"I trust to the power of a good example."
Those were the words of Egon Turow, said on the day on which he headed out into the city to do his glorst. The example which Egon set had got the ball rolling, and this morning's cop-killing terrorist attack on Tespetty had provided further momentum. The astral uprising was getting underway, enthusiasm fueled by face to face meetings, Internet propaganda, texting exchanges, telephone calls and, above all else, by television, the inspiration machine, the great copycat encourager.
"ASTRAL RISING?" said the headline in the afternoon edition of Scandal Sheet, Omblock's trashiest (and most popular) tabloid newspaper. The newspaper's editors were responsible enough to include a question mark, but most readers mentally deleted that question mark.
In the astral enclaves of the city state of Oolong Morblock, impressionable young astrals, some of them glorst-capable, were watching the unfolding drama of the astral rising which, to judge from the media uproar, was definitely underway, and, in many cases, these young impressionables were starting to think that they wanted to be part of it.
The image of the victim, the image of baby Paffita, limbs truncated, body garbaged, had all but vanished, replaced by something sexier: the glorified suicide bomber, the drama of the hero figure, sky high on imminent death, the ultimate designer drug, taking on the nation state, striking a blow at the foundations of reality, and, in terms of publicity, at least, very definitely winning.
The repeatedly televised reenactment of the "Glorst for glory!" assault on Tespetty had inspired many, and one of those was Helbro Marik. Helbro, one of Omblock's capables, was an engineering student currently enrolled at Nash Olish University, the institution of learning which was centered around the ancient complex known as Urn Angol Wat, on Zisperhaven.
The second time the TV showed the reenactment of the terror attack at Tespetty, Helbro recorded it. Thereafter, he watched it several times. Killing someone with a bolt of deadly yellow light forking from your hand. Cool talent!
The terror death resonated, signified, spoke to Helbro. Reality had been reworked. The unthinkable was unthinkable no longer. The whole world was seen afresh, revisioned. It was a bit like that time when Helbro, having finished reading every page of the famous serial killer book, Cucumber Man: the Hundred Days, had realized that every single thing in the average kitchen is a potential murder weapon, everything from the rolling pin to that little bag of self-rising flour which is sitting in the corner next to that packet of raisins which those pepper-flavored ants have invaded.
Reality had changed, yes. Another astral had taken the glorsting route. This hero had gone to Tespetty to blow himself up. Not picking on innocent kids, no, but going right to the heart of power, to where that Valise bitch lived, that bitch woman who was trying to throw those guys into prison for having some harmless fun with jellyfish.
All Helbro's friends, the Jellyfish Six, so he hated Olive Valise, hated her personally, for her self-serving attack on his friends, for her transparent desire (all the city's commentators had talked about it) to amplify her own power by pandering to the animal rights lobby by persecuting innocent astrals.
Did you see any norms hauled before the Star Chamber on animal cruelty charges? No. It was all astrals. And that was prejudice in action, that was oppression. "Liberty is the equal enforcement of the law," to quote Rubicon Dershowitz, who, famously, had defended the Proximal Five, the five astrals who, following the assassination attempt on Jorbel Eagle, had been scooped up and charged under that dubious "proximity to a crime scene" legislation, which had subsequently been abolished.
Helbro had taken Persecution 101 as an elective, so he knew this stuff, knew how astrals had been persecuted by selective enforcement of the law, why the so-called "war on drugs" was actually a covert war on astrals, and why persecution in action was also demonstrated by the operation of the Commercialized Talent Regulation Act, the piece of legislation which forbade astrals from using their paranormal talents for commercial gain, unless they had a special license from Talent Control, a notoriously corrupt, unsympathetic and racist part of the bureaucracy.
"Unequal enforcement of the law is persecution," said Helbro, knowing that what he said was true, and knowing that he now had the intellectual justification for dealing to Tespetty with a low-yield thermonuclear bomb, assuming he could get his hands on the fissile material he needed to power such a bomb, the schematics for which you could easily download from the Internet.
Fissile material, though, was tricky to get hold of. Realistically, the only way to obtain fissile material was to find someone with a talent that enabled them to make it. And only one such person was alleged to live in Omblock: Megaton Billyhash, aka the Manufacturer, a figure of rumor who might or might not exist, and who was said to have the power to convert stale bread to weapons-grade plutonium.
But even if Megaton B. proved to be locatable and cooperative, you were still left with a problem. A plutonium bomb was really beyond the primitive practical skills at the disposal of Helbro and his friends. Realistically, to make a workable nuke they would need enriched uranium, which was much easier to work with: push two big lumps together and you get a bang.
Speaking of nukes, maybe it would be simpler to steal them rather than manufacturing them. The guys in the Relsh Strasborg military were said to have nukes at Argive, their base on Conflux, though the governments of both Relsh Strasborg and Oolong Morblock denied this. If it was true that there were nukes -- and the fact that both governments had denied the existence of such nukes increased the probability that they did in fact exist -- then maybe it would be possible to steal some.
However, in the absence of nukes, more primitive forms of terror could still shake the government and rock reality to the core. Politically, the suicide bomber was as potent as the nuke.
"Glorst for glory," said Helbro.
He liked the sound of it.
He didn't want to glorst, not personally, no. He had a long life ahead of him, and he had plans for it. But it would be great to shout that. Glorst for glory -- you'd feel strong, shouting that.
Helbro was not exactly an enthusiastic believer in terrorism. At least, he didn't start out that way. His first reaction to the news of the astral rising which seemed to be getting underway was that seizing the political initiative through glorsting was too extreme. Political protest, that was one thing, but going off with a bang that did more than just damage your hairdo, that was another. But certainly it was time for the astrals to stand up for themselves and remind the world, hey, we are the ones who can glorst, where's that respect you should be showing us?
Although Helbro was not one of the world's great political analysts, it had not escaped his notice that, in the face of a glorsting challenge from the astral community, nobody in power had stood up in public to ask if perhaps the astral community had legitimate grievances which should be addressed. No. The approach was what Barbican Mars, who had yarned with Helbro about this over a couple of beers, called the "cockroach approach". The bugs are in mutiny, so let's spray the bugs. Bad bugs! Call in the exterminator!
That was the approach from the top. The astrals were something to be controlled, managed, and, maybe, deleted.
After Egon Turow's glorst, the initial astral act which had got this whole thing rolling, did the President come to Zisperhaven to have a chat about what the problem might be? No. She organized a security cordon and hid out in Hexagon, maybe down in that nuclear war bunker they had there. Had the President ever been to Zisperhaven? During her time as head of state, definitely not. In her life? At a guess, no.
And who, right now, was sitting down with the President to discuss the astral future? Had she invited Zisperhaven's religious leaders and community organizers to come to Hexagon and break bread with her? No. The thought never occurred to her, right? She was holed up with her professional PR lubricators, her military types and, probably, with those tame bone breakers who were kept around -- nobody will ever confess to it, but the federal government has these people, right? -- to seek solutions in the shadows.
"Cockroaches of the world unite," said Helbro Marik.
It was not a complete ideology, but it was a start.
There had to be a method for the astral people to express their legitimate aspirations. And, if the President refused to come to Zisperhaven to talk about it, what was wrong with going to Tespetty to put a bomb under her, get some action?
Astrals rising ...
The idea of an astral revolution was always kicking around in the background of astral lives, often bubbling to the surface in provocative situations, for instance when enthusiasts were coming back from crypt, a little drunk on religious fervor after a rapture sermon, minds full of messiah talk, all this Dreamer stuff. Religion, that wasn't Helbro's thing. But revolution -- the revolution had been there all his life, waiting to happen, so it wasn't really surprising to switch on TV and find that, hey, maybe it's finally starting to get underway, at last.
Despite Helbro's initial reservations about terror as a political weapon, the more he thought about it, the more he liked it. The hero who had gone to Tespetty, he hadn't killed anyone, excepting that one single cop, but he had set a great example. An example that Helbro intended to follow some day. Not the glorsting part, no. But the shouting part. When the right moment came.
In consequence of this decision, it may be said that the man who died at Tespetty, gunned down by the police before he had a chance to do anything other than kill one single cop, did not die in vain. He inspired a revolution. He made a revolutionary out of Helbro Marik, who was destined to stage a major terrorist incident by the simple expedient of shouting "Glorst for glory!" And so the astral cause did not perish out of sight, did not prove to be a seven-day wonder. No, it would persist. Persist, endure and flourish into flame.
Helbro had already committed to the notion of perpetrating terror, if only at the shouting level, when he received a text from one of his buddies, Topaz Atatangle, one of the Jellyfish Six.
Olivewatch.omblock was the nation's primary Olive-watching web site, and Topaz had seen a breaking news alert posted on that site. According to a press release from the federal government, it had been decided that the President would address the question of civic harmony in a speech to be given somewhere on Zisperhaven. The precise time and place would be announced shortly. Venue options under consideration were the classical Porcelain Era structure known as the Arena of Female Discipline, Gigolot Hall at Taris High School and Yapeworm Conference Theater at Nash Olish University.
"Amazing luck!" said Helbro.
The bitch was, after all, going to come crawling out of the lair where she had been lurking. She was going to come to Zisperhaven, out in the open, where they could get at her. They would demo her. They would demo her big time. They had grievances. The oppression of the Jellyfish Six. The indignities inflicted on astrals by the tyrants of Talent Control. The cruel and thoughtless abolition of the federal Student Hydration Supplement, a move which had effectively doubled the price the average student ended up paying for a beer.
"Demo the bitch!" said Helbro to himself.
Energized by anticipatory exultation, he was soon busy texting. He had made an identity renovation decision: to become a revolutionary. It was a decision which, in astral land, was becoming popular.
The astral cause was rising, and Oolong Morblock was on the cusp of an apocalypse.