PrologueChapter 12345, 6, 7, 8

FSA Origins Project
from the Diary of “El Unico”
Vol. 1, Recovered 2037.05.23
pp. 298-301

Dear God,

Ah, shit. That even looks funny on the paper. Hector asked me to do this and we argued about the absolute pointlessness of me writing a letter to God.

“Why do I have to write a letter to him if he’s all-knowing?” I asked. “He fucking already knows what’s in my head and heart.”

Hector laughed, but insisted. He made it a non-negotiable condition of the deal, so… fine. Kendrick in return for some writing. He kept up his end of the bargain.

When we started I felt like Mephistopheles to his Faust, but now I’m not so sure who’s who in that analogy.

I’d laid it all out to him, the only person I’d shared the whole vision with, and he’d sat quietly, passed the 4Loco over, and puffed on a cig. It wasn’t just that we’d spent all of that time in Afghanistan and the FATA together, the Brother and the Beaner, the Spic and the Spook, a joke even to ourselves; it was that I didn’t know anyone else with the talents to pull it off. I don’t mean just the comms and computer knowledge, or even the physical wherewithal: I needed someone who could and would kill with impunity for the right cause, who understood what the vengeance drive takes to be fed and nurtured.

He knew. Oh, he fucking knew.

We’d met in Kabul, passing through the old “Embassy Annex,” as they called it in those days. It was a hotel that the Agency, some ODA and Team guys had taken from the Taliban in the early part of the war. I was a commo on loan to one of the outlying bases, up in the mountains in a place called Orgun-E. We met playing poker at the hotel bar. That place was like the fucking Mos Eisley Space Cantina in the early days. You could drink, but guns had to go in a rack outside the bar. They set poker tables up outside the entrance and people played to win money that they couldn’t even spend where they were going. It was just another way to get a rush – as if getting shot at while flying in the back of a blacked-out helicopter at night on NVGs wasn’t enough.

He was tall and rangy for a Mexican – at least the Mexicans I knew growing up in the projects. He wasn’t dumpy or scraggly. Olive-skinned, better than six feet, and carried himself with an air of…royalty. Like he expected to be listened to. We played cards together and I was immediately wary of him. Saved me some money, too. I folded the winning hand – at least on the board – and they all ridiculed me, but he had the nuts. I know he did. Impossible that he would have stayed to draw a straight flush? Maybe. He’s never told me if he had it, either, after all of that time together… and I kinda like that about him, too.

We got to work together later, when we needed some NSA expertise out our neck of the woods. He’d stepped off the helicopter and even at night I could tell by the posture of his silhouette who it was. He’d taught me about nurturing a grudge, about keeping the embers of vengeance stoked – he’d had family in one of the Towers and murder in his heart. He was ruthless to his enemies, but controlled in everything else.

We kept in touch after our respective time in the Graveyard of Empires. He stayed on at NSA or Orange or whatever the fuck he kept doing; I left it all behind. After Kendrick had my daughter and her family murdered, I reached out to Hector.

And then the bargain was struck. He’d support me for Kendrick, but he wanted the whole system broken. The fuck do I care about that system after Candace’s death, my grandchildren…?

True Confession #1: I don’t feel guilty about the killing. After Kendrick, I slept like a baby. Not a single dream. The deeper Truth I can barely admit to myself now is how good it had felt to inflict pain on him. Time had been tight, so I didn’t get to luxuriate in it, but, ohhhh, the look on his face when I’d told him who I really was… and pulled that hammer out of the box. That made it all worth it.

Yes, yes, cry, you fucking baby, meet your Maker. I am Revenge and I have come to extract payment. Beg me for your life.

Who’s your ‘boy’ now, huh, Harm?

I ran all of the philosophical implications to their rabbit holes and I can only conclude that you – yes, You, Almighty God – sanctioned all of this. You couldn’t possibly take my daughter from me like that and not know what would follow. How could I ever suspect that the anonymous hacker who gave us the AI and ML that we needed was my own daughter?

I’d always felt that the Greeks had captured some of the futility of the human condition in Oedipus, before Freud fucking ruined it, that is. Oedipus is abandoned at birth to die, does everything right to try to avoid a prophecy that he would kill his father, and in so doing bumps right into his old man on the road and kills him. But the modern interpretation is that it was his fatal flaw that caused what happened to him – modern intellectuals simply can’t stand the notion that we’re not in control of or responsible for what we do, that we might merely be players on the stage, acting out our bit part in the tragicomedy.

Hector understood. He’d become embittered (again); the second time was even worse. Who wouldn’t after what he endured to see the whole thing turned into just another excuse to take our freedom? The tools we’d used in Afghanistan to catch terrorists being turned on our own citizens – on us. Instead of going Snowden, Hector had bided his time… and then I’d turned up, like Oedipus on the road to Thebes.

So… who used who again? Was it Hector using me? Was it me using Hector? Or was it simply Fate forcing us together yet again to carry out some larger purpose of which we aren’t even dimly aware?

The Revolution may have been an afterthought for me, but it was a cause – for Freedom! Liberty! Whatever-the Fuck! – for others. I needed it to get Kendrick and yes, my pain was great enough to be indifferent to the destruction of my country. A bit like Antigone, I suppose.

Fuck it. It was gone, anyway. A disgusting, leprous behemoth of corporate-fascist pus, like the Kraken washed ashore, sick and engorged, but still able to drag itself inland, feeding on the innocent as it went. A bureaucracy of withered Creons, moral scolds with no morality.

What still strikes me, even now, was Kendrick’s shock when I explained the bug I put on his tie. He was more concerned that I had heard all of his casual racism than he was about the lives of my family. It was as if ordering a young woman and her family be killed was just politics, business-as-usual, but the idea that I might see right through his Progressive bullshit to the root of his racism was too much for him. I suppose in that sense he clung to his Progressive Gods right to the end.

I look at the whole thing now and it seems like You, Lord – Your Hand, the very Lathe of Heaven – guiding it all along. Everything I did, everything I learned, every moment of suffering, of persevering while I crawled in the mud, of forging my will…all to put me right where I needed to be. A modern Negro Oedipus, doomed by my Nature to wield that hammer, to bring it all to fruition, to be the final straw on the lumbering dromedary’s back that had been the Promised Land of the White Man… or maybe ushered in the new one? Thy will be done.

Fuck, I don’t know. It’s Hector’s now. El Unico. We called him that in Afghanistan as a joke after he’d come back from a cross-border mission gone bad. Everyone who knew him by that name is dead, so we resurrected it. That was my price – he had to take the name and the lead. I did it all just to see that look on Harmon Kendrick’s face before I pulled him up that lamppost, still alive, gibbering and begging, bleeding and dying.

Yes, O Lord, I have not love; and I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds.