The ICOM elevator stops, but we're between the sixth and seventh floors. I can hear a garbled, whining voice coming from the hallway. I'm reaching for the emergency phone when the Jay-Kracker hybrid calmly raises a hand to indicate I should wait. "Our destination is between the sixth and seventh storeys," he explains.
With one hand he gently pats the Kracker-shaped lump under his tent-sized t-shirt and mutters "Shhh... shhh... my little feejee mermaid." With the other hand he slides open a hidden compartment on the control panel to reveal a tuning knob labeled "Jog Storey." He turns the dial slowly and the digital display reads 6.300... 6.350... 6.400... "This old ICOM elevator is slow," he says. "The internal backup battery died last year and the software was screwed up. We're hoping for an upgrade from ICOM by next Fest."
"You should get a software defined elevator," I suggest.
He glares at me. "Those things without real knobs? No, thanks."
The shrill voice outside the door is still mostly garbled and unintelligible, but seems familiar.
"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and I won't have it! Is that clear? You think you've merely stopped a few stations. That is not the case!"
I tilt an ear toward the elevator door, trying to recognize the voice. It seems familiar.
"Yes," Jay replies, "it's him. But no one ever hears him clearly until we reach nearly the seventh storey." He continued fine tuning "6.900... 6.915... 6.925..." and the voice snapped into sudden clarity.
"...have taken over frequencies, and now they must give them back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! These are the enemies. There are no pirates but me! There are to be no slack-jawed, lip-drooling, knuckle-draggers! You will serve as vice president at my pleasure! Don't tell me about your Bowling League. Did you really believe they'd have any say in this? There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion...
The elevator door slides open, obscuring the shrill keening for a moment.
I look up. We're on floor 6.925, a hidden storey between the 6th and 7th. I step toward the hall but Jay urgently waves me back. It's only been a few minutes since my last shot of Cuervo and Mickey's chaster but I'm getting antsy. And that suckling sound under Jay's carnival sideshow of a t-shirt is grating my nerves.
"Wait!" he hisses. "Listen!" And I do. The oddly pitched voice careening down the hall toward us is scouring my ears like a steel wool Q-tip dipped in Comet cleanser.
"My QSL packages will determine the totality of life on this planet! That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU... WILL... ATONE! Am I getting through to you, Kracker? You get up on your little 10 watt Corsair and howl about Bozo and Fansome and asshats and free speech and how you won't QSL and then you play Grateful Dead songs that nobody gives a crap about. There is no Bozo! There is no Fansome! There is no free speech! There is only WBNY and our affiliates and our mighty 8-watt International Relay Service!" (The voice is like Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, when he was dissolving in Dip. Only more annoying, if that's possible.)
"But people will think I'm an asshole." (I'm hearing another voice... like Kracker's voice... but it can't be... he's in here, under Jay's shirt...) "I mean, just this week I accused Mr. Announcer of being a sockpuppet for Radio Ronin Shortwave and I fucked up. I forgot that Mr. Announcer is the op for CYOT. So I had to delete my post to cover my butt. Maybe he'll quit, I don't know. He seems so polite. I shouldn't be such an asshole all the time..."
"You are an asshole! Never forget it! It's what you do best! As my vice president your job is to troll my enemies, flame them, discourage them, chase them away from my Furry Rodent Network, For Rabbit Nuthuggers only!"
"But Pat always told us to never attack another pirate..."
"DOES PAT SEEM LIKE HE'S IN CONTROL OF ANYTHING ANYMORE?!?" (Came the shrieking voice.)
"I guess not. But why me?"
"Because you're on the radio, dummy. Six people listen to you every time you broadcast. Consider yourself lucky that you're not one of my designated nut polishers. That job is for Mosby and Thumper."
"I have seen the face of God."
"You're goddam right. Never forget it. Now get the fuck out of here and sell some of my t-shirts. Take plenty of extra large. The lobby is full of overweight middle aged DXers."
Jay motions me out of the elevator. A door slams open and shut again, toward the end of the hall where the shrieking voice seemed to be. A haggard 40-ish guy wearing aviator sunglasses shuffles past, shaking his head. Suddenly I recognize him - it's Kracker. "Fuck you, Bozo," he mutters without enthusiasm as he passes.
"Love you more," Jay replies gently.
Fuck me again, I'm thinking, and nearly swivel my head off spinning around to look at the lump under Jay's shirt.
Jay chuckles, bitterly. "You thought this thing suckling from my belly was Kracker? No. It's a clone, one of Dr. Benway's experiments gone horribly awry. Benway made it for me after culturing bits of spittle from Kracker's roaches and beer bottles and droplets of bile from his vomit. I suppose Benway thought I would punish and torture it as the real thing has tormented me." He paused for a moment, deep in thought.
"It's as cruel as the real thing, and even more effective at manipulating me into feeling sorry for it and putting up with its abuses." Jay looked down and rubbed the squirming lump. "My little homunculus. My little bit of revenge." He looked up sadly and muttered "Be careful what you wish for."
Benway, I'm thinking... I should have known he'd be mixed up in this. I watch the real Kracker shuffling dejectedly down the hall where he raps out a coded knock on a door. A few muffled words are exchanged and the door is opened. After Kracker enters the room a lank-haired guy peers out into the hallway with nervous, ferretlike energy. He looks like Robert Crumb. I'm half expecting Fat Freddy to show up next. He catches my glance and vanishes like his head was yanked back on a leash, leaving a cloud of smoke and Ozium behind.
"Cosmikdebris," Jay says, behind me.
I nod my head. "Sure, makes sense."
"This way," he says, indicating the room from which the shrieking voice had come. The coniglio di tutti conigli. I'm thinking of my Sheridan Blue Streak .20 cal. pump back home. One pill to the head always did the trick on lagomorphs. But this one had a serious mean streak. It had survived several assassination attempts and seemed to thrive on venom, bile and spite. Only the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch would do, and the nearest armory was in Pittsburgh at Our Lady of Perpetual Hostility.
I'm thinking back to my days as a covert anti-therapist/debriefing specialist for Benway, back when major medical insurance covered T.D, Total Demoralization. That was before Kaczynski, before the media found out what we really did. I remember Benway's theory:
"An agent is trained to deny his agent identity by asserting his cover story. So why not use psychic jiu-jitsu and go along with him? Suggest that his cover story is his identity and that he has no other. His agent identity becomes unconscious, that is, out of his control..."
Yeah, I'm thinking, why not. It might work. Rumor had it the bunnyman was a spook in a former life. Rumor had it he'd broken, lost the veils between his multiple cover aliases and his true identity... if there ever was one. Probably already primed for a post-hypnotic suggestion. All I needed was the key word or phrase. I mentally sorted through the triggers we'd been using to provoke predictable rages. Had to be one of those... maybe an offhand mention of a Canadian pirate radio station was all it took.
Jay rapped out a peculiar pattern on the door: .-- -... -. -.--
I'm looking down and see a shadow break across the green light under the door. The door cracks open. An acrid odor wafts by... old cedar shavings, urine and something hellish that seemed familiar.
Jay gestures for me to go in. For a moment I'm transfixed by the growing wet splotch on his t-shirt where his little Kracker-homunculus is suckling on... what? I shake my head, take a deep breath and move toward the door.
"Be careful what you wish for!" Jay hisses sharply, then turns and stalks away.
(To be continued.)