August 22, 2006

Paragon’s Prologue (10 of 10)

Thread: Paragon

His legs were trembling, hiding under the desk while the top half of his body did all the diplomatic work. They might be called upon at any moment as a last resort to do their job, which was to relocate the upper half in times of distress, and relocate it with some speed. “Begone foul spirit,” he said without any trace of confidence, making up the words as he went along. “I am not interested in the fear you bring. I am here on God’s bidding. God Himself wishes for this to be.”

“Yessss,” Elvis hissed, “truuuue.”

The conversion of the United States to theocratic state was gradual. The seeds were sown during the initial phase of coerced worship. The separation of Church and State that was enshrined in the constitution, which has foundations going back to St. Augustine, was eventually overturned. Laws and policy were determined through divinity. The inevitable exodus of the wealthy and talented was the catalyst for the completion of Paragon’s project. Tolerance and free speech were cast down. The borders were sealed.

From the sound of Elvis’ voice, he sensed the glimmer of déjà vu, like some beautiful woman beckoning from a dim alley with a beguiling smile… who would vanish as soon as he reached the alley himself.

“I know you,” he said. He was shocked at this realisation.

Elvis said nothing, encouraging the President to say more to fill the dread silence.

“I remember you from somewhere.” The President chased the déjà vu woman but he could not even get close.

“Yessss, you are Paragon. You are my commandment.” Elvis said, drool continuing to spatter on the floor.

The horrific death of his wife marked the end of Paragon’s “restraint” and the beginning of the bloodiest period of Paragon’s America. Fortunately the Office of the Paragon fell just a few years later in a terrorist attack that little is known about. It is generally believed to be the handiwork of the domestic guerrilla group “Lady Liberty”, although there is speculation that another group may have been involved.

Déjà vu no more. Everything fell into place. “You chose me for this, I remember.”


Everything made sense. The night before he had decided to run for President was the night that Elvis had come to him. He then felt empowered. He realised there was – no, sensed a connection between them. The strength that this being had conferred to him was spiritual and divine in origin. He was rocked by this knowledge. God had come to him in this strange form and laid His hands upon His faithful servant. He got up from his seat, but his knees buckled, and he fell into a humble bow before God.

“Insssstrument, I have inssstructionsss,” Elvis whispered. The President heard many things in the voice of his God. He heard the white noise from between the broadcast channels. He heard the waves of the sea that crashed against the cliffs, eroding them. He heard the raging fire of a funeral pyre. He heard the entropy that lay in wait to feast on order.

Most historians agree, however, that the Paragon did something for the world that had seemed impossible. In the face of an extremely capable and tangible foe, unlike the protracted “War Against Terror” of the early twenty-first century which was an exercise in shadow-boxing, the rest of the world slowly united, piece by piece. Gone was the complex conflict of the Middle East; international politics now consisted of a sharp polarisation of America and Not America.

The President could not raise his gaze, humility confining his eyes to the floor. He said, “Tell me, my Lord.”

“All mussst worssship.”

The President understood. America was a home. A single roof under which all lived together. He had been through every room of this house, taking out the garbage, fixing up things that should have been taken care of years ago. But the house was teetering dangerously on wooden foundations that were overrun with dry rot. To ensure a future for all, the structure of the house would have to be completely restored from the ground up.

As much as we wish to condemn the death, despair and destruction that he spawned, what the Paragon indirectly created has endured. The world is a safer place, just liked he promised, although we are still red-blooded, meat-eating capitalists, addicted to money.

“It risssesss. Ssstand, commandment.”

It was the President of the United States who had fallen to the floor in humility, but the Paragon of America who rose in his place.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2208

August 17, 2006

Paragon’s Prologue (9 of 10)

Thread: Paragon

Selected excerpts from the introduction of “The Atlantic War: The Birth of the Partnership” (first published 2176)

Prior to Parsons’ reign of theocratic terror, corporations had exerted power through a variety of devices such as contributions to election campaigns. Parsons found the courage to stand on an anti-corporate platform that led to his alienation and eventual exit from the Republican party. He struck a chord with an American public that had been plunged into a series of unpleasant and ultimately unrewarding conflicts around the world after terrorism dragged the public kicking and screaming into international politics on September 11, 2001. The nation had lost its faith in the political process and so the time was ripe for a new political faith to emerge; Parsons led the Small Business Coalition for a Free America (a.k.a. the Coalition) into office. He had had no real skeletons in the closet, so focus turned towards his wife. Although there was a transparent attempt to smear her as being anti-American, their real Achilles’ heel was completely overlooked, which would haunt the Paragon in his final years.

Elvis was slightly hunched. A heavy, black cloak was draped over his broad frame that spilled onto the ground, obscuring all physical features. The cloak only looked black, however, because it was soaked with something dark and red. It also appeared to glisten and move all by itself. Maggots.

Where Elvis’ face should have been an ornate mirror with a golden frame was suspended, concealing what lay there. The President saw only his own reflection, a shocked, white face glaring back. Bloody drool as viscous as treacle was dripping with agonizing slowness from something behind the mirror to the floor. It pooled on the ground, pattering quietly.

Elvis did not move. The President did not move.

The corporations were determined to hold onto power, however, and a short civil war ensued after President Henry Rathschild declared that Parsons was an agitator, linking campaign money through several of his small business contributors to countries such as the DPRK. The belief in Parsons was so strong that this attack merely bolstered his appearance as a fighter against the malevolent influence of corporate greed. The military soon sided with Parsons against Rathschild. When the civil war concluded, Rathschild was executed for crimes against the United States as were a number of corporate leaders who were directly associated with Rathschild’s response to Parsons’ legitimate claim to power.

The President wondered whether he was just tired. Maybe this was just the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Be, emerging from his subconscious to give him a hard time. His subconscious was doing a great job thus far. He closed his eyes and mentally wished for the thing to be gone. He denied it life.

He opened his eyes and it was still there, defying his demand for normality.

His heart was pounding now. Maybe he might die of a heart attack, he thought. He might die, right here in the Oval Office, before he had a chance to complete his great project. The revival of America must continue. Why? Why was this happening? When everything was going so well?

And his wife. He could not die. His wife needed him. He needed his wife. They needed each other.

He decided that God was the only one who could help him here and began to pray out loud. He would cast this demonic spirit out by invoking the Lord.

Parsons was a man of deep conviction and, even though his intolerant religious views were in no way concealed, the voters were willing to accept him. A dispossessed people will always vote for a bold man of action like Hitler or Milosevic, who is willing to demonise another segment of humanity as the root of all evil (corporate entities in Parsons’ example), with a convenient blind spot where the potential for genocidal madness and untethered aggression exists.

After a programme to dehumanise one sector of society is proved politically viable it is only a matter of time before the rest of that society suffers the same fate.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1851

August 12, 2006

Paragon’s Prologue (8 of 10)

Thread: Paragon

The Oval Office still seemed too small.

Although he had visited before for discussions with his late predecessor he had, at that time, been awed by its grandeur and position as the chamber of global influence. The previous incumbent had always talked down to him like some small state senator who was only kept aboard for a flickering light on the election night map. It was not the same now. Yes, Mr. President. No, Mr. President.

He had special agents whose purpose was to protect him and take a bullet if need be. The thought that apparent strangers would die for him, that his life was more important than theirs was, was something that he found staggering.  His life was no longer just one of many, his life was now one of a special few. It was too easy, though, to bask in that feeling of being affirmed. Self-control was essential – God has his demands. He came here with purpose. Blood had dried on the path that had brought him here; he wanted no more on the path ahead.

He sensed that the men and women who worked for him loved him because they believed in him. People who had not voted for years had started to vote again because he was truly free. Although the media had tried several times, at the secret behest of industry, to hobble his campaign, they had failed. He had no agenda except to save America from itself.  He had nothing to hide but everything to tell. This was the first time he felt genuine, sustained respect from the people beyond the end of a successful campaign.

At the start of a campaign, everything was unrealised hopes and dreams – but the liberal media soon got its teeth into that. That was not the worst of it. Contrary to reason, the worst case scenario for people’s hope was victory, because their would-be saviours were then revealed as Halloween pumpkins that look the part but are nothing but hollowed-out husks. The people lost the will to vote as the years of political unreality wore them down.

It was not the same now.

He had been concerned during the three-week civil war that his attempt to excise the cancer of depravity and corruption from America had killed the patient. That was a year ago and now the patient was fitter than ever. He would sometimes ask his driver to take him down the streets of a poorer neighbourhood just to gauge the mood. He saw more optimism in their expressions than before and it told him that he was on the right path. He was building up momentum and confidence to make bigger changes.

So far, all he done was to introduce some stringent requirements for corporate governance. He had managed to almost entirely divorce the political machine from the business engine that put food in people’s mouths and toys under the tree. There were signs of economic danger, though, he had been warned by the advisor. Some larger conglomerates had lost business to foreign competitors who were not bound by the same regulations. So then he made it illegal to do business with foreign entities that did not adhere to the same rules of play. Both Europe and China had threatened action over his “protectionism” and there were signs that Australia would be soon to follow.

Cheap imports were still causing problems and he was preparing to extend the Fair Play Act to cover them, although his team had indicated that it would be impossible to enforce; a couple of surrogate companies would easily mask the unethical practices. He had put together a rough proposal for an Ethical Signature system that meant that all transactions could be traced back to an American-registered Ethical Source. There was even more resistance after he unveiled his grand idea, and it was said that they would probably never be able to import anything. An empty threat, naturally, which did not bother him as he believed America should be self-sufficient and independent. Congress was getting unruly.

More change was necessary. America was being undermined by the shocking, sinful behaviour of its international “partners”. He was not particularly xenophobic, but he felt tempted to shut out the rest of the world that he now recognised as a malignant influence on his plans to heal his wounded country. Day by day, resentment grew and he felt as if his throat was choked with unspoken, profane bile.

On the monitor, there was a documentary about the First Lady. He sat enthralled. She had supported him through everything. He could go home every night and be the one and only man that could spend time with her. Who else could be entertained by her conversation? He thumped his fist on the desk and felt euphoria at what had come to pass. He picked up the phone to call her, without concern that his private conversation would be recorded. Perhaps a President’s love should become history, part of the legend.

As he began dialling the number, he noticed Elvis skulking beside the Stars and Stripes.

A tidal wave of raw, unbridled fear engulfed the President drowning a scream before it could escape his lips, leaving the sound stillborn and unformed on his tongue. Blood evacuated his face and he dropped the receiver in horror.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2130

August 3, 2006

Paragon’s Prologue (7 of 10)

Thread: Paragon

He had Pontius Pilate’s hands, dripping with guilt. The President-elect had failed to avert the disastrous confrontation that his opponent had forced. Deep in the labyrinth, he looked upon the opponent, the ousted President. The opponent hugged the bloody symbol of his defeat in his arms. When Special Forces had burst in, there had been a brief gunfight; the First Lady took two bullets in the chaos, one of which had stolen her face.

The President-elect’s wife slipped to her knees at the horrific sight of her fallen counterpart, her legs unable to support their burden. “God,” she whispered, “we beg forgiveness and mercy. Please find the mercy to forgive us all.” She lowered her gaze and stared at the concrete bunker floor before her, as if trying to find answers in its flat, featureless surface. It offered no such comfort.

The President-elect did not see a defeated enemy; he saw a man who had lost his wife. He thought of the children and having to explain to them what had befallen their parents. They would ask difficult questions, like why. It was a small price to pay, perhaps, as a part of him felt thankful that the positions of victor and vanquished were not reversed.

The opponent looked up. Tears were rolling down his cheeks, cheeks that were dashed with the war paint of the First Lady’s blood. Almost a whisper, he said to no one in particular, “There is nothing left now.”

The President-elect had to respond to the man’s convenient conversion to empathy. “You refused to back down. What was I supposed to do? Why bring us here?” At this particular moment, the President-elect despised the opponent. Not for the deaths of hundreds, but for making him feel so guilty.

Defiant, the opponent shouted directly at the President-elect, “Who is to say which one of us is to blame, agitator? You provoked confrontation and now people are dead!” A body in his arms, he surrendered again to loss and repeated his last words to himself, “People are dead.” He scrunched up his eyes and wailed, his mouth an open, screaming pit of despair.

“I am sorry,” the President-elect said, unable to ignore the opponent’s torment. His apology felt inadequate. “I’m sorry.” His repetition, unlike that of the opponent’s, only seemed to emphasise the impotence of his words, but then his emotions flipped again and he wanted the opponent to stop making him feel guilty. He wished to silence the man and his pathetic squealing. Of what you sow, a harvest you shall reap.

After the lament subsided without intervention, the President-elect noticed that his wife’s prayer had changed. “What did we do?” she was mumbling to herself.

The opponent opened his bloodshot eyes again. The President-elect perceived the glare of a trapped animal, pretending to be subdued while actually waiting for his captor’s guard to drop, so that he might pounce and rip out his captor’s throat. He said, “Free trade reduced conflict. It gave us stability. I hope you understand what you are about to break.” He blinked more tears.

The opponent was still fighting, even in what would be his last moments. Was there no end to this man’s sinful defiance? The President-elect was indignant and the bees of his anger stirred in their hive again.

The President-elect said, “This is a democracy, not a plutocracy. You should have accepted defeat instead of dragging us into civil war. The damage you have done in these three weeks will take years to repair. I appreciate what free trade has done for us, but it has gone too far. God has told me that it has to stop. We have to stop them before it is too late.”

“And do you not understand that God had also told me to play my part?” came the livid response.

The opponent could not hold the President-elect’s gaze, though, and his words began to fall apart. “It was said, don’t you see? This defeat was not meant… it was supposed to… it is the nothing that is… it was said. So it was said.” The opponent rocked the remnants of the woman in his arms, as if helping her to sleep. The man was disintegrating before the President-elect’s eyes. “Did what was told. Won’t let you get away with this. Won’t let you get away.” The opponent shuddered.

“We all have our God,” the President-elect answered, feeling more comfortable in his position as victor. “Only some of them are real. How many people have we now lost because you listened to a false prophet? You were listening to your own voice, not that of God.”

The opponent looked up sharply at that final remark, the embers of his own dwindling fire glowing bright under the hot breath of the President-elect. His composure had returned. “So sure of himself is he with the simplistic beliefs of the black and the white, riding on his grand horse of smug righteousness. How loved the vainglorious man is.” Every word was doused with gasoline, Molotov cocktails hurled at the President-elect to shatter and explode upon his religious armour.

He took the voice of a crooked preacher, quoting distorted verses that would not be found in any religious codex. “Oh thou who art victorious dost carry the light of Jahweh, ‘tis no mistake. Praise the one who leadeth us against our fallen angels. With armies of believers, strike down thy enemy with blade and fire! Fill the chasm of damnation with a deluge of thy believers’ bodies and build ye a bridge across it to Zion!”

The President-elect was unmoved. “I stand here, triumphant. You crouch there, crushed, lost. Which one of our gods, would you suppose, is the real one?”

The opponent was now shouting. “Upon thy bridge of slaughter, thou wilt discover that thy faith hath crack’d. Then, thou shalt tear thy belief asunder with thine own hands. Thou art not the shepherd.”

The President-elect had no desire to listen to such foolish words. Once he had helped his wife to her feet, they left the chamber together under armed guard, the opponent still yelling behind them. They kept on walking until the ranting could no longer be heard.

The soldiers then asked the President-elect to confirm what they all knew had to be done, because the country demanded it. It was out of the President-elect’s hands. The blood would not even touch them because there was nothing he could do. Cause and effect were united and inseparable, their divorce beyond the meagre abilities of a mortal man.

Beneath a bloody twilight sky that summoned the stars, the execution squad pulled their triggers and killed the President. The squad would later tell their husbands and wives, their children, their friends and any strangers with time to listen, the story of how the President died grinning.

One of them was also sure that he had seen a shape beside the President blink into existence for an instant. He was unwilling to share that story, however, for many years.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2310