Monday, October 8, 2012


by James McShane

Your trip to the Centre for Disease Control Headquarters allows you time to calm yourself down and indulge in a little family bonding with your sister. You and Madge never saw eye-to-eye on many things over the years, but when she brought back her first girlfriend and introduced Suzi Ching to Mom, you stormed out of the house and wouldn’t come back until they’d both left. This incident made Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays a hornets’ nest for the next fifteen years. It’s not your fault you’re a bigot; society made you that way. You wish you could turn back time and make things right again, a-la Sam Beckett and Quantum Leap. But going by your recent experience with inventions, any time machine you built would probably result in the Nazis winning World War II and the San Francisco 49ers winning Superbowl from now until Doomsday. Neither of these possible events sit well with you. You are who you are – now deal with it.
You turn to Madge and say, “Hey, sis, remember that time you and Suzi…”
“Shut the fuck up!” Madge replies into her headphone. “I’ve not yet forgiven you for that,” she continues. “However, if you can in any way make this"—she points down below at the shit- and blood-stained streets—"better, maybe this Christmas I’ll buy you something nice.”
“I always wanted a pony,” you say wistfully.
“I was thinking more of a one-way trip to fucking Jupiter.” She turns to you. “I hear it’s nice this time of year.”
Madge has mellowed over the years, you surmise.
“Are we there yet?” you ask, changing the subject. You’re the pilot, and you know how long the journey takes, but you really want to move on from all this bitterness.
“Two minutes,” Madge replies. “I rang ahead. The president’s guy at the CDC is expecting us. You better know what you’re doing.”
“It’s like we said earlier, Madge. Whoever’s lost is gone forever. The only way I can fix this is so it never happens again. I hope this joker listens to me.”
“Who else is he going to listen to? The Ayatollah?”
You grunt in mock agreement. The sooner this finishes, the better civilisation can get going again. You will make this right.
You hope.
As you bring the helicopter down on the roof of CDCHQ, you experience a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. There must be at least twenty CDC goons as your welcoming party. They have guns. Lots of guns. As you and Madge step out, a goon in a hazmat grabs you by the arm and throws you to the ground.
“So you’re the fucker who’s responsible for this eco-Apocalypse?”
You raise your hand and introduce yourself. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” you add. He slaps you across your face with a gloved palm. “I didn’t think I was this popular,” you mumble.
A voice from behind your assailant calls out. “Easy, Ernie. Let’s not give the CEO too hard a time. After all, amends must be made. Bring them down to the lab.” The new guy, who you assume must be the president’s eyes and ears in CDC, points to Madge, who is carrying the new and improved Environaut from the helicopter. He pulls you up and offers his hand.
 “Jack Sneedon, President’s Liaison, CDC.”
You both shake. “I take it you’re aware of what we have here?” you say. “With the improvements I made to the original design…”
“Yeah, I know,” he says as his colleagues move Madge and the devise into the roof elevator. “Your sister filled me in over the phone. Some shit about co-coolants. I don’t get it.” He fixes you with a steely glare. “But I’m hoping you do.”
Once more, you hope.
Down in the lab, you unpack all your equipment and prepare for a demonstration of the Environaut. You look around and see that the place is spotless. No blood. No shit. “You’ve been cooped up here all this time?” you ask. “No breaches of security? No Shithead Zombies?”
Sneedon shrugs. “One or two got through the main gate, but that’s all. Our guys are clean and good to go. What about you?”
Your head drops. “I lost my Mom and my best friend.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Sneedon replies curtly, “but we’ve no time for sentimentality. We can grieve our dead later – provided we don’t become one of them. Set her up and let’s see what she can do.”
The demonstration works like a charm. After thirty minutes of further testing, Sneedon and his cohorts are less agitated than they were when they met you on the roof. It didn’t stop Hazmat Man from slapping you once more, this time with feeling.
Sneedon takes out his phone. “Wake up the president!” he barks. “Tell him I have good news.” His face loses several shades of natural colour. “What the fuck?” he roars. “When the hell did that happen?” He finds a nearby chair and just about manages to flop into it. He rubs his hand over the top of his head. He appears to be sobbing. “Artie’s in charge? Holy sweet fuck!” He ends the call and looks at you.
You feel a hand at your shoulder. It’s Madge, getting all sisterly like. “What’s going on?” she asks.
“Turn on the TV,” is Sneedon’s response.
On the big screen there is a shot of the White House. The ticker at the bottom of the screen reads: “President and Vice-President invoke 25th Amendment. Speaker of the House, Arthur Gantly becomes President of the United States. News conference to follow shortly.”
You look at Sneedon. “They must have fallen foul of…the foulness.” Now you sound like a badly written twelve volume fantasy epic.
“You got that right,” Sneedon says. “Artie is out baying for blood. Your blood.”
“What do you mean?” Madge asks before you can even formulate the question yourself.
“My man at the West Wing says China, Russia and the entire Arab nation wants your head on a platter. They’re having their own problems and the only way they can placate their citizens is to ask for your public execution.”


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