The Ambitions of Great Men

“The bitter irony,” Murphy panted, grinning bloodily down at the shredded remains of the former head of Omni Consumer Products. “Killed by your own creation. Did you expect it to save you?”

The suit, somehow still clinging stubbornly to life, made a horrible burbling noise that it took him a few seconds to understand as laughter. “You… still don’t get it. The goal… was never… to build a police officer that would… never malfunction, never take… an innocent life. The goal was to create one… that wouldn’t care… if it did. My death… all of this… you…just a successful proof of… concept.”

“Look around, you jackass. Your prototype is spare parts, your headquarters is in ruins. Omni can’t come back from this.”

More of that horrible burbling. “It… doesn’t matter. We were never the hand, only… the lever. You can’t shoot an… idea, Murphy. They hate us, they hate me, but… they’ll love you. They’ll make you a hero… they’ll make more of you. The world… needs heroes…”

He died still laughing.

I Come To Bury Caesar

It’s a long string of Polish jokes and first the crowd is hostile, then it’s game, then it’s just bored. The hack is impervious to their heckling, but they’re drunk, they’re horny, they’re a steeltown mob trying to blow off steam at the weirdo burlesque bar and grill and there’s only so long they can put up with this nonsense.

They’re long past the point where simply yelling GET OFF THE STAGE is going to move the needle, so a group of more or less sober welders huddle together for a bit and send their most tactful bruiser up onto the stage. Which, normally that’s verboten, but desperate times, desperate measures; the bartender makes an overt show of turning away to wash some dishes.

“Hey, listen,” the hod says, one meaty, heatscarred hand on the sweaty shoulder of the comedian. “We’re all in your corner here, but don’t you think you should wrap it up?” The comedian doesn’t blink, just rolls right into his joke about the lesbian with a hard-on. The hod shakes him slightly, then harder, but nothing; he doesn’t even make eye contact. With a shrug, he scoops him up in his arms, or tries to, but the hack is boneless as an eel, slips through his arms without missing a beat. One of the other welders, drunker than most, hurls a bottle. It embeds itself dead center in his forehead. “Hey,” says the comedian, smiling mildly. “You shouldn’t oughta do that.”

It’s at this point that they discover the doors are all locked, and the bartender and the waitresses are all gone, but of course by then it’s too late.

I Blame The Parents

Two noble houses alike in dignity, which is to say: none.

Look at these dumbasses, pulling knives on each other in the street in front of a cop, and then insulting each other’s virginity when el swine give them the stinkeye. Is this wise? Is it smart? Forget an honest man, Diogenes would starve to death looking for a single Veronese brat with the sense to pour piss out of a boot.

Horny idiots, the lot of them, which would be just about endurable except for the fact that they’ve got more money than god and mostly spend it on booze, caffeine, and an endless supply on knives, daggers, dirks, stilettos, short swords, rapiers, foils, sabres, and epees. One utter maniac has a fucking claymore as tall as he is, it’s a wonder he hasn’t decapitated himself or someone else hauling it around to every pubescent rager in the city.

History Will Judge Them

Consider: William Howard Taft, colonizer, President, Supreme Court Justice, diplomat, reformer, war criminal, and yet most popularly famous for getting stuck in a bathtub, a story neither true nor kind. His political mentor most famous for being a face on a desecrated mountain and a handful of inscrutable references in cartoons now four generations out of date.

Or: Jean-Paul Marat, revolutionary, philosopher, writer, journalist, war criminal, remembered most clearly for his assassination by Charlotte Corday in a bathtub. One of the leading figures of one of the most famous almost-revolutions in the last several centuries, just a dead body slumped over, naked, undignified, moist.

The villains of our parents generations fade into nothing; the villains of their parents are already dust. Professional students of history carry their sins and their virtues in their hearts, or trip into a cross-century romance pursuing them through letters, reports, archival papers, but for most? For us? For the people who live in the long shadow of their legacy? Soap film drifting across the surface of a bath continually draining.

Valhalla of the Word

Utter chaos.

They’ve been locked in the meeting room for an eternity, and tempers have frayed as the humidity has risen. There’s a miasma there, a visible stench, the thick choking smell of leadership. It creeps up nostrils and down throats as they breathe, invades stomachs and mouths when they swallow. The water is long stale, the trash overflows.

Something breaks; a fork flashes in the diffuse light and a scream, raw and vibrant, strums the air like a plucked guitar string. Blood flashes, bright as a new penny, red as a maple leaf, and they shudder in release and turn on each other.

They have no weapons, but they have teeth and nails and thumbs, and those will do in a pinch. Eyes pop, ears are bitten off, throats are torn out, skulls are stomped beneath scuffed leather dress shoes, bones ground beneath sensible kitten heels; they stab and slash with keys and hat pins and emery boards, plastic ballpoints and shattered dinner plates, anything that will serve. They die in glory, merely glad to be delivered at last from the impossible work of quiet talk.

An illusion, alas; there is evening and there is morning, and when the sun rises they are seated again around the long table, a glass of water warm as blood by their elbow, the hum of speech somehow uninterrupted.

Debate resumes.