St. Paul Mavrides
Excerpts from the Novel-in Progress

Chapter Sixteen

Please get the medication before it's too late.

Reverend Jim Jones, White Night Jonestown Gut Blowout, 1978

"If you don't kick it, how're ya gonna know if it's dead or not?" Sterno muttered. It pretty much summed up the way Keckhaver was feeling about the whole war by now. It also happened to be his philosophy on culture, life and sex. A statement like that tends to sit like a doughball, which is why the SubGenius Hellsaint used it as his mantra.

"Well, now, don't you know you can fuck it. You know it's dead, if you fuck it," sputtered Jones, barely suppressing an insane twitter. His mind was decaying faster than Kreegar had predicted, Sterno realized. Without the power of the Bleeding Head to keep the undead priest animated, the wretched little pa'bucker would eventually degenerate into full-blown zombiedom and be of little more use than the shuffling Dobbs Youth who tended the endless, parched "Gardens of Delight" in Texas. Everything's falling apart, Sterno thought disgustedly. If Gordon doesn't snuff Smith before he spills the beans to the Jesus Monsters, all of Malaysia will end up one stinking crater. Like Arkansas, he added, spitting ruefully into "Bob's" diamond cuspidor.

With a crash, Jones lurched around the Throne Office, his arms flailing in confusion, knocking half of Dobbs' collection of aborted False Overman fetuses off their shelves. Sterno considered giving him a phlebotomy with the new air knife, but decided to let the punk preacher dig his own grave, as it were. The tiny video security cameras turned with audible whines to follow Jones'progress.

Sterno glanced at the readouts over the door again. "Well, the goddamn mass-waves haven't penetrated this far. We're safe for the moment. Wotan hasn't peed our asses yet. It's still just you 'n' me, Bro' Jim. You 'n' me," he sighed, and began to rummage around for a pack of'Fropsticks. There was at least two miles of solid granite between them and the surface plus an additional five meters of captured Spree hull ceramic, not to mention the autonomatic field barriers. The time-control chamber lock wouldn't open for at least another forty hours, maybe fifty. He couldn't tell, Jones' last shot having shattered the dial. That was twenty hours longer than Jones would last. Sterno was having the satisfaction of watching his old friend dissolve cell by cell. He was sure Palmer had got his message through to Connie. He had to trust Palmer. Again.

After Sterno had cycled the air lock behind them, the bunker mainframe had powered down, cutting off his remote deck from the net. He never had a chance to tell if Palmer had acknowledged his waming. Jones had continued to come after Sterno, his artificial personality still somewhat intact at that point. Keckhaver was down, about to be gutted with a dull hog blade Jones had grabbed off the wall rack, when something loudly popped deep inside the priest's ears, his eyes rolled back into his head, and his spasming body toppled off Sterno. Since then, the NEXUS puppet's appearance had returned to "normal," but, all the same, Jim Jones had been switched off.

Sterno had the heavy shielding in Dobb's office to thank for that. He'd been counting on it when he allowed Jones to follow him in, just one step ahead of the Xist process servers. The two enemies were now completely isolated in "Bob's" private survival capsule. Jones wasn't much of a threat now. . . .

"A little PIL, Sterno, pretty PIL PIL, please? Want fuck PIL for Jimmy, ol' Dad,, huh, huh. PIL, PIL, PIL. Jimmy will tell Kickover a storyaboutwellman and Connie for pretty PIL. . . ."Jones was sweating. His left leg was jerking with regular convulsions and his breath had started to smell like an open kill pit. Sterno considered kicking him but he already knew what the answer to his question would be.

"Sure, sure, Jones. Go ahead. I like stories," Sterno answered. He reached over and flipped a Doktors for "Bob" tape into the desk deck and switched on a four-channel mike so that Jones' dying ramblings could later be piped all over Dobbstown, mixed in with the demented Arkansas "music." He opened his medicine bag and tossed three PILS to the drooling, chittering Jones, who scrambled alter them. He paused, then took one himself, washing it down with a quarter flask of hundred-proof white rum. Sterno noticed that one of Jones' ears was starting to slide down his skull and that the joints in his elbows were swinging both ways, like a broken doll.

"It's going to start to smell like Dog Town bad in here damn soon," Sterno mused. Jones was gibbering and hooting away about the Head, the Voices, the heliopters inside his head, and every other mystic trauma that had been Jones' source material for his multilifelong religious mania, all self-disguised as backwoods simplemindedness.

"You getch'a buncha damn ratshot, that's what you do, and you go right in there after 'em. Them saucer boys think they kin ride them a damn heliopter all the way to Graduation, straight up Dobbs' ass! It's the Night of Slack, it's the Night of Slack, just like Dobbs said! We'll all go to meet that great wagon wheel in the sky, shit yeah! I'm wall climbin'! I'm wall climbin'! You think Dobbs would approve? You think Dobbs could get into it, man? The Pinks'll fall down upon their checkbooks and mate with them," bleated Jones.

"Hell, Jones, you loveburger, you're starting to sound like Janor," Sterno yawned. Father Jim was beginning to bore him. "You sure you wouldn't rather let me take you out qui-"

The whole Throne Office began to vibrate. The enclosing miles of rock started to shimmy with a low, sustained bass groan that seemed to come from deep within the earth below them. Sterno suddenly felt lighter. Much lighter. It wasn't just the PIL he had taken, either. The sepulchral Jones noticed it too, and he was way beyond the PIL high. The Xists were breaking through the defense shields with their magnetic focusers. "The holding company that controls magnetism controls the marketplace." Sterno hadjust enough time to remember "Bob's" dreary financial advice before he automatically went into protective meditation.

"Gravity wavesl Gravity wavesl" Jones screeched. He flew up against the ceiling and stuck there. The room became an instant hurricane of objects, whirling around, attracting and repelling each other's electrons at subatomic speeds. The enhanced-gravitational weapon was forcing all photonic activity down the scale, deeper, darker. Visible light shifted to red, maroon, purple.

Concentrating on the Ten Simple Patterns of Abuse, Sterno floated calmly in the center of the colliding molecular mayhem that formed and reformed about him. The lights went out as the power units collapsed and died, but the energy the Xists were beaming in more than compensated for the loss; the space shimmered with a violent blue glow, the radiance of dying matter.

Sterno glanced up at Jones. Jim Jones was gone to Glory, dead at last; had to be. Nothing more than a smear now, quickly spreading to cover every surface in the room. An impossibly flat surface, formed under the pressure of a thousand suns. The furnishings, the weapon rack, "Bob's" priceless comic book and pornography collections, the tools, Jones, everything except Sterno, smashed to an infinitely thin film. The walls, floor and roof of the chamber were being twisted and pulverized by the fantastic gravitational elects until, with a final twist and spin, the subterranean retreat became a hollow sphere, held in shape by magnetic bottle beams. All the formerly protective rock outside had liquidized, roaring and chuming as it boiled into gas. The Xist technicians were attempting to create a black hole right where Sterno hovered, in the center of the Throne Office.

Only one thing stood between Sterno and Eternal Slack, and that was the pristine mental state of absolute awareness/nonawareness, the perfect balance of the metamathematical and mortophysical. Sterno "knew" the Skor, okay. Neither dead nor alive, neither in existence nor negation, he rested in the pause of the Universe and began to hum "Dumptruck Full of Dead Cops," snapping one finger to the unheard beat.

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