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HUNTING ANDREW

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(1)

        When the FBI came calling, Clive already knew what they wanted. He had guessed. They wanted help in tracking down his brother Andrew: the rogue nanotechnologist now on the Most Wanted list.
        "Don't do it," said Patricia.
        "What makes you say that?" said Clive.
        "Love," she answered, simply.
        She loved him? Of course. She was his wife, after all. His darling Patricia. So, naturally, she was afraid for him. And Clive was afraid for himself. But it would take more than fear to make him falter in his duty.
        "You told them yes?" said Patricia.
        "Of course," said Clive. Though, to tell the truth, it had been a near thing. The fear had almost mastered him, after all. "Someone has to stop him. He's already killed — what? Fifty people?"
        "They signed release forms," said Patricia.
        "Well, sure, but only a lawyer — well. I mean. After the first half a dozen."
        "Science isn't a risk-free world," said Patricia. "And. When he succeeds. Immortality."
        Immortality. Eternal youth. The eternal dream. She licked her lips, unable to hide her excitement. In fact, immortality was an impossibility, at least for the moment — the dead, heaped up in their dozens, were ample proof of that. But Patricia was still aglow with the glamour of the promise.
        Patricia. His darling Patricia. At moments like this, Clive really felt the age gap. When it had begun, their relationship had skirted the fringes of statutory rape. And even now, after all these years, Patricia was only 26. Whereas Clive — well, Clive was a solid 40. And he was from Boston, and Patricia was from California, and he was no longer convinced that this difference in genesis was a trivial matter.

(2)

        "Hear you're hunting for me," said Andrew.
        "No," said Clive. "The FBI, that's who's hunting for you."
        "Clive the Bloodhound," said Andrew, sneering.
        It was the voice Clive heard in his worst dreams. In his worst dreams of smash and panic. The bearded voice of Mr Testosterone whose iron-bar hands had cut off the air supply, had forced her blonde face underwater -
        "Still there?" said Andrew.
        "Did you kill someone?" said Clive, abruptly, unable to suppress the question.
        "Medical misadventure," said Andrew. "They signed release forms."
        "No. I mean — when we were children."
        "Why this question, little brother? Why this question, now?"
        "I just had this, like, memory-flash."
        "This, like, memory-flash," said Andrew, mimicking him cruelly. "You've been living too long with that California beach bubble."
        "You drowned her," said Clive. "You held her underwater and she drowned."
        "Recovered memory time?" said Andrew. "Maybe you're remembering something you did, Clive."
        It was a subtle thrust, the kind of thing which could conceivably make trouble for Clive if the FBI were taping this, which in fact they were.
        "Remember how you used to like killing dogs?" said Andrew. "How you'd roast them over campfires, alive?"
        "Some video you saw," said Clive, caught off balance by this cunning attack, and unable to instantly muster a firm defense.
        Killing dogs. It is the bad guy who kills dogs. Who hates dogs. In American iconography, the good guys may be known by the fact that they like dogs and dogs like them. But Clive had never killed a dog.
        "You're suppressing the memories," said Andrew, as if reading his mind. "Anyway. Have you got the message, little brother? You will quit this hunt. Now. Or suffer the consequences."
        "Consequences?"
        "There's a place called hell, Clive."
        "Oh, grow up," said Clive, more annoyed than alarmed by this amorphous threat.    
        At that, Andrew fell silent. And that smoking silence really alarmed Clive. Andrew was not too much of a danger when he was blowing his top: when his style was all affront and aggression. It was when he was silent that you really had to be careful. Clive had learnt that the hard way. In his childhood. The doctors had sewn the severed ends of the tendon together again, but the memories had not healed so neatly.

(3)

        
        The FBI managed to trace the call as far as Greenland. It was unlikely that Andrew was actually in Greenland, but the appropriate enquiries were set in train anyway.
        "By the way," said Turk, the big FBI guy who favored Havana cigars. "How do you feel about dogs?"
        "Dogs are fine by me," said Clive.
        He sounded unconvincing, even to himself. As a child, Clive had found out the hard way that Andrew's voice was even more dangerous than his raw strength. Andrew had already dripped poison into the ears of the FBI. And what would he do next?
        "Nice place you've got here," said Turk, making the question sound accidental.
        "Yeah," said Clive. Then, awkwardly: "Investments. I had some money from my grandfather. Money makes money, you know how it is."
        "Yeah," said Turk — a man who knew many ways of making money, none of them as innocently simple as merely inheriting it.
        Afterwards, Clive lay awake, wondering if he was going to get out of this alive. Already, Andrew knew Clive had joined the FBI's manhunt. How did he know? A mere guess? Or was there a leak in the FBI? More likely a leak. So. Keep things close. Tell them nothing.
        
