Neal Stephenson,



"There is a remarkably close parallel between the problems of the  physicist
and those of the cryptographer. The system on  which a message is enciphered
corresponds  to the laws of the  universe, the  intercepted  messages to the
evidence  available, the keys for a day or a  message to important constants
which have  to  be determined.  The correspondence  is  very close, but  the
subject  matter  of  cryptography  is  very  easily  dealt  with by discrete
machinery, physics not so easily."

     Alan Turing

This morning [Imelda Marcos]  offered the latest in a series of explanations
of  the billions of dollars that she and her husband, who died  in 1989, are
believed to have stolen during his presidency.

"It so coincided that Marcos had money," she said. "After the  Bretton Woods
agreement he started  buying gold from Fort Knox.  Three thousand tons, then
4,000 tons.  I have documents for these: 7,000 tons. Marcos was so smart. He
had it all. It's funny; America didn't understand him."

     The New York Times, Monday, 4 March, 1996


Two tires fly. Two wail.

A bamboo grove, all chopped down

From it, warring songs. the best that Corporal Bobby Shaftoe can  do on short notice he's
standing  on the  running board,  gripping his Springfield with one hand and
the rearview mirror with the other, so counting the syllables on his fingers
is out of the question. Is  "tires" one syllable  or two? How  about "wail?"
The truck finally  makes  up its  mind not to tip over, and  thuds back onto
four wheels.  The wail  and the moment  are lost.  Bobby  can still hear the
coolies  singing, though,  and now too there's  the gunlike  snicking of the
truck's clutch linkage as  Private Wiley downshifts. Could  Wiley  be losing
his nerve? And, in the back, under the  tarps,  a  ton  and  a half of  file
cabinets clanking, code books slaloming, fuel spanking the tanks  of Station
Alpha's  electrical generator.  The modern world's  hell  on  haiku writers:
"Electrical generator" is, what, eight syllables? You couldn't even fit that
onto the second line!
     "Are we allowed to run over people?" Private Wiley  inquires, and  then
mashes the  horn  button before  Bobby  Shaftoe can answer. A Sikh policeman
hurdles  a night soil cart.  Shaftoe's gut  reaction is:  Sure, what're they
going to do, declare war on us? but as the highest ranking man on this truck
he's probably  supposed  to be using his head  or something,  so he  doesn't
blurt it out just yet. He takes stock of the situation:
     Shanghai, 1645 hours, Friday, the 28th of November 1941. Bobby Shaftoe,
and the other  half dozen Marines on his truck, are staring  down the length
of Kiukiang  Road, onto which they've  just made this  careening high  speed
turn. Cathedral's going by  to the right, so that means they  are, what? two
blocks away from the Bund. A Yangtze River Patrol gunboat is tied up  there,
waiting for the stuff they've got  in the back of this truck. The  only real
problem is that those  particular two  blocks are inhabited  by  about  five
million Chinese people.
     Now  these Chinese  are sophisticated  urbanites,  not suntanned yokels
who've never seen  cars before they'll get out of your way if you drive fast
and honk your horn. And indeed many of  them flee to one side  of the street
or the  other, producing the illusion that the truck  is moving faster  than
the forty three miles an hour shown on its speedometer.
     But the bamboo grove in Bobby Shaftoe's haiku has not  been added  just
to put a little Oriental flavor into the poem and wow the folks back home in
Oconomowoc. There is a lot of heavy bamboo in front of this truck, dozens of
makeshift turnpikes blocking their  path to the river,  for the officers  of
the  U.S.  Navy's Asiatic Fleet,  and of the Fourth  Marines, who dreamed up
this little  operation  forgot  to  take  the  Friday Afternoon factor  into
account.  As  Bobby  Shaftoe  could've  explained to  them,  if  only they'd
bothered to ask a poor dumb jarhead, their route took them through the heart
of the banking district. Here you've got the  Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank of
course,  City  Bank, Chase Manhattan, the Bank of America, and BBME and  the
Agricultural Bank of China and any number of crappy little provincial banks,
and several of those banks have contracts with  what's left of  the  Chinese
Government to print currency. It must be a cutthroat business  because  they
slash  costs  by printing  it on old newspapers, and if you know how to read
Chinese,  you  can  see last  year's  news  stories and  polo scores peeking
through  the colored  numbers and pictures  that transform  these  pieces of
paper into legal tender.
     As every chicken peddler  and  rickshaw operator in Shanghai knows, the
money printing  contracts stipulate that all of the bills these  banks print
have to be backed by such and such an amount of silver; i.e.,  anyone should
be able to walk into one of those banks at the end of Kiukiang Road and slap
down  a pile of bills and (provided that  those bills were printed  by  that
same bank) receive actual metallic silver in exchange.
     Now if China  weren't right  in the  middle of  getting  systematically
drawn and quartered by the Empire of Nippon, it would probably send official
bean counters around to keep tabs on how much silver was actually present in
these banks'  vaults, and  it would all  be quiet  and  orderly. But  as  it
stands, the only thing keeping these banks honest is the other banks.
     Here's how  they do  it: during the normal course  of business, lots of
paper  money  will  pass over the  counters  of  (say) Chase Manhattan Bank.
They'll take it into a back  room and  sort it, throwing into money boxes (a
couple of  feet square and  a yard deep, with ropes on the four corners) all
of the bills that were printed  by  (say) Bank of America in one, all of the
City Bank bills into another.  Then, on Friday afternoon  they will bring in
coolies. Each coolie, or pair of coolies, will of course have his  great big
long bamboo pole with  him a coolie without his pole is like a  China Marine
without his nickel plated bayonet and will poke their pole through the ropes
on the  corners of the box. Then one coolie will  get underneath each end of
the pole, hoisting the box into the air. They have to move in unison or else
the box  begins flailing around and everything gets out of whack. So as they
head towards their destination whatever  bank whose  name is printed  on the
bills in their  box  they sing to each  other, and plant  their feet on  the
pavement in time to the music. The pole's pretty long, so they are that  far
apart, and  they have  to sing  loud to hear each other, and of  course each
pair of coolies in  the  street is singing their own particular song, trying
to drown out all of the others so that they don't get out of step.
     So ten  minutes before closing time on Friday afternoon,  the  doors of
many  banks burst  open and numerous pairs of coolies march in singing, like
the curtain raiser on a  fucking Broadway musical,  slam their huge boxes of
tattered currency  down, and demand silver in  exchange. All of the banks do
this  to each other. Sometimes,  they'll  all  do  it  on  the same  Friday,
particularly at times like  28 November 1941, when even a  grunt like  Bobby
Shaftoe can understand that  it's better to be holding silver than piles  of
old cut up newspaper. And that is why, once  the normal pedestrians and food
cart operators  and furious  Sikh cops have  scurried  out of  the  way, and
plastered  themselves  up  against  the  clubs  and shops  and bordellos  on
Kiukiang Road, Bobby Shaftoe and the other Marines on the truck still cannot
even  see the gunboat that is their destination, because  of this horizontal
forest of mighty bamboo poles. They  cannot even hear the  honking of  their
own truck horn because of the wild throbbing pentatonic cacophony of coolies
singing.  This ain't just your  regular Friday P.M.  Shanghai bank  district
money rush.  This is an ultimate  settling  of  accounts  before  the  whole
Eastern Hemisphere catches fire. The  millions of promises printed  on those
slips of  bumwad will all be kept or broken in the next ten minutes;  actual
pieces  of silver  and gold  will move, or they won't.  It is  some  kind of
fiduciary Judgment Day.
     "Jesus Christ, I can't " Private Wiley hollers.
     "The captain said don't stop for any reason whatsofuckinever,"  Shaftoe
reminds him. He's not telling Wiley to run over the  coolies, he's reminding
Wiley that  if  he  refrains from running  over them,  they  will  have some
explaining to do  which  will be  complicated by the fact that the captain's
right behind them in a car  stuffed with Tommy Gun toting China Marines. And
from the way the captain's been acting  about this Station Alpha thing, it's
pretty clear that he already has a few preliminary strap  marks on his  ass,
courtesy of some admiral in Pearl Harbor or even (drumroll) Marine Barracks,
Eight and Eye Streets Southeast, Washington, D.C.


     Shaftoe and  the other Marines have  always  known  Station Alpha  as a
mysterious claque of pencil necked swabbies who  hung  out on the  roof of a
building in  the International Settlement in a shack  of  knot  pocked cargo
pallet planks with antennas sticking out of it every which way. If you stood
there long enough you could see some of those antennas moving, zeroing in on
something out to sea. Shaftoe even wrote a haiku about it:

Antenna searches

Retriever's nose in the wind

Ether's far secrets

     This was only  his  second haiku ever clearly not  up  to November 1941
standards and he cringes to remember it.
     But in no way did any of the Marines comprehend what a big deal Station
Alpha was until today. Their job had turned out to involve wrapping a ton of
equipment and several  tons of paper in  tarps and  moving it out of  doors.
Then they spent  Thursday tearing the shack apart, making it into a bonfire,
and burning certain books and papers.
     "Sheeeyit!"  Private  Wiley hollers.  Only  a few of  the  coolies have
gotten out of the  way, or even  seen them. But then there is this fantastic
boom from  the river, like the  sound  of  a mile  thick  bamboo pole  being
snapped  over God's knee.  Half a second later  there're  no coolies  in the
street  anymore  just  a lot  of  boxes with unmanned  bamboo  poles  teeter
tottering on them, bonging into the streets like wind chimes. Above, a furry
mushroom of grey smoke rises from the  gunboat. Wiley shifts up to high gear
and floors it. Shaftoe cringes against the truck's door and lowers his head,
hoping that his  campy Great War doughboy helmet will be good for something.
Then money boxes  start  to rupture  and  explode as the truck  rams through
them. Shaftoe peers  up through a blizzard of  notes and  sees  giant bamboo
poles soaring and bounding and windmilling toward the waterfront.

The leaves of Shanghai:

Pale doorways in a steel sky.

Winter has begun.

     Chapter 1 BARRENS

     Let's set the existence of God issue aside for a later volume, and just
stipulate that in some way, self replicating organisms came  into  existence
on this planet and immediately began trying to get rid of each other, either
by spamming  their environments with rough  copies of themselves, or by more
direct means  which hardly  need  to be belabored. Most of them  failed, and
their genetic  legacy  was erased from the universe forever, but a few found
some way to survive and  to propagate.  After about  three billion years  of
this  sometimes  zany, frequently tedious fugue  of  carnality  and carnage,
Godfrey Waterhouse IV was born, in Murdo, South Dakota, to Blanche, the wife
of  a Congregational  preacher  named  Bunyan Waterhouse.  Like every  other
creature on the face of  the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous
badass, albeit in  the somewhat narrow technical sense  that  he could trace
his ancestry back up a long line of slightly  less highly evolved stupendous
badasses to that first  self replicating gizmo which, given  the number  and
variety of its  descendants,  might  justifiably be  described as  the  most
stupendous  badass  of all  time.  Everyone and  everything  that  wasn't  a
stupendous badass was dead.
     As nightmarishly lethal, memetically  programmed death  machines  went,
these were the nicest you could ever hope to  meet. In the tradition of  his
namesake (the  Puritan writer John  Bunyan, who  spent much of  his life  in
jail, or trying to avoid it) the  Rev. Waterhouse did not preach  in any one
place for long. The church moved him  from  one small town in the Dakotas to
another  every year or two. It  is possible that Godfrey found the lifestyle
more than  a  little  alienating, for,  sometime during  the  course  of his
studies at Fargo Congregational College, he bolted from the fold and, to the
enduring  agony of his parents, fell  into  worldly pursuits, and  ended up,
somehow, getting a Ph.D.  in  Classics from  a small  private  university in
Ohio. Academics being no less nomadic than Congregational preachers, he took
work where he  could find it.  He became a  Professor of  Greek and Latin at
Bolger Christian College (enrollment 322) in West Point, Virginia, where the
Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers came together to form the estuarial James, and
the loathsome  fumes of  the big paper  mill permeated every  drawer,  every
closet, even the interior  pages of books. Godfrey's young bride,  nee Alice
Pritchard, who had grown up  following  her itinerant preacher father across
the vastnesses of eastern Montana where air smelt of snow and  sage threw up
for  three  months. Six months later  she gave birth to  Lawrence  Pritchard
     The boy had a  peculiar  relationship  with  sound.  When a fire engine
passed, he was  not  troubled by the siren's  howl or the  bell's clang. But
when a hornet  got into the  house  and swung across  the ceiling in a broad
Lissajous, droning almost  inaudibly, he cried  in pain at the noise. And if
he saw or smelled something that scared  him, he  would clap his hands  over
his ears.
     One noise that troubled him not at all was the pipe organ in the chapel
at Bolger Christian College. The chapel itself was nothing worth mentioning,
but  the organ  had been endowed  by the  paper  mill family and would  have
sufficed  for  a  church  four  times the  size. It  nicely complemented the
organist,  a  retired  high  school  math  teacher  who  felt  that  certain
attributes of the  Lord (violence  and capriciousness in the  Old Testament,
majesty and triumph in the New) could be directly conveyed into the souls of
the enpewed sinners through a  kind  of  frontal sonic impregnation. That he
ran the risk of blowing out the stained glass  windows was of no consequence
since no one liked them anyway, and the paper mill fumes were gnawing at the
interstitial lead. But after one little old lady too many staggered down the
aisle after  a service,  reeling from tinnitus, and made a barbed comment to
the  minister  about  the  exceedingly  dramatic  music,  the  organist  was
     Nevertheless, he continued to  give lessons on the instrument. Students
were not allowed to touch the organ until they were proficient at the piano,
and  when this  was  explained to Lawrence  Pritchard Waterhouse,  he taught
himself in three weeks,  how  to play a  Bach fugue, and signed up for organ
lessons. Since  he was only  five years  old at the time,  he was  unable to
reach both the  manuals and the  pedals, and had to play  standing or rather
strolling, from pedal to pedal.
     When Lawrence was twelve, the  organ broke down. That paper mill family
had  not left  any endowment for maintenance, so the math teacher decided to
have a crack at it. He  was  in poor health and required a nimble assistant:
Lawrence, who helped him  open  up the hood of the thing. For the first time
in all those  years,  the  boy saw what had been happening when  he had been
pressing those keys.
     For each stop each timbre, or type  of sound, that the organ could make
(viz.  blockflöte, trumpet,  piccolo)  there was a  separate  row of  pipes,
arranged  in  a  line from  long to short. Long pipes  made low notes, short
high. The tops of  the  pipes defined  a  graph: not a  straight line but an
upward  tending curve.  The organist/math  teacher sat down with a few loose
pipes,  a  pencil,  and  paper, and helped  Lawrence  figure  out why.  When
Lawrence  understood, it was as if  the math teacher had suddenly played the
good part  of Bach's Fantasia  and Fugue in G Minor on a pipe organ the size
of the Spiral Nebula in Andromeda the  part where Uncle Johann  dissects the
architecture of the  Universe  in  one  merciless  descending  ever mutating
chord, as if his foot is thrusting through skidding layers of garbage  until
it finally strikes bedrock. In particular, the final steps of the organist's
explanation were like a falcon's dive  through layer after layer of pretense
and illusion,  thrilling or  sickening  or  confusing depending on  what you
were.  The  heavens  were  riven  open. Lawrence  glimpsed choirs of  angels
ranking off into geometrical infinity.
     The  pipes  sprouted  in  parallel  ranks  from  a  broad  flat box  of
compressed air. All of the pipes for a given note but belonging to different
stops  lined up with each other along one axis. All of the pipes for a given
stop but tuned at  different  pitches  lined up  with each  other along  the
other, perpendicular  axis. Down there  in the flat box of air, then,  was a
mechanism that got air to the right pipes at  the right times. When a key or
pedal was depressed,  all of the pipes capable of sounding the corresponding
note would speak, as long as their stops were pulled out.
     Mechanically, all  of this was  handled in a fashion that was perfectly
clear, simple, and logical. Lawrence had supposed that the machine  must  be
at least as complicated as the most  intricate fugue that could be played on
it. Now  he had learned that a machine, simple in its design,  could produce
results of infinite complexity.
     Stops were rarely used alone. They tended  to  be  piled on top of each
other in combinations that were designed to take  advantage of the available
harmonics (more tasty mathematics here!). Certain combinations in particular
were used over and  over again. Lots of blockflötes, in varying lengths, for
the quiet Offertory, for example.  The organ included an ingenious mechanism
called  the  preset,  which  enabled  the  organist to select  a  particular
combination of stops stops he himself had chosen instantly. He would punch a
button  and  several  stops  would  bolt  out from  the  console,  driven by
pneumatic pressure,  and in that instant the organ  would become a different
instrument with entirely new timbres.
     The next summer  both Lawrence and Alice, his mother, were colonized by
a distant cousin a stupendous badass of a virus.  Lawrence  escaped from  it
with an almost  imperceptible tendency to drag one  of his feet. Alice wound
up in  an  iron lung. Later,  unable to cough effectively, she got pneumonia
and died.
     Lawrence's  father,  Godfrey, freely confessed that he was not equal to
the burdens now laid on his shoulders. He resigned from his position at  the
small college in Virginia  and moved,  with his  son, to  a  small house  in
Moorhead, Minnesota, next  door to  where Bunyan  and  Blanche  had settled.
Later he got a job teaching at a nearby normal school.
     At this point, all of the responsible adults  in Lawrence's life seemed
to arrive at a tacit agreement that the best way to raise  him certainly the
easiest  was  to  leave  him  alone.  On the  rare occasions  when  Lawrence
requested adult intervention  in his life,  he was  usually asking questions
that no one could answer. At the age of sixteen, having found nothing in the
local school system to challenge him, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse went off
to college. He matriculated at Iowa State College, which  among other things
was the site of a Naval ROTC installation in which he was forcibly enrolled.
     The Iowa State Naval ROTC  had a  band, and was  delighted to hear that
Lawrence had an interest in music. Since it was hard to drill on the deck of
a dreadnought while playing a pipe organ, they issued him a glockenspiel and
a couple of little dingers.
     When not marching back and forth on the flood plain  of the Skunk River
making loud dinging noises, Lawrence was majoring in mechanical engineering.
He  ended  up doing  poorly in  this area because  he  had  fallen in with a
Bulgarian professor  named John Vincent  Atanasoff and his graduate student,
Clifford Berry, who were building  a  machine that  was intended to automate
the solution of some especially tedious differential equations.
     The basic problem for Lawrence was that he was lazy. He had figured out
that everything  was much simpler if, like Superman  with  his X ray vision,
you just stared  through the  cosmetic distractions  and saw  the underlying
mathematical  skeleton.  Once you  found  the  math  in  a thing,  you  knew
everything  about it, and you could  manipulate it to  your  heart's content
with nothing more than a pencil and a napkin.  He saw it in the curve of the
silver bars on his glockenspiel, saw it in the catenary arch of a bridge and
in the  capacitor studded drum of Atanasoff and  Berry's computing  machine.
Actually  pounding  on the  glockenspiel,  riveting the bridge together,  or
trying to  figure out  why the computing machine wasn't working were  not as
interesting to him.
     Consequently he  got poor grades.  From time  to time, though, he would
perform some stunt on the blackboard that would  leave his professor weak in
the knees and the other students baffled and hostile. Word got around.
     At the same time, his  grandmother Blanche was  invoking  her extensive
Congregational connections, working the angles on Lawrence's behalf, totally
unbeknownst  to  him. Her efforts  culminated  in triumph  when Lawrence was
awarded an  obscure scholarship, endowed by a St. Paul oat  processing heir,
whose purpose  was  to send Midwestern Congregationalists to  the Ivy League
for one year, which (evidently) was  deemed a long  enough period of time to
raise their IQs by a few crucial points but not long enough to debauch them.
So Lawrence got to be a sophomore in Princeton.
     Now Princeton was an august school and  going there  was a great honor,
but no one got around to mentioning either  of these facts to  Lawrence, who
had no way of knowing. This had bad  and good consequences.  He accepted the
scholarship with a faintness of gratitude that infuriated the  oat lord.  On
the other hand, he  adjusted to Princeton easily because it was just another
place . It reminded him of  the nicer  bits of Virginia, and there were some
nice  pipe  organs in  town,  though  he  was  not  all that happy with  his
engineering homework of  bridge designing and sprocket cutting  problems. As
always, these  eventually  came down to math, most of  which he could handle
easily. From  time to time he would get stuck, though,  which led him to the
Fine Hall: the headquarters of the Math Department.
     There was a motley assortment of fellows wandering around in Fine Hall,
many sporting British or  European  accents. Administratively speaking, many
of  these  fellows were not  members  of  the Math Department at all,  but a
separate  thing called IAS, which stood for Institute for Advanced something
or other. But they were all in the  same  building and they all knew a thing
or two about math, so the distinction didn't exist for Lawrence.
     Quite a few of these men would pretend  shyness  when  Lawrence  sought
their advice, but others were at least willing to hear him out. For example:
he had come up with a  way to solve a difficult sprocket tooth shape problem
that, as normally solved by engineers, would require any number of perfectly
reasonable but aesthetically displeasing approximations. Lawrence's solution
would provide exact results. The only draw back was that it would  require a
quintillion slide rule operators a quintillion years to  solve. Lawrence was
working on a radically different approach  that,  if it worked,  would bring
those figures down to a trillion and a trillion respectively. Unfortunately,
Lawrence was unable to interest  anyone  at Fine Hall in anything as prosaic
as gears, until all of a  sudden he  made  friends with an energetic British
fellow, whose name  he  promptly  forgot, but who had  been  doing a  lot of
literal sprocket making  himself lately. This fellow was trying to build, of
all things,  a mechanical calculating  machine  specifically  a  machine  to
calculate certain values of the Riemann Zeta Function
     where s is a complex number.
     Lawrence found this zeta function to be no more and no less interesting
than any  other  math problem until  his new friend assured him  that it was
frightfully important, and that some of the best mathematicians in the world
had  been gnawing on it for  decades. The two of them ended up staying awake
until three in the  morning working out the solution  to Lawrence's sprocket
problem.   Lawrence  presented  the  results  proudly  to  his   engineering
professor, who snidely rejected it, on grounds of practicality, and gave him
a poor grade for his troubles.
     Lawrence finally remembered, after several more contacts, that the name
of the friendly Brit was Al something or other. Because Al was a  passionate
cyclist, he and Al went on quite a few bicycle rides through the countryside
of the Garden State. As they rode around New Jersey, they talked about math,
and particularly about machines for taking  the dull part of math  off their
     But Al had  been  thinking about this subject for longer than Lawrence,
and had  figured  out that computing machines were much more than just labor
saving devices. He'd been working on a radically different sort of computing
mechanism that would work out any arithmetic problem whatsoever,  as long as
you knew how to write the problem down. From a pure logic standpoint, he had
already  figured  out everything  there  was to  know  about  this  (as  yet
hypothetical)  machine, though he had  yet to build  one.  Lawrence gathered
that  actually building machinery was looked on  as undignified at Cambridge
(England, that is,  where this Al character was based) or for that matter at
Fine Hall. Al was  thrilled to have found, in Lawrence,  someone who did not
share this view.
     Al  delicately asked  him, one  day,  if Lawrence  would terribly  mind
calling him by his full and proper name, which was Alan and not Al. Lawrence
apologized and said he would try very hard to keep it in mind.
     One  day a couple of weeks later, as the two  of them sat by  a running
stream in  the woods above the Delaware Water Gap, Alan made some kind of an
outlandish proposal to  Lawrence involving penises. It required a great deal
of methodical explanation, which  Alan  delivered with lots of blushing  and
stuttering. He was ever so polite, and several times  emphasized that he was
acutely aware that not everyone  in the world was interested in this sort of
     Lawrence decided that he was probably one of those people.
     Alan seemed vastly impressed that Lawrence had paused to think about it
at all and apologized  for  putting  him out. They went directly  back to  a
discussion  of computing machines, and their friendship continued unchanged.
But on their next bicycle ride an overnight camping trip to the Pine Barrens
they  were joined  by a  new fellow, a German  named  Rudy von something  or
     Alan  and   Rudy's  relationship  seemed   closer,  or  at  least  more
multilayered, than Alan and Lawrence's. Lawrence concluded that Alan's penis
scheme must have finally found a taker.
     It got Lawrence to thinking. From an evolution standpoint, what was the
point of having people around who were not inclined to have offspring? There
must be some good, and fairly subtle, reason for it.
     The only  thing  he could  work out was  that  it was groups of  people
societies rather  than individual  creatures,  who  were now trying  to  out
reproduce and/or  kill each other, and  that, in a society, there was plenty
of room for someone who didn't  have kids as long as he was up to  something
     Alan and Rudy  and Lawrence rode south, anyway,  looking for  the  Pine
Barrens. After a while the  towns became very far apart, and the horse farms
gave way to a low stubble of feeble, spiny trees that appeared to extend all
the way  to Florida blocking their view,  but not the  head wind. "Where are
the  Pine Barrens I  wonder?" Lawrence  asked  a couple  of times.  He  even
stopped  at a gas station to ask someone that question. His companions began
to make fun of him.
     "Vere are ze Pine Barrens?" Rudy inquired, looking about quizzically.
     "I should look for  something rather barren looking, with numerous pine
trees," Alan mused.
     There was no other traffic and so they had spread  out across  the road
to pedal three abreast, with Alan in the middle.
     "A forest, as Kafka would imagine it," Rudy muttered.
     By this point Lawrence  had figured out that they were, in fact, in the
Pine  Barrens.  But  he didn't know who  Kafka  was.  "A  mathematician?" he
     "Zat is a scary sing to sink of," Rudy said.
     "He is a writer," Alan said. "Lawrence, please don't be offended that I
ask you this, but: do  you recognize any other people's  names at all? Other
than family and close friends, I mean."
     Lawrence must have looked baffled. "I'm trying to figure out whether it
all comes from in here," Alan said, reaching out  to rap his knuckles on the
side of Lawrence's head, "or do you sometimes  take in new ideas from  other
human beings?"
     "When I  was  a little boy,  I  saw angels  in a  church in  Virginia,"
Lawrence said, "but I think that they came from inside my head."
     "Very well," Alan said.
     But later Alan had another go at it. They  had reached the fire lookout
tower  and it  had  been  a thunderous  disappointment:  just  an  alienated
staircase leading nowhere, and a small cleared area  below that was glittery
with shards of liquor bottles. They pitched their tent by the side of a pond
that turned out to be full of rust  colored algae that stuck to the hairs on
their bodies. Then there was nothing left to do but drink schnapps  and talk
about math.
     Alan  said,  "Look, it's  like this: Bertrand  Russell and another chap
named Whitehead wrote Principia Mathematica .
     "Now I know  you're pulling my leg," Waterhouse said. "Even I know that
Sir Isaac Newton wrote that ."
     "Newton  wrote  a different book,  also called  Principia Mathematica ,
which isn't really about mathematics at all; it's about what  we would today
call physics."
     "Then why did he call it Principia Mathematica?"
     "Because  the  distinction  between  mathematics   and  physics  wasn't
especially clear in Newton's day "
     "Or maybe even in zis day," Rudy said.
     "  which  is  directly  relevant  to  what  I'm  talking  about,"  Alan
continued. "I am  talking  about Russell's P.M., in  which  he and Whitehead
started absolutely from scratch,  I mean from  nothing,  and built it all up
all  mathematics from a  small  number  of  first principles.  And  why I am
telling you this, Lawrence, is that Lawrence! Pay attention!"
     "Rudy take  this  stick, here  that's right  and keep a  close  eye  on
Lawrence, and when he gets that foggy look on his face, poke him with it!"
     "Zis is not an English school, you can't do zese kind of sing."
     "I'm listening," Lawrence said.
     "What came out of P.M., which was terrifically radical, was the ability
to say that all  of math, really, can be  expressed as a certain ordering of
     "Leibniz said it a long time before zen!" protested Rudy.
     "Er, Leibniz invented the notation we use for calculus, but "
     "I'm not talking about zat!"
     "And he invented matrices, but "
     "I'm not talking about zat eezer!"
     "And he did some work with binary arithmetic, but "
     "Zat is completely different!"
     "Well, what the hell are you talking about, then, Rudy?"
     "Leibniz invented ze basic alphabet wrote  down a  set of  symbols, for
expressing statements about logic."
     "Well, I wasn't  aware that Herr Leibniz counted formal logic among his
interests, but "
     "Of  course! He wanted to do what Russell and Whitehead did, except not
just with mathematics, but with everything in ze whole world!"
     "Well, from the fact that you are the only man on the planet, Rudy, who
seems to  know about  this  undertaking of Leibniz's, can we assume  that he
     "You  can  assume  anything  that  pleases  your   fancy,  Alan,"  Rudy
responded, "but I am a mathematician and I do not assume anything."
     Alan  sighed  woundedly,   and  gave  Rudy  a  Significant  Look  which
Waterhouse assumed meant  that there would be trouble later.  "If I may just
make  some headway, here,"  he  said,  "all I'm really trying to get you  to
agree on, is that mathematics can be expressed as a  series of symbols," (he
snatched  the  Lawrence  poking stick and began drawing things  like + =  3)
[square  root of 1][pi] in  the dirt) "and  frankly  I could  not  care less
whether they happen to be  Leibniz's symbols, or Russell's, or the hexagrams
of the I Ching...."
     "Leibniz was fascinated by the I Ching!" Rudy began.
     "Shut up about Leibniz for a  moment, Rudy, because look here: You Rudy
and I  are  on a train, as it were, sitting in the dining car, having a nice
conversation,  and that train is being pulled  along at a  terrific  clip by
certain  locomotives  named The Bertrand Russell and Riemann  and  Euler and
others. And our  friend Lawrence  is running  alongside the train, trying to
keep up with us it's  not that  we're  smarter than he is, necessarily,  but
that he's a farmer who didn't get a ticket. And I, Rudy, am simply  reaching
out through the open window here, trying to pull  him onto the fucking train
with  us  so  that  the  three  of  us  can have a  nice  little  chat about
mathematics without having to listen to  him panting and gasping  for breath
the whole way."
     "All right, Alan."
     "Won't take a minute if you will just stop interrupting."
     "But there is a locomotive too named Leibniz."
     "Is it that you don't think I give enough credit to  Germans? Because I
am about to mention a fellow with an umlaut."
     "Oh, would it be Herr Türing?" Rudy said slyly.
     "Herr Türing comes later. I was actually thinking of Gödel."
     "But he's not German! He's Austrian!"
     "I'm afraid that it's all the same now, isn't it?"
     "Ze Anschluss wasn't my idea, you don't  have to look at me that way, I
think Hitler is appalling."
     "I've heard of Gödel," Waterhouse put in helpfully. "But  could we back
up just a sec?"
     "Of course Lawrence."
     "Why bother?  Why  did Russell  do it?  Was there  something wrong with
math? I mean, two plus two equals four, right?"
     Alan picked up  two bottlecaps and set them  down  on the ground. "Two.
One two. Plus " He set down two more. "Another  two.  One two.  Equals four.
One two three four."
     "What's so bad about that?" Lawrence said.
     "But  Lawrence when you really do math, in an abstract way,  you're not
counting bottlecaps, are you?"
     "I'm not counting anything. "
     Rudy broke  the following news: "Zat is a very modern position for  you
to take."
     "It is?"
     Alan said, "There was this implicit  belief, for a long time, that math
was a  sort  of physics  of bottlecaps.  That any mathematical operation you
could  do on paper, no matter how complicated, could be  reduced in  theory,
anyway to  messing about with actual  physical counters, such as bottlecaps,
in the real world."
     "But you can't have two point one bottlecaps."
     "All right, all right, say we use bottlecaps for integers, and for real
numbers like two point one, we use physical measurements, like the length of
this stick." Alan tossed the stick down next to the bottlecaps.
     "Well  what about  pi, then?  You can't  have a stick that's exactly pi
inches long."
     "Pi is from geometry ze same story," Rudy put in.
     "Yes, it  was  believed  that Euclid's  geometry  was really a kind  of
physics,  that his  lines and so on represented properties  of  the physical
world. But you know Einstein?"
     "I'm not very good with names."
     "That white haired chap with the big mustache?"
     "Oh, yeah," Lawrence  said  dimly,  "I  tried  to  ask him  my sprocket
question. He claimed he was late for an appointment or something."
     "That fellow  has come  up  with  a general relativity theory, which is
sort of a practical application,  not of Euclid's, but of Riemann's geometry
     "The same Riemann of your zeta function?"
     "Same Riemann, different subject.  Now let's not  get  sidetracked here
Lawrence "
     "Riemann showed you could have many many different geometries that were
not the geometry  of Euclid but  that  still made  sense  internally,"  Rudy
     "All right, so back to P.M. then," Lawrence said.
     "Yes! Russell and  Whitehead. It's like this: when mathematicians began
fooling  around  with  things  like the square  root  of  negative  one, and
quaternions, then they  were no longer dealing  with  things  that you could
translate  into sticks and bottlecaps. And yet they were still getting sound
     "Or at least internally consistent results," Rudy said.
     "Okay. Meaning that math was more than a physics of bottlecaps."
     "It appeared that way,  Lawrence, but this  raised the  question of was
mathematics really true or was it just a game played  with symbols? In other
words are we discovering Truth, or just wanking?"
     "It has to be true because if you do physics with it, it all works out!
I've heard of that general relativity thing, and I know they did experiments
and figured out it was true."
     "Ze great majority  of mathematics does not lend itself to experimental
testing," Rudy said.
     "The whole idea of this project is to sever the ties to  physics," Alan
     "And yet not to be yanking ourselves."
     "That's what P.M. was trying to do?"
     "Russell  and  Whitehead broke  all  mathematical  concepts  down  into
brutally simple things like sets.  From there  they got to integers,  and so
     "But how can you break something like pi down into a set?"
     "You can't,"  Alan  said, "but you can express it as a  long string  of
digits. Three point one four one five nine, and so on."
     "And digits are integers," Rudy said.
     "But no fair! Pi itself is not an integer!"
     "But  you can calculate the digits  of  pi,  one  at  a  time, by using
certain  formulas.  And  you can  write down  the  formulas like  so!"  Alan
scratched this in the dirt:
     "I have used the Leibniz  series in order to  placate  our friend. See,
Lawrence? It is a string of symbols."
     "Okay. I see the string of symbols," Lawrence said reluctantly.
     "Can we move on? Gödel said, just a  few years  ago, 'Say! If  you  buy
into  this business about mathematics  being  just strings of symbols, guess
what?'  And  he pointed out that any  string  of  symbols such as  this very
formula, here can be translated into integers."
     "Nothing  fancy, Lawrence  it's  just simple encryption. Arbitrary. The
number  '538' might be written down instead of this great ugly  [sigma], and
so on.
     "Seems pretty close to wanking, now."
     "No,  no. Because  then  Gödel  sprang  the  trap! Formulas can  act on
numbers, right?"
     "Sure. Like 2x."
     "Yes. You  can  substitute any  number  for  x and the formula 2x  will
double it. But if another mathematical formula, such as this one right here,
for calculating pi, can  be encoded as a number,  then you can have  another
formula act on it. Formulas acting on formulas!"
     "Is that all?"
     "No.  Then  he showed,  really  through a very simple argument, that if
formulas  really  can refer  to themselves, it's possible to  write one down
saying 'this statement cannot  be  proved.' Which was tremendously startling
to Hilbert and everyone else, who expected the opposite result."
     "Have you mentioned this Hilbert guy before?"
     "No, he is new to this discussion, Lawrence."
     "Who is he?"
     "A man who  asks difficult questions.  He  asked  a whole  list of them
once. Gödel answered one of them."
     "And Türing answered another," Rudy said.
     "Who's that?"
     "It's me," Alan said. "But  Rudy's joking. 'Turing' doesn't really have
an umlaut in it."
     "He's going to have an umlaut in him later tonight," Rudy said, looking
at Alan in a way that, in retrospect, years later, Lawrence would understand
to have been smoldering.
     "Well, don't  keep me in suspense. Which  one of his questions  did you
     "The Entscheidungsproblem," Rudy said.
     Alan explained,  "Hilbert wanted to  know  whether  any given statement
could, in principle, be found true or false."
     "But after Gödel  got finished, it changed," Rudy pointed out.  "That's
true after Gödel it became  'Can we determine whether any given statement is
provable or  non provable?' In other words, is there some sort of mechanical
process  we  could  use   to  separate  the  provable  statements  from  the
nonprovable ones?"
     'Mechanical process' is supposed to be a metaphor, Alan. . .
     "Oh,  stop  it,  Rudy!  Lawrence  and  I  are  quite  comfortable  with
     "I get it," Lawrence said.
     "What do you mean, you get it?" Alan said.
     "Your machine not the zeta function calculator, but  the other one. The
one we've been talking about building "
     "It is called Universal Turing Machine," Rudy said.
     "The whole point of that gizmo is to separate provable from nonprovable
statements, isn't it?''
     "That's why  I  came  up with the basic idea  for it,"  Alan said.  "So
Hilbert's question has  been answered. Now I just want to actually build one
so that I can beat Rudy at chess."
     "You haven't told poor Lawrence the answer yet!" Rudy protested.
     "Lawrence  can figure it out," Alan said.  "It'll give him something to


     Soon it became  clear that Alan really meant: It'll give him  something
to do while we're fucking. Lawrence shoved a  notebook into the waistband of
his  trousers  and rode  his bicycle a  few hundred yards to the fire tower,
then climbed up the stairs  to the platform at the top and sat down, back to
the setting sun, notebook propped up on his knees to catch the light.
     He could  not collect his thoughts,  and then he  was  distracted by  a
false sunrise  that  lit up  the clouds off to the northeast. He  thought at
first  that  some  low clouds were bouncing fragments of  the sunset back to
him, but it was too concentrated and flickering for that. Then he thought it
was lightning. But the color of the light was not blue enough. It fluctuated
sharply, modulated by (one had to  assume) great, startling events that were
occulted by the horizon. As  the sun went down on  the opposite side  of the
world, the light on the New Jersey horizon focused to a steady, lambent core
the color of a flashlight when  you shine it through the palm of  your  hand
under the bedsheets.
     Lawrence climbed  down  the  stairs and got  on  his  bicycle and  rode
through  the Pine  Barrens. Before long  he came  to a road that  led in the
general direction of the light. Most of the time he could not  see anything,
not even the road, but after a couple of hours the glow bouncing off the low
cloud  layer  lit  up flat  stones in  the  road,  and  turned  the barrens'
wandering rivulets into glowing crevices.
     The  road began  to tend in  the wrong  direction and so  Lawrence  cut
directly into the woods, because he was very close now, and the light in the
sky  was strong enough that he could see  it  through  the sparse carpet  of
scrubby  pines black sticks that appeared  to have been burned,  though they
hadn't. The ground had  turned into sand, but it was damp and compacted, and
his bicycle had fat  tires  that rode over  it well. At  one point he had to
stop and  throw the bike over a barbed wire fence.  Then he broke out of the
sticks and onto a perfectly flat  expanse of white sand, stitched down  with
tufts of beach grass, and just then he was dazzled by a  low fence  of quiet
steady flames  that ran across  a part  of the horizon  about as wide as the
harvest moon when it sinks into the sea. Its brightness made it difficult to
see  anything else Lawrence kept riding into little ditches and creeks  that
meandered across the flats. He learned not to stare directly at  the flames.
Looking off to the sides was more interesting  anyway:  the  table  land was
marked at wide intervals  by the largest buildings he had ever seen, cracker
box structures built by Pharaohs, and in the mile wide plazas between  them,
gnomons  of triangulated steel were  planted in  wide  stances: the internal
skeletons  of  pyramids.  The largest  of  these  pierced  the center  of  a
perfectly  circular railway line a few hundred  feet in diameter: two argent
curves scored on the dull ground, interrupted in one place where the tower's
shadow, a stopped sundial, told the time. He rode by a building smaller than
the others, with oval tanks standing next to it. Steam  murmured from valves
on the tops of the tanks, but instead of  rising into  the air  it  dribbled
down the sides  and  struck the ground and spread out, coating the sea grass
with jackets of silver.
     A thousand  sailors in white  were standing  in a ring  around the long
flame. One  of them held up  his hand and waved Lawrence down. Lawrence came
to a  stop next  to  the sailor  and planted one foot on the sand to  steady
himself.  He  and  the  sailor  stared at  each other for  a moment and then
Lawrence,  who  could not think of  anything else, said, "I  am in  the Navy
also."  Then  the sailor  seemed to  make up  his  mind about  something. He
saluted Lawrence through,  and pointed him towards  a small building off  to
the side of the fire.
     The  building  looked  only like a wall glowing in  the firelight,  but
sometimes  a barrage of magnesium blue light made its windowframes  jump out
of the darkness, a rectangular lightning bolt  that echoed many times across
the  night.  Lawrence  started pedaling again and rode past that building: a
spiraling flock  of alert  fedoras,  prodding at  slim terse notebooks  with
stately  Ticonderogas,  crab  walking  photogs  turning  their  huge  chrome
daisies, crisp rows  of  people  sleeping  with blankets over their faces, a
sweating  man  with   Brilliantined  hair  chalking  umlauted  names   on  a
blackboard. Finally  coming around  this  building he smelled hot  fuel oil,
felt the heat of the flames on his face and saw beach glass curled toward it
and desiccated.
     He stared  down  upon  the world's globe,  not  the globe fleshed  with
continents and oceans but only its skeleton: a  burst of meridians,  curving
backwards to  cage an inner dome of orange flame.  Against the  light of the
burning  oil those longitudes  were  thin  and crisp as  a  draftsman's  ink
strokes. But coming closer he  saw them resolve  into clever  works of rings
and struts, hollow as a bird's bones. As they spread away from the pole they
sooner or later began to wander, or split into bent parts, or just broke off
and hung in the fire  oscillating like  dry stalks. The perfect geometry was
also mottled, here and there, by webs of  cable  and harnesses of electrical
wiring. Lawrence almost rode over a broken wine bottle and decided he should
now walk, to spare his bicycle's tires, so he laid  the bike down, the front
wheel covering an aluminum vase that appeared to have been  spun on a lathe,
with a  few  charred  roses hanging out of it. Some sailors had joined their
hands to form a sort of throne, and were bearing along a human  shaped piece
of charcoal dressed in a coverall of immaculate asbestos. As they walked the
toes of  their  shoes caught  in vast, ramified  snarls  of  ropes and piano
wires, cables and wires,  creative  furtive movements in the  grass  and the
sand dozens of yards every direction. Lawrence began planting his feet  very
thoughtfully one in  front  of the other, trying to measure the greatness of
what  he had  come and seen. A rocket shaped  pod stuck askew from the sand,
supporting an umbrella of bent back propellers. The duralumin struts and cat
walks rambled on above  him  for miles. There was a suitcase  spilled  open,
with a pair of women's  shoes displayed as if in the  window  of a down town
store,  and a menu  that had been charred to  an  oval  glow,  and then some
tousled wall slabs, like a whole room that had dropped out of the sky  these
were decorated, one with a giant map of the world, great circles arcing away
from Berlin to pounce on cities near and far,  and another with a photograph
of a famous, fat German in a  uniform, grinning on  a flowered platform, the
giant horizon of a new Zeppelin behind him.
     After a while he stopped seeing new things. Then he got on his  bicycle
and  rode back through the Pine  Barrens.  He got lost  in  the  dark and so
didn't find his way back to the fire tower until  dawn. But  he didn't  mind
being lost because while  he rode around in the dark  he thought  about  the
Turing machine. Finally he came back to the shore of the pond where they had
camped.  The dawn light shining on the saucer of calm reddish water made  it
look like  a pool  of blood. Alan Mathison Turing  and Rudolf von Hacklheber
were lying together  like spoons  on  the shore,  still smudged a little bit
from their swim yesterday. Lawrence started a little fire and  made some tea
and they woke up eventually.
     "Did you solve the problem?" Alan asked him.
     "Well  you can turn that Universal  Turing  Machine  of yours  into any
machine by changing the presets "
     "Sorry,  Alan, I  think of  your  U.T.M. as being kind  of like  a pipe
     "Once you've done that, anyway,  you can do any calculation you please,
if the tape  is  long  enough.  But gosh, Alan,  making  a tape that's  long
enough, and  that you can write  symbols on, and erase them, is going  to be
sort of  tricky Atanasoffs  capacitor drum would  only work  up to a certain
size you'd have to "
     "This is a digression," Alan said gently.
     "Yeah, okay, well if you had a machine like that, then any given preset
could be represented by a number a string of symbols. And  the tape that you
would feed into it to start the calculation would contain another  string of
symbols. So it's Gödel's proof all over again if any possible combination of
machine and data can be represented by  a  string of numbers,  then  you can
just arrange all of the possible strings of numbers  into a  big  table, and
then it turns  into a Cantor  diagonal  type of argument, and  the answer is
that there must be some numbers that cannot be computed."
     "And ze Entscheidungsproblem?" Rudy reminded him.
     "Proving or disproving a formula once you've encrypted the formula into
numbers,  that is is just a calculation on that number. So it means that the
answer to the question is, no! Some  formulas cannot be  proved or disproved
by  any mechanical process! So I  guess  there's  some point  in being human
after all!"
     Alan looked pleased until Lawrence  said this  last thing, and then his
face collapsed. "Now there you go making unwarranted assumptions."
     "Don't listen to  him, Lawrence!"  Rudy  said. "He's  going to tell you
that our brains are Turing machines."
     "Thank you, Rudy," Alan said  patiently. "Lawrence, I  submit  that our
brains are Turing machines."
     "But you  proved that there's  a whole lot of  formulas  that  a Turing
machine can't process!"
     "And you have proved it too, Lawrence."
     "But don't you think that we  can do some things that a  Turing machine
     "Gödel agrees with you, Lawrence," Rudy put in, "and so does Hardy."
     "Give me one example," Alan said.
     "Of a noncomputable function that a human can  do, and a Turing machine
     "Yes. And  don't give me any  sentimental nonsense about creativity.  I
believe that a Universal Turing Machine could  show behaviors  that we would
construe as creative."
     "Well,  I don't know then  . . . I'll try to keep my  eye  out for that
kind of thing in the future.''
     But later, as they were tiding back towards Princeton,  he said,  "What
about dreams?"
     "Like those angels in Virginia?"
     "I guess so."
     "Just noise in the neurons, Lawrence."
     "Also I dreamed last night that a zeppelin was burning."


     Soon,  Alan got his Ph.D. and went back to England. He wrote Lawrence a
couple  of letters. The last of these stated,  simply, that he would  not be
able to  write Lawrence  any  more letters "of substance"  and that Lawrence
should not  take  it personally. Lawrence perceived right  away that  Alan's
society had put him to work doing something useful probably figuring out how
to  keep  it from  being eaten alive by certain  of its neighbors.  Lawrence
wondered what use America would find for him .
     He  went  back  to  Iowa  State,  considered  changing  his   major  to
mathematics, but didn't. It was the consensus of all whom he consulted  that
mathematics,  like pipe organ  restoration, was  a fine thing,  but that one
needed some way to put  bread on  the table. He remained  in engineering and
did more and more poorly at it until the middle of his senior year, when the
university suggested that  he  enter a useful line of work, such as roofing.
He walked straight out of college into the waiting arms of the Navy.
     They gave him an intelligence test. The first question on the math part
had to do with  boats on a river: Port Smith is  100 miles upstream  of Port
Jones.  The river flows at  5 miles per hour. The boat goes through water at
10 miles per  hour. How  long does it  take  to go from  Port  Smith to Port
Jones? How long to come back?
     Lawrence  immediately saw that it was a trick question. You would  have
to  be some kind of idiot to make  the facile assumption  that  the  current
would add or subtract 5  miles per hour to or from the  speed  of the  boat.
Clearly, 5  miles per hour  was  nothing more  than the  average  speed. The
current would be  faster in the middle of the river and slower at the banks.
More  complicated  variations  could  be  expected  at  bends in the  river.
Basically it was a  question of hydrodynamics, which could  be tackled using
certain well known systems of differential equations. Lawrence dove into the
problem, rapidly (or  so he thought) covering both  sides of  ten  sheets of
paper  with  calculations. Along  the  way,  he realized  that  one  of  his
assumptions, in combination with the simplified Navier Stokes equations, had
led him into an exploration of a particularly  interesting family of partial
differential equations. Before he  knew it, he had  proved a new theorem. If
that didn't prove his intelligence, what would?
     Then the time bell rang and the papers were collected. Lawrence managed
to hang onto his scratch paper. He took it  back to his  dorm, typed it  up,
and mailed it to one of the more approachable  math professors at Princeton,
who  promptly  arranged for it  to  be published  in a Parisian  mathematics
     Lawrence received two free, freshly printed copies of the journal a few
months  later, in San Diego, California, during mail call on  board  a large
ship called the U.S.S. Nevada. The ship  had a band, and  the Navy had given
Lawrence the  job  of  playing the glockenspiel in it, because their testing
procedures had  proven  that he was  not intelligent enough  to  do anything
     The sack of mail carrying Lawrence's contribution  to  the mathematical
literature  arrived just  in the nick of  time. Lawrence's ship, and quite a
few of  her sisters,  had  until then been based in  California. But at just
this moment, all of them were transferred to some place called Pearl Harbor,
Hawaii, in order to show the Nips who was boss.
     Lawrence had never really known what he wanted to do with his life, but
he quickly decided that being glockenspiel player on a  battleship in Hawaii
during peacetime was a long way from the worst life you could possibly have.
The harshest part of the job was sometimes having to sit  or  march  in very
warm  conditions,  and  enduring  occasional  fluffed  notes  by other  band
members. He  had abundant  free time, which he spent working on a  series of
new theorems in the field of information theory. The field had been invented
and pretty much encompassed by his friend  Alan,  but  there was much detail
work to be  done.  He and Alan and  Rudy had sketched out  a general plan of
what needed to be proved or disproved. Lawrence tore through  the  list.  He
wondered  what Alan  and Rudy  were  up  to  in Britain and Germany, but  he
couldn't write to them and find out, so he kept his work to himself. When he
wasn't playing the glockenspiel or working out theorems, there were bars and
dances to go to. Waterhouse did some penis work  of  his own,  got the clap,
had it  cured (1), bought condoms. All of the  sailors did  this.
They  were like  three year olds who shove  pencils in their  ears, discover
that it  hurts, and stop  doing  it. Lawrence's  first year went  by  almost
instantly. Time  just  blazed by.  Nowhere  could be sunnier, more relaxing,
than Hawaii.


     "Filipinos are a warm, gentle, caring, giving people," Avi says, "which
is a good thing since so many of them carry concealed weapons."
     Randy is in Tokyo's airport, ambling  down a  concourse with a slowness
that is infuriating to  his  fellow travelers.  They have all spent the last
half day strapped into bad chairs, stuffed into an aluminum tube aslosh with
jet fuel. Over  the safety  engineered nubs  molded into  the jetway  floor,
their rolling suitcases drone like fighter planes.  They graze the backs  of
his knees as they bank around his husky columnar body.  Randy is holding his
new  GSM phone to the side of his  head. Supposedly it works anywhere in the
world, except for the United States. This is his first chance to try it out.
     "You sound clear as a bell," Avi says. "How was the flight over?"
     "All right," Randy says. "They had one of those animated maps up on the
video screen."
     Avi  sighs.  "All   the   airlines  have  those  now,"   he   announces
     "The only feature between San Francisco and Tokyo was Midway Island."
     "It kind  of  hung there  for  hours. MIDWAY.  Mute  embarrassment  all
     Randy  reaches the departure gate for Manila,  and pauses to  admire  a
five foot wide high definition TV set bearing  the logo of a major Nipponese
consumer electronics company. It is running a video in which a wacky cartoon
professor  and  his adorable canine  sidekick cheerfully  tick off the three
transmission routes of the AIDS virus.
     "I have a fingerprint for you," Randy says.
     Randy stares  at the palm of his hand, on which he has written a string
of numbers and letters in  ballpoint  pen. "AF 10 06 E9 99 BA 11 07 64 C1 89
E3 40 8C 72 55."
     "Got it," Avi says. "That's from Ordo, right?"
     "Right. I e mailed you the key from SFO."
     "The  apartment situation is  still resolving,"  Avi  says. "So I  just
reserved you a suite at the Manila Hotel."
     "What do you mean, it's still resolving?"
     "The  Philippines is one  of those post Spanish countries with no clear
boundaries between business and personal relationships," Avi says. "I  don't
think you can secure lodgings there without marrying into a  family  with  a
major street named after it."
     Randy takes a  seat in the departure  area.  Perky gate  attendants  in
jaunty,  improbable hats zero in on Filipinos with too  many carry  ons, and
subject them to a public ritual of  filling out little tags and surrendering
their possessions. The Filipinos roll their eyes and stare longingly out the
windows. But most of the  waiting passengers are Nipponese some businessmen,
mostly vacationers. They are watching an educational video about how to  get
mugged in foreign countries.
     "Huh,"  Randy says, looking out  the window,  "got another  747 down to
     "In  Asia, no  decent  airline  bothers to dick around anything smaller
than a 747," Avi snaps. "If someone tries to pack you on board a  737 or god
forbid an  Airbus, run, don't walk, away from the boarding lounge,  and call
me on my Sky Pager and I'll send in a chopper to evacuate you."
     Randy laughs.
     Avi  continues. "Now, listen. This hotel you're  going to  is very old,
very grand, but it's in the middle of nowhere."
     "Why would they build a grand hotel in the middle of nowhere?"
     "It used  to be a happening place it's on the waterfront, right  on the
edge of Intramuros."
     Randy's high  school  Spanish is enough  to translate  that: Inside the
     "But  Intramuros  was  annihilated  by  the  Nipponese  in  1945,"  Avi
continues. "Systematically.  All of the business hotels and office buildings
are in a new neighborhood called Makati, much closer to the airport."
     "So you want to put our office in Intramuros."
     "How'd  you  guess?"  Avi  says,  sounding  a little spooked. He prides
himself on unpredictability.
     "I'm not an intuitive guy generally," Randy  says, "but I've  been on a
plane for thirteen hours and my brain has been turned inside out and hung up
to dry."
     Avi rattles off canned  justifications: office space is much cheaper in
Intramuros.  Government ministries  are  closer. Makati,  the  gleaming  new
business district, is too isolated from the real Philippines.  Randy pays no
attention to it.
     "You  want to work  out  of  Intramuros  because  it was systematically
annihilated, and because you're obsessed  with the Holocaust," Randy finally
says, quietly and without rancor.
     "Yeah. So?" Avi says.


     Randy  stares out the window  of the  Manila  bound  747, sipping  on a
fluorescent green Nipponese soft drink  made from bee extracts (at least, it
has pictures  of  bees on  it)  and  munching  on  something  that a  flight
attendant handed him called  Japanese  Snack.  Sky  and ocean  are the  same
color,  a shade of blue that makes  his teeth  freeze. The plane is so  high
that, whether he looks up  or down, he  sees  foreshortened views of boiling
cumulonimbus  stacks. The clouds erupt  from the hot Pacific as  if  immense
warships were  exploding  all over the  place. The speed and power of  their
growth is alarming, the forms  they adopt as  bizarre and varied as those of
deep sea  organisms, and all  of them, he  supposes, are as dangerous  to an
airplane as punji stakes to  a barefoot pedestrian. The  red orange meatball
painted on the wingtip startles  him when he notices  it. He feels like he's
been thrown into an old war film.
     He turns  on his laptop. Electronic mail  from Avi, encrypted to a fare
thee well, has been piling up in his in box. It is a gradual accumulation of
tiny files,  thrown  at  him by Avi  whenever a thought popped into his head
over the last three days; it would be obvious, even if Randy didn't know it,
that Avi owns a portable e mail machine that talks to the Internet by radio.
Randy fires  up a  piece  of software that  is technically called Novus Ordo
Seclorum but that everyone calls Ordo for short. It is a fairly strained pun
based  on the fact that Ordo's job, as a piece of cryptographic software, is
to put a message's bits  in a New Order and that it will  take Centuries for
nosy governments to decrypt it.  A scanned image of a Great  Pyramid appears
in the middle of his screen, and a single  eye gradually materializes at its
     Ordo can handle this in one of two ways. The obvious  way is to decrypt
all of the messages and convert them into plaintext files on his  hard disk,
which he can then read any time he wants. The problem with this  (if you are
paranoid) is that anyone who gets  his hands on Randy's  hard disk can  then
read  the files. For all  he knows, the customs  officials  in  Manila  will
decide to ransack his computer for child pornography. Or, fogged by jet lag,
he'll leave his laptop in  a taxi. So instead he  puts Ordo into a streaming
mode where it will decrypt the  files just long enough for him to read  them
and then,  when  he  closes  the  windows,  expunge  the plaintext  from the
computer's memory and from its hard drive.
     The subject heading of Avi's first message is: "Guideline 1."
     We look for places  where the math is right. Meaning what? Meaning that
pop.  is about  to  explode  we  can  predict that  just by looking  at  age
histogram  and  per  capita income is about  to take  off  the way it did in
Nippon, Taiwan, Singapore. Multiply  those two things together  and  you get
the kind of exponential growth  that  should get us  all into fuck you money
before we turn forty.
     This  is  an  allusion  to a  Randy/Avi conversation  of  two years ago
wherein  Avi actually calculated a  specific  numerical value for "fuck  you
money."  It  was  not a fixed  constant, however,  but rather  a cell  in  a
spreadsheet  linked  to  any  number  of  continually  fluctuating  economic
indicators. Sometimes when Avi is working at his  computer he will leave the
spreadsheet running  in a tiny  window in the corner so that he can  see the
current value of "fuck you money" at a glance.
     The  second message, sent a couple of hours later, is called "Guideline
     Two:  pick a  tech  where  no  one  can  compete  with  us. Right  now,
that=networking. We're kicking the crap  out of everyone else in  the  world
when it comes to networking. It's not even funny.
     The next day, Avi sent a message called, simply, "More." Perhaps he had
lost track of the number of guidelines he'd issued so far.
     Another principle: this time we retain control of the corporation. That
means  that we keep at least fifty percent of the  shares which means little
to no outside investment until we've built up some value.
     "You  don't have to convince me," Randy mumbles to himself as he  reads
     This shapes the kinds  of businesses we can  get  into. Forget anything
that requires a big initial investment.
     Luzon is  green  black jungle mountains  gouged with rivers  that would
appear to be  avalanches of silt. As the navy blue ocean verges on its khaki
beaches,  the  water  takes on the  shocking  iridescent  hue of a  suburban
swimming  pool.  Farther  south,  the mountains are swidden scarred the soil
beneath is bright  red and so these parts  look like fresh  lacerations. But
most is covered  with  foliage that  looks like  the nubby  green stuff that
model railroaders  put  over their papier mâché hills, and in vast stretches
of the mountains there are no signs whatsoever that  human beings  have ever
existed. Closer to Manila, some of the slopes are deforested, sprinkled with
structures, ribboned with power line cuts. Rice paddies line the basins. The
towns  are  accretions  of  shanties,  nucleated  around  large cross shaped
churches with good roofs.
     The view gets blurry as they belly  down into the  pall  of sweaty smog
above the city. The  plane  begins to  sweat like a giant glass of iced tea.
The water streams off in sheets, collects in  crevices, whips off the flaps'
trailing edges.
     Suddenly they are banking over Manila Bay, which is marked with endless
streaks of brilliant  red  some kind of algal bloom. Oil  tankers trail long
time  delayed rainbows  that flourish  in their  wakes. Every cove is jammed
with long skinny boats with dual outriggers, looking like  brightly  painted
water skaters.
     And  then  they   are  down  on  the  runway  at  NAIA,  Ninoy   Aquino
International Airport. Guards and cops of various stripes are ambling around
with M 16s or pistol handled pump shotguns, wearing burnooses fashioned from
handkerchiefs clamped to the head with American baseball caps. A man dressed
in a radiant white uniform stands below the ragged maw of the jetway holding
his hands downwards with  fluorescent  orange  sticks in them,  like  Christ
dispensing mercy on a  world of sinners. Sulfurous, fulminating tropical air
begins to leak in through the  jumbo's air  vents.  Everything  moistens and
     He  is in Manila. He takes his  passport  out of  his  shirt pocket. It


     This is how Epiphyte Corporation came into existence:
     "I am channeling the bad shit!" Avi said.
     The number came through on Randy's pager while he was sitting  around a
table in a grubhouse along  the  coast with his girlfriend's  crowd. A place
where,  every day, they laser printed fresh menus on 100% recycled imitation
parchment,  where  oscilloscope  tracings of neon  colored sauces  scribbled
across the  plates, and the entrees  were towering,  architectonic stacks of
rare ingredients carved into gemlike prisms. Randy had spent the entire meal
trying to resist the temptation to invite one of Charlene's friends (any one
of them, it didn't matter) out on the sidewalk for a fistfight.
     He glanced  at  his  pager expecting  to  see  the number of the  Three
Siblings  Computer Center,  which was where  he  worked (technically,  still
does). The fell  digits of  Avi's phone  number penetrated the  core of  his
being in the same way that 666 would a fundamentalist's.
     Fifteen seconds later, Randy was out on the sidewalk, swiping his  card
through a pay phone  like  an assassin drawing  a  single  edged razor blade
across the throat of a tubby politician.
     "The power  is coming  down from  On High," Avi continued. "Tonight, it
happens to be coming through me you poor bastard."
     "What  do you want  me  to do?"  Randy  asked,  adopting a cold, almost
hostile tone to mask sick excitement.
     "Buy a ticket to Manila," Avi said.
     "I have to talk it over with Charlene first," Randy said.
     "You don't even believe that yourself," Avi said.
     "Charlene and I have a long standing relationsh "
     "It's  been ten years.  You  haven't  married  her. Fill in the fucking
     (Seventy  two  hours later, he would be in  Manila, looking at  the One
Note Flute.)
     "Everyone in Asia is wondering when the Philippines is finally going to
get its shit together," Avi said, "it's the question of the nineties."
     (The One Note Flute is the first thing you see when you make it through
Passport Control.)
     "I flashed on this when I  was standing in line at Passport Control  at
Ninoy Aquino International  Airport," Avi said, compressing that entire name
into a single, sharply articulated burst. "You know  how they have different
     "I  guess so," Randy said. A parallelpiped  of seared tuna did a barrel
roll in his gullet. He felt a perverse craving for a  double ice cream cone.
He did not travel as much as Avi, and had only a vague idea of what he meant
by lanes.

     "You know. One lane  for citizens.  One  for foreigners.  Maybe one for
     (Now, standing there waiting  to have his passport stamped,  Randy  can
see it clearly. For once he doesn't mind the wait. He gets in a lane next to
the OCW lane  and studies them.  They  are Epiphyte  Corp.'s market.  Mostly
young  women,  many of  them fashionably dressed, but still  with a kind  of
Catholic  boarding school demureness.  Exhausted from long flights, tired of
the  wait,  they slump,  then suddenly straighten up  and elevate their fine
chins, as if an invisible nun were making her way up the line whacking their
manicured knuckles with a ruler.)
     But seventy two hours ago he hadn't really understood what Avi meant by
lanes, so he just said, "Yeah, I've seen the lane thing."
     "At Manila, they have a whole lane just for returning OCWs!"
     "Overseas  Contract  Workers.  Filipinos  working  abroad  because  the
economy of the Philippines is so lame. As maids and nannies in Saudi. Nurses
and  anesthesiologists  in  the  States.  Singers in Hong  Kong,  whores  in
     "Whores  in  Bangkok?" Randy  had been there,  at least, and  his  mind
reeled at the concept of exporting prostitutes to Thailand.
     "The Filipino women are more beautiful," Avi said quietly,  "and have a
ferocity that  makes them  more  interesting,  to the  innately  masochistic
business traveler, than  all those  grinning Thai bimbos." Both of them knew
that this was complete bullshit;  Avi was a family man and had no  firsthand
experience whereof he spoke. Randy didn't call him on it, though. As long as
Avi  retained  this extemporaneous bullshitting ability  there  was a better
than even chance of all of them making fuck you money.
     (Now that he's here, it is tempting  to  speculate as  to which of  the
girls in the OCW lane are hustlers. But he can't see that going anywhere but
wrong, so he squares his shoulders and marches toward the yellow line.
     The government has set up glass display cases in the concourse  leading
from Passport  Control to the security  barrier. The cases contain artifacts
demonstrating the glories of pre Magellan Filipino culture. The first one of
these  contains the  pièce  de  résistance:  a rustic  hand  carved  musical
instrument  labeled with a long and unreadable name  in Tagalog.  Underneath
that, in smaller letters, is the English translation: ONE NOTE FLUTE.)
     "See? The Philippines is innately hedged," Avi said. 'You know how rare
that is? When you find an innately hedged environment, Randy, you lunge into
it like a rabid ferret going into a pipe full of raw meat."
     A word about Avi:  his  father's  people  had just barely gotten out of
Prague. As Central  European Jews went,  they were fairly typical.  The only
thing about them that was really anomalous was that they  were  still alive.
But his  mother's people were unbelievably peculiar New Mexican crypto  Jews
who  had been living on mesas, dodging  Jesuits,  shooting  rattlesnakes and
eating  jimsonweed for  three  hundred years;  they looked like Indians  and
talked  like cowboys.  In his  relations  with other people, therefore,  Avi
dithered.  Most of the time he was courtly and  correct  in  a way that  was
deeply impressive to businesspeople Nipponese ones expecially but there were
these  eruptions, from time to time, as if  he'd been dipping  into the loco
weed. Randy  had learned to deal with it, which  is  why Avi  called  him at
times like this.
     "Oh, calm down!" Randy said.  He watched a tanned girl rollerblade past
him, on her way up from the beach. "Innately hedged?"
     "As long as the Philippines don't have their shit together, there'll be
plenty  of  OCWs. They  will  want  to communicate  with their families  the
Filipinos are  incredibly family oriented. They  make Jews look like a bunch
of alienated loners."
     "Okay. You know more about both groups than I do."
     "They are sentimental and affectionate in a way that's very easy for us
to sneer at."
     "You don't have  to be  defensive,"  Randy  said,  "I'm not sneering at
     "When you hear their song dedications on the radio,  you'll sneer," Avi
said. "But frankly,  we  could take  some pointers from  the Pinoys on  this
     "You are so close to being sanctimonious right now "
     "I apologize," Avi  said, with absolute  sincerity. Avi's wife had been
pregnant almost continuously  for the four years they'd been married. He was
getting  more  religiously  observant  daily and couldn't make it through  a
conversation without mentioning the Holocaust. Randy  was a bachelor who was
just about to break up with the chick he'd been living with.
     "I believe you, Avi," Randy said.  "Is it a problem with you if I buy a
business class ticket?"
     Avi didn't  hear him,  so Randy  assumed that  meant yes. "As  long  as
that's the case, there will be a big market for Pinoy grams."
     "Pinoy grams?"
     "For god's sake, don't  say it out loud! I'm  filling out the trademark
application as we speak," Avi said. Randy could hear a rattling sound in the
background, computer  keys  impacting so  rapidly  it  sounded  like Avi was
simply  holding  the keyboard between his pale, spindly hands and shaking it
violently up  and down.  "But if the  Filipinos do get  their shit together,
then we see explosive growth in telecoms, as in any other Arday."
     "R D A E. Rapidly Developing Asian Economy. Either way, we win."
     "I gather you want to do something with telecoms?"
     "Bingo." In the background, a baby began to cough  and cry. "Gotta go,"
Avi said, "Shlomo's asthma is spiking again. Take down this fingerprint."
     "For my encryption key. For e mail."
     Randy took  out a  ballpoint pen  and,  finding no paper in his pocket,
poised it over the palm of his hand. "Shoot."
     "67 81 A4 AE FF 40 25 9B 43 OE 29 8D 56 60 E3 2F." Then Avi hung up the
     Randy  went back into  the restaurant.  On  his way back, he asked  the
waiter to bring him a half bottle  of good red wine. Charlene heard him, and
glowered. Randy was still thinking about innate ferocity, and did not see it
in  her face; only  a schoolmarmishness common among all of her friends.  My
god! I have to get out of California, he realized.

     Chapter 3 SEAWEED

     Woman holds baby Eyes pale as a muzzle flash Band chimes frozen tears
     The fourth marines is marching  downhill to the strains  of John Philip
Sousa,  which ought to be second nature to  a Marine. But the Fourth Marines
have been  in  Shanghai  (which ain't  no  halls of  Montezuma nor shores of
Tripoli) for too long, longer than Marines  should ever stay  in  one place,
and Bobby's  already  seen  his  sergeant,  one Frick, throw  up  from opium
     A  Marine  band is several Shanghai blocks  ahead. Bobby's platoon  can
hear  the  thumpity  thump  of the  big  drums and the piercing  noises from
piccolos and glockenspiels but he can't follow the tune. Corporal Shaftoe is
effectively their leader, because Sergeant Frick is useless.
     Shaftoe  marches alongside the formation, supposedly to keep an eye  on
his men, but mostly he's just staring at Shanghai.
     Shanghai  stares  back,  and mostly  gives them a  standing ovation. Of
course there  is a type of young street rowdy who  makes it a point of honor
to  let the Marines know  he isn't scared of them,  and they are jeering the
Marines from  a safe  distance,  and  setting off  strings of fire crackers,
which does nothing to steady anyone's nerves. The Europeans are applauding a
whole chorus line of Russian dancing girls from  Delmonte's is showing thigh
and  blowing  kisses. But most of the Chinese  look pretty stonefaced, which
Bobby suspects means they're scared shitless.
     The worst thing is the women carrying half white babies. A few of these
women are  rabid, hysterical, throwing themselves into formations  of massed
Marines, undeterred by rifle butts. But most of  them are  stoic: they stand
with their light eyed  babies  and glare,  searching the ranks and files for
the guilty  party. They've all heard  about what happened upriver in Nanjing
when  the Nips came there,  and they know that when it's all  over, the only
trace that they and their babies ever existed may be a really  bad memory in
the mind of some American Marine.
     It works for Shaftoe: he has hunted  deer  in  Wisconsin  and seen them
limping  across the snow, bleeding to  death. He  saw  a man  die  in  basic
training at  Parris  Island.  He has seen  whole tangles  of bodies  in  the
Yangtze,  downstream  of  where  the  Nipponese were prosecuting  the  China
Incident, and he has seen refugees from  places like Nanjing starve to death
in the gutters of Shanghai. He has himself killed  people who were trying to
storm the riverboats it was his duty to protect. He thinks that he has never
seen, and will never see, anything as terrible as those stone faced  Chinese
women  holding their  white babies, not  even blinking  as the  firecrackers
explode all around them.
     Until,  that is, he looks into the  faces of certain Marines who  stare
into that crowd and see  their  own faces  looking back  at them, pudgy with
baby  fat  and  streaked with  tears. Some of them  seem to think it's all a
joke.  But many of the Marines who march  out of their empty  barracks  that
morning  sane and solid  men,  have,  by the time  they  reach  the gunboats
waiting for them at  the Bund, gone mad. They don't show it. But Shaftoe can
see in their eyes that something has given way inside.
     The very  best men  in  the regiment  are in a foul mood. The ones like
Shaftoe, who didn't get involved with the Chinese women,  are still  leaving
plenty behind:  houses with maids and shoeshine boys and coolies, with women
and opium for almost nothing. They don't  know where they are  being shipped
off to, but it's safe to say that  their twenty one dollars a month won't go
as far. They'll be in barracks and they'll have to learn to polish their own
boots again. When the  gangplanks are  drawn  in  from the stone edge of the
Bund, they  are cut off from a whole world that they'll  never  see again, a
world  where they  were  kings. Now they are Marines  again, It's  okay with
Shaftoe,  who wants to be a Marine.  But many  of the men have become middle
aged here, and don't.
     The guilty men duck belowdecks.  Shaftoe  remains  on  the deck  of the
gunboat, which casts off  from the  Bund,  headed for the  cruiser  Augusta,
which awaits in mid channel.
     The  Bund is  jammed  with onlookers  in  a riot of differently colored
clothing,  so one patch  of uniform drab  catches  his eye: a group  of  Nip
soldiers  who've  come  down  to  bid their  Yank counterparts  a  sarcastic
farewell. Shaftoe scans the group  looking  for someone  tall and bulky, and
picks him out easily. Goto Dengo's waving to him.
     Shaftoe takes his helmet off and waves back. Then, on impulse, just for
the hell of it, he winds up and  flings  the helmet directly at Goto Dengo's
head.  The throw goes awry and Goto Dengo has to knock down about a dozen of
his  comrades in order to catch it. All of them seem  to think that it  is a
high  honor, as well as tremendously  amusing, to be knocked  down  by  Goto
     Twenty seconds  later, a comet sails up out of the flesh cosmos  of the
Bund and bounces on  the wooden  deck of the gunboat a hell of a throw. Goto
Dengo  is showing  off  his follow through. The projectile  is a rock with a
white streamer wrapped  around it. Shaftoe runs over  and  snatches  it. The
streamer is one of those thousand stitch headbands (supposedly; he's taken a
few off of unconscious  Nips, but he's never bothered to count the stitches)
that they tie around their heads as a good luck charm; it has  a meatball in
the center and some Nip writing to either side. He unties it from around the
rock. In so doing he realizes,  suddenly, that it's not a rock after all; it
is  a hand grenade!  But good old  Goto Dengo was just joking he didn't pull
the pin. A nice souvenir for Bobby Shaftoe.


     Shaftoe's first haiku (December 1940)  was a quick and dirty adaptation
of the Marine Creed:

This is my rifle

There are many like it but

This rifle is mine.

     He wrote it  under the following circumstances: Shaftoe and the rest of
Fourth  Marines were  stationed  in  Shanghai  so that they  could guard the
International Settlement and work  as muscle on  the gunboats of the Yangtze
River  Patrol.  His  platoon  had just  come  back  from the Last  Patrol: a
thousand mile reconnaissance in force all the way up  past what  was left of
Nanjing, to  Hankow,  and back. Marines had been doing this  ever  since the
Boxer Rebellion, through civil wars and everything else. But towards the end
of  1940,  what  with  the Nips  (1)  basically  running  all  of
northeast China now, the politicians  back in D.C. had finally thrown in the
towel and told the China Marines not to steam up the Yangtze any more.
     Now,  the Old Breed  Marines  like Frick  claimed  they could tell  the
difference  between organized  brigands; armed  mobs  of starving  peasants;
rogue Nationalists;  Communist guerrillas; and  the irregular forces  in the
pay of warlords. But to Bobby Shaftoe they were all just crazy, armed slopes
who wanted a piece of  the Yangtze River Patrol. The Last  Patrol had been a
wild trip. But  it was over and they were  back in Shanghai now, the  safest
place you could  be in China, and about a hundred  times more dangerous than
the  most dangerous place you could be in America. They  had climbed off the
gunboat six hours ago,  gone to a bar, and not come out until just now, when
they had decided it  was high time  they went to a whorehouse. On their way,
they happened to pass this Nip restaurant.
     Bobby Shaftoe  had  looked in  the windows  of  the place  before,  and
watched the man with the  knife, trying to  figure out what  the hell he was
doing. It looked  a  hell of  a lot like he was cutting up uncooked fish and
putting the raw meat on  bullets of rice and handing it over to the  Nips on
the other side of the counter, who were wolfing it down.
     It had to  be some kind of optical illusion.  The fish  must  have been
precooked in the back room.
     This had been nagging at Shaftoe for about a year. As he and the  other
horny drunk  Marines went by  the  place, he slowed down to peer through the
window, trying to gather  more evidence.  He  could swear  that some of that
fish looked ruby red, which it wouldn't have been if it were cooked.
     One of  his buddies,  Rhodes  from  Shreveport, noticed him looking. He
dared Shaftoe to go in there and sit down at that bar. Then another private,
Gowicki from Pittsburgh, double dared him!
     Shaftoe sucked his teeth and considered the matter. He had already made
up his mind that he was going to do it. He was a sniper scout, and it was in
his nature to do crazy shit  like this; but it was also part of his training
to scan the terrain carefully before venturing in.
     The restaurant was three quarters full, and everyone in the place was a
uniformed member  of the Nipponese military.  At the bar where  the  man was
cutting up  the  apparently raw  fish, there  was a  marked concentration of
officers; if you only had one grenade,  that's where you'd throw it. Most of
the place  was filled with long  tables  where enlisted  men  sat,  drinking
noodle soup from  steaming urns. Shaftoe paid particular attention to these,
because they were the ones who were going to  be beating the shit out of him
in about sixty  seconds. Some were  there alone, with  reading  material.  A
cluster of them, back in one corner, were paying attention to one fellow who
was apparently telling a joke or story.
     The longer Shaftoe spent reconnoitering  the place,  the more convinced
Rhodes and  Gowicki became that he was actually going to do it. They  became
excited and called for the other Marines, who  had  gone ahead of  them down
the block, headed for that whorehouse.
     Shaftoe saw  the  others  coming back his  tactical  reserve. "What the
fuck," he said,  and went into the restaurant. Behind him, he could hear the
others shouting  excitedly; they  couldn't  believe he was  doing  it.  When
Shaftoe  stepped over the threshold  of that Nip restaurant, he passed  into
the realm of legend.
     All the  Nips looked up at him when he came in the  door. If they  were
surprised, they didn't show it. The  chef behind the counter began to holler
out some kind of ritual greeting, which faltered and trailed off as he got a
look at what had just come  in. The fellow in the back of the room  a husky,
pink cheeked Nip continued telling his joke or story or whatever it was.
     Shaftoe nodded to no  one in particular, then  stepped  to the  nearest
empty chair at the bar and sat down.
     Other Marines would  have waited until the  whole squad  had assembled.
Then they would  have invaded the restaurant  en masse,  knocked  over a few
chairs, spilled some soup. But Shaftoe  had seized the initiative before the
others could do any such thing and gone  in by himself as a sniper scout was
supposed to do. It  was not just because be  was a sniper  scout, though. It
was  also because  he  was Bobby Shaftoe, and he was sincerely curious about
this place, and if he could, he wanted to  spend a few calm minutes  in here
and learn a few things about it before the fun started.
     It helped, of course, that Shaftoe was a quiet and contemplative drunk,
not a dangerous explosive drunk. He must have  reeked of beer (those  Krauts
in Tsingtao cranked out a brew whose taste took him right back to Wisconsin,
and he was homesick). But he wasn't hollering or knocking things over.
     The chef  was busy crafting one of his little morsels and pretended  to
ignore Shaftoe. The other men  at the counter stared coldly at Shaftoe for a
while, then turned  their attentions  back  to their food. Shaftoe looked at
the array  of raw fish  laid out on shaved  ice behind the bar,  then looked
around  the room. The guy back in the  corner was talking in  short  bursts,
reading from a notebook.  He would speak maybe ten or twenty words, and then
his little  audience  would turn  to  one  another and grin,  or grimace, or
sometimes even make a  patter of applause. He wasn't delivering his material
like a dirty joke. He spoke precisely and expressively.
     Fuck! He was  reading poetry! Shaftoe  had no idea what  he was saying,
but he  could tell, by the sound of it, that it must be poetry. Didn't rhyme
though. But the Nips did everything queerly.
     He  noticed that the chef  was  glaring  at him. He cleared his throat,
which was  useless since he couldn't speak  Nip.  He looked at some  of that
ruby red fish behind the bar, pointed to it, held up two fingers.
     Everyone was startled  that the American had actually placed  an order.
The  tension  was broken, only a little. The chef  went to work and produced
two morsels, which he served up on a wooden pedestal.
     Shaftoe had been trained to  eat insects, and  to bite  the  heads  off
chickens, so he figured he could handle  this.  He picked the morsels up  in
his fingers, just like the Nips were doing, and ate them. They were good. He
ordered two more,  of another variety. The guy  in the corner  kept  reading
poetry. Shaftoe ate his  morsels and then ordered some more. For perhaps ten
seconds, between the  taste of the  fish  and the sound  of the  poetry,  he
actually felt comfortable here, and forgot  that he was merely instigating a
vicious racial brawl.
     The third order looked different:  laid over  the  top of the  raw fish
were thin translucent sheets of some kind  of moist, glistening material. It
looked sort of like butcher paper  soaked in oil. Shaftoe gawked at it for a
while, trying to identify it, but it looked like no foodstuff he knew of. He
glanced left and right,  hoping that one of  the  Nips  had ordered the same
stuff, so that he could watch and learn the right way to eat it. No luck.
     Hell, they  were officers. Maybe one of them spoke a little English.  "
'Scuse me. What's  this?" Shaftoe said,  peeling up  one corner of the eerie
     The chef looked up at him nervously, then  scanned the bar, polling the
customers. Discussion ensued. Finally, a Nip officer at the  end of the bar,
a naval lieutenant, stood up and spoke to Bobby Shaftoe.
     Shaftoe  did  not  particularly  like  the  lieutenant's  tone of voice
hostile and sullen. This, combined with the look on his face, seemed to say,
You'll never understand it, you farmer, so why don't you just think of it as

     Shaftoe folded his hands primly in his lap, regarded the seaweed  for a
few moments,  and then looked up at the lieutenant, who  was still gazing at
him expressionlessly. "What kind of seaweed, sir?" he said.
     Significant glances began flying around the restaurant, like semaphores
before a naval engagement. The poetry  reading seemed to have stopped, and a
migration of enlisted men had begun from the back of the room. Meanwhile the
lieutenant translated  Shaftoe's inquiry to the  others, who discussed it in
some detail,  as if it were  a major policy  initiative from Franklin Delano
     The lieutenant and the chef exchanged words. Then the lieutenant looked
at  Shaftoe  again. "He  say, you pay  now."  The  chef held up one hand and
rubbed his fingers and thumb together.
     A year  of  working the Yangtze River  Patrol had  given Bobby  Shaftoe
nerves of  titanium, and unlimited faith in his comrades, and so he resisted
the impulse to  turn his  head and  look  out  the  window. He  already knew
exactly what he would see:  Marines, shoulder to shoulder, ready  to die for
him. He  scratched  the  new tattoo  on  his forearm: a  dragon.  His  dirty
fingernails,  passing over  the  fresh  scabs,  made a rasping sound  in the
utterly silent restaurant.
     "You  didn't answer  my question," Shaftoe  said, pronouncing the words
with a drunk's precision.
     The lieutenant translated  this  into Nipponese.  More discussion.  But
this time it was  curt and decisive. Shaftoe could tell that they were about
to bounce him. He squared his shoulders.
     The Nips were good; they mounted an organized charge out the door, onto
the sidewalk, and engaged the Marines, before anyone actually laid a hand on
Shaftoe.  This  spoiling  attack  prevented  the Marines from  invading  the
restaurant  proper, which  would have disturbed the officers' meal and, with
any luck,  led to  untold property  damage. Shaftoe then felt  himself being
grabbed from behind by at least  three  people and hoisted into  the air. He
made eye contact with the  lieutenant while this was happening, and shouted:
"Are you bullshitting me about the seaweed?"
     As brawls went, the only remarkable part of this one was the way he was
carried out to the street before he could actually get started. Then it  was
like all the other street fights he'd been in with Nip soldiers in Shanghai.
These  all came down to American brawn (you didn't get picked for the Fourth
Regiment  unless  you were  an impressive looking  six  footer)  versus that
Nipponese chop socky.
     Shaftoe  wasn't a  boxer. He was a wrestler. This was to his advantage.
The other Marines would put up  their dukes and try to fight it out  Marquis
of Queensberry style no match for chop socky. Shaftoe had no illusions about
his  boxing, so he would just put his head down and charge like a bull, take
a few blows  to the face on his way in, but usually  get a solid hold on his
opponent and slam  him into the cobblestones. Usually that shook  the Nip up
enough that Shaftoe could get him in a  full nelson or  a hammerlock and get
him to cry uncle.
     The guys who were  carrying him  out of the  restaurant  got  jumped by
Marines as  soon as they were in  the  open.  Shaftoe found himself going up
against an  opponent who was at  least as tall as he was, which was unusual.
This  one  had a  solid  build, too. Not like a  sumo wrestler.  More like a
football player a lineman, with  a bit of a gut. He  was a strong S.O.B. and
Shaftoe knew  right away that  he was in for a real  scrape. The guy  had  a
different style  of  wrestling  from the American, which (as Shaftoe learned
the hard way) included some  illegal maneuvers:  partial  strangulation  and
powerful, short punches to major nerve centers.  The gulf  between Shaftoe's
mind and body, already wedged open by alcohol, was yanked open to a chasm by
these techniques. He ended up lying on the sidewalk, helpless and paralyzed,
staring up into the chubby face of his opponent. This was (he  realized) the
same guy who'd been sitting in  the corner of the restaurant reading poetry.
He was a good wrestler for a poet. Or maybe vice versa.
     " It is not seaweed ," said the big Nip. He had a look on his face like
a naughty schoolkid getting away with something. "The English word  is maybe
calabash? " Then he turned and walked back into the restaurant.
     So  much for legend. What  none of the other Marines knows is that this
was  not  the  last  encounter between Bobby  Shaftoe  and Goto  Dengo.  The
incident left Shaftoe with any number of nagging questions about subjects as
diverse as seaweed, poetry, and chop socky. He  sought out  Goto Dengo after
that, which was not that hard  he just paid some  Chinese boys to follow the
conspicuous  Nip around town  and file  daily  reports. From this he learned
that Goto Dengo and some of his comrades gathered every morning in a certain
park to  practice  their chop socky. After making sure that his will was  in
order and  writing a last letter to  his parents and siblings in Oconomowoc.
Shaftoe went to that park one morning, reintroduced himself to the surprised
Goto Dengo, and made arrangements to serve as human punching bag. They found
his  self  defense  skills hilariously primitive but admired his resilience,
and so,  for the small  cost of a few broken ribs  and digits, Bobby Shaftoe
got  a preliminary course  in the particular type  of chop  socky favored by
Goto Dengo, which is called judo.  Over time,  this even led to a few social
engagements  in  bars, and restaurants, where Shaftoe learned  to  recognize
four types of seaweed,  three types of fish eggs, and several flavors of Nip
poetry.  Of course he had no idea  what  the fuck  they  were saying, but he
could count syllables, which, as far as he could tell, is about all there is
to Nip poetry appreciation.
     Not  that this or any  other knowledge of their culture is going to  do
him any good now that it will soon be his job to kill them.
     In return, Shaftoe taught Goto  Dengo how not to throw  like  a girl. A
lot of the Nips are good at baseball and so it was hilarious, even to  them,
to  see their  burly  friend pushing ineffectually at a baseball. But it was
Shaftoe who  taught Goto Dengo to stand sideways, to rotate  his  shoulders,
and  to follow through.  He's paid  a lot  of  attention  to  the  big Nip's
throwing form  during the last year, and maybe that's  why the image of Goto
Dengo planting his feet on the ashlars of the Bund, winding up, throwing the
streamer  wrapped  grenade, and following  through  almost  daintily  on one
combat booted foot stays in Shaftoe's mind all the way to Manila and beyond.


     A couple of days  into the voyage  it becomes  apparent  that  Sergeant
Frick has forgotten how to shine his boots. Every night he puts  them on the
deck beside his bunk, like he's expecting a coolie to  come around and shine
them up during the  night. Every  morning  he wakes up and finds  them in  a
sorrier state  than  before. After a few days he starts  to draw  reprimands
from On High, starts to get a lot of potato peeling duty.
     Now  in and of itself  this is forgivable. Frick started out his career
chasing  bandolier draped  desperadoes  away from mail trains  on  the  High
Chaparral,  for God's  sake. In '27 he got  shipped off to Shanghai  on very
short notice, and no  doubt had to  display some adaptability. Fine. And now
he's on this miserable pre Great War  cruiser and it's a little hard on him.
Fine. But he does not take all of  this with the dignity that is demanded of
Marines by  Marines. He whines  about it. He lets himself get humiliated. He
gets angry. A lot of the other old China Marines see things his way.
     One day Bobby Shaftoe is up  on the  deck of the destroyer tossing  the
old horsehide around with a couple of the other young Marines when he sees a
few of these  older guys accumulating into a  sort of  human  booger  on the
afterdeck.  He can tell by the  looks  on their  faces and by their gestures
that they are bellyaching.
     Shaftoe hears a  couple of the ship's crew talking to each other nearby
"What the hell is wrong with those Marines?" one of them says. The other one
shakes  his head sadly, like a doctor who has just seen a patient's eyeballs
roll  up into  their sockets.  "Those  poor bastards have gone  Asiatic." he
     And then they turn and look at Shaftoe.
     That  evening,  at mess, Bobby Shaftoe gulps his food down double time,
then stands  up and  approaches the  table where those Old Breed Marines are
sullenly  gathered. "Begging your pardon, Sergeant!"  he  hollers.  "Request
permission to shine your boots, Sarge!"
     Frick's mouth drops  open, revealing a half chewed plug of boiled beef.
"Whud you say, Corporal?"
     The mess  has gone silent.  "Respectfully  request  permission to shine
your boots, Sarge!"
     Frick is not the quickest guy in  the world  even when he's sober,  and
it's  pretty  obvious, just from  looking at his  pupils,  that  he  and his
comrades have brought some opium aboard. "Wull, uh, I guess so," he says. He
looks around at his crew of gripers, who are a little confused and a  little
amused. He  unlaces his boots. Bobby Shaftoe takes those disgraceful  things
away and returns  a bit later with them  resplendently shined. By this time,
Frick  has  gotten high  and mighty.  "Wull, those  boots  look  real  good,
Corporal Shaftoe," he says in a brassy voice. "Darned if you ain't as good a
shoe shiner as my coolie boy was."
     At lights out,  Frick and crew are short  sheeted. Various other, ruder
practical jokes ensue  during the nighttime. One of them gets jumped in  his
bunk  and  beaten  by  unspecified  attackers. The  brass  call  a  surprise
inspection the next morning and cuss them out. The "gone Asiatic" crew spend
most of the next day gathered in a cluster, watching each other's backs.
     Around midday, Frick finally gets it through his  head that all of this
was triggered by  Shaftoe's gesture, and that Shaftoe knew, all  along, what
was going to happen. So he rushes Bobby Shaftoe up  on the deck and tries to
throw him over the rail.
     Shaftoe's warned at the last  minute by one of his compadres, and spins
around  just enough to throw off  Frick's attack. Frick caroms off the rail,
turns around, and tries to grab  Shaftoe's  nuts.  Shaftoe pokes  him in the
eye,  which  straightens him right up. They back away from  each  other. The
opening formalities having been finished; they put up their dukes.
     Frick and  Shaftoe box for a couple of rounds. A large crowd of Marines
gathers. On  most of their  cards,  Frick  is winning  the  fight. Frick was
always dim  witted, and is now crazy to boot, but he  knows his way around a
boxing ring, and he has forty pounds on Shaftoe.
     Shaftoe puts up with  it until Frick socks him pretty hard in the mouth
and gives him a bloody lip.
     "How far are we from Manila?" Shaftoe hollers. This question, as usual,
leaves Sergeant Frick confused and bewildered, and  straightens him up for a
     "Two days," answers one of the ship's officers.
     "Well,  goddamn," Bobby Shaftoe  says. "How'm I gonna kiss my girl with
this fat lip?"
     Frick answers, "Just go out and find a cheaper one."
     That's  all he needs.  Shaftoe  puts his  head down  and charges in  on
Frick, hollering  like a Nip. Before Frick can get his  brain in gear, Bobby
Shaftoe has him wrapped up in one of those chop socky holds  that Goto Dengo
taught him in Shanghai. He works his way up Frick's body to a choke hold and
then clamps down until Sergeant Frick's lips turn the color of the inside of
an oyster shell. Then he hangs Frick over  the rail, holding him upside down
by the ankles, until Frick recovers enough to shout, "Uncle!"
     A disciplinary proceeding is hastily called. Shaftoe is found guilty of
being courteous  (by  shining Frick's boots)  and  defending the  life of  a
Marine  (himself) from a crazed attacker.  The crazed attacker goes straight
to  the brig. Within a few hours, the  noises Frick  makes  lets  all of the
Marines know what opium withdrawal feels like.
     So Sergeant Frick does not get to see their entrance  into  Manila Bay.
Shaftoe almost feels sorry for the poor bastard.
     The  island  of  Luzon lies to port all  day long,  a black hulk barely
visible through the  haze,  with  glimpses  of  palm trees and  beaches down
below. All of the Marines have been this way before and so they can pick out
the Cordillera  Central up  north, and  later the  Zambales Mountains, which
eventually  plunge down to  meet the sea near Subic  Bay.  Subic triggers  a
barrage of salty anecdotes. The ship does not put in there, but continues to
swing southward around Bata'an, turning inland toward the entrance of Manila
Bay. The ship reeks  of  shoe polish, talcum powder, and after shave lotion;
the  Fourth  Marines may have  specialized  in whoring and opium abuse,  but
they've always been known as the best looking Marines in the Corps.
     They pass by  Corregidor. An island shaped  like a bead  of  water on a
waxed boot, it  is gently rounded in the middle but steeply sloping into the
water. It has a long, bony, dry tail that trails off at one end. The Marines
know  that  the  island is riddled with tunnels and bristling  with terrible
guns, but the only sign of these  fortifications is the clusters of concrete
barracks up in the hills, housing the men who serve the weapons. A tangle of
antennas  rises  up  above Topside.  Their shapes are familiar  to  Shaftoe,
because many of  the same antennas rose above Station Alpha in Shanghai, and
he had to take them apart and load them into the truck.
     There is a giant limestone cliff descending nearly into the sea, and at
the base of  it is the entrance to the tunnel where all the spooks and radio
men  have their hideaway. Nearby is a  dock, quite  busy at the moment, with
supplies being offloaded from civilian transports and stacked right there on
the beach. This detail is noticed by  all of the Marines as a positive  sign
of  approaching war. Augusta drops anchor in the cove,  and all of that tarp
wrapped radio stuff is unloaded into  launches and taken to that dock, along
with all of the odd pencil necked Navy men who tended that gear in Shanghai.
     The swell  dies as they pass  Corregidor and  enter  the  bay. Greenish
brown algae floats  in swirls and curlicues near the surface. Navy ships lay
brown ropes of smoke across the still sea. Undisturbed by wind, these unfold
into  rugged shapes like  translucent  mountain  ranges.  They pass the  big
military base at  Cavite  a sheet  of land so low and flat that its boundary
with the water would  be invisible except for the picket line of palm trees.
A few  hangars and water  towers rise  from it,  and  low  dark clusters  of
barracks farther inland. Manila is dead ahead of them, still veiled in haze,
It is getting on toward evening.
     Then the haze dissolves, the atmosphere suddenly becomes as limpid as a
child's  eyes,  and for about an hour they  can see to  infinity.  They  are
steaming into  an arena of immense thunderheads with lightning cork screwing
down through them all around.  Flat grey  clouds like shards of broken slate
peek out between anvils. Behind them are  higher clouds vaulting halfway  to
the moon, glowing pink  and salmon in  the light of  the setting sun. Behind
that, more clouds nestled within banks  of humidity like Christmas ornaments
wrapped in  tissue paper, expanses of blue sky, more thunderheads exchanging
bolts of  lightning  twenty miles  long.  Skies  nested within  skies nested
within skies.
     It  was cold  up  there  in Shanghai, and  it's gotten warmer every day
since.  Some  days it's even been hot and muggy. But  around the time Manila
heaves  into view, a warm  breeze springs up  over the deck  and  all of the
Marines sigh, as if they have all ejaculated in unison.

Manila's perfume

Fanned by the coconut palms

The thighs of Glory

     Manila's spreading  tile roofs have a  mestizo  shape  about them, half
Spanish  and half  Chinese.  The city  has a  concave  seawall  with a  flat
promenade on the top. Strollers turn and wave  to the Marines;  some of them
blow  kisses.  A  wedding party is  gushing down  the steps of a church  and
across the boulevard to  the seawall,  where they are getting their pictures
taken in  the flattering peach colored light  of the sunset. The men are  in
their fancy,  gauzy Filipino shirts, or in U.S. military uniforms. The women
are in spectacular gowns and dresses. The Marines holler and whistle at them
and the  women turn towards them,  hitching up their skirts slightly so that
they won't  trip,  and  wave  enthusiastically. The  Marines  get woozy  and
practically fall overboard.
     As their ship is easing into its dock, a  crescent  shaped formation of
flying  fish erupts  from the water. It moves away  like  a dune being blown
across the desert. The fish are silver and leaf shaped. Each one strikes the
water  with a  metallic  click, and the  clicks merge  into a crisp  ripping
noise. The crescent glides  beneath a pier, flowing  around its pilings, and
disappears in the shadows underneath.
     Manila, the Pearl of  the Orient, early on a Sunday evening, the 7th of
December, 1941. In  Hawaii, on the  other side  of the Date Line, it is only
just past  midnight. Bobby Shaftoe and  his  comrades  have  a few  hours of
freedom. The city is modern, prosperous, English speaking, and Christian, by
far  the wealthiest and most advanced city  in Asia,  practically like being
back home in the States.  For all its Catholicity, it has areas that seem to
have   been   designed,   from  the  foundation   stones  upwards,   to  the
specifications of horny sailors.  You get to  those parts of town by turning
right once your feet are on dry land.
     Bobby Shaftoe  turns left, politely  excuses  himself past  a legion of
excited prostitutes, and sets his course on the looming walls of Intramuros.
He  stops only to buy a  sheaf  of roses  from a vendor  in the park, who is
doing land office business. The park and the walls above it are crowded with
strolling  lovers, the men mostly in uniforms  and  the women in demure  but
stunning dresses, twirling parasols on their shoulders.
     A couple of fellows driving  horse drawn taxis want to do business with
Bobby Shaftoe but he turns them down. A taxi will only get him there faster,
and he is too nervous to get there fast. He walks through a gate in the wall
and into the old Spanish city.
     Intramuros is a  maze of buff colored stone walls rising  abruptly from
narrow streets. The  first floor windows along the  sidewalks are guarded by
black ironwork cages.  The bars  swell,  swirl, and sprout finedly  hammered
leaves. The second stories hang out overhead, sporting gas  lights  that are
just now being  lit by  servants  with  long,  smoking poles.  The sound  of
laughter  and music drifts out  of  the windows above, and when he passes by
the  archways that open into the inner courtyards, he can smell flowers back
in the gardens.
     Damned if he can tell  these places apart. He remembers the street name
of  Magallanes, because  Glory told  him  once it  was  the  same  thing  as
"Magellan." And he remembers  the view of the  cathedral from the  Pascuals'
window.  He wanders around  a block a couple  of times, certain  that he  is
close. Then he  hears an exaltation of girlish laughter coming from a second
story window, and  moves  toward it like a jellyfish sucked  into  an intake
pipe. It all comes together. This is the place. The girls are all gossiping,
in English, about one of their  instructors. He does not  hear Glory's voice
but he thinks he hears her laughter.
     "Glory!" he  says. Then  he says  it louder. If they hear him, they pay
him  no mind.  Finally he winds up  and flings  the  bouquet of roses like a
potato masher grenade over the wooden railing,  through a narrow gap between
the mother of pearl shutters, and into the room.
     Miraculous silence from  within the room, and  then gales  of laughter.
The  nacre  shutters part  with slow, agonizing coyness.  A girl of nineteen
steps out  onto  the balcony.  She is dressed  in  the uniform  of a nursing
student. Iris as  white as starlight shining on the North Pole. She has  let
her  long black hair down to brush it, and it stirs languidly in the evening
breeze. The last ruddy light of  the sunset makes her face glow like a coal.
She hides behind the bouquet for a  moment, buries her  nose in it,  inhales
deeply, peeking out at him over the blossoms with  her black eyes. Then  she
lowers the bouquet gradually  to reveal her high  cheeks, her perfect little
nose, the fantastic sculpture of her  lips, and  teeth, white but fetchingly
crooked, barely visible. She is smiling.
     "Jesus  H. Christ," Bobby  Shaftoe says,  "your  cheekbones are  like a
fucking snowplow."
     She puts her finger  to  her lips.  The gesture  of  anything  touching
Glory's lips puts  an invisible spear through Shaftoe's chest. She  eyes him
for a while, establishing, in her own mind, that she has the boy's attention
and that he is not going anywhere. Then she turns her back on him. The light
grazes her buttocks, showing nothing but  suggesting cleavage. She goes back
inside and the shutter glides shut behind her.
     Suddenly  the  room  full of girls becomes quiet, except for occasional
ripples of suppressed laughter. Shaftoe  bites his tongue. They are screwing
it  all up.  Mr.  or  Mrs.  Pascual will  notice  their silence  and  become
     Ironwork  clangs  and  a big gate swings open. The potter  beckons  him
inside. Shaftoe follows  the old fellow down the black, arched tunnel of the
porte  cochere.  The  hard soles  of  his  shiny  black  shoes skid  on  the
cobblestones.  A  horse  back  in the stable  whinnies  at  the smell of his
aftershave. Sleepy American  music, slow dance stuff from  the Armed  Forces
station, spills tinnily from a radio in the porter's nook.
     Flowering vines grow up the stone walls of the courtyard. It is a tidy,
quiet, enclosed world,  almost like being indoors. The  porter waves  him in
the  direction  of one of the  stairways that lead  up to the  second floor.
Glory calls it the entresuelo  and says that it's really a floor between the
floors, but it looks like a full fledged, regular floor to Bobby Shaftoe. He
mounts the steps and looks up to see Mr. Pascual standing there, a tiny bald
man with glasses and  a trim little mustache. He is wearing  a short sleeved
shirt, American style, and  khaki trousers,  and slippers, and is  holding a
glass  of  San Miguel in  one hand  and a  cigarette in  the other. "Private
Shaftoe! Welcome back," he says.
     So. Glory has decided to play this one by the  book. The  Pascuals have
been alerted. A few hours of socializing now stand between Bobby Shaftoe and
his girl. But a Marine is never fazed by such setbacks.
     "Begging your pardon, Mr. Pascual, but I am a corporal now."
     Mr.  Pascual  puts his  cigarette  in  his  mouth  and  shakes Corporal
Shaftoe's hand. "Well,  congratulations!  I just saw your  uncle  Jack  last
week. I don't think he had any idea you were on your way back."
     "It was a surprise to everyone, sir," Bobby Shaftoe says.
     Now they are  on a raised walkway that runs  around the courtyard. Only
livestock and servants live at  ground  level. Mr. Pascual leads them around
to a  door that takes  them into the entresuelo.  The  walls here are  rough
stone, the  ceilings are  simple painted planks.  They  pass through a dark,
somber office where Mr. Pascual's father and grandfather used to receive the
managers of  the  family's haciendas and  plantations. For a  moment,  Bobby
Shaftoe  gets his hopes up. This level has a few rooms  that back in the old
days  were  apartments for  high  ranking  servants,  bachelor  uncles,  and
spinster aunts. Now that the hacienda business ain't what it used to be, the
Pascuals  are renting them  out to  female students. Perhaps Mr.  Pascual is
leading him directly to Glory.
     But this  goes the way of all foolish, horny illusions as Shaftoe finds
himself at the  foot  of a vast staircase of polished nara wood. He  can see
pressed  tin ceiling up there, chandeliers, and the imposing  superstructure
of Mrs. Pascual, contained within a mighty bodice that looks like some thing
dreamed  up by  naval  engineers. They  ascend the stairs into the antesala,
which according  to Glory is strictly  for  casual, drop in  visitors but is
fancier than any room Bobby Shaftoe has ever seen. There are  big vases  and
pots all  over  the  place, supposedly old, and supposedly  from  Japan  and
China. A fresh breeze runs through; he  looks out a  window and sees, neatly
framed in it, the green dome of the cathedral  with its Celtic cross on top,
just as he remembered it. Mrs. Pascual holds out her band and Shaftoe clasps
it. "Mrs. Pascual," he says, "thank you for welcoming me into your home."
     "Please sit down," she says, "we want to hear everything."
     Shaftoe sits in a fancy chair next to the piano, adjust  his trousers a
bit  so  that they  will  not cramp his erect penis,  checks his  shave.  It
probably has a few good  hours left.  A  wing  of airplanes drones overhead.
Mrs. Pascual is giving instructions to the maid in Tagalog. Shaftoe examines
the crusted lacerations on his knuckles and wonders whether Mrs. Pascual has
the  slightest idea  of  what she would  be  in  for if  he really told  her
everything. Perhaps a little anecdote about hand to hand combat with Chinese
river pirates on  the banks  of the  Yangtze  would break the ice. Through a
door and down the hall, he can see a corner of the family chapel, all Gothic
arches,  a  gilded altar,  and in front  of  it an  embroidered kneeler worn
threadbare by the patellas of Mrs. Pascual.
     Cigarettes  are  brought round,  stacked  in a large  lacquer box  like
artillery shells in a crate. They drink tea and exchange small talk for what
seems  like about thirty six hours. Mrs. Pascual wants to be reassured, over
and  over again, that everything is fine  and that there  will not be a war.
Mr. Pascual obviously believes  that war  is  just around  the  corner,  and
mostly broods. Business  has been good lately. He and Jack  Shaftoe, Bobby's
uncle, have been  shipping a lot  of stuff between here and  Singapore.  But
business will get a lot worse soon, he thinks.
     Glory  appears. She has changed out of her student's uniform and into a
dress. Bobby Shaftoe nearly topples backward out of the window. Mrs. Pascual
formally  reintroduces  them.  Bobby Shaftoe kisses Glory's hand in what  he
thinks is more than likely a very gallant gesture. He's glad he did, because
Glory is palming a tiny wadded up note which ends up in his hand.
     Glory takes a seat  and is duly issued her own teacup. Another eternity
of small talk.  Mr. Pascual asks him for the eighty seventh  time whether he
has touched  base  with Uncle Jack  yet,  and  Shaftoe  reiterates  that  he
literally  just stepped  off the boat  and  will  certainly see  Uncle  Jack
tomorrow morning.  He  excuses  himself to  the  bathroom,  which is an  old
fashioned two  holer mounted above deep shafts that must descend all the way
to hell. He unwads and reads Glory's note, memorizes the instructions, tears
it up and sprinkles it down the hole.
     Mrs. Pascual allows the two young lovers  a full half hour of "private"
time together, meaning that the Pascuals  leave the room and only  come back
every five minutes or so to check up on them. There is a painfully elaborate
and lengthy good bye ceremony which ends in Shaftoe returning to  the street
and Glory waving to him from her balcony.
     Half an hour later,  they are doing tongue judo in the back of a  horse
drawn taxi galloping over the cobblestones toward the nightclubs  of Malate.
The extraction of Glory from the Pascual residence was a simple matter for a
highly motivated China Marine and a squadron of saucy nursing students.
     But Glory must  be kissing him with her  eyes  open because  all  of  a
sudden she wriggles loose and  says to the  taxi driver, "Stop! Please stop,
     "What is  it?" Shaftoe says blurrily. He looks around and  sees nothing
but  a great big old  stone  church  looming  up above them.  This  brings a
preliminary  stab of  fear. But the church  is dark, there's no Filipinas in
long dresses, no Marines in dress uniforms, it can't be his wedding.
     "I want to show  you something,"  Glory  says, and clambers down out of
the  taxi.  Shaftoe has to pursue  her  into  the place  the  Church of  San
Augustin. He's gone by this pile  many times but he never  reckoned he would
come inside on a date.

     She stands at the bottom of a huge staircase and says, "See?"
     Shaftoe looks up  into darkness, thinks there might  be a stained glass
window or two up there, maybe a Laceration of Christ or an Impalement of the
Blessed Thorax, but
     "Look down ," Glory says, and taps one miniature foot against the first
tread  of the staircase.  It  is  a single  great big huge slab of  granite.
"Looks  like  ten  or twenty  tons  of  rock  there I'd estimate,"  he  says
     "It came from Mexico."
     "Ah, go on!"
     Glory  smiles at him. "Carry me up the stairs." And in  case  Shaftoe's
thinking  of  refusing, she sort of falls into him, and he has no choice but
to catch her up in his arms. She traps his nape in the crook of her arm, the
better to pull her  face close to his, but what he remembers is how the silk
of  her sleeve feels  against the freshly shaved skin of his neck. He begins
the ascent. Glory  doesn't weigh much, but after four  steps he has broken a
fine  sweat.  She  is  watching  him, from four  inches  away,  for signs of
fatigue, and he  feels himself blushing. Good thing that the whole staircase
is lit  up  by about two candles. There's a  lovely bust of  a thorn crowned
Jesus with long parallel blood drops running down his face, and on the right
     "These  giant stones  you  are  walking  on  were quarried  in  Mexico,
centuries  and centuries ago, before  America was even  a country. They were
brought  over  in  the  bottoms of  the Manila  Galleons,  as  ballast." She
pronounces it bayast.

     "I'll be damned."
     "When those galleons  arrived, the stones  were  brought  out  of their
bellies, one by one, and taken here to the Church of San Augustin, and piled
up. Each  stone on top of the last  year's stone. Until finally after  many,
many years this staircase was finished."
     After a while it seems to Shaftoe as though it's going to take at least
that many  years to reach the top  of the damn  thing. The summit is adorned
with  a life  sized  Jesus  carrying a cross that appears to be  at least as
heavy as one of those stair  treads. So  who's he to  complain?  Then  Glory
says, "Now carry me down, so you will remember the story."
     '"You  think I'm some horny jarhead who won't remember  a  story unless
it's got a pretty girl in it?"
     '"Yes," Glory says, and  laughs in his face. He carries her down to the
bottom again. Then,  before she goes off on  some other  tangent, he carries
her straight out the door and into the taxi.
     Bobby Shaftoe is  not one to  lose his cool in the heat of  action, but
the  rest of  the  evening  is  a blurry  fever  dream  to him.  Only a  few
impressions  penetrate the  haze: alighting  from the  taxi in  front  of  a
waterfront  hotel; all of the other  boys gaping  at  Glory;  Bobby  Shaftoe
glaring at them, threatening to  teach them some manners. Slow dancing  with
Glory in the ballroom, Glory's silk  clad thigh  gradually slipping  between
his legs, her firm  body pressing  harder  and harder against his. Strolling
along the seawall,  hand in hand  beneath the starlight.  Noticing that  the
tide is out. Exchanging a look.  Carrying her down  from the  seawall to the
thin strip of rocky beach beneath it.
     By  the time  he is  actually  fucking her, he  has more  or  less lost
consciousness, he is off in  some fantastic, libidinal  dream.  He and Glory
fuck  without  the slightest  hesitation, without  any  doubts,  without any
troublesome  thinking whatsoever. Their  bodies  have spontaneously  merged,
like a pair  of drops running together on a windowpane. If  he  is  thinking
anything at  all, it is that his entire life has  culminated in this moment.
His upbringing in  Oconomowoc, high school  prom night, deer hunting  in the
Upper Peninsula, Parris Island boot camp, all of the brawls and struggles in
China, his duel  with Sergeant Frick,  they are wood  behind  the point of a
     Sirens are blowing  somewhere.  He startles back to awareness.  Has  he
been here all night long, holding Glory up  against the  seawall, her thighs
wrapped around his waist? That would not be possible. The  tide hasn't  come
in at all.
     "What is it?" she says. Her hands are clasped around  the back  of  his
neck. She lets go and runs them down his chest.
     Still  holding  her  up, his  hands making a sling  under her warm  and
flawless  ass, Shaftoe backs away  from the seawall and turns around on  the
beach, looking at the sky. He sees searchlights beginning to come on. And it
ain't no Hollywood premiere.
     "It's war, baby," he says.

     Chapter 4 FORAYS

     The lobby of the Manila Hotel is about the size of a football field. It
smells like last year's perfume, rare tropical orchids, and bug spray. There
is a metal detector set up at the front door, because  the Prime Minister of
Zimbabwe happens  to be staying here for a couple of  days. Big Africans  in
good suits stand around the place in clusters of two and three. Mini throngs
of Nipponese tourists, in their Bermuda  shorts,  sandals and  white  socks,
have  lodged  themselves  in the  deep, thick,  wide sofas  and sit quietly,
waiting for a  prearranged signal.  Upper  class  Filipino children brandish
cylindrical potato chip canisters like tribal chieftains carrying ceremonial
maces. A dignified old bellman carrying a hand pumped tank circulates around
the  defensive  perimeter  and   silently  sprays  insecticide  against  the
baseboard.  Enter Randall Lawrence Waterhouse,  in  a turquoise  polo  shirt
embroidered with the logo of one of the bankrupt high tech companies that he
and Avi have founded,  and  relaxed fit blue jeans held  up with suspenders,
and bulky athletic shoes that once were white.
     As soon as he  got through the formalities at the airport, he perceived
that  the Philippines  are, like  Mexico, one of those countries where Shoes
Matter. He approaches the registration counter quickly so that the ravishing
young  woman in  the navy blue  uniform will  not see his feet. A  couple of
bellhops are engaged in a pathetic, Sisyphean  contest with  his bag,  which
has roughly the dimensions  and  mass of a  two drawer  filing cabinet. "You
will not  be able  to find  technical  books there,"  Avi  told him,  "bring
anything you might conceivably need."
     Randy's  suite is a bedroom and living  room, both  with fourteen  foot
ceilings,  and  a corridor  along  one side containing  several  closets and
various  plumbing related  technologies. The entire thing  is lined  in some
kind of tropical hardwood stained to a lovely glowing auburn, which would be
dismal  in  the northern latitudes  but,  here,  gives  it  a cozy and  cool
feeling. The two main rooms each  have huge windows with tiny  signs  by the
latch handles warning of  tropical  insects.  Each room is defended from its
windows  by  a  multilayered  system  of interlocking  barriers:  incredibly
massive wooden  shutters that rumble back and forth on tracks, like  freight
trains  maneuvering  in  a  switching  yard;  a  second  layer  of  shutters
consisting  of two inch squares of  nacre  held  in  a polished wooden grid,
sliding on  its own set of tracks;  window  sheers, and finally, heavy gauge
blackout curtains, each  suspended from its own set of  clanging  industrial
     He orders up a large pot of  coffee, which barely keeps  him awake long
enough  to  unpack. It  is late  afternoon. Purple clouds tumble  out of the
surrounding  mountains with  the  palpable momentum of volcanic mudflows and
turn  half of  the sky  into a  blank wall striped with  vertical  bolts  of
lightning; the walls of the hotel room flash with it as though paparazzi are
working outside the window. Below,  food  vendors in Rizal  Park run up  and
down the sidewalks to get out of the rain, which falls, as it has been doing
for about half a  millennium, on the  sloping  black walls of Intramuros. If
those walls  did not run  in  straight lines  they could be  mistaken  for a
natural freak of geology:  ridges of bare,  dark volcanic rock erupting from
the grass like teeth from gums. The walls have dovetail shaped  notches that
converge  to old gun emplacements,  providing interlocking  fields  of  fire
across a dry moat.
     Living in the States, you never see anything older than about two and a
half centuries, and  you have to visit the  eastern fringe of the country to
see that. The business traveler's  world of airports and taxicabs looks  the
same  everywhere. Randy never  really believes  he's in  a different country
until he sees something like Intramuros, and then he has to stand there like
an idiot for a long time, ruminating.


     Right  now, across the Pacific Ocean,  in  a small, tasteful  Victorian
town located a third of the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles, computers
are seizing up, crucial files are disappearing, and e mail is careening into
intergalactic space, because Randy Waterhouse is not there to keep an eye on
things. The town in question sports three small colleges: one founded by the
State of California and two founded by Protestant denominations that are now
actively reviled by  the  majority  of their faculty. Taken  together  these
colleges  the  Three  Siblings  comprise  an  academic  center  of  middling
importance.  Their  computer  systems  are linked  into one.  They  exchange
teachers and  students.  From  time to time they host  academic conferences.
This  part of California has beaches, mountains, redwood forests, vineyards,
golf courses, and sprawling  penal facilities all  over the place. There are
plenty of three– and four  star hotel rooms, and the  Three  Siblings,
taken together, have enough auditoria and meeting rooms to host a conference
of several thousand.
     Avi's telephone call, some eighty hours ago, arrived in the middle of a
major interdisciplinary conference called  "The Intermediate Phase (1939 45)
of the Global Hegemony Struggle of the Twentieth Century (Common Era)." This
is a bit of a mouthful and so it has  been given a pithy  nickname:  "War as
     People  are  coming  from  places  like  Amsterdam   and   Milan.   The
conference's   organizing  committee   which  includes  Randy's  girlfriend,
Charlene, who actually gives every indication of being his ex girlfriend now
hired an artist in San Francisco to come up with a poster. He started with a
black and white halftone photo of a haggard World War  II infantryman with a
cigarette dangling from his lower lip.  He worked  this image over  using  a
photocopier, blowing  the halftone dots  up into  rough  lumps,  like rubber
balls chewed by a dog, and  wreaking  any number of other distortions  on it
until it had an amazingly stark, striking, jagged appearance; the  soldier's
pale eyes turned an eerie white. Then he added a few elements in  color: red
lipstick, blue  eyeshadow, and a  trace of a red brassiere strap peeking out
from the soldier's unbuttoned uniform shirt.
     The poster won  some  kind of  an award almost the moment it came  out.
This led  to  a  press  release,  which in turn led to  the  poster's  being
enshrined by  the news media  as  an  Official  Object  of  Controversy.  An
enterprising  journalist managed to track down the soldier depicted  in  the
original  photograph a decorated  combat veteran and  retired  tool  and die
maker who, as it happened,  was  not merely alive  but  in excellent health,
and,  since the  death  of  his  wife  from  breast  cancer,  had  spent his
retirement roaming around the Deep South  in his  pickup  truck,  helping to
rebuild black churches that had been torched by drunken yahoos.
     The artist who  had designed  the  poster then  confessed  that  he had
simply  copied it from a  book and had  made no  effort whatsoever to obtain
permission the entire concept of  getting  permission to  use other people's
work  was  faulty, since all art  was  derivative of other art. High powered
trial  lawyers converged,  like dive bombers, on the small town  in Kentucky
where the aggrieved veteran was  up on  the roof  of  a black church with  a
mouthful of nails, hammering down slabs of A/D exterior plywood and mumbling
"no comment"  to  a horde of  reporters down on the lawn.  After a series of
conferences in  a  room at  the  town's  Holiday Inn,  the veteran  emerged,
accompanied  by  one of the  five  most famous lawyers on  the  face of  the
planet, and  announced that he was filing a  civil suit  against  the  Three
Siblings that  would, if it succeeded, turn them  and their entire community
into a flat, smoking abrasion in the earth's crust. He promised to split the
proceeds  between the  black churches  and various  disabled  veterans'  and
breast cancer research groups.
     The  organizing committee  pulled  the  poster from  circulation, which
caused thousands of bootleg copies  to go up on the  World Wide  Web and, in
general, brought it to the attention of  millions who never would  have seen
it otherwise. They also filed suit against the artist, whose net worth could
be tallied  up  on the  back  of  a ticket  stub: he had  assets of about  a
thousand dollars and  debts  (mostly  student loans) amounting to sixty five
     All of this happened before the  conference even began. Randy was aware
of it  only because  Charlene had roped him into providing computer  support
for the conference, which meant setting up a  Web site and e mail access for
the attendees. When all of this hit the news, e mail began to flood in,  and
quickly jammed up  all of the lines and filled  up  all of the disk capacity
that Randy had spent the last month setting up.
     Conferees began to arrive. A  lot of them seemed to  be sleeping in the
house where Randy and Charlene had been living together  for seven years. It
was a big old Victorian house and there was plenty of room. They stumbled in
from Heidelberg and Paris and Berkeley and Boston, then sat around Randy and
Charlene's kitchen  table drinking coffee and talking  at great length about
the Spectacle. Randy inferred that the Spectacle meant the poster furor, but
as they went on and on about it, he sensed that they were using the word not
in a conventional sense but as part of some academic jargon; that it carried
a heavy load of shadings and connotations to them, none of which Randy would
ever understand unless he became one of them.
     To  Charlene,  and to  all of the people attending War as Text, it  was
self evident that the  veteran who filed the lawsuit was the very worst kind
of human  being just the sort they had gathered together to debunk, burn  in
effigy, and  sweep into the  ash bin  of posthistorical discourse. Randy had
spent a  lot of  time around these people, and thought he'd  gotten used  to
them, but during  those days he had a headache all the  time, from clenching
his teeth, and  he  kept jumping  to  his  feet  in the  middle  of meals or
conversations  and  going out for solitary  walks. This was  partly to  keep
himself  from  saying something undiplomatic, and  partly as a childish  but
fruitless tactic to get the attention he craved from Charlene.
     He knew the whole poster saga was going to be a disaster from early on.
He kept warning Charlene and  the others. They listened  coolly, clinically,
as if Randy were a test subject on the wrong side of a one way mirror.


     Randy forces himself to stay awake long enough for it to get dark. Then
he lies in bed for a  few hours trying to sleep.  The container port is just
north of the hotel,  and all night long, Rizal Boulevard,  along the base of
the old Spanish  wall, is jammed from one end to the  other  with  container
carrying semis. The whole city is a cauldron  of internal combustion. Manila
seems to have  more  pistons  and exhaust pipes  than the  rest of the world
combined. Even at two in the  morning the hotel's  seemingly unshakable mass
hums  and rattles from the seismic energy pouring from all of  those motors.
The noise detonates car alarms down in  the hotel's  lot.  The  noise of one
alarm triggers others, and so on. It is not the noise that keeps Randy awake
so much  as the  insane stupidity of this chain  reaction. It is  an  object
lesson:  the kind of  nightmarish,  snowballing  technological fuck  up that
keeps hackers awake at night even when they can't hear the results.
     He  paws open a Heineken from his  minibar and stands  in front  of the
window, looking. Many of the  trucks are adorned with brilliant displays  of
multicolored lights not quite as  flashy  as those of  the few jeepneys that
scurry and jostle  among them. Seeing  so many people awake and working puts
sleep out of the question.
     He  is  too  jet lagged  to  accomplish  anything that  requires actual
thought but there is one important job he can do, which requires no thinking
whatsoever. He starts up his laptop again. Seeming to levitate in the center
of his dark room,  the  screen is a perfect rectangle of  light the color of
diluted  milk, of a Nordic  dawn. This light originates in small fluorescent
tubes imprisoned in  the polycarbonate coffin of his computer's  display. It
can only escape through a pane  of  glass,  facing Randy,  which is entirely
covered by small transistors arranged in a grid, which  let photons through,
or don't, or let through only those of a particular wavelength, cracking the
pale light into colors. By turning those transistors on and off according to
some  systematic  plan,  meaning is  conveyed  to  Randy Waterhouse.  A good
filmmaker could  convey a whole story  to Randy by seizing control of  those
transistors for a couple of hours.
     Unfortunately, there  are a lot more  laptop  computers floating around
than there are  filmmakers worth paying  attention  to.  The transistors are
almost  never  put  into  the  hands of  human beings.  They are controlled,
instead,  by software. Randy  used  to be fascinated by software, but now he
isn't. It's hard enough to find human beings who are interesting.
     The pyramid  and the  eyeball appear.  Randy spends so much  time using
Ordo now that he has his machine boot it up automatically.
     Nowadays the  laptop  has  only  one  function for Randy: he uses it to
communicate  with  other  people,  through e mail. When he communicates with
Avi, he has to use Ordo, which is a tool for taking his ideas and converting
them  into  streams  of  bits  that are  almost indistinguishable from white
noise, so that they can be sent to Avi in privacy. In exchange,  it receives
noise from Avi and converts it into Avi's thoughts. At the  moment, Epiphyte
has no assets other than information it is an idea, with some facts and data
to  back  it  up.  This  makes  it eminently  stealable.  So  encryption  is
definitely a  good idea.  The  question  is:  how much  paranoia  is  really
     Avi sent him encrypted e mail:
     When you get to Manila t would like you to generate a 4O96 bit key pair
and keep it  on a floppy disk that you carry on your person at all times. Do
not keep it on your hard disk. Anyone could break into your hotel room while
you're out and steal that key.
     Now, Randy pulls down a menu and picks an item labeled: "New key. . ."
     A  box  pops up giving him several KEY  LENGTH options: 768 bits, 1024,
1536, 2048,  3072,  or  Custom.  Randy picks  the  latter  option and  then,
wearily, types in 4096.
     Even  a 768 bit key requires vast resources to break. Add  one bit,  to
make it  769 bits long, and the number of possible keys doubles, the problem
becomes much more difficult. A 770 bit key is that much more difficult  yet,
and  so  on.  By  using  768  bit  keys,  Randy and  Avi  could  keep  their
communications secret from nearly every entity in the world for at least the
next  several years. A  1024  bit  key would be  vastly, astronomically more
difficult to break.
     Some people go so far as to use keys 2048 or  even 3072 bits in length.
These will stop the  very best  codebreakers on the face  of  the  earth for
astronomical   periods  of  time,  barring  the  invention  of  otherworldly
technologies such as quantum computers. Most encryption  software even stuff
written by extremely security  conscious  cryptography  experts  can't  even
handle  keys  larger  than that.  But Avi  insists on using  Ordo, generally
considered the best encryption software in the world,  because it can handle
keys of unlimited length as long as you don't  mind waiting for it to crunch
all the numbers.
     Randy begins typing.  He is not bothering to  look at the screen; he is
staring  out  the window at the lights on the trucks and the jeepneys. He is
only using one hand, just flailing away loosely at the keyboard.
     Inside Randy's computer is a precise clock.  Whenever he strikes a key,
Ordo uses that clock  to record the current  time, down  to microseconds. He
hits a key at 03:03:56.935788 and he hits another one at 03:05:57.290664, or
about .354876 seconds later. Another  .372307 seconds later, he hits another
one. Ordo keeps track  of  all of  these intervals  and  discards  the  more
significant digits (in this example the .35 and the .37) because these parts
will tend to be similar from one event to the next.
     Ordo  wants randomness. It only wants the least significant digits say,
the 76 and the 07 at the very ends of these numbers. It wants a whole lot of
random  numbers,  and  it wants them to be very, very  random. It  is taking
somewhat random  numbers and  feeding them  through hash functions that make
them  even more random. It is running statistical routines on the results to
make  sure that they contain no hidden patterns. It has breathtakingly  high
standards for randomness, and it will not stop asking Randy to  whack on the
keyboard until those standards are met.
     The longer the key you are trying to generate,  the longer  this takes.
Randy is trying to generate one that  is  ridiculously  long. He has pointed
out to Avi, in an encrypted e mail message, that if every particle of matter
in the universe could be used to construct one single cosmic  supercomputer,
and this computer was put to work trying to break a 4096 bit encryption key,
it would take longer than the lifespan of the universe.
     "Using  today's technology,"  Avi  shot back. "that is  true.  But what
about  quantum  computers?  And  what  if new  mathematical  techniques  are
developed that can simplify the factoring of large numbers?"
     "How long do you want these messages to remain secret?" Randy asked, in
his  last  message  before leaving San  Francisco.  "Five years? Ten  years?
Twenty five years?"
     After he  got  to  the  hotel this afternoon, Randy decrypted  and read
Avi's answer. It is still hanging in front  of his eyes, like the afterimage
of a strobe:
     I want them to remain secret for as long as men are capable of evil.
     The  computer finally beeps.  Randy rests his tired hand. Ordo politely
warns  him that it  may  be busy for a while, and then goes  to work. It  is
searching the cosmos of pure numbers, looking for two big primes that can be
multiplied by each other to produce a number 4096 bits long.
     If you  want your secrets  to remain secret past the end  of  your life
expectancy,  then,  in order  to choose  a  key  length,  you have  to  be a
futurist. You have to anticipate how much faster  computers will get  during
this  time. You must also  be  a student of politics. Because if  the entire
world were to become a  police  state obsessed with  recovering old secrets,
then  vast  resources  might be  thrown at  the problem of  factoring  large
composite numbers.
     So  the length of the key that you use is,  in and of itself, a code of
sorts. A knowledgeable government eavesdropper, noting Randy's and Avi's use
of a 4096 bit key, will conclude one of the following:
     – Avi doesn't know what he's talking about. This can be ruled out
with a bit of research into his past accomplishments. Or,
     – Avi  is clinically paranoid. This can  also be ruled  out  with
some research. Or,
     –  Avi  is  extremely optimistic about the future development  of
computer technology,  or pessimistic about the  political climate,  or both.
     – Avi  has a planning horizon  that  extends over  a period of at
least a century.
     Randy paces  around his room  while his computer  soars through  number
space. The shipping containers on the backs of those trucks bear exactly the
same logos as the ones that used to fill the streets of South Seattle when a
ship was  unloading. To Randy this is oddly satisfying, as if by making this
crazy  lunge  across  the Pacific,  he  has brought  some kind of  antipodal
symmetry to his life. He has gone from the place  where things  are consumed
to where they are produced, from a  land where onanism has been enshrined at
the  highest  levels  of   the  society  to  one  where  cars  have  "NO  to
contraception!"  stickers in their windows. It feels bizarrely right. He has
not felt this  way since  Avi  and  he founded their  first doomed  business
venture twelve years ago.


     Randy grew  up in a college town in eastern Washington State, graduated
from the University of Washington  in Seattle, and  landed a Clerk Typist II
job at the library there specifically the Interlibrary Loan Department where
his  job  was  to process  incoming  loan requests mailed  in  from  smaller
libraries all over the region and, conversely, to mail out requests to other
libraries. If nine year old Randy Waterhouse had been able to  look into the
future and see  himself in this career, he  would have been delighted beyond
measure: the primary tool of the Interlibrary Loan Department was the Staple
Remover.  Young Randy  had seen one  of  these devices  in the hands of  his
fourth  grade  teacher  and  been  enthralled  by  its  cunning  and  deadly
appearance, so like the  jaws of some  futuristic  robot dragon.  He had, in
fact,  gone out of his way to staple  things incorrectly  just  so  he could
prevail on his teacher  to unstaple them, giving him another glimpse of  the
blood chilling mandibles in action. He had gone so  far as to steal a staple
remover from  an untended desk at church and then  incorporate  it  into  an
Erector set robot hunter killer device with which  he terrorized much of the
neighborhood; its pit viper yawn separated many a cheap plastic toy from its
parts  and accessories before  the  theft was  discovered and Randy  made an
example of before  God  and man. Now, in the Interlibrary Loan office, Randy
had not just one  but several staple removers  in  his desk  drawer and  was
actually obligated to use them for an hour or two a day.
     Since the UW library was well endowed, its patrons didn't request books
from other  libraries unless they had been stolen from their own or were, in
some  way,   peculiar.  The  ILL  office  (as   Randy   and   his  coworkers
affectionately  called it) had its  regulars  people who had a  whole lot of
peculiar books on their wish lists. These people tended to be either tedious
or scary or both.  Randy  always ended up  dealing with the "both" subgroup,
because Randy was the  only Clerk Typist in the office who was  not a lifer.
It  seemed clear that  Randy, with  his  astronomy degree and his  extensive
knowledge of computers, would one day move on, whereas his coworkers did not
harbor  further  ambitions.  His larger sphere of  interests,  his  somewhat
broader  concept of normalcy, was useful when certain patrons  came into the
     By the standards of many, Randy was himself a tedious, scary,  obsessed
character. He  was  not merely obsessed  with  science but also with fantasy
role playing games. The only way he  could tolerate working at such a stupid
job for a couple of years was that his off time was completely occupied with
enacting fantasy  scenarios  of a depth and complexity that exercised all of
the cranial circuitry  that was so  conspicuously  going to waste in the ILL
office. He was part of a group that  would meet  every Friday night and play
until sometime on Sunday. The  other stalwarts in the group  were a computer
science/music double major  named Chester, and a  history grad student named
     When a new master's degree candidate  named Andrew Loeb walked into the
ILL office one day, with a certain glint in his eye,  and produced  a  three
inch thick  stack  of  precisely typed  request forms from  his  shitty  old
knapsack, he was  recognized  immediately as being of a particular type, and
shunted in the direction of Randy  Waterhouse.  It was an instant meeting of
minds, though Randy did not fully realize this until the books that Loeb had
requested began to arrive on the trolley from the mail room.
     Andy  Loeb's  project was to figure out the energy budgets of the local
Indian tribes. A human body has to expend a certain amount of energy just to
keep  breathing and  to maintain  its body temperature. This figure goes  up
when it gets cold or when the  body in question is doing work.  The only way
to  obtain that  energy is by  eating food. Some foods have a higher  energy
content than others.  For example, trout is highly nutritious but  so low in
fat  and carbohydrates that you can starve to death eating  it three times a
day. Other foods might  have lots  of energy, but might require so much work
to obtain and  prepare that eating  them would be a losing proposition,  BTU
wise. Andy  Loeb  was trying to figure  out what foods had historically been
eaten by certain Northwest Indian tribes, how  much energy  they expended to
get these  foods and how much they obtained  by eating them. He wanted to do
this calculation for coastal Indians like the Salish (who had easy access to
seafood) and for  inland ones  like the Cayuse (who didn't) as  part  of  an
extremely convoluted  plan to prove  some sort  of  point about the relative
standards  of living of these tribes  and how this affected  their  cultural
development  (coastal tribes  made lots  of fantastically  detailed  art and
inland ones occasionally scratched stick figures on rocks).
     To Andrew  Loeb it was an exercise in meta historical  scholarship.  To
Randy Waterhouse,  it sounded like  the beginnings of  a  pretty cool  game.
Strangle a  muskrat and you get 136 Energy Points. Lose the muskrat and your
core temp drops another degree.
     Andy was nothing if not methodical and so he had simply looked up every
book that had ever been written on  such topics, and every book mentioned in
those  books'  bibliographies,  yea,  even  unto four or  five  generations;
checked out all of  them that  were available  locally; and ordered the rest
from ILL. All of the latter passed across Randy's desk. Randy read some  and
skimmed all. He got to learn about how much blubber the Arctic explorers had
to  eat in  order  to  keep from  starving  to  death.  He perused  detailed
specifications for Army C rations. After a while, he actually began sneaking
into the photocopy room and making copies of key data.
     In order to run a realistic fantasy role playing game, you  had to keep
track of how  much food  the imaginary characters were getting  and how much
trouble was involved  in  getting  it.  Characters passing  across  the Gobi
desert in November of  the year  5000 B.C.  would  have  to spend  more time
worrying about  food  than,  say,  ones who  were  traveling across  central
Illinois in 1950.
     Randy was  hardly  the first game designer to notice this. There were a
few  incredibly stupid games in which  you  didn't have to think about food,
but  Randy  and  his friends disdained  them. In  all  of the games  that he
participated in, or that he himself designed, you had to devote  a realistic
amount of effort to getting food for your character. But it  was not easy to
determine what  was  realistic.  Like  most designers,  Randy got  over  the
problem by slapping  together a few rudimentary equations that he  basically
just  pulled out of  thin air. But in the books, articles, and dissertations
that Andrew Loeb was borrowing through  ILL, he  found exactly  the raw data
that  a  mathematically  inclined  person  would  need  to  come  up  with a
sophisticated rules system based on scientific fact.
     Simulating all of the  physical processes going  on in each character's
body  was out  of  the  question, especially in a  game where  you  might be
dealing  with  armies of a  hundred  thousand men. Even a  crude simulation,
tracking only a  few  variables and using simple equations, would involve  a
nightmarish amount of  paperwork if you  did it all by hand. But all of this
was happening in the mid 1980s, when personal computers had become cheap and
ubiquitous. A computer could automatically track a  large database  and tell
you whether each character was well fed or starving. There was no reason not
to do it on a computer.
     Unless,  like  Randy  Waterhouse, you  had such a shitty job  that  you
couldn't afford a computer.
     Of course, there's a way to dodge any problem.  The university had lots
of computers. If Randy could  get an account on one of them,  he could write
his program there and run it for free.
     Unfortunately,  accounts  were only  available to  students or  faculty
members, and Randy was neither.
     Fortunately, he  started dating a grad  student named Charlene at  just
about this time.
     How the hell did a generally keg shaped guy, a  hard scientist, working
a dead  end  Clerk  Typist  job, and  spending all his  spare  time  in  the
consummately  nerdy pastime of  fantasy  role playing  games,  end  up in  a
relationship with a slender and not  unattractive young liberal arts student
who  spent her spare time sea kayaking and  going to foreign films?  It must
have been one of  those opposites  attract kind  of deals,  a  complementary
relationship.  They met,  naturally,  in  the  ILL office,  where the highly
intelligent but steady and  soothing Randy helped the highly intelligent but
scattered  and flighty Charlene  organize a messy  heap of loan requests. He
should have asked  her out then and there, but he  was shy. Second and third
opportunities came  along when the books  she'd requested began to filter up
from the mailroom, and  finally he asked her out and they went to see a film
together.  Both of them  turned  out to be not just willing  but  eager, and
possibly even desperate. Before they knew it, Randy had given Charlene a key
to  his  apartment, and Charlene  had given Randy the password  to  her free
university computer account, and everything was just delightful.
     The university computer system was better than no computer at all.  But
Randy  was  humiliated. Like every  other  high powered  academic  computing
network,  this one  was  based  on  an industrial  strength operating system
called UNIX, which had a learning curve  like the Matterhorn, and lacked the
cuddly  and  stylish features of  the personal computers  then  coming  into
vogue. Randy  had used it quite  a bit as an undergraduate and knew his  way
around. Even so, learning how to write good code on the thing required a lot
of  time.  His life  had changed when Charlene had  come  along,  and now it
changed  more: he dropped  out  of the fantasy  role  playing  game  circuit
altogether,  stopped  going   to   meetings  of  the  Society  for  Creative
Anachronism, and began to spend all of his free time either with Charlene or
in front of a computer terminal. All in all, this was probably a change  for
the better.  With  Charlene, he did things he wouldn't  have done otherwise,
like getting exercise, or going to see  live music. And at the computer,  he
was  learning  new skills,  and he  was  creating  something.  It  might  be
something completely useless, but at least he was creating.
     He spent a lot of time talking to Andrew Loeb, who  actually  went  out
and did the stuff he was writing programs for; he'd disappear for a few days
and come back  all  wobbly  and haggard, with  fish  scales  caught  in  his
whiskers or dried animal blood under his fingernails. He'd ram down a couple
of Big Macs, sleep for twenty four hours, then meet Randy in a bar (Charlene
wasn't comfortable with  having him  in the house) and talk learnedly of the
difficulties of day to day life, aboriginal style. They argued about whether
aborigines would eat the  more  disgusting parts of certain animals or throw
them  away. Andrew  voted for  yes. Randy  disagreed just because  they were
primitive didn't mean they couldn't have taste. Andrew accused him  of being
a romantic. Finally, to settle it, they went up into the mountains together,
armed with nothing but knives and Andrew's collection of exquisitely crafted
vermin snares. By the third  night, Randy found  himself  seriously thinking
about eating some insects. "Q.E.D.," Andrew said.
     Anyway, Randy finished  his software after a year and a half. It was  a
success; Chester and  Avi  liked it. Randy was moderately  pleased at having
built something so complicated that actually worked, but he bad no illusions
about  its being good for anything. He  was sort  of  embarrassed  at having
wasted so much time and mental energy on the project. But he knew that if he
hadn't  been  writing code, he'd have spent  the same amount of time playing
games or  going to  Society for  Creative  Anachronism meetings in  medieval
drag, so it all zeroed out  in  the  end.  Spending the time in front of the
computer was arguably  better, because it had honed his  programming skills,
which had been pretty sharp to  begin with. On the other hand, he'd  done it
all on the  UNIX system, which was for scientists and engineers not a  savvy
move in an age when all the money was in personal computers.
     Chester and  Randy had nicknamed Avi "Avid," be cause he really, really
liked fantasy games. Avi had always claimed  that he played them as a way of
understanding what it was really like to live in ancient times, and he was a
maniac about historical authenticity. That was okay; they all had half assed
excuses, and Avi's historical acumen frequently came in handy.
     Not long after this, Avi graduated and disappeared, and popped up a few
months  later  in  Minneapolis,  where  he  had gotten a job  with  a  major
publisher  of  fantasy role playing  games. He offered  to buy Randy's  game
software for the astonishingly large sum of $1000 plus a small cut of future
profits. Randy accepted the offer in its general outlines, asked Avi to send
him a contract, then went out and found Andrew boiling some fish guts  in  a
birchbark kettle atop a Weber  grill  on the  roof of the apartment building
where he lived. He wanted to give Andrew the good news, and to cut him in on
the proceeds. What ensued was a  really unpleasant conversation, standing up
there in a pelting, spitting, wind blown rain.
     To begin with, Andrew took this deal far more seriously than Randy did.
Randy saw it as a windfall, a lark.  Andrew, who  was the  son  of a lawyer,
treated it as if  it  were a major corporate merger, and  asked many tedious
and niggling questions about the contract, which did not exist yet and which
would probably  cover  a  single  piece  of  paper when it did. Randy didn't
realize it at  the time, but by asking so many questions for which Randy had
no  answers, Andrew  was, in  effect, arrogating  to  himself  the  role  of
Business Manager.  He  was  implicitly forming  a business  partnership with
Randy that did not, in fact, exist.
     Furthermore, Andrew didn't have the first notion of how much  time  and
effort Randy had  put  into  writing the code. Or (as Randy  was to  realize
later)  maybe  be did. In any case, Andrew assumed from  the get go  that he
would  share a  fifty  fifty  split  with Randy,  which was  wildly  out  of
proportion to the work he'd actually done on the project. Basically,  Andrew
acted as if  all of the work  he'd  ever  done  on the subject of aboriginal
dining habits was a part of this undertaking, and that it entitled him to an
equal split.
     By the time Randy  extricated himself from this conversation,  his mind
was reeling. He  had  gone in with one view  of  reality  and been radically
challenged by another one  that was clearly preposterous;  but after an hour
of  Andrew's  browbeating he was beginning  to doubt  himself. After two  or
three sleepless nights, he decided to call the whole thing off. A paltry few
hundred dollars wasn't worth all of this agony.
     But  Andrew (who was,  by  now,  represented  by  an associate  of  his
father's  Santa  Barbara  law firm) vehemently  objected. He and  Randy had,
according to his lawyer,  jointly created something that had economic value,
and a failure on  Randy's part to sell it at market value amounted to taking
money  out of Andrew's pocket. It  had  become  an  unbelievable  Kafkaesque
nightmare,  and  Randy could only withdraw to a corner table at his favorite
pub, drink pints  of stout (frequently in the company of Chester)  and watch
this fantastic psychodrama  unfold.  He had, he now realized, blundered into
some serious  domestic  weirdness involving Andrew's family.  It  turned out
that Andrew's parents  were divorced and, long ago, had fought savagely over
custody of  him, their only child. Mom had turned into a hippie and joined a
religious cult in Oregon and taken Andrew with her. It was rumored that this
cult engaged in  sexual  abuse of children. Dad had hired private  dicks  to
kidnap  Andrew back  and  then showered  him  with  material possessions  to
demonstrate  his superior  love. There  had  followed  an interminable legal
battle  in  which  Dad  had hired some  rather  fringey  psychotherapists to
hypnotize Andrew and get him to dredge up repressed memories of  unspeakable
and improbable horrors.
     This was  just the executive summary of  a weird life that  Randy  only
learned  about in bits and pieces  as  the years went  on.  Later, he was to
decide that Andrew's life  had been fractally weird. That is, you could take
any  small  piece of it  and examine it in detail and it, in and  of itself,
would turn out to be just as complicated and weird as the whole thing in its
     Anyway Randy had  blundered into this life and become  enveloped in the
weirdness.  One  of  the  young eager  beavers in Andrew's  dad's  law  firm
decided, as  a  preemptive move, to obtain copies of all of Randy's computer
files, which were still stored  on the UW computer system.  Needless to say,
he went about  it  in a heavy  handed way,  and when  the university's legal
department  began to receive  his sullen letters, it responded  by informing
both  Andrew's  lawyer, and  Randy, that anyone  who  used  the university's
computer  system to create  a  commercial  product had to split the proceeds
with the  university. So now Randy was getting ominous letters  from not one
but two  groups  of  deadly lawyers. Andrew then threatened to  sue him  for
having made this blunder, which had halved the value of Andrew's share!
     In the end, just to cut his losses and get out  of  it clean, Randy had
to hire a lawyer of his own. The final cost to him was a hair more than five
thousand  dollars.  The software was  never sold to anyone, and indeed could
not have been; it was so legally encumbered by that point that it would have
been like trying to sell someone a rusty Volkswagen that had been dismantled
and its parts hidden in attack dog kennels all over the world.
     It  was the only time  in his  life  when  he  had  ever  thought about
suicide. He did not think about it very hard, or very seriously,  but he did
think about it.
     When  it was all over, Avi sent him  a  handwritten  letter saying,  "I
enjoyed  doing  business  with  you  and  look  forward  to  continuing  our
relationship  both  as friends and, should opportunities arise, as  creative

     Chapter 5 INDIGO

     Lawrence Pritchard  Waterhouse  and the  rest of the band are up on the
deck of the Nevada one morning, playing the national anthem and watching the
Stars  and Stripes  ratchet up  the  mast,  when  they are startled to  find
themselves in the  midst of one  hundred and ninety  airplanes of unfamiliar
design. Some of them are down low, traveling horizontally, and others are up
high, plunging nearly straight down. The latter are  going so fast that they
appear  to  be  falling apart; little bits are dropping  off of them. It  is
terrible to see  some  training  exercise gone miserably awry. But they pull
out of their suicidal trajectories  in plenty  of time.  The bits  that have
fallen  off  of  them plunge  smoothly  and purposefully, not  tumbling  and
fluttering  as chunks of debris  would. They  are  coming down  all over the
place. Perversely,  they  all seem to be headed for the berthed ships. It is
incredibly dangerous they might hit someone! Lawrence is outraged.
     There is a short lived phenomenon taking place in one of the ships down
the  line. Lawrence  turns to look at it. This is  the first real  explosion
he's ever seen and so it takes him a long  time to recognize  it as such. He
can play the very hardest glockenspiel parts  with his eyes closed, and  The
Star Spangled Banner is much easier to ding than to sing.
     His scanning eyes fasten, not on the source  of the explosion, but on a
couple of  airplanes that  are headed right toward them, skimming just above
the water. Each drops a long skinny  egg and then  their railplanes  visibly
move and  they angle  upwards  and  pass  overhead. The  rising  sun  shines
directly through  the glass of their canopies. Lawrence is able to look into
the eyes of the pilot of one of  the planes. He notes  that it appears to be
some sort of Asian gentleman.
     This  is  an incredibly realistic training exercise  even  down to  the
point of using  ethnically correct pilots, and detonating fake explosives on
the  ships. Lawrence heartily approves. Things have just been too lax around
this place.
     A tremendous shock comes up through the  deck of  the ship,  making his
feet and legs feel as if  he had  just  jumped off a ten foot precipice onto
solid concrete. But he's just standing there flatfooted. It  makes  no sense
at all.
     The band has finished playing the national anthem and  is looking about
at the spectacle. Sirens  and horns are speaking up all over the place, from
the  Nevada, from the Arizona in  the next  berth,  from  buildings onshore.
Lawrence doesn't  see any  antiaircraft  fire  going  up,  doesn't  see  any
familiar  planes  in  the  air. The  explosions just keep  coming.  Lawrence
wanders over to the rail and stares across a few yards of open water towards
the Arizona.

     Another one of those plunging airplanes drops  a projectile that shoots
straight down onto  Arizona's  deck but then,  strangely, vanishes. Lawrence
blinks and  sees that it has left a neat bomb shaped  hole in the deck, just
like  a  panicky Warner  Brothers  cartoon character passing at  high  speed
through a planar structure such as  a wall  or ceiling.  Fire jets from that
hole  for  about   a   microsecond   before   the  whole   deck  bulges  up,
disintegrating,  and turns into  a  burgeoning  globe of fire and blackness.
Waterhouse is vaguely aware of a lot of stuff coming at him really fast.  It
is so big that he feels more  like he is falling into it.  He freezes up. It
goes by him, over him, and  through him. A terrible noise pierces his skull,
a chord  randomly struck, discordant  but not without some  kind of deranged
harmony.  Musical  qualities aside, it  is  so goddamned loud that it almost
kills him. He claps his hands over his ears.
     Still the noise is there, like red hot knitting needles through the ear
drums. Hell's bells. He spins away  from it, but it follows him. He has this
big thick  strap around his  neck,  sewn  together  at groin level where  it
supports  a cup.  Thrust  into  the  cup  is  the  central  support  of  his
glockenspiel, which stands in front of him like a  lyre shaped  breastplate,
huge fluffy tassels dangling gaily from the upper corners. Oddly, one of the
tassels  is  burning.  That   isn't  the  only  thing  now  wrong  with  the
glockenspiel,  but  he  can't  quite make it out  because  his  vision keeps
getting obscured by something that must be wiped away every few moments. All
he  knows is  that  the glockenspiel has eaten a huge quantum of pure energy
and  been kicked up to some  incredibly high state never before  achieved by
such an instrument; it is a burning, glowing,  shrieking, ringing, radiating
monster, a comet, an archangel, a tree of flaming magnesium, strapped to his
body, standing on his groin. The  energy  is transmitted  down  its humming,
buzzing central axis, through the cup, and into his genitals, which would be
tumescing in other circumstances.
     Lawrence  spends  some  time  wandering  aimlessly  around  the   deck.
Eventually he has to help open  a hatch for  some men, and  then he realizes
that his  hands  are still clapped over his  ears, and have been for a  long
time except for when he was wiping stuff out of his eyes. When he takes them
off, the ringing has  stopped,  and he no  longer  hears  airplanes.  He was
thinking that he wanted to  go belowdecks, because the bad things are coming
from the sky and he would like to get some big heavy permanent seeming stuff
between  him and it, but a  lot of sailors are taking  the opposite view. He
hears that they have been hit by one and maybe two of  something that rhymes
with "torpedoes,"  and  that they are  trying to raise  steam. Officers  and
noncoms,  black  and  red with smoke  and  blood,  keep deputizing  him  for
different,  extremely  urgent  tasks  that he doesn't quite understand,  not
least because he keeps putting his hands over his ears.
     Probably  half  an hour  goes  by  before he  hits  upon  the  idea  of
discarding his  glockenspiel, which is, after  all, just getting in the way.
It was issued to him by the Navy with any number of stern warnings about the
consequences of misusing it.  Lawrence is conscientious about  this kind  of
thing, dating back to  when  he was first  given organ playing privileges in
West Point, Virginia. But at this point, for the first time in his life,  as
he stands there watching  the Arizona burn and sink, he just says to himself
Well, to heck with it! He takes that glockenspiel out of its socket and  has
one last look at  it, it is the last time in  his life he will ever touch  a
glockenspiel.  There  is  no point  in saving  it now anyway,  he  realizes;
several  of the bars have been bent. He flips it around and  discovers  that
chunks of blackened, distorted metal have been impact welded onto several of
the bars. Really throwing caution  to the  winds now, he flings it overboard
in the general direction of the Arizona, a  military lyre of burnished steel
that sings a thousand men to  their  resting places  on  the bottom  of  the
     As  it  vanishes into  a  patch  of  burning  oil, the  second  wave of
attacking airplanes  arrives.  The Navy's antiaircraft guns finally  open up
and begin to  rain shells  down into the surrounding  community and blow  up
occupied  buildings. He can see  human  shaped flames running around in  the
streets, pursued by people with blankets.
     The rest of  the day is spent, by Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse and the
rest  of the  Navy,  grappling  with  the  fact  that many  two  dimensional
structures  on this and other  ships, which were put into  place  to prevent
various fluids from commingling (e.g. fuel and air) have holes in  them, and
not only that but a  lot of shit  is on fire  too and things are more than a
little smoky. Certain objects that are supposed to (a) remain horizontal and
(b) support heavy things have ceased to do either.
     Nevada's engineering  section manages to  raise  steam in a  couple  of
boilers and the captain tries to get the  ship out of the harbor. As soon as
she gets underway, she comes  under concerted attack, mostly by dive bombers
who are eager  to sink her in  the channel and  block the harbor altogether.
Eventually,  the  captain  runs her  aground  rather  than  see this happen.
Unfortunately, what  Nevada  has in common with most other  naval vessels is
that she is  not really engineered to  work from a stationary  position, and
consequently she is hit three more times by dive bombers. So it is  a pretty
exciting morning overall. As a member of the band who does not even have his
instrument any  more,  Lawrence's duties  are  quite  poorly defined, and he
spends  more time than he should watching the airplanes and the  explosions.
He  has gone back to his earlier  train of thought regarding  societies  and
their efforts to outdo each  other. It  is very clear to him, as  wave after
wave of Nipponese dive bombers hurl themselves, with calligraphic precision,
at the ship he is standing on,  and as the cream of his society's navy burns
and explodes and sinks, putting up virtually no resistance, that his society
is going to have to rethink a thing or two.


     At some  point he burns  his hand  on something. It  is his right hand,
which is preferable  he is left  handed. Also, he becomes more clearly aware
that a portion of Arizona  has tried to take his  scalp off. These are minor
injuries by Pearl  Harbor standards  and  he  does  not  stay  long  in  the
hospital.  The doctor warns him that the skin on his hand might contract and
limit his  fingers' range of motion. As  soon as he  can withstand the pain,
Lawrence begins to play Bach's Art of Fugue  in his lap whenever  he  is not
otherwise occupied.  Most of those tunes start out  simple;  you can  easily
picture old Johann Sebastian sitting there on the bench on a cold morning in
Leipzig, one or two blockflöte stops yanked out, left hand in his lap, a fat
choirboy  or two  over  in  the corner heaving  away on  the bellows,  faint
gasping noises coming from all the leaks  in  the works, and Johann's  right
hand  wandering  aimlessly  across  the forbidding  simplicity  of the Great
manual,  stroking those cracked and yellowed  elephant  tusks, searching for
some  melody  he  hadn't already  invented. That is good stuff  for Lawrence
right now,  and  so he  makes his right hand go through the same  motions as
Johann's, even though it  is a gauze wrapped hand and he is using  an upside
down dinner tray  as a  substitute for the keyboard, and he  has to  hum the
music under his breath. When he really gets  into  it, his feet skid  around
and  piston  under  the sheets, playing imaginary  pedals, and his neighbors
     He is out of the hospital in a  few days, just in time  for him and the
rest of Nevada's  band  to  begin their  new, wartime  assignment. This  was
evidently  something of  a poser  for  the  Navy's  manpower experts.  These
musicians  were  (from a killing Nips  point of view) completely useless  to
begin with. As of  7 December, they no longer have  even a functioning  ship
and most of them have lost their clarinets.
     Still, it isn't all about loading shells and pulling triggers. No large
organization  can kill Nips in  any kind  of systematic way without  doing a
nearly unbelievable amount  of typing and filing.  It is logical  to suppose
that  men who can play the clarinet will not botch  that kind  of  work  any
worse than anyone else.  And so Waterhouse  and his bandmates receive orders
assigning  them to  what  would appear to  be one  of the typing and  filing
branches of the Navy.
     This  is located in  a building, not a ship. There are quite a few Navy
people who  sneer at the whole idea  of working in a  building, and Lawrence
and some of the other recent recruits, eager to fit in, have gotten into the
habit of copping the same attitude. But now that they have seen what happens
to a ship when you detonate hundreds of pounds of high explosive on, in, and
around it, Waterhouse and many, others  are reassessing their feelings about
working in buildings. They report to their new post with high morale.
     Their  new  commanding  officer is  not  so cheerful,  and his feelings
appear to be  shared  by everyone in  the entire section.  The musicians are
greeted without being welcomed and saluted without being honored. The people
who  have  been working  in this  building  far from being overawed by their
status as guys  who  not only worked on  an  actual ship  until recently but
furthermore have been  very  close to things  that  were exploding, burning,
etc., and not  as the  result  of routine lapses in judgment but because bad
men deliberately made it  happen do not seem to feel that Lawrence  and  his
bandmates deserve to be entrusted with this new work,  whatever the hell  it
     Glumly,   almost   despairingly,  the   commanding  officer   and   his
subordinates get the  musicians squared away. Even if they don't have enough
desks  to  go around, each man  can at  least  have  a chair  at a  table or
counter.  Some ingenuity  is displayed in  finding  places for  all the  new
arrivals. It is clear that  these people are trying  their best at what they
consider to be a hopeless task.
     Then there is some  talk about secrecy. A great deal  of talk about it.
They run through  drills intended to test their ability to throw things away
properly. This goes  on for a long time and the longer it continues, without
an explanation as to why, the more mysterious it becomes. The musicians, who
were at first a little put out by their chilly reception, start to speculate
amongst  themselves  as to  what  kind  of  an operation  they  have  gotten
themselves into now.
     Finally,  one morning, the musicians  are assembled  in a  classroom in
front of the cleanest chalkboard Waterhouse has ever seen. The last few days
have imbued him with just  enough paranoia that he suspects it is that clean
for a reason erasing chalkboards is not to be taken lightly during wartime.
     They are  seated in  little chairs with desks  attached to  them, desks
designed for right handers. Lawrence puts his notepad in his lap, then rests
his bandaged right hand  on the desk and  begins to play a ditty from Art of
Fugue, grimacing and even grunting with  pain as  his  burned skin stretches
and slides over his knuckles.
     Someone chucks him on the shoulder. He opens his eyes to see that he is
the only  person  in  the room sitting  down; an officer  is on the deck. He
stands up and his weak leg  nearly buckles. When  he  finally  gets  himself
fully to his feet,  he sees  that the officer (if he even is  an officer) is
out of uniform.  Way out of  uniform.  He's wearing a bathrobe and smoking a
pipe. The bathrobe is extraordinarily worn,  and not in the sense of, say, a
hospital or hotel bathrobe that gets laundered frequently. This thing hasn't
been laundered  in a long time, but boy has it seen some use. The elbows are
worn out and the bottom of the right  sleeve  is ashy grey and slippery with
graphite from being dragged  back  and forth,  tens of  thousands  of times,
across sheets of paper dense with number two pencil work. The terrycloth has
a  dandruffy  appearance, but  it has nothing  to do with exfoliation of the
scalp; these  flakes are way too  big,  and too  geometric:  rectangles  and
circular  dots of  oaktag, punched out of cards  and tape respectively.  The
pipe went out a  long time  ago and  the officer (or whatever he  is) is not
even pretending to worry about getting it  relit. It is  there just to  give
him something to bite  down on,  which he does as vigorously  as a civil war
infantryman having a leg sawed off.
     Some other fellow one who actually bothered to  shave, shower,  and put
on a uniform introduces bathrobe man as Commander Shane spelled s c h o e n,
but Schoen is having none of  it; he turns  his back  on  them, exposing the
back side of  his bathrobe, which around the buttocks is worn transparent as
a negligee. Reading from  a notebook, he writes out the  following  in block

     21 8 25 18 14 18 6 31 8 8 15 18 22 18 11
     Around the  time that the  fourth  or fifth  number is going up  on the
chalkboard, Waterhouse feels the hairs standing up on the back of  his neck.
By the  time  the third group of five  numbers  is written out, he  has  not
failed to notice that none  of them is larger than 26 that  being the number
of letters  in the alphabet. His heart is pounding more wildly  than  it did
when Nipponese bombs were tracing parabolic  trajectories toward the deck of
the grounded Nevada. He pulls a  pencil out of his pocket.  Finding no paper
handy, he writes down the numbers from 1 to 26 on the  surface of his little
writing desk.
     By the time the man in the bathrobe is done  writing out the last group
of numbers, Waterhouse is already well into his frequency count. He wraps it
up as  Bathrobe  Man is saying something along the lines of "this might look
like a meaningless sequence of numbers to you, but to a Nip naval officer it
might  look  like  something  entirely  different."  Then  the  man   laughs
nervously, shakes  his head  sadly, squares  his  jaw  resolutely, and  runs
through a litany of other emotion laden  expressions  not  a  single  one of
which is appropriate here.
     Waterhouse's frequency count is  simply  a tally of how frequently each
number appears on the blackboard. It looks like this:

     3 II
     6 I
     8 IIII
     11 I
     12 I
     14 II
     15 I
     16 I
     17 II
     18 IIIIII
     19 IIII
     20 I
     21 I
     22 I
     23 I
     25 I
     The most interesting thing  about  this  is that  ten  of the  possible
symbols (viz. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 24, and 26) are not even used.  Only
sixteen  different numbers  appear  in the  message. Assuming each of  those
sixteen represents one and only one letter of the alphabet, this message has
(Lawrence reckons in his head) 111136315345735680000 possible meanings. This
is  a  funny  number  because  it begins  with  four ones and ends with four
zeroes; Lawrence snickers, wipes his nose, and gets on with it.
     The most  common number is 18. It probably represents the  letter E. If
he substitutes E into the message everywhere he sees an 18, then Well, to be
honest, then  he'll have to write out  the whole message again, substituting
Es for  18s, and  it  will  take a  long time,  and it might  be time wasted
because he  might have guessed wrong. On the other hand, if he just retrains
his mind to  construe 18s as  Es an operation  that  he  thinks of  as being
loosely analogous to  changing the presets on a  pipe organ's  console  then
what he sees in his mind's eye when he looks at the blackboard is

     21 8 25 E 14 E 6 3 E 8 15 E 22 E 11
     which only has 10103301395066880000  possible meanings. This is a funny
number  too because of all those  ones and  zeroes but  it  is an absolutely
meaningless coincidence.
     "The science of making secret codes is called  cryptography," Commander
Schoen says,  "and the science of breaking  them is  cryptanalysis." Then he
sighs, grapples  visibly with  some  more widely divergent emotional states,
and  resignedly plods into the mandatory exercise  of  breaking these  words
down into their roots,  which  are  either Latin or  Greek  (Lawrence  isn't
paying attention, doesn't care,  only glimpses the stark word CRYPTO written
in handsized capitals).
     The opening sequence  "19 17 17  19" is peculiar. 19, along with 8,  is
the second most  common number  in the list. 17 is only  half as common. You
can't have  four vowels  or four consonants in a row  (unless  the words are
German) so either 17 is a vowel and  19 a  consonant or the other way round.
Since  19 appears  more frequently  (four times)  in the message, it is more
likely to  be the vowel  than 17 (which only  appears  twice). A is the most
common vowel after E, so if he assumes that 19 is A, he gets

     21 8 25 E 14 E 6 3 E 8 15 E 22 E 11
     This narrows it down quite a bit, to a mere 841941782922240000 possible
answers. He's already reduced the solution  space by a  couple of  orders of
     Schoen has talked himself up into a disturbingly  heavy sweat, now, and
is almost bodily flinging himself  into a historical overview of the science
of  CRYPTOLOGY,  as  the union of cryptography and  cryptanalysis is called.
There's some talk about an  English fellow name of Wilkins, and book  called
Cryptonomicon that he wrote hundreds of  years  ago, but (perhaps because he
doesn't rate  the intelligence of his audience too highly) he goes very easy
on  the  historical  background, and jumps  directly  from  Wilkins to  Paul
Revere's "one if by land, two if by sea" code.  He even makes  a mathematics
in  joke  about  this being one  of the earliest  practical  applications of
binary  notation.  Lawrence dutifully brays  and snorts, drawing an appalled
look from the saxophonist seated in front of him.
     Earlier in his  talk, the Schoen mentioned  that this  message  was (in
what's obviously  a fictional scenario ginned up to  make this  mathematical
exercise more  interesting  to  a bunch of  musicians who are assumed not to
give  a  shit  about math)  addressed to  a  Nip naval  officer. Given  that
context,  Lawrence  cannot but  guess that  the first word of the message is
ATTACK. This would mean that 17 represented T, 14 C, and 20 K. When he fills
these in, he gets

     21 8 25 E C E 6 3 E 8 15 E 22 E 11
     and then the rest is  so obvious he doesn't bother to write it  out. He
cannot restrain himself from jumping to his feet. He's so excited he forgets
about  the weak legs and  topples over  across a  couple  of  his neighbors'
desks, which makes a lot of noise.
     "Do  you  have  a  problem, sailor?"  says  one of the officers in  the
corner, one who actually bothered to wear a uniform.
     "Sir!  The  message  is, 'Attack  Pearl  Harbor December  Seven!' Sir!"
Lawrence  shouts,  and  then sits down. His  whole body  is  quivering  with
excitement. Adrenaline has taken over his body  and  mind. He could strangle
twenty sumo wrestlers on the spot.
     Commander Schoen is  completely  impassive except  that he blinks once,
very slowly.  He turns to one of his  subordinates,  who is standing against
the wall with his  hands clasped  behind his back, and says, "Get this one a
copy of the  Cryptonomicon. And a desk  as close  to the  coffee machine  as
possible. And why don't  you promote the son of a bitch as long as you're at


     The part about the promotion  turns out to be either military  humor or
further  evidence  of Commander Schoen's mental instability. Other than that
small bit of drollery, the story of Waterhouse past this point, for the next
ten months, is not  much more complicated than the story of a bomb that  has
just been  released from the belly  of  a plunging  airplane.  The  barriers
placed in his path (working his way through the Cryptonomicon , breaking the
Nipponese  Air Force Meteorological Code, breaking  the  Coral naval attache
machine cipher, breaking  Unnamed  Nipponese  Army Water Transport  Code 3A,
breaking the  Greater  East  Asia  Ministry  Code)  present  about  as  much
resistance  as  successive decks of a worm  eaten  wooden  frigate. Within a
couple of months he is actually writing  new chapters of the  Cryptonomicon.
People speak of it as though it were a book, but it's not. It is basically a
compilation of all  of  the  papers  and  notes  that have  drifted  up in a
particular corner  of  Commander Schoen's office over the roughly  two  year
period  that he's  been situated at Station Hypo,  as  this place is  called
(1). It is  everything that Commander Schoen knows about breaking
codes, which amounts to everything that the United States of  America knows.
At any moment  it could have been annihilated if  a janitor had stepped into
the  room for  a few minutes  and tidied  the place  up. Understanding this,
Commander Schoen's colleagues  in the officers' ranks of Station  Hypo  have
devised strenuous  measures  to prevent  any  type of  tidying  or  hygienic
operations,  of any description,  in  the entire wing  of the building  that
contains  Commander  Schoen's office. They know enough, in other  words,  to
understand that the Cryptonomicon is terribly  important, and  they have the
wit to take the measures necessary to keep  it safe. Some of  them  actually
consult  it  from  time to  time, and  use  its wisdom  to  break  Nipponese
messages, or even solve whole cryptosystems. But Waterhouse is the first guy
to come  along  who is good enough  to (at  first) point out errors in  what
Schoen has  written, and  (soon)  assemble the  contents  of the  pile  into
something like an orderly work, and (eventually)  add original material onto
     At some point Schoen takes him downstairs and leads him to the end of a
long windowless corridor to  a slab of a door  guarded  by hulking Myrmidons
and  lets  him see the second coolest thing they've got  at Pearl Harbor,  a
roomful  of  machinery from  the  Electrical Till Corporation that  they use
mainly for doing frequency counts on Nip intercepts.
     The most remarkable machine (2) at Station Hypo, however and
the  first coolest thing in Pearl Harbor is even deeper in the cloaca of the
building. It is contained in something that might be likened to a bank vault
if  it  weren't all wired up with  explosives  so that  its contents can  be
vaporized in the event of a total Nip invasion.
     This is the  machine that Commander  Schoen made, more than a year ago,
for breaking  the  Nipponese cipher  called Indigo.  Apparently,  as  of the
beginning of 1940, Schoen was a well adjusted and mentally healthy young man
into whose lap was dumped some great big long lists of numbers compiled from
intercept  stations around the  Pacific (perhaps, Waterhouse thinks,  Alpha,
Bravo, etc.). These numbers were Nipponese messages that  had been encrypted
somehow circumstantial evidence suggested that it had been done by some kind
of  machine. But absolutely  nothing was known about the machine: whether it
used gears or rotary switches or plugboards, or some combination thereof, or
some other kind of mechanism  that  hadn't  even  been thought  of  by white
people yet; how many such mechanisms it did or didn't  use; specific details
of how it used them.  All that could be said was  that  these numbers, which
seemed completely  random,  had been transmitted, perhaps even  incorrectly.
Other than that, Schoen had nothing nothing to work on.
     As of the  middle of  1941, then, this  machine  existed in this vault,
here at Station Hypo. It existed because  Schoen  had built it. The  machine
perfectly decrypted every Indigo message that the  intercept stations picked
up,  and was, therefore, necessarily an exact functional  duplication of the
Nipponese Indigo code machine, though neither Schoen nor  any other American
had ever laid eyes on one. Schoen  had built the thing simply by looking  at
those great  big  long lists of essentially random  numbers,  and using some
process  of induction to  figure  it  out.  Somewhere  along the line he had
become  totally  debilitated psychologically, and  begun to  suffer  nervous
breakdowns at the rate of about one every week or two.
     As of the actual outbreak of war with Nippon, Schoen  is on disability,
and taking lots of drugs. Waterhouse spends  as  much time with Schoen as he
is  allowed to, because he's pretty  sure that whatever  happened  inside of
Schoen's  head, between  when  the lists  of  apparently random numbers were
dumped into his lap and when he finished building his machine, is an example
of a noncomputable process.
     Waterhouse's  security clearance is  upgraded about once a month, until
it  reaches  the  highest  conceivable  level (or  so he  thinks)  which  is
Ultra/Magic. Ultra is what the  Brits  call the  intelligence they  get from
having broken the  German Enigma machine.  Magic is what the  Yanks call the
intelligence they get from Indigo. In any case, Lawrence now gets to see the
Ultra/Magic summaries, which are  bound documents with dramatic, alternating
red and black paragraphs printed on the front cover. Paragraph  number three
     Seems clear enough, right? But Lawrence  Pritchard Waterhouse is not so
damn sure.
     At  about  the  same  time,  Waterhouse  has made  a  realization about
himself. He has found that he works best when he is  not horny,  which is to
say in the day or so following ejaculation.  So as a part of his duty to the
United  States he  has begun to spend a  lot  of time in whorehouses. But he
can't have that much actual sex on what is still a glockenspiel player's pay
and so he limits himself to what are euphemistically called massages.
     The words stay with him like the clap. He lies on his back during these
massages,  arms  crossed  over  his eyes,  mumbling  the words  to  himself.
Something bothers  him. He has  learned that  when something bothers  him in
this particular way it usually leads to  his writing a new paper. But  first
he has to do a lot of hard mental pick and shovel work.
     It all comes to him, explosively, during the Battle of Midway, while he
and his  comrades are spending  twenty four hours a day down among those ETC
machines, decrypting Yamamoto's messages,  telling  Nimitz  exactly where to
find the Nip fleet.
     What are  the chances of Nimitz finding that fleet  by accident? That's
what Yamamoto must be asking himself.
     It is all a question (oddly enough!) of information theory.
     What is an  action? It might be anything. It might be something obvious
like bombing  a Nipponese military installation.  Everyone would  agree that
this  would  constitute  an  action. But  it might  also be  something  like
changing the course  of an aircraft carrier by five degrees or not doing so.
Or  having exactly  the right  package  of forces  off Midway  to hammer the
Nipponese invasion fleet. It could  mean something much less dramatic,  like
canceling plans for an action. An action, in a certain sense,  might even be
the total  absence of activity. Any of these might be rational responses, on
the part of some commander, to  INFORMATION HEREIN REPORTED. But any of them
might be observable  by the Nipponese  and  hence any  of them would  impart
information  to the Nipponese.  How  good might those Nips be at abstracting
information from a noisy channel? Do they have any Schoens?
     So what if  the Nips did observe it? What would the  effect be exactly?
And  under what circumstances might the effect be REVEALING THE EXISTENCE OF
     If  the  action  is  one  that  could  never  have happened  unless the
Americans were  breaking  Indigo, then  it  will  constitute  proof,  to the
Nipponese, that  the Americans have  broken it.  The existence of the source
the machine that Commander Schoen built will be revealed.
     Waterhouse trusts that no Americans will be that stupid. But what if it
isn't that  clear cut? What if the action is one that would merely be really
improbable unless  the  Americans  were  breaking  the  code?  What  if  the
Americans, in the long run, are just too damn lucky?
     And  how  closely can you play that game?  A  pair  of loaded dice that
comes up sevens every time is detected in a few throws. A pair that comes up
sevens  only  one percent more frequently than a straight  pair is harder to
detect you have to throw the dice many more times in order for your opponent
to prove anything.
     If the Nips  keep getting  ambushed if  they  keep  finding  their  own
ambushes spoiled if their merchant ships happen to cross paths with American
subs more often  than pure  probability would  suggest how long  until  they
figure it out?
     Waterhouse writes  papers on  the subject, keeps pestering  people with
them. Then, one day, Waterhouse receives a new set of orders.
     The orders arrive encrypted into groups of five random looking letters,
printed out on the blue tissue paper that is used for top secret cablegrams.
The message has been encrypted in  Washington using a one time pad, which is
a slow and awkward but, in theory, perfectly unbreakable cipher used for the
most important messages. Waterhouse knows this because he is one of the only
two persons in Pearl  Harbor who  has clearance to decrypt it. The other one
is Commander Schoen,  and he is under sedation today. The duty officer opens
up the appropriate safe and gives him the one time pad for the day, which is
basically a piece of graph paper covered  with numbers printed  in groups of
five.  The  numbers  have  been  chosen by  secretaries  in  a  basement  in
Washington by shuffling cards or drawing chits out of a hat.  They  are pure
noise. One copy of  the pure noise is in  Waterhouse's  hands, and the other
copy is used by the person who encrypted this message in Washington.
     Waterhouse   sits  down  and  gets  to  work,  subtracting  noise  from
ciphertext to produce plaintext.
     The  first  thing he sees is that  this message's classification is not
merely Top Secret, or even Ultra, but something entirely new: ULTRA MEGA.
     The messages states  that after  thoroughly destroying this message, he
Lawrence  Pritchard  Waterhouse  is to  proceed to  London, England, by  the
fastest available means. All ships,  trains, and airplanes, even submarines,
will be made  available to him. Though a member of the U.S. Navy, he is even
to be  provided with an extra uniform an Army  uniform in case it simplifies
matters for him.
     The one thing he must never, ever do is  place himself  in a  situation
where he could be  captured by the enemy. In this sense, the war is suddenly
over for Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse.

     Chapter 6 THE SPAWN OF ONAN

     A network of chunnel sized air  ducts  as vast and  unfathomable as the
global Internet ramifies  through the thick walls and ceilings  of the hotel
and makes dim, attenuated  noises that suggest  that hidden deep within that
system are  jet engine proving grounds, Iron Age smithys, wretched prisoners
draped with clanging chains, and writhing clumps of snakes. Randy knows that
the  system is  not  a closed  loop that it is  somewhere  connected to  the
earth's atmosphere because faint  street smells drift  in from outside.  For
all he knows, they may take an  hour to work their way  into his room. After
he has been living there for a couple of weeks,  the smells come to function
as  an olfactory  alarm  clock. He  sleeps  to the smell  of diesel  exhaust
because the traffic conditions of Manila require that  the  container  ships
load  and unload only at night. Manila  sprawls along a warm and placid  bay
that is an infinite reservoir of mugginess, and because the atmosphere is as
thick and opaque and hot as a glass of  milk  straight from the cow's udder,
it  begins to  glow when the  sun  rises.  At  this, Manila's  regiments and
divisions  of  fighting cocks,  imprisoned  in  makeshift  hutches on  every
rooftop, balcony and yard, begin to crow. The people come awake and begin to
burn coal. Coal smoke is the smell that wakes Randy up.
     Randy  Waterhouse is in  merely decent physical condition.  His  doctor
ritualistically tells  him  that he  could lose  twenty pounds, but it's not
obvious where that twenty  pounds would  actually  come from he has no  beer
gut, no flagrant love handles. The offending pounds seem to be spread evenly
over his keglike torso.  Or so he tells  himself every morning, standing  in
front of the billboard sized mirror of his suite. Randy and Charlene's house
in  California contains practically no mirrors and he had lost track of what
he  looks like. Now he sees that he has become atavistically  hairy, and his
beard glints, because it is shot through with grey hairs.
     Every day, he  dares  himself to shave  that beard off. In the tropics,
you want to  have as much skin as  possible exposed  to the  air, with sweat
sheeting down it.
     One evening when Avi and his family had been over for dinner, Randy had
said, "I'm the beard, Avi's the suit," as a way of explaining their business
relationship,  and  from  that  point  Charlene had been  off  and  running.
Charlene has  recently finished a scholarly article, deconstructing  beards.
In  particular, she was aiming  at beard culture in the  Northern California
high tech community Randy's crowd. Her  paper began by demolishing, somehow,
the  assumption that beards were more  "natural" or easier to  maintain than
clean shavenness she  actually published statistics from Gillette's research
department comparing the amount of time that bearded and beardless men spent
in  the bathroom each day, proving that the difference was not statistically
significant.  Randy  had any number  of objections to the way in which these
statistics  were  gathered, but  Charlene  was having  none of  it.  "It  is
counterintuitive," she said.
     She was in a big hurry to move on to the meat of her argument. She went
up  to  San Francisco and bought a few hundred dollars' worth of pornography
at a boite that catered to shaving fetishists. For a couple  of weeks, Randy
couldn't come  home in the  evening  without finding Charlene sacked  out in
front of the TV with a bowl of popcorn and a Dictaphone, watching a video of
a straight razor being drawn along wet, soapy flesh. She taped a few lengthy
interviews with some actual shaving fetishists who described in great detail
the feeling of nakedness and vulnerability shaving gave them, and how erotic
that was, especially when freshly shaved areas were slapped or  spanked. She
worked up a detailed comparison of the iconography of shaving fetishist porn
and that of shaving product commercials shown on national TV during football
games,  and proved  that they were  basically indistinguishable  (you  could
actually buy videotapes of bootleg shaving cream and razor ads in  the  same
places that sold the out and out pornography).
     She  pulled down  statistics  on  racial  variation  in  beard  growth.
American  Indians didn't  grow  beards, Asians hardly did, Africans  were  a
special case  because daily shaving gave them a painful skin condition. "The
ability to grow heavy, full  beards  as a matter of choice appears  to  be a
privilege accorded by nature solely to white males," she wrote.
     Alarm bells, red lights, and screaming klaxons went off in Randy's mind
when he happened across that phrase.
     "But  this  assertion buys into a specious  subsumption.  'Nature' is a
socially constructed  discourse,  not an  objective reality  [many footnotes
here]. That is doubly true  in the case of  the  'nature' that  accords full
beards to the  specific minority population of northern European males. Homo
sapiens evolved in climatic zones where facial  hair was of little practical
use. The development of  an offshoot of the species characterized by densely
bearded  males is an adaptive response  to cold climates. These climates did
not 'naturally'  invade  the  habitats of early  humans  rather,  the humans
invaded   geographical   regions   where   such  climates   prevailed.  This
geographical  transgression  was strictly a  sociocultural event and  so all
physical adaptations to it must be placed in the same category including the
development of dense facial hair."
     Charlene published the results of  a survey she had organized, in which
a few hundred women were asked for their opinions. Essentially  all  of them
said that they preferred clean shaven men  to those who were either  stubbly
or bearded. In short order, Charlene proved that having a beard was just one
element of a syndrome strongly  correlated to racist and  sexist  attitudes,
and  to  the pattern of emotional  unavailability so  often bemoaned by  the
female partners  of white  males, especially ones  who  were technologically
     "The boundary between Self  and Environment is a social con[struct]. In
Western cultures this  boundary is  supposed to be  sharp and distinct.  The
beard is an  outward  symbol  of that boundary,  a  distancing technique. To
shave  off the beard (or any body hair) is to  symbolically  annihilate  the
(essentially specious) boundary separating Self from Other . . ."
     And so on. The paper was rapturously received by the peer reviewers and
immediately  accepted  for  publication  in  a major  international journal.
Charlene is presenting some related work at the War as Text conference:
     "Unshavenness  as Signifier in World War II Movies." On the strength of
her beard work, three  different  Ivy  League schools are fighting  over who
will get to hire her.
     Randy does not want to move to the East Coast. Worse yet, he has a full
beard, which makes him feel  dreadfully incorrect whenever  he  ventures out
with her. He proposed  to  Charlene that  perhaps  he should  issue  a press
release stating that  he shaves the rest of his body every day. She did  not
think  it was very funny. He  realized, when he was halfway over the Pacific
Ocean, that all of her work was basically  an elaborate prophecy of the doom
of their relationship.
     Now  he is thinking of shaving his beard off. He might do his scalp and
his upper body, while he's at it.
     He is in the habit of doing a lot of vigorous walking. By the standards
of the body nazis who infest California and Seattle, this is only a marginal
improvement  over  (say) sitting  in front  of  a  television  chain smoking
unfiltered cigarettes and eating  suet from a tub. But he has stuck  to  his
walking doggedly  while his friends have taken up fitness  fads  and dropped
them. It has become a point of pride with  him,  and he's not about  to stop
just because he is living in Manila.
     But damn, it's hot. Hairlessness would be a good thing here.


     Only two good things came out of Randy's ill fated First Business Foray
with the food gathering software. First, it scared  him away  from trying to
do any kind of business, at least until he had the foggiest  idea of what he
was getting  into. Second, he  developed a  lasting friendship with Avi, his
old gaming buddy,  now  in Minneapolis, who displayed integrity and  a  good
sense of humor.
     At the suggestion of his lawyer (who by that point was one of his major
creditors), Randy  declared  personal  bankruptcy and then moved to  central
California with Charlene.  She had  gotten her  Ph.D. and landed  a teaching
assistant job  at one  of  the  Three  Siblings.  Randy enrolled  at another
Sibling with the aim of getting his master's degree in  astronomy. This made
him a grad student, and grad students  existed  not to learn  things but  to
relieve the tenured faculty members of tiresome  burdens  such as  educating
people and doing research.
     Within  a month  of  his arrival, Randy  solved some  trivial  computer
problems for one of the  other grad  students. A week later, the chairman of
the astronomy  department called him over  and  said,  "So, you're  the UNIX
guru." At the time, Randy was  still stupid enough  to be flattered by  this
attention, when he should have recognized them as bone chilling words.
     Three years later, he  left the  Astronomy Department without a degree,
and with  nothing to show for  his labors except six hundred dollars in  his
bank account  and a staggeringly comprehensive knowledge of UNIX. Later,  he
was to  calculate that, at  the going rates for programmers, the  department
had extracted about  a quarter of a million dollars' worth of work from him,
in return for an outlay of less than twenty  thousand. The only compensation
was that his knowledge didn't seem so useless  anymore. Astronomy had become
a  highly  networked  discipline, and you could now  control a telescope  on
another continent, or  in orbit, by  typing  commands  into  your  keyboard,
watching the images it produced on your monitor.
     Randy was  now superbly knowledgeable  when it came to  networks. Years
ago, this would  have been of  limited  usefulness.  But this was the age of
networked applications, the  dawn  of the  World Wide  Web,  and  the timing
couldn't have been better.
     In  the meantime, Avi  had  moved  to San Francisco and started  a  new
company that was going to take role playing games out of the nerd ghetto and
make them mainstream. Randy signed on as the  head technologist. He tried to
recruit Chester, but he'd already  taken a job with  a software company back
up in Seattle. So  they brought in a guy who had worked for a few video game
companies, and  later  they brought in some  other guys to do  hardware  and
communications,  and they  raised  enough  seed  money to build  a  playable
prototype. Using that as  their  dog  and  pony  show,  they  went  down  to
Hollywood and found someone to back them to the tune of ten million dollars.
They rented out some  industrial space in Gilroy, filled it full of graphics
workstations, hired a lot of sharp programmers  and a few  artists, and went
to work.
     Six  months  later, they  were  frequently mentioned  as among  Silicon
Valley's rising stars, and Randy got a little photograph in Time magazine in
an article about Siliwood the growing  collaboration  between Silicon Valley
and Hollywood. A year  after  that, the entire  enterprise  had  crashed and
     This was an epic tale not worth telling. The conventional  wisdom circa
the  early  nineties  had  been  that  the  technical  wizards  of  Northern
California would meet the  creative minds of Southern California halfway and
create a brilliant new collaboration. But this was rooted in a naive view of
what Hollywood  was  all  about. Hollywood  was merely a specialized  bank a
consortium of large  financial entities that hired talent, almost always for
a flat rate, ordered that talent to create a product, and then marketed that
product to death, all over the world, in every conceivable medium.  The goal
was to find products that would keep on making money forever, long after the
talent  had been paid off and  sent  packing.  Casablanca, for example,  was
still putting  asses in seats decades  after Bogart had  been  paid  off and
smoked himself into an early grave.
     In the view of Hollywood, the  techies  of Silicon  Valley were just  a
particularly naive form  of talent. So when the technology reached a certain
point the  point where it  could  be marketed to a certain  large  Nipponese
electronics company at a  substantial  profit the backers  of Avi's  company
staged a lightning coup  that had obviously been lovingly planned. Randy and
the others were given a choice: they could leave the company now and hold on
to some of their stock, which  was still worth  a decent amount of money. Or
they  could  stay  in  which case they  would find themselves sabotaged from
within  by fifth columnists who had been infiltrated into  key positions. At
the same time they would be besieged from without by lawyers demanding their
heads for the things that were suddenly going wrong.
     Some of the founders stayed on as  court eunuchs. Most of them left the
company, and of that group, most sold their stock immediately  because  they
could see  it was  going nowhere  but down.  The  company was  gutted by the
transfer of its technology to Japan,  and the empty husk eventually dried up
and blew away.
     Even today, bits  and pieces  of the technology keep popping up in  the
oddest places,  such  as  advertisements for new  video  game platforms.  It
always gives Randy the creeps to see this. When it all started to go  wrong,
the Nipponese tried to hire him  directly,  and  he actually made some money
flying over there to work, for a week or a month at a time, as a consultant.
But they couldn't keep the technology running with the programmers they had,
and so it hasn't lived up to its potential.
     Thus  ended  Randy's Second Business  Foray.  He  came out of it with a
couple  of  hundred thousand dollars,  most  of  which  he  plowed  into the
Victorian house he shares with Charlene. He hadn't trusted himself with that
much  liquid cash, and locking it  up in  the house  gave  him a  feeling of
safety, like reaching home base in a frenzied game of full contact tag.
     He  has  spent the  years  since running the  Three Siblings'  computer
system. He hasn't made much money, but he hasn't had much stress either.


     Randy  was forever telling  people, without rancor, that they were full
of shit. That was  the only way to get anything done in hacking. No one took
it personally.
     Charlene's  crowd most definitely  did take  it  personally.  It wasn't
being  told  that they were  wrong  that offended  them, though it  was  the
underlying assumption that a person could be right or  wrong about anything.
So on  the Night in Question the night of Avi's fateful call  Randy had done
what he  usually  did, which was to withdraw from the  conversation.  In the
Tolkien, not the  endocrinological or Snow White  sense,  Randy is a  Dwarf.
Tolkien's Dwarves were stout, taciturn, vaguely magical characters who spent
a lot  of  time in  the dark hammering out  beautiful  things, e.g. Rings of
Power. Thinking of himself as a Dwarf who had hung up his war ax for a while
to go sojourning in the Shire, where he was surrounded by squabbling Hobbits
(i.e., Charlene's friends), had actually done  a lot  for Randy's  peace  of
mind  over  the years.  He  knew  perfectly well  that  if he were stuck  in
academia,  these people, and the things they said, would  seem  momentous to
him. But where  he came from, nobody  had been taking these people seriously
for years. So he just withdrew from the conversation  and drank his wine and
looked out over the Pacific surf and tried not to do anything really obvious
like shaking his head and rolling his eyes.
     Then the topic of the Information Superhighway came up, and Randy could
feel  faces  turning in  his direction  like  searchlights,  casting  almost
palpable warmth on his skin.
     Dr. G. E. B.  Kivistik  had  a  few things to say about the Information
Superhighway.  He  was a fiftyish Yale  professor who had just flown in from
someplace that  had sounded really cool and impressive when he had gone  out
of  his way to  mention  it several times. His name was Finnish, but he  was
British as only a non British Anglophile could be. Ostensibly he was here to
attend War  as Text. Really  he was  there to recruit  Charlene,  and really
really (Randy suspected) to fuck her. This was probably not true at all, but
just a symptom of how wacked out Randy was getting by  this point. Dr. G. E.
B. Kivistik had been showing  up on television pretty frequently. Dr. G.  E.
B. Kivistik had a couple of books out. Dr. G. E. B. Kivistik was,  in short,
parlaying his  strongly contrarian view of the Information Superhighway into
more air time than anyone who hadn't been accused of  blowing  up a day care
center should get.
     A Dwarf on sojourn in the Shire would probably go to a  lot  of  dinner
parties where pompous boring  Hobbits would hold forth like this. This Dwarf
would view the  whole thing  as entertainment. He would know  that  he could
always go back out into the real world, so much vaster and more complex than
these  Hobbits imagined,  and slay a few Trolls and remind  himself  of what
really mattered.
     That was what  Randy always told himself,  anyway.  But on the Night in
Question, it didn't work. Partly because Kivistik was too big and real to be
a Hobbit probably more influential in the  real world than Randy would  ever
be. Partly because another faculty  spouse at the table a likable,  harmless
computerphile named  Jon  decided  to  take issue  with  some of  Kivistik's
statements  and  was cheerfully shot down for his troubles. Blood was in the
     Randy had ruined  his relationship  with Charlene by  wanting  to  have
kids.  Kids raise issues. Charlene, like all of her friends, couldn't handle
issues.  Issues  meant  disagreement. Voicing  disagreement  was a  form  of
conflict. Conflict, acted out openly and publicly, was a male mode of social
interaction the foundation for patriarchal society which brought with it the
usual   litany   of  dreadful  things.  Regardless,  Randy  decided  to  get
patriarchal with Dr. G. E. B. Kivistik.
     "How   many   slums   will  we   bulldoze  to  build  the   Information
Superhighway?" Kivistik  said. This profundity  was received with thoughtful
nodding around the table.
     Jon shifted  in his  chair  as if Kivistik had just dropped an ice cube
down his  collar. "What does  that mean?" he asked.  Jon was smiling, trying
not to be a conflict  oriented patriarchal hegemonist. Kivistik in response,
raised his eyebrows and  looked  around  at  everyone else, as if to say Who
invited  this  poor lightweight?  Jon  tried  to  dig himself out  from  his
tactical  error, as  Randy closed his eyes  and tried not to  wince visibly.
Kivistik  had spent more years sparring with really  smart  people over high
table  at  Oxford  than  Jon had  been alive.  "You don't  have to  bulldoze
anything. There's nothing there to bulldoze," Jon pleaded.
     "Very well, let me put it this way," Kivistik said magnanimously he was
not above dumbing down his material for the likes of Jon. "How many on ramps
will connect the world's ghettos to the Information Superhighway?"
     Oh, that's  much clearer, everyone seemed to  think.  Point well taken,
Geb! No one looked at Jon,  that argumentative pariah. Jon looked helplessly
over at Randy, signaling for help.
     Jon was a Hobbit who'd actually been out of the Shire  recently,  so he
knew Randy was a dwarf. Now he  was fucking up Randy's life by  calling upon
Randy to jump up on the table, throw  off  his  homespun cloak, and whip out
his two handed ax.
     The words came out of Randy's mouth before he  had time to think better
of it. "The Information  Superhighway is just a fucking  metaphor! Give me a
break!" he said.
     There  was  a silence as everyone  around the  table winced  in unison.
Dinner had now, officially, crashed and  burned. All  they  could do now was
grab  their ankles, put their heads between their knees,  and  wait for  the
wreckage to slide to a halt.
     "That doesn't  tell  me  very  much," Kivistik said. "Everything  is  a
metaphor. The word 'fork' is a metaphor for this object." He held up a fork.
"All discourse is built from metaphors."
     "That's no excuse for using bad metaphors," Randy said.
     "Bad? Bad?  Who decides what is bad?" Kivistik  said,  doing his killer
impression  of  a  heavy  lidded, mouth breathing undergraduate.  There  was
scattered tittering from people who were desperate to break the tension.
     Randy  could see  where it  was going. Kivistik had gone for the  usual
academician's  ace in  the  hole:  everything  is relative,  it's  all  just
differing perspectives. People had already begun to resume their little side
conversations, thinking that the conflict was over, when Randy gave them all
a start with: "Who decides what's bad? I do. "
     Even Dr. G. E.  B. Kivistik was flustered.  He wasn't sure if Randy was
joking. "Excuse me?"
     Randy  was  in  no  great hurry  to  answer the question. He  took  the
opportunity to sit back comfortably, stretch, and take a sip of his wine. He
was feeling good. "It's like this," he said. "I've read your book. I've seen
you  on  TV. I've heard you tonight. I personally typed up  a  list  of your
credentials when I was preparing press  materials for  this conference. So I
know that you're not qualified to have an opinion about technical issues.''
     "Oh," Kivistik said  in  mock  confusion, "I didn't realize  one had to
have qualifications."
     "I  think  it's clear," Randy  said,  "that if you  are ignorant  of  a
particular  subject, that your opinion is completely worthless. If I'm sick,
I don't ask a plumber for advice.  I  go to a  doctor.  Likewise,  if I have
questions  about the Internet,  I will  seek opinions  from people who  know
about it."
     "Funny how all of the technocrats seem to be in favor of the Internet,"
Kivistik said cheerily, milking a few more laughs from the crowd.
     "You have just  made a statement that is demonstrably not  true," Randy
said,  pleasantly  enough. "A number  of Internet experts  have written well
reasoned books that are sharply critical of it."
     Kivistik was finally getting pissed off. All the levity was gone.
     "So,"  Randy  continued,  "to  get  back   to  where  we  started,  the
Information Superhighway is a bad metaphor for the  Internet,  because I say
it is. There might be a thousand people on the  planet who are as conversant
with the Internet as I  am. I know  most of these people. None of them takes
that metaphor seriously. Q.E.D."
     "Oh. I see," Kivistik said, a little hotly. He had seen an opening. "So
we should rely on  the technocrats to  tell us  what  to think,  and  how to
think, about this technology."
     The expressions  of the  others seemed to say that this was  a  telling
blow, righteously struck.
     "I'm  not sure what  a technocrat is," Randy said. "Am I a  technocrat?
I'm  just a  guy who went  down to  the bookstore and  bought  a  couple  of
textbooks on TCP/IP,  which is the underlying protocol of  the Internet, and
read them. And then I signed on to a computer, which anyone can do nowadays,
and  I  messed around  with it for a few years, and now I know all about it.
Does that make me a technocrat?"
     "You belonged  to the technocratic elite even before you picked up that
book," Kivistik said. "The ability to wade through a technical text, and  to
understand it, is a privilege. It is a privilege  conferred by an  education
that  is  available only to members of an elite class. That's what I mean by
     "I went to  a public school," Randy said. "And then I went to  a  state
university. From that point on, I was self educated."
     Charlene broke in. She  had  been giving Randy  dirty looks  ever since
this started and  he  had been ignoring  her. Now he was going to  pay. "And
your family?" Charlene asked frostily.
     Randy took a  deep breath, stifled the urge to  sigh.  "My  father's an
engineer. He teaches at a state college."
     "And his father?"
     "A mathematician."
     Charlene raised her eyebrows. So did nearly everyone else at the table.
Case closed.
     "I strenuously object to  being labeled and pigeonholed and stereotyped
as  a  technocrat,"  Randy  said,  deliberately   using  oppressed  person's
language, maybe in an attempt to  turn  their weapons against them  but more
likely (he thinks, lying in bed at three A.M. in the Manila Hotel) out of an
uncontrollable urge to be a prick. Some of them, out of habit, looked at him
soberly;  etiquette  dictated that you give all  sympathy to  the oppressed.
Others gasped in outrage to hear these words coming from the lips of a known
and convicted white male  technocrat. "No one in my family has ever had much
money or power," he said.
     "I think that  the  point that  Charlene's making is  like  this," said
Tomas,  one of their  houseguests who had flown in from Prague with his wife
Nina. He  had now  appointed himself conciliator. He  paused  long enough to
exchange a warm  look  with  Charlene.  "Just  by virtue  of coming  from  a
scientific family, you are a member of a privileged elite.  You're not aware
of  it  but  members   of  privileged  elites  are  rarely  aware  of  their
     Randy  finished the thought.  "Until  people  like  you come  along  to
explain to us how stupid, to say nothing of morally bankrupt, we are."
     "The  false consciousness  Tomas  is speaking  of is exactly what makes
entrenched power elites so entrenched," Charlene said.
     "Well, I  don't feel very entrenched," Randy said.  "I've worked my ass
off to get where I've gotten."
     "A lot of people  work  hard all their lives and get nowhere,"  someone
said accusingly. Look out! The sniping had begun.
     "Well,  I'm sorry  I haven't  had the good grace to get nowhere," Randy
said, now feeling  just a bit surly for  the first time,  "but  I have found
that  if you work  hard, educate yourself and  keep your wits about you, you
can find your way in this society."
     "But  that's  straight  out of  some nineteenth century  Horatio  Alger
book," Tomas sputtered.
     "So?  Just  because it's an  old idea doesn't  mean it's wrong."  Randy
     A small strike  force  of waitpersons  had been forming up  around  the
fringes  of the  table, arms laden with dishes, making eye contact with each
other as  they tried to decide when it was okay to break  up  the  fight and
serve  dinner.  One of them rewarded Randy  with a platter carrying a wigwam
devised from slabs of nearly raw tuna. The pro consensus, anti confrontation
elements  then  seized  control of  the  conversation  and broke it  up into
numerous small clusters of people all vigorously agreeing  with one another.
Jon cast a watery  look  at  Randy, as if to say, was it good  for  you too?
Charlene  was ignoring  him  intensely; she was  caught  up  in a  consensus
cluster with Tomas. Nina kept trying to catch Randy's eye, but he studiously
avoided  this  because  he  was afraid that she wanted to favor  him with  a
smoldering come hither look, and all Randy wanted to do right then was to go
thither. Ten  minutes later, his pager went off,  and he looked down  to see
Avi's number on it.

     Chapter 7 BURN

     The American  base at Cavite, along the shore of Manila Bay, burns real
good  once the Nips have set it  on fire, Bobby  Shaftoe and the rest of the
Fourth Marines get a good long look at it as they cruise by, sneaking out of
Manila like  thieves  in  the  night.  He has  never  felt  more  personally
disgraced in his life,  and the same  thing goes  for the other Marines. The
Nips  have  already landed in Malaya  and are headed  for  Singapore  like a
runaway train, they are besieging Guam and Wake and Hong Kong  and God knows
what else, and it should be obvious to anyone that they are going to hit the
Philippines next. Seems  like  a regiment  of  hardened  China Marines might
actually come in handy around here.
     But  MacArthur  seems  to think  he can  defend  Luzon all  by himself,
standing on the  walls of Intramuros with his Colt .45. So they are shipping
out. They have no idea where to. Most  of them would rather hit the  beaches
of Nippon itself than stay here in Army territory.
     The night the war began, Bobby Shaftoe had first gotten Glory back into
the bosom of her family.
     The  Altamiras  live  in the neighborhood of Malate, a couple  of miles
south of Intramuros,  and not too  far from the place where Shaftoe has just
had his  half hour  of Glory along the seawall.  The city has gone  mad, and
it's impossible to  get  a  car. Sailors, marines, and  soldiers are spewing
from  bars, nightclubs,  and ballrooms and commandeering  taxis in groups of
four and six it's  as  crazy  as Shanghai on Saturday night  like  the war's
already here. Shaftoe ends up carrying Glory halfway home, because her shoes
aren't made for walking.
     The  family Altamira is vast  enough to constitute an ethnic group unto
itself and all of  them  live  in the same building practically  in the same
room. Once or  twice, Glory had begun to explain  to Bobby Shaftoe  how they
are all  related. Now  there  are many Shaftoes mostly in  Tennessee but the
Shaftoe family tree still fits on a cross stitch sampler. The family Shaftoe
is to the Altamira  clan  as a  single,  alienated sapling  is to  a jungle.
Filipino families, in addition to being gigantic and Catholic, are massively
crosslinked by godparent/godchild relationships, like  lianas stretched from
branch  to branch and tree to tree. If asked, Glory is happy, even eager, to
talk  for six  hours  nonstop  about how the  Altamiras  are related  to one
another, and that is just to give a general overview. Shaftoe's brain always
shuts off after the first thirty seconds.
     He gets her to the apartment, which is usually in a state of hysterical
uproar even when the nation is not  under military assault by  the Empire of
Nippon. Despite this, the appearance of Glory, shortly after the outbreak of
war,  borne in  the arms  of  a  United  States Marine,  is received  by the
Altamiras in  much the same way as  if  Christ  were  to materialize in  the
center  of their living room with the Virgin  Mary  slung over his back. All
around him, middle  aged women are thudding down onto their knees, as if the
place has  just  been mustard gassed. But they  are just  doing  it to shout
hallelujah! Glory alights nimbly  upon her high heels,  tears exploring  the
exceptional geometry of her cheeks, and  kisses everyone in the entire clan.
All of the kids  are wide awake, though it is three in the morning.  Shaftoe
happens  to catch the eye of a squad of boys, aged maybe  three to  ten, all
brandishing wooden rifles and swords. They are all staring at Bobby Shaftoe,
replendent  in his  uniform, and they are  perfectly thunderstruck; he could
throw  a baseball  into  the mouth of each one from across  the room. In his
peripheral vision, he sees a  middle  aged woman who is related to  Glory by
some impossibly complex chain  of relationships, and who  already has one of
Glory's lipstick  marks on  her  cheek, vectoring toward him on  a collision
course, grimly determined to kiss him. He knows that he must get out of this
place now or he will never leave it. So, ignoring the woman, and holding the
gaze of those stunned boys,  he rises to attention and snaps out  a  perfect
     The  boys  salute  back,  raggedly,  but with  fantastic bravado. Bobby
Shaftoe turns on his heel and marches out of the room, moving like a bayonet
thrust.  He reckons  that he  will come back to Malate tomorrow, when things
are calmer, and check up on Glory and the rest of the Altamiras.
     He does not see her again.
     He reports back to his ship, and is not granted  any  more shore leave.
He does manage  to  have  a  conversation  with  Uncle Jack,  who  pulls  up
alongside in a small motorboat long enough for them to shout a few sentences
back and forth.  Uncle Jack is the last of the  Manila Shaftoes, a branch of
the family  spawned  by Nimrod  Shaftoe  of the Tennessee Volunteers. Nimrod
took a  bullet in  his right arm  somewhere around Quingua, courtesy of some
rebellious Filipino riflemen. Recovering  in a Manila hospital,  old Nimrod,
or 'Lefty" as he was called by that  point, decided that he liked the  pluck
of these  Filipino  men,  in  order  to  kill  whom  a  whole  new  class of
ridiculously  powerful sidearm  (the Colt  .45) had had to be  invented. Not
only that, he liked the looks  of their  women. Promptly discharged from the
service, he found that full  disability pay would go a long way on the local
economy. He  set up an export business along the Pasig riverfront, married a
half Spanish woman, and sired a  son (Jack) and two daughters. The daughters
ended up in  the States, back in the Tennessee mountains that have  been the
ancestral  wellspring  of all  Shaftoes  ever since they  broke  out of  the
indentured servitude racket back  in the 1700s.  Jack  stayed in Manila  and
inherited Nimrod's business, but never married. By Manila standards he makes
a decent amount of money. He  has  always been an  odd combination of  salty
waterfront trader and  perfumed  dandy. He and  Mr.  Pascual  have  been  in
business together forever, which is how Bobby Shaftoe knows Mr. Pascual, and
which is how he originally met Glory.
     When  Bobby  Shaftoe repeats  the  latest  rumors,  Uncle  Jack's  face
collapses. No one hereabouts is willing to face the fact that they are about
to be besieged by Nips. His next words  ought to be, "Shit then, I'm getting
the  hell out of here, I'll send you a postcard from Australia." But instead
he says something like "I'll come by in a few days to check up on you."
     Bobby Shaftoe  bites  his tongue and  does  not say what he's thinking,
which is that  he  is a Marine, and he is on a ship, and this is a war,  and
Marines on ships in wars are not known for staying put. He just stands there
and watches as Uncle Jack  putt putts  away on his little boat, turning back
every so often to wave at him with his fine Panama  hat.  The sailors around
Bobby Shaftoe watch with amusement, and a bit of  admiration. The waterfront
is  churning insanely as  every  piece of military  gear that's not  set  in
concrete gets thrown onto ships and sent to Bata'an or Corregidor, and Uncle
Jack,  standing  upright in his boat, in his  good  cream  colored suit  and
Panama hat,  weaves through the traffic with aplomb.  Bobby Shaftoe  watches
him  until he disappears around the  bend into the Pasig River, knowing that
he is probably  the  last member of his family who  will ever see Uncle Jack
     Despite  all  of those premonitions, he's surprised  when they ship out
after only a few days of war, pulling out of their slip in the middle of the
night  without  any  of  the  traditional  farewell  ceremonies.  Manila  is
supposedly lousy  with Nip spies, and there's  nothing  the Nips would  like
better than to sink a transport ship stuffed with experienced Marines.
     Manila disappears behind them into the darkness. The  awareness that he
hasn't seen Glory since that night  is  like a  slow hot dentist's drill. He
wonders how she's doing. Maybe, once the war settles down a  little bit, and
the battle lines  firm up, he can figure out a way to get stationed  in this
part of the world. MacArthur's a tough old bastard who will put up a hell of
a fight when the Nips come. And even if the Philippines fall,  FDR won't let
them remain in enemy hands  for very  long.  With  any luck,  inside of  six
months, Bobby  Shaftoe  will  be  marching up Manila's  Taft Avenue, in full
dress uniform,  behind a Marine  Band, perhaps nursing a minor  war wound or
two.  The parade will  come to a section of the avenue that is lined,  for a
distance  of about a mile, with Altamiras. About halfway  along,  the  crowd
will part, and Glory  will run out and  jump into  his  arms and smother him
with  kisses. He'll carry the girl straight up the steps of some nice little
church where a priest in a white cassock is waiting with a big  grin on  his
face That dream image dissolves in a mushroom cloud of orange fire rising up
from the  American base at  Cavite. The  place has been burning all day, and
another fuel dump has just gone  up. He can feel  the  heat on his face from
miles away.  Bobby Shaftoe is on the  deck of  the ship, all bundled up in a
life  vest in case they  get torpedoed.  He takes  advantage of  the flaring
light to look  down a long line of other Marines in  life vests, staring  at
the flame with stunned expressions on their tired, sweaty faces.
     Manila  is only half an  hour behind  them, but it  might as well  be a
million miles away.
     He remembers Nanking, and what the Nips did there. What happened to the
     Once,  long ago, there was a city named Manila. There was a girl there.
Her face and name are best forgotten. Bobby  Shaftoe  starts forgetting just
as fast as he can.

     Chapter 8 PEDESTRIAN

     RESPECT  THE PEDESTRIAN,  say the street signs of metro Manila. As soon
as Randy saw those he knew that he was in trouble.
     For the first couple of weeks he spent in Manila, his work consisted of
walking.  He walked  all  over the  city  carrying a handheld GPS  receiver,
taking  down  latitudes and longitudes. He encrypted  the data in  his hotel
room  and e  mailed it  to  Avi. It  became  part of Epiphyte's intellectual
property. It became equity.
     Now,  they  had secured  some actual office space. Randy  walks to  it,
doggedly. He knows that  the  first time  he takes a taxi there, he'll never
walk again.
     RESPECT THE PEDESTRIAN,  the signs say,  but the drivers, the  physical
environment,  local land  use  customs, and  the  very  layout  of the place
conspire to  treat the pedestrian with the  contempt  he so richly deserves.
Randy would get more respect if  he  went  to work on  a pogo  stick with  a
propeller beanie on his head. Every morning the bellhops ask him if he wants
a taxi, and  practically lose consciousness  when he says no.  Every morning
the taxi drivers lined up in front of the hotel, leaning against  their cars
and smoking, shout "Taxi?  Taxi?" to him. When  he turns them down, they say
witty things to each other in Tagalog and roar with laughter.
     Just in case  Randy hasn't gotten the message yet, a new  red and white
chopper swings in low over Rizal Park, turns around once or twice like a dog
preparing to  lie down, and settles in,  not far from some palm trees, right
in front of the hotel.
     Randy  has  gotten  into the  habit of  reaching Intramuros by  cutting
through Rizal Park. This is not a direct route. The direct route passes over
a no  man's land, a vast, dangerous intersection  lined with  squatters huts
(it is dangerous because of the cars, not the  squatters). If you go through
the park, on the other hand, you only have to brush off a lot of whores. But
Randy's gotten good at that. The whores cannot conceive of a man rich enough
to stay at the Manila Hotel who voluntarily walks around the city every day,
and they  have  given him up as a  maniac. He has passed  into the  realm of
irrational things  that you must simply accept, and in the  Philippines this
is a nearly infinite domain.
     Randy  could never  understand  why everything smelled so  bad until he
came  upon a large, crisp rectangular hole in  the sidewalk, and stared down
into a running flume of raw sewage. The sidewalks are nothing more than lids
on the sewers. Access to the depths is provided by concrete slabs with rebar
lifting loops protruding from them.  Squatters  fashion wire harnesses  onto
those  loops  so that  they  can  pull  them up  and  create  instant public
latrines. These slabs are frequently engraved with the initials,  team name,
or graffiti tag of the gentlemen who manufactured them, and their competence
and  attentiveness to detail vary, but their esprit  de  corps is fixed at a
very high level.
     There  are only so many gates that lead into Intramuros. Randy must run
a daily gauntlet of horse drawn taxis, some  of whom have nothing better  to
do than follow him down the street for a quarter of an hour muttering, "Sir?
Sir?  Taxi?  Taxi?"  One  of  them,  in  particular,  is the most  tenacious
capitalist Randy has ever seen. Every  time he draws alongside Randy, a rope
of  urine  uncoils from his horse's  belly and  cracks into the pavement and
hisses and foams. Tiny comets of pee strike Randy's pant legs.  Randy always
wears long pants no matter how hot it is.
     Intramuros is a strangely  quiet and lazy  neighborhood. This is mostly
because it was  destroyed  during the  war, and hasn't been undestroyed yet.
Much  of it is open weed  farms still, which  is very odd in the middle of a
vast, crowded metropolis.
     Several   miles  south,  towards  the   airport,  amid  nice   suburban
developments, is Makati. This would  be  the  logical place to base Epiphyte
Corp. It's got a couple of giant five star luxury hotels on every block, and
office towers that look clean and cool, and modern condos. But Avi, with his
perverse real estate  sense, has decided  to forgo all of that  in  favor of
what  he  described on the phone as  texture. "I do not like to buy or lease
real estate when it is peaking," he said.
     Understanding Avi's motives is  like peeling  an  onion  with  a single
chopstick. Randy knows  there  is  much  more to it: perhaps he's  earning a
favor,  or repaying one,  to  a  landlord.  Perhaps  he's been  reading some
management guru who counsels young entrepreneurs to get deeply involved in a
country's  culture. Not that Avi has ever been one for gurus. Randy's latest
theory  is  that it all has  to  do  with lines  of sight the latitudes  and
     Sometimes  Randy  walks along the top of the Spanish wall. Around Calle
Victoria, where MacArthur had his headquarters before the war, it is as wide
as a four lane street.  Lovers nestle in the trapezoidal gunslits and put up
umbrellas  for privacy.  Below him,  to  the left,  is the moat, a good city
block or two in width, mostly dry. Squatters have built shacks on it. In the
parts that are still  submerged, they dig for mud crabs or string improvised
nets among the purple and magenta lotus blossoms.
     To the right is  Intramuros. A  few buildings poke up  out of a jumbled
wilderness of strewn stone. Ancient  Spanish cannon are sprinkled around the
place,  half  buried.  The  rubble  fields  have been colonized by  tropical
vegetation  and  squatters. Their  clothesline poles and television antennas
are all  wrapped up  in  jungle creepers  and  makeshift  electrical wiring.
Utility  poles jut into the air at odd angles, like widowmakers in  a burned
forest, some  of them  almost  completely obscured by  the glass bubbles  of
electrical  meters.  Every dozen yards  or so, for no discernable  reason, a
pile of rubble smolders.
     As he goes by the cathedral, children  follow  him, whining and begging
piteously until  he puts pesos in their hands. Then they  beam and sometimes
give  him a  bright "Thank you!" in perfect American scented  shopping  mall
English. The beggars in Manila never seem to take their work very seriously,
for even they have been infected by the  cultural fungus of irony and always
seem to  be fighting back  a  grin,  as if they can't believe  they're doing
anything so corny.
     They do not understand that he is working. That's okay.
     Ideas have always come to Randy faster than he could use them. He spent
the first thirty years of his life pursuing whatever idea appealed to him at
the moment, discarding it when a better one came along.
     Now  he  is  working  for  a  company  again,  and  has  some  kind  of
responsibility to use his time  productively. Good ideas come to him as fast
and thick as ever, but  he has to keep his eye  on the ball. If the  idea is
not relevant to Epiphyte, he has to jot it down and forget about it for now.
If it is relevant, he has to restrain his urge to dive into it and consider:
has anyone else come up with this idea before him? Is it possible to just go
out and buy the technology? Can he delegate the  work to a contract coder in
the States?
     He walks slowly, partly because otherwise he will suffer heatstroke and
fall dead in the gutter. Worse yet, he may fall through an open hatch into a
torrent of sewage, or brush against one of the squatters's electrical wires,
which dangle from overhead like patient asps. The constant dangers of sudden
electrocution from above or  drowning in  liquid shit below keep him looking
up  and  down as well  as side  to side. Randy has never  felt  more trapped
between a  capricious  and dangerous heaven and  a hellish underworld.  This
place is as steeped in religion as India, but all of it is Catholic.
     At  the northern end of Intramuros is a little business district. It is
sandwiched between Manila Cathedral  and Fort Santiago,  which the Spaniards
constructed to  command the outlet of the  Pasig River. You  can tell it's a
business district because of the phone wires. As in other Rapidly Developing
Asian Economies, it is difficult to tell  whether these are pirate wires, or
official  ones  that  have been incredibly  badly installed. They are a case
study in why incrementalism is bad. The bundles are  so thick in some places
that Randy probably could not wrap both arms  around  them. Their weight and
tension have begun to pull the phone poles over, especially at curves in the
roads, where the wires  go round a corner and exert a net sideways  force on
the pole.
     All  of  these buildings are constructed  in  the  least expensive  way
conceivable: concrete poured in  place  in wooden forms, over grids of  hand
tied rebar. They are blocky, grey, and completely indistinguishable from one
another.  A couple  of much taller buildings, twenty or thirty stories, loom
over the district from a big intersection nearby, wind and birds circulating
through their broken windows. They were  badly shaken  up  in  an earthquake
during the 1980s and have not been put to rights yet.
     He passes  by a restaurant with a  squat  concrete blockhouse in front,
its openings  covered  with  blackened  steel  grates,  rusty  exhaust pipes
sticking out  the top  to vent the diesel generator locked  inside. NO BROWN
OUT has been proudly stenciled all over it. Beyond that  is a postwar office
building,  four stories high, with  an especially  thick sheaf  of telephone
wires running into  it. The logo of a bank  is  bolted to the front  of  the
building, down low. There is angle parking in front. The two spaces in front
of the main entrance  are blocked off  with hand painted signs: RESERVED FOR
ARMORED CAR and RESERVED FOR BANK MANAGER. A couple of guards stand in front
of the entrance clutching the fat  wooden pistol grips of riot guns, weapons
that  have  the hulking, cartoonish appearance of action figure accessories.
One of the  guards remains behind  a bulletproof podium with  a sign  on it:
     Randy exchanges  nods  with  the gunmen  and  goes into the  building's
lobby,  which  is just as hot as  outside. Bypassing the  bank, ignoring the
unreliable elevators, he goes  through  a  steel door that takes him into  a
narrow stairwell. Today, it is dark.  The building's  electrical system is a
patchwork several different systems coexisting in the same space, controlled
by different panels, some on generators and some not. So blackouts begin and
end in phases. Somewhere near the top of the  stairwell,  small birds chirp,
competing with the sound of car alarms being set off outside.
     Epiphyte Corp. rents  the building's top floor, although he is the only
person  working there  so far. He  keys  his  way  in.  Thank  god;  the air
conditioning has been working.  The money they paid for  their own generator
was worth it. He  disables the alarm systems, goes to the fridge,  and  gets
two one liter bottles of water. His rule of thumb, after a walk, is to drink
water  until  he  begins  to  urinate  again.  Then he  can  consider  other
     He is too sweaty to sit down. He must keep moving so that  the cold dry
air  will flow around his body. He  flicks globes of sweat  out of his beard
and  does an orbit of the floor, looking  out the windows, checking  out the
lines  of sight. He pulls  a ballistic  nylon traveler's wallet  out of  his
trousers  and lets it dangle from his belt loop so  that the skin underneath
it can breathe. It contains his  passport, a virgin credit  card, ten  crisp
new hundred dollar bills, and a floppy disk with his 4096 bit encryption key
on it.
     Northwards he  can  survey  the greens  and ramparts of  Fort Santiago,
where  phalanxes  of  Nipponese  tourists  toil, recording  their  fun  with
forensic determination. Beyond that is the Pasig River, choked with floating
debris. Across the river is Quiapo, a built up area: high rise apartment and
office buildings  with corporate names emblazoned on their top  storeys  and
satellite dishes on the roofs.
     Unwilling to stop moving just  yet,  Randy strolls clockwise around the
office. Intramuros is ringed with  a belt of green, its  former moat. He has
just walked up its western  verge.  The  eastern one is  studded  with heavy
neoclassical  buildings housing  various government ministries. The Post and
Telecommunications Authority sits  on the Pasig's edge, at a  vertex in  the
river from which three  closely spaced  bridges  radiate into Quiapo. Beyond
the  large  new  structures  above  the  river,  Quiapo  and  the  adjoining
neighborhood  of San Miguel are a patchwork  of  giant institutions: a train
station,  an old prison,  many universities, and Malacanang Palace, which is
farther up the Pasig.
     Back on this  side  of  the river,  it is Intramuros  in the foreground
(cathedrals   and   churches   surrounded   by  dormant  land),   government
institutions,  colleges, and universities  in the middle ground, and, beyond
that, a  seemingly infinite  sprawl of low lying,  smoky city.  Miles to the
south  is  the gleaming business city of Makati, built around a square where
two big roads intersect at an acute  angle, echoing the intersecting runways
at NAIA, a bit farther  south. An emerald city of big  houses perched on big
lawns spreads away from Makati: it is  where  the ambassadors and  corporate
presidents  live. Continuing  his  clockwise  stroll  he  can  follow  Roxas
Boulevard  coming toward him up the seawall, marked by a picket line of tall
palm  trees. Manila  Bay  is jammed with heavy  shipping,  big  cargo  ships
filling the water like logs in a boom. The  container port is just below him
to the west: a grid of warehouses  on reclaimed  land that is about as flat,
and as natural, as a sheet of particle board.
     If he looks over the cranes and containers, due west across the bay, he
can barely  make out  the  mountainous silhouette of the  Bata'an Peninsula,
some forty miles distant. Following its black skyline southwards tracing the
route taken by the Nipponese in  '42  he can almost resolve a lump lying off
its southern tip. That would be the island of Corregidor. This  is the first
time he's ever been able to see it; the air is unusually clear today.
     A fragment  of historical trivia floats to  the  surface of  his melted
brain. The galleon from Acapulco. The signal fire on Corregidor.
     He  punches in Avi's  GSM  number. Avi, somewhere in the world, answers
it.  He sounds like he is in a taxi, in  one  of  those countries where horn
honking is still an inalienable right. "What's on your mind, Randy?"
     "Lines of sight," Randy says.
     "Huh!"  Avi  blurts,  as if a medicine ball has just slammed  into  his
belly. "You figured it out."

     Chapter 9 GUADALCANAL

     The marine  raiders' bodies  are  no longer  pressurized with blood and
breath.  The  weight  of  their  gear  flattens  them  into  the  sand.  The
accelerating surf has already  begun to  shovel silt over them; comet trails
of blood fade back into the  ocean, red  carpets  for any  sharks who may be
browsing the coastline. Only one of them is a giant lizard. but all have the
same general  shape:  fat  in  the  middle  and  tailing  off  at  the ends,
streamlined by the waves.
     A  little convoy  of Nip boats is moving down the slot,  towing  barges
loaded with supplies packed into steel  drums. Shaftoe and his platoon ought
to  be  lobbing mortars at them  right now. When the American planes show up
and  begin to  kick  the  shit out of them, the  Nips  will throw  the drums
overboard  and  run  away,  and hope that some of  them will wash  ashore on
     The war  is  over for Bobby Shaftoe, and  hardly for the  first or last
time. He trudges among the platoon.  Waves hit him in the knees, then spread
into magic carpets of foam and vegetable matter that skim along the beach so
that his footing appears  to glide  out  from under  him. He keeps  twisting
around for no reason and falling on his ass.
     Finally he reaches the  corpsman's  corpse, and divests  it of anything
with a red  cross on it. He turns his back on the Nip  convoy and looks up a
long  glacis toward the tideline. It  might as well be Mt.  Everest as  seen
from a low base camp. Shaftoe  decides to tackle the challenge on hands  and
knees. Every so often, a big  wave spanks him on the ass, rushes  up between
his legs orgasmically and washes his face. It feels good and also  keeps him
from pitching forward and falling asleep below the high tide mark.
     The next couple of days are  a handful of dirty, faded  black and white
snapshots,  shuffled and  dealt over and over  again: the beach under water.
positions of corpses marked by standing  waves.  The beach empty.  The beach
under  water  again.  The  beach  strewn with black  lumps, like a slice  of
Grandma  Shaftoe's raisin bread. A  morphine bottle half buried in the sand.
Small,  dark  people, mostly  naked,  moving along the beach at low tide and
looting the corpses.
     Hey,  wait a  sec!  Shaftoe  is  on  his feet  somehow,  clutching  his
Springfield.  The jungle  doesn't  want to  let  go of  him;  creepers  have
actually grown  over his limbs in the time he has lain there. As he emerges.
dragging  foliage behind him  like a float in a  ticker tape parade, the sun
floods over him like warm  syrup of ipecac. He can see the ground headed his
way. He spins as he falls momentarily glimpsing a big man  with a rifle  and
then his face is pressed into the cool sand.  The surf roars in his skull: a
nice standing ovation from a studio audience of angels, who having all  died
themselves, know a good death when they see one.
     Little  hands roll  him over onto his  back. One of his  eyes is frozen
shut by  sand. Peering through  the  other he sees a big fellow with a rifle
slung over his shoulder standing over him. The fellow has a red beard, which
makes it  just a  bit less probable that he is a Nipponese soldier. But what
is he?
     He prods like  a doctor and prays like a priest in Latin, even.  Silver
hair buzzed close to a tanned skull. Shaftoe scans the fellow's clothing for
some kind of insignia. He's hoping  to see a  Semper Fidelis but instead  he
reads: Societas Eruditorum and Ignoti et quasi occulti.

     "Ignoti et ... what the fuck does that mean?" he asks.
     "Hidden  and  unknown more or less,"  says  the man. He's got  a  weird
accent, sort of Australian, sort of German. He checks out Shaftoe's insignia
in turn. "What's a Marine Raider? Some kind of new outfit?"
     "Like a Marine,  only  more so," Shaftoe  says. Which might sound  like
bravado. Indeed it partly is. But  this comment is as heavy laden with irony
as  Shaftoe's clothes are with  sand, because at  this particular moment  in
history, a Marine isn't  just a tough s.o.b. He is  a tough S.O.B. stuck out
in the  middle of  nowhere (Guadalcanal) with no food or  weapons (owing, as
every  Marine  can  tell  you,  to  a  sinister  conspiracy  between General
MacArthur and  the Nips)  totally  making everything up as  he  goes  along,
improvising weapons from  found objects, addled,  half the  time, by disease
and the drugs supplied to keep  diseases at  bay. And in every  one of those
senses, a Marine Raider is (as Shaftoe says) like a Marine, only more so.
     "Are   you  some  kind  of   commando   or  something?"  Shaftoe  asks,
interrupting Red as he is mumbling.
     "No. I live on the mountain."
     "Oh, yeah? What do you do up there, Red?"
     "I  watch.  And talk  on  the radio,  in  code." Then  he  goes back to
     "Who you talkin' to, Red?"
     "Do you mean, just now in Latin, or on the radio in code?"
     "Both I reckon."
     "On the radio in code, I talk to the good guys.
     "Who are the good guys?"
     "Long  story. If you live, maybe I'll introduce you  to some  of them,"
says Red.
     "How about just now in Latin?"
     "Talking to God," Red says. "Last rites, in case you don't live."
     This  makes him think  of the  others.  He  remembers why  he made that
insane decision to stand up in  the first place. "Hey! Hey!" He tries to sit
up, and finding that  impossible, twists around. "Those bastards are looting
the corpses!"
     His eyes aren't focusing and he has to rub sand out of the one.
     Actually, they  are  focusing just fine.  What looked like  steel drums
strewn  around the beach turn out to be steel drums strewn around the beach.
The  natives  are pawing them out of  the  sucking sand, digging with  their
hands like dogs, rolling them up the beach and into the jungle.
     Shaftoe blacks out.
     When he wakes up there's a row of crosses on  the  beach sticks  lashed
together  with vines, draped  with jungle flowers. Red is  pounding  them in
with the butt  of his rifle. All the steel drums,  and most of the  natives,
are gone. Shaftoe needs morphine. He says as much to Red.
     "If you  think you  need it  now," Red says, "just wait." He tosses his
rifle  to  a  native,  strides  up to Shaftoe, and  heaves  him  up over his
shoulders in a  fireman's carry.  Shaftoe screams.  A couple  of Zeroes  fly
overhead, as they stride into the jungle. "My name is Enoch Root," says Red,
"but you can call me Brother."

     Chapter 10 GALLEON

     One morning,  Randy  Waterhouse rises early, takes  a long hot  shower,
plants himself before  the mirror of his  Manila Hotel suite, and shaves his
face bloody. He was  thinking of farming this work out to  a specialist: the
barber in the hotel's lobby. But this is the first time Randy's face will be
visible in  ten years, and Randy wants to be the first person to see it. His
heart actually  thumps, partly out  of primal  brute fear of the  knife, and
partly from the sheer anticipation. It is like the scene in corny old movies
where the bandages are finally taken off of the patient's face, and a mirror
     The effect is, first of all, intense deja vu, as if the last  ten years
of his life were but a dream, and he now has them to live over again.
     Then  he  begins to  notice subtle  ways  in  which his face  has  been
changing since it was last exposed to air and light. He is mildly astonished
to find that these changes are not entirely bad. Randy  has never thought of
himself as especially good looking, and has  never especially cared. But the
blood spotted visage in the mirror is, arguably, better looking than the one
that faded into the deepening shade of stubble a decade ago. It looks like a
grownup's face.


     It  has been a week since  he and Avi laid out the  entire plan for the
high officials of the PTA: the Post and Telecoms Authority. PTA is a generic
term that telecom businessmen slap, like a yellow stickynote, onto what ever
government department handles these matters in whatever country they  happen
to be visiting  this  week.  In  the  Philippines,  it  is  actually  called
something else.
     Americans  brought, or  at least  accompanied, the Philippines into the
twentieth  century  and erected the  apparatus  of its  central  government.
Intramuros, the dead heart of Manila, is surrounded by a loose ring of giant
neoclassical  buildings,  very much  after the  fashion  of the  District of
Columbia,  housing various parts of that apparatus. The PTA is headquartered
in one of those buildings, just south of the Pasig.
     Randy  and  Avi  get there  early because Randy,  accustomed to  Manila
traffic, insists that they budget a full hour to cover the one– or two
mile taxi ride  from the hotel. But traffic is perversely light and they end
up  with a full twenty minutes to kill. They stroll around the  side of  the
building and up onto the green levee. Avi draws a bead on the Epiphyte Corp.
building, just to reassure himself that their line  of sight is clear. Randy
is already  satisfied of  this,  and  just  stands  there with arms crossed,
looking at the river. It is choked, bank to bank, with floating debris: some
plant  material but  mostly  old  mattresses, cushions,  pieces  of  plastic
litter, hunks of foam,  and, most  of  all, plastic shopping bags in various
bright colors. The river has the consistency of vomit.
     Avi wrinkles his nose. "What's that?"
     Randy sniffs the air and  smells, among everything else, burnt plastic.
He gestures downstream. "Squatter camp on the other side of Fort Santiago, '
he explains. "They sieve plastic out of the river and burn it for fuel."
     "I was in Mexico a couple of weeks ago," Avi says.  "They have  plastic
forests there!"
     "What does that mean?"
     "Downwind of the city, the trees sort of comb the plastic shopping bags
out of the air. They  get totally covered  with them. The trees die  because
light and  air can't get through  to  the  leaves. But they remain standing,
totally encased in fluttering, ragged plastic, all different colors."
     Randy shrugs his blazer off, rolls up his sleeves; Avi does not seem to
notice the  heat. "So that's  Fort Santiago,"  Avi says, and  starts walking
towards it.
     "You've heard  of  it?" Randy asks,  following him, and heaving a sigh.
The  air is  so  hot  that  when it comes  out of your lungs it has actually
cooled down by several degrees.
     "It's mentioned  in  the  video,"  Avi  says, holding  up  a  videotape
cassette and wiggling it.
     "Oh, yeah."
     Soon they  are standing before the fort's entrance, which is flanked by
carvings  of  a pair of guards cut into the  foamy  volcanic  tuff:  halberd
brandishing Spaniards  in  blousy pants and conquistador  helmets. They have
been  standing here for  close to half a millennium, and a hundred  thousand
tropical thundershowers  have streamed down their  bodies and  polished them
     Avi is working on a much shorter time horizon he has  eyes only for the
bullet  craters that have disfigured these soldiers far worse  than time and
water. He puts his hands  in them, like doubting Thomas. Then he steps  back
and  begins  to mutter  in  Hebrew.  Two ponytailed German  tourists  stroll
through the gate in rustic sandals.
     "We have five minutes," Randy says.
     "Okay, let's come back here later."


     Charlene  wasn't  totally  wrong. Blood seeps  out  of tiny,  invisible
painless  cuts  on Randy's face and neck for ten or fifteen minutes after he
has shaved. Moments ago, that blood was accelerating through his ventricles,
or seeping through  the parts of his brain that make him a conscious entity.
Now the same  stuff is exposed to the air; he can reach up and  wipe it off.
The boundary between Randy and his environment has been annihilated.
     He gets out a big tube  of heavy  waterproof  sunblock and  greases his
face, neck, arms, and the small patch  of scalp on the top of his head where
the hair is getting thin. Then he pulls on  khakis, boat shoes, and a  loose
cotton shirt, and a  beltpack containing his GPS  receiver and  a couple  of
other essentials like a  wad  of toilet  paper and a  disposable camera.  He
drops his key  off at the front desk, and  the employees all do double takes
and grin.  The  bellhops  seem  particularly delighted  by his makeover.  Or
perhaps  it is  just that he is  wearing leather shoes for once:  topsiders,
which he's always thought  of as  the mark of effete preppies, but which are
actually a reasonable  thing for him to wear today. Bellhops  make ready  to
haul the  front door open, but instead,  Randy cuts across the lobby towards
the back of the hotel, skirts the swimming pool, and walks through a line of
palm trees to a stone  railing along the top of a seawall.  Below him is the
hotel's dock, which sticks out into a small cove that opens onto Manila Bay.
     His ride isn't here yet,  so he stands at the railing for a minute. One
side  of the  cove  is accessible  from  Rizal Park.  A few  gnarly Filipino
squatter  types are lazing  on the benches,  staring back at him. Down below
the breakwater, a middle aged man, wearing only boxer shorts, stands in knee
deep water  with a  pointed  stick, staring with  feline  intensity into the
lapping  water.  A black helicopter  makes  slow, banking  circles against a
sugar white sky. It is a Vietnam vintage Huey, a wappity wap kind of chopper
that also makes a fierce reptilian hissing noise as it slithers overhead.
     A boat  materializes from  the  steam  rising  off  the bay,  cuts  its
engines, and coasts into the cove, shoving a bow wave in front of it, like a
wrinkle in  a  heavy rug. A tall, slender woman is poised on the prow like a
living figurehead, holding a coil of heavy rope.


     The big satellite dishes on the roof of the PTA's  building are pointed
almost  straight  up,  like birdbaths, because Manila  is  so  close to  the
equator. On its stone walls,  spackle is coming  loose  from  the bullet and
shrapnel craters into  which it  was  troweled after  the  war.  Window  air
conditioners  centered in  the  building's Roman arches drip  water onto the
limestone  balusters  below, gradually  melting them away.  The limestone is
blackened with some kind of organic slime, and pitted by the root systems of
little  plants  that  have  taken  root in  them  probably  grown from seeds
conveyed in the shit of the birds that congregate  there to bathe and drink,
the squatters of the aerial realm.
     In  a  paneled conference  room, a  dozen  people are waiting,  equally
divided between table sitting big wheels and wall crawling minions. As Randy
and Avi enter a  great flurry of  hand  shaking  and card presenting ensues,
though most of the introductions zoom through Randy's short term memory like
a supersonic fighter blowing past shoddy Third World air defense systems. He
is left only with a  stack of business cards. He deals them out on his patch
of table like a senescent codger  playing Klondike on his meal tray. Avi, of
course, knows all of these  people already seems to be on a first name basis
with most of  them,  knows  their children's  names and ages, their hobbies,
their blood types, chronic medical conditions, what books  they are reading,
whose parties they have been going  to.  All of them are evidently delighted
by this, and all of them, thank god, completely ignore Randy.
     Of the half dozen important people  in the room, three are middle  aged
Filipino men. One of these is a high ranking official in the PTA. The second
is the president of an  upstart telecommunications  company  called FiliTel,
which is  trying  to compete  against the traditional monopoly. The third is
the vice  president  of a company called 24 Jam  that runs about half of the
convenience stores in the  Philippines, as  well as quite a few in Malaysia.
Randy  has trouble telling these men  apart, but  by watching  them converse
with Avi, and by  using inductive  logic, he  is soon able to match business
card with face.
     The other three  are easy: two Americans and one Nipponese, and  one of
the  Americans is a woman. She is wearing  lavender pumps  color coordinated
with a neat little skirt suit, and matching nails. She looks as if she might
have stepped straight off the set of  an infomercial for fake fingernails or
home permanents. Her card identifies her as Mary Ann Carson, and claims that
she  is a  V.P. with  AVCLA,  Asia Venture Capital Los Angeles, which  Randy
knows dimly as a Los  Angeles based firm that invests in  Rapidly Developing
Asian  Economies.  The American  man is blond and has  a  hard  jawed  quasi
military look about  him.  He  seems  alert, disciplined,  impassive,  which
Charlene's  crowd would interpret as  hostility born of  repression  born of
profound  underlying mental disorder. He represents the Subic Bay Free Port.
The  Nipponese man is  the  executive  vice  president of a subsidiary of  a
ridiculously  colossal consumer electronics company.  He  is about six  feet
tall. He has  a small body and a large head shaped like an  upside down Bosc
pear,  thick  hair  edged with  gray,  and  wire  rimmed glasses. He  smiles
frequently, and projects the serene confidence of a man  who has memorized a
two thousand page encyclopedia of business etiquette.
     Avi wastes  little time in starting the  videotape, which at the moment
represents about seventy five percent of Epiphyte Corp.'s assets. Avi had it
produced  by a hot multimedia startup in San Francisco, and the contract  to
produce it  accounted for one hundred percent  of the startup's revenue this
year. "Pies crumble when you slice them too thin," Avi likes to say.
     It starts with footage pilfered from a forgotten made for TV movie of a
Spanish galleon making headway through heavy seas.  Superimpose title: SOUTH
CHINA SEA A.D. 1699. The soundtrack  has been beefed  up  and Dolbyized from
its original monaural version. It is quite impressive.
     ("Half of the investors in AVCLA are into yachting," Avi explained.)
     Cut  to  a  shot (produced  by the multimedia  company,  and seamlessly
spliced in) of a mangy, exhausted lookout in a crow's nest, peering  through
a brass spyglass, hollering the Spanish equivalent of "Land ho!"
     Cut to the galleon's  captain, a  rugged,  bearded  character, emerging
from  his  cabin  to  stare  with  Keatsian  wild  surmise at  the  horizon.
"Corregidor!" he exclaims.
     Cut to a stone tower on the crown  of a green  tropical island, where a
lookout is sighting  the  (digitally inserted)  galleon on the  horizon. The
lookout cups his hands around  his mouth and bellows, in Spanish, "It is the
galleon! Light the signal fire!"
     ("The family of the guy who runs the PTA is really into local history,"
Avi said, "they run the Museum of the Philippines.")
     With a lusty cheer,  Spaniards (actually,  Mexican American actors)  in
conquistador helmets  plunge  firebrands  into a huge pile of dry wood which
evolves into a screaming pyramid of flame powerful enough to flash roast  an
     Cut  to  the battlements of Manila's Fort  Santiago (foreground: carved
styrofoam;   background:  digitally  generated  landscape),   where  another
conquistador spies a light flaring up on the horizon. "Mira! El galleon!" he
     Cut to a series of shots of Manila  townsfolk rushing to the seawall to
adore the signal fire, including an  Augustinian monk who  clasps his rosary
strewn  hands and bursts into clerical Latin on  the  spot ("the family that
runs  FiliTel endowed a chapel at  Manila Cathedral") as well as a clean cut
family of Chinese  merchants unloading bales of silk from  a junk  ("24 Jam,
the convenience store chain, is run by Chinese mestizos").
     A  voiceover begins,  deep  and authoritative, English with  a Filipino
accent  ("The  actor is  the brother of the godfather of the grandson of the
man  who runs  the PTA"). Subtitles appear  on the  bottom  of the screen in
Tagalog ("the PTA  people have a  heavy political  commitment to the  native
     "In  the  heyday of the Spanish Empire, the most important event of the
year  was the arrival of the galleon from Acapulco, laden with  silver  from
the rich mines of America silver to buy the silks and spices of Asia, silver
that  made  the  Philippines  into  the  economic fountainhead of Asia.  The
approach of the galleon was heralded by a beacon of light from the island of
Corregidor, at the entrance of Manila Bay."
     Cut  (finally!)  from  the  beaming,  greed  lit faces  of  the  Manila
townsfolk  to a 3 D graphics rendering of Manila Bay, the Bata'an Peninsula,
and  the small islands off  the tip  of  Bata'an,  including Corregidor. The
point  of  view swoops and  zooms  in  on Corregidor where a  hokily,  badly
rendered fire blazes up. A beam of yellow light, like a phaser blast in Star
Trek, shoots across  the  bay.  Our point  of view follows  it. It  splashes
against the walls of Fort Santiago.
     The signal fire was an ancient and simple technology.  In  the language
of  modern science,  its  light  was a  form  of  electromagnetic radiation,
propagating  in a straight line across Manila Bay, and carrying a single bit
of information.  But,  in  an  age starved  for information, that single bit
meant everything to the people of Manila."
     Cue that funky  music. Cut to  shots of teeming modern Manila. Shopping
malls  and  luxury hotels in  Makati. Electronics factories, school children
sitting in  front of computer screens. Satellite  dishes. Ships unloading at
the  big  free port of Subic  Bay. Lots and lots of grinning  and  thumbs up
     "The  Philippines  of  today  is an  emerging economic dynamo.  As  its
economy grows,  so  does its hunger  for information  not single  bits,  but
hundreds  of billions  of them.  But the technology  for  transmitting  that
information has not changed as much as you might imagine."
     Back  to  the  3 D rendering of  Manila  Bay. This  time, instead  of a
bonfire on Corregidor, there's a microwave horn up on  a tower on the isle's
summit, gunning electric blue sine waves at the sprawl of Metro Manila.
     "Electromagnetic radiation in this case, microwave beams propagating in
straight lines, over line of  sight routes, can transmit  vast quantities of
information quickly. Modern cryptographic technology  makes the  signal safe
from would be eavesdroppers."
     Cut  back  to the  galleon  and  lookout  footage.  "In  the old  days,
Corregidor's position at the entrance of  Manila  Bay made it a natural look
out a place where information about approaching ships could be gathered."
     Cut to a shot of a barge in a cove somewhere, feeding thick tarry cable
overboard,  divers  at  work  with  queues of round  orange  buoys.  "Today,
Corregidor's geographical situation makes it an ideal place to land deep sea
fiberoptic cables.  The  information coming down  these cables  from Taiwan,
Hong  Kong,  Malaysia,  Nippon,  and  the United  States  can from  there be
transmitted directly into the heart of Manila. At the speed of light! "
     More  3 D graphics.  This  time,  it's  a  detailed  rendering  of  the
cityscape  of Manila. Randy knows it by heart  because he  gathered the data
for the damn thing by walking around town with his GPS receiver. The beam of
bits from Corregidor comes straight in off the bay and scores  a bullseye on
the rooftop antenna of a nondescript four story office building between Fort
Santiago  and the  Manila  Cathedral.  It is  Epiphyte's building,  and  the
antenna is discreetly labeled with the name and logo of Epiphyte Corp. Other
antennas then retransmit information to the PTA building and to other nearby
sites:  skyscrapers in Makati, government offices in Quezon City, and an Air
Force base south of town.


     Hotel staff throw a carpeted gangway across the gap between seawall and
boat.  As Randy is walking across  it, the woman extends her hand to him. He
reaches out to shake it. "Randy Waterhouse," he says.
     She grabs  his hand and pulls him on board  not so much greeting him as
making sure he doesn't fall overboard. "Hi. Amy Shaftoe," she says. "Welcome
to Glory. "
     "Pardon me?"
     " Glory.  The name of  this  junk  is  Glory  ,"  she says.  She speaks
forthrightly and  with great clarity,  as  though communicating over a noisy
two  way  radio.  "Actually,  it's Glory IV,"  she continues.  Her accent is
largely Midwestern,  with  a trace  of  Southern twang, and  a little bit of
Filipino, too.  If you saw her on  the  streets of some Midwestern town  you
might not  notice the traces of Asian ancestry around her eyes. She has dark
brown  hair, sun streaked, just  long  enough to form a  secure ponytail, no
     "'Scuse me a sec," she says, pokes her head  into the  pilot house, and
speaks to  the  pilot in a mixture of Tagalog and  English. The  pilot nods,
looks around, and  begins to  manipulate the  controls. The hotel staff pull
the  gangway  back.  "Hey,"  Amy says  quietly,  and underhands  a  pack  of
Marlboros  across  the gap  to each one of them. They snatch them out of the
air, grin, and thank her. Glory IV begins to back away from the dock.
     Amy spends the  next few minutes walking around the deck, going through
some kind of mental checklist. Randy counts four men in addition to  Amy and
the pilot two Caucasians  and two Filipinos. All of them are fiddling around
with engines or diving gear in a way Randy recognizes, through many cultural
and technological barriers, as debugging. Amy  walks past Randy a  couple of
times, but avoids looking him in  the  eye. She's not a shy person. Her body
language is  eloquent  enough:  "I am  aware that men  are in  the  habit of
looking at whatever women  happen  to be nearby,  in  the hopes  of deriving
enjoyment  from their  physical beauty, their  hair, makeup, fragrance,  and
clothing. I  will ignore  this, politely  and patiently, until  you get over
it." Amy is a long limbed girl in paint stained jeans, a sleeveless t shirt,
and high tech sandals, and  she lopes easily  around the  boat. Finally  she
approaches him, meeting his eyes for just a second and then glancing away as
if bored.
     "Thanks for giving me the ride," Randy says.
     ''It's nothing,'' she says.
     "I  feel  embarrassed  that I  didn't  tip the  guys at the dock. Can I
reimburse you?"
     "You can  reimburse me with  information," she says without hesitation.
Amy reaches up with one hand to rub the back of her neck. Her elbow pokes up
in  the air. He notices  about a month's growth  of hair in her armpit, then
glimpses  the corner of a tattoo poking out from under her shirt. "You're in
the  information business, right?" She watches his face,  hoping  that he'll
take  the cue and laugh, or at least grin. But he's too preoccupied to catch
it.  She  glances  away, now with a knowing,  sardonic look on her face  you
don't understand me, Randy, which is absolutely typical, and  I'm fine  with
that. She reminds Randy of level headed  blue collar lesbians  he has known,
drywall hanging urban dykes with cats and cross country ski racks.
     She takes him into an air conditioned cabin with a lot of windows and a
coffee maker. It has fake wood veneer paneling like a suburban basement, and
framed  exhibits  on  the  walls   official   documents  like  licenses  and
registrations, and enlarged black and white photographs of people and boats.
It smells like coffee, soap, and oil. There is  a  boom  box held  down with
bungee cords, and a shoebox with a couple of dozen CDs in it, mostly  albums
by American woman singer  songwriters  of the offbeat, misunderstood, highly
intelligent but intensely emotional  school, getting rich  selling  music to
consumers who understand what it's like not to be understood (1).
Amy pours two mugs of coffee and sets them  down on the cabin's bolted  down
table, then fishes in the tight pockets of her jeans, pulls out a waterproof
nylon wallet, extracts two business cards, and shoots them across the table,
one  after the  other,  to  Randy. She  seems to enjoy doing  this a  small,
private  smile comes onto her lips and  then  vanishes the moment Randy sees
it. The  cards bear the logo of Semper Marine Services and the  name America
     "Your name's America?" Randy asks.
     Amy looks  out the window, bored, afraid he's going  to make a big deal
out of it. "Yeah," she says.
     "Where'd you grow up?"
     She seems to be fascinated by the view out the window: big cargo  ships
strewn  around  Manila Bay as far as  the eye can see,  ships  hailing  from
Athens, Shanghai,  Vladivostok,  Cape  Town,  Monrovia.  Randy  infers  that
looking at big rusty boats is more interesting than talking to Randy.
     "So, would you mind telling me what's going on?" she asks. She turns to
face him, lifts the mug  to her lips, and finally, looks him straight in the
     Randy's  a little  nonplussed.  The question  is  basically impertinent
coming  from  America  Shaftoe. Her  company,  Semper Marine Services, is  a
contractor at the very lowest level of Avi's virtual corporation only one of
a dozen boats and divers outfits that they could have hired so this is a bit
like being interrogated by one's janitor or taxi driver.
     But she's smart and unusual, and, precisely  because of all her efforts
not to be, she's  cute. As an interesting female, and a fellow American, she
is pulling rank, demanding to be accorded a higher status. Randy tries to be
     "Is there something bothering you?" he asks.
     She looks away. She's afraid she's given him the wrong impression. "Not
in particular," she says,  "I'm  just nosy. I like  to hear  stories. Divers
always sit around and tell each other stories."
     Randy sips his  coffee. America continues, "In this business, you never
know  where your  next job is going to come from.  Some people  have  really
weird  reasons  for wanting to get stuff done underwater,  which  I  like to
hear." She  concludes, "It's  fun!" which  is clearly all the motivation she
     Randy views all of the above as a fairly professional bullshitting job.
He decides to give Amy press release  material only.  "All the Filipinos are
in Manila. That's where the information needs to go. It is somewhat awkward,
getting information to Manila, because it  has mountains in  back of  it and
Manila Bay in front. The bay is a nightmare place to run submarine cables "
     She's nodding. Of  course  she  would know this already. Randy hits the
fast  forward. "Corregidor's a  pretty  good  place. From Corregidor you can
shoot a  line of sight  microwave transmission  across  the bay  to downtown
     "So you are  extending  the North Luzon  coastal festoon from Subic Bay
down to Corregidor," she says.
     "Uh two things about what you  just said," Randy says, and pauses for a
moment  to get the answer queued up  in his output buffer. "One, you have to
be careful about your pronouns what do you mean  when you  say 'you'? I work
for Epiphyte Corporation,  which is designed from the ground up to work, not
on its own, but as an element in a virtual corporation, kind of like "
     "I know what an epiphyte is," she says. "What's two?"
     "Okay,  good," Randy  says, a little off  balance.  "Two  is  that  the
extension of the North Luzon Festoon is just the first  of what we hope will
be  several  linkups.  We want  to  lay a lot  of  cable,  eventually,  into
     Some kind of machinery behind Amy's eyes  begins to hum. The message is
clear enough. There  will be work aplenty for Semper Marine,  if they handle
this first job well.
     "In  this case,  the entity that's  doing the  work is a joint  venture
including  us, FiliTel, 24  Jam, and  a big Nipponese  electronics  company,
among others."
     "What does 24 Jam have to do with it? They're convenience stores."
     "They're  the retail outlet  the  distribution  system  for  Epiphyte's
     "And that is?"
     "Pinoy grams." Randy manages to  suppress the urge to tell her that the
name is trademarked.
     "Pinoy grams?"
     "Here's how it works.  You are an Overseas Contract Worker.  Before you
leave home for  Saudi or Singapore or Seattle or wherever, you buy or rent a
little  gizmo from us. It's about the size of a paperback book and encases a
thimble sized  video camera, a  tiny screen, and  a lot of memory chips. The
components come from all over the place they are shipped to the free port at
Subic  and assembled  in  a  Nipponese  plant there.  So they  cost next  to
nothing. Anyway, you take  this  gizmo overseas  with you. Whenever you feel
like communicating with the folks at home, you turn it on, aim the camera at
yourself and record  a  little  video greeting card.  It all goes  onto  the
memory chips. It's highly  compressed. Then you plug the gizmo into a  phone
line and let it work its magic."
     "What's the magic? It sends the video down the phone line?"
     "Haven't  people  being messing  around with video phones  for  a  long
     "The difference here is our software. We don't try to send the video in
real time  that's  too expensive. We store the data at central servers, then
take advantage of lulls,  when  traffic is  low through the undersea cables,
and shoot the data  down those cables when time can be had cheap. Eventually
the data winds  up  at  Epiphyte's facility in Intramuros. From there we can
use  wireless  technology to send the data to 24 Jam stores all  over  Metro
Manila.  The store just  needs a little pie plate dish  on  the roof,  and a
decoder  and  a  regular VCR down behind  the  counter.  The  Pinoy  gram is
recorded on a regular videotape. Then, when Mom comes in to buy  eggs or Dad
comes in to buy cigarettes, the storekeeper says, 'Hey, you got a Pinoy gram
today,' and  hands  them the videotape. They  can  take  it home and get the
latest  news from their  child overseas. When they're done, they  bring  the
videotape back to 24 Jam for reuse."
     About halfway  through this,  Amy understands the  basic concept, looks
out  the window again and begins  trying to work a fragment of breakfast out
of her  teeth  with  the tip  of her  tongue.  She  does it  with her  mouth
tastefully  closed, but  it  seems to  occupy her  thoughts  more  than  the
explanation of Pinoy grams.
     Randy is gripped by a crazy, unaccountable desire not to bore Amy. It's
not that he  is getting a crush on her,  because he  puts  the odds at fifty
fifty  that  she's a  lesbian, and he  knows  better. She is  so  frank,  so
guileless, that he feels he could confide anything in her, as an equal.
     This is why he hates business. He wants to tell everyone everything. He
wants to make friends with people.
     "So, let me guess," she says, "you are the guy doing the software."
     "Yeah," he admits, a little defensive, "but  the software  is the  only
interesting part  of  this whole project.  All  the rest  is  making license
     That wakes her up a little. "Making license plates?"
     "It's an expression that my  business partner and I  use,"  Randy says.
"With  any  job,  there's  some creative work that  needs  to  be  done  new
technology to be developed  or whatever. Everything else ninety nine percent
of it  is making  deals, raising  capital, going to meetings, marketing  and
sales. We call that stuff making license plates."
     She nods, looking out the window. Randy is on the verge  of telling her
that Pinoy grams are nothing more  than a way to  create cash  flow, so that
they can move  on to part two of the business plan.  He  is sure  that  this
would  elevate his stature beyond that  of dull software boy. But Amy  puffs
sharply across the top  of her coffee, like blowing out a candle, and  says,
"Okay. Thanks. I guess that was worth the three packs of cigarettes."

     Chapter 11 NIGHTMARE

     Bobby Shaftoe has become a connoisseur of nightmares.
     Like a fighter pilot ejecting from a burning  plane,  he  has just been
catapulted out of an old nightmare, and into a  brand new,  even better one.
It is creepy and understated; no giant lizards here.
     It begins with  heat on his face. When you  take enough fuel to  push a
fifty thousand ton ship across the  Pacific Ocean at twenty five  knots, and
put  it all in  one tank and the Nips  fly over and torch  it all in  a  few
seconds,  while  you stand close enough to  see the triumphant grins  on the
pilots' faces, then you can feel the heat on your face in this way.
     Bobby Shaftoe  opens  his  eyes,  expecting that,  in  so doing, he  is
raising the curtain  on  a corker of a nightmare, probably the final moments
of  Torpedo Bombers at Two O'Clock!  (his all time favorite) or the surprise
beginning of Strafed by Yellow Men XVII.
     But the sound track to this nightmare does  not seem  to be running. It
is as quiet as an ambush. He is sitting up in a hospital bed surrounded by a
firing  squad of hot klieg  lights  that  make it difficult to  see anything
else.  Shaftoe blinks and  focuses on  an eddy of cigarette smoke hanging in
the air, like spilled fuel oil in a tropical cove. It sure smells good.
     A young  man is sitting  near his bed. All that Shaftoe can see of this
man is an asymmetrical halo where the lights glance from the petroleum glaze
on his  pompadour.  And the  red  coal of his cigarette. As  he  looks  more
carefully he can make out the silhouette of a military uniform. Not a Marine
uniform.  Lieutenant's  bars gleam  on  his shoulders, light shining through
double doors.
     "Would  you like another  cigarette?" the lieutenant says. His voice is
hoarse but weirdly gentle.
     Shaftoe looks down at his own hand and sees the terminal half inch of a
Lucky Strike wedged between his fingers.
     'Ask  me a  tough one," he manages to say.  His  own voice is deep  and
skirted, like a gramophone winding down.
     The butt is swapped for a new one. Shaftoe raises it to his lips. There
are bandages on that arm, and underneath them,  he  can feel grievous wounds
trying to inflict pain. But something is blocking the signals.
     Ah, the morphine. It can't  be  too bad of a nightmare if it comes with
morphine, can it?
     "You ready?" the voice says. God damn it, that voice is familiar.
     "Sir, ask me a tough one, sir!" Shaftoe says.
     "You already said that."
     "Sir, if you ask a  Marine  if he  wants another cigarette,  or if he's
ready, the answer is always the same, sir!"
     "That's the spirit," the voice says. "Roll film."
     A clicking noise starts up in the outer darkness beyond the klieg light
firmament. "Rolling," says a voice.
     Something  big descends towards Shaftoe.  He flattens himself  into the
bed, because it looks  exactly like the sinister eggs laid in  midair by Nip
dive bombers. But then it stops and just hovers there.
     "Sound," says another voice.
     Shaftoe looks harder and sees that it is not  a bomb but a large bullet
shaped microphone on the end of a boom.
     The lieutenant  with  the pompadour  leans  forward  now, instinctively
seeking the light, like a traveler on a cold winter's night.
     It is that guy from the movies. What's his name. Oh, yeah!
     Ronald Reagan  has a stack of three  by five cards in his lap. He skids
up  a  new one: "What advice do you,  as the youngest American  fighting man
ever  to win  both  the Navy Cross  and the Silver Star, have for  any young
Marines on their way to Guadalcanal?"
     Shaftoe  doesn't  have to think very long.  The  memories are  still as
fresh as last night's eleventh nightmare: ten plucky Nips in Suicide Charge!

     "Just kill the one with the sword first."
     "Ah," Reagan says, raising his waxed and penciled eyebrows, and cocking
his  pompadour in  Shaftoe's  direction.  "Smarrrt  –  you target them
because they're the officers, right?"
     "No,  fuckhead!" Shaftoe  yells.  "You  kill 'em  because  they've  got
fucking swords! You ever had anyone running at you waving a fucking sword ?"
     Reagan backs down. He's scared  now, sweating off some  of his  makeup,
even though a cool breeze is coming in off the bay and through the window.
     Reagan  wants to turn tail and head back down  to  Hollywood and nail a
starlet fast. But he's stuck here  in Oakland, interviewing the war hero. He
flips through his  stack of cards, rejects  about twenty in a row. Shaftoe's
in no hurry,  he's  going  to be  flat on  his back in this hospital bed for
approximately the rest  of  his life. He incinerates half  of that cigarette
with one long breath, holds it, blows out a smoke ring.
     When  they fought at  night, the big guns on the warships made rings of
incandescent gas. Not fat doughnuts but long skinny ones that twisted around
like lariats.  Shaftoe's  body  is  saturated  with  morphine.  His  eyelids
avalanche down over  his eyes,  blessing those  orbs  that  are  burning and
swollen from the film lights  and the  smoke  of the  cigarettes. He and his
platoon are racing an  incoming tide,  trying to get around a headland. They
are  Marine Raiders and  they have  been  chasing a particular unit of  Nips
across Guadalcanal for two weeks, whittling them down. As long as they're in
the neighborhood, they've been ordered to make their way to a certain  point
on the headland  from  which they ought to  be  able to  lob  mortar  rounds
against  the  incoming  Tokyo  Express.  It  is  a  somewhat harebrained and
reckless  tactic, but they don't call this Operation Shoestring for nothing;
it is all wacky improvisation  from  the get  go. They are  behind  schedule
because this  paltry  handful  of  Nips has  been really tenacious,  setting
ambushes behind  every fallen log, taking potshots  at them every time  they
come around one of these headlands. . .
     Something clammy  hits  him  on the forehead: it is  the makeup  artist
taking a swipe  at him.  Shaftoe finds  himself back in the nightmare within
which the lizard nightmare was nested.
     "Did I tell you about the lizard?" Shaftoe says.
     "Several  times," his  interrogator says.  "This'll  just  take another
minute." Ronald Reagan squeezes a fresh three by five card between thumb and
forefinger, fastening onto something  a little less emotional: "What did you
and your buddies do in the evenings, when the day's fighting was done?"
     "Pile  up  dead  Nips with a bulldozer," Shaftoe says, "and set fire to
'em. Then go  down  to the beach with a jar of hooch and watch our ships get
     Reagan grimaces. "Cut!" he says, quietly  but  commanding. The clicking
noise of the film camera stops.
     "How'd I do?" Bobby Shaftoe says as they are squeegeeing the Maybelline
off his face, and  the men  are packing up their equipment. The klieg lights
have been turned off, clear northern California light streams in through the
windows. The whole scene  looks almost real, as if it weren't a nightmare at
     "You  did  great," Lieutenant Reagan  says, without  looking him in the
eye. "A  real morale  booster." He  lights a cigarette. "You  can go back to
sleep now."
     "Haw!" Shaftoe says. "I been asleep the whole time. Haven't I?"


     He feels a lot better once he gets out of the hospital. They give him a
couple  of weeks of leave, and he goes  straight to the  Oakland station and
hops  the  next train for  Chicago. Fellow passengers recognize him from his
newspaper pictures, buy him drinks, pose with him  for snap shots. He stares
out the  windows for  hours, watching America go by, and sees that all of it
is beautiful and clean. There might be wildness, there might be deep forest,
there might even be  grizzly  bears and  mountain lions, but it  is  cleanly
sorted out, and the  rules (don't mess with bear cubs, hang your food from a
tree limb at  night) are well known, and published in the Boy Scout  Manual.
In  those Pacific islands there is too much that is  alive, and all of it is
in a continual process of eating and being eaten by something else, and once
you set foot in the place, you're buying into the deal. Just sitting in that
train for a couple of days, his feet in  clean white cotton socks, not being
eaten  alive by anything, goes a long way towards clearing his head up. Only
once, or possibly  two or three times, does he really feel the  need to lock
himself in the can and squirt morphine into his arm.
     But  when he closes his eyes, he finds himself on Guadalcanal, sloshing
around  that last  headland, racing  the incoming tide.  The  big  waves are
rolling in now, picking up the men and slamming them into rocks.
     Finally they turn the corner and see the cove: just a tiny notch in the
coast  of  Guadalcanal. A  hundred  yards of tidal  mudflats  backed up by a
cliff. They will have to get across those mudflats and  establish a foothold
on the lower part  of the cliff if they aren't going to be washed out to sea
by the tide.
     The Shaftoes are Tennessee mountain people miners, among other  things.
About  the  time Nimrod Shaftoe went  to the Philippines,  a  couple  of his
brothers moved up to western Wisconsin  to work in  lead mines.  One of them
Bobby's grandpa became a foreman. Sometimes he would go to Oconomowoc to pay
a  visit  to  the  owner of the mine, who had  a summer house on  one of the
lakes. They  would go out in a boat  and fish for pike.  Frequently the mine
owner's neighbors owners  of  banks and breweries would  come along. That is
how  the  Shaftoes moved  to  Oconomowoc, and got out of mining, and  became
fishing and hunting guides. The family has been scrupulous about  holding on
to  the ancestral twang, and  to  certain other  traditions such as military
service. One of his  sisters  and two of his brothers are still living there
with Mom and Dad,  and his  two older brothers are in the  Army. Bobby's not
the first to have won a Silver  Star, though he is the first to have won the
Navy Cross.
     Bobby goes and talks to  Oconomowoc's Boy  Scout  troop.  He gets to be
grand marshal of the town parade. Other than that, he hardly budges from the
house for  two weeks. Sometimes he goes out  into the yard  and  plays catch
with his kid brothers. He helps Dad fix up a rotten dock. Guys and gals from
his high school keep coming round to visit,  and Bobby soon learns the trick
that his  father  and his uncles and granduncles all knew, which is that you
never talk about the specifics of what happened over there. No  one wants to
hear about how you dug half of your buddy's molars  out of your leg with the
point of a bayonet. All of these kids seem like idiots  and lightweights  to
him now. The  only person he can stand to be around is his great grandfather
Shaftoe, ninety  four  years of age  and sharp as a  tack, who was  there at
Petersburg when Burnside  blew  a huge  hole  in  the Confederate lines with
buried  explosives and sent his men  rushing into the  crater where they got
slaughtered. He never talks about it, of course, just as Bobby Shaftoe never
talks about the lizard.
     Soon enough his time is up,  and then he gets a  grand  sendoff  at the
Milwaukee  train station, hugs Mom,  hugs Sis, shakes hands with Dad and the
brothers, hugs Mom again, and he's off.
     Bobby Shaftoe knows  nothing of his future. All he knows is that he has
been  promoted  to  sergeant,  detached  from  his  former  unit  (no  great
adjustment,  since  he is  the  only  surviving  member  of his platoon) and
reassigned to some unheard of branch of the Corps in Washington, D.C.
     D.C.'s  a  busy   place,  but  last  time  Bobby  Shaftoe  checked  the
newspapers, there wasn't any combat going on there, and so it's obvious he's
not  going  to get a combat job. He's done his bit  anyway, killed many more
than his share  of Nips, won his  medals,  suffered from his  wounds. As  he
lacks administrative training, he expects that his new assignment will be to
travel around  the country  being a war hero, raising morale  and  suckering
young men into joining the Corps.
     He  reports, as ordered, to  Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. It's the
Corps's oldest post, a city block halfway  between the Capitol and the  Navy
Yard, a green quadrangle  where the  Marine Band struts and the  drill  team
drills.  He half expects  to  see strategic  reserves of spit  and of polish
stored in giant tanks nearby.
     Two  Marines  are in  the  office: a  major,  who  is  his new, nominal
commanding officer, and a colonel, who looks and acts like he was born here.
It is shocking beyond description that two such personages would be there to
greet a mere sergeant. Must be the Navy Cross that  got their attention. But
these Marines have Navy Crosses of their own two or three apiece.
     The major introduces the colonel in a way that doesn't really explain a
damn  thing  to Shaftoe.  The colonel  says  next to  nothing; he's there to
observe. The major spends a while fingering some typewritten documents.
     "Says right here you are gung ho."
     "Sir, yes sir!"
     "What the hell does that mean?"
     "Sir, it is a Chinese word! There's a Communist there, name of Mao, and
he's got an army. We tangled  with 'em on more'n one occasion, sir. Gung  ho
is  their battle cry,  it  means  'all together' or something like  that, so
after we got done kicking the crap out of them, sir, we  stole it from them,
     "Are you  saying you have gone Asiatic like  those other China Marines,
     "Sir! On the contrary, sir, as I think my record demonstrates, sir!"
     "You really  think  that?"  the major  says incredulously. "We have  an
interesting  report here on a film interview that you did with  some soldier
(1) named Lieutenant Reagan."
     "Sir! This Marine apologizes for  his disgraceful behavior during  that
interview, sir! This Marine let down himself and his fellow Marines, sir!"
     "Aren't  you  going  to give me an  excuse?  You  were  wounded.  Shell
shocked. Drugged. Suffering from malaria."
     "Sir! There is no excuse, sir!"
     The major and the colonel nod approvingly at each other.
     This "sir, yes sir" business, which would probably sound like horseshit
to  any civilian  in his  right mind,  makes sense  to Shaftoe  and  to  the
officers in  a deep  and  important way. Like a lot  of  others, Shaftoe had
trouble with  military  etiquette at first. He soaked up quite  a bit  of it
growing up in a military family, but living the life was a different matter.
Having now experienced all the  phases of military existence except for  the
terminal ones  (violent death, court  martial, retirement), he  has come  to
understand the culture for what it is: a system of etiquette within which it
becomes possible for groups of men to live together for years, travel to the
ends of the earth, and do all kinds of incredibly weird shit without killing
each other  or completely losing  their  minds  in the process.  The extreme
formality with  which  he  addresses  these  officers carries  an  important
subtext: your  problem, sir,  is  deciding what  you want  me to do,  and my
problem, sir,  is doing  it. My gung ho posture says that once  you give the
order  I'm not going to bother you with any of the details and  your half of
the bargain  is you had better stay on  your side of the line, sir, and  not
bother  me with any of the chickenshit politics that  you have to  deal with
for a living. The implied responsibility placed upon the officer's shoulders
by  the  subordinate's  unhesitating  willingness  to  follow  orders  is  a
withering burden to any officer with half a brain, and Shaftoe has more than
once  seen seasoned  noncoms  reduce green  lieutenants  to quivering  blobs
simply by standing before them and agreeing, cheerfully, to  carry out their
     "This Lieutenant  Reagan complained that you  kept trying to tell him a
story about a lizard," the major says.
     "Sir! Yes,  sir!  A  giant  lizard, sir! An  interesting  story,  sir!"
Shaftoe says.
     "I don't care," the major says. "The question is, was it an appropriate
story to tell in that circumstance?"
     "Sir! We were making our way around the coast of  the island, trying to
get between  these Nips  and a Tokyo  Express landing site, sir!..." Shaftoe
     "Shut up!"
     "Sir! Yes sir!"
     There is a sweaty  silence  that is finally broken by  the colonel. "We
had the shrinks go over your statement, Sergeant Shaftoe."
     ''Sir! Yes, sir?''
     "They are of the opinion that the whole giant lizard thing is a classic
case of projection."
     "Sir! Could you please tell me what the hell that is, sir!"
     The  colonel flushes,  turns his back, peers through  blinds  at sparse
traffic out on  Eye Street. "Well, what they are saying is that there really
was no giant lizard. That you killed that Jap (2) in hand to hand
combat. And that your memory of the giant lizard is basically your id coming
     ''Id, sir!''
     "That  there is this  id thing inside  your brain and that it took over
and got you  fired up to  kill that Jap bare handed.  Then  your imagination
dreamed  up all this  crap about the giant  lizard afterwards, as  a way  of
explaining it."
     "Sir! So you are saying that the lizard was just a metaphor, sir!"
     "Sir! Then I would respectfully like to know how that Nip got chewed in
half, sir!"
     The colonel  screws up his  face dismissively. "Well,  by the  time you
were  rescued by that coastwatcher, Sergeant, you had been  in that cove for
three days along  with all of those  dead bodies. And in that  tropical heat
with all those bugs and scavengers, there was no way to tell from looking at
that Jap whether he had been chewed up by a giant  lizard or  run through  a
brush chipper, if you know what I mean."
     "Sir! Yes I do, sir!"
     The major  goes back to  the report.  "This Reagan fellow says that you
also repeatedly made disparaging comments about General MacArthur."
     "Sir,  yes sir! He  is a son of a bitch who hates the Corps, sir! He is
trying to get us all killed, sir!"
     The major  and the colonel look at each other.  It is clear  that  they
have, wordlessly, just arrived at some decision.
     "Since  you  insist on reenlisting, the typical thing would be  to have
you go around the country  showing off your  medals and recruiting young men
into the Corps. But this lizard story kind of rules that out."
     "Sir! I do not understand, sir!"
     "The Recruitment Office has reviewed your file. They have seen Reagan's
report. They are nervous that you are going to be in West Bumfuck, Arkansas,
riding in the Memorial Day parade in your shiny dress uniform,  and suddenly
you are  going to  start spouting  all  kinds  of nonsense about lizards and
scare everyone shitless and put a kink in the war effort."
     "Sir! I respectfully "
     "Permission to speak  denied," the  major  says. "I won't even get into
your obsession with General MacArthur."
     "Sir! The general is a murdering "
     "Shut up!"
     "Sir! Yes sir!"
     "We have another job for you, Marine."
     "Sir! Yes sir!"
     "You're going to be part of something very special."
     "Sir! The  Marine Raiders  are already  a very  special part of a  very
special Corps, sir!"
     "That's not what I mean. I mean that this assignment is . . . unusual."
The major looks over at the colonel. He is not sure how to proceed.
     The colonel puts his hand in his pocket, jingles coins, then reaches up
and checks his shave.
     "It is not  exactly a  Marine  Corps assignment," he finally says. "You
will be  part  of a  special international  detachment.  An  American Marine
Raider  platoon  and a British  Special  Air  Services  squadron,  operating
together under one command. A  bunch of  tough hombres who've shown they can
handle  any  assignment, under any conditions. Is that a fair description of
you, Marine?"
     ''Sir! Yes, sir!''
     "It is a very unusual setup," the colonel muses, "not the kind of thing
that  military  men  would  ever  dream  up.  Do you  know what I'm  saying,
     "Sir, no  sir!  But I  do detect a strong odor of politics in  the room
now, sir!"
     The  colonel  gets  a  little twinkle  in his  eye, and glances out the
window towards  the Capitol dome. "These politicians can be real picky about
how they get things done. Everything has to  be  just so.  They  don't  like
excuses. Do you follow me, Shaftoe?"
     ''Sir! Yes, sir!''
     "The Corps had to fight to get this. They were going to make it an Army
thing.  We pulled a  few  strings with  some former  Naval persons  in  high
places. Now the assignment is ours. Some would say, it is ours to screw up.
     "Sir! The assignment will not be screwed up, sir!"
     "The reason that son of a bitch MacArthur is killing Marines like flies
down in the South Pacific is because  sometimes we  don't play the political
game that well. If  you and your  new  unit do not perform brilliantly, that
situation will only worsen."
     ''Sir! You can rely on this Marine, sir!''
     "Your commanding officer will be Lieutenant Ethridge. An Annapolis man.
Not much combat experience,  but knows how to move  in the right circles. He
can run interference for you at the political  level. The responsibility for
getting things done on the ground will be entirely yours, Sergeant Shaftoe."
     ''Sir! Yes , sir!''
     "You'll be working closely with British  Special Air Service. Very good
men. But I want you and your men to outshine them."
     "Sir! You can count on it, sir!"
     "Well,  get  ready to ship out, then," the major says. "You're on  your
way to North Africa, Sergeant Shaftoe."

     Chapter 12 LONDINIUM

     The massive  British  coinage  clanks in his pocket like  pewter dinner
plates.  Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse  walks  down  a  street  wearing  the
uniform of a commander  in the United States Navy. This must not be taken to
imply  that  he is  actually a commander, or indeed that he  is even  in the
Navy, though he  is. The United States part is, however, a safe bet, because
every time he arrives  at a curb, he either comes close to being run over by
a shooting brake or he falters in his stride; diverts  his train of  thought
onto a siding,  much to  the  disturbance  of  its passengers and crew;  and
throws some large part of his  mental calculation circuitry into the job  of
trying to reflect his surroundings through a large mirror. They drive on the
left side of the street here.
     He knew about that before he came.  He had seen  pictures. And Alan had
complained of  it in Princeton, always nearly being  run over  as,  lost  in
thought, he stepped off curbs looking the wrong way.
     The  curbs  are sharp and perpendicular, not like the American smoothly
molded  sigmoid cross section curves. The transition  between  the side walk
and  the  street  is  a crisp vertical.  If  you  put a  green  lightbulb on
Waterhouse's  head and watched him  from the  side  during the blackout, his
trajectory  would look just like a  square wave traced out on  the face of a
single beam oscilloscope: up, down, up, down. If he were doing this at home,
the curbs would be evenly spaced, about twelve to the mile, because his home
town is neatly laid out on a grid.
     Here in London, the street pattern is  irregular and so the transitions
in  the  square  wave come  at  random  seeming times,  sometimes very close
together, sometimes very far apart.
     A scientist  watching the wave  would  probably despair of finding  any
pattern;  it would  look like a random circuit,  driven by noise,  triggered
perhaps  by the  arrival of  cosmic  rays from deep  space, or  the decay of
radioactive isotopes.
     But if he had depth and ingenuity, it would be a different matter.
     Depth could be obtained  by  putting a green light bulb on the  head of
every person in London  and  then recording their tracings for a few nights.
The  result  would be  a thick pile of graph  paper  tracings,  each one  as
seemingly random as the others. The thicker the pile, the greater the depth.
     Ingenuity is  a completely different matter. There is no systematic way
to get it. One person could look at the pile of square wave tracings and see
nothing  but  noise. Another might find  a  source of fascination  there, an
irrational  feeling impossible  to explain to anyone  who did  not share it.
Some deep part of the  mind, adept at noticing patterns (or the existence of
a pattern) would stir  awake and frantically signal the dull quotidian parts
of the brain to keep looking at  the pile of graph paper. The signal  is dim
and not  always heeded, but  it would instruct the  recipient to stand there
for days if necessary, shuffling through the pile of graphs like  an autist,
spreading them out over a large floor, stacking them in piles  according  to
some   inscrutable  system,  pencilling  numbers,  and  letters  from   dead
alphabets, into the corners, cross referencing them, finding patterns, cross
checking them against others.
     One day  this  person  would  walk out of  that room  carrying a highly
accurate street map of London,  reconstructed from the information in all of
those square wave plots.
     Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse is one of those people.
     As a  result,  the  authorities of his  country,  the United  States of
America,  have  made him swear a mickle oath of  secrecy, and keep supplying
him with new uniforms of various  services and ranks, and now have sent  him
to London.
     He steps  off  a curb,  glancing reflexively to the  left.  A  jingling
sounds in his right ear, bicycle brakes trumpet. It is merely a Royal Marine
(Waterhouse is beginning to recognize  the uniforms) off on some errand; but
he has  reinforcements behind him in the form of  a bus/coach  painted olive
drab and stenciled all over with inscrutable code numbers.
     "Pardon me,  sir!" the Royal Marine  says brightly, and  swerves around
him, apparently reckoning that the  coach  can handle  any mopping  up work.
Waterhouse leaps forward, directly into the path of a  black taxi coming the
other way.
     After making  it across that particular street,  though, he arrives  at
his  Westminster destination  without  further  life  threatening incidents,
unless you count being a few minutes' airplane ride from a tightly organized
horde of murderous Germans  with the best weapons in the world. He has found
himself  in a part of town  that seems almost like certain lightless, hemmed
in parts of Manhattan: narrow  streets lined with  buildings on the order of
ten stories high. Occasional glimpses of  ancient and mighty gothic piles at
street  ends clue him in to the fact  that he is  nigh unto Greatness. As in
Manhattan, the people walk fast, each with some clear purpose in mind.
     The amended heels of  the  pedestrians' wartime shoes pop metallically.
Each pedestrian has a fairly consistent stride length and clicks with nearly
metronomic  precision.  A  microphone  in  the  sidewalk  would  provide  an
eavesdropper with  a cacophony of  clicks,  seemingly random  like the noise
from a  Geiger counter.  But the right kind of person  could abstract signal
from noise and count the pedestrians, provide a male/female break down and a
leg length histogram
     He  has to stop this. He would  like  to concentrate  on the  matter at
hand, but that is still a mystery.
     A  massive, blocky  modern  sculpture sits  over  the door of  the  St.
James's  Park  tube  station, doing  twenty  four  hour  surveillance on the
Broadway  Buildings,  which is actually just a single  building.  Like every
other  intelligence  headquarters  Waterhouse  had   seen,  it  is  a  great
     It is, after all, just a building  orange stone, ten or so  stories, an
unreasonably high mansard roof accounting for  the top three, some  smidgens
of  classical ornament above the windows, which  like all windows in  London
are divided into eight tight triangles by strips of masking tape. Waterhouse
finds that this look blends better with  classical  architecture than,  say,
     He has some grounding  in physics and finds it implausible that, when a
few hundred pounds of trinitrotoluene  are  set off in the  neighborhood and
the resulting shock wave propagates through a large pane of glass the people
on the  other side of  it will derive any benefit from  an asterisk of paper
tape.  It  is a  superstitious  gesture,  like hexes  on Pennsylvania  Dutch
farmhouses. The  sight of  it probably helps keep  people's minds focused on
the war.
     Which  doesn't seem  to  be working for  Waterhouse.  He makes  his way
carefully across the street, thinking very  hard about the  direction of the
traffic, on the assumption that someone inside will be watching him. He goes
inside,  holding  the   door  for  a  fearsomely  brisk  young  woman  in  a
quasimilitary outfit who  makes  it  clear that Waterhouse  had  better  not
expect to Get  Anywhere just because he's holding the door for her  and then
for a tired looking septuagenarian gent with a white mustache.
     The lobby is well guarded and there is some business with  Waterhouse's
credentials and his orders. Then he makes the obligatory mistake of going to
the wrong floor because  they are numbered differently here. This would be a
lot funnier if this were  not a  military  intelligence headquarters  in the
thick of the greatest war in the history of the world.
     When he does  get to the  right floor,  though, it is a bit posher than
the wrong one  was.  Of course,  the underlying structure of  everything  in
England is posh. There is no in  between with these people. You have to walk
a  mile to  find a telephone booth,  but when you find it, it is built as if
the senseless dynamiting of pay phones had  been a serious problem  at  some
time in the  past. And a British mailbox can presumably stop  a German tank.
None of them have cars,  but  when they  do, they  are three  ton hand built
beasts. The concept of stamping out a whole lot of cars is unthinkable there
are certain procedures that have to be followed, Mt. Ford, such as  the hand
brazing  of radiators,  the  traditional whittling of the tyres  from  solid
blocks of cahoutchouc.
     Meetings are all the same. Waterhouse is always the Guest; he has never
actually hosted a meeting. The Guest arrives at an unfamiliar building, sits
in  a  waiting  area  declining  offers  of  caffeinated  beverages  from  a
personable but  chaste female, and is, in  time,  ushered to the Room, where
the  Main Guy  and the  Other Guys are awaiting him.  There  is a system  of
introductions which the Guest need not  concern  himself  with because he is
operating in a passive  mode and need only respond to  stimuli,  shaking all
hands  that  are  offered, declining all  further  offers of caffeinated and
(now)  alcoholic  beverages, sitting  down when and where  invited. In  this
case, the Main Guy and all but  one of the Other Guys happen to be  British,
the  selection of beverages is slightly different, the  room, being British,
is thrown together from blocks of stone like a Pharaoh's inner tomb, and the
windows have the usual unconvincing strips of  tape on them. The Predictable
Humor Phase is much shorter than in America, the Chitchat Phase longer.
     Waterhouse  has forgotten all of  their  names.  He  always immediately
forgets  the names.  Even  if he  remembered them, he  would not know  their
significance, as  he  does not actually  have the  organization chart of the
Foreign Ministry  (which  runs Intelligence) and the Military  laid  out  in
front of him. They keep saying "woe to hice!" but just as he actually begins
to feel sorry  for this Hice fellow, whoever he is, he figures out that this
is  how they pronounce "Waterhouse." Other  than  that, the one  remark that
actually penetrates  his  brain is when one of the Other Guys says something
about the Prime Minister that implies considerable familiarity. And he's not
even the Main Guy. The Main Guy is much older  and more distinguished. So it
seems to Waterhouse (though he has completely stopped  listening to what all
of  these people are saying to him)  that a  good half  of the people in the
room have recently had conversations with Winston Churchill.
     Then, suddenly,  certain words come into the conversation.  Water house
was not paying attention,  but he  is pretty sure  that within the last  ten
seconds, the word Ultra was uttered. He blinks and sits up straighter.
     The Main Guy looks bemused. The Other Guys look startled.
     "Was  something  said,  a  few minutes ago,  about  the availability of
coffee?" Waterhouse says.
     "Miss Stanhope, coffee for Captain Woe To Hice," says the Main Guy into
an electrical intercom. It is  one of only half a  dozen office intercoms in
the  British  Empire. However, it  is  cast in a solid ingot from  a hundred
pounds of  iron and fed by  420  volt  cables as thick as Waterhouse's index
finger. "And if you would be so good as to bring tea."
     So, now Waterhouse knows the name of the Main Guy's secretary. That's a
start. From  that,  with a bit of  research he  might be able to recover the
memory of the Main Guy's name.
     This seems to have thrown them back into the Chitchat Phase, and though
American  important  guys would  be fuming  and  frustrated, the Brits  seem
enormously relieved. Even more beverages are ordered from Miss Stanhope.
     "Have  you  seen  Dr. Shehrrrn  recently?"  the  Main  Guy  inquires of
Waterhouse. He has a touch of concern in his voice.
     "Who?"  Then  Waterhouse  realizes  that  the  person  in  question  is
Commander  Schoen, and that here in London the name is apt to  be pronounced
correctly, Shehrrn instead of Shane.

     "Commander  Waterhouse?" the Main Guy says, several  minutes later.  On
the fly, Waterhouse has been trying to  invent a new cryptosystem based upon
alternative systems of pronouncing words and hasn't said anything in quite a
     "Oh,  yeah! Well, I stopped in briefly and  paid my respects  to Schoen
before  getting  on the  ship. Of course, when  he's, uh,  feeling under the
weather, everyone's under strict orders not to talk cryptology with him."
     "Of course."
     "The problem is  that when  your whole relationship  with the fellow is
built around cryptology, you can't even  really poke  your head in  the door
without violating that order."
     "Yes, it is most awkward."
     "I  guess  he's  doing   okay."  Waterhouse  does  not  say  this  very
convincingly and there is an appropriate silence around the table.
     "When he was in better spirits, he wrote glowingly of  your work on the
Cryptonomicon," says one of the  Other Guys,  who has not  spoken very  much
until now. Waterhouse pegs him as  some kind of unspecified mover and shaker
in the world of machine cryptology.
     "He's a heck of a fella," Waterhouse says.
     The Main Guy uses this as an  opening.  "Because of  your work with Dr.
Schoen's Indigo machine, you are, by definition, on the Magic list. Now that
this country and yours have agreed at least in principle to cooperate in the
field of cryptanalysis, this automatically puts you on the Ultra list."
     "I understand, sir," Waterhouse says.
     "Ultra  and  Magic are  more  symmetrical  than not.  In  each  case, a
belligerent  Power  has developed a machine cypher which it considers to  be
perfectly unbreakable. In each case, an allied Power has in fact broken that
cypher. In  America, Dr.  Schoen and  his team broke Indigo  and devised the
Magic machine.  Here, it  was Dr. Knox's  team that broke Enigma and devised
the Bombe. The leading light here seems to have been Dr. Turing. The leading
light with you chaps was Dr. Schoen, who is, as you said, under the weather.
But he holds you up as comparable to Turing, Commander Waterhouse."
     "That's pretty darn generous," Waterhouse says.
     "But you studied with Turing at Princeton, did you not?"
     "We were  there at  the same time,  if that's  what you  mean.  We rode
bikes. His work was a lot more advanced."
     "But   Turing  was  pursuing  graduate  studies.  You  were  merely  an
     "Sure. But even allowing for that, he's way smarter than me."
     "You are too modest, Captain Waterhouse. How  many  undergraduates have
published papers in international journals?"
     "We just rode bikes," Waterhouse  insists. "Einstein wouldn't  give  me
the time of day."
     "Dr.  Turing  has shown himself to be  rather  handy  with  information
theory," says  a  prematurely  haggard guy with  long limp grey  hair,  whom
Waterhouse now  pegs as some sort  of Oxbridge don. "You must have discussed
this with him.
     The don  turns  to the others and says,  donnishly, "Information Theory
would  inform a mechanical  calculator in much the same  way as, say,  fluid
dynamics would inform the hull of a ship." Then  he turns back to Waterhouse
and  says, somewhat less  formally: "Dr. Turing has continued to develop his
work on  the subject since he  vanished, from  your  point of view, into the
realm of the Classified. Of particular interest has been the subject of just
how much information can be extracted from seemingly random data."
     Suddenly all  of the  other  people in the room  are  exchanging  those
amused looks again. "I gather from your  reaction," says the Main Guy, "that
this has been of continuing interest to you as well."
     Waterhouse wonders what his reaction was. Did he grow fangs? Drool into
his coffee?
     "That's good," says the Main Guy before Waterhouse can answer, "because
it is of the highest interest to us as well. You see, now that we are making
efforts and I must  emphasize the  preliminary and unsatisfactory  level  of
these efforts  to this point to coordinate intelligence between America  and
Britain, we find ourselves in  the  oddest situation that has  ever faced  a
pair  of  allies  in a  war.  We  know everything, Commander  Waterhouse. We
receive  Hitler's  personal   communications  to   his  theater  commanders,
frequently  before the commanders do! This knowledge is obviously a powerful
tool. But just  as obviously, it cannot help us win the war  unless we allow
it to change our actions. That is,  if, through Ultra,  we become aware of a
convoy sailing from Taranto to supply  Rommel in North Africa, the knowledge
does us no good unless we go out and sink that convoy."
     "Clearly," Waterhouse says.
     "Now, if ten convoys are sent out and all of them are sunk, even  those
under cover of clouds and darkness, the  Germans will  ask themselves how we
knew where  those convoys  could be  found. They will  realize  that we have
penetrated the Enigma cypher, and change it, and then this tool will be lost
to us. It is safe to say that Mr.  Churchill  will be  displeased by such an
outcome."  The Main Guy  looks  at  all of  the others,  who  nod knowingly.
Waterhouse gets the feeling that Mr.  Churchill has been bearing down rather
hard on this particular point.
     "Let  us  recast this in  information  theory  terms,"  says  the  don.
"Information flows from Germany to us, through the Ultra system at Bletchley
Park.   That  information  comes  to  us  as  seemingly  random  Morse  code
transmissions on  the wireless. But because  we  have very bright people who
can discover  order in what is seemingly random,  we can extract information
that is  crucial  to  our endeavors. Now, the Germans  have  not broken  our
important  cyphers. But  they  can  observe our  actions the routing  of our
convoys in  the North Atlantic, the deployment of  our air  forces.  If  the
convoys always avoid the U boats, if  the air forces always  go straight  to
the German convoys, then it is  clear to the Germans I'm  speaking of a very
bright sort of German here, a German of the professor type that there is not
randomness here. This German  can find correlations. He can see that we know
more  than  we should. In other words,  there  is a certain  point  at which
information begins to flow from us back to the Germans."
     "We need to  know where that  point is,"  says the  Main Guy.  "Exactly
where  it is. We need then to stay on  the right side of  it. To develop the
appearance of randomness."
     "Yes,"  Waterhouse says,  "and it has  to be a  kind of randomness that
would convince someone like Rudolf von Hacklheber."
     "Exactly the fellow we had in mind," the don says. "Dr. von Hacklheber,
as of last year."
     "Oh!" Waterhouse says. "Rudy got his Ph.D.?" Since Rudy got called back
into the embrace  of the Thousand  Year Reich,  Waterhouse  has  assumed the
worst:  imagining  him  out  there  in a  greatcoat, sleeping in  drifts and
besieging Leningrad or something. But apparently the Nazis, with their sharp
eye for talent  (as long as  it  isn't Jewish talent) have given him  a desk
     Still, it's touch  and go for a while after  Waterhouse shows  pleasure
that Rudy's okay. One of the Other Guys, trying to break the ice, jokes that
if  someone had  had the  foresight  to lock  Rudy  up in New Jersey for the
duration, there  would  be no need for  the new category  of secret known as
Ultra Mega. No one  seems  to think it's  funny,  so Waterhouse assumes it's
     They show him  the organizational chart  for RAE Special Detachment No.
2701, which contains the names of all of the twenty four people in the world
who are on to Ultra Mega. The top  is cluttered  with names such as  Winston
Churchill and  Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Then  come  some other  names that
seem oddly familiar to Waterhouse perhaps the names of these very gents here
in  this  room.  Below  them,  one  Chattan,  a  youngish  RAF  colonel  who
(Waterhouse is assured) accomplished some very fine things during the Battle
of Britain.
     In  the  next  rank  of  the  chart  is  the  name  Lawrence  Pritchard
Waterhouse.  There are two other names: one is an RAF captain and  the other
is  a captain in the United States Marine Corps. There is also a dotted line
veering off to one side, leading to the name Dr. Alan Mathison Turing. Taken
as a whole, this chart may be the most irregular and bizarre ad hocracy ever
grafted onto a military organization.
     In the bottom row of  the chart are  two groups  of half a dozen names,
clustered  beneath  the  names of  the RAF  captain  and  the Marine captain
respectively. These are the squads that represent the executive wing  of the
organization: as one of the guys at the Broadway Building puts  it, "the men
at the  coal face," and as the one American Guy translates it for him, "this
is where the rubber meets the road."
     "Do you have any questions?" the Main Guy asks.
     "Did Alan choose the number?"
     "You mean Dr. Turing?"
     "Yes. Did he choose the number 2701?"
     This level of detail  is clearly several  ranks beneath the station  of
the men in  the Broadway  Buildings. They look startled and almost offended,
as if Waterhouse has suddenly asked them to take dictation.
     "Possibly," says the Main Guy. "Why do you ask?"
     "Because," Waterhouse says,  "the number 2701  is the  product  of  two
primes, and those  numbers,  37 and 73, when expressed  in decimal notation,
are, as you can plainly see, the reverse of each other."
     All heads swivel toward the don,  who looks  put out. "We'd best change
that,"  he  says,  "it is  the sort of  thing  that Dr. von Hacklheber would
notice." He stands up, withdraws a Mont Blanc fountain pen from his  pocket,
and amends the organizational  chart so  that it reads 2702 instead of 2701.
As he is  doing  this, Waterhouse  looks at  the other men  in the room  and
thinks that  they look satisfied. Clearly, this  is just the sort  of parlor
trick they have hired Waterhouse to perform.

     Chapter 13 CORREGIDOR

     There  is no  fixed  boundary between the  water of Manila Bay  and the
humid air above it, only a featureless blue grey shroud hanging a  couple of
miles  away.  Glory IV  maneuvers cautiously through an immense strewing  of
anchored cargo ships for about half an hour,  then picks up speed and  heads
out into the center of the bay. The air thins a bit,  allowing Randy  a good
view of Bata'an off to starboard: black mountains mostly veiled in haze  and
speckled by  the mushroom cap shaped  clouds of ascending thermals. For  the
most part, it has no  beaches, just red cliffs plummeting the last few yards
into the sea. But as they work their way out to the  end of  the  peninsula,
the land tails off more gently and supports  a few pale green fields. At the
very  tip of  Bata'an  are  a couple of stabbing  limestone crags that Randy
recognizes from Avi's video.  But  by  this point  he  has  eyes mostly  for
Corregidor itself, which lies a few miles off the end of the peninsula.
     America  Shaftoe, or  Amy as she likes to be called, spends most of the
voyage  bustling  around on  the  deck,  engaging the Filipino  and American
divers in bursts of serious conversation, sometimes sitting  cross legged on
the deck plates to go  over papers or charts. She has donned  a frayed straw
cowboy hat to protect her  head from solar radiation. Randy's in no hurry to
expose  himself. He ambles  around the air  conditioned cabin,  sipping  his
coffee and looking at the photographs on the walls.
     He is naively expecting  to  see pictures  of  divers landing submarine
cables on beaches. Semper Marine Services does a fair  amount  of cable work
and does it well,  he checked their references before hiring  them  but they
apparently  do  not  consider  that  kind  of  work  interesting  enough  to
photograph.  Most  of  these pictures are  of undersea  salvage  operations:
divers, with enormous grins on their leathery faces, triumphantly holding up
barnacle encrusted vases, like hockey players brandishing the Stanley Cup.
     From a distance, Corregidor is  a lens  of jungle bulging  out  of  the
water with a flat shelf  extending off to one side.  From the maps, he knows
that it  is  really a sperm shaped affair. What looks like a shelf from this
angle is its tail, which snakes off to the east as if the sperm  were trying
to swim out of Manila Bay to impregnate Asia.
     Amy storms past and  throws the  cabin door open. "Come to the bridge,"
she says, "you should see this."
     Randy follow's her. "Who's the guy in most of those pictures?" he asks.
     "Scary, crew cut?"
     "That's my father," she says. "Doug."
     "Would that  be Douglas MacArthur Shaftoe?"  Randy asks. He's  seen the
name on some of the documents that he's exchanged with Semper Marine.
     "The same."
     "The ex SEAL?"
     "Yeah. But he  doesn't like to be  referred to that  way.  It is such a
     "Why does he seem familiar to me?"
     Amy sighs. "He had his fifteen minutes of fame back in 1975."
     ''I'm having trouble remembering."
     "You know Comstock?"
     "Attorney General Paul Comstock? Hates crypto?"
     "I'm talking about his father. Earl Comstock."
     "Cold War policy guy the brains behind the Vietnam War right?"
     "I've never heard him described that way, but yeah, we're talking about
the same guy. You  might remember  that back in 1975, Earl Comstock fell, or
was pushed, off a ski lift in Colorado, and broke his arms."
     "Oh, yeah. It's sort of coming back to me.
     "My pop " Amy does a little head  fake towards one of the photographs "
happened to be seated right next to him at the time."
     "By accident, or "
     "Total chance. Not planned."
     "That's one way to look at it," Randy says, "but on  the other hand, if
Earl  Comstock went skiing  frequently, the probability  was actually rather
high that sooner  or later he'd find  himself sitting,  fifty feet  off  the
ground, next to a Vietnam combat veteran."
     "Whatever. All I'm saying is I don't want to talk about it, actually."
     "Am I going to get to meet this character?" Randy asks, looking  at the
     Amy bites her  lip and  squints at the horizon. "Ninety  percent of the
time his  presence is a sign that something really weird is  going  on." She
opens the hatch to the bridge and  holds it for him,  pointing  out the high
     "The other ten percent?"
     "He's bored, or on the outs with his girlfriend."
     Glory's  pilot is concentrating intensely and ignores them, which Randy
takes  to  be  a  sign of  professionalism.  The  bridge  has many  counters
fashioned from  doors  or thick plywood, and all  of the available  space is
covered  with  electronic  gear: a  fax,  a  smaller  machine that spews out
weather  bulletins,  three computers, a satellite phone,  a  few  GSM phones
socketed into their chargers, depth sounding gear. Amy leads him  over to  a
machine with a big screen that is showing what looks like a black  and white
photo of rugged terrain.  "Sidescan  sonar," she  explains, "one of our best
tools for this kind of  work. Shows us what's on the bottom." She checks one
of the  computer screens for their current coordinates and then runs a quick
calculation in her head. "Ernesto,  change course five degrees to  starboard
     "Yes ma'am," Ernesto says, and makes it happen.
     "What are you looking for?"
     "This  is  a freebie like the cigarettes  at the hotel," Amy  explains.
"Just an extra added bonus for  doing business with us. Sometimes we like to
play tour  guide.  See?  Check  that  out." She uses her pinkie to point out
something that is  just becoming visible  on the  screen. Randy hunches over
and peers  at it. It is clearly a  manmade shape: a jumble of straight lines
and right angles.
     "Looks like a heap of debris," he says.
     "It is now," Amy says, "but it used to be a  good chunk of the Filipino
     "During  the  war,"  Amy  says,  "after  Pearl Harbor, but  before  the
Japanese took Manila, the government emptied out  the treasury. They put all
the gold and silver into crates and shipped it to Corregidor for safekeeping
     "What do you mean, supposedly?"
     She shrugs. "This is the Philippines," she says. "I have the  feeling a
lot of  it ended up elsewhere. But a  lot of the silver ended up there." She
straightens up  and  nods out the  window at  Corregidor. "At  the time they
thought Corregidor was impregnable."
     "When was this, roughly?"
     "December '41 or January '42. Anyway, it became obvious that Corregidor
was going to fall. A submarine came  and took away the gold at the beginning
of February. Then another sub came and took off guys they couldn't allow  to
be captured, like codebreakers.  But they  didn't have  enough subs to carry
away all the silver. MacArthur left in March. They started taking the silver
out, in crates, in the middle of the night, and dropping it into the water."
     "You're shitting me!"
     "They could always come back  later and try to  recover  it," Amy says.
"Better to lose it all than let the Japanese take it, right?"
     "I guess so."
     "The Japanese recovered a lot of  that  silver they captured a bunch of
American divers on Bata'an and Corregidor, and made them go down, right down
below  where we are at this moment,  and  recover it.  But those same divers
managed to hide a lot of silver  from their guards and get  it to Filipinos,
who  smuggled it  into  Manila, where  it  became  so common that it totally
debased the Japanese occupation currency.
     "So what are we seeing right now?"
     "The remains of old crates that burst open when they hit the seafloor,"
Amy says.
     "Was there any of that silver left when the war ended?"
     "Oh, sure," Amy says breezily.  "Most of it was dumped  here, and those
divers got it, but some was dumped in  other areas. My dad recovered some of
it as late as the 1970s."
     "Wow. That doesn't make any sense!"
     "Why not?"
     "I  can't believe  that piles of silver  just sat  on the bottom of the
ocean for thirty years, free for the taking."
     "You don't know the Philippines very well," Amy says.
     "I know that it's a poor country. Why didn't  someone come out and  get
that silver?"
     "Most of the treasure hunters in this part of the world are looking for
much bigger game," Amy says, "or easier."
     Randy's nonplussed. "A  pile  of silver on  the bottom of the bay seems
big and easy to me.
     "It's not.  Silver's not worth that much. A Sung Dynasty  vase, cleaned
up, can go  for more than its weight in gold.  Gold. And it's easier to find
the vase you just scan the seafloor,  looking for  something shaped  like  a
junk.  A sunken junk makes  a distinctive  image  on sonar.  Whereas  an old
crate, all busted up  and  covered with coral  and barnacles, tends  to look
like a rock."
     As they  draw closer to Corregidor, Randy can see that the  tail of the
island is lumpy, with big stacks of rock protruding from it here and  there.
The color of the land  fades gradually from  dark jungle green to pale green
and then a sere reddish brown as the tail extends from the fat center of the
island out to the end, and the soil becomes dryer. Randy's gaze is fixed  on
one of those rocky crags, which is surmounted by a new steel tower. Atop the
tower  is  a  microwave  horn  aimed  east, toward  Epiphyte's  building  in
     "See those  caves along the  waterline?"  Amy says. She seems to regret
having  mentioned sunken  treasure  in the first place, and now wants to get
off the subject.
     Randy tears himself  away  from  the microwave antenna,  of which he is
part owner, and looks in  the direction Amy's pointing. The limestock  flank
of the island, which drops vertically the last few meters into the water, is
riddled with holes.
     "Built  by  Americans to  house  beach  defense guns. Enlarged  by  the
Japanese as launch sites for suicide boats."
     Randy notices a deep  gargling noise, and looks over to see that a boat
has fallen  in alongside them. It is a  canoe shaped affair maybe forty feet
long, with long outriggers on either side. A couple of ragged flags fly from
a short  mast, and bright laundry flaps gaily from various lines strung here
and  there.  A  big, naked  diesel  engine  sits in the middle  of  the hull
flailing  the  atmosphere   with  black  smoke.  Forward  of  that,  several
Filipinos,  including women and children, are  gathered in  the shade  of  a
bright blue tarpaulin, eating. Aft, a couple of men are fiddling with diving
equipment. One of them is holding something up to his mouth: a microphone. A
voice blares from Glory's radio, speaking Tagalog.  Ernesto stifles a laugh,
picks up  the  mike, and answers  briefly. Randy doesn't  know what they are
saying, but he suspects it is something  like "Let's horse around later, our
client is on the bridge right now."
     "Business associates," Amy  explains dryly. Her body language says that
she wants to get away from Randy and back to work.
     "Thanks for the tour," Randy says. "One question."
     Amy raises her eyebrows, trying to look patient.
     "How much of Semper Marine's revenue derives from treasure hunting?"
     "This month? This year?  The last ten years?  Over the lifetime  of the
company?" Amy says.
     "That  kind  of income is sporadic," Amy says. "Glory was paid for, and
then some, by pottery that we  recovered from a junk. But some years  we get
all of our revenue from jobs like this one."
     "In other words, boring jobs  that suck?" Randy says. He just blurts it
out. Normally he controls  his tongue a  little better. But  shaving off his
beard has blurred his ego boundaries, or something.
     He's expecting her  to laugh or at least wink  a him, but  she takes it
very  seriously. She has a  pretty  good poker face. "Think of it as  making
license plates," she says.
     "So you  guys  are basically a bunch of treasure hunters,"  Randy says.
"You just make license plates to stabilize your cash flow."
     "Call  us  treasure hunters if  you  like,"  Amy says. "Why  are you in
business, Randy?" She turns around and stalks out of the place.
     Randy's still  watching her go when he hears Ernesto  cursing under his
breath, not so much angry as astonished. Glory is swinging around the tip of
Corregidor's tail now and the entire southern side of the island is becoming
visible for the first time. The last mile or so of the tail curves around to
form a  semicircular bay. Anchored in the center of this bay is a white ship
that Randy identifies,  at  first, as  a  small ocean liner with  rakish and
wicked lines. Then he sees  the name painted on its stern: RUI FALEIRO SANTA
     Randy goes and stands next to Ernesto and they stare at  the white ship
for a while. Randy  has  heard about it, and  Ernesto, like everyone else in
the Philippines, knows about it. But seeing it is another  thing entirely. A
helicopter  sits  on its afterdeck  like a toy. A dagger  shaped muscle boat
hangs from a davit,  ready for  use as  a dinghy. A  brown skinned  man in a
gleaming white uniform can be seen polishing a brass rail.
     "Rui Faleiro was Magellan's cosmographer," Randy says.
     "The brains of the operation," Randy says, tapping his head.
     "He came here with Magellan?" Ernesto asks.
     In most of the world,  Magellan is thought of as the first guy who went
around  the world. Here, everyone knows he  only  made it  as far  as Mactan
Island, where he was killed by Filipinos.
     "When Magellan set out on his ship,  Faleiro stayed behind in Seville,"
Randy says. "He went crazy."
     "You know a lot about Magallanes, eh?" Ernesto  says. "No," Randy says,
"I know a lot about the Dentist."


     "Don't talk  to the  Dentist. Ever.  Not about anything. Not even  tech
stuff. Any technical question he asks you is  just a stalking horse for some
business tactic  that is as  far beyond your comprehension as  Gödel's Proof
would be to Daffy Duck."
     Avi told  Randy this spontaneously one evening,  as  they  were tucking
into  dinner at  a restaurant in downtown  Makati.  Avi refuses  to  discuss
anything important within a mile of the Manila Hotel because he thinks every
room, and every table, is under surveillance.
     "Thanks for the vote of confidence," Randy said.
     "Hey," Avi said, "I'm just trying to stake out my turf here justify  my
existence in this project. I'll handle the business stuff."
     "You're not being a little paranoid?"
     "Listen.  The Dentist has  at  least a billion dollars  of his own, and
another  ten  billion  under  management half the  fucking  orthodontists in
Southern California retired at age  forty because he dectupled their IRAs in
the space of two or three years. You don't achieve those kinds of results by
being a nice guy."
     "Maybe he just got lucky."
     "He did get lucky. But  that doesn't mean he's a nice  guy. My point is
that he put that money into investments that were extremely risky. He played
Russian roulette with his investors' life savings, keeping them in the dark.
I mean, this guy would invest in  a  Mindanao  kidnapping  ring if it gave a
good rate of return."
     "Does he understand that he was lucky, I wonder?"
     "That's my question. I'm guessing no. I think he considers  himself  to
be an instrument of Divine Providence, like Douglas MacArthur."


     Rui  Faleiro is the pride of Seattle's  superyacht  industry, which has
been burgeoning, ever so discreetly,  of late.  Randy gleaned  a  few  facts
about it from  a marketing brochure  that  was  published before the Dentist
actually bought the ship. So  he knows that the helicopter and the speedboat
came  included  in the  purchase  price,  which has never been divulged. The
vessel contains, among other things, ten tons of marble. The  master bedroom
suite contains  full his and hers bathrooms lined with black marble and pink
marble respectively, so that the Dentist  and the Diva  don't have to  fight
over sink space when they  are primping for a big event in the yacht's grand
     "The Dentist?" Ernesto says.
     "Kepler.  Doctor  Kepler," Randy says. "In the States, some people call
him the Dentist." People in the high tech industry.
     Ernesto nods knowingly.  "A man like that  could have had any woman  in
the world," he says. "But he picked a Filipina."
     "Yes," Randy says cautiously.
     "In the States, do people know the story of Victoria Vigo?"
     "I  must tell you that  she  is not as famous  in the States  as she is
     "Of course."
     "But  some  of  her songs  were very popular. Many people know that she
came from great poverty."
     "Do people in the States know about Smoky Mountain? The garbage dump in
Tondo, where children hunt for food?"
     "Some of them do. It will be  very famous when the movie about Victoria
Vigo's life shows on television."
     Ernesto  nods, seemingly satisfied.  Everyone  here knows  that a movie
about the Diva's life  is being made, starring herself. They generally don't
know that it's a vanity project,  financed by  the Dentist, and that it will
be aired only on cable television in the middle of the night.
     But they probably know that it will leave out all the good parts.


     "As far as the Dentist is concerned," Avi said, "our advantage is that,
when it  comes  to  the Philippines,  he  will  be  predictable.  Tame. Even
docile." He smiles cryptically.
     "How so?"
     "Victoria Vigo whored her way up out of Smoky Mountain, right?"
     "Well, there seems to be a lot of  nudging and winking to that  effect,
but I've  never  heard  anyone come out and  say  it  before,"  Randy  said,
glancing around nervously.
     "Believe me,  it's the  only  way she could have gotten  out  of there.
Pimping arrangements were  handled  by the Bolobolos. This  is  a group from
Northern Luzon that was brought into power along  with Marcos. They run that
part  of  town  police,  organized  crime,  local  politics,  you  name  it.
Consequently, they own her  they have photographs, videos from the days when
she was an underage prostitute and porn film starlet."
     Randy shook his head in disgust and amazement. "How the hell do you get
this information?"
     "Never mind. Believe me,  in some  circles it's as well  known  as  the
value of pi."
     "Not my circles."
     "Anyway, the point is that her interests are aligned with the Bolobolos
and  always  will  be.  And  the Dentist  is always going to  obediently  do
whatever his wife tells him to."
     "Can you  really  assume  that?"  Randy  said. "He's a  tough  guy.  He
probably  has  a lot more  money and power than  the  Bolobolos.  He  can do
whatever he wants."
     "But he  won't," Avi  says, smiling that little  smile again. "He'll do
what his wife tells him to.
     "How do you know that?"
     "Look,"  Avi said,  "Kepler is  a major control  freak just  like  most
powerful, rich men. Right?"
     "If you are  that much of a control freak, what sexual preferences does
that translate into?"
     "I hope I'll never know. I suppose you would want to dominate a woman.
     "Wrong!" Avi said. "Sex is more complicated than that, Randy.  Sex is a
place  where people's  repressed desires come out. People get most turned on
when their innermost secrets are revealed "
     "Shit! Kepler's a masochist?"
     "He is such a fucking masochist that he was famous for it.  At least in
the Southeast Asian sex industry. Pimps  and  Madams in Hong Kong,  Bangkok,
Shenzhen,  Manila,  they  all had  files on him  they knew  exactly  what he
wanted. And that's how he met Victoria Vigo. He  was in Manila, see, working
on the FiliTel deal. Spent a  lot of time  here,  staying  in a hotel that's
owned, and bugged, by  the Bolobolos.  They studied  his mating habits  like
entomologists  watching  the  reproductive  habits  of  ants.  They  groomed
Victoria Vigo their ace, their bombshell, their  sexual  Terminator to  give
Kepler exactly what  Kepler wanted. Then they sent her  into his life like a
guided fucking missile and pow! true love."
     "You'd think he would have been suspicious, or something. I'm surprised
he'd get that involved with a whore."
     "He didn't know  she was a  whore! That's the  beauty of the plan!  The
Bolobolos set her up with a fake identity as a concierge at Kepler's  hotel!
A demure Catholic school girl!  It starts with her getting him  tickets to a
play, and inside  of  a year. he's chained  to his bed on that  fucking mega
yacht of his with strap marks on his ass, and she's standing over him with a
wedding ring on her finger the size of  a headlamp,  the hundred  and thirty
eighth richest woman in the world."
     "Hundred and twenty  fifth,"  Randy  corrected him,  "FiliTel stock has
been on a bull run lately."


     Randy spends the next days trying not to run into the Dentist. He stays
at  a  small private inn up on the  top of  the island,  eating  continental
breakfast  every morning with an  assortment of  American and  Nipponese war
veterans  who have come here with their wives to  (Randy supposes) deal with
emotional  issues a million  times more profound than  anything Randy's ever
had to  contend with. The  Rui Faleiro  is nothing if  not conspicuous,  and
Randy  can get a pretty good idea  of whether the  Dentist  is aboard it  by
watching the movements of the helicopter and the speedboat.
     When he thinks it's safe, he goes down to the beach below the microwave
antenna and  watches Amy's divers  work  on the cable installation.  Some of
them are  working out in the surf  zone, bolting sections of cast iron  pipe
around the cable.  Some are working  a couple of miles offshore coordinating
with a barge that  is injecting the  cable  directly into the muddy seafloor
with a giant, cleaver like appendage.
     The shore end of the cable runs into a new reinforced concrete building
set  back about a hundred meters from  the high tide level.  It is basically
just a  big room filled with batteries, generators, air conditioning  units,
and racks of electronic equipment. The software running on that equipment is
Randy's responsibility, and so he spends most of his time in that  building,
staring  into  a computer screen and typing. From there,  transmission lines
run up the hill to the microwave tower.
     The other  end is  being extended out towards a buoy that is bobbing in
the  South China Sea a few kilometers away. Attached to that buoy is the end
of the North Luzon Coastal Festoon, a cable, owned  by FiliTel, that runs up
the coast of the island. If you follow it far enough you reach a building at
the northern tip  of  the island, where a  big  cable  from Taiwan comes in.
Taiwan, in turn, is heavily webbed into the world  submarine cable  network;
it is easy and cheap to get data into or out of Taiwan.
     There  is only one gap left in  the private  chain of transmission that
Epiphyte and FiliTel are trying to establish from Taiwan to downtown Manila,
and  that gap gets narrower by the day, as the  cable barge  grinds its  way
towards the buoy.


     When it finally gets there, Rui Faleiro weighs anchor and glides out to
meet it. The helicopter and the speedboat, and a flotilla of hired boats, go
into action ferrying dignitaries  and media crews out from Manila. Avi shows
up carrying two fresh tuxedos from  a tailor shop in  Shanghai  ("All  those
famous Hong Kong tailors were refugees  from  Shanghai"). He  and Randy tear
off  the tissue paper, put  them on,  and then ride in an un air conditioned
jeepney down the hill to the dock, where Glory awaits them.
     Two hours later, Randy gets to lay eyes on the Dentist and the Diva for
the first  time ever in the grand ballroom of the Rui Faleiro.  To Randy the
party is like any other: he shakes hands  with a few  people, forgets  their
names,  finds a  place to  sit down,  and enjoys the wine  and the  food  in
blissful solitude.
     The one thing that is special  about this party is that two tar covered
cables, each about  the thickness of a baseball bat, are running up onto the
quarterdeck. If you go to the rail and look down you can  see them disappear
into the brine. The cable ends meet on a tabletop in the middle of the deck,
where a technician,  flown in from Hong  Kong and duded up in a tuxedo, sits
with a box of tools, working on the  splice.  He is also  working  on  a big
hangover,  but that is fine with Randy since he knows that it's all fake the
cables are just scraps, their loose ends trailing in the water alongside the
yacht. The real  splice was performed yesterday and is already lying on  the
bottom of the sea with bits running through it.
     There is another  man on the quarterdeck, mostly staring at Bata'an and
Corregidor  but also keeping an eye on Randy. The moment Randy notices  him,
this man nods as if  checking  something off a list in his head, stands  up,
walks over,  and joins him.  He is wearing a  very ornate uniform,  the U.S.
Navy equivalent of black tie. He is mostly bald, and what  hair he does have
is battleship grey, and shorn to a length of perhaps five millimeters. As he
walks toward Randy, several Filipinos watch him with obvious curiosity.
     "Randy," he says. Medals  clink together as he grips Randy's right hand
and shakes it. He looks to be around fifty, but he has the skin of an eighty
year old Bedouin. He has a lot of ribbons on his chest, and many of them are
red and yellow, which are colors that Randy vaguely associates with Vietnam.
Above his pocket  is a little plastic nameplate reading, SHAFTOE. "Don't  be
deceived, Randy," says Douglas MacArthur Shaftoe, "I'm not  on  active duty.
Retired eons  ago. But I'm  still entitled to wear this  uniform. And it's a
hell  of a lot easier than  going out  and trying to find a tuxedo that fits
     "Pleased to meet you."
     "Pleasure's mine. Where'd you get yours, by the way?"
     "My tuxedo?"
     "My partner had it made."
     "Your business partner, or your sexual partner?"
     "My  business partner. At  the  moment, I am without a sexual partner."
Doug Shaftoe nods impassively. "It is telling that you have not obtained one
in Manila. As our host did, for example."
     Randy looks into  the ballroom at Victoria Vigo, who, if she  were  any
more  radiant, would cause paint to  peel from the walls and windowpanes  to
sag like caramel.
     "I guess I'm just shy, or something," Randy says.
     "Are you too shy to listen to a business proposition?"
     "Not at all."
     "My daughter  asserts that  you and our host might lay some more cables
around here in coming years."
     "In business, people rarely plan to do a thing only once,"  Randy says.
"It messes up the spreadsheets."
     "You are aware, by now, that the water in this area is shallow."
     "You know that cables cannot be laid in shallow water without extremely
detailed, high resolution sidescan sonar surveys."
     "I would like to perform those surveys for you, Randy."
     "I see."
     "No, I don't  think you do see. But I want you to see, and so I'm going
to explain it."
     "Okay," Randy says. "Should I bring my partner out?"
     "The  concept I am  about  to convey to you is very simple and does not
require two first rate minds in order to process it," Doug Shaftoe says.
     "Okay. What is the concept?"
     "The detailed survey will be just  chock  full of new information about
what is on the floor of  the ocean in this part of  the world. Some  of that
information might be valuable. More valuable than you imagine."
     "Ah," Randy says.  "You mean that it  might  be the kind of thing  that
your company knows how to capitalize on."
     "That's  right,"  says  Doug  Shaftoe.  "Now,  if  you hire one  of  my
competitors  to  perform  your  survey, and they  stumble  on  this kind  of
information,  they  will  not tell  you  about  it.  They  will  exploit  it
themselves. You will not know that they have found anything and you will not
profit from it. But  if you  hire  Semper Marine Services, I will  tell  you
about whatever I find, and I will cut you and your company in on  a share of
any proceeds."
     "Hmmmm," Randy says. He is trying to figure out how to do a poker face,
but he knows that Shaftoe sees right through him.
     "On one condition," Doug Shaftoe says.
     "I suspected there might be a condition."
     "Every hook that's worth a damn has a barb. This is the barb."
     "What is it?" Randy asks.
     "We  keep it a secret from  that  son of a bitch,"  Doug  Shaftoe says,
jerking his thumb at Hubert Kepler. "Because if the Dentist finds out,  then
he  and the Bolobolos will just  split the entire thing  up between them and
we'll see nothing. There's even a chance we would end up dead."
     "Well, the being dead part  is something that we will certainly have to
think about," Randy says, "but I will convey your proposal to my partner."

     Chapter 14 TUBE

     Waterhouse and  a few dozen strangers are  standing and  sitting  in an
extraordinarily long, narrow room that rocks from side to side. The  room is
lined with windows but no light comes into them, only sound: a great deal of
rumbling, rattling, and screeching.  Everyone is  pensive and silent,  as if
they were sitting in church waiting for the service to kick off.
     Waterhouse is  standing up gripping a ceiling mounted protuberance that
keeps  him  from  being rocked right  onto his can. For the  last couple  of
minutes he has been staring at a nearby poster providing instructions on how
to put on a gas mask. Waterhouse,  like everyone else,  is carrying one such
device with him  in  a  small  dun canvas shoulder  bag. Waterhouse's  looks
different  from everyone else's because it is American  and military. It has
drawn a stare or two from the others.
     On the poster is a lovely and stylish woman with white skin, and auburn
hair which appears to have been chemically melted and reset into its current
shape at  a quality salon.  She stands upright,  her spine like a  flagpole,
chin in the air,  elbows bent, hands ritualistically posed: fingers splayed,
thumbs sticking straight up in the air just in front of her face. A sinister
lump  dangles between her hands, held in  a cat's cradle of khaki strapping.
Her upthrust thumbs are the linchpins of this tidy web.
     Waterhouse has been in London for a couple of days now and so he  knows
the next  part of the story. He would know this pose anywhere. This woman is
poised  for  the chin thrust.  If  gas  ever  falls on the capital,  the gas
rattles  will sound and the tops of the  massive  mailboxes, which have  all
been treated with special paint, will turn black. Twenty million thumbs will
point into  the greenish, poison sky, ten million gas masks will dangle from
them, ten million chins  will thrust. He can just imagine the crisp luscious
sound of this woman's  soft white skin  forcing itself  into  the  confining
black rubber.
     Once  the chin thrust is complete,  all  is well.  You have  to get the
straps neatly arranged atop your auburn permanent and  get indoors,  but the
worst danger is past. The British gas  masks have a  squat round fitting  on
the front to allow exhalation, which looks  exactly like the snout of a pig,
and  no  woman would be caught dead in such a thing if the models in the gas
mask posters were not such paragons of high caste beauty.
     Something catches his eye out in  the darkness beyond the  window.  The
train has reached one of those parts of the Underground where dim gun barrel
colored  light  sifts  down,  betraying the  stygian  secrets  of the  Tube.
Everyone in  the car  blinks,  glances,  and  draws  breath. The  World  has
rematerialized  around  them for  a  moment. Fragments  of  wall,  encrusted
trusses,  bundles of cable hang  in space out there, revolving  slowly, like
astronomical bodies, as the train works its way past.
     The cables  catch Waterhouse's eye: neatly bracketed to the stone walls
in  parallel courses. They are like the creepers  of some  plutonic ivy that
spreads through  the darkness  of the Tube when the  maintenance men  aren't
paying attention, seeking a place to break out and up into the light.
     When you walk along the street, up there in the Overground, you see the
first  tendrils  making  their  way up the ancient walls  of the  buildings.
Neoprene jacketed vines  that grow  in straight  lines  up  sheer  stone and
masonry  and  inject  themselves  through holes in windowframes,  homing  in
particularly  on  offices.  Sometimes  they  are  sheathed  in metal  tubes.
Sometimes the owners have painted them over. But all of  them share a common
root  system that  flourishes  in  the  unused channels and  crevices of the
Underground,  converging  on  giant switching  stations in  deep  bomb proof
     The train  invades a cathedral  of dingy yellow  light, and groans to a
stop, hogging the aisle. Lurid icons of national paranoia glow in the niches
and grottoes. An angelic chin thrusting woman  anchors one end of  the moral
continuum. At the opposite we  have a succubus in a tight skirt, sprawled on
a davenport in the midst of a party. smirking through her false eyelashes as
she eavesdrops on the naive young servicemen gabbing away behind her.
     Signs on the wall identify this as Euston in a tasteful sans serif that
screams  official  credibility. Waterhouse and most  of the other people get
off  the  train.  After fifteen  minutes  or  so of  ricocheting around  the
station's   precincts,  asking  directions  and   puzzling  out  timetables,
Waterhouse  finds  himself  sitting  aboard  an  intercity  train  bound for
Birmingham. Along the  way, it is  promised, it will stop  at a place called
     Part of the reason for the confusion  is  that  there is  another train
about to leave from an adjacent  siding, which goes  straight  to Bletchley,
its final destination, with no stops in between. Everyone on that  train, it
seems, is a female in a quasimilitary uniform.
     The RAF men  with the Sten  guns, standing watch  by each door  of that
train, checking papers and passes, will not let him aboard. Waterhouse looks
through the yellowing influence of the windows at the Bletchley girls in the
train,  facing each  other in  klatsches  of four  and five,  getting  their
knitting  out of their bags, turning  balls of Scottish wool into balaclavas
and mittens for convoy crews in the North Atlantic, writing letters to their
brothers in  the  service  and  their  mums and dads at home. The RAF gunmen
remain by the doors until all of them are closed and the train has  begun to
move out of the station.  As  it builds speed, the rows  and rows of  girls,
knitting  and  writing  and  chatting,  blur together  into  something  that
probably looks a good deal like what sailors and soldiers the world over are
commonly seeing  in  their dreams.  Waterhouse will  never be one  of  those
soldiers, out  on  the  front  line,  out in contact with the  enemy. He has
tasted  the apple of forbidden knowledge. He is forbidden to go anywhere  in
the world where he might be captured by the enemy.


     The  train climbs up  out  of the  night  and  into a red brick arroyo,
headed northwards  out of the city. It is about three in the afternoon; that
special BP train must have been carrying swing shift gals.
     Waterhouse has  the feeling  he will  not be working  anything  like  a
regular shift. His  duffel bag  which  was packed for  him  is pregnant with
sartorial possibilities: thick oiled wool sweaters, tropical weight Navy and
Army uniforms, black ski mask, condoms.
     The train  slowly pulls free  of the city  and passes into  a territory
patched  with small  residential towns. Waterhouse feels heavy in his  seat,
and  suspects a slight uphill tendency.  They pass through  a cleft that has
been made across a low range of hills, like a kerf in the top of  a log, and
enter into a lovely territory of subtly swelling emerald green fields strewn
randomly with small white capsules that he takes to be sheep.
     Of course, their distribution is probably not random at all it probably
reflects local  variations in soil chemistry  producing grass that the sheep
find more or less  desirable. From aerial reconnaissance, the Germans  could
draw  up  a map  of  British soil chemistry  based  upon  analysis  of sheep
     The fields are enclosed by old  hedges, stone fences, or, especially in
the uplands, long swaths  of forest.  After an  hour or so, the forest comes
right up along the  left side of the  train, covering  a  bank that rises up
gently from the railway siding. The train's brakes  come on gassily, and the
train grumbles to a stop in a  whistle stop station. But the line has forked
and ramified quite a bit, more than is warranted by the size of the station.
Waterhouse  stands,  plants  his  feet  squarely,  squats  down  in  a  sumo
wrestler's  stance, and engages his duffel bag. Duffel appears to be winning
as it seemingly pushes Waterhouse  out the door of the  train and  onto  the
     There  is a stronger than usual smell of coal, and a good deal of noise
coming from not far away. Waterhouse looks up the line and discovers a heavy
industrial works unfurled across the many  sidings. He stands and stares for
a couple  of minutes,  as his train pulls away, headed for points north, and
sees that  they are  in the business of repairing steam  locomotives here at
Bletchley Depot. Waterhouse likes trains.
     But  that  is  not  why he got  a free suit of clothes  and a ticket to
Bletchley, and  so once  again Waterhouse engages  Duffel and gets it up the
stairs to  the enclosed bridge that flies over  all  of the parallel  lines.
Looking toward the station, he sees  more Bletchley girls, WAAFs  and WRENs,
coming towards him; the  day shift, finished with their work, which consists
of  the processing of  ostensibly  random  letters  and  digits  on  a heavy
industrial  scale.  Not  wanting  to appear  ridiculous  in their  sight, he
finally gets  Duffel  maneuvered onto  his back,  gets his arms through  the
shoulder straps,  and  allows  its weight  to throw him  forward across  the
     The WAAFs  and  WRENs are only moderately interested  in the sight of a
newly arriving  American officer. Or perhaps they are only  being demure. In
any case, Waterhouse knows he is one of the  few, but not  the first. Duffel
shoves  him  through  the  one  room  station  like  a  fat cop chivvying  a
hammerlocked drunk  across  the lobby  of  a  two star hotel.  Waterhouse is
ejected  into a strip of open territory  running along the north south road.
Directly across from him  the woods rise up.  Any notion that  they might be
woods  of the  inviting sort  is quickly dissolved by a dense spray of gelid
light glinting from the border  of the wood as the low sun betrays  that the
place  is saturated with sharpened  metal. There is an orifice in the woods,
spewing WAAFs and WRENs like the narrow outlet of a giant yellowjacket nest.
     Waterhouse  must  either move  forward  or  be  pulled onto his back by
Duffel  and left  squirming helplessly  in the  parking lot  like a  flipped
beetle, so he staggers forward, across the street and onto the wide footpath
into the woods.  The  Bletchley girls surround him. They have celebrated the
end  of their  shift  by applying lipstick. Wartime lipstick is  necessarily
cobbled together from whatever tailings and gristle  were left over once all
of  the good stuff was used to  coat propeller shafts.  A florid and cloying
scent is needed to conceal its unspeakable mineral and animal origins.
     It is the smell of War.
     Waterhouse  has  not even been given  the full tour  of BP yet, but  he
knows the gist of it. He knows that these demure girls, obediently shuffling
reams of gibberish through their machines, shift after shift, day after day,
have killed more men than Napoleon.
     He makes slow and apologetic progress against the tide of the departing
day shift. At one point he  simply  gives up, steps aside, body slams Duffel
into the  ivy,  lights up a cigarette, and waits for a burst of a hundred or
so girls to go by him. Something  pokes at his ankle: a wild raspberry cane,
furious  with  thorns. It supports an uncannily  small  and tidy spider  web
whose geodesic strands gleam in a beam of low afternoon light. The spider in
the  center  is  an  imperturbable  British  sort,  perfectly  unruffled  by
Waterhouse's clumsy Yank antics.
     Waterhouse reaches out and catches a yellow brown elm leaf that happens
to fall through the air before him. He hunkers down, plants his cigarette in
his  mouth, and, using both  hands for steadiness, draws the sawtooth rim of
the elm leaf across one of the  web's radial  strands, which, he knows, will
not  have  any sticky stuff on it. Like  a fiddle bow on a  string, the leaf
sets up a fairly regular vibration in the web. The  spider spins to face it,
rotating instantly, like a character in a badly spliced movie. Waterhouse is
so startled by the speed of the move that he starts back just a bit, then he
draws the  leaf  across  the  web  again.  The  spider tenses,  feeling  the
     Eventually it  returns to  its  original  position  and  carries on  as
before, ignoring Waterhouse completely.
     Spiders can  tell  from the  vibrations  what sort of  insect they have
caught,  and home in on it. There is a reason why  the webs are radial,  and
the spider plants itself at the convergence of the radii. The strands are an
extension  of  its nervous system.  Information propagates down the gossamer
and into the spider, where it is processed by  some  kind of internal Turing
machine. Waterhouse has tried  many different tricks, but he  has never been
able to spoof a spider. Not a good omen!
     The  rush  hour  seems  to   have  ended  during  Waterhouse's  science
experiment. He  engages Duffel once more.  The  struggle  takes them another
hundred  yards down the path, which finally empties  out into a road just at
the point where it is  barred by an iron gate slung between  stupid obelisks
of red brick. The guards are, again, RAF men with Sten guns, and  right  now
they are  examining the papers  of a man in a  canvas greatcoat and goggles,
who has  just ridden up on an Army green motorcycle with panniers slung over
the  rear wheel. The panniers are  not especially  full, but they  have been
carefully secured; they contain the ammunition that the girls feed into  the
chattering teeth of their ravenous weapons.
     The  motorcyclist  is waved through, and makes an immediate  left  turn
down a narrow lane. Attention falls upon  Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, who
after a suitable exchange of salutes, presents his credentials.
     He has  to choose among his  several  sets, which he doesn't  manage to
hide from the guards. But the  guards  do  not seem  alarmed or even curious
about this,  which sets them distinctly apart from  most whom Waterhouse has
dealt with. Naturally, these men are not on the Ultra  Mega list,  and so it
would be a  grave breach of security to tell them that he was here on  Ultra
Mega business. They appear to have greeted  many other  men  who can't state
their  real  business,  however,  and  don't  bat an eyelash  when  Lawrence
pretends to be one of the naval intelligence liaisons in Hut 4 or Hut 8.
     Hut 8  is where they decrypt naval Enigma  transmissions. Hut 4 accepts
the decrypts from  Hut  8 and analyzes  them. If Waterhouse pretends to be a
Hut 4 man the disguise will not last for long, because those fellows have to
actually know  something about  the Navy. He perfectly fits the profile of a
Hut 8 man, who need not know anything except pure math.
     One of  the  RAF  men  peruses  his  papers,  then  steps  into a small
guardhouse and stirs  the crank  on a  telephone.  Waterhouse  stands  there
awkwardly, marveling at the weapons slung from the shoulders of the RAP men.
They  are,  as far  as he  can tell,  nothing more than  steel pipes  with a
trigger mounted toward one end. A small window cut through the pipe provides
a view of a coil spring nested inside.  A few handles and fittings bolted on
from place to  place do  not make  the Sten  gun look any less  like  an ill
conceived high school metal shop project.
     "Captain Waterhouse? You are to proceed to the Mansion," says the guard
who had spoken on the telephone. "You can't miss it."
     Waterhouse  walks for about fifty feet and finds  that  the Mansion is,
indeed, tragically unmissable. He stands  and stares  at  it  for a  minute,
trying to fathom what the architect had been thinking. It is a busy piece of
work,  with  an excessive  number of gables.  He  can only suppose that  the
designer  wanted to  build  what  was really a  large,  single dwelling, but
sought to camouflage it as a line of at least half a dozen wildly mismatched
urban row houses  inexplicably crammed together in the middle of six hundred
acres of Buckinghamshire farmland.
     The place has been well looked after, but as Waterhouse  draws  closer,
he can see black lianas climbing up the brickwork. The  root system  that he
glimpsed in the  Underground has spread beneath  forest and  pasture even to
this place and has  begun  to throw its  neoprene creepers upwards. But this
organism is not  phototropic  it does  not grow  towards the  light,  always
questing towards the sun. It is infotropic. And it has spread  to this place
for  the  same  reason   that  infotropic  humans  like  Lawrence  Pritchard
Waterhouse and Dr. Alan Mathison  Turing  have come here, because  Bletchley
Park has roughly the same situation in the info world as the sun does in the
solar system. Armies, nations, prime ministers, presidents and geniuses fall
around  it,  not in steady  planetlike orbits  but  in  the  crazy careening
ellipses and hyperbolae of comets and stray asteroids.
     Dr. Rudolf von  Hacklheber can't  see Bletchley Park, because it is the
second  best kept secret in the world, after Ultra Mega. But from his office
in Berlin,  sifting through dispatches from the Beobachtung  Dienst, he  can
glimpse fragments of those trajectories, and dream up hypotheses to  explain
why they are just so. If the only logical hypothesis is that the Allies have
broken Enigma, then Detachment 2702 will have failed.
     Lawrence  displays  further credentials and  enters between a  pair  of
weathered gryphons.  The mansion is nicer once you can  no  longer  see  its
exterior. Its  faux  rowhouse  design provides  many opportunities  for  bay
windows, providing sorely needed light. The hall is held up by gothic arches
and  pillars  made of a conspicuously low grade of brown marble  that  looks
like vitrified sewage.
     The place  is  startlingly noisy; there is a rushing, clattering noise,
like rabid applause, permeating  walls  and doors, carried on a draft of hot
air with  a stinging,  oily  scent.  It  is  the  peculiar scent of electric
teletypes or teleprinters, as the Brits call  them.  The noise  and the heat
suggest there must be dozens of them in one of the mansion's lower rooms.
     Waterhouse climbs a  paneled stairway to what the Brits call  the first
floor,  and find  it quieter and  cooler. The high panjandrums of  Bletchley
have  their  offices here.  If  the organization is run true to bureaucratic
form, Waterhouse will never see  this place again once his initial interview
is  finished.  He  finds  his  way  to  the office of  Colonel  Chattan, who
(Waterhouse's memory  jogged  by  the sight of the name on the door)  is the
fellow at the top of the chart of Detachment 2702.
     Chattan rises to shake his  hand. He's strawberry blond, blue eyed, and
probably would be rosy cheeked  if he didn't have such a deep desert tan  at
the  moment.  He  is wearing a  dress  uniform; British officers  have their
uniforms  tailor made,  it  is the  only  way to obtain them. Waterhouse  is
hardly a clothes horse, but he  can see  at a glance  that Chattan's uniform
was not thrown together by Mummy in a few evenings in  front of a flickering
coal grate. No, Chattan has himself an honest to god tailor  somewhere. Yet,
when he  speaks Waterhouse's name, he  does not  say "woe to hice" like  the
Broadway Buildings  crowd. The  R comes through hard  and crackling  and the
"house" part is elongated into some thing like "hoos." He has some kind of a
wild ass accent on him, this Chattan.
     With Chattan is a smaller  man in  British fatigues tight at the wrists
and  ankles,  otherwise  blousy,  of  thick  khaki  flannel  that  would  be
intolerably  hot  if  these   people  couldn't  rely  on  a  steady  ambient
temperature,  indoors and out, of  about  fifty  five degrees.  The  overall
effect always reminds Waterhouse of  Dr.  Dentons. This fellow is introduced
as  Leftenant Robson, and  he is  the leader of one of 2702's two squads the
RAE one. He has a bristly mustache, trimmed very short, of silver and auburn
whiskers. He is a cheerful sort, at  least in  the presence of higher ranks,
and smiles frequently. His teeth splay out radially from the gumline so that
each mandible has the appearance  of  a coffee can in which  a small grenade
has been detonated.
     "This the fellow we've been waiting for," Chattan says to Robson.  "The
one we could've used in Algiers."
     "Yes!" Robson says. "Welcome to Detachment 2701, Captain Waterhouse."
     "2702," Waterhouse says.
     Chattan and Robson look ever so mildly startled.
     "We can't use 2701 because it is the product of two primes."
     "I beg your pardon?" Robson says.
     One thing  Waterhouse likes about these  Brits is that  when they don't
know  what the  hell you  are talking about, they are at  least open  to the
possibility that it might be their  fault. Robson has the  look of a man who
has come up through the ranks. A Yank of that type would already be scornful
and blustery.
     "Which ones?" Chattan says. That is encouraging; he at least knows what
a prime number is.
     "73 and 37," Waterhouse says.
     This makes  a profound  impression on  Chattan.  "Ah,  yes,  I see." He
shakes his head. "I shall have to give the Prof a good chaffing about this."
     Robson has cocked his head far to one side so that it is almost resting
upon the thick woolly beret chucked into his epaulet. He  is squinting,  and
has an  aghast look  about  him.  His  hypothetical  Yank  counterpart would
probably  demand,  at this  point, a  complete explanation  of prime  number
theory, and when it  was finished, denounce it as horseshit. But Robson just
lets it go by. "Am  I to  understand that we are changing the number  of our
     Waterhouse swallows. It seems clear from Robson's reaction that this is
going to  involve a great deal of busy work for Robson and his men: weeks of
painting and stenciling and of trying to propagate the new number throughout
the military bureaucracy. It will be a miserable pain in the ass.
     "2702  it  is," Chattan says breezily.  Unlike  Waterhouse,  he  has no
difficulty issuing difficult, unpopular commands.
     "Right  then,  I  must  see  to  some  things.  Pleasure   making  your
acquaintance, Captain Waterhouse."
     "Pleasure's mine."
     Robson shakes Waterhouse's hand again and excuses himself.
     "We have  a billet  for you  in  one  of the  huts to  the south of the
canteen," Chattan  says. "Bletchley Park is our nominal headquarters, but we
anticipate  that we  will  spend most  of our time in  those  theaters where
heaviest use is being made of Ultra."
     "I take it you've been in North Africa," Waterhouse says.
     "Yes." Chattan raises his eyebrows, or  rather the ridges of skin where
his   eyebrows  are  presumably   located;  the  hairs  are  colorless   and
transparent, like nylon monofilament line. "Just  got out by the skin of our
teeth there, I'm afraid."
     "Had a close shave, did you?"
     "Oh, I  don't mean it that way," Chattan  says. "I'm talking about  the
integrity of  the  Ultra  secret. We are  still  not  sure whether  we  have
survived it. But the Prof has done some calculations suggesting that we  may
be out of the woods."
     "The Prof is what you call Dr. Turing?"
     "Yes. He recommended you personally, you know."
     "When the orders came through, I speculated as much."
     "Turing  is presently  engaged  on  at  least  two other fronts of  the
information war, and could not be part of our happy few."
     "What happened in North Africa, Colonel Chattan?"
     "It's  still happening," Chattan  says bemusedly. "Our Marine squad  is
still in theater, widening the bell curve.
     "Widening the bell curve?"
     "Well, you know better  than I do  that random things typically have  a
bell shaped distribution.  Heights,  for example. Come  over to this window,
Captain Waterhouse."
     Waterhouse joins Chattan at  a bay window, where there is a view across
acres of  what used to  be  gently undulating farmland. Looking  beyond  the
wooded  belt  to the  uplands miles  away, he  can see  what Bletchley  Park
probably  used  to look like: green  fields  dotted with  clusters  of small
     But that is not what it looks like now. There is hardly a piece of land
within half a mile that has  not been recently paved or built upon. Once you
get beyond the Mansion and its quaint little outbuildings, the park consists
of  one  story  brick  structures, nothing  more  than  long corridors  with
multiple transepts: +++++++, and new +'s  being  added as fast as the masons
can  slap bricks on  mud (Waterhouse wonders,  idly,  whether  Rudy has seen
aerial reconnaissance photos of  this  place, and  deduced from all of those
+'s the  mathematical nature  of  the  enterprise).  The  tortuous  channels
between buildings are  narrow, and each is made twice as narrow by  an eight
foot high blast wall running down the middle of it, so that the Jerries will
have to spend at least one bomb for each building.
     "In that  building there," Chattan  says, pointing to a  small building
not far  away a truly wretched looking brick hovel "are the  Turing  Bombes.
That's  'bombe'  with  an 'e' on the  end.  They  are  calculating  machines
invented by your friend the Prof."
     "Are they true  universal Turing machines?" Waterhouse blurts. He is in
the grip of a stunning vision  of what Bletchley  Park might, in fact, be: a
secret  kingdom in which  Alan has  somehow  found the  resources  needed to
realize his great vision.  A kingdom  ruled not by  men  but by information,
where humble buildings made of  + signs house Universal Machines that can be
configured to perform any computable operation.
     "No," Chattan says, with a gentle, sad smile.
     Waterhouse exhales for a long time. "Ah."
     "Perhaps that will come next year, or the next."
     "The bombes  were adapted, by  Turing and  Welchman and others, from  a
design  dreamed up by Polish cryptanalysts.  They consist  of rotating drums
that test many possible Enigma keys with great speed. I'm sure the Prof will
explain it to you. But the point is that they have these  vast pegboards  in
the back, like telephone switchboards, and some of our girls have the job of
putting the right pegs into the right holes and wiring the  things up  every
day. Requires good eyesight, careful attention, and height."
     "You'll notice that the girls who are assigned  to that particular duty
are  unusually tall. If the Germans were to  somehow get their hands  on the
personnel records for all  of  the  people who work at Bletchley  Park,  and
graph their  heights  on a  histogram, they would see  a normal bell  shaped
curve, representing  most  of  the  workers,  with an  abnormal  bump  on it
representing the unusual population of tall girls whom we have brought in to
work the plug boards."
     "Yes,  I  see,"  Waterhouse  says,  "and  someone  like  Rudy  Dr.  von
Hacklheber would notice the anomaly, and wonder about it."
     "Precisely,"  Chattan says. "And it would then be the job of Detachment
2702  the Ultra Mega Group to plant false information  that would throw your
friend Rudy off the scent." Chattan turns away from the window, strolls over
to his  desk,  and opens a  large cigarette box, neatly  stacked  with fresh
ammunition.  He offers  one  to Waterhouse with  a deft  hand  gesture,  and
Waterhouse accepts it, just to be social. As Chattan is giving him a  light,
he gazes through the flame into Waterhouse's eye and says,  'I put it to you
now. How  would you go about concealing from your friend Rudy that we  had a
lot of tall girls here?'
     "Assuming that he already had the personnel records?"
     "Then it would be too late to conceal anything."
     "Granted. Let us instead assume that he has some channel of information
that is bringing  him these  records, a few at a time. This channel is still
open  and functioning.  We cannot  shut it down. Or perhaps we choose not to
shut  it  down,  because  even the absence of this channel  will  tell  Rudy
something important."
     "Well, there  you  go  then," Waterhouse says. "We gin  up  some  false
personnel records and plant them in the channel."
     There  is a small chalkboard  on the wall of Chattan's office.  It is a
palimpsest,  not  very well erased; the housekeeping detail here must have a
standing  order  never to  clean it, lest  something  important be lost.  As
Waterhouse  approaches it,  he can see older calculations  layered atop each
other,  fading  off  into  the  blackness like transmissions of white  light
propagating into deep space.
     He  recognizes  Alan's  handwriting  all  over the  place.  It takes  a
physical   effort  not  to  stand  there  and   try  to  reconstruct  Alan's
calculations from the ghosts lingering on the slate. He draws over them only
with reluctance.
     Waterhouse slashes an  abscissa  and an ordinate  onto the board,  then
sweeps out  a bell shaped curve.  On top  of the  curve, to the right of the
peak, he adds a little hump.
     "The tall girls," he  explains. "The  problem is this notch." He points
to the valley between the main  peak and the  bump. Then he draws a new peak
high and wide enough to cover both:
     "We can do that by  planting fake personnel  records in Rudy's channel,
giving heights that are taller  than the  overall average, but  shorter than
the bombe girls."
     "But now you've dug yourself another hole," Chattan says. He is leaning
back in his officer's swivel  chair, holding the cigarette in  front of  his
face, regarding Waterhouse through a motionless cloud of smoke.
     Waterhouse says, "The new curve looks a little better because  I filled
in that gap, but it's not really bell shaped. It doesn't tail off right, out
here at the edges.  Dr. von Hacklheber will notice  that. He'll realize that
someone's been tampering with  his channel. To prevent that from happening I
would have to plant more fake records, giving some unusually large and small
     "Invent  some fake girls who were exceptionally short or tall," Chattan
     "Yes. That would make the curve tail off in the way that it should.'
     Chattan continues to look at him expectantly.
     Waterhouse  says,  "So, the addition of  a  small number  of what would
otherwise be bizarre anomalies makes it all look perfectly normal."
     "As I said," Chattan says, "our  squad is in North  Africa even  as  we
speak widening the bell curve. Making it all look perfectly normal."

     Chapter 15 MEAT

     Okay, so Private First Class  Gerald Hott,  late of Chicago,  Illinois,
did not exactly shoot up through the ranks during his fifteen year tenure in
the  United States Army. He  did, how ever, carve a  bitchin' loin roast. He
was as deft with a boning knife  as Bobby Shaftoe is with a bayonet. And who
is to say that a military butcher, by  conserving the limited resources of a
steer's  carcass  and   by  scrupulously  observing  the  mandated  sanitary
practices, might  not  save  as  many lives as a steely  eyed  warrior?  The
military  is not  just  about  killing Nips, Krauts, and  Dagoes. It is also
about  killing livestock and  eating them. Gerald  Hott  was  a  front  line
warrior who kept his freezer locker  as clean as an operating room and so it
is only fitting that he has ended up there.
     Bobby Shaftoe makes this little elegy up in his head as he is shivering
in the sub Arctic chill of a formerly French, and now U.S. Army, meat locker
the size and temperature of Greenland, surrounded by the earthly  remains of
several  herds  of cattle and one  butcher. He  has attended more than a few
military  funerals during his brief time in the service, and has always been
bowled over  by the skill of  the chaplains in coming up with moving elegies
for  the  departed. He  has heard rumors that when the military inducts 4 Fs
who are discovered to  have brains, it teaches them to type and assigns them
to sit at desks and type these things out, day  after day. Nice duty  if you
can get it.
     The frozen carcasses  dangle from meathooks in long rows. Bobby Shaftoe
gets tenser and tenser as he works his way up  and down the aisles, steeling
himself for the bad thing  he is about to see.  It is almost preferable when
your buddy's head suddenly explodes just as he is puffing his cigarette into
life buildup like this can drive you nuts.
     Finally he rounds  the end of a row  and discovers a man  slumbering on
the floor, locked  in  embrace with a pork  carcass, which he was apparently
about  to butcher at  the time of  his death. He has  been  there  for about
twelve hours now  and his  body  temp  is hovering around  minus ten degrees
     Bobby Shaftoe squares himself  to face the body and draws a deep breath
of  frosty, meat scented air. He  clasps his cyanotic hands in  front of his
chest in a manner that is both prayerful and good for warming them up. "Dear
Lord," he says out loud. His voice does not echo; the carcasses soak  it up.
"Forgive this  marine for these, his  duties, which he is about to  perform,
and  while you are at it, by  all means forgive this marine's superiors whom
You  in  Your infinite wisdom have seen fit to bless  him with, and  forgive
their superiors for getting the whole deal together."
     He  considers going on at some length  but finally decides that this is
no worse than bayonetting  Nips and so let's get on  with it. He goes to the
locked bodies of PFC Gerald Hott and Frosty  the  Pig and tries to  separate
them without  success. He squats by  them and gives  the former a good look.
Hott is  blond.  His  eyes  are  half  closed,  and  when  Shaftoe  shines a
flashlight  into the  slit,  he can see a glint of blue. Hott is a  big man,
easily two  twenty five in  fighting trim, easily two  fifty  now. Life in a
military kitchen does not make it easy for a fellow to keep his weight down,
or  (unfortunately for  Hott)  his  cardiovascular system  in  any  kind  of
dependable working order.
     Hott and his uniform were both dry when the  heart  attack happened, so
thank god the  fabric is not  frozen onto the skin. Shaftoe is  able  to cut
most of it off with several long strokes of his  exquisitely sharpened V  44
"Gung Ho" knife. But  the V 44's machetelike nine  and a half inch blade  is
completely inappropriate  for  close infighting  viz.,  the denuding  of the
armpits and groin and he was told to  be careful about inflicting scratches,
so there he has to break out the USMC Marine Raider  stiletto, whose slender
double edged seven and a quarter  inch  blade  might have been designed  for
exactly this sort of procedure, though the fish shaped handle, which is made
of solid metal, begins freezing to the sweaty palm of Shaftoe's hand after a
     Lieutenant Ethridge  is  hovering outside  the locker's tomblike  door.
Shaftoe barges past him and heads straight for the building's exit, ignoring
Ethridge's queries: "Shaftoe? How 'bout it?"
     He does  not  stop until he  is  out  of the shade of the building. The
North African sunshine breaks over his body  like a washtub of  morphine. He
closes his eyes and turns his face into it, holds his frozen hands up to cup
the warmth and let it trickle down his forearms, drip from his elbows.
     "How 'bout it?" Ethridge says again.
     Shaftoe opens his eyes and looks around.
     The harbor's  a blue crescent with miles of sere jetties snaking around
each other  like diagrams  of  dance steps. One of them's  covered with worn
stumps  of ancient bastions  and next  to it a  French  battleship lies half
sunk, still piping smoke and steam into the air. All around it, the ships of
Operation Torch are  unloading shit  faster than you can believe. Cargo nets
rise from  the holds of the transports and splat  onto the quays like  giant
loogies. Longshoremen haul,  trucks carry, troops march,  French girls smoke
Yankee cigarettes, Algerians propose joint ventures.
     Between those  ships, and  the  Army's meat operation, up here on  this
rock,  is what  Bobby  Shaftoe  takes  to be  the  City  of  Algiers. To his
discriminating Wisconsinan eye it does not appear to have been built so much
as swept up on  the hillside by  a  tidal wave. A  lot of  acreage has  been
devoted to keeping the fucking sun off, so from above, it has a shuttered up
look about it lots of red tile, decorated with flowers and Arabs. Looks like
a few modern concrete structures (e.g. this meat locker) have been thrown up
by the  French in the wake of some kind of vigorous slum clearing offensive.
Still, there's  a lot of  slums left  to  be cleared target number one being
this  human beehive or anthill  just off to Shaftoe's left, the Casbah, they
call  it. Maybe  it's a neighborhood. Maybe  it's a single  poorly organized
building. Has  to be  seen to be  believed. Arabs packed into the place like
fraternity pledges into a telephone booth.
     Shaftoe turns around  and looks  again  at  the  meat  locker, which is
dangerously exposed  to  enemy air  attack  here, but  no one  gives  a fuck
because who cares if the Krauts blow up a bunch of meat?
     Lieutenant Ethridge, almost as desperately sunburned as  Bobby Shaftoe,
     "Blond," Shaftoe says.
     "Blue eyed."
     "Anteater not mushroom."
     "He's not circumcised, sir!"
     "Excellent! How 'bout the other thing?"
     "One tattoo, sir!"
     Shaftoe is enjoying the slow buildup of tension in Ethridge's voice:
     "Describe the tattoo, Sergeant!"
     "Sir! It is a commonly seen military design, sir! Consisting of a heart
with a female's name in it."
     "What is that name, Sergeant?" Ethridge is on the  verge of pissing his
     "Sir! The name inscribed on the tattoo is the following name: Griselda.
     "Aaaah!" Lieutenant Ethridge lets loose deep from the diaphragm. Veiled
women  turn and look.  Over  in that Casbah, starved looking, shave  needing
ragheads lean out of spindly towers yodeling out of key.
     Ethridge shuts up and  contents himself with clenching his  fists until
they go white. When  he speaks  again,  his  voice is hushed  with  emotion.
"Battles have hinged on lesser strokes of luck than this one, Sergeant!"
     "You're telling me!?" Shaftoe says. "When I was on Guadalcanal, sir, we
got trapped in this little cove and pinned down "
     "I don't want to hear the lizard story, Sergeant!"
     "Sir! Yes, sir!"


     Once when Bobby Shaftoe was  still  in Oconomowoc,  he had to  help his
brother  move a mattress  up  a  stairway and learned new  respect  for  the
difficulty  of manipulating  heavy  but  floppy objects. Hott, may God  have
mercy on his soul, is a heavy S.O.B., and so it is excellent luck that he is
frozen  solid. After the Mediterranean sun has its way with  him, he is sure
enough going to be floppy. And then some.
     All of Shaftoe's men are down in the detachment's staging area. This is
a  cave  built  into  a  sheer   artificial  cliff   that  rises   from  the
Mediterranean,  just above the  docks. These caves go on for miles and there
is  a  boulevard running over  the  top of  them. But even the approaches to
their particular cave have been covered with tents and tarps so that no one,
not even Allied troops, can see what they are up to: namely, looking for any
equipment  with 2701  painted  on  it, painting  over  the  last digit,  and
changing it to 2. The first operation is handled by men with green paint and
the second by men with white or black paint.
     Shaftoe picks one man  from each color group so that the operation as a
whole  will  not be disrupted.  The sun is stunningly powerful here,  but in
that cavern, with a  cool  maritime breeze easing  through, it's  not really
that  bad. The sharp smell  of petroleum distillates comes off all of  those
warm painted surfaces. To Bobby Shaftoe, it  is a comforting  smell, because
you never paint stuff when you're in combat. But the smell  also makes him a
little  tingly,  because you frequently paint stuff just before you go  into
     Shaftoe is about to  brief  his three handpicked Marines on  what is to
come when the private with black paint on his hands, Daniels, looks past him
and  smirks. "What's the lieutenant looking  for now do you suppose, Sarge?"
he says.
     Shaftoe and Privates Nathan (green paint) and  Branph (white) look over
to  see  that  Ethridge  has gotten  sidetracked. He  is  going  through the
wastebaskets again.
     "We have all noticed  that Lieutenant Ethridge seems to think it is his
mission in life to go through wastebaskets," Sergeant Shaftoe says in a low,
authoritative voice. "He is an Annapolis graduate."
     Ethridge straightens up and, in the most accusatory way possible, holds
up a fistful of pierced and perforated oaktag. "Sergeant! Would you identify
this material?"
     "Sir! It is general issue military stencils, Sir!"
     "Sergeant! How many letters are there in the alphabet?"
     "Twenty six, sir!" responds Shaftoe crisply.
     Privates Daniels, Nathan and Branph whistle coolly at  each  other this
Sergeant Shaftoe is sharp as a tack.
     "Now, how many numerals?"
     "Ten, sir!"
     "And of the  thirty  six  letters and  numerals, how many of  them  are
represented by unused stencils in this wastebasket?"
     "Thirty five, sir! All except for the numeral 2, which is  the only one
we need to carry out your orders, sir!"
     "Have you forgotten the second part of my order, Sergeant?"
     "Sir, yes, sir!"  No point in lying about it. Officers actually like it
when you forget  their orders  because it reminds them of  how much  smarter
they are than you. It makes them feel needed.
     "The second part of  my  order was to  take  strict measures  to  leave
behind no trace of the changeover!"
     "Sir, yes, I do remember that now, sir!"
     Lieutenant Ethridge,  who was  just a  bit huffy first, has  now calmed
down quite a bit,  which speaks  well of him and is duly,  silently noted by
all  of the  men,  who have known him for  less  than  six hours. He  is now
speaking calmly  and conversationally, like a friendly high  school teacher.
He is wearing the heavy rimmed black military eyeglasses known  in the trade
as RPGs, or Rape Prevention Glasses. They are strapped to his head by a hunk
of  black elastic. They make him look like a mental  retard. "If  some enemy
agent were to go  through the contents of this wastebasket, as  enemy agents
have been known to do, what would he find?"
     "Stencils sir!"
     "And if he  were to  count  the  numerals  and letters, would he notice
anything unusual?"
     "Sir!  All  of them would be  clean except  for  the numeral twos which
would be missing or covered with paint, sir!"
     Lieutenant  Ethridge says  nothing  for  a few  minutes,  allowing  his
message to  sink in.  In reality no one knows  what the fuck  he is  talking
about.  The atmosphere becomes  tinderlike until  finally,  Sergeant Shaftoe
makes a desperate stab. He turns  away from Ethridge and towards the men. "I
want you Marines to get paint on all of those goddamn stencils!" he barks.
     The Marines charge the wastebaskets  as if they were Nip pillboxes, and
Lieutenant  Ethridge seems mollified. Bobby Shaftoe,  having scored  massive
points,  leads  Privates Daniels,  Nathan, and  Branph  out into  the street
before Lieutenant Ethridge figures out that he was  just guessing. They head
for the meat locker up on the ridge, double time.
     These Marines are all lethal combat veterans or  else they  never would
have gotten  into  a  mess  this  bad  trapped on a  gratuitously  dangerous
continent  (Africa) surrounded  by  the  enemy (United States  Army troops).
Still, when  they get into that locker and  take their  first gander at  PFC
Hott, a hush comes over them.
     Private Branph clasps his hands, rubbing them together surreptitiously.
"Dear Lord "
     "Shut up, Private!" Shaftoe says, "I already did that."
     "Okay, Sarge."
     "Go find a meat saw!" Shaftoe says to Private Nathan.
     The privates all gasp.
     "For the  fucking  pig!"  Shaftoe clarifies.  Then he turns  to Private
Daniels, who is carrying a featureless bundle, and says, "Open it up!"
     The bundle  (which  was issued  by Ethridge to  Shaftoe)  turns out  to
contain a black  wetsuit. Nothing  GI; some kind of European  model. Shaftoe
unfolds it and examines its various  parts while  Privates Nathan and Branph
dismember Frosty the Pig with vigorous strokes of an enormous bucksaw.
     They are  all working away  silently when a new voice interrupts. "Dear
Lord," the voice begins, as they  all look up to see  a man standing nearby,
hands  clasped  prayerfully. His  words,  sacramentally  condensed  into  an
outward and visible cloud of steam, veil his face.  His uniform and rank are
obscured  by  an Army  blanket  thrown over his shoulders. He'd  look like a
camel riding Holy Land prophet if he were not clean shaven and wearing  Rape
Prevention Glasses.
     "Goddamn it!" Shaftoe says. "I already said a fucking prayer."
     "But are we praying for Private Hott,  or for ourselves?" the man says.
This  is  a  poser. Everything becomes quiet as  the  meat saw stops moving.
Shaftoe  drops  the wetsuit  and stands up. Blanket  Man's  got  very  short
grizzly hair, or maybe that's frost coalescing on his scalp. His ice colored
eyes meet Shaftoe's through the  mile thick lenses of  his RPGs, as if  he's
really expecting an  answer. Shaftoe takes a  step closer  and realizes that
the man is wearing a clerical collar.
     "You tell me, Rev," Shaftoe says.
     Then he recognizes Blanket Man. He's about to let fly with a lusty What
in the fuck are  you  doing here,  but  something makes  him hold  back. The
chaplain's eyes make a sideways dart so small and so fast that only Shaftoe,
who's practically rubbing noses with him, could possibly see it.
     The message being: Shut up, Bobby, we'll talk later.

     "Private Hott is  with  God now or wherever people go  after they die,"
says Enoch "You can call me Brother" Root.
     "What kind of an attitude is that!? Course he's with God. Jesus Christ!
'Wherever they go when they die.' What kind of a chaplain are you?"
     "I  guess I'm a Detachment 2702 kind  of  chaplain," the chaplain says.
Lieutenant Enoch Root finally breaks eye contact with  Shaftoe and turns his
gaze  to where the action is. "As  you were, fellows,"  he says. "Looks like
bacon tonight, huh?"
     The men chuckle nervously and resume sawing.
     Once  they get the pig's carcass disentangled from Hott's,  each of the
Marines grabs a  limb. They carry Hott out  into the butcher shop, which has
been temporarily  evacuated for purposes of this  operation, so  that Hott's
former comrades in shanks will not spread rumors.
     Hasty evacuation of  a butcher shop  after one of  its workers has been
found dead  on the floor could spawn a few rumors in  and of itself. So  the
cover story du jour, freshly spun by Lieutenant Ethridge, is that Detachment
2702 is (contrary to all outward  appearances) an  elite, crack medical team
concerned that Hott had been struck down by a rare new form of North African
food poisoning. Maybe even something deliberately left behind by the French,
who are, by accounts, a little irritable about having their battleship sunk.
Anyway,  the whole shop (the story goes) has to be shut down for the day and
gone over with a nit comb. Hott's  corpse will be cremated before being sent
back to the family, just to  make sure that the dreaded affliction does  not
spread into  Chicago the planetary  abbatoir capital where its  incalculable
consequences could alter the outcome of the war.
     There is a  GI  coffin laid  out  on the  floor,  just to preserve  the
fiction.  Shaftoe and his men  ignore it completely  and begin  dressing the
body, first in an appalling pair of swim trunks,  then various components of
the wetsuit.
     "Hey!" Ethridge says. "I thought you were going to do the gloves last."
     "Sir, we're doing them first, by your leave, sir!" Bobby Shaftoe says.
     "On account of his fingers will thaw out first and once that happens we
are screwed, sir!"
     "Well, slap  this on him  first," Ethridge says, and hands over a wrist
watch. Shaftoe hefts it  and whistles. It's a beaut: a  Swiss chronometer in
solid uranium, its jewel laden movement throbbing away like the  heart  beat
of  a small mammal.  He  swings  it on the  end of  its wristband,  made  in
cunningly joined armor plates. It is heavy enough to stun a muskellunge.
     "Nice," Shaftoe says, "but it doesn't tell time too good."
     "In the time zone where we are going," Ethridge says, "it does."
     The  chastened  Shaftoe sets  about  his work.  Meanwhile,  Lieutenants
Ethridge and Root are making themselves useful. They carry the crudely sawed
remains of Frosty the Pig into the butcher shop and throw them on a gigantic
scale.  They add up to some thirty kilograms,  whatever the fuck that means.
Enoch Root, showing an appetite for physical labor that is duly and silently
noted  by the men, hauls in another pig carcass, stiff as a Radio Flyer, and
dumps it onto the scale, bringing the total up to seventy. Ethridge does the
breaststroke through clouds  of flies to gather up all the cuts of meat that
were on the  chopping blocks when the place was evacuated. He throws them on
the scale and the needle swings up to near the one  hundred  mark. From that
point they are able to bring it up to one thirty by ferrying hams and roasts
in from  the  freezer one  at a time. Enoch Root  who seems to be conversant
with exotic  systems of  measurement has made a calculation, and checked  it
twice,  establishing  that  the  weight  of  Gerald   Hott,  converted  into
kilograms, is one hundred and thirty.
     All the  meat  goes into the  coffin.  Ethridge  slams  the  lid  shut,
trapping some flies who  have no idea what they are in for. Root goes around
with a  clawhammer, driving  in  sixteen  penny nails  with  sure, powerful,
Carpenter  of  Nazareth  like strokes.  Meanwhile, Ethridge  has  taken a GI
manual out  of his briefcase.  Shaftoe  is close  enough to read the  title,
printed in block letters on its olive drab cover:
     The two lieutenants devote a good hour to following the instructions in
that manual. The instructions are not that complicated, but Enoch Root keeps
noticing  syntactical ambiguities and wants  to explore their ramifications.
First this rattles Ethridge, then his emotions tend towards impatience  and,
finally,  extreme  pragmatism.  To  make  the  chaplain  shut  up,  Ethridge
confiscates the manual and  starts Root on  stenciling  Hott's  name  on the
coffin and  pasting it up with red stickers printed with medical warnings so
appalling  that  the  topic headings alone induce faint nausea. By the  time
Root is finished,  the  only person  who  can  legally open this  coffin  is
General George C. Marshall himself,  and even he  would  have  to first  get
special permission from the Surgeon General and  evacuate all  living things
within a hundred mile radius.
     "Chaplain  talks kind  of funny,"  says Private  Nathan  at  one point,
listening, slackjawed, to one of these Root/Ethridge debates.
     "Yeah!" exclaims  Private Branph, as  if the  accent took a really keen
listener to notice. "What kind of an accent is that anyway?"
     All eyes turn  to Bobby Shaftoe, who  pretends  to listen for a bit and
then  says,  "Well,  fellas, I would guess  that  this  Enoch  Root  is  the
offspring of a long line  of Dutch and  possibly  German missionaries in the
South  Sea Islands, interbred with Aussies. And  furthermore,  I would guess
that being as how he grew up  in territories controlled  by the British that
he carries a British  passport and was drafted into  their military when the
war started and is now part of ANZAC."
     "Haw!" roars Private Daniels, "if you got all of that right, I'll  give
you five bucks ."
     "Deal," Shaftoe says.
     Ethridge and  Root  finish sealing the coffin at  about  the same  time
Shaftoe and  his  Marines  are wrestling the  last  bits of the wetsuit into
place. It takes a shitload of talcum powder, but they get  it done. Ethridge
supplies  them  with  the  talcum powder, which is not GI talc;  it is  from
somewhere in Europe. Some  of the  letters on  the  label have pairs of dots
over  them,  which Shaftoe  knows  to  be  a  characteristic of  the  German
     A truck backs up to the loading dock, smelling the fresh paint (it is a
Detachment 2702 truck). In go the sealed coffin and the  now vulcanized dead
     "I'm  going  to  stay  behind  and check the wastebaskets,"  Lieutenant
Ethridge tells Shaftoe. "I'll meet you at the airfield in one hour."
     Shaftoe imagines one  hour in the back of a hot  truck with this cargo.
"You want me to keep him on ice, sir?" he asks.
     Ethridge has to  think about this one for a while. He sucks his  teeth,
checks his watch,  hems and haws. But  when he  finally  answers,  he sounds
definite. "Negative. It is imperative, for purposes of this mission, that we
now get him into a thawed mode."
     PFC General Hott and  his  meat laden coffin occupy the center  of  the
truck's  bed.  The  Marines sit to  the  sides,  arranged like  pallbearers.
Shaftoe  finds  himself  staring  across the  carnage into the face of Enoch
Root, which is wearing an expression of forced nonchalance.
     Shaftoe knows he ought to wait, but he  just  can't stand it. "What are
you doing here?" he finally says.
     "The detachment is relocating," the Rev says. "Closer to the front."
     "We  just  got off  the fucking boat,"  Shaftoe  says. "Of course we're
going closer to the goddamn front we can't go any farther unless we swim ."
     "As long as we're pulling up stakes," Root says coolly, "I'll be coming
along for the ride."
     "I don't  mean  that," Bobby  Shaftoe  says.  "I mean, why  should  the
detachment have a chaplain?"
     "You know the military," Root says. "Every unit has to have one."
     "It's bad luck."
     "It's bad luck to have a chaplain? Why?"
     "It means the waffle butts are expecting a lot of funerals, is why."
     "So you are taking the position that the only  thing a cleric can do is
to preside over funerals? Interesting."
     "And weddings and baptisms,"  Shaftoe says. All of  the  other  Marines
     "Could it be  you're feeling a little  anxious about the unusual nature
of  Detachment 2702's first mission?"  Root inquires,  casting a significant
glance at the late Hott, then staring directly into Shaftoe's eyes.
     "Anxious? Listen, Rev, I done some things on Guadalcanal that make this
look like Emily Fucking Post."
     All of  the  other  Marines  think this is a great  line,  but Root  is
     "Did you know why you were doing those things on Guadalcanal?"
     "Sure! To stay alive."
     "Do you know why you're doing this?"
     "Fuck no."
     "Doesn't that irritate you a  little bit? Or  are  you  too  much of  a
stupid jarhead to care?"
     "Well,  you kind of backed me into a  corner there, Rev," Shaftoe says.
After a pause he goes on, "I'll admit to being a little curious.
     "If there  were  someone in Detachment 2702  who could help answer your
questions about why, would that be useful?"
     "I  guess  so,"  Shaftoe grumbles.  "It just  seems  weird  to  have  a
     "Why does it seem weird?"
     "Because of what kind of unit this is."
     "What kind of  unit  is it?"  Root  asks.  He asks it  with  a  certain
sadistic pleasure.
     "We're not  supposed  to  talk about it," Shaftoe says. "And anyway, we
don't know."
     Down the hill, immense zigzagging ramps descend pompously over rows  of
tiger striped arches to the strand of  ramifying railway lines that feed the
port from  the south. "It's like standing in the drain  of a fucking pinball
machine," says  B. Shaftoe,  looking  up  at  the way they  have just  come,
thinking  about what  might come  rolling down out of  the Casbah. They head
south  along those  railway lines and come into a zone of ore dumps and coal
heaps  and  smokestacks,  clearly  recognizable to  Great  Lakes Eagle Scout
Shaftoe, but  here operated through some kind  of cross cultured  gear train
about a  million  meshings deep.  They  pull  up in  front  of  the  Société
Algérienne d'Éclairage et de Force, a double smokestacked behemoth with  the
biggest coal pile of all. They're in the middle of nowhere, but it's obvious
that they are  expected. Here as everywhere else that Detachment 2702 goes a
strange Rank Inflation Effect is taking  place. The  coffin is  carried into
the SAEF by two lieutenants, a captain, and a major, overseen by a  colonel!
There  is not  a  single enlisted man in sight, and Bobby  Shaftoe,  a  mere
sergeant, worries about  what sort of work  they'll find  for him.  There is
also a Paperwork Negation Effect going  on here; whenever Shaftoe expects to
be stalled by the usual half an hour's worth of red tape, an anxious officer
runs up and waves his hands furiously and he is allowed to proceed.
     An Arab, wearing what appears to be a red coffee can on his head, hauls
an  iron door  open;  flames lunge  at him  and he beats  them back  with  a
blackened  iron stick. The pallbearers center the head of  the coffin in the
opening and  then shove it  through, like  ramming a  big shell  home into a
sixteen inch gun, and the man with the can on his head clangs the door shut,
a tassel on the top of his can whipping around crazily. Before he's even got
it latched he's yodeling just like those guys up in the Casbah. The officers
all  stand  around agreeing  with  each other  and  signing  their  names on
     So with a dearth  of  complications that can only strike combat veteran
Bobby Shaftoe as eerie, the truck leaves  the Société Algérienne d'Éclairage
et  de Force behind and heads back  up those  damn ramps into  Algiers.  The
climb's  steep a first gear project all  the  way. Vendors with  push  carts
loaded  with  boiling  oil are  not  only  keeping up  with them but cooking
fritters  along  the  way. Three legged  dogs  run and  fight underneath the
actual  drive train of the  truck. Detachment 2702  is also dogged by coffee
can wearing natives threatening to play  guitars made  of jerry cans, and by
orange vendors and  snake  charmers, and a  few  blue  eyed burnoose wearers
holding  up  lumps  of unwrapped and unlabelled dark stuff. Like hailstones,
these may be classified by analogy to fruits and  sporting goods.  Typically
they  range from  grape to baseball. At one  point, the chaplain impulsively
trades a Hershey bar for a golf ball of the stuff.
     "What is that? Chocolate?" Bobby Shaftoe asks.
     "If  it  was  chocolate,"  Root says,  "that guy wouldn't have taken  a
Hershey bar for it."
     Shaftoe shrugs. "Unless it's shitty chocolate."
     "Or shit!" blurts Private Nathan, provoking incredible hilarity.
     "You heard of Mary Jane?" Root asks.
     Shaftoe role model, leader of men stifles the impulse to say, Heard  of
her? I've fucked her!
     "This is the concentrated essence," says Enoch Root.
     "How would you know, Rev?" says Private Daniels.
     The Rev is  not  rattled. "I'm the  God  guy  here, right?  I  know the
religious angle?"
     "Yes, sir!"
     "Well,  at one time, there was a group of  Muslims called the hashishin
who would eat this stuff and then go out and kill people. They were so  good
at it, they became  famous or infamous. Over time the pronunciation  of  the
name has changed we know them as assassins."
     There is an appropriately respectful silence. Finally, Sergeant Shaftoe
says, "What the hell are we waiting for?"
     They eat some. Shaftoe, being the highest ranking enlisted man present,
eats  more  than  the  others. Nothing happens.  "Only  person I  feel  like
assassinating is that guy who sold it to us," he says.


     The airfield, eleven miles out  of  town, is  busier than  it  was ever
intended to be. This is nice grape– and olive growing  land, but stony
mountains are visible farther inland, and beyond  'em is a patch of sand the
size of  the  United States most of  which seems  to  be airborne and headed
their  way. Countless  airplanes  predominantly  Dakota  transports,  a.k.a.
Gooney Birds stir up vast, tongue coating, booger nucleating dust clouds. It
doesn't occur to Shaftoe for quite some time that his dry eyes and mouth may
not  be  entirely  the result  of  dust  in  the  air.  His  saliva has  the
consistency of tile adhesive.
     The detachment is so damn secret that no one at the airfield even knows
that they  exist.  There  are a lot of Brits here, and in the  desert, Brits
wear shorts, which makes Shaftoe want to punch them in the nose. He controls
the urge.  But  his obvious  hostility towards men in short  pants, combined
with the fact that he is demanding to be pointed in  the direction of a unit
that is so secret that he cannot specify it by name or even vaguely describe
it, leads to a lot of bafflement, a lot of  incredulity, and  generally gets
the Anglo American alliance off on the wrong foot.
     Sergeant Shaftoe,  however,  now understands that anything to  do  with
this detachment is liable to be way off to one side, shrouded in black tarps
and awnings. Like any other military unit,  Detachment 2702 is rich in  some
supplies  and poor in others,  but  they do appear  to control  about  fifty
percent of  last year's total U.S. tarpage production. When Shaftoe mentions
this fact, and goes on about it to his comrades at great length, some of the
men look at him a little funny. It's left to Enoch Root to say, "Between the
giant lizards and the black tarps some  people might think you were acting a
little paranoid."
     "Let  me  tell  you  about  paranoid,"  Shaftoe says, and he  does, not
forgetting to mention Lieutenant Ethridge and his wastebaskets. By the  time
he's had  his  say, the whole detachment has  assembled on the far  side  of
those tarps, and everyone is nice and tense except for their newest recruit,
who,  as Shaftoe notes approvingly, is beginning to  relax. Lying on the bed
of the truck in his wetsuit, he adjusts,  rather than bounces, when  they go
over bumps.
     Even so, he  is still stiff enough to  simplify the problem  of getting
him  out of the truck and into  their assigned Gooney Bird: a bare  knuckled
variant of the DC 3,  militarized and (to Shaftoe's  skeptical eye) rendered
somewhat less than airworthy by  a pair of immense  cargo doors gouged  into
one side,  nearly cutting the  airframe  in half. This particular Dakota has
been flying around in the fucking desert so long that  all  the paint's been
sand blasted off its propeller blades, the engine  cowling,  and the leading
edges of  the  wings, leaving burnished metal that  will  make  an  inviting
silver gleam  for  any  Luftwaffe pilots within  three hundred miles. Worse:
diverse antennas  sprout  from the  skin of the  fuselage, mostly around the
cockpit. Not just whip antennas but great big damn barbecue grills that make
Shaftoe wish he  had a hacksaw. They  are eerily like  the ones that Shaftoe
humped down the  stairway from Station Alpha  in Shanghai  a memory that has
somehow gotten all mangled together, now, with the other images in his head.
When he tries to recollect it, all he can see is a bloodied Jesus carrying a
high frequency dual  band  dipole down a stone staircase  in Manila, and  he
knows that can't be right.
     Though they are on the precincts  of a busy  airfield, Ethridge refuses
to let this operation go forward when there is as much as a single  airplane
in  the sky.  Finally he says, "Okay, NOW!" In the truck, they lift the body
up, just in time to hear Ethridge shout, "No, WAIT!" at which point they put
him  down again. Long after it has stopped being  grimly amusing, they put a
tarp on Gerald Hott and get him carried on board, and shortly thereafter are
airborne. Detachment 2072 is headed for a rendezvous with Rommel.

     Chapter 16 CYCLES

     It  is  early in November of  1942 and a  simply unbelievable amount of
shit is going on, all at once, everywhere. Zeus himself would not be able to
sort it all out, not even if he mobilized the caryatids tell them never mind
what we told you, just drop those loads. Temples collapsing everywhere, like
spyglasses,  he'd send those caryatids  and  any  naiads and dryads he could
scare up  to library school, issue them green visors, dress them in the prim
asexual uniforms of the OPAMS,  the  Olympian Perspective Archive Management
Service,  put them to work filling out three by five cards round the  clock.
Get  them  to  use  some  of  that vaunted  caryatid steadfastness  to  tend
Hollerith machines and ETC  card  readers.  Even then,  Zeus  would probably
still lack a handle on the situation. He'd be so pissed off  he would hardly
know which hubristical mortals to fling his thunderbolts at, nor which pinup
girls and buck privates to molest.
     Lawrence  Pritchard Waterhouse  is  as  Olympian as  anyone right  now.
Roosevelt  and Churchill and the few others on the Ultra Mega list have  the
same access, but  they have other cares and  distractions. They can't wander
around  the  data  flow  capital of the  planet, snooping over  translators'
shoulders  and reading the decrypts as  they come, chunkity  chunkity whirr,
out  of  the  Typex machines. They cannot trace  individual  threads  of the
global narrative at their whim, running from hut to hut patching connections
together, even as the  WRENs in Hut  11  string patch cables  from one bombe
socket to another, fashioning a web to catch Hitler's messages as they speed
through the ether.
     Here are some of the things Waterhouse knows: the Battle  of El Alamein
is won, and Montgomery is chasing Rommel westwards across  Cyrenaica at what
looks  like  a  breakneck pace, driving him back  toward  the  distant  Axis
stronghold of Tunis. But it's not the rout it appears to be. If  Monty would
only grasp  the significance of  the  intelligence coming  through the Ultra
channel, he would  be able to move decisively, to surround and capture large
pockets of Germans and Italians. But he never  does, and so Rommel stages an
orderly retreat,  preparing  to  fight  another day, and  plodding  Monty is
roundly cursed  in the  watch  rooms of  Bletchley Park for his  failure  to
exploit their priceless but perishable gems of intelligence.
     The largest sealift in  history just piled into Northwest Africa. It is
called Operation Torch, and  it's going to take Rommel from  behind, serving
as anvil  to  Montgomery's hammer, or,  if Monty  doesn't pick up the pace a
bit, maybe the other way around. It looks brilliantly organized but it's not
really; this is  the first time America has punched  across the Atlantic  in
any serious way and so a whole grab bag of stuff is included on  those ships
including  any  number  of  signals  intelligence  geeks  who  are  storming
theatrically  onto the beaches as if they were Marines. Also included in the
landing is the American contingent of Detachment 2702 a hand picked wrecking
crew of combat hardened leathernecks.
     Some  of  these Marines  learned  what  they  know  on  Guadalcanal,  a
basically useless island in the Southwest Pacific where the Empire of Nippon
and  the United States of  America  are  disputing with  rifles each other's
right to build a military airbase. Early returns  suggest that the Nipponese
Army,  during  its extended tour of East  Asia,  has lost its edge. It would
appear  that  raping the entire female population of Nanjing, and bayoneting
helpless  Filipino  villagers,  does  not  translate  into  actual  military
competence. The Nipponese Army is still trying to work out some way to kill,
say, a hundred American Marines without losing, say, five hundred of its own
     The Japanese Navy is a different  story they know  what they are doing.
They  have  Yamamoto. They  have torpedoes that  actually explode  when they
strike their  targets, in  stark contrast  to the American  models which  do
nothing  but  scratch  the  paint  of  the  Japanese  ships  and  then  sink
apologetically. Yamamoto just made another attempt to  wipe out the American
fleet  off the Santa  Cruz  Islands,  sank Hornet  and blew  a nice  hole in
Enterprise. But he lost a third of his planes. Watching the Japanese rack up
losses, Waterhouse wonders if anyone in Tokyo  has bothered to break out the
abacus and run the numbers on this Second World War thing.
     The Allies  are doing some  math  of  their own,  and  they  are scared
shitless. There are 100 German U boats in the Atlantic now, operating mostly
from Lorient and Bordeaux,  and they  are slaughtering convoys in the  North
Atlantic with such  efficiency that it's not even combat,  just a Lusitanian
level murder spree. They are on a pace to sink something like a million tons
of shipping this month, which Waterhouse  cannot really comprehend. He tries
to think  of  a  ton as being roughly equivalent to a car, and then tries to
imagine America  and Canada going out  into the middle  of the  Atlantic and
simply dropping a million cars into the ocean just in November. Sheesh!
     The problem is Shark.
     The Germans call it Triton. It is a new cypher system, used exclusively
by their Navy.  It  is an Enigma  machine,  but  not  the usual  three wheel
Enigma. The Poles learned how to break that old thing a couple of years ago,
and Bletchley Park industrialized the  process. But more  than a year ago, a
German U boat was beached intact on the south coast of Iceland and gone over
pretty thoroughly  by men from Bletchley. They discovered an Enigma box with
niches for four not three wheels.
     When the four wheel Enigma had  gone into service  on February 1st, the
entire Atlantic had gone black. Alan  and the others  have  been going after
the  problem very hard  ever since. The problem is that they don't know  how
the fourth wheel is wired up.
     But a few days  ago, another U boat was captured, more  or less intact,
in the Eastern  Mediterranean. Colonel Chattan,  who happened  to be  in the
neighborhood,  went  there  with  sickening  haste,  along  with some  other
Bletchleyites. They  recovered a four wheel Enigma machine,  and though this
doesn't break the code, it gives them the data they need to break it.
     Hitler  must  be feeling cocky,  anyway,  because he's  on tour  at the
moment, preparatory to a working vacation at his alpine retreat. That didn't
prevent him  from  taking over what was  left of France apparently something
about Operation Torch  really got his goat, so he occupied  Vichy  France in
its  entirety, and  then dispatched  upwards  of  a  hundred thousand  fresh
troops,  and a  correspondingly  stupendous amount  of supplies,  across the
Mediterranean to Tunisia. Waterhouse imagines that you must be able to cross
from Sicily  to  Tunisia these days simply by hopping from  the deck of  one
German transport ship to another.
     Of course, if that were true,  Waterhouse's job would be a  lot easier.
The Allies could  sink  as many of  those  ships as  they wanted to  without
raising a single blond Teutonic eyebrow on the information theory front. But
the fact is  that the convoys are few  and far between. Just exactly how few
and how far  between are parameters  that go  into the equations that he and
Alan Mathison Turing spend all night scribbling on chalkboards.
     After a  good eight or twelve hours  of that, when the sun  has finally
come  up  again,  there's  nothing  like   a  brisk  bicycle  ride  in   the
Buckinghamshire countryside.


     Spread out  before them as  they pump over  the crest of the  rise is a
woods that has turned all of  the colors of flame.  The hemispherical crowns
of the maples even contribute a realistic billowing effect. Lawrence feels a
funny compulsion to take  his hands off the handlebars and  clamp them  over
his   ears.  As  they  coast  into  the  trees,  however,  the  air  remains
delightfully cool, the blue sky above  unsmudged by pillars  of black smoke,
and  the calm and  quiet  of the place could not be more different from what
Lawrence is remembering.
     "Talk, talk, talk!" says Alan Turing,  imitating the squawk  of furious
hens. The strange noise is made  stranger  by  the fact that he is wearing a
gas mask,  until he becomes impatient and pulls  it  up  onto his  forehead.
"They love  to hear themselves talk." He is referring to  Winston  Churchill
and Franklin Roosevelt. "And they don't mind hearing each other talk up to a
point, at least. But voice is a terribly  redundant  channel of information,
compared  to printed text. If you  take  text and run it  through an  Enigma
which is really not all that complicated the familiar  patterns in the text,
such as the preponderance of the letter E, become nearly undetectable." Then
he pulls the gas mask back over his face in order to emphasize the following
point:  "But  you can  warp  and  permute voice in  the most  fiendish  ways
imaginable and it will still be  perfectly intelligible to a listener." Alan
then suffers a sneezing fit that threatens to burst the  khaki straps around
his head.
     "Our ears know how  to find  the familiar patterns," Lawrence suggests.
He is not  wearing a gas  mask because (a)  there is no  Nazi  gas attack in
progress, and (b) unlike Alan, he does not suffer from hay fever.
     "Excuse me." Alan suddenly brakes and jumps off his  bicycle. He  lifts
the rear wheel from  the pavement, gives  it a spin with his free hand, then
reaches down  and gives the chain a momentary  sideways  tug. He is watching
the mechanism intently, interrupted by a few aftersneezes.
     The chain of Turing's bicycle has one weak link. The rear wheel has one
bent spoke. When the link and the spoke  come into  contact with each other,
the chain will  part and fall  onto the road. This does not happen  at every
revolution of the wheel otherwise the  bicycle  would be completely useless.
It only happens when the chain and the wheel are in a  certain position with
respect to each other.
     Based  upon  reasonable assumptions  about  the velocity  that  can  be
maintained by  Dr. Turing, an energetic bicyclist  (let us say 25 km/hr) and
the radius of  his bicycle's rear wheel (a third of a meter), if the chain's
weak link hit  the bent spoke on every revolution, the chain would fall  off
every one third of a second.
     In fact, the chain doesn't fall  off unless the bent spoke and the weak
link happen to coincide. Now, suppose that you describe the  position of the
rear wheel  by the traditional [theta]. Just for the sake of simplicity, say
that when the  wheel starts in the position where the bent spoke  is capable
of hitting the weak link (albeit only if the  weak link happens to be  there
to  be hit) then  [theta] =  0. If  you're using degrees as your unit, then,
during a single revolution of the wheel, [theta] will climb all  the  way up
to  359 degrees before cycling  back around to  0, at  which point  the bent
spoke will be back in  position to knock the chain off  And now suppose that
you describe the position of the chain with the variable C, in the following
very  simple way: you  assign a number to  each link on  the chain. The weak
link  is numbered 0, the next is 1, and so on, up to l – 1 where  l is
the total number  of links  in the chain. And again,  for simplicity's sake,
say that when the chain is in the position where its weak link is capable of
being hit by the bent  spoke (albeit only  if  the bent spoke  happens to be
there to hit it) then C = 0.
     For purposes of figuring out when the chain is going to fall off of Dr.
Turing's  bicycle, then, everything  we need to  know  about  the bicycle is
contained in the  values of  [theta] and of C.  That pair of numbers defines
the bicycle's state. The bicycle has as many possible states as there can be
different values  of ([theta], C)  but only one of those  states, namely (0,
0), is the one that will cause the chain to fall off onto the road.
     Suppose we  start off in that  state; i.e., with ([theta] = 0, C =  0),
but  that the chain has not fallen off because Dr. Turing (knowing full well
his bicycle's  state at  any  given time) has  paused in  the middle of road
(nearly  precipitating  a collision with  his friend  and colleague Lawrence
Pritchard Waterhouse,  because  his gas mask blocks  his peripheral vision).
Dr.  Turing  has  tugged sideways  on  the  chain while  moving  it  forward
slightly, preventing it from being hit by the bent spoke. Now he gets on the
bicycle again and begins  to pedal forward.  The circumference  of his  rear
wheel is about two meters, and so when he has moved a distance of two meters
down the road, the wheel has performed a complete revolution and reached the
position [theta] = 0 again that being the  position, remember, when its bent
spoke is in position to hit the weak link.
     What of the chain? Its  position, defined by C, begins at 0 and reaches
1 when its next link moves forward to  the fatal position, then 2 and so on.
The chain must move in synch with the teeth on the sprocket at the center of
the  rear  wheel, and that sprocket has  n teeth,  and  so  after a complete
revolution of the rear wheel, when [theta]  = 0 again, C = n. After a second
complete revolution of  the rear wheel, once  again [theta] = 0 but now  C =
2n. The next time it's C = 3n and  so on. But remember that the chain is not
an infinite linear thing, but a loop having only l  positions; at C  = l  it
loops  back around to  C = 0 and repeats the  cycle. So when calculating the
value of C it is necessary to do modular arithmetic  that is,  if  the chain
has a hundred links (l = 100) and the total number of links that  have moved
by is 135, then the value of C  is not 135 but 35. Whenever you get a number
greater  than or equal  to l you  just repeatedly subtract l until you get a
number  less than 1. This operation is written, by mathematicians, as mod I.
So  the successive values of C, each time  the rear  wheel  spins around  to
[theta] = 0, are
     [C sub i] = n mod l, 2n mod l, 3n mod l,...,in mod l
     where i  =  (1,  2, 3, ... [infinity]) more or  less, depending on  how
close to  infinitely long Turing wants to  keep  riding his bicycle. After a
while, it seems infinitely long to Waterhouse.
     Turing's  chain will fall  off  when  his  bicycle  reaches  the  state
([theta] = 0, C = 0) and in light of what is written above, this will happen
when  (which  is just a  counter telling  how many  times the rear wheel has
revolved) reaches some hypothetical value such that in mod l = 0, or, to put
it in  plain language,  it will happen if there is some multiple  of n (such
as, oh,  2n, 3n, 395n or 109,948,368,443n) that just  happens to be an exact
multiple of l too. Actually there might be several of these so called common
multiples, but from a  practical standpoint the only one that matters is the
first one the least common multiple, or LCM because that's the one that will
be reached first and that will cause the chain to fall off.
     If,  say, the  sprocket  has twenty  teeth (n 20) and the  chain has  a
hundred teeth (l 100) then  after one turn  of the  wheel  we'll have C  20,
after  two turns C = 40,  then 60, then 80, then 100. But since we are doing
the arithmetic modulo  100,  that value has to be changed to zero.  So after
five revolutions of the rear wheel, we have reached  the state ([theta] = 0,
C = 0) and Turing's chain falls off. Five revolutions of the rear wheel only
gets him ten meters down the road, and so  with  these values of l and n the
bicycle  is very nearly worthless. Of course, this is only true if Turing is
stupid  enough to  begin pedaling with his bicycle  in the chain falling off
state. If,  at the time he begins pedaling, it is in the state ([theta] = 0,
C = 1) instead, then the successive values will  be C 21, 41, 61, 81, 1, 21,
.  . . and  so  on  forever the chain will never fall off.  But  this  is  a
degenerate  case,  where "degenerate," to a mathematician, means "annoyingly
boring."  In theory, as long as Turing put his bicycle into  the right state
before parking it outside a building, no one would  be able to steal it  the
chain would fall off after they had ridden for no more than ten meters.
     But if Turing's chain has a hundred  and one links (l = 101) then after
five revolutions we have C = 100, and after six we have C = 19, then
     C = 39, 59, 79, 99, 18, 38, 58, 78, 98, 17, 37, 57, 77, 97, 16, 36, 56,
76, 96, 15, 35, 55, 75, 95, 14, 34, 54, 74, 94, 13, 33, 53, 73,  93, 12, 32,
52, 72, 92,  11, 31, 51, 71, 91, 10, 30,  50, 70,  90, 9, 29, 49, 69, 89, 8,
28, 48, 68, 88,  7, 27, 47, 67, 87, 6, 26, 46, 66, 86, 5, 25, 45, 65, 85, 4,
24, 44, 64, 84, 3, 23, 43, 63, 83, 2, 22, 42, 62, 82, 1, 21, 41, 61, 81, 0
     So not until  the 101st revolution  of  the rear wheel does the bicycle
return to the state  ([theta] = 0, C = 0) where the  chain falls off. During
these  hundred and  one  revolutions,  Turing's bicycle has proceeded  for a
distance  of a fifth of a  kilometer down the road, which is not too bad. So
the bicycle is usable. However,  unlike in  the  degenerate  case, it is not
possible  for  this bicycle  to be placed in a  state where the chain  never
falls off  at all. This  can  be proved by  going through the  above list of
values of C, and noticing that every possible value of C every single number
from 0 to 100 is on the list. What this means is that no matter what value C
has when Turing begins to pedal, sooner or  later it will work its way round
to the fatal C = 0  and  the chain will fall  off.  So Turing  can leave his
bicycle  anywhere and be confident that, if stolen, it won't go more than  a
fifth of a kilometer before the chain falls off.
     The difference between the degenerate and nondegenerate cases has to do
with the properties of the numbers involved. The combination of (n = 20, I =
100) has radically  different properties  from (n = 20,  l  =  101). The key
difference is that 20 and 101 are "relatively prime" meaning that  they have
no  factors in  common. This means that their  least common  multiple, their
LCM,  is a large number it  is, in fact, equal to  l x n = 20 x 101 =  2020.
Whereas the LCM of 20 and 100 is only 100. The 101 bicycle has a long period
– it passes through many different states before returning back to the
beginning whereas the l = 100 bicycle has a period of only a few states.
     Suppose that Turing's  bicycle were a  cipher  machine that  worked  by
alphabetic substitution, which is to  say that it would replace each  of the
26  letters  of the  alphabet with some other letter. An A in  the plaintext
might become a T in the ciphertext, B might become F, C might be come M, and
so on all  the way through to Z. In  and of itself this would be an absurdly
easy  cipher  to break  kids  in  treehouses  stuff.  But  suppose that  the
substitution scheme changed from  one letter to the  next. That is,  suppose
that  after  the  first  letter  of the  plaintext  was enciphered using one
particular  substitution  alphabet,  the  second  letter  of  plaintext  was
enciphered using a completely different substitution alphabet, and the third
letter  a  different one  yet,  and  so  on. This is called a polyalphabetic
     Suppose that  Turing's  bicycle were capable  of generating a different
alphabet for each one of its  different states. So the state ([theta] = 0, C
= 0) would correspond to, say, this substitution alphabet:

     Q G U W B I Y T F K V N D O H E P X L Z R C A S J M
     but  the  state  ([theta]  =  180,  C  = 15) would correspond  to  this
(different) one:

     B O R I X V G Y P F J M T C Q N H A Z U K L D S E W
     No two letters would be enciphered using the same substitution alphabet
until, that is, the bicycle worked its  way back around to the initial state
([theta] = 0, C = 0) and began to repeat the cycle. This means  that it is a
periodic polyalphabetic system. Now, if this machine had a  short period, it
would  repeat  itself  frequently,  and  would therefore  be useful,  as  an
encryption system, only against  kids in  treehouses. The longer  its period
(the more relative primeness is built into it) the less frequently it cycles
back to the same substitution alphabet, and the more secure it is.
     The  three  wheel Enigma is just that  type  of  system (i.e., periodic
polyalphabetic).  Its wheels,  like the  drive  train of  Turing's  bicycle,
embody cycles  within  cycles.  Its period is  17,576, which means that  the
substitution alphabet that enciphers the first letter  of a message will not
be  used  again  until  the 17,577th  letter is reached.  But with Shark the
Germans  have added a  fourth wheel, bumping the  period up to  456,976. The
wheels  are  set in a  different, randomly chosen starting position  at  the
beginning of each message.  Since the Germans' messages are never as long as
450,000 characters, the Enigma never reuses  the same substitution  alphabet
in  the course of a given message, which is why  the Germans think  it's  so
     A flight of transport  planes goes over them,  probably  headed for the
aerodrome at Bedford. The planes make  a weirdly musical diatonic  hum, like
bagpipes  playing two drones  at once.  This reminds Lawrence of yet another
phenomenon related to the bicycle wheel and the Enigma machine. "Do you know
why airplanes sound the way they do?" he says.
     "No, come to think of it." Turing pulls his gas mask off again. His jaw
has  gone a bit slack and his eyes  are  darting from side to side. Lawrence
has caught him out.
     "I  noticed it at Pearl. Airplane engines are  rotary," Lawrence  says.
"Consequently they must have an odd number of cylinders."
     "How does that follow?"
     "If the number were  even, the cylinders  would  be directly opposed, a
hundred and eighty degrees apart, and it wouldn't work out mechanically."
     "Why not?"
     "I forgot. It just wouldn't work out."
     Alan raises his eyebrows, clearly not convinced.
     "Something to do with cranks,"  Waterhouse  ventures, feeling a  little
     "I don't know that I agree," Alan says.
     "Just stipulate it think of it  as  a  boundary  condition," Waterhouse
says.  But Alan  is  already hard at work, he suspects, mentally designing a
rotary aircraft engine with an even number of cylinders.
     "Anyway,  if  you  look  at  them, they  all  have  an  odd  number  of
cylinders," Lawrence continues.  "So the  exhaust  noise  combines  with the
propeller noise to produce that two tone sound."
     Alan climbs back onto his bicycle and they ride into the woods for some
distance without any more talking. Actually, they have not been  talking  so
much as mentioning certain  ideas and then leaving the other to work through
the  implications.  This  is  a  highly efficient  way  to  communicate;  it
eliminates much of  the redundancy that Alan  was complaining  about  in the
case of FDR and Churchill.
     Waterhouse is thinking about cycles within cycles. He's already made up
his mind that human  society  is one of these  cycles within  cycles  things
(1) and now he's trying to figure out whether it is like Turing's
bicycle (works fine  for a while, then  suddenly the  chain falls off, hence
the   occasional  world  war)  or  like   an  Enigma  machine  (grinds  away
incomprehensibly for a long time,  then suddenly the  wheels line  up like a
slot machine and everything is  made plain in some sort of  global  epiphany
or, if you  prefer, apocalypse) or just like a rotary airplane engine  (runs
and runs and runs; nothing special happens; it just makes a lot of noise).
     "It's somewhere around . . . here!" Alan says, and violently brakes  to
a stop, just to chaff Lawrence, who has to turn his bicycle around, a chancy
trick on such a narrow lane, and loop back.
     They lean their  bicycles against trees and remove pieces of  equipment
from the baskets:  dry  cells, electronic  breadboards,  poles, a  trenching
tool, loops of wire. Alan  looks about somewhat uncertainly and then strikes
off into the woods.
     "I'm  off to America soon, to work on this voice  encryption problem at
Bell Labs," Alan says.
     Lawrence laughs ruefully. "We're  ships passing  in the night, you  and
     "We are passengers  on ships passing in the night," Alan  corrects him.
"It is no accident.  They need you precisely because I am leaving. I've been
doing all of the 2701 work to this point."
     "It's Detachment 2702 now," Lawrence says.
     "Oh," Alan says, crestfallen. "You noticed."
     "It was reckless of you, Alan."
     "On the contrary!" Alan says. "What will Rudy think if he notices that,
of  all the  units  and divisions  and  detachments  in the Allied  order of
battle, there is not a single one  whose number happens to be the product of
two primes?"
     "Well, that depends upon how common such numbers are compared to all of
the other  numbers, and  on how many other  numbers in  the range are  going
unused .  .  ." Lawrence says, and begins to work out  the first half of the
problem. "Riemann Zeta function again. That thing pops up everywhere."
     "That's  the spirit!" Alan says. "Simply  take  a  rational and  common
sense approach. They are really quite pathetic."
     "Here," Alan says, slowing to a  stop and looking around at the  trees,
which to Lawrence look like all the  other  trees. "This looks familiar." He
sits  down on  the bole of a windfall and begins  to  unpack electrical gear
from his  bag.  Lawrence squats nearby and does the same. Lawrence  does not
know how the device works it is Alan's invention and so he  acts in the role
of  surgical assistant, handing tools and supplies to the  doctor as he puts
the  device  together. The  doctor is talking  the  entire time,  and  so he
requests tools by staring at them fixedly and furrowing his brow.
     "They  are well,  who  do you suppose?  The  fools who  use  all of the
information that comes from Bletchley Park!"
     "Well, it is foolish! Like this Midway thing. That's a perfect example,
isn't it?"
     "Well, I was happy that we won the battle," Lawrence says guardedly.
     "Don't you think it's a bit odd, a bit striking, a bit noticeable, that
after all  of  Yamamoto's  brilliant feints  and deceptions and ruses,  this
Nimitz  fellow knew exactly  where to go looking for him? Out of  the entire
Pacific Ocean?"
     "All right," Lawrence says, "I was appalled. I wrote  a paper about it.
Probably the paper that got me into this mess with you."
     "Well, it's no better with us Brits," Alan says.
     "You would be horrified at  what we've been up to in the Mediterranean.
It is a scandal. A crime.
     "What have we been up to?" Lawrence asks. "I say 'we' rather than 'you'
because we are allies now."
     "Yes,  yes," Alan says impatiently.  "So  they claim." He paused for  a
moment,  tracing  an  electrical  circuit   with  his   finger,  calculating
inductances in his  head. Finally, he  continues:  "Well, we've been sinking
convoys, that's  what. German  convoys. We've  been sinking them  right  and
     "Yes, exactly.  The Germans put  fuel and tanks and ammunition on ships
in  Naples and send them south. We go out and  sink them. We sink nearly all
of  them,  because we  have broken the Italian C38m cipher  and we know when
they are leaving Naples. And lately we've  been sinking  just  the very ones
that are most crucial to Rommel's  efforts, because we  have also broken his
Chaffinch cipher and we know which ones he is complaining loudest about  not
     Turing snaps  a toggle  switch  on his  invention and  a weird, looping
squeal comes from  a dusty black paper cone lashed onto the breadboard  with
twine. The cone is a speaker, apparently  scavenged from a radio. There is a
broomstick with  a  loop of stiff  wire dangling  from the end, and  a  wire
running from  that  loop  up the  stick to the  breadboard.  He  swings  the
broomstick around  until the  loop is dangling,  like  a  lasso, in front of
Lawrence's midsection. The speaker yelps.
     "Good. It's picking up your belt buckle," Alan says.
     He  sets the contraption down in the leaves, gropes in several pockets,
and  finally pulls  out a scrap of paper on which several lines of text have
been written in block letters. Lawrence would recognize it anywhere: it is a
decrypt worksheet. "What's that, Alan?"
     "I wrote  out complete instructions and enciphered  them, then hid them
under a bridge in a benzedrine container," Alan says. "Last week  I went and
recovered the container and decyphered the instructions." He waves the paper
in the air.
     "What encryption scheme did you use?"
     "One of my own devising. You are welcome to take a crack at it,  if you
     "What made you decide it was time to dig this stuff up?"
     "It  was  nothing  more than  a  hedge  against  invasion," Alan  says.
"Clearly, we're not going to be invaded now, not with you chaps in the war."
     "How much did you bury?"
     "Two silver bars, Lawrence,  each with  a  value  of  some hundred  and
twenty five pounds. One of them should be very close to us." Alan stands up,
pulls a compass out of his pocket, turns to face magnetic north, and squares
his  shoulders. Then  he rotates a  few  degrees. "Can't  remember whether I
allowed for declination," he mumbles. "Right! In any case. One hundred paces
north." And  he strides off  into the  woods, followed  by Lawrence, who has
been given the job of carrying the metal detector.
     Just as Dr. Alan Turing can  ride a bicycle and carry on a conversation
while mentally  counting the revolutions  of the pedals, he  can count paces
and talk  at the same  time  too. Unless  he has lost count  entirely, which
seems just as possible.
     "If  what  you are saying is true," Lawrence  says, "the jig must be up
already. Rudy must have figured out that we've broken their codes."
     "An informal  system  has been in place, which might be thought of as a
precursor to Detachment  2701,  or 2702 or whatever we are calling it," Alan
says. "When we  want  to sink a  convoy,  we  send out an  observation plane
first. It is ostensibly an  observation plane. Of course, to observe is  not
its real duty we already know exactly where the convoy is. Its real  duty is
to be observed that  is,  to fly close enough to the convoy that it will  be
noticed by the lookouts on the ships. The ships will  then send out  a radio
message to the effect that they have  been  sighted by an Allied observation
plane. Then, when we come round and sink them, the Germans will not find  it
suspicious  at  least, not quite  so  monstrously suspicious  that  we  knew
exactly where to go.
     Alan  stops,  consults his  compass, turns ninety  degrees, and  begins
pacing westwards.
     "That  strikes me as being  a very ad hoc  arrangement," Lawrence says.
"What is the likelihood that Allied observation planes, sent out purportedly
at random, will just happen to notice every single Axis convoy?"
     "I've already calculated  that probability, and I'll bet you  one of my
silver  bars  that Rudy has done it too," Turing  says. "It is a very  small
     "So I  was  right," Lawrence says, "we  have to assume that  the jig is
     "Perhaps not just  yet,"  Alan  says. "It  has  been touch and go. Last
week, we sank a convoy in the fog."
     "In the fog?"
     "It was foggy the  whole way.  The convoy could not possibly  have been
observed. The  imbeciles  sank it anyway. Kesselring became  suspicious,  as
would anyone. So  we ginned up a  fake  message in a cypher that we know the
Nazis  have   broken  addressed  to  a   fictitious  agent   in  Naples.  It
congratulated him on betraying that convoy  to us.  Ever  since, the Gestapo
have been running rampant on the Naples waterfront, looking for the fellow."
     "We dodged a bullet there, I'd say."
     "Indeed." Alan stops abruptly, takes the metal detector  from Lawrence,
and  turns  it  on. He begins to walk slowly across a clearing, sweeping the
wire  loop back  and  forth just  above the  ground.  It keeps  snagging  on
branches and getting  bent out of shape, necessitating frequent repairs, but
remains stubbornly silent the  whole time, except when Alan, concerned  that
it is no longer working, tests it on Lawrence's belt buckle.
     "The whole business  is delicate,"  Alan muses.  "Some of  our SLUs  in
North Africa "
     "Special Liaison Units. The intelligence officers who receive the Ultra
information from us, pass it on to field officers, and then make sure  it is
destroyed. Some of them learned,  from Ultra, that there was to be  a German
air raid during lunch, so they took their helmets to the mess hall. When the
air raid came off as  scheduled, everyone wanted to  know why those SLUs had
known to bring their helmets."
     "The entire  business seems  hopeless,"  Lawrence  says.  "How can  the
Germans not realize?"
     "It seems that way to us because we know everything and our channels of
communication are  free from noise," Alan says. "The Germans have fewer, and
much noisier, channels. Unless we continue to  do stunningly  idiotic things
like sinking convoys  in  the fog, they  will  never  receive any clear  and
unmistakable indications that we have broken Enigma."
     "It's  funny you should mention Enigma," Lawrence  says, "since that is
an extremely noisy channel from which  we manage to extract vast  amounts of
useful information."
     "Precisely. Precisely why I am worried."
     "Well, I'll do my best to spoof Rudy," Waterhouse says.
     "You'll  do fine. I'm  worried about  the  men who are carrying out the
     "Colonel  Chattan  seems pretty dependable,"  Waterhouse  says,  though
there's probably  no point in  continuing to  reassure Alan. He's  just in a
fretting mood. Once every two or three years, Waterhouse does something that
is  socially  deft,  and  now's  the  time: he  changes  the  subject:  "And
meanwhile, you'll be working it out so that Churchill and Roosevelt can have
secret telephone conversations?"
     "In theory. I rather  doubt that it's practical. Bell Labs has a system
that works by breaking the  waveform  down  into several  bands..." and then
Alan  is off  on the subject of telephone companies. He  delivers a complete
dissertation on the subject  of information  theory as applied  to the human
voice,  and how that governs the way  telephone  systems  work. It is a good
thing  that  Turing  has such a  large subject on which to  expound, for the
woods are large, and it has become increasingly obvious to Lawrence that his
friend has no idea where the silver bars are buried.
     Unburdened by any silver, the two friends  ride home in darkness, which
comes surprisingly  early  this far north. They do  not  talk very much, for
Lawrence is still absorbing and digesting everything that Alan has disgorged
to him about Detachment 2702 and  the convoys and Bell Labs and voice signal
redundancy. Every  few  minutes, a  motorcycle whips  past  them, saddlebags
stuffed with encrypted message slips.

     Chapter 17 ALOFT

     Any way that livestock can travel, Bobby Shaftoe has too, boxcars, open
trucks, forced cross country marches. Military has now invented the airborne
equivalent of  these  in the  form  of the Plane of a Thousand Names: DC  3,
Skytrain,  C  47, Dakota Transport, Gooney Bird. He'll  survive. The exposed
aluminum ribs of the  fuselage are trying to beat him  to death, but as long
as he stays awake, he can fend them off.
     The enlisted men are jammed into the  other plane. Lieutenants Ethridge
and Root are in this one, along with  PFC  Gerald  Hott  and  Sergeant Bobby
Shaftoe.  Lieutenant  Ethridge got dibs  on  all of  the soft objects in the
plane  and arranged  them into  a nest,  up forward  near the  cockpit,  and
strapped himself  down. For a while he pretended to  do  paperwork. Then  he
tried looking  out the windows. Now he has  fallen asleep and is snoring  so
loudly that he is, no fooling, drowning out the engines.
     Enoch Root has  wedged himself into the back of the fuselage,  where it
gets  narrow,  and  is  perusing two books  at once.  It strikes Shaftoe  as
typical he supposes that the books say completely different  things and that
the  chaplain  is  deriving great  pleasure from  pitting  them against each
other, like those guys who have a chessboard on a turntable so that they can
play  against themselves. He  supposes that  when  you live in a  shack on a
mountain with a bunch  of natives who don't speak any of your  half dozen or
so languages, you have to learn to have arguments with yourself.
     There's  a  row  of small square windows on  each  side  of  the plane.
Shaftoe looks out to the right and sees mountains covered with snow and gets
scared  shitless for  a moment thinking maybe they've strayed into the Alps.
But off to the left, it  still looks like the Mediterranean,  and eventually
it gives way to  Devil's Tower  type outcroppings  rising  up out  of  stony
scrubland, and then after that it is  just  rocks and sand, or sand  without
the rocks. Sand  puckered  here  and there,  for  no  particular  reason, by
clutches  of dunes. Damn it, they are still in Africa! You ought to be  able
to see  lions and  giraffes  and  rhinos!  Shaftoe goes  forward  to lodge a
complaint with the pilot and copilot. Maybe he can get a card game together.
Maybe the view out the front of the plane is something to write home about.
     He  is,  on all  counts,  thrown  back  in  stinging  defeat.  He  sees
immediately that the project of finding a better view  is  doomed. There are
only three things in the whole universe: sand, sea, and sky. As a Marine, he
knows how boring the  sea is. The other two are little better.  There  is  a
line  of  clouds far  ahead of them a front  of some description. That's all
there is.
     He  gets  a  general  notion of  their flight  plan before the chart is
snatched away and stashed out of his view. They seem to be attempting to fly
across Tunisia,  which is kind of funny, because  last time Shaftoe checked,
Tunisia  was Nazi territory the anchor, in fact, of the Axis presence on the
African continent. Today's general flight  plan seems to be that they'll cut
across the straits between Bizerta and Sicily, then head east to Malta.
     All  of  Rommel's supplies and  reinforcements  come across  those very
straits  from  Italy, and land at Tunis or Bizerta.  From there,  Rommel can
strike out east towards Egypt or west towards Morocco.  In the several weeks
since  the  British Eighth Army  kicked the crap  out of  him  at El Alamein
(which is  way, way over  there in Egypt) he  has  been retreating westwards
back towards Tunis. In the few weeks since the Americans landed in Northwest
Africa, he's been fighting  on a second front  to his west.  And  Rommel has
been doing a damn good job of it, as far as  Shaftoe can tell from listening
between  the stentorian  lines  of  the  Movietone  newsreels, so laden with
sinister cheer, whence the above facts were gleaned.
     All this means that down below them, vast forces ought to be spread out
across the Sahara  in readiness  for combat.  Perhaps there is even a battle
going on  right now. But  Shaftoe sees nothing.  Just the occasional line of
yellow  dust thrown up  by a convoy, a  dynamite fuse sputtering across  the
     So he talks  to those flyboys. It's not  until he  notices them  giving
each other looks  that  he  realizes  he's going on  at great length.  Those
Assassins must've killed their victims by talking them to death.
     The card game, he  realizes,  is completely  out of the question. These
flyboys  don't  want  to talk.  He practically has  to dive  in and grab the
control yoke  to get  them to  say anything. And when  they  do,  they sound
funny, and  he  realizes that these guys are not  guys nor  fellas. They are
blokes. Chaps. Mates. They are Brits.
     The only  other thing  he  notices about  them, before he gives up  and
slinks back into the cargo  hold,  is that  they  are fucking  armed to  the
teeth.  Like they were expecting to have to kill  twenty or thirty people on
their way from the airplane to the latrine and back. Bobby Shaftoe has met a
few  of these paranoid types during  his tour, and he doesn't like them very
much. That whole mindset reminds him too much of Guadalcanal.
     He  finds a place on the floor next to the body of PFC Gerald Hott  and
stretches out.  The teeny revolver in his waistband makes it  impossible for
him  to lie  on his  back, so  he  takes it out  and  pockets  it. This only
transfers the center of discomfort  to the Marine  Raider stiletto holstered
invisibly between his shoulder blades. He realizes that he is going to  have
to curl up on  his  side, which doesn't  work because on one side he  has  a
standard issue Colt semiautomatic, which he doesn't trust, and on the other,
his own  six shooter from home, which he does. So he  has to find  places to
stash  those,  along  with  the  various  ammo  clips,  speed  loaders,  and
maintenance supplies that go with them.  The V 44 "Gung Ho" jungle clearing,
coconut splitting,  and  Nip decapitating  knife, strapped to the outside of
his  lower leg, also has to be  removed, as does the derringer that he keeps
on  the other  leg  for balance. The only thing that  stays with him are the
grenades in his  front  pockets,  since he doesn't plan to  lie  down on his
     They make their way  around the headland just  in time  to  avoid being
washed out  to sea by the implacable tide. In front of them is a muddy tidal
flat, forming  the floor  of a box  shaped cove.  The walls  of the  box are
formed  by the  headland  they've just  gone  round,  another,  depressingly
similar  headland a few  hundred  yards along the shore, and a cliff  rising
straight up  out  of  the  mudflats.  Even  if  it  were  not  covered  with
relentlessly hostile  tropical jungle, this  cliff  would seal off access to
the interior of Guadalcanal just because  of its steepness.  The Marines are
trapped in this little cove until the tide goes back out.
     Which is more than enough time for the  Nip machine gunner to kill them
     They  all  know  the  sound of  the weapon by  now  and  so they  throw
themselves  down  to  the mud instantly. Shaftoe takes a  quick look around.
Marines lying  on their backs or sides are  probably  dead, those  on  their
stomachs are probably  alive.  Most  of  them  are  on  their stomachs.  The
sergeant is conspicuously dead; the gunner aimed for him first.
     The Nip or  Nips  have  only one gun,  but  they  seem  to have all the
ammunition in  the world the fruits of the  Tokyo  Express,  which  has been
coming down the Slot with impunity ever since Shaftoe and  the rest  of  the
Marines  landed early  in August. The  gunner  rakes the mudflats leisurely,
zeroing in quickly on any Marine who tries to move.
     Shaftoe gets up and runs towards the base of the cliff.
     Finally, he can see the muzzle flashes from the Nip gun. This tells him
which  way it's  pointed.  When the  flashes  are elongated it's pointed  at
someone  else,  and  it's  safe  to  get   up  and  run.  When  they  become
foreshortened, it is swinging around to bear on Bobby Shaftoe He cuts it too
close. There is very bad pain  in his  lower  right abdomen.  His scream  is
muffled by mud and silt  as the weight of his  web and helmet drive him face
first into the ground.
     He loses consciousness  for a  while, perhaps. But  it can't have  been
that long. The firing continues, implying that the  Marines are not all dead
yet. Shaftoe raises  his  head with difficulty, fighting the  weight  of the
helmet, and sees a  log between him  and the  machine  gun a  piece  of wave
burnished driftwood flung far up the beach by a storm.
     He can run for it or not. He decides to run. It's only a few  steps. He
realizes,  halfway  there, that he's  going to  make  it. The  adrenaline is
finally flowing; he lunges forward  mightily and collapses in the shelter of
the big log. Half a dozen bullets thunk into the  other side of it, and wet,
fibrous splinters shower down over him. The log is rotten.
     Shaftoe has gotten himself into a bit of a hole, and cannot see forward
or  back without exposing himself. He cannot  see his  fellow Marines,  only
hear some of them screaming.
     He risks a peek at the machine gun nest. It is well concealed by jungle
vegetation, but it is  evidently built into a cave a  good twenty feet above
the mudflat. He's not  that far from  the  base  of the cliff he might  just
reach it  with another  sprint. But climbing up there is going to be murder.
The machine gun probably can't depress  far enough to shoot down at him, but
they can roll grenades at him until the cows come home, or just pick him off
with small arms as he gropes for handholds.
     It is, in  other  words, grenade  launcher time. Shaftoe rolls onto his
back,  extracts  a flanged  metal tube from his web gear, fits  it  onto the
muzzle of  his ought  three. He tries to clamp it down, but his fingers slip
on the bloody wing nut. Who's the pencil neck that decided to  use a fucking
wing nut in this context? No point griping  about it here and now.  There is
actually blood all over the place,  but  he  is  not in  pain.  He drags his
fingers through the sand, gets them all gritty, tightens that wing nut down.
     Out of  its handy pouch comes one Mark II fragmentation grenade, a.k.a.
pineapple, and with a  bit  more groping he's  got  the  Grenade  Projection
Adapter, M1. He engages the former  into  the latter,  yanks  out the safety
pin, drops it, then slips the fully  prepped  and  armed Grenade  Projection
Adapter, Ml, with its fruity payload, over the tube of the grenade launcher.
Finally: he opens up one  specially marked  cartridge case,  fumbles through
bent and  ruptured  Lucky  Strikes,  finds  one brass  cylinder, a  round of
ammunition  sans  payload, crimped at the end but not endowed with an actual
bullet. Loads same into the Springfield's firing chamber.
     He  creeps  along  the log  so  that  he  can  pop up and fire from  an
unexpected location and perhaps  not get his head chewed off by the  machine
gun.  Finally raises this Rube  Goldberg device  that  his  Springfield  has
become,  jams  the  butt into the sand (in grenade launcher mode  the recoil
will break your collarbone), points  it toward  the  foe, pulls the trigger.
Grenade Projection Adapter, M1 is gone with  a terrible pow, trailing a damn
hardware store of now superfluous  parts, like a soul discarding its corpse.
The pineapple is now soaring heavenward, even its pin and safety lever gone,
its  chemical fuse aflame so  that  it even has a, whattayoucallit, an inner
light. Shaftoe's aim  is true, and the grenade is heading where intended. He
thinks he's pretty damn smart until the  grenade bounces  back, tumbles down
the cliff, and blows up another  rotten log. The Nips have anticipated Bobby
Shaftoe's little plan, and put up nets or chicken wire or something.
     He lies on his back in the mud, looking up at  the sky, saying the word
"fuck" over and over. The entire log throbs, and something akin to peat moss
showers down  into his face as the bullets chew up the  rotten  wood.  Bobby
Shaftoe says a prayer to the Almighty and prepares to mount a banzai charge.
     Then  the maddening sound of the machine gun stops, and is  replaced by
the  sound of a man screaming. His voice  sounds  unfamiliar. Shaftoe levers
himself up on his elbow and  realizes that the  screaming is coming from the
direction of the cave.
     He looks up into the big, sky blue eyes of Enoch Root.
     The  chaplain has moved from his nook at  the  back of the plane and is
squatting next to one of the  little windows,  holding onto whatever he can.
Bobby  Shaftoe, who  has rolled uncomfortably onto his stomach, looks out  a
window on  the  opposite side of the plane.  He ought  to see  the sky,  but
instead  he sees a sand dune wheeling past.  The  sight makes him  instantly
nauseated. He does not even consider sitting up.
     Brilliant  spots of light are streaking wildly around the inside of the
plane, like ball  lightning, but and this is  far from obvious at first they
are actually projected against the wall of the plane, like flashlight beams.
He  back traces the beams,  taking advantage of  a  light haze of  vaporized
hydraulic fluid that has begun to accumulate in the air; and finds that they
originate in a series of small circular holes that some  asshole has punched
through  the skin of  the plane  while he  was  sleeping. The sun is shining
through these holes, always  in the same direction of course;  but the plane
is going every which way.
     He  realizes  that  he has actually  been lying  on the ceiling of  the
airplane  ever since he woke up,  which explains why  he was on his stomach.
When this dawns on him, he vomits.
     The bright  spots all  vanish. Very, very reluctantly, Shaftoe  risks a
glance out the window and sees only greyness.
     He thinks  he is on  the  floor now. He is next  to the corpse, at  any
rate, and the corpse was strapped down.
     He lies there  for several minutes, just breathing  and  thinking.  Air
whistles through the holes in the fuselage, loud enough to split his head.
     Someone some madman is up on  his  feet,  moving about the plane. It is
not  Root, who  is in  his  little nook  dealing  with a  number  of  facial
lacerations that he picked  up during the aerobatics. Shaftoe  looks up  and
sees that the moving man is one of the British flyboys.
     The Brit  has yanked  off his headgear to expose black  hair  and green
eyes. He's in  his mid thirties, an old  man.  He has a  knobby, utilitarian
face in which all of the various lumps, knobs and orifices seem to be  there
for a  reason, a  face engineered  by  the same fellows who  design  grenade
launchers. It is  a  simple and reliable face, by no  means handsome. He  is
kneeling next to the corpse of Gerald Hott and is examining it minutely with
a  flashlight. He  is the very  picture of concern; his  bedside  manner  is
     Finally he slumps back against the ribbed wall  of the fuselage. "Thank
god," he says, "he wasn't hit."
     "Who wasn't?" Shaftoe says.
     "This chap," the flyboy says, slapping the corpse.
     "Aren't you going to check me?"
     "No need to."
     "Why not? I'm still alive. "
     "You weren't  hit," the  flyboy  says  confidently. "If you'd been hit,
you'd look like Lieutenant Ethridge."
     For the  first time, Shaftoe hazards movement.  He props himself  up on
one elbow, and finds  that the floor  of the plane is slick and wet with red
     He  had  noticed a pink  mist in the cabin,  and supposed that  it  was
produced by a hydraulic fluid leak. But the hydraulic system now seems hunky
dory, and the stuff on the floor of the plane is not a petroleum product. It
is the same red fluid that figured so prominently in Shaftoe's nightmare. It
is streaming downhill from the direction of Lieutenant Ethridge's cozy nest,
and the Lieutenant is no longer snoring.
     Shaftoe  looks  at  what is  left of  Ethridge, which bears  a striking
resemblance  to what was lying  around that butcher  shop earlier today.  He
does not wish to  lose  his  composure in the presence of the British pilot,
and indeed, feels strangely calm.  Maybe  it's the clouds; cloudy  days have
always had a calming effect on him.
     "Holy cow," he finally  says, "that  Kraut  twenty millimeter  is  some
thing else."
     "Right," the  flyboy  says, "we've got to get  spotted by a convoy  and
then we'll proceed with the delivery."
     Cryptic  as it is, this is the most informative  statement Bobby's ever
heard about  the intentions  of Detachment 2702. He gets  up and follows the
pilot  back  to the cockpit, both of them stepping delicately around several
quivering giblets that were presumably flung out of Ethridge.
     "You mean, by an allied convoy, right?" Shaftoe asks.
     "An allied  convoy?"  the pilot asks  mockingly. "Where the hell are we
going to find an allied convoy? This is Tunisia ."
     "Well, then, what do you mean, we've  got to get  spotted by a  convoy?
You mean we have to spot a convoy, right?"
     "Very sorry," the flyboy says, "I'm busy."
     When  he turns  back, he  finds  Lieutenant  Enoch Root  kneeling by  a
relatively large piece of Ethridge, going  through Ethridge's  attache case.
Shaftoe  cops a look of exaggerated moral  outrage and  points the finger of
     "Look, Shaftoe,"  Root  shouts, "I'm just following orders. Taking over
for him."
     He pulls out  a small bundle, all wrapped  in  thick, yellowish plastic
sheeting. He checks it over, then glances up  reprovingly, one more time, at
     "It was a fucking joke!" Shaftoe says. "Remember?  When I thought those
guys were looting the corpses? On the beach?"
     Root doesn't laugh.  Either he's pissed off  that Shaftoe  successfully
bullshitted him, or  he doesn't enjoy corpse looting humor. Root carries the
wrapped  bundle back to that other body, the one  in the wetsuit. He  stuffs
the bundle inside the suit.
     Then he squats  by  the body  and ponders. He ponders for  a long time.
Shaftoe  kind  of  gets a kick  out  of watching Enoch ponder, which is like
watching an exotic dancer shake her tits.
     The light changes again as  they  descend from  the  clouds. The sun is
setting, shining redly through the Saharan haze. Shaftoe looks out  a window
and  is  startled  to see that they are over the  sea now. Below  them  is a
convoy of ships each making a neat white V in the dark water, each lit up on
one side by the red sun.
     The airplane  banks  and makes a slow loop  around  the convoy. Shaftoe
hears distant pocking noises. Black flowers bloom and fade in the sky around
them. He realizes  that the ships are trying to hit  them with ack ack. Then
the plane  ascends once more into the shelter  of  the clouds,  and it  gets
nearly dark.
     He looks at Enoch Root  for the first time in a while. Root is  sitting
back in his little nook, reading  by  flashlight. A bundle of papers is open
on his  lap.  It is  the  plastic  wrapped bundle  that  Root  took  out  of
Ethridge's attache  case  and  shoved into  Gerald Hott's  wetsuit.  Shaftoe
figures that the  encounter with convoy and ack ack finally pushed Root over
the edge, and that he yanked the bundle right back out  again to have a look
at it.
     Root glances up and  locks eyes with Shaftoe. He does not seem  nervous
or guilty. It is a strikingly calm and cool look.
     Shaftoe holds his gaze  for a long moment. If  there were the slightest
trace  of  guilt or nervousness there, he  would turn the  chaplain in as  a
German spy. But  there isn't Enoch Root ain't  working  for  the Germans. He
ain't working  for  the  Allies either. He's  working  for a  Higher  Power.
Shaftoe nods imperceptibly, and Root's gaze softens.
     "They're all dead,  Bobby,"  he shouts. "Those  islanders. The ones you
saw on the beach on Guadalcanal."
     So  that  explains  why Root  is so touchy about corpse  looting jokes.
"Sorry,"  Shaftoe says,  moving aft so they don't  have  to  scream at  each
other. "How'd it happen?"
     "After  we  got you  back to my  cabin, I transmitted  a message  to my
handlers in Brisbane," Root says.  "Enciphered it using a special code. Told
them  I'd  picked  up one Marine Raider, who looked  like he might  actually
live, and would someone please come round and collect him."
     Shaftoe nods. He remembers that he'd heard lots of dots and dashes, but
he had been out of whack with fevers and morphine and whatever home remedies
Root had pulled out of his cigar box.
     "Well, they responded," Root went on, "and said 'We can't go there, but
would you please take him to such  and such place and  rendezvous with  some
other Marine Raiders.' Which, as you'll recall, is what we did."
     "Yeah," Shaftoe says.
     "So far so  good. But when  I  got back to the cabin  after handing you
over, the Nipponese had been through. Killed every islander they could find.
Burned the cabin. Burned  everything. Set booby traps  around the place that
nearly killed me. I just barely got out of the damn place alive."
     Shaftoe nods, as only a guy who's seen the Nips in action can nod.
     "Well  they  evacuated me  to  Brisbane where I started making a  stink
about  codes.  That's the only  way they could have found  me obviously  our
codes  had  been broken.  And  after I'd  made  enough  of a  stink, someone
apparently said, 'You're British, you're a priest, you're  a medical doctor,
you can handle  a rifle,  you know Morse code, and  most importantly of all,
you're a fucking pain in the ass so off you go!" And next thing I  know, I'm
in that meat locker in Algiers."
     Shaftoe glances away and nods. Root seems to get the message, which  is
that Shaftoe doesn't know anything more than he does.
     Eventually, Enoch Root  wraps  the bundle up again,  just like  it  was
before. But he  doesn't put it back in  the  attache case. He stuffs it into
Gerald Hott's wetsuit.
     Later they  emerge from the clouds again, close to a moonlit  port, and
dip down very close to the ocean, going so slow that even Shaftoe, who knows
nothing about planes, senses they  are about to stall.  They  open  the side
door of the Dakota and, one two three NOW, throw the body of PFC Gerald Hott
out into the ocean.  He makes what would be a big  splash in  the Oconomowoc
town pool, but in the ocean it doesn't come to much.
     An hour or so later they land  the same  Gooney  Bird on an airstrip in
the midst of a stunning aerial bombardment. They abandon the Skytrain at the
end  of the  airstrip,  next  to the other  C 47, and  run through darkness,
following the lead of  the British pilots.  Then they go down a stairway and
are  underground in a bomb  shelter,  to be precise. They can feel the bombs
now but can't hear them.
     "Welcome to Malta," someone says. Shaftoe looks around and sees that he
is surrounded  by men in British and American  uniforms. The  Americans  are
familiar  it's the Marine Raider squad from Algiers, flown in on that  other
Dakota. The Brits are unfamiliar, and Shaftoe pegs them as the SAS men  that
those fellows in Washington were telling him about.  The only thing they all
have in common is that  each man, somewhere  on  his uniform, is wearing the
number 2702.

     Chapter 18 NON DISCLOSURE

     Avi shows up  on time,  idling his  fairly  good, but  not disgustingly
ostentatious, Nipponese sports car gingerly  up the steep  road,  which  has
crazed into a loose mosaic of asphalt flagstones.
     Randy watches from  the  second  floor deck, staring fifty  feet almost
straight down  through the sunroof. Avi is clad in  the trousers of  a  good
tropical  weight business suit,  a  tailored white Sea  Island cotton shirt,
dark ski goggles, and a wide brimmed canvas hat.
     The house is  a tall,  isolated structure rising out of the middle of a
California grassland that slopes up from the Pacific, a few kilometers away.
Chilly air climbs up the slope, rising and falling in slow surges, like surf
on a beach. When Avi gets out of his  car the first thing he does is pull on
his suit jacket.
     He hauls two oversized laptop cases out of the tiny luggage compartment
in the car's nose, walks into the house without knocking (he has not been to
this  particular house before, but he has been  to others run  along similar
principles), finds Randy and Eb waiting  in one of its many rooms, and hauls
about fifteen thousand dollars worth of  portable computer gear  out  of the
bags.  He sets them up on a table. Avi hits the start button on two  laptops
and,  as they  crawl through  the boot process, plugs them into the  wall so
that the batteries won't drain.  A power  conduit, with grounded three prong
outlets spaced  every eighteen inches, has been  screwed down  remorselessly
along  every inch  of every wall, spanning drywall;  holes  in the  drywall;
primeval op art contact paper; fake wood grain paneling; faded Grateful Dead
posters; and even the odd doorway.
     One of the laptops  is connected to a tiny portable  printer, which Avi
loads with a few sheets of paper. The other laptop starts up  a few lines of
text running across the screen, then beeps and stops. Randy  ambles over and
looks at it curiously. It is displaying a prompt:
     Which Randy knows is  short for Finux Loader, a program that allows you
to choose which operating system you want to run.
     "Finux," Avi mumbles, answering Randy's unspoken question.
     Randy  types  "Finux"  and  hits the  return  key.  "How many operating
systems you have on this thing?"
     "Windows 95,  for games and  when I  need to let  some lamer  borrow my
computer temporarily," Avi says. "Windows NT for office type stuff. BeOS for
hacking, and  screwing around  with  media.  Finux for  industrial  strength
     "Which one do you want now?"
     "BeOS.  Going  to  display  some  JPEGs.  I assume  there's an overhead
projector in this place?"
     Randy looks  over at Eb, the only person in the room who actually lives
here. Eb seems bigger than  he is, and maybe it's because  of his detonating
hair: two  feet  long,  blond with a  faint reddish glow, thick and wavy and
tending to congeal into ropy  strands. No ponytail holder can contain it, so
when he bothers to tie it back, he uses a piece of string. Eb is doodling on
one of  those little computers that  uses a stylus so that  you can write on
the screen. In general,  hackers don't use them, but Eb (or  rather, one  of
Eb's defunct corporations) wrote the software for this model and so he has a
lot of them lying around. He  seems to be absorbed  in  whatever he's doing,
but after Randy has been looking in his direction for two seconds, he senses
it, and looks  up. He  has pale green eyes and wears a  luxuriant red beard,
except when he's in one of his shaving  phases, which usually  coincide with
serious romantic involvements. Right  now  his beard  is about half an  inch
long,  indicating a  recent breakup, and implying a willingness to  take new
     "Overhead projector?" Randy says.
     Eb closes his eyes, which  is what he does  during memory access,  then
gets up and walks out of the room.
     The tiny printer  begins to eke paper. The first line of text, centered
at  the  top of  the  page, is: NONDISCLOSURE AGREEMENT. More lines  follow.
Randy has seen them, or ones  like them, so many  times  that his eyes glaze
over and he  turns away. The only thing that ever changes is the name of the
company: in this case: EPIPHYTE(2) CORP.
     "Nice goggles."
     "If you  think these are weird, you should see what I'm going to put on
when the sun  goes down," Avi says. He  rummages in  a  bag  and pulls out a
contraption  that  looks  like  a  pair  of  glasses without lenses,  with a
dollhouse scale light  fixture mounted above each eye. A wire runs down to a
battery pack with  belt loops. He slides  a tiny  switch on the battery pack
and the lights come on: expensive looking blue white halogen.
     Randy raises his eyebrows.
     "It's all jet  lag avoidance," Avi  explains.  "I'm  adjusted  to Asian
time. I'm going back there in two days. I don't want my body to get  back on
Left Coast time while I'm here."
     "So the hat and goggles "
     "Simulate night.  This thing simulates daylight. See,  your  body takes
its  cues from  the light, adjusts its clock accordingly. Speaking of which,
would you mind closing the blinds?"
     The room has west  facing windows,  affording  a view down  the  grassy
slope to Half Moon Bay. It is late afternoon and the sun is pouring through.
Randy savors the view for a moment, then drops the blinds.
     Eb stalks  back into the room with an  overhead projector dangling from
one hand, looking for a moment like Beowulf  brandishing a monster's severed
arm. He puts it on the table and aims it at the wall. There is no need for a
screen, because above the ubiquitous  power strips, every  wall in the house
is covered  with whiteboards. Many of the whiteboards  are, in turn, covered
with cryptical incantations, written in  primary colors.  Some of  them  are
enclosed in irregular borders and labeled DO NOT ERASE! or simply DNE or NO!
In front of  where Eb has  put the  overhead projector,  there  is a grocery
list,  a half erased  fragment  of a  flowchart, a fax number in  Russia,  a
couple of dotted quads Internet addresses and a few  words  in German, which
were presumably written by Eb himself. Dr. Eberhard Föhr scans all of  this,
finds that none of it is enclosed in a DNE border, and wipes it away with an
     Two  more  men  come into  the room, deeply involved  in a conversation
about some exasperating company  in Burlingame. One of them is dark and lean
and looks like  a gunfighter; he even wears a black cowboy hat. The other is
tubby and blond and looks  like he just got out  of a  Rotary  Club meeting.
They have one detail in common: each is wearing a bright  silver bracelet on
his wrist.
     Randy takes the NDAs  out of  the  printers  and passes them  out,  two
copies  each,  each pair  preprinted with a name: Randy Waterhouse, Eberhard
Föhr, John  Cantrell (the guy in the  black cowboy hat) and Tom Howard  (the
fair haired  Middle  American).  As John  and Tom reach  for the  pages, the
silver bracelets intercept stray beams of light sneaking through the blinds.
Each is printed with a red caduceus and several lines of text.
     "Those look new," Randy says. "Did they change the wording again?"
     "Yeah!" John Cantrell says. "This is version 6.0 just out last week."
     Anywhere  else,  the  bracelets  would  mean  that  John and  Tom  were
suffering from some sort  of life threatening condition,  such as an allergy
to  common antibiotics. A medic hauling them out of a wrecked car  would see
the  bracelet and  follow  the instructions. But this  is Silicon Valley and
different rules apply. The bracelets say, on one side:
     and on the other:
PH 7.5
     It is a recipe for freezing a dead, or nearly dead, person. People  who
wear this  bracelet believe that, if this recipe  is followed, the brain and
other delicate tissues  can  be iced  without destroying them. A few decades
down the line, when nanotechnology has made it possible to be immortal, they
hope  to be thawed out. John Cantrell and Tom Howard believe that there is a
reasonable chance  that they will still be  having  conversations  with each
other a million years from now.
     The  room  gets  quiet as  all  of the men scan the forms,  their  eyes
picking  out certain familiar  clauses. They have probably signed  a hundred
NDA forms  between them. Around here, it is like offering someone a  cup  of
     A  woman comes  into the  room, burdened  with tote bags, and  beams an
apology for being late. Beryl Hagen  looks like a Norman  Rockwell aunt,  an
apron wearing, apple pie toting type. In twenty years,  she's been the chief
financial officer of twelve different small high tech companies. Ten of them
have gone out of business. Except in  the case  of the second one,  this was
through no fault of Beryl's.  The sixth  was Randy's Second Business  Foray.
One was absorbed by Microsoft, one  became a successful, independent company
in its own right. Beryl made enough money from the latter two to retire. She
consults and writes while she looks for something interesting enough to draw
her  back  into  action,  and  her  presence  in  this  room  suggests  that
Epiphyte(2) Corp. must not  be completely bogus. Or  maybe  she's just being
polite  to Avi.  Randy  gives her a bearhug, lifting  her off the floor, and
then hands her two copies of the NDA with her name on them.
     Avi has detached the screen from his big laptop and laid it flat on the
surface of the  overhead  projector, which shines  light  through the liquid
crystal  display and projects a  color  image  on  the  whiteboard. It  is a
typical  desktop:  a couple of  terminal  windows and some icons.  Avi  goes
around and picks up the  signed NDAs, scans them all, hands one copy back to
each person, files  the rest in  the outer pocket of a laptop bag. He begins
to  type  on the laptop's  keyboard, and  letters  spill across  one  of the
windows. "Just so  you know," Avi mumbles, "Epiphyte Corp., which I'll  call
Epiphyte(1) for clarity, is  a Delaware  corporation, one and one half years
old.  The shareholders are myself, Randy, and Springboard  Capital. We're in
the telecoms business in the Philippines.  I can  give you details later  if
you  want.  Our  work  there  has  positioned us  to  be aware of  some  new
opportunities  in  that  part  of  the world.  Epiphyte(2) is  a  California
corporation, three weeks old. If  things go the way  we are hoping they will
go,  Epiphyte(1)  will be folded into it  according to some  kind  of  stock
transfer scheme the details of which are too boring to talk about now.
     Avi hits the  return  key.  A new window opens on the desktop. It is  a
color map  scanned in from an atlas, tall and narrow. Most  of it is oceanic
blue. A rugged coastline juts in through the top border, with a  few  cities
labeled:  Nagasaki,  Tokyo.  Shanghai  is  in  the  upper  left  corner. The
Philippine archipelago  is dead center. Taiwan is directly north  of it, and
to the south is a chain of islands forming a porous barrier between Asia and
a  big  land  mass labeled with English  words  like Darwin and  Great Sandy
     "This probably looks weird  to most of  you," Avi says. "Usually  these
presentations begin with  a diagram of a computer network, or a flowchart or
something. We don't normally deal with maps. We're all so used to working in
a purely abstract realm that it seems almost bizarre to go out into the real
world and physically do something.
     "But I like maps. I've got maps all over my house. I'm going to suggest
to you that the skills and knowledge we have all been developing in our work
especially pertaining to the Internet  have  applications out here." He taps
the whiteboard. "In  the real world. You know, the big round wet  ball where
billions of people live."
     There  is a  bit of  polite  snickering as Avi skims his hand over  his
computer's trackball, whacks a button with  his thumb. A  new image appears:
the same map, with bright color lines running across the ocean, looping from
one city to the next, roughly following the coastlines.
     "Existing  undersea cables. The fatter the line, the bigger the  pipe,"
Avi says. "Now, what is wrong with this picture?"
     There are several fat  lines  running east from places like Tokyo, Hong
Kong,  and Australia,  presumably connecting  them  with the  United States.
Across the South China Sea, which lies  between the Philippines and Vietnam,
another fat  line angles roughly north south, but it  doesn't connect either
of those two countries: it goes straight to Hong Kong, then continues up the
China coast to Shanghai, Korea, and Tokyo.
     "Since  the Philippines  are in the center  of the  map," John Cantrell
says, "I predict that you are going to point out that  hardly any  fat lines
go to the Philippines."
     "Hardly any fat lines go to the Philippines!" Avi announces briskly. He
points  out the  one exception,  which  runs  from Taiwan south  to northern
Luzon, then skips down the coast to Corregidor. "Except for this  one, which
Epiphyte(l) is  involved with.  But it's not just  that. There is a  general
paucity of fat lines in  a north south direction, connecting Australia  with
Asia. A lot of data packets going  from  Sydney  to Tokyo have  to be routed
through California. There's a market opportunity."
     Beryl  breaks in. "Avi,  before you  get started  on  this,"  she says,
sounding cautious and regretful, "I have to  say that laying  long distance,
deep sea cables is a difficult business to break into."
     "Beryl is right!" Avi  says. "The only people who have the  wherewithal
to lay  those cables are AT&T, Cable & Wireless, and Kokusai Denshin
Denwa. It's tricky. It's expensive. It requires massive NRE."
     The  abbreviation  stands   for  "non  recoverable  expenses,"  meaning
engineering work  to complete a feasibility  study  that would be money down
the toilet if the idea didn't fly.
     "So what are you thinking?" Beryl says.
     Avi clicks up another map. This one is the same as the previous, except
that new lines have been drawn in: a whole  series of short island to island
links.  A bewilderingly  numerous chain of short hops down the length of the
Philippine archipelago.
     "You want to wire the  Philippines and patch them into the Net via your
existing link to Taiwan," says Tom Howard, in a heroic bid  to short circuit
what he senses will be a lengthy part of Avi's presentation.
     "The Philippines are  going  to  be hot shit informationally speaking,"
Avi says. "The  government  has  its flaws, but  basically it's  a democracy
modeled after Western institutions.  Unlike most Asians, they do ASCII. Most
of  them speak English. Longstanding ties to the  United States. These  guys
are going to be big players, sooner or later, in the information economy."
     Randy breaks in.  "We've already established  a foothold there. We know
the local business environment. And we have cash flow."
     Avi clicks up another map. This one's harder to make out. It looks like
a relief map  of  a vast  region of high mountains interrupted by occasional
plateaus.  Its appearance in the  middle of this  presentation  without  any
labels or explanation from Avi makes it  an implicit challenge to the mental
acumen of the other  people  in the  room. None of them  is going to ask for
help anytime  soon. Randy watches them squint and tilt their heads from side
to side. Eberhard Föhr, who is good at odd puzzles, gets it first.
     "Southeast Asia with the oceans  drained," he says. "That high ridge on
the right is New Guinea. Those bumps are the volcanoes of Borneo."
     "Pretty  cool,  huh?"  Avi says.  "It's  a  radar  map.  U.S.  military
satellites gathered all this data. You can get it for next to nothing."
     On this map  the  Philippines  can  be understood,  not as  a  chain of
separate islands,  but  as  the  highest regions  of a huge  oblong  plateau
surrounded  by deep  gashes  in the earth's  crust. To get from Luzon up  to
Taiwan  by going across the ocean floor you would have to plunge into a deep
trench, flanked by parallel mountain  ranges, and  follow it northwards  for
about three hundred miles. But south  of Luzon, in the  region where Avi  is
proposing to lay  a network of  inter  island  cables, it's  all shallow and
     Avi clicks again,  superimposing transparent  blue over the  parts that
are below sea level,  green on the islands.  Then he zooms in on an area  in
the center  of the  map,  where  the  Philippine plateau  extends  two  arms
southwest toward northern Borneo, embracing, and nearly enclosing, a diamond
shaped body of water, three  hundred and fifty miles across. "The Sulu Sea,"
he announces. "No relation to the token Asian on Star Trek ."
     No one laughs.  They  are not  really here  to be entertained  they are
concentrating on the map.  All of the different archipelagos  and  seas  are
confusing,   even  for   smart  people  with  good  spatial  relations.  The
Philippines  form the  upper right boundary  of  the  Sulu Sea, north Borneo
(part  of  Malaysia)  the lower left,  the  Sulu Archipelago  (part  of  the
Philippines) the lower right, and the upper left boundary is  one  extremely
long skinny Philippine island called Palawan.
     "This reminds us that  national boundaries are artificial  and  silly,"
Avi says. "The Sulu Sea is a basin in  the middle of a larger plateau shared
by the Philippines  and Borneo. So if you're wiring up  the Philippines, you
can just as easily wire Borneo up to that network at the  same time, just by
outlining the Sulu Sea with shallow, short hop cables. Like this."
     Avi clicks again and the computer draws in more colored lines.
     "Avi, why are we here?" Eberhard asks.
     "That is a very profound question," Avi says.
     "We know  the economics of these startups,"  Eb says.  "We  begin  with
nothing but the idea. That's what the NDA  is  for  to protect your idea. We
work  on the  idea together put  our  brainpower  into it  and get stock  in
return. The result of this  work is software. The software is copyrightable,
trademarkable, perhaps patentable. It is intellectual property.  It is worth
some money. We all own it in  common, through our shares. Then we sell  some
more shares to an investor. We use the money to hire more people and turn it
into a  product, to market it, and so  on. That's how the system  works, but
I'm beginning to think you don't understand it."
     "Why do you say that?"
     Eb looks confused. "How can we contribute  to this? How can we turn our
brainpower into equity that an investor will want to own a part of?"
     Everyone looks at  Beryl. Beryl's nodding agreement with Eb. Tom Howard
says, "Avi. Look. I can engineer big computer installations. John wrote Ordo
he knows  everything about crypto. Randy does Internet, Eb does weird stuff,
Beryl  does money.  But as far  as I know, none of  us  knows  diddly  about
undersea cable engineering. What good will our resumes do you when you go up
in front of some venture capitalists?"
     Avi's nodding. "Everything you say is true," he concedes smoothly.
     "We  would  have  to be crazy to get involved in running cables through
the  Philippines. That is a job for  FiliTel, with whom Epiphyte(1) has been
joint venturing."
     "Even if we were crazy, Beryl  says, "we wouldn't have the opportunity,
because no one would give us the money."
     "Fortunately  we  don't need to worry  about that,"  Avi says, "because
it's being done for  us." He  turns  to the whiteboard, picks up a red magic
marker,  and draws a fat line between Taiwan and Luzon, his hands picking up
a leprous,  mottled look from the shaded relief  of the  ocean floor that is
being projected against his skin. "KDD, which  is anticipating major  growth
in the Philippines, is already laying another big cable here." He moves down
and  begins  to  draw  smaller,  shorter  links   between  islands  in   the
archipelago. "And FiliTel, which is funded by AVCLA Asia Venture Capital Los
Angeles is wiring the Philippines."
     "What does Epiphyte(l) have to do with that?" Tom Howard asks.
     "To the extent  they want  to use  that network  for Internet  Protocol
traffic, they need routers and network savvy," Randy explains.
     "So,  to repeat my question: why are we here?" Eberhard says, patiently
but firmly.
     Avi works with his pen for a while. He circles an island  at one corner
of the Sulu Sea,  centered  in  the  gap between  North Borneo and  the long
skinny Philippine island called Palawan. He labels it in block letters:
     "Kinakuta was run by white sultans for a while. It's a long story. Then
it was a German colony," Avi says.  "Back then, Borneo was part of the Dutch
East Indies, and Palawan like the  rest of the Philippines was first Spanish
and then American. So this was the Germans' foothold in the area."
     "Germans  always  ended  up  holding the shittiest colonies,"  Eb  says
     "After the First World War, they handed it  over to the Japanese, along
with a lot of other islands much farther  to the east. All of these islands,
collectively, were called the Mandates because Japan controlled them under a
League  of Nations Mandate. During  the Second World  War  the Japanese used
Kinakuta as a base for attacks on the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines.
They retained a  naval  base and  airfield  there. After  the  war, Kinakuta
became independent, as  it had been before the  Germans.  The population  is
Muslim or ethnic  Chinese around the  edges, animist in the center, and it's
always been  ruled by a sultan even while  occupied  by  the Germans and the
Japanese,  who  both  co  opted  the  sultans but  kept  them  in  place  as
figureheads.  Kinakuta had oil reserves, but they were unreachable until the
technology  got  better and prices went  up, around the time of the Arab oil
embargo, which was also when the current sultan came into power. That sultan
is now a very rich man not as rich as the Sultan  of Brunei, who happens  to
be his second cousin, but rich."
     "The sultan is backing your company?" Beryl asks.
     "Not in the way you mean," Avi says.
     "What way do you mean?" Tom Howard asks, impatient.
     "Let me put it this way," Avi says. "Kinakuta is a member of the United
Nations. It  is every bit  as  much an independent country and member of the
community  of  nations as France  or  England.  As a  matter of  fact, it is
exceptionally  independent because of its oil  wealth.  It  is  basically  a
monarchy the  sultan makes the laws, but only  after  extensive consultation
with his  ministers, who  set policy  and  draft legislation. And  I've been
spending  a  lot  of  time,  recently,   with  the  Minister  of  Posts  and
Telecommunications.  I  have been  helping the minister draft a new law that
will govern all telecommunications passing through Kinakutan territory."
     "Oh, my god!" John Cantrell says. He is awestruck.
     "One free share of stock to  the man in the black hat!" Avi says. "John
has  figured  out Avi's secret  plan. John, would you like to explain to the
other contestants?"
     John takes his hat off and runs his hand back through his long hair. He
puts his hat  back on and heaves a  sigh. "Avi is  proposing to start a data
haven," he says.
     A little murmur of admiration  runs through  the room. Avi waits for it
to  subside and says, "Slight  correction: the  sultan's starting  the  data
haven. I'm proposing to make money off it."

     Chapter 19 ULTRA

     Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse  goes into battle armed with one third of
a  sheet of British typing paper  on  which  has been typed some  words that
identify it as a pass to Bletchley Park. His name and some other things have
been scribbled  on it in some  upper class officer's Mont Blanc blue  black,
the words  ALL SECTIONS circled, and a stamp smashed across it, blurred into
a red whore's kiss, with sheer  carelessness conveying greater Authority and
Power than the specious clarity of a forger.
     He finds his way round the mansion to the narrow lane that runs between
it and its row  of  red brick garages (or stables, as his grandparents would
be likely to peg them). He finds it a  very pleasant  place for a cigarette.
The lane is  lined with trees, a densely planted  hedge of  them. The sun is
just setting now. It is still high enough to snipe through any small defects
that it finds in the defensive perimeter of the horizon, so narrow red beams
strike him surprisingly in the eye as he ambles back and forth. He knows one
is  shining  invisibly through the clear air several feet above him, because
it is betraying an aerial: a strand  of copper wire stretched  from the wall
of  the mansion to a nearby  cypress. It catches the light in  precisely the
same way as  the strand of  the spiderweb  that  Waterhouse was playing with
     The  sun will be down soon; it is already down in Berlin, as in most of
the hellish empire that Hitler has built from Calais to the Volga. Time  for
the  radio operators to begin their work.  Radio does not,  in  general,  go
around corners. This can be  a real pain when you  are conquering the world,
which is  inconveniently round, placing all  of your  most  active  military
units over the horizon. But if  you use shortwave, then you  can bounce  the
information off  the ionosphere. This works a good deal  better when the sun
is  not in  the sky, sluicing the  atmosphere with  wideband noise. So radio
telegraphers, and the  people who eavesdrop on them (what the Brits call the
Y Service) are, alike, nocturnal beings.
     As Waterhouse has just observed, the mansion has an aerial  or two. But
Bletchley Park is a huge and ravenous spider that requires a web the size of
a  nation to  feed  it. He has seen  enough evidence, from  the black cables
climbing the mansion's walls and the smell and hiss of the massed teletypes,
to know that the web is at least  partly made of copper wires. Another piece
of the web is made of rude stuff like concrete and asphalt.
     The gate swings open and a man on a green motorcycle banks steeply into
the lane, the two cylinders of his machine blatting away, the noise stinging
Waterhouse's  nose  as  he  rides by. Waterhouse strides  after him for some
distance,  but  loses  his  trail after  a  hundred  yards  or  so.  That is
acceptable; more  of them will be along  soon,  as  the  Wehrmacht's nervous
system awakens and its signals are picked up by the Y Service.
     The motorcyclist went  through a quaint little gate that  joins two old
buildings.  The  gate  is  topped by  a tiny cupola with a weathervane and a
clock. Waterhouse goes through  it and finds himself in a little square that
evidently  dates  back to when Bletchley Park was a precious Buckinghamshire
farmstead. To  the  left,  the line of  stables continues. Small gables have
been set  into the  roof, which is  stained with bird shit. The  building is
quivering with pigeons. Directly in front of him is a nice little red  brick
Tudor  farmhouse,   the   only  thing  he  has  seen  so  far  that  is  not
architecturally offensive. Off to his right is a one story building. Strange
information is coming out of this  building: the hot oil smell of teletypes,
but no typing noises, just a high mechanical whine.
     A door opens on the stable  building and a man emerges carrying a large
but evidently lightweight box with a  handle  on the top. Cooing noises come
from the  box  and Waterhouse realizes that it contains pigeons. Those birds
living up in the  gables are not feral; they are homing pigeons. Carriers of
information, strands of Bletchley Park's web.
     He homes  in  on the building  that smells of hot oil  and gazes into a
window.  As evening  falls, light has begun to leak  out  of  it,  betraying
information to black German reconnaissance planes, so  a porter is strutting
about the courtyard slamming the black shutters closed.
     Some information comes into Waterhouse's eyes at least:  on  the  other
side  of  that window, men are gathered around a  machine. Most  of them are
wearing  civilian  clothes, and  they have  been too busy, for  too long, to
trifle  much with combs and razors and shoe polish.  The men  are  intensely
focused  upon  their  work, which all has to do with this large machine. The
machine  consists  of  a  large  framework  of square steel tubing,  like  a
bedstead set up on one end.  Metal drums with the diameter of dinner plates,
an  inch or  so thick, are mounted at  several locations  on this framework.
Paper  tape has been threaded in a bewilderingly loopy trajectory from  drum
to  drum. It looks as  if a  dozen yards of tape are required to  thread the
     One of the men has been working on a rubber drive belt that goes around
one  of the drums. He steps back  from it and makes a gesture with his hand.
Another man flips a switch and the drums all begin to spin at once. The tape
begins to fly through  the system. Holes punched in the tape  carry data; it
all  blurs into a  grey streak now, the speed creating  an illusion in which
the tape appears to dissolve into a ribbon of smoke.
     No, it is not  an illusion. Real smoke is curling  up from the spinning
drums. The tape is running through the  machine so  fast that it is catching
fire before the eyes of Waterhouse and the men  inside, who watch it calmly,
as if it were smoking in an entirely new and interesting way.
     If there is a machine in the world capable of reading  data from a tape
that fast, Waterhouse has never heard of it.
     The  black shutter slams home.  Just  as it does,  Waterhouse  gets one
fragmentary glimpse of another object standing in the corner of the room:  a
steel rack in which a large number of grey cylindrical objects are stored in
neat rows.
     Two motorcyclists come through  the courtyard at once, running  in  the
darkness with their  headlights off. Waterhouse  jogs  after them for a bit,
leaving  the picturesque old courtyard behind and entering into the world of
the huts, the new structures  thrown up in the last year or two. "Hut" makes
him think of  a tiny thing,  but these huts, taken together, are  more  like
that new  Pentagon thing that the War Department has been  putting up across
the river from  D.C. They embody  a blunt need for space unfiltered  through
any aesthetic or even human considerations.
     Waterhouse walks to an intersection of roads  where he thought he heard
the motorcycles  making  a turn, and stops,  hemmed in by blast walls. On an
impulse,  he  clambers to the top of a  wall and takes a seat. The view from
here is no better. He knows that thousands of people are at work  all around
him in these huts, but he sees none of them, there are no signposts.
     He is still  trying  to work out that  business that he saw through the
     The tape was running so fast  that  it  smoked.  There is no  point  of
driving it  that fast unless the machine can  read the information that fast
transforming the pattern of holes in the tape into electrical impulses.
     But why bother, if  those impulses had nowhere  to  go?  No human  mind
could deal with a stream of characters coming in at that  speed. No teletype
that Waterhouse knew of could even print them out.
     It  only makes sense  if they  are constructing a machine. A mechanical
calculator of some sort that can absorb the data  and then do something with
it   perform   some  calculation  presumably   a  cipher  breaking  type  of
     Then he remembers the rack he glimpsed  in the corner, its many rows of
identical  grey  cylinders.  Viewed  end on, they  looked  like some kind of
ammunition. But  they are too smooth  and  glossy for that. Those cylinders,
Waterhouse realizes, are made of blown glass.
     They  are vacuum tubes. Hundreds of them. More tubes in  one place than
Waterhouse has ever seen.
     Those men in that room are building a Turing machine!


     It  is no wonder,  then, that the men in the room accept the burning of
the  tape  so  calmly.  That strip of  paper,  a  technology  as  old as the
pyramids, is merely  a vessel  for a  stream of  information. When it passes
through  the machine,  the  information is  abstracted from it, transfigured
into  a pattern  of pure binary  data. That the mere  vessel burns  is of no
consequence.  Ashes to ashes, dust to  dust the  data has passed  out of the
physical plane and  into the mathematical, a higher and purer universe where
different  laws apply. Laws, a few of which  are dimly and imperfectly known
to  Dr.  Alan Mathison  Turing and  Dr. John von Neumann and Dr. Rudolf  von
Hacklheber and a few  other people Waterhouse used  to  hang around with  in
Princeton. Laws about which Waterhouse himself knows a thing or two.
     Once you have transfigured the data into the realm of pure information,
all that is required is a tool. Carpenters work with wood and carry a box of
technology  for  measuring  it,  cutting   it,  smoothing  it,  joining  it.
Mathematicians work with information and need a tool of their own.
     They have been building  these tools, one  at a  time, for years. There
is, just to name one  example, a cash register and typewriter company called
the Electrical Till Corporation that makes a dandy  punched card machine for
tabulating large quantities of  data. Waterhouse's  professor  in  Iowa  was
tired of solving differential equations one at a time and invented a machine
to solve  them automatically  by storing  the  information  on  a  capacitor
covered drum and cranking through a certain algorithm. Given enough time and
enough  vacuum tubes,  a tool might be invented  to sum a column of numbers,
and another one to keep track of inventories, and another one to alphabetize
lists of words. A well equipped business  would have one of  each:  gleaming
cast iron monsters with heat waves  rising out of their grilles,  emblazoned
with  logos like  ETC and Siemens and Hollerith, each carrying  out its  own
specialized task. Just as a carpenter had a miter box and a dovetail jig and
a clawhammer in his box.
     Turing figured  out something entirely different, something unspeakably
strange and radical.
     He figured out that mathematicians, unlike carpenters, only  needed  to
have one tool in their toolbox, if it  were the right sort  of  tool. Turing
realized  that  it should be possible to build a meta machine that could  be
reconfigured  in such  a way that it would do any task you could conceivably
do with information. It would be a protean device that  could  turn into any
tool you could  ever  need. Like  a pipe  organ changing  into  a  different
instrument every time you hit a preset button.
     The  details were a bit hazy. This was not a  blueprint for  an  actual
machine, rather a thought experiment that Turing had dreamed up  in order to
resolve an abstract riddle  from  the  completely impractical world  of pure
logic. Waterhouse knows this perfectly well. But he cannot get one thing out
of  his mind as he sits there atop the blast walls at  the dark intersection
in  Bletchley Park:  the Turing machine, if  one really existed,  would rely
upon  having a tape. The tape would pass through the machine. It would carry
the information that the machine needed to do its work.
     Waterhouse  sits there staring  off into the darkness and  reconstructs
Turing's machine  in his mind.  More of the details  are coming back to him.
The tape, he now  recollects, would not  move through the Turing  machine in
one direction; it would change direction frequently. And  the Turing machine
would not just  read the tape; it would be able to erase  marks or  make new
     Clearly you cannot erase holes in a paper tape. And just as clearly the
tape only moves through this Bletchley  Park machine in  one  direction. So,
much as Waterhouse hates to admit this fact to himself, the rack of tubes he
just  spied  is not a Turing machine. It  is  some  lesser device a  special
purpose tool like a  punched card reader or Atanasoffs differential equation
     It  is  still  bigger  and  more  fiendishly  terrific   than  anything
Waterhouse has ever seen.
     A  night  train from Birmingham blows through, carrying bullets to  the
sea. As its sound dies away to the south, a motorcycle approaches the park's
main  gate.  Its  engine  idles as  the  rider's  papers  are checked,  then
Waterhouse hears  a Bronx cheer as it surges forward and cuts the sharp turn
into the lane. Waterhouse climbs to  his  feet  at  the intersection  of the
walls, and watches carefully as the bike sputters past him and homes in on a
"hut" a couple of blocks away. Light suddenly leaks from an open door as the
cargo changes hands. Then the light is snuffed and the bike stretches a long
loud raspberry down the road to the park's exit.
     Waterhouse lets himself down to earth and gropes his way down the  road
through  the moonless night.  He stops before  the entrance  to the hut  and
listens to it  teem for a  minute. Then, working  up  his  courage, he steps
forward and pushes the wooden door open.
     It is unpleasantly hot  in  here,  and  the  atmosphere is a nauseating
distillation of  human and  machine odors,  held  in and concentrated by the
coffin  doors slabbed  down over all the windows. Many people  are  in here,
mostly women working at gargantuan electrically powered typewriters.  He can
see even through his squint that the place is a running sluice for scraps of
paper,  maybe  four  by  six  inches  each,  evidently  brought  in  by  the
motorcyclists. Near the door, they have been  sorted and stacked  up in wire
baskets. Thence they go to the women at their giant typewriters.
     One of the few men in the place has risen to  his feet and is homing in
on Waterhouse. He is about Waterhouse's age, that is, in his early twenties.
He is wearing a British Army uniform. He has the air of a host  at a wedding
reception who  wants to  make sure that even the  most long lost, far  flung
members of the family are  properly greeted. Obviously  he is no more a real
military man than is Waterhouse  himself. No wonder this place is surrounded
by so much barbed wire and RAF men with machine guns.
     "Good evening, sir. Can I help you?"
     "Evening. Lawrence Waterhouse."
     "Harry Packard. Pleased to meet you." But he has no idea who Waterhouse
is; he is privy to Ultra, but not to Ultra Mega.
     "Pleasure's mine. I imagine  you'll  want  to  have  a  look at  this."
Waterhouse hands him  the  magic pass. Packard's pale  eyes  travel over  it
carefully, then jump around to focus  on a few sites of particular interest:
the signature  at  the bottom,  the smeared  stamp. The war has turned Harry
Packard  into a machine  for scanning and  processing slips of paper  and he
goes  about his  work  calmly and without  fuss  in this  case.  He  excuses
himself,  works the crank on a telephone, and speaks to someone; his posture
and  facial expression  suggest it  is someone important. Waterhouse  cannot
hear the words above the clicking and thrumming of  the massed  typewriters,
but he sees  interest and bemusement on Packard's  young, open,  pink  face.
Packard gives Waterhouse a sidelong glance or  two while he is  listening to
the person at the other end  of the line. Then  he says something respectful
and reassuring into the phone and rings off.
     "Right. Well, what would you like to see?"
     "I'm trying to get an overall sense of how the information flows."
     "Well,  we are  close  to the  beginning  of  it  here  these  are  the
headwaters.  Our wellsprings  are the Y Service  military  and amateur radio
operators who listen in on Jerry's radio transmissions, and provide  us with
these." Packard takes a slip from  a motorcyclist's pannier and hands it  to
     It is a form with various boxes at the top in which someone has written
in a date (today's) and time (a  couple of hours  ago) and a  few other data
such as  a radio frequency. The  body of  the form  is  mostly occupied by a
large open  space  in  which the following  has been printed  in hasty block

     Y P I J S L L E N J O P S K Y V Z P D L E M A O U
     T A MO G T M O A H E C
     the whole thing preceded by two groups of three letters each:

     "This one came in from one of our stations in Kent," Packard says.  "It
is a Chaffinch message."
     "So one of Rommel's?"
     "Yes. This  intercept came in from Cairo. Chaffinch gets top  priority,
which is why this message is on the top of the pile."
     Packard leads Waterhouse down the central aisle of the hut, between the
rows  of  typists. He picks  out one  girl who is just  finishing  up with a
message, and  hands her the slip.  She sets  it  up next to  her machine and
commences typing it in.
     At  first glance, Waterhouse had thought that the machines  represented
some  British  concept of how to build an electric typewriter as  big  as  a
dinner table,  wrapped up in two hundred pounds  of cast  iron,  a ten horse
motor  turning over under  the hood,  surrounded by  tall  fences  and armed
guards. But now that he is closer he  sees that it  is  something much  more
complicated. Instead of a platen, it has a large flat reel on it carrying  a
roll of narrow paper tape. This is not the same kind of tape he saw earlier,
smoking through the big  machine. This is narrower, and when it emerges from
the machine, it  does not have holes punched  through it for  a  machine  to
read. Instead, every  time  the girl slams  down  one  of  the  keys on  the
keyboard copying the text printed on the slip a new letter is printed on the
tape. But not the same letter that she typed.
     It does not take her long to type in all of the letters. Then she tears
the tape from her machine. It has a  sticky backing which she uses  to paste
it  directly  onto  the  original intercept  slip. She hands it  to Packard,
giving  him a demure smile. He responds with something between  a nod and  a
smart little bow, the  kind of thing  no American  male could ever  get away
with. He glances at it and hands it to Waterhouse.
     The letters on the tape say

     "In order to  obtain those settings, you  have to  break the code which
changes every day?"
     Packard smiles in agreement. "At midnight. If you stay here " he checks
his watch  " for another four hours, you will see fresh intercepts coming in
from  the  Y  Service that  will produce utter gibberish when  we  run  them
through the  Typex, because the Jerries will have changed all their codes on
the stroke of midnight. Rather like Cinderella's magic carriage turning back
into a pumpkin. We must then  analyze the new  intercepts  using the bombes,
and figure out the day's new codes."
     "How long does that take?"
     "Sometimes we are lucky and have broken the day's codes by two or three
o'clock in  the morning. Typically it  does not happen until after  noon  or
evening. Sometimes we do not succeed at all."
     "Okay, this is a  stupid question, but I want to  be clear. These Typex
machines which merely do a mechanical deciphering operation are a completely
different thing from the bombes, which actually break the codes."
     "The  bombes,  compared  to  these,  are  of  a  completely  different,
enormously higher order of sophistication," Packard agrees. "They are almost
like mechanical thinking machines."
     "Where are they located?"
     "Hut 11. But they won't be running just now."
     "Right,"  Waterhouse says, "not until after midnight when the  carriage
turns  back  into  a  pumpkin,  and you  need  to  break  tomorrow's  Enigma
     Packard steps over  to  a  small  wooden hatch set  low into one of the
hut's exterior walls. Next to it sits an office tray with a cup hook screwed
into  each end, and  a string tied to each cup  hook.  One of the strings is
piled up loose on the floor. The wall hatch has been  slid shut on the other
string. Packard puts the message slip on top of a pile of similar ones  that
has accumulated in the tray, then slides  the hatch open, revealing a narrow
tunnel leading away from the hut.
     "Okay, your pull!" he shouts.
     "Okay,  my  pull!" comes an answering voice a moment later.  The string
goes taught and the tray slides into the tunnel and disappears.
     "On its way to Hut 3," Packard explains.
     "Then so am I," Waterhouse says.


     Hut 3 is only a few  yards away,  on  the other side  of the inevitable
blast wall.  GERMAN MILITARY  SECTION  has  been  scrawled on  the  door  in
cursive; Waterhouse presumes that this is as opposed to "NAVAL"  which is in
Hut  4. The  ratio of men to  women seems higher  here. During wartime it is
startling to  see so many hale young men  in one  room together. Some are in
Army or RAF uniforms, some in civvies, and there is even one Naval officer.
     A  large horseshoe  shaped table dominates the center  of the building,
with  a  rectangular  table off  to the side. Each  chair at each  table  is
occupied by intent workers.  The intercept  slips are pulled into the hut on
the wooden tray and then move from  chair to chair according  to some highly
organized  scheme that Waterhouse  can  only vaguely grasp  at  this  point.
Someone  explains to him that the  bombes just broke the  day's codes around
sundown, and so the entire day's load of  intercepts has just  come down the
tunnel from Hut 6 during the last couple of hours.
     He decides to think of the hut as a mathematical black box for the time
being  that  is,  he'll  concentrate  only  on  its inputs  and  outputs  of
information and  ignore the internal  details. Bletchley Park,  taken in its
entirety, is a black box of sorts: random letters stream into  it, strategic
intelligence streams out, and the internal particulars are of no interest to
most  of the  people  on  the Ultra  distribution list.  The  question  that
Waterhouse is here to figure out is: is there another vector of  information
coming  out of  this place,  hidden subliminally in the teletype signals and
the  behaviors of the Allied  commanders? And  does  it point to Rudolf  von
Hacklheber, Ph.D.?

     Chapter 20 KINAKUTA

     Whoever laid  out the  flight paths into the  sultan's new airport must
have been  in cahoots with the Kinakuta Chamber of Commerce. If you're lucky
enough  to  be  in a window seat  on the left  side of the plane,  as  Randy
Waterhouse  is, the view during the final approach looks  like a  propaganda
     Kinakuta's matted green slopes surge out of a mostly calm blue sea, and
eventually  soar  high enough  to  be dusted with snow at the  summits, even
though the  island is only seven degrees north  of the  equator. Randy  sees
right away what Avi meant when he  said that the place was Muslim around the
edges and  animist in  the  middle. The only places you could hope  to build
anything  like  a  modern  city  are  along  the  coast,  where  there's  an
intermittent fringe of nearly flat  land  a beige  rind clinging to a  giant
emerald.  The  biggest  and best flat place is on the northeastern corner of
the island,  where the main  river, several miles inland, bottoms out into a
flood plain that broadens to an alluvial delta  that reaches  out  into  the
Sulu Sea for a mile or two.
     Randy gives up counting the oil rigs  ten minutes before  Kinakuta City
even  comes into sight. From high  above they look like flaming  tank  traps
scattered in the surf to deter incoming Marines. As the plane sheds altitude
they  begin to look more like factories  on stilts, topped with high  stacks
where troublesome natural gas is flamed off. This gets more  alarming as the
plane  gets closer  to the water, and it begins  to seem  as if the pilot is
threading his way between pillars of fire  that would roast  the 777  like a
pigeon on the wing.
     Kinakuta City  looks more modern  than anything in the States.  He  has
been  trying to read about the place but has found precious little: a couple
of encyclopedia  entries, a few fleeting mentions in World War II histories,
some  puckish but  basically glowing articles in the Economist. Putting  his
rusty interlibrary  loan skills to work, he paid  the Library of Congress to
make  him a  photocopy of the one  book  he  could find  specifically  about
Kinakuta: one of about a million out of print World War II memoirs that must
have been  penned by G.I.s during the late forties and fifties.  So  far, he
hasn't had time to read it, and so the two inch  stack of pages is just dead
weight in his luggage.
     In any case, none of the maps  he has seen tallies with the  reality of
the modem  Kinakuta City. Anything that was  there during the war  has  been
torn down  and  replaced with new. The  river has been  dredged  into a  new
channel. An inconvenient mountain called Eliza Peak has been dynamited,  and
the rubble  shoved into the  ocean  to make several new square miles of real
estate, most of  which has been gobbled by the  new airport. The dynamitings
were so loud that  they prompted  complaints  from  the governments  of  the
Philippines and of  Borneo, hundreds  of miles away. They also  brought down
the wrath of Greenpeace, which was afraid that the sultan was scaring whales
in the  central Pacific.  So Randy expects half  of Kinakuta  City to  be  a
smoking crater, but of  course it's  not. The stump  of Eliza Peak  has been
neatly  paved over and used as the foundation of the sultan's new Technology
City.  All of  the  glass walled skyscrapers there, and in  the rest of  the
city, have pointy  tops, recalling a traditional architecture that has  long
since been bulldozed and used to fill in the harbor. The only building Randy
can see  that looks to be more than ten years old  is  the sultan's  palace,
which is ancient. Surrounded by miles of blue glass skyscrapers, it's like a
reddish beige mote frozen in a tray of ice.
     Once Randy fixes on that, everything snaps into its proper orientation.
He bends forward, risks the censure of the cabin crew by pulling his bag out
from under the seat ahead of him, and pulls out his photocopied G.I. memoir.
One of its first pages is a map of Kinakuta City as it appeared in 1945, and
dead center is the Sultan's Palace. Randy rotates it before his face  in the
way of a panicky  driver with a steering wheel,  and gets it to line up with
his view. There's the river. There's Eliza Peak, where the Nipponese used to
have a signals  intelligence detachment and a radar station, all  built with
slave labor. There's the former site of the Japanese Naval Air  Force field,
which  became the  Kinakuta Airport until the new one was built. Now it is a
flock of yellow cranes above a blue  nebula of  rebar, lit from  within by a
constellation of flickering white stars arc welders at work.
     Next to it is something  that doesn't belong: a patch of emerald green,
maybe a couple of city blocks, surrounded by a stone wall. Inside, there's a
placid pond toward  one end the  777 is now  so low that Randy can count the
lily pads a tiny  Shinto temple hewn  from black stone,  and a little bamboo
teahouse. Randy presses his face to the window and keeps turning his head to
follow it,  until  suddenly his  view is  blocked  by a high  rise apartment
building  just  off the wingtip. Through an open kitchen window,  he gets  a
microsecond's glimpse  of  a  slender  lady  swinging  a hatchet  towards  a
     That garden looked like it  belonged a thousand  miles farther north in
Nippon.  When Randy finally realizes what it was, the hairs stand up  on the
back of his neck.
     Randy  got  on  this  plane  a  couple  of hours  ago at  Ninoy  Aquino
International Airport in Manila. The flight was delayed and so he had plenty
of time to look at the other passengers: three Westerners including himself,
a couple of dozen Malay types (either Kinakutan  or Filipino),  and everyone
else  Nipponese.  Some of the  latter looked like businessmen, traveling  on
their own  or  in  twos and threes,  but  most belonged  to some kind of  an
organized  tour group that marched into the boarding  lounge precisely forty
five minutes before scheduled takeoff, queued behind a young woman in a navy
blue skirt suit holding up a neat little logo on a stick. Retirees.
     Their  destination is not the Technology  City, or any of the  peculiar
pointy topped  skyscrapers in the financial district. They are all  going to
that walled  Nipponese  garden,  which is  built  on top  of  a  mass  grave
containing the bodies of three and  a  half thousand Nipponese soldiers, who
all died on August 23, 1945.

     Chapter 21 QWGHLM HOUSE

     Waterhouse eddies up and down the quiet side street, squinting at brass
plaques on sturdy white row houses:
     At  first he  mistakes  Qwghlm House for the  world's  tiniest and most
poorly located department  store.  It has a bow window that  looms over  the
sidewalk  like  the thrusting  ram of a trireme,  embarnacled with Victorian
foofawfery, and housing a  humble display: a  headless mannequin  dressed in
something that appears to have been spun from steel wool (perhaps  a tribute
to  wartime  austerity?);  a heap  of sallow  dirt  with a shovel in it; and
another mannequin (a  recent addition shoehorned into one corner) dressed in
a Royal Navy uniform and holding a wooden cutout of a rifle.
     Waterhouse found a worm eaten copy of the Encyclopedia Qwghlmiana in  a
bookshop near  the British Museum a week ago and has been carrying it around
in his attache case since then, imbibing a page or two at a time, like doses
of strong medicine. The overriding Themes of the Encyclopedia are three, and
they dominate its every paragraph as totally as the Three Sgrhs dominate the
landscape of Outer  Qwghlm. Two  of these themes  are wool and guano, though
the  Qwghlmians have other names  for  them, in  their ancient,  sui generis
tongue. In fact, the same  linguistic  hyperspecialization occurs  here that
supposedly does  with  the Eskimos and  snow or  Arabs  and  sand,  and  the
Encyclopedia Qwghlmiana  never  uses  the English  words  "wool" and "guano"
except to slander the  inferior versions of these products that are exported
by  places like  Scotland in a perfidious effort to confuse the naive buyers
who  apparently  dominate the world's commodity  markets. Waterhouse  had to
read the encyclopedia  almost cover to cover  and use all his  cryptanalytic
skills to figure out, by inference, what these products actually were.
     Having  learned  so  much about  them, he is  fascinated to  find  them
proudly displayed in  the heart  of the cosmopolitan city: a mound  of guano
and a  woman dressed in wool (1). The woman's outfit is  entirely
grey, in keeping  with Qwghlmian tradition,  which scorns pigmentation as  a
loathsome and whorish innovation of the Scots. The top part of  the ensemble
is a sweater which appears, at a glance, to be made  of felt.  A closer look
reveals  that  it is  knit like any other sweater. Qwghlmian sheep  are  the
evolutionary product of thousands of years' massive weather related die off.
Their  wool is famous  for its density,  its  corkscrewlike fibers, and  its
immunity to  all known chemical straightening processes. It creates a matted
effect which the Encyclopedia describes as being supremely desirable and for
which there is an extensive descriptive vocabulary.
     The third  theme of  the  Encyclopedia Qwghlmiana is hinted at  by  the
mannequin with the gun.
     Propped up against  the stonework next to the building's  entrance is a
gaffer dressed  in an antique variant of  the Home Guard  uniform, involving
knickerbockers. His lower legs are encased  in formidable socks  made of one
of the variants of Qwghlmian wool, and lashed in place, just below the knee,
with tourniquets  fashioned  from thick cords  woven  together in  a vaguely
Celtic  interlace pattern (on almost every page,  the  Encyclopedia restates
that the  Qwghlmians are  not  Celts,  but  that they did  invent  the  best
features of Celtic culture). These  garters are the traditional  ornament of
true Qwghlmians; gentlemen wear them hidden underneath the trousers of their
suits.  They were traditionally  made  from the long, slender  tails of  the
Skrrgh, which is the predominant mammal native to the islands, and which the
Encyclopedia defines as "a small mammal of the order  Rodentia and the order
Muridae, common in the islands, subsisting  primarily  on  the eggs  of  sea
birds,  capable of  multiplying with great rapidity when that or  any  other
food is  made available to it, admired  and even emulated by Qwghlmians  for
its hardiness and adaptability."
     After Waterhouse has been standing there for  a few moments, enjoying a
cigarette  and  examining those  garters,  this  mannequin  moves  slightly.
Waterhouse thinks that it is falling over  in a  gust of wind,  but  then he
realizes that it is alive, and not exactly falling  over, but just  shifting
its weight from foot to foot.
     The gaffer takes note of him, smiles blackly, and  utters  some word of
greeting in his language, which, as  has already become  plain, is even less
suited than English to transcription into the Roman alphabet.
     "Howdy," Waterhouse says.
     The gaffer says  something  longer and more complicated. After a while,
Waterhouse (now wearing his cryptanalyst  hat,  searching for meaning  midst
apparent randomness, his neural circuits exploiting the redundancies  in the
signal) realizes  that  the man  is  speaking heavily accented  English.  He
concludes that his interlocutor was saying, "What part of the States are you
from, then?"
     "My  family's done a lot of  traveling around," Waterhouse says. "Let's
say South Dakota."
     "Ahh," the gaffer says ambiguously whilst flinging himself  against the
slab  of door. After a while  it  begins to move inwards, hand hammered iron
hinges grinding ominously as they pivot round inch thick tholes. Finally the
door collides with some kind of formidable  Stop. The gaffer remains leaning
against  it, his entire  body at a  forty  five degree angle to prevent  its
swinging  back and  crushing Waterhouse, who scurries  past. Inside, a  tiny
anteroom  is dominated  by  a  sculpture: two nymphets in  diaphanous  veils
kicking the crap out of a scurrying hag, entitled Fortitude and Adaptability
Driving Out Adversity .
     This operation is repeated a few times with doors that are successively
lighter but  more richly  decorated. The  first room, it becomes clear,  was
actually a preäntepenultimate room, so it is a while before they can be said
to be definitely inside Qwghlm House.  By that time they seem to be  deep in
the center  of the block, and  Waterhouse half expects to see an underground
train screech by. Instead he finds himself in a windowless paneled room with
a crystal chandelier that is painfully bright  but does not seem to actually
illuminate  anything. His feet sink so deeply into the gaudy carpet  that he
nearly blows out a ligament. The far end of the room is guarded by a staunch
Desk with a  stout Lady behind it.  Here  and there are large ebony  Windsor
chairs, with the spindly but dangerous look of aboriginal game snares.
     On the walls, diverse oil paintings. At a first glance Waterhouse sorts
them into ones that are higher  than they are  wide, and others. The  former
category is  portraits  of gentlemen, all  of  whom seem to share a grievous
genetic flaw that informs the geometry of the skull. The  latter category is
landscapes  or,  just  as  often,  seascapes, all  in the  bleak  and rugged
category. These Qwghlmian painters are so  fond of the locally produced blue
green grey paint (1)  that they apply it as if with the back of a
     Waterhouse fights through the miring shag of  the Carpet until he nears
the Desk, where he is greeted by the Lady,  who  shakes his hand and pinches
her face together in a sort of allusion to a smile. There is a long exchange
of polite, perfunctory speech of  which  all Waterhouse remembers  is: "Lord
Woadmire will see you shortly," and: "Tea?"
     Waterhouse says yes to the tea because  he  suspects that this lady (he
has forgotten her name) is not really earning her keep. Clearly disgruntled,
she ejects herself from her chair and  loses  herself in deeper and narrower
parts of  the building. The gaffer has  already  gone back to his  post  out
     A photograph of the king hangs  on the wall behind the desk. Waterhouse
hadn't  known,  until  Colonel  Chattan  discreetly reminded  him, that  His
Majesty's full title was not simply By the Grace Of God of England King, but
B.T.G.O.G. of the United  Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the
Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey, Outer Qwghlm, and Inner Qwghlm King.
     Next to it is a smaller photograph of the man he is about to meet. This
fellow and  his family are covered  rather sketchily  by the Encyclopedia  ,
which  is decades  old,  and so  Waterhouse  has  had  to do some additional
background research.  The  man  is  related  to the  Windsors  in  a way  so
convoluted  that  it can  only  be  expressed  using  advanced  genealogical
     He  was born  Graf Heinrich  Karl  Wilhelm  Otto Friedrich von  Überset
Zenseehafenstadt,  but  changed  his name to  Nigel St.  John  Gloamthorpby,
a.k.a. Lord Woadmire, in 1914. In  his photograph, he looks every inch a von
Übersetzenseehafenstadt, and  he is entirely free  of the  cranial  geometry
problem  so evident in the older  portraits. Lord Woadmire is not related to
the original  ducal line of  Qwghlm, the  Moore family  (Anglicized from the
Qwghlmian clan name Mnyhrrgh)  which  had  been  terminated  in  1888  by  a
spectacularly  improbable  combination  of  schistosomiasis,  suicide,  long
festering  Crimean  war wounds,  ball lightning, flawed  cannon, falls  from
horses, improperly canned oysters, and rogue waves.
     The tea takes some time in coming and Lord Woadmire does not seem to be
in any particular hurry to win the war either, so Waterhouse makes a circuit
of the room, pretending to care about the paintings. The biggest one depicts
a number of bruised and lacerated Romans dragging  their sorry asses up onto
a  rocky and unwelcoming shore as splinters of  their invasion fleet wash up
around them. Front and  center is a particular Roman who looks no less noble
for wear and  tear. He is  seated wearily on  a high  rock,  a  broken sword
dangling from  one enervated hand,  gazing longingly across several miles of
rough  water  towards a shining, paradisiacal  island.  This  isle is richly
endowed  with tall trees and flowering meadows and green pastures, but  even
so  it can be identified as Outer Qwghlin by the Three  Sghrs towering above
it.  The isle  is  guarded  by a forbidding castle or two; its pale,  almost
Caribbean  beaches are lined with the colorful  banners  of a defending host
which (one can only assume) has just given the Roman invaders a bit of rough
handling which they will not soon forget. Waterhouse does not bother to bend
down and squint at the plaque;  he knows that the subject of the painting is
Julius  Cæsar's failed and  probably  apocryphal  attempt  to  add the
Qwghlm Archipelago  to the Roman Empire, the farthest from  Rome he ever got
and the  least  good  idea he  ever had. To say that the Qwghlmians have not
forgotten the  event is like saying that Germans can sometimes be  a  little
     "Where Caesar failed, what hope has Hitler?"
     Waterhouse turns  towards  the  voice  and  discovers  Nigel  St.  John
Gloamthorpby a.k.a. Lord Woadmire,  a.k.a. the Duke  of Qwghlm.  He is not a
tall man.  Waterhouse  goose steps  through the carpet  to  shake his  hand.
Though Colonel Chattan briefed him on proper forms of address when meeting a
duke, Waterhouse can no more remember this  than  he can diagram  the duke's
family tree, so he decides to structure all of his utterances so as to avoid
referring to the  duke by name or pronoun. This will be a fun game and  make
the time go faster.
     "It is quite a painting," Waterhouse says, "a heck of a deal."
     "You  will  find the islands themselves  no less extraordinary, and for
the same reasons," the duke says obliquely.
     The next  time  Waterhouse  is really  aware of what's going on,  he is
sitting in the  duke's  office. He thinks  that there has been  some routine
polite conversation along the way, but there  is never any point in actually
monitoring that kind of thing. Tea is  offered to him,  and is accepted, for
the second or third time, but fails to materialize.
     "Colonel  Chattan is in the Mediterranean, and I have been sent in  his
place," Waterhouse explains, "not to waste time covering logistical details,
but to  convey our enormous gratitude for  the  most generous  offer made in
regards to the castle." There! No pronouns, no gaffe.
     "Not at all!" The duke is taking  the whole thing as an affront to  his
generosity. He  speaks in the  unhurried, dignified cadences of a man who is
mentally thumbing through a German English dictionary.  "Even setting  aside
my own... patriotic obligations... cheerfully accepted, of course..., it has
almost become almost...  terribly fashionable  to  have  a whole...  crew...
of... uniformed fellows and whatnot running around in one's... pantry.
     "Many of the great houses of Britain are doing  their bit for the War,"
Waterhouse agrees.
     "Well... by  all means, then...  use it!" the  duke says.  "Don't be...
reticent! Use it... thoroughly! Give it  a good... working over!  It  has...
survived... a thousand Qwghlm winters and it will... survive your worst."
     "We hope  to have a small  detachment in  place very soon,"  Waterhouse
says agreeably.
     "May  I... know..., to satisfy my own... curiosity...,  what sort of...
?" the duke says, and trails off.
     Waterhouse is  ready  for this. He is so ready that he has to hold back
for a moment and try to make a show of discretion. "Huffduff."
     "HFDF.  High  Frequency Direction  Finding.  A  technique  for locating
distant radio transmitters by triangulating from several points."
     "I  should  have...  thought   you  knew  where  all  the...  German...
transmitters were."
     "We do, except for the ones that move."
     "Move!?"  The  duke furrows his brow  tremendously, imagining  a  giant
radio transmitter building, tower and all mounted on four parallel rail road
tracks  like  Big Bertha, creeping  across  a  steppe,  drawn  by  harnessed
     "Think U boats," Waterhouse says delicately.
     "Ah!"  the  duke says  explosively. "Ah!" He leans back in  his  creaky
leather chair,  examining a whole new picture  with his mind's eye. "They...
pop up, do they, and send out... wireless?"
     "They do."
     "And you... eavesdrop."
     "If only we could!" Waterhouse says. "No, the Germans have used all  of
that world famous mathematical  brilliance of theirs to  invent ciphers that
are totally unbreakable. We don't have the  first idea what they are saying.
But, by using huffduff, we can figure out where they are saying it from, and
route our convoys accordingly."
     "So what we propose to do is mount big rotating antennas, or aerials as
you  call them here,  on  the  castle,  and  staff  the place with  huffduff
     The duke frowns. "There will be proper... safeguards for lightning?"
     "And you are aware that  you may... anticipate... ice storms as late in
the year as August?"
     "The Royal Qwghlm  Meteorological Station's reports, as a body of work,
don't leave a heck of a lot to the imagination."
     "Fine, then!"  the  duke  blusters,  warming to  the  concept. "Use the
castle, then! And give them... give them hell!"


     As evidence of the allies' slowly developing  plan to kill the Axis  by
smothering  them  under a mountain  of manufactured goods,  there's this one
pier  in Sydney Harbor  that  is  piled  high with  wooden crates and  steel
barrels: stuff that has been disgorged from the holds of ships from America,
Britain, India and just left to sit there because Australia doesn't know how
to digest it  yet. It is not the  only pier in Sydney that  is  choked  with
stuff. But because this pier isn't good for much else, it  is mounded higher
and the stuff is older, rustier, more  infested  with rats, more rimed  with
salt, more thickly frosted and flagrantly streaked with gull shit.
     A  man is picking his way over the pile, trying not to  get any more of
that gull shit on  his khakis. He  is wearing the  uniform of a major in the
United  States Army and  is badly encumbered by  a  briefcase.  His name  is
     Inside the briefcase are  various identity papers, credentials, and  an
impressive letter  from the office of The General in  Brisbane. Comstock has
had  occasion to  show all  of the  above to the  doddering and yet  queerly
formidable Australian  guards who, with their  doughboy helmets and  rifles,
infest  the waterfront. These  men  do not speak any dialect of  the English
language that the major can  recognize and vice versa, but they can all read
what is on those papers.
     The  sun is going  down and the rats are waking up. The major has  been
clambering  over  docks all day  long. He  has seen  enough  of war and  the
military to know that  what he is looking for will be found on the last pier
that he searches, which happens to be  this one. If he begins searching that
pier  at the near end,  what he  is looking for will be at the  far end, and
vice versa. All the  more reason to  stay sharp  as he works  his way along.
After casting an eye  around  to make sure  there are no  leaking  stacks of
drums of  aviation fuel  nearby, he lights up a cigarette. War is  hell, but
smoking cigarettes makes it all worthwhile.
     Sydney Harbor  is beautiful at sunset, but he's been looking at it  all
day and can't really see  it anymore. For lack of anything better to  do, he
opens  up  his  briefcase.  There's a  paperback novel in there, which  he's
already  read.  And  there  is a  clipboard  which  contains,  in  yellowed,
crackling, sedimentary  layers, a  fossil record  that only an archaeologist
could unravel. It is  the story of how The General, just after he got out of
Corregidor  and  reached  Australia  in April, sent  out a  request for some
stuff.  How that  request got forwarded to America and bