Death at a Gas Station

An object lesson in how a fool buys gas.

A key, the key, underpinning my existence is, ironically, my non-existence.  Most of the most powerful, influential and ruthless people alive want me dead.  They have resources and reach beyond what you are willing to believe.  I survive because I carefully make sure that I’m believed to be probably dead.  Probably dead.  As in, there is clear evidence that I’m dead but until my body is delivered stuffed and mounted, visually identified, with confirmation from multiple independent, unimpeachable sources and a note from God there is a very tiny possibility that I might be alive and therefore resources will be spent to locate my possibly dead / un-dead self.  Those resources, while minor to the people involved, are still more than any known agency would devote short of a world-wide manhunt.  That’s the sort of people I’m talking about.  I used to work for them so I know what I’m talking about.  I emphasize this so you understand that my number one rule is to never be noticed in any way by anyone unless it’s time to be noticed.  So why, when I found myself in the middle of a hold up at a little mom and pop gas station in northern Louisiana did I get involved?

It was a pretty good day, cool, slightly overcast.  Those sorts of days make wearing a coat and a hat completely normal and I like wearing coats and hats.  I’d left North Carolina a few days before and headed west. (A good rule of thumb if you’re being tracked by devious people is to always start out in the direction you actually intend to go because they will generally assume that you’re not going in the direction you start out.  Another good rule of thumb is to never be consistent in your rules of thumb.  Take what you will from those two sentences.)  Normally, I’d probably have zigzagged and backtracked across several state borders in random directions at random intervals (did you know that it’s impossible for people to actually be random?  When we try to be random we inevitably set up some sort of internal pattern of randomness).  This time I’d driven due west for two hours and fifteen minutes and then camped in the back corner of a cow pasture for two nights.  I crossed over into Louisiana and it was time to get gas (never let your vehicle get below three-quarters of a tank, you never know how far you might need to drive without stopping.) so I pulled into Gert’s Gas (yes, I made that name up.  Why would I tell you where I really was?).  I filled up and walked in.  The man behind the register (we’ll call him Gus) was ringing someone up when I walked in (never shop if you’re the only customer in the place) and his wife was serving chicken strips to another someone from behind a 1985 Artica deli case.  I went to the back to get a drink and some snacks (never buy more than twenty dollars’ worth of items in a gas station and never less than three dollars’ worth.  Also, never make them return more than fifty percent of the bill as change and never give exact change.).

I actually saw the moron coming in before the robbery started.  I saw him through the glass as he came around the corner of the building but it was too late for me to get out.  I could see he was carrying a gun under his coat (a skill I’ve carefully cultivated) and I could tell he had no real idea how to use it.  There was a long, thin, white pole with a suction cup on one end (the kind you use to change the little plastic letters on outside signs) leaning near the door leading behind the beer case and while he charged in and yanked his gun from his pants, miraculously without shooting himself, and demanded “all of it, open it up and gimme all of it”, I unscrewed the suction cup from the pole.

There are naturally occurring movement patterns for every habitual human condition.  People in various professions have indicators developed over time that speak of their profession.  Usually hobbies are the same.  Disabilities are also the same.  When you see someone who exhibits all of the proper indicators of blindness; a slight shuffle of the feet, a directionless and vague gaze, a small but continuous swivel and inclination of the head to focus on sound, etc. (there are actually nine typical indicators of blindness); your unconscious mind automatically recognizes them as blind even if, for instance, they happen to be using a white aluminum pole with threads on one end rather than a true “long” or “Hoover” cane.  He saw me coming and the gun nervously swiveled toward me (which I very carefully failed to recognize) but he dismissed me and re-focused on Gus.  He let me get close.

Too bad for him.  That’s the penalty for stupid.  I stripped the gun with one hand and collapsed his trachea with a  tiger’s-mouth blow (Google it) with the other. He died choking within two minutes.  I’ve never claimed to be a nice guy.

That begs the question of why did I even get involved?  I could have fairly easily stayed in the back unnoticed (I’m good at unnoticed).  He’d probably have taken the cash and run.  Worst case he’d have shot Gus and Gert and maybe the other two customers.  Was that it?  Did I feel bad for Gus and Gert and his high blood pressure (weight and facial coloration) and her arthritis in the knee (she unconsciously favored the left side) and their two daughters, one in college and the other still in high school (the only car in the parking lot that had been there all day had an up to date booster sticker from the local high school and had last year’s mortarboard tassel hanging from the rear view mirror.)?  I’ve done a lot of…clinical things in the past.  You already know about my former employers.  My skill set has been responsible for a lot of death and destruction (I wasn’t a trigger puller but I sent the trigger pullers) in the past.  Was this some instinctive grasp at a form of redemption?

There were obviously no images of my face on the one cheap security camera.  I know how to avoid those and I had on a hat, remember?  I left immediately when everyone else was still focuses on the man slowly dying on the floor.  I took the pole and there were no other useful fingerprints left behind.  But, and this is a big but, I was noticed.  I don’t get noticed.

Unless I want to get noticed.

Sometimes chasing a hint of a rumor that leads nowhere is more diverting than searching for something that isn’t there at all.

I never said I was nice.

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Dunhallow

Dunhallow, Georgia was not a big town.  It was not a small town either.  It was an hour or so from the coast and a few hours from the mountains.  Atlanta, Augusta, and Savannah were only a reasonable drive away.  It boasted less than ten thousand residents and more than five thousand.  It was absolutely perfect for a man looking to avoid attention and ready to hide.  It was exactly the type of place they would look. There was no way Henry could stay here more than six days.

“Dawn has dawned.  Shake your legs and get after her.”  Maude’s daddy said that every single morning since as far back as she could remember.  She was fifty-four and only saw her Daddy a few times a week-

“Let me see, I saw him Sunday so I should probably check on him today or tomorrow.  That man is so stubborn.  He never wants to slow down but he just got to realize that he’s eighty-two years old and can’t do like he used to…”

-these days but she woke up with his voice in the back of her head saying that almost every day.  Most days she was up well before the dawn.  Most days, like this day, she was unlocking the back door to the diner while the sun had another hour or so in bed.  Jorge, her short order cook (whom she always called George), would be arriving soon and together they would get things ready for opening at six.  The morning waitress-

“Let me see, that would be Ann today”

-would arrive in half an hour to make sure the tables and silver prep was done.

“Let me see, Tuesday means Mr. Williker will be in to wait till the pharmacy opens, and Pete Bolt said he was taking the day to do some fall break fishing with his boys, and that nice Mr. Morgen said he was coming back in…”

Fortunately, she never saw or felt the blow that severed her spinal cord.

“I’m just saying, that don’t make no sense, Monny.”

“I’m not telling you it does, Sam.  I’m telling you the Mayor told me that he wanted us to handle the investigation and not farm it out to GBI.  Maybe he’s applying for a grant or something.  You can use their forensics but we’re not turning it over.  In house.”  Monny Gamble was a tall man knew how to use that to his advantage to make a point in a conversation.  Sam Waters felt himself ease back slightly as his boss leaned in.

“Yeah but I’m pretty much the whole of “in house”.  Me and Phil are the whole investigation division and he handles property.  Homicide is, by definition, a crime against a person, which means it’s all me.  Miss Maude was a sweet lady and she deserves better than one overworked cop.”

“You can make use of any officers or resources you need.”  Monny sighed and leaned back.  “Use Phil too if you need.  I know Miss Maude was a nice lady.  Hell I’ve eaten lunch here at least three times a week for fifteen years.  But I’m telling you what I’ve been told.”

As his boss turned and walked away, Sam shook his head.  Monny had been on the force for his whole career.  He’d only recently been promoted from deputy chief and he was used to having someone over his head giving him orders.  Well, Sam was used to that too and now he had orders.  Not very many homicides happened in Dunhallow.  At least, not many that couldn’t be handled with a couple of witness statements along the lines of “they were drunk and fighting and then one of them pulled out a gun and shot him dead.”  No witnesses here so far.  No drunken arguments or domestic disturbances that went too far.  Jorge, in his initial statement, had said that he’d arrived at 5:30, as usual.  The back door had been open, which was not usual, and he’d found Miss Maude on the floor inside.  Sam had arrived before they moved the body and he’d seen that the back of her lower skull had been caved in.  He’d have to wait for official COD from the coroner but that part seemed fairly clear.  So far that was the sum total of all of his facts.

Getaway Key

The water was warm.

It’s always warm.  One of the many nice things about living on a small Key at the tail end of Florida is that the water is almost always warm.  I like to swim and am a fairly strong swimmer. When I lived up North, winter swimming meant an indoor pool.  The ocean was off limits unless you were one of those polar bear people which I never was.  Of the many reasons I picked this little island to be my primary residence, warm water and a nice beach was one of the important ones.

You won’t have heard of my Key.  Like No Name Key it’s not hooked up to the electrical grid and unlike it, my island truly doesn’t have a name.  It just had a numerical designation when I bought it.  In the tax records it’s now known as Residence of Sam Howell.  Sam Howell is not my name, by the way, except on a few documents scattered randomly about.  Old Sam has the barest of backstory, just a few dates and numbers that satisfy certain requirements.  He’s almost a non-person.  Like my home is almost a non-place.  They were both designed that way.

I mentioned that I’m off the electrical grid here.  Water too.  No public utilities at all.  I have two small solar arrays, though, and a small wind turbine.  I also have a fairly experimental wave power buoy system.  It doesn’t generate a lot of electricity but between the three I have more than enough for what I need.  I also have a diesel generator and a two hundred gallon tank buried near the house.  That is part of the failsafe.  I had the tank put in by a local company but I did the work on the other systems myself.  I have a lot of eclectic knowledge.

I named my island Getaway Key.  Not overly clever, perhaps, but there you have it.  No roads lead to it.  You’d need a boat or helicopter to reach it, though it’s only about a mile from Marathon (coincidentally just outside the twelve hundred foot area of incorporations) which is where I park my car.  It’s no big chore to make a trip to town to check the mail or get groceries.  I even have satellite internet.

I designed the house myself.  It fits into the surroundings.  Looks like just the sort of beach house you might expect on a little key.  I did the best I could to keep it energy efficient but you really can’t build an Earthship kind of place on a subtropical island unless you really want people to talk about it.  Also, underground homes are not ideal in a place that gets hit regularly by tropical storms and hurricanes.  My little home was sturdy though.  I was sorry when it blew up.  But I always knew it would. In a manner of speaking, that was one of the design features.

They came at three in the morning.  Statistically, that’s the best time for a covert assault.  People tend to be in their deepest sleep.  Response times are slow, even for those awake.  It was three teams, two by water, sweeping in from the Northeast and Southeast with a fast rope air assault team timed to arrive as the other two converged on my little house.  The approach of the two sea teams cut off any escape towards Marathon or North to the Glades.  The air team approached from the Northwest.  The entire operation would have constant satellite surveillance.  It would be easy to see anyone trying to escape west to avoid the assault teams.  The ideal would be a swift and silent convergence on the house followed by a multi-point breach which would, hopefully, give me just a brief moment of confused wakefulness before I was killed.  Then the house would be quickly searched, sanitized and destroyed in a fire which would be blamed on an electrical problem that spread to the diesel tank nearby.  All teams would be home by sunrise and certain people would enjoy their first trouble free breakfast in three years.

That would be the ideal.

Don’t think so.

My first death was just five years ago.  The airplane I was in suffered complete engine failure (brought on by C4) and went down in the Catskills.  It took them a week to find the wreckage.  In the life just before that I was an analyst.  I analyzed…patterns…and trends.  I was very good at probabilities.  I was good enough at patterns and probabilities to notice certain patterns that some of the people I reported to didn’t want noticed and good enough at probabilities to recognize the probability that I might become very fatally accident prone.  I was also good enough to have seen that outcome as a possibility many years before and plan accordingly.  If you’re privy to most of the big secrets that move the world along, it’s not too hard to make sure you have the resources for a backup plan.  When the wreckage was found (two days before it was reported found, by the way) there were enough pieces to make a positive DNA match to me.  That gave me a little breathing space.