(4)

        
        Work. The clean office where nothing happened except the counting of money and the processing of the increasingly complex paperwork which the ownership of money seems to involve.
        "It's the IRS guy," said Ms Svenson. "Again."
        "Yeah, okay," said Clive. "Make him wait for ... no, the hell with it. Show him in."
        He was tired of this business. All that was at stake was — what? Ten grand. Okay. Give in. Throw the dog a bone. Admit guilt, tell the accountant to write him a check, then go play golf.
        "Hi," said Clive, all breezy formality as Mr Smith entered. "Take a seat. Want some coffee?"
        Expressionlessly, Mr Smith walked right up to him and punched him in the face. The blow was clumsy, robotic. More surprised than hurt, Clive picked himself up off the carpet. Already, his mental abacus was computing the legal angle. The IRS would settle, they'd have to, the thing would never get to court. Easy money. Boy, Mr Smith, you've really done it now!
        "You are my brother," said Mr Smith, "so I don't want to kill you. Not unless I really have to. But I've already warned you. There is a place called hell."
        "Andrew?" said Clive.
        "Intonation of a question," said Mr Smith, frowning with effort. "Questioning intonation. A question. Wait one. Okay. You seem to be asking a question, little brother. But the technology is not good enough to handle that. Not yet. Just remember. You have been warned."
        Then Mr Smith pulled out a gun. Pointed it at Clive. A big gun, one of those big mothers with a Dirty Harry calibre (remember Dirty Harry? Ah, your age is showing, Clive!). And wasps buzzed in Clive's ears, a tremendous sound which grew and grew as the light faded and the colors washed from the room. The noise was roaring, he was falling down a waterfall inside his own head, he was fainting.
        Then, just before Clive lost consciousness, Mr Smith abruptly pointed the gun at himself and blew his own brains out.
        
(5)

        
        "Some kind of ... structure," said the FBI's Turk. "In the brain. That's all we can tell you at this point in time."
        "You won't tell me more?" "That's all we know."
        "It's, uh ... a nanotechnological thing?"
        "Large portions of the brain were ... well, you know," said Turk. "You saw it. From what we've recovered, it seems ... well. It's extensive. The structure, I mean. What's been built. Threaded through the brain."
        Threaded through. Microscopic nanotechnological machines tunneling, building, weaving. Constructing a web as fine as the work of spiders. Finer.
        And you're going to make war on that?
        "I don't think I can help you guys any more," said Clive.
        
(6)

        The FBI can't help you. So send them away. Patricia? A liability. Go stay with your mother.
        Okay.
        All done.
        Here I am, Andrew. If you want me. Alone in the house. No guards, no nothing. So come and get me. Let's have this thing over with, okay? This is a rifle, this is a shotgun, you're going to need more than one zombie this time, big brother. Nanotechnology: the infinite promise. We were promised immortality, but what we got was zombies. Zombies and the dead.
        Dawn.
        No Andrew.
        Clive awoke, and picked himself up off the carpet, where he had fallen asleep. Painfully stiff. His own house looked normal. Prosaic. Utterly conventional. Hard to remember that it was a zone of potential danger. Nanotechnological devices, robots smaller than ants — Andrew was the wizard, if he wanted to invade the house he would.
        Prowling the house, Clive came to Patricia's spirit house. He was tempted. He had always hated that thing. Now was the time, maybe, for an accident to happen to it. Claim that prowlers broke in, demolished the thing.
        To think was to do. Clive took a crowbar and dealt the spirit house a demolishing blow, wrecking it into fractions. And discovered within a photograph. Patricia. His beloved Patricia. Naked. Tied to a chain-mesh fence. Her face a grimace of agony. On the fence, a sign with a logo — that logo! On the back of the photo, a note in Patricia's handwriting: "Today, the third time. Andrew the monster."
        Revelation! Andrew had raped her. And she, brutalized by the monster, had been shocked into terrorized worship. Had enshrined her enemy in the innermost sanctuary of her own house, in the innermost sanctuary of her Californian soul. Well, Andrew, you've gone too far this time. This time I'm going to deal with you.
        

(7)

        
        Easy to make threats. But to put them into action was something else again, particularly when Andrew could be hiding out anywhere on the entire planet.
        That night, Clive lay awake thinking of the story Andrew had told him once. The story of Andrew's job as an orderly in the lunatic asylum. The job he had held while scratching together the money needed to put himself through med school.
        Andrew had been drunk when he had told that story. Drunk and confessional. The one time in Clive's entire life that he had seen his brother really and truly drunk.
        "We used to compete. We'd call them to dinner, they'd come running. We used to knock them down, punch them down. As they came round the corner. They never learnt, you know. We'd compete, see who could knock down the most."
        It was a long time before Clive finally slept.
        
