Bottom of Page



A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it.

Sherlock Holmes, September –th, 1887, as recorded by John H. Watson, M.D., late of the Army Medical Depart-ment, in "The Five Orange Pips," according to Dr (later Sir) Arthur Conan Doyle, in the Strand Magazine, November, 1891


Annie and Lige and the standard they bore were summoned in due course and paraded with measured tread around the building and towards the principal entrance, where they were directed into position by the wall. They were gratifyingly close to the center of the action, since both the professional photographers behind the cameras and the amateur politicians in front had every interest in composing dramatic and effective shots for the audience out there in television- and newspaper-land.

Annie did her best to look attractive, intelligent, serious and strong, not necessarily in that order; she hoped she succeeded in raising the tone of the assembly. At the other end of their modest burden, Lige looked solid and serious, far from a fool and, she had to admit, in fact could hardly avoid it, knee-tremblingly sexy. She hoped that the melting sensation on which she was trying not to concentrate did not distract, and would have been most gratified to know that it only resulted in making her seem more alive, and so more committed, and certainly more appealing in her own right. To say she was more herself, which she certainly was, would be to flatter her with nothing more than the truth: All that day she had been flopping in and out of being really something. Although she didn't know it, because she didn't know it, Annie was hitting a peak. Again.

At forty-three? she would have asked with incredulity at any time before.

If it feels right, she was at last ready to reply, be it now.

From her vantage point, the broadcast itself was anti-climatic. She had a fine view of the back of a gorgeously-coifed (if you like that sort of thing, which she didn't much) head, atop sensationally broad shoulders, the effect slightly spoiled by a wire that crept up the back of the shaved neck and plugged in behind the left ear. Was this an android? she speculated. Human or humanoid, you make the call. Facing them was a scruffy technician in patched shirt and inartistically ripped jeans, who operated the equipment and generally seemed to have put himself in charge. Visible to his left was a small monochrome monitor that displayed a standard opening sequence, a pair of anchors and suddenly themselves, very small but the banners showing up clearly. Back to the studio. No sound for the masses but the 'droid waved them steady and presently reappeared in miniature, exuding black-and-white sincerity and cartoon command for twenty-five seconds, followed by ninety of miscellaneous filmed featurettes, fifteen or so of quick questions with Luke (how did he get in there? Annie wondered Who picked him? Himself, probably, with a major assist to his age and race and class and general availability), a brief wrap-up and a further fifteen of unrehearsed scripted by-play with the anchors over the hill in San José.

Cut. Wrap. Extras, take a break. Back on set in forty-five minutes, please. Principals to make-up. Script conference, five minutes, back of the truck. Thanks, everyone. Good work. (Clever 'droid to tell so much and say so little.)

The camera saw pulsing life and an enterprising reporter in the middle of the action. Annie saw the usual sham and felt vaguely disappointed. She wanted to be part of something substantial, not a movable prop for a TV set.

The 'droid was trying to look human, making mechanical small-talk with Luke, who was clearly in expansive mood after his fifteen seconds of fame. There was a milling and a murmuring as the audience focus dissipated. Annie wondered what to do, and looked around for someone whose name she knew. Surely someone could tell her.

"Patrick!" she called, "Hey, Patrick!" for he was close (but no cigar of course) though heading away and surely he would know.

"Oh hi," he smiled tentatively.

"What's next? What's up?"

"Well, not much till six o'clock really."

"Then what?"

"Same again. Instant replay." He laughed cynically and then let the real humor leak through in a moment of unsought, uncaught humanity.

"How's come?" She was serious, he could tell.

She really didn't watch TV – more, she really did actively avoid it, to the extent of blocking out the kind of basic information that everyone around assumed you knew. Even Patrick, who never watched the idiot box, had absorbed the conventional structures in his not-yet-too-distant childhood and remembered them for use as needed; but Annie, who once had surely known (or maybe from birth she had kept it out, being gifted with some idiosyncratic neural blocker that repelled not porn, not violence, not sports or news or infomercials or talking heads or sitcoms with laugh tracks but television its very own self, a magnificent mutation lost alas to the species when her tubes were tied – or perhaps with modern biotechnology, they could ... but no, They would never allow it), had erased the knowledge from her brain, ripped the index card out and burnt it, wiped the disk with magnets, shredded the paper trail, shoved the evidence into the dumpster and buried it under noxious chemicals and decomposing objects that no-one wanted to disturb. Pretty good for forty, thought Patrick (and yes that flattered her by a year or three, which he wasn't even trying to do – hadn't said aloud – though yes something there was stirring good god what is going on) as he came to understand and prepared to explain, as he liked to do and scorn himself for it.