But I knew they’d come.

The first burst of gunfire came from my bedroom window as the teams converged on my house.  It was returned immediately, first from one, then from all sides.  Bullets tore into the house but I’d reinforced the walls from waist height down.  The soldiers fired efficiently, in controlled bursts, suppressing return fire as they moved quickly on the house.  Once they reached the walls, two men moved to every entry point.  At every window and door the man on the left tossed in a flash bang and the man on the right tossed in a frag grenade.  I guess they were counting on the walls to stop the fragments.  Would have worked if the house hadn’t blown up. I don’t know for sure but I’ll bet you could have seen that fireball even in Marathon.

I have to hand it to the support and over watch.  They recovered quickly.  I’d barely gotten to the end of my escape tunnel (yes, trite but effective) when coms reported, “Runner near the beach, heading east”.

I ran hard for the beach.

I could hear the pounding of combat boots behind me.

Only one man, dark against the waves, between me and the warm water.

I raised my rifle.

He moved into the water.

With a “whup, whup, whup” an Apache gunship (really, an Apache just for little ol’ me) dropped into view just ahead and opened fire.

Tracer fire stitched a brilliant line across the dark sky.

Bullets tore through flesh.

No chance to survive that.

Poor guy.

Well, not really “poor guy”.  He was not a nice person. The list of really nasty things he’d done was long and repulsive.  I’d spent quite a few months finding him and then convincing him that some “rivals” had a bad end in mind for him.  I’d kindly let him stay, for a generous sum (actually a lot more generous than he was aware), on my island for the past week, until I could handle the situation for him.

I knew they were coming.

When the teams swept in from the corners they swept right over my hide.  I rose up just behind them, dressed identically, and joined the assault on my home.

I hadn’t expected the gunship though.  That almost blew things apart for me.  Fortunately, one of those fifty caliber rounds was a direct head shot.  Not reconstructing that face.  Truthfully, there was little left of the body.  Apaches are not really designed to be used against a single human target but they are very effective against one. Since he was already waist deep, most of the bits of him washed out.  What could be recovered would match the DNA profile stored on me.  Again.  That makes me smile. It wouldn’t last forever.  The people who were looking for me wouldn’t stop unless they saw my unquestionably dead body and had God sign the death certificate.  Maybe not even then.  It would buy me some time though.

By the time the teams had gathered their dead (I have some regrets about the soldiers but they were there to kill me) and the clean-up team had arrived I was finishing the swim to Marathon.  When the sun rose over the Keys the assault teams were almost back to their base, my house was a warm pile of ashes and I was crossing the Georgia state line.  I had a cozy little home (well, a bit more of a bunker really) in the mountains.

Had.

I wouldn’t be telling you about it if it was still there.

Third Fragment

Sam saw her park. He veered from the track and changed to a slow jog, angling to meet her at the fence. He knew Cas saw her but he also knew Cas would keep pounding around the track until he was done.

“Did you cut them loose?”

She shrugged. “Their alibis checked out.”

“I figured. They’re idiots. Won’t say they wouldn’t kill but they aren’t smart enough for this one.”

“That’s what he said,” she pointed at the running figure with her chin.

Sam was pacing the fence, cooling down and looked up and over with a grin. “I guess I’m almost as smart as him, then. He still irritating?”

She grinned back, “Mostly. Does that change?”

“Mostly.”

“How long will he run like that?”

“To zero.”

At her glance, Sam shrugged, “It’s something our old track coach used to say. ‘Run until you hit zero. If you finish second with something left in the tank you’ve lost twice. Always be chasing zero, boys.’ He’s chasing zero.”

She watched Cas run. It looked like he was actually speeding up. “So why aren’t you still running?”

“A – I came to talk to my detective and B I’m not chasing zero. I run because it helps me avoid the consequences of a desk job and I like it. It gives me time to think. I’m not chasing anything around that track.”

“What’s he chasing then?”

“He’s chasing zero.”

“So what happened?”

He looked over at her. She was looking directly at him, almost challenging him.

He sighed, “Nothing happened.” He shrugged. “That was most of it. I got complacent. Not even complacent really. I became sort of frozen in place. And I worked so hard to make things easy for her that I took away all her strength”

“Bullshit.”

His head snapped up. “How would you know?”

“I know it’s never just one person. I’ve never been married but I’ve been in relationships and when they fall apart it’s never completely one persons fault.

“I didn’t say it was all my fault.” He paused and dropped his head. “Ok, maybe all I said were the things I did. It’s easier for me to blame myself than her.”

“So what really happened?”

“What I said. And more. I mean she wasn’t honest. She never told me how she was feeling. She…” He shrugged again. “Doesn’t matter so much. I tried to keep things as perfect as I could and that locked us in place. She fell out of love. Then she finally realized she had to leave.”

“You’re still taking all the blame. You say she was at fault but you don’t believe it. You’re so damned arrogant.”

His head snapped up. “Arrogant?”

“Yep. You’re not the only one that reads people. You think everything is your fault because, partly, you think you’re the only competent one around. Anything that goes wrong must be your fault because no one else is smart enough or good enough or strong enough or whatever enough to have a handle on things the way you do. You’re an arrogant control freak.”

“Yeeaahh…” He stood. “I think we’re done here.”

“Don’t get me wrong. I still like you well enough. And from what I’ve seen a lot of that arrogance is justified. But from what I’ve seen, the people who think they’re the worst are just like the ones who think they’re the best. It makes them special in their own minds. And the ones who feel like they’re carrying the burdens of the world,” she waved her hands around flamboyantly on that last phrase, “tend to do that because somewhere in their minds or hearts or souls is something that thinks they are the only ones who possible could carry all those burdens.”

“I didn’t mean to piss you off,” she said to his retreating back.

“Yes you did,” he said without turning around. “And you did it well. But you might be right too.”

Just as he disappeared into the darkness of the surrounding azaleas he said, “See you tomorrow.”

 

She smiled.

Fragment

He lived on a quiet street in a genteel old neighborhood. She knew, as a cop, that most of the residents were older, retired folk.  The chief had mentioned that he’d inherited the house when his dad had passed ten years ago.  The house itself sat back off the street on a large lot.  The land behind his lot was undeveloped, full of trees and undergrowth.   Two large hickory trees, one near enough the house to overshadow part of the porch and the other on the left front corner dominated the front yard.  Two flower beds of azaleas blocked clean sight lines to the house itself. There was a carport, framed in the same square pillars that upheld the long front porch, on the right, with his green Element backed in.  She could tell that the back yard was deep but couldn’t see much of it from the road. The yard and the off-white stucco was well maintained but the house seemed to almost be in retreat, hiding away from view.  She didn’t see him doing much yard or housework himself so she assumed he must hire someone.  She turned to look down the block.  His house was in the middle of the street.  Most of the houses were of a similar style and size.  The neighborhood radiated a sense of age and foundation.  It was solid and established.
“It’s interesting to watch a cop look at things.”
She didn’t spin around but it was a near thing.  He’d appeared in the now open door.  She strongly suspected that he’d waited until she wasn’t looking to do so.  The bastard.
“I’ve noticed that you tend to, I don’t know, see things differently.  Sam does the same thing.  I’ve never seen him do it here but he practically grew up here  so…” He paused.  “You wanna come in?”

She strode across the grass and he turned and went into the house, leaving the door open in invitation.  He was standing across the living room with his back to her, pouring iced tea into glasses.  The room was large, well-lit from the tall, narrow windows on the front and left sides.  Dark, hardwood floors covered the living room and continued into the dining room to the right of the door and the hall opposite the door.  There was a fireplace, unlit of course, in the middle of the far right wall.   Built-in bookcases, filled with books, covered the rest of the wall .  The furniture was Arts and Crafts, which fit the house, staged around the fireplace.  It was obviously well cared for, but there were old scratches and small gouges around the bottoms of the legs. “Dog,” she thought.  The photos placed about were mostly older except for one small frame with him and a pretty brown and brown woman with a crooked smile.  “Amelia,” she thought grimly.

“You’re doing it again, by the way,” he said, holding out a glass of tea.  “I asked Sam about it before.  He wasn’t really aware he was doing anything different.  He couldn’t really tell me what he was doing because he wasn’t doing it consciously.  You automatically noted exits, you looked at all the pictures, you categorized everything very quickly.  Very interesting.  I have a friend who’s a painter and he looks at things kind of like that.  Not the whole “exits, threats, what doesn’t fit” thing but he tends to see more.  I take care of my own lawn, by the way.  I actually like cutting grass and tending the beds.”He grinned as she looked startled.  “When you were looking over the lawn your lip curled up a little.  Kind of dismissive.”She grinned back.  “So you’re not a cop.  Why do you notice things?”“I like to.  Most things interest me.  I like to see how things fit.”You also like to startle people.”“I also like to amaze people with how smart I am.  True.”She sipped the tea which was very cold and very sweet.  “So where is all of your stuff?  Most everything in here looks like it’s been here for a while.  I’m thinking it was your folk’s.  I don’t even see a tv.”

“There actually is a tv.  The panel over the fireplace slides back.  I had that put in.  But you’re right, most of this was here when I moved back.  I have a study slash office slash whatever room.  I keep the serious tv in there.  I don’t like to watch it in here.  Shame I didn’t figure that out until after I had the work done.”

He sat on a leather-covered Morris chair and pointed to another across from it.

“I take it I was right?”

Dr Xamos and the henchman of doom

Dr. Xamos, worlds most nefarious evil genius, laughed. Overhead, lightning flashed and thunder boomed. At first that had seemed coincidental but Xun Lee had noticed long ago that it happened every single time. Dr Xamos, worlds most nefarious evil genius, would laugh, madly and evilly of course, and lightning would flash and thunder would boom. Laughter equaled thunderstorm. Chuckling would actually bring on a shower and even a smile tended to make it cloudy. Xun had no idea why but it never failed. Frankly Xun had often thought that if Dr. Xamos, wmneg, ever decided to give up the evil genius business they could probably make a decent living just by hiring out to watch comedy central in drought stricken areas.Not that he would ever bring that up to the boss. Dr. X, wmneg, did not encourage thinking in his bullet headed henchmen. That had actually been fairly clear in the ad Xun had answered to get the job. “Bullet headed henchmen wanted. Must have thick neck and no hair. Strength and ability to take blows to the face without being affected required. Minimal intelligence a must. Asian ancestry a plus. Please apply…” Xun hadn’t been too sure about the “take blows to the face” part and had wondered how someone with minimal intelligence could read and understand the ad but real estate had been on a downturn and the benefits package was pretty good. The boss had given him the name Xun. His real name was Harvey Lee.Dr. Xamos, wmneg, laughed and glared pointedly at his henchman.  Xun realized he’d failed to look eagerly expectant at the boss.  He let his eyes light with dull witted fiendish glee (not easy to do at all, he’d had to spend hours in the mirror to perfect it).  With a satisfied nod that his audience was rapt, Dr. Xamos, wmneg, threw his hands wide.“This time New Gothamopolis will be mine.  The city will bow to me and the world will follow.”

Knowing his part, Xun gave a low, evil chuckle (it sounded like “hurh, hurh, hurh”) and rubbed his hands together in anticipation.

