The Pile – Chapter Seven

In the weeks that followed, Modern Issue’s traffic increased tremendously. In response, the MI team upgraded their infrastructure and redoubled their efforts.

The jump in visitor numbers to the site, they surmised, could be attributed to the serious and unstable times in which they were living. Serious and unstable times necessitated the ascendance of serious and stable leaders. MI’s reputation as the only online news source without a section devoted to spotting celebrity cellulite positioned Asher and Raymond as the type of luminary voices the cowering masses craved.

Though they’d received numerous requests to appear as guests on cable news television programs, the plucky writers decided confining their thoughts to the written word would only enhance their staid credibility. And so the two men were publicly debated, flogged, defended, plagiarized, appreciated, berated, and worshiped without ever appearing in public or revealing the highly guarded secret location of MI HQ.

As for the writing itself, Asher did the majority of the heavy lifting, with Raymond serving to challenge and refine. Whenever Raymond did personally pen an article, it was often the most hotly contested item of the news cycle. The preponderance of public opinion usually expressed outrage, leaving a few key academic defenders to tout the article’s misinterpreted brilliance. Subjects for these commentaries ranged from discussions on the implementation of a new, definitely not-racist poll test for the modern era that would allow a democratic country to give higher or lower voting values to ‘educated votes’ vs. ‘uneducated votes,’ to calls for the complete dismantling of the defense and intelligence communities, with the saved funds transferred directly to education and social welfare programs. The two MI editors shared an alphabetically determined byline on every article published, whether it was the sober, thoroughly vetted pieces produced by Asher, or the incendiary screeds conceived by Raymond. Though Raymond’s positions often frustrated Asher’s pragmatic sensibilities with their lack of grounded realism, he couldn’t deny their traffic-generating capabilities.

While Asher spent a sizeable portion of his time writing in his room, Nico and Raymond spent their time exploring Anacostia and developing plans for their future.

After years of intensely social travels and adventures, Asher appreciated this new solitude. At every other point in his life he’d been driven by his mania to seek out unique situations and brilliant individuals. Asher’s deeply rooted conviction was that somehow, if he gained enough knowledge and learned the right combination of secrets about the world from its diverse inhabitants, he, Asher Rose, could fix humanity.

Asher also accepted that he was better at everything than everyone else, though he also understood it was extremely important that his fellow man accept this idea subconsciously without ever consciously acknowledging the truth. He spent exorbitant amounts of his seemingly unlimited energy striking this balance.

Unlike Raymond, who shared Asher’s passion for new experiences but had always struggled to attain his ideal in-group, Asher seemed to suffer from an over-abundance of lovable companions. Asher’s pool of acquired and cherished intimates was daunting. In every new location he seemed to bump into the pre-eminent thinkers of the region through pure happenstance; his luck in meeting ‘the right sort of person’ was unmatched. The effect his presence had on those around him, which tended to draw out the finest passion and creativity a person had to offer, also contributed to his vast and intensely interesting network of confidantes. Asher’s dissatisfaction came from loving each of these special individuals deeply and thoroughly while also experiencing the acute itching within his soul to never rest until he’d figured out how to fix his species. When that irritation bore deeper, an inflamed passion for his cause overwhelmed his love for those around him and forced him to move on, breaking him in two each time. A piece of Asher’s love remained behind whenever he left a place, scattering his soul across the surface of the Earth and causing him to forever feel the pull of each one of his many lives.  The anguish he endured as he left each portion of his love behind he accepted as a necessary sacrifice to his ultimate goal, and he sustained himself with visions of a future he’d shape. Down to his core, Asher knew he was to be the one who’d discover how to save humanity from itself.

The weeks of global chaos following the cessation of functional violence served as a platform for Asher to publicly espouse a number of ideas he’d collected during his travels. While his end goal was a radical departure from current societal norms, he felt that smaller, pragmatic steps would allow for a less disruptive transformative process and mitigate the negative impact and reaction this change would inflict upon and illicit from the demographic losing the most power. To this effect, he identified that the single most important task was to first reestablish an approximation of order. For this he bent the slant of his verbiage to encourage his fellow citizens to calm down.

Asher’s main thrust in his “Great Calming Down Campaign” (GCD) was that a submission to the authority of historical elites would give humanity adequate time to regroup and understand the full implications of a reality without violence. Chaos, he argued, was not the time for a radical change in government operations. The current state of affairs was not conducive to the substantial preparations necessary for civilization to adapt to its new paradigm. Therefore returning to the status quo, for the time being, was essential.

