. She slid it under a half empty tank of fuel oil then started picking her way back to the window. Gingerly. Quietly. Like a stalking...
Cat. That’s what she smelled.
Yellow eyes saw the whole thing. A soft orange head rubbed against her outstretched hand.
“Come on, you,” she said, picking up the fat old tom. “You don’t want to stick around here.”
Through the window, into the sunlit alley and she was just a person with a cat. She always worked in broad daylight without so much as a sigh of relief.
The cat dozed happily as she slipped into the abandoned Lexus rusting in front of the storefront church. Broken glass flashed beacons in the concrete and asphalt sea and the dangerous neighborhood was surreal in the motionless afternoon sun. She ran through the plan one more time.
Subway, half a block, train arrives two and a half minutes after the blast. Train ticket for the ride across the state line. Genetic evidence, indicating a trail leading away from the real escape route.
The cat, now named Old Mr. Fireball, stretched and purred in the broken rectangle of light on the driver’s seat, sensing he’d hit the cat jackpot. He could read humans as well as any feline. This one was steady as a rock, loyal as a dog. She’d treat him like a king.
Sweat oozed and her head floated with anticipation as the gleaming watch ticked down the seconds. The antique was the only useful thing father ever gave her. Gramps had used it to time his sermons. Too bad she wasn’t a boy.
Three minutes before the detonation, her binoculars found a mistake. A school for special-needs children stood twenty feet away from the pregnancy center, and the playground was loaded. The cat sprang in panic as his brand new benefactor flew off to be caught or killed.
She was halfway down the street, running faster than she’d ever run, truly and wonderfully brave when reason caught up. Reason and revelation. What was it Sanger had said about human weeds and children from the fit and unfit?
Color flooded her black-and-white world like sunlight returning peace to storm-washed skies. She was a crusader, and the cause was freedom. But a cause is not enough: she needed purpose, an ultimate reason, lasting and divine.
Humanity burst forth like spring flowers in chaotic profusion, at first glance a pristine miracle of Nature. But as she looked more closely, yes, there were weeds depleting the soil, choking the flowers, adding ugliness to this most beautiful of all creations.
The sluggish breeze brought laughter from the damaged humans enjoying the sun. More of Jehovah’s handiwork. There were German words to describe them, but she didn’t need to know. Her heart was full as she turned to crunch across the glass and dirt, returning to her post and the comfort of her new-found friend, who purred with contentment and relief. He was right about her after all.
Copyright © 2005 by Harry Lang