“This time…Oh this time I’ll triumph.  This time there will be no death rays to reflect back at my base, no disaster machines to sabotage.  There will be no turning gases back on me.  No blackmail.  No terrorized populace.  No warning at all.”  Dr Xamos (blah, blah) noticed the puzzlement on Xun’s face.  “Oh I know.  I’ll miss all that cool stuff too.  But I’m tired of getting beaten by all those various simpletons that call themselved heroes.  The Umbra, Major Nation, Ace Speedy (two fisted reporter of justice) and especially The Dark Watchman and Watchboy.  I hate them all. And come one, really?  Watchboy?  How can I keep getting thwarted by a twerp that sounds like he was named after an apprentice clockmaker?”

The Doctor’s (****) voice was rising and becoming less evil and more whiney.  That was rarely a good sign in Xun’s experience.  He gave a discreet (but evil and thuggish (again, not easy)) cough.

Dr Xamos looked up from the floor with a start and recollected himself.  “But no more!  No, this time there will be no warning.  There will be no devices.  There will be no time to thwart me.  By the time they could become aware of my plan it will be too late and they will have no power to stop it.” He paused to draw breath.  “HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA”

Thunder crashed like an anvil truck wreck.

In the lab, counters and tables were covered with test tubes and beakers and flasks, all connected by mazes of twisting tubing, in which and through which various fluids bubbled and fizzed and churned. Every surface not covered in glass was filled with electronics of various shapes and sizes, all of which beeped or hissed or made other electronic noises. In one corner a two foot jacobs ladder crackled as it churned bolt after bolt of horizontal lighting between its two poles.  The lighting overhead, oddly enough, seemed designed to cast weird shadows in some places and shone brilliant spotlights down in others.  All in all it was classic.

Except for one small corner of the lab, which was clean, uncluttered and well -lit.  Two tables and a counter held a neatly organized array of discreet workstations boasting the latest in scientific instrumentation. It made Xun nervous.  When the boss (no suffix needed for “boss”) worked in the main part of the lab it led to predictable results.  When the boss really wanted to get serious, though, he worked in, what Xun referred to as the “dangerous lab”.  Xun was looking nervously over Dr. Xamos (wmneg) shoulder as the boss typed furiously.  On the twenty seven inch flat panel monitor, a chemical formula danced in high definition graphical representation.

“This!” Dr. Xamos (wmneg) gestured at the screen, “this is the instrument of my domination, the weapon with which I shall conquer.”

“Iss iit a viruss, Doctor?” Xun hissed rubbing his hands sinisterly.  He spent a lot of time rubbing his hands and between that and the copious amounts of hand sanitizer a person whose job involves regular interaction with genetically altered animals, deadly poisons, strange diseases, and fighting heroes in the middle of thunderstorms might need, Xun found himself needing increasing amounts of hand lotion.

Dr Xamos (wmneg) grinned slyly. “It is indeed, a virus, my brutish henchman, but not like you have encountered before.  This virus will not kill two out of three males, it will not mutate the population into an army of thuggish brutes, it will not cause plant life to animate under my direct control.  It won’t even give you a cold.” All of those had been actual things and, Xun thought, good riddance to bad rubbish for them.  That had been the worst cold he’d ever had.

“This virus is undetectable.  I will cause no visible change to the person infected.  Everything in their life will be the same.  This virus,” he paused for dramatic effect, “is my biological backdoor!  HAHAHAHAHA.”

After the thunder subsided Xun asked, “What iss a bioologicall backdooor, Doctor?”  He really was puzzled.  He didn’t have to pretend.

Doctor Xamos (wmneg) surged to his feet and began to pace and talk.  “The human mind, my underling, is very much like a computer.  While mine is like a Cray supercomputer and yours is like a commodore 64, they operate under similar principles.  Information is uploaded, processed and downloaded.  We are all subject to the limits of our biological programming.  Do you begin to see?  HAHA,”  (thunder rolled) “This virus creates a biological access point in that programming.  It’s a backdoor into the operating code.  THIS virus,” he gestured dramatically at the screen, “will write a command imperative into the brain of every infected subject.  When the trigger is presented, any person infected will naturally obey any command given, without doubt or delay.  It will be hardwired in, as natural as breathing.”