Governments seized this message and trumpeted it to their citizens. After weeks of both subliminal and explicit barrages of GCD messaging, riotous populations slowly scaled back, heeling to the sides of their traditional masters. Unfortunately for Asher, any public recognition of his contribution would have undermined the hard-won authority carved out by the reestablished establishment wielding his words. But he knew that they knew, and for now that was enough.

Barely a week after society stabilized, Asher received a private email from an important advisor to an important world leader seeking his help.

Dear Mr. Rose,

I know you know that I know what you have done for your nation. I know you understand why we cannot formally acknowledge your hand in the process, but let me assure you that the administration knows it is indebted to your important contribution. If you wish to continue serving your country in the same capacity, we need your voice once more. I have insisted on the need for an increase in the nation’s scientific research budget to find the cause behind this situation. Other advisers disagree, however, insisting a time of doubt must be met with an increase in defense spending. They believe our best hope lies in adapting our fighting forces to new modes of non-violent combat. The President seems to be leaning towards this course of action due to intelligence reports of the Chinese and Russians investing heavily in their own non-violent warfare programs. If you believe in the continued greatness of this nation, I implore you to lend your highly public voice to this debate in favor of scientific development. I await your reply and wish you the best regardless of your decision.

Humbly and Sincerely,

ZMF

The email threw Asher into a frenzy. It held the stink of corruption and served as an impeachment of his journalistic integrity. Though he’d been debating this very same issue and had come down on the side of scientific research, this new development humbly and sincerely mucked up the works.

He now had to weigh the merits of writing about the prescription he believed would serve the nation best against the risk of being exposed as the administration’s lackey. Even if that wasn’t technically true, even the hint could be used against him as blackmail. Hours of contemplation led nowhere, so he decided to do what he always used to do at Trotsky when he couldn’t make up his mind; consult Raymond.

While he was waiting for his friend to return from an outing with Nico, he received another email.

Mr. Rose,

You know who I am so I’ll keep this brief. I acknowledge that we’ve had differences in the past, but this moment in history transcends the divide between our political beliefs. I will do you the service of acknowledging that your voice carries weight. It’s your duty, as a member of this great nation, to use that voice for a matter of national security. Right now the leader of this glorious country is in danger of making a grave error by abandoning our armed forces to support a pipe dream. Now more than ever we require the bulwark of our military to reinforce and reassure the frightened citizens of our beautiful land that their government is still here protecting them from all threats. I agree that we need to invest in science, but science that takes place under the supervision of our department and for the purpose of finding a way to circumvent the new restrictions limiting the capabilities of our forces. Make no mistake; America’s enemies are doing just that with no hesitation as we speak. Join the cause and do your part. Your nation needs you.

Very respectfully,

ROBERT L. BLOMBELL

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

THE PENTAGON

 

***This is private communication. Failure to keep it as such would be considered a breach of the National Paramount Need for Secrecy Act (NPNSA). The consequences would be in line with the provisions defined within that legislation***

Asher finished reading and sat back with a broad smile of relief.  “Thank god!” he thought. With this email he could expose governmental corruption and support his original plan in a single article. Of course, Blombell would deny the correspondence, but even the idea that he sent a letter attempting to influence and threaten Asher would destroy the Military First Bloc, allowing the liberal caucus to ram through substantial reductions in defense spending in order to substantially increase allotments for scientific spending. It was perfect.

When Raymond and Nico returned, Asher explained the recent developments.

“Are you serious?! That’s fantastic!” Raymond exclaimed before Asher finished reading Blombell’s email, “The guy’s done!”

After Nico admonished him for interrupting and Asher told them the rest of his idea, Raymond continued, “That’s great! I totally support this decision!”

“Of course you do,” Nico said. “Asher, isn’t this going to invite retribution? That sounded like a fairly stern warning.”

“Sure, but what could they possibly do to us, realistically?” Asher replied casually. “I guess they could break our stuff, but it’s not like they can threaten us personally. Worst case scenario is we move the operation to Europe. I know some people there who could help us…”

“We all know some people in Europe who could help us!” Nico objected. “That’s not the point!

“I don’t know any people in Europe who could help us…”

Nico ignored him, “I can’t do that! I’m in the middle of a project here and it’s just starting to come together! I’m not about to abandon it to follow you guys in exile to Europe!”

Asher and Raymond were surprised by her unexpected vehemence, “Nico, that’s not what’s going to happen. Don’t you think this is important too?” Raymond asked carefully.

“Yes! Of course it’s important! But it can’t interfere with my work.”

“Well alright then, if things get too hot here, I’ll go alone. You and Raymond stay to do…wait, what’re you doing anyway?” Asher said, regretfully aware that he’d been so absorbed in his own machinations that he had no idea what Nico was doing.

“A local development project that’s going to breathe life into this neighborhood!” Raymond said.

“What sort of redevelopment?”

“We’re going to gentrify the area without gentrifying the area,” Nico said.

Asher appeared nonplussed, “I have no idea what that means.”

“You’ll see when it’s ready,” she answered, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bed.”

As she strode out, she looked over her shoulder and called, “Raymond? Would you care to join me?”

“Yeah, of course I would. But only when you aren’t using me as a pawn against Asher,” he replied.

Nico turned and glanced at him in surprise. She then looked to Asher and slowly walked back into the room, taking a moment to reflect before sighing, “I’m sorry. You’re right, I’m sorry. I was being childish. I respect what you’re doing Asher, I just feel like it’s overshadowing my own project.”

“I understand, and I didn’t mean for that to happen. We’ve both got important goals. I don’t want one to take precedence over the other. Thanks for talking about it instead of holding a grudge,” Asher replied.

“It’s not about holding a grudge, it’s about making sure you don’t stampede over other people’s goals with your ego.”

“My ego is…yes I understand.”

“As long as you both understand and accept.”

“I do.”

“Well good, then everything’s fine.”

Raymond laughed nervously, “Jesus, not following you might’ve been the hardest thing I’ve done in my whole life!”

“It doesn’t exactly have stiff competition,” Asher replied, “So is this alright with you, Nico? I’ll support the scientific agenda and only use the honorable Secretary Blombell’s email if it looks like the legislation is about to fail.”

“Perfect. Besides, I think exposing corruption within the government might destabilize the fragile peace you fought for. Your whole argument was to trust the authorities, right?”

“Oh…shit! You’re right!” Asher realized, astounded, “How did I miss that?”

“Don’t worry about it. Not even you can think of everything. Now I really am off to bed. Raymond, last chance.”

“Coming!” he shouted, bolting out after her.

Asher laughed and turned to his derelict computer to write his new policy position.

The blowback from their official stance was tepid and manageable. In total, the group only endured two raids by ineffectively armed-to-the-teeth thugs, who, for all their brutishness and threats, only managed to smash the hard drive of a single computer[1].

Thanks to support from Modern Issue, the Scientific Redistribution Act easily cleared the House and Senate, cutting the defense budget by nearly 1/64th. The massive influx of new funding stimulated a flurry of interest as to who the administration would name to head the team researching ineffective violence. With the United States’ direction clear, international rivals followed in kind, increasing their own science budgets and establishing their own teams of top researchers. The stakes were high; the first nation to discover the answer to humanity’s violence problem would hold a monopoly on power. The strictest levels of security were established to guard the secrecy of the research, hindered only modestly by an inability to shoot trespassers on sight.

Candidates for the position of lead researcher were suggested and dismissed daily. As no scientist had any pre-existing empirical knowledge of the subject, and no one was quite sure which discipline the problem belonged to, potentials from every field were considered. After much debate, Nico, Asher, and Raymond agreed on the public endorsement of a brilliant epidemiologist from Bangladesh named Dr. Chandra Sen, whom Asher had met while working with the World Health Organization in Dakar. Though relatively unknown outside the international disease circuit, Dr. Sen was something of an anomaly. She held a doctorate in both epidemiology and quantum mechanics, which she’d managed to acquire from Princeton by the age of twenty-four in spectacular fashion.

In what’d turned into an academic urban legend, Dr. Sen is said to have defended her two theses on the same day. As the story goes, after completing her quantum mechanics defense, a demonstration that’d reduced an elderly physics professor in attendance to a state of catatonic shock[2], she rushed from the room and across the Princeton campus to the biology department, arriving in time to begin her celebrated epidemiology defense 15 minutes later.

After graduation, Dr. Sen was hired as an unpaid intern by the World Health Organization, which sent her as part of a quick reaction force to Senegal to investigate a deadly Rubella outbreak. Within two weeks of the team’s arrival, Dr. Sen had not only eliminated Rubella, but had, in her free time, developed a machine that could locate any virus in any biological host, send microscopic mechanisms into the body, and cleanse the infected cells while also destroying the virus itself. She proudly described her invention as “the ultimate weapon in germ warfare.” This new machine, she explained to her superiors, could be attuned to seek out any viral strain and boasted of the cheap, recyclable materials used in the process, which meant the machine could deploy quickly and effectively anywhere in the world.

Her seniors, heavy investors in major pharmaceutical companies, responded by asking if anyone else knew about the machine. When she answered yes, they had her followed, terrified that curing every virus-based disease would make their jobs redundant and crash the Big Pharm market. A week after her proposal, her hotel room and lab were broken into, her machines destroyed, and schematics stolen. Fortunately for Dr. Sen, she’d met Asher Rose two days prior and was sleeping with him at the time of the break-in, saving her from falling into the alleged clutches of the alleged World Health Organization toughs. Asher comforted the disillusioned doctor as best he could and, through his extensive network of contacts, found her an ideal location to hide while continuing her work[3].

With her life no longer in danger due to the recently validated impotence of hired muscle, Asher felt confident he could call Chandra out of her protected location and help establish her as an important voice in the scientific community.

Dr. Sen arrived from her undisclosed location appearing no worse for wear despite her trying ordeal. Though the trip had been moderately inconvenienced when her plane was blown up at 32,000 feet somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, the rescue craft had collected the majority of the somewhat irked passengers scattered across the fifty-square mile search area within a few short days and delivered Chandra to D.C. only a week-and-a-half behind schedule.

Asher and Raymond met her in the airport lobby where, at the sight of Asher, Chandra broke into a smile and a sprint. The sprint, though primarily a testament to the joy Dr. Sen felt at seeing Mr. Rose again, also served the utilitarian purpose of helping her escape the clutches of a pair of burly Big Pharm brutes who’d been waiting to welcome her to D.C. with a burlap sack. As she rushed into Asher’s embrace, the ruffians retreated, momentarily stymied.

“Asher! I am extremely pleased to see you!” Chandra said. She spoke with a barely detectable accent, a formal tone and diction that clipped the end of each word and added an air of efficiency to her demeanor even in casual conversation.

With concealed admiration, Asher noted her exile had conferred an extra note of gravity to her already staid countenance, through which Chandra projected a stunning, fiery, and undeniable intellect, barely contained beneath her sepia-touched skin. She was definitively professional, with the harsh lines of her dark suit jacket and pants contributing to her already intimidating presence. Asher did wonder how she’d come across the pristinely tailored and pressed outfit after falling from a burning airplane and drifting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for a week, but he refrained from asking and chose to simply be impressed by her ingenuity.

“I’m happy to see you as well, Chandra,” Asher replied, “You look well.”

“They blew up your plane!” Raymond exclaimed.

“I suppose they did,” Chandra agreed, “My apologies, but I do not believe I know your name.”

“Oops, that’s my fault,” Asher apologized, “Chandra, this is Raymond Clock. I’m sure I mentioned him to you at one point or another.”

“Oh! The famous Mr. Clock who crucified children with you at your university! I found that anecdote endlessly entertaining,” Chandra said, smiling and cordially shaking Raymond’s hand.

“We should get you back to our headquarters,” Raymond said, enjoying the dramatic cloak-and-dagger of his words, “I’m sure those nice men will be back with more guys and more bags. Not that you, or we, really have anything to worry about anymore.”

“Yes, it is fascinating actually,” Dr. Sen began, “I was working on some theories while floating on my luggage.”

She relayed her ideas to them on the journey home, during which they changed cars four times, drove in two circles around the city, and entered three separate homes in three separate neighborhoods, walking in the front door and out the back where they slipped into a new vehicle waiting in the garage. They finally arrived in Anacostia near midnight, exhausted not by their rigorous journey, but by the intense debate raging within the party.

Dr. Sen’s theory was at the center of their disagreement. She held that violence was not a physical function, as it was assumed, but rather a spiritual one. During her exile, while operating her makeshift particle accelerator, she’d identified an unknown and unexplainable force working on quantum particles during moments of destruction. She’d not discussed this force with anyone, believing it required further study before the shocking revelation was brought before her peers. This discovery defied every conceivable explanation within the realm of known science, leading her to the conclusion that she’d discovered something supernatural, “the fingerprints of God.” Raymond immediately scoffed and interjected, though he was quickly shouted down by Asher, who asked Chandra to continue.

She went on to explain that when violence stopped for all mankind at the exact same moment, it was the result of this supernatural force making a sentient decision. When she ran the same destruction tests, that force had no effect on atoms of human origin. It was impossible, Chandra posited, for a non-sentient force to distinguish between a human and non-human carbon atom. Therefore, this force must have a will and purpose. Raymond again interrupted and was again berated by Asher, who wondered if she knew how to replicate the force. The doctor explained that the reason this force must be supernatural, beyond the posited sentience, was that it was completely impossible to replicate. Somehow it existed outside the hallowed halls of High Science.

Raymond, who could not contain himself after this pronouncement, challenged her with the idea that humanity merely lacked the sophistication of technology or proper scientific knowledge to understand the force; that lightning must have appeared supernatural to cavemen. Chandra agreed with him and stated simply, “Someday I expect God will be taxonomically classified.” To Raymond’s surprise, Asher, an even more militant non-believer than he, thought Chandra had the right of things, though he sounded just as mystified. He explained that he’d always demanded evidence of God, or anything supernatural, and he’d be just as bad as the blindly religious if he refused to accept evidence when it was presented by the greatest scientist of their generation.

They continued arguing, touching on physics, philosophy, and the essentials of religious dogma as they made their way back to the Red Roof Inn.

Once safely home, the party split, with Raymond bidding them goodnight and entering the room he occasionally shared with Nico, leaving Asher and Chandra alone.

They crossed into Asher’s bedroom.

“Raymond is quite passionate. I admire his argument, though I strongly believe he misunderstands my meaning. I have never been religious and do not consider this a religious idea. It is merely a new discovery and the most plausible explanation happens to be supernatural,” Chandra said as they came to rest on Asher’s bed.

“That he is. And neither have I, but your argument’s as startling as it is convincing. You’re going to change the world,” Asher said, pulling off her blazer.

“I am thrilled with the prospect. My laboratory facilities were beneath sub-par in my hideaway. It will be wonderful to be well-funded again,” Chandra said, unbuckling Asher’s belt and sliding on top of him.

“You’ll have the best equipment and personnel in the world. You’ll finally be exactly where you’re supposed to be,” Asher said, turning off the light.

Nothing had changed during their year apart.

The next few days were spent preparing to announce Modern Issue’s support for Dr. Chandra Sen’s appointment to head the government’s research team. Asher realized his fears regarding Chandra were well-founded. Normally capable of producing entire policy positions in a single afternoon, it’d taken him nearly two days to produce a satisfactory announcement. While Raymond and Nico assured him it was the most brilliant piece he’d written, Asher was deeply disturbed by this drop in productivity. The happiness steadily enveloping every corner of his mind was proving too seductive to reject. He felt he was becoming a better person, but not in the direction he thought he desired.

The group made their declaration on Monday, April 2nd. The pantheon of talking heads, anointed by fame to share their carefully measured hot takes with the world, admired Chandra in general terms, but their praised lacked passion[4]. As the news cycle progressed, the tide turned against Chandra, until her background, family history, professional choices, dating profiles, fashion sense, and mental competency were all brought under scrutiny by these super-sleuth newshounds. Dr. Sen’s name was destined to disappear from the conversation by the end of the day until a Fuck You News[5] anchor, Bratley Manlove, subtly implied Chandra’s race and/or gender might have something to do with her lack of qualifications:

“I’m not saying she isn’t smart. She’s definitely a smart person, no one is saying she isn’t. She very smart, I just think she isn’t right for the role.

“Why’s that, Bratley?”

“I mean, you’ve seen pictures. Does that look like a lead scientist to you?”

The reaction from social media was predictably hyperbolic.

Hundreds of online groups were organized, petitions were signed, and calls to Congress were made in support of the first female of color Lead Researcher for the United States of America. The usual progressive firebrands bloviated about what a giant step forward this would be for America as a nation while online activists posted and shared the best takedowns of the racists at Fuck You News and demanded the immediate public tarring and feathering of Bratley Manlove. The hysteria mounted until Fuck You News capitulated to their sponsors and fired Manlove.

At this, hundreds of online groups were organized, petitions were signed, and calls to Congress were made in support of Bratley Manlove. The usual conservative firebrands bloviated about what a giant step backwards this was for America as a nation while online activists posted and shared the best takedowns of liberals and Dr. Chandra Sen, whom many called Dr. Slut[6]. The hysteria mounted until the popular group Anti-Fascist Anti-Fascists (AFAF) presented Dr. Hubert Slovache as their preferred candidate.

“Are they serious?” Raymond asked.

“Of course they aren’t. They’re human trolls, man. This is what they do. Just ignore their joke and it’ll go away.” Asher replied.

Nico and Chandra were unconvinced.

Over the weekend the nomination of Slovache dominated the news cycle. Dr. Slovache, a well-known cryptozoologist, was brought onto Fuck You News to defend his candidacy.

During the hour long interview, the good doctor discussed the intimate anatomy of and threat posed by the Mexican Chupacabra, the veracity of the Nephilim sightings by our boys and girls in Afghanistan and what that meant for the end times, his theory about how the moral decay of America was partly, not completely, but partly, at least a little, why not? to blame for non-functioning violence, and the fact that Ricky should have definitely picked Jill as his on-screen mating partner on the recent season finale of “Man make Money and Sex” because Jackie had the look of a two-timer. The interview was an instant viral sensation and Dr. Hubert Slovache became a household name overnight.

Progressives were apoplectic. After a series of increasingly non-violent confrontations between Anti-Fascists and AFAF, both sides were ready to start burning everyone else’s homes down again. Chandra, seeing the damage her nomination was causing, chose to bypass the situation and subsume her ego by publicly suggesting, through a video-post on Modern Issue, that Dr. Slovache take the helm while she take on the role of Assistant Lead Researcher for the United States of America.

The following week the United States Senate confirmed Dr. Hubert Slovache to lead the groundbreaking scientific investigation to discover the nature of non-functioning violence.

[1] In truth the thugs would’ve been entirely unsuccessful had it not been for Raymond’s charitable nature. When the uselessness of the second incursion was made abundantly clear to the assailants after Nico, Asher, and Raymond played a cruel game of keep-away-catch with the computer over their heads, the political heavies became self-conscious and embarrassed, with one turning to the other and swearing that “This had never happened to him before.” At this point, Raymond’s natural empathy flared up and, despite Asher’s objections, he handed one of the laptops to the pitiable goon. The man seized the machine and viciously smashed it to pieces while snarling a warning of future repercussions. As they were walking out, the man turned back to Raymond with tears sparkling in the crinkled corners of his soft green eyes and mouthed a silent, “thank you,” before slamming the door violently.

Asher’s half-hearted reprimand was met with a sincere pronouncement that the poor man needed to smash that computer much more than they needed to preserve it, and that it was their responsibility to help anyone they had the power to assist. Asher was too amused with this absurdity to argue. Besides, the impact of the loss was negligible for Asher as he’d already published his articles for the day and had no new material on the drive. Raymond had lost a bit more: half an article calling for action on a ten-point plan to transition humanity to global governance. Neither of the writers mourned this loss with any true grief, however, as they agreed the plan became a bit muddled around point six. In all, the raids did very little to disturb their daily operations.

 

[2] This renowned academic, head of the most prestigious quantum mechanics professional publication, Quarky Quandaries, and a gatekeeper in the field, spent the remainder of his short existence* as a leading Male Scientist’s Rights Advocate (MSRA) highlighting important statistics such as the 5% drop in the proportion of male scientists receiving government funding** over the last 30 years.

*Cause of Death: Heart-failure during a 72-hour MSRA rant-in
**From 95% to 90%

[3] Asher’s brief encounter with Dr. Sen in Dakar, approximately one year prior to Nico contacting him to talk about Raymond, had produced a sense of contentment he’d never experienced again. During the extraordinary week before he arranged her escape, he’d temporarily ceased feeling the thrum that drove him elsewhere. For a moment Asher was satisfied with who he was and who he was supposed to be. Though it terrified him and he consciously decided he should never feel that way again, he’d spent the remainder of his wanderings attempting to recapture that feeling.

Dr. Sen was the obvious choice for the appointment as lead researcher on the government’s non-violence project, but Asher hadn’t suggested her. Raymond, to whom Asher had told the full story of his journey and who was particularly impressed by the saga of the brilliant epidemiologist, suggested Chandra during the group’s debate. For Asher, the world stood at a crossroads of history and civilization and he feared the effect Chandra would have on his ambition and passion. However, as he couldn’t deny she was the perfect candidate for the position, he contacted her through the channels he’d maintained and initiated their reunion.

[4] As one erudite sophist put it during his segment on Real News Now, brought to you by PfizerExxonMobil, “I just don’t trust her with my future or the future of my children. She may be smart, but she lacks…she lacks something.”

[5] Formerly known as Crocodile News, which reorganized after its entire male staff was arrested for running a sex dungeon for conservative preteens.

[6] Among other things.

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