(8)

        
        Dawn. And lucidity. He'd worked the whole thing out. Andrew had started threatening things once Clive had teamed up with the FBI. Logical deduction? Andrew thought Clive knew something the FBI would just love to know. But what did Clive know about Andrew's secrets? Nothing.
        Except for one thing.
        Next point: the zombie, Mr Smith. The zombie implied proximity. Andrew was somewhere close. Close enough to do his work. Not in Greenland or Outer Mongolia. Not hiding somewhere round the headwaters of the Zaire River. But here. Close.
        Which brings us back to the secret.
        Young manhood. Clive: broke. The bad guys are looking for him on account of his gambling debts. Andrew: struggling. It doesn't look like he's going to be able to make it to med school anyway. And then: Clive's grandfather dies. The inheritance money. All for Clive and none for Andrew. Because Grandfather Bleen thought Andrew was the spawn of the devil. On account of the matter with the dog.
        Lend it to me, Clive. Lend me the money. I'll make us both rich. Quick quick rich. Not drugs, no, nothing so crazy. Legal? What's legal, Clive? But the bad guys, Andrew. Soby and Morp. The gambling money, they want it bad. Oh, Clive, Clive, let me take care of Soby and Morp, they're nothing.
        And Clive had gone for it.
        Somehow, Soby and Morp had vanished from planet Earth — perhaps abducted by space aliens, perhaps not. The cops did ask Clive a couple of questions, but, hey, they were questioning all kinds of people. And Clive — who never gambled again, he had learnt his lesson — took the inheritance money and lent it to Andrew.
        And so the Toshivari Patari ZoBoCo Clearance Company had come into business. Quick, cheap disposal of all your toxic wastes. Privatized profits, socialized costs: the wastes had actually been dumped on public land, becoming, ultimately, a cost to the community as a whole.
        Three years.
        Then Andrew had gone to med school, ultimately fulfilling his dream of becoming a medical researcher. (And, in the fullness of time, experimenting with nanotechnology: cell-by-cell body cleaning, engineering at the level of mitochondria, the promise of the cure of all illness, the promise of immortality). And Clive? Clive had become Mr Clean. Even paid his taxes — usually.
        And now he couldn't go to the FBI and tell them.
        Because then the past would all come out.
        The toxic waste, quite a bit of it heavily radioactive, was still there in the ground. The number of people who could sue Clive's ass probably ran into millions. And, yes, there was that small matter of Soby and Morp. We have allowed our jailhouses to become pleasure houses for the triumphant sadist and the brutally successful anal rapist for one reason and for one reason only: because we always think that we ourselves will never end up in those jails.
        Don't go to jail, Clive.
        But, if he didn't tell the FBI, what was he going to do?
        Clive had always been under the impression that the Toshivari Patari ZoBoCo Clearance Company had ceased to exist, except on paper. Andrew had told him as much. No more easy money, Clive: we're quitting while we're ahead.
        But the photo proved otherwise.
        Patricia was a recent acquisition, the ultimate trophy wife, the woman Clive had acquired after Mabel had drowned herself and Pipi had fallen out of the helicopter. And Andrew had raped Patricia on the company premises. So the physical premises of the company still existed. And that, logically, was where Andrew was hiding out. Otherwise why would Andrew be so worried about the fact that Clive had been cooperating with the FBI?
        That's the one thing I could have told them. That we had the company. Only I can't tell them. Because. Soby and Morp. And all the rest of it. Have to deal with this one myself.
        
(9)

        
        New Mexico. The company headquarters, looking much as they had on Clive's one and only visit, years earlier. A hot day. A dusty sun. From the hideout, he studied the premises all day. Patrolling the buildings with his binoculars. Again. And again. No sign of Andrew. No sign of anyone. But he has to be here. There's nowhere else he can be.
        Night, and Clive slipped away.
        The next day.
        The heavy truck rolled down the road, smashed through the barrier gate and crashed into the main building. The engine shuddered and stalled. From his hideout, Clive shot swiftly. Easy. The rifle bullets punctured each drum. Now wait. Allow the petrol time to leak out. Allow the vapor time to fill the air. Okay. Now the tracer.
        Ignited by the tracer, an unfolding sun shook the world with its wrestling thunder. And then Clive waited. At last, a running man broke from the building. Andrew. Clive shot him in the back of the leg. Then, at his leisure, hiked through the sunlight to the screaming victim.
        "This is for Patricia," said Clive.
        And shot his brother in the face.
        Once he had the body in the trunk of his four-wheel drive vehicle, he doused the scene of the shooting with more petrol and set it alight. Burn the blood. Leave nothing for DNA analysis. The main building was well alight by then. For good measure, Clive the arsonist took care of the three outlying buildings as well.
        He ended up dumping the body in the Arkansas River, downstream from Little Rock. Probably it would be found, and probably it would be identified as Andrew. Well, fine. Andrew found dead in Arkansas would be hard to link with a fire in New Mexico. And: Clive? His alibi was weak — hiking in the Adirondacks — but there were about a hundred million other people who also had weak alibis. Just keep your mouth shut and let a lawyer do all the talking, you'll be all right.
        
