2.2 - The Briggs
It had been over a week since the UFJ insurgents seized control of the heart of the University of Kansas and Governor Goldie mobilized his personal army to deal with the radical menace. The campus had become a dangerous place, ready to tip into the chasm of utter pandemonium at any minute. It was the border of our future, the site of an inevitable clash between a pack of chaos-lusting barbarians and the forces of law and order - or, alternately, between a group of unjustly hunted warriors for peace and the sadistic thugs who had been persecuting them. It was the end of civilization. It was the start of the New World Order. It was a conspiracy to distract from the real plot that THEY had been cooking up all along.
Mainly though it was dull. After I slipped past the hard-faced terminators at the firing line, I was greeted with a campus that was probably less active than it had been on any given day prior to the UFJ occupation. There were plenty of OSIS goons, and a few of them were watching the red zone through binoculars or scopes, but the rest were playing card games or dozing in the balmy afternoon. There were a handful of students as well, but not the eager citizen journalists with their globe widening Pardners that I’ve heard so much about. Most of them were passing around hand-rolled cigarettes no doubt packed with one of the herbal blends that Joanna and her ilk had been trafficking in. The others looked confused, probably because they smoked too much of those herbal blends and forgot where they were. Neither the students or the grunts looked like they even knew why they were there.
Ducking behind Watson Library, though, I did find a group that, while no more coherent than the others, certainly had some direction. At a distance I took them for some OSIS auxiliary, with uniforms that glancingly resembled the splendid reds and blues of the security goons. But “uniform” was a strong term for mismatched clothing that vaguely fit some first grade concept of the American standard. They were unified more by the dim flickers of bestial determination behind their eyes. These were true goons - not the mercenary skull-breakers of OSIS, but men with genuine dedication to ignorance and brutality, adherents to the religion of the truncheon and the revolver.
And then I hit the ground, knocked off balance by a stiff jab to the back. “See something interesting?” I’m not sure how I managed to let the giant with the one-handed aluminum slugger in his gnarly mitt sneak up on me. But there I was, looking up at a two-legged mountain with features, his red and white outfit covered in buttons bearing an odd abstract symbol.
The giant jabbed at me with his bat. “Who are you? You don’t have the stink of UFJ.”
“Nope. I’m Atticus Gainsborough. I write about our crazy world.”
“A journalist.” His jaw locked tight. “Yeah, I know you. Junkie hack. They let you come down here?”
“I’m not on the guided tour. Not interesting enough. I need the real shit.”
The giant raised up to his full sun-blocking height. “You want the real story? The one the progs don’t want you to know?”
“What the hell.” I climbed to my feet, feeling like a trained monkey next to the massive goon. “You have a name for me?”
“Cain.” He pointed at the library with his bat. “Come on, open your ears and I’ll teach you a thing or two.”
There were about a dozen men at the rear of the library, carrying out boxes of books and loading them into the back of a truck. This was not a literary crowd, and the fate of the books seemed obvious. I glanced through the contents of one of the boxes. “You gentlemen have an issue with the East Asian collection?”
“Communist trash,” said Cain. “There are a lot of dangerous ideas in the world, and a lot of them are written in languages that no one has a reason to know.”
“No one has a reason to know Chinese or Japanese?”
“Or German or Russian or Arabic. Especially not fucking Arabic.” Cain snatched up one of the books and ripped out a few pages, crumbling them into balls and scattering them here and there. “A nation is defined by certain fundamental traits, and a common language is one. A common world language, I might add, one understood everywhere. So why would anyone keep these books...” He gagged a little on the world. “...These books written in unfamiliar tongues? Only one reason - keeping secrets.”
I pulled out a memo book, knowing already that this was going to be glorious. “I think the professors who study those books would disagree.”
“Professors!” Cain threw the remnants of the book on the ground. “Intellectuals. Experts. Wealthy know-it-all assholes. Media parasites. A pack of elitist mongrels who think that they can take their bullshit models and their bullshit science and decide what’s right and what’s wrong for us. They’re all part of it.”
“Part of it.”
“Yeah, part of it. You think that it’s all accident that the world is like this? You don’t think that this is part of someone’s plan?”
“I’ve never been a conspiracy believer,” I said as I flipped open my memo book. “But I’ll let you convince me.”
“This isn’t some leftie conspiracy theory. It’s far deeper.” Cain leaned on his bat and worked his jaw as though he were warming up a muscle. “It’s these goddamn experts, so-called experts, running around with their statistics, knowing that most people don’t have the time to see the bullshit that’s right in front of them. They go along with it, their kids go along with it, because we’ve been taught all our lives that they are smarter than we are.”
“And this multicultural bullshit is how they keep their secrets hidden - right in plain sight. They bring in these foreign texts so that no one knows what they’re scheming. And then, when one of them comes up with a really dangerous, destabilizing idea, that they translate. That corrosive filth that Marx dreamed up? That they translate and distribute for cheap to cut us down, to remind us how much we depend on them, to intimidate us with what we don’t know. If that’s what they show us, then what do you think they keep hidden in these university vaults?”
“Hard to say.”
“And then they turn to the young people, especially the ‘people of color’ and these religious groups and rile them up. This serves them several benefits. One, it keeps the nation unstable and disunified. Two, it gives them a reliable source of income on both ends. They get money to create the problem, more money to identify a phony cause with their phony expertise, and yet more money to apply a phony fix. That’s why we have welfare in this country, so that they can profit off it. Third...”
Cain kept on moving the air with his words for another ten minutes at least, expounding on a bizarrely wide-reaching conspiracy theory that by the end seemed to cover everyone on the planet with the exception of the goons standing before me. I kept writing, but only to convince him that I was genuinely interested. After the first few pages, I gave up on following his thread of logic and began to take personal notes. A few things I might need to order from Joanna if I had to stay more than a few days; some insults I could throw at Frederick Tomasson next time I saw him; a list of possible names for my next failed manuscript. Once I ran out of personal notes, I killed time by sketching the symbol on Cain’s buttons and little caricatures of the other Briggs.
“...And that’s how it all comes together,” said Cain. “Doesn’t it make some sense when it’s all laid out?”
I shut my memo book. “I’ll tell you, I’m not wholly convinced, but I will take your argument to my editor and the readers and let them make the final call.”
“That’ll do,” said Cain. “And if you really want to educate yourself, you should listen to Leroy Brigg’s broadcast. He’s the one who really knows how it all works.”
The Briggs are taken as clowns in most quarters, as a pack of sawn-off Brownshirts without the coordination to achieve much of anything. It’s an accurate description from an office at the other end of the country, but in person it’s another story entirely. Buffoons they may be, but buffoons with weapons and the belligerent tribal mindset to use them are terrifying nonetheless. In the real world, dumb and scared can be the most dangerous combination there is.