"They do two local news broadcasts," he expounded, "Half an hour at five, then half an hour of national – Eleven's ABC so it's Peter Jennings from New York or wherever – then more local at six, either an hour or half an hour, I'm not sure. Then they do another one later, at eleven, but they don't usually do live feeds for that one, they use tape and the studio."

"So now we wait till six."


"That's just one station, though?" When Annie wanted to know something, she worried it. And when her ignorance was this vast, the ball of string she started to unravel could run all night.

"Oh, sure. Channel 46 was here earlier, and 8, and I think 35, but they took film, well, video actually, and I suppose they did reports from the studio. That's why you want to do things before four o'clock, to give them time to get back – unless they'll bring the truck out." He paused the lecture tape and actually looked at her. "You don't want to know all that do you?"

"Not really," she admitted after a moment, "I'll just forget it."

"Quite right too," laughed Patrick, glancing over towards Lige, lingering a little on the Giaconda smile he saw there, wondering a moment and setting the thought (if that is what it was) aside. He sidled off rather than engage.

So for forty-some minutes more several gross of people muttered and mumbled and passed the time in a loosening swarm that spilled out beyond the TV trucks and under the noses of the plain-clothes video cameras above. Near the center of the hive, a still-discernible focus at the main door to the building, framed by Eric's beautiful banners, Annie was tired but determined to hold her ground (stardom's siren song simpering sweet seductions; and what else would she do?) and wait for future developments. Human static prevented conversation across the length of the sign, but she exchanged meaningless glances with the lovely Lige, and occasional insignificant words with acquaintances floating by. It was a non-time for unthought and she drifted into a subfeeling lack of condition that served well enough for the brief moment.

The televised rerun, as is their wont, was more predictable than the original, less interesting, and blessedly soon dispensed with. Once the 'droid had accurately delivered his closing conversation, he unclipped the mike and earpiece and handed them over to the technician, who examined them suspiciously as if his replaceable charge might have damaged the valuable equipment.

"Back at eleven, then?" asked Luke cheerfully, right in front of Annie, who listened in interest. This time he hadn't been interviewed on the air but he had established himself as some kind of de facto liaison.

"I doubt it," replied the robot. "But I don't make those decisions. You don't know what's going to be happening yet, do you?"

"We're going to have a meeting in a minute," confirmed the self-appointed mouth. "Shall I give you a call?"

"Better yet, call my producer," said the 'droid, proffering a card. "I'll tell him you might. Luke, right?"

"Luke Gasheon, that's it."

Annie smiled to herself. It seemed clear to her that, short of torching the joint, they were unlikely to attract live coverage late at night. She supposed she should want more media attention for the cause, but in fact was ashamed of a lust for glory she was too honest to deny. Perhaps in reaction, she suddenly knew she wanted to stay and wanted the cameras to leave. The day had been for the world at large; the night would be for herself.

The workers from the offices around had left, except for a few who had joined the besieging crowd. The ink-stained wretches had joined the television crew, one would like to think in the bar for a quick one, but probably in depressing industry over their alphanumeric keyboards. The military men were long gone, having bowed to overwhelming force and decided to wait to fight another day. The police had concluded hours before that nothing worse than simple trespass was likely to occur, and none were in evidence except one token uniform and the lieutenant, who wore a worried look and was trying to get predictions from anyone who would talk to him; he was being ignored, which didn't suit him.

The assembled crew poured into the building to hold a meeting. Patrick, still wearing his Sally Army suit, sat cross-legged in the middle of the floor with half a dozen others, where he could deniably lead the affair. Annie looked in over her shoulder and saw the room was filling fast. She gestured over to Lige, who nodded in easy agreement, and they leaned their lovely banner carefully against the wall and took positions next to each other and right by the door, with the lieutenant leaning hungrily in near Annie's right shoulder.

His presence was an early source of minor contention, with some calling for privacy and others happy for all to hear; the latter group prevailed, which saved the cop the minor difficulty of bugging or otherwise eavesdropping on the discussion. The remainder of the convocation proceeded in predictable fashion, the viewpoints expressed about what to do next covering the available spectrum:

red: storm the ramparts and dig in
orange: swarm over them but be nice about it
yellow: be careful so none of us get hurt
green: we agreed not to damage property as well as people
blue: all this argument is really rather distressing
indigo: we need to persuade people, not antagonize them
violet: well, the military does have its place, just not this war

not forgetting the infra-red (saboteurs) and the ultra-violet (infiltrators), who all kept quiet; the white light comprised of them all; and the black anarchists psychically wandering on their own to smash the state and/or live in harmony with each others' souls and hopefully their own.

Consensus was clearly a ways off, and even the cop was beginning to look bored, when Lige leaned close to Annie, who offered her left ear in anticipation.

"Fancy a joint, then?" he whispered.