(10)

        
        A happy ending. The body discovered: mysterious death of FBI fugitive. Clive: interrogated for three days, but he didn't break. The happy return of Patricia.
        "Did you kill him?"
        "Patricia! He was my brother!"
        "Sure, that's what Cain said about Abel."
        "I was hiking in the mountains."
        "Yeah, and you got lost and didn't meet anyone, what utter bull, how could you get lost there, you've been going there for years!"
        So Clive told her, in the end. The photograph. His revenge. And Patricia wept. Disgraced, disgraced. And Clive held her, tenderly, and comforted her, and made love to her, and then slept.
        
(11)

        
        Night. Deep night. He woke. He was wet. He had — wet himself? The confusions of sleep. His crotch. Dry. Nothing there but the standard issue equipment. His ear! It was his ear which was wet! His ear. Wet and overflowing.
        "Awake?" said Patricia.
        The vial was in her hands. It glowed in the dark, a darkly luminous blue. She had poured the thick, luminous indigo into his ear as he slept.
        "He thought you might do something," said Patricia. "He told me what to do if you did."
        "He?" said Clive, still stupid with sleep.
        Relaxation, that was what betrayed you. After such terror, a spineless relaxation. He realized, groggily, that he should be arming himself for fight or flight, but his hormonal responses were lagging behind his intellectual appreciation.
        "He didn't rape me," said Patricia, hissing. "That was our pleasure. Our fun. Not that you would be capable of understanding that."
        Clive tried to stand, then. But his body buckled beneath him, and he collapsed. He was paralyzed — almost. His body a wet fish. Flopping weakly.
        "A tranquilizer, that's all," said Patricia, rolling him over. "It won't kill you. The plan isn't to kill you, you see."
        Then she poured the oil into his other ear. He felt it going in. The world rolled around him, giddy. He convulsed. A little of the wetness leaked down his cheek. An oiled satin, thicker than water.
        "I was going to be immortal," said Patricia, standing. "He was going to succeed, the rest of you were just too small to see that. But now, the new legislation, it's all over, I'm going to die. Just like the rest of you animals. Well, don't say you weren't warned."
        Then she turned, and walked out of the room, walked out of his life.
        
(12)

        At the hospital, the CAT scan confirmed it. A web was building itself. A web like that which had been found in the brain of the zombie: Mr Smith of the IRS.
        "Can't you stop it?" said Clive.
        "What do you want me to do?" said Doctor Herizy. "Excise the brain?"
        The self-building threads were already woven through his vital centers, and were reaching into the areas where the higher functions of consciousness were located.
        "No, you can't leave," said Turk of the FBI. "Reasons of national security."
        Quarantine. They kept him under quarantine. So he could not infect others. That, at least, was their stated rationale. But Clive suspected a darker purpose. They wanted to stop him killing himself. And he would have killed himself. Given the chance. Because he could already guess what was coming.
        "I'm a guinea pig, right?" said Clive.
        "Really?" said Turk. "You look almost human to me."
        "You don't sound sympathetic," said Clive.
        "We know who killed Andrew," said Turk. "We just can't prove it in court, that's all. Don't expect too much sympathy from me, Clive."
        The web continued to grow. It grew in his dreams, too: the branching shadows of grappling nightmare. They showed him the CAT scans. The thing was fantastical, a coral reef within his brain. The doctors were wearing the space suits now: they were dressed up in the full quarantine rig, as if he was a carrier of Ebola fever. Turk would no longer even come into his room: instead, interviewed him through the bulletproof glass.
        "We found Patricia, if you're interested," he said.
        And he was, but the world swayed into darkness just before Turk could tell him about it.
        In the darkness: Clive. Alone.
        Then a voice.
        "Don't bother trying to argue," said Andrew. "This isn't me. The technology isn't sophisticated enough for that. Yet. This isn't me at all. This is just some of my ... behaviors."
        Then Andrew laughed.
        Going down beneath the water for the third time, going down beneath the rusty coils of barbed wire, bumping against the bloated dogs as he drowned down in the vomit for the hundredth thousandth millionth time, Clive heard that laughter, could not make sense of it, could scarcely remember his own name. He was, blissfully, starting to lose his own identity. Then came the hot red desert. And recovery. Yes, the iron teeth were torture, but he felt his identity might survive them. Possibly.
        And then the scorpions came.
        "I can't be immortal," said Patricia, a garish leather-and-blood princess riding atop the largest of the scorpions. "But I can still make it seem like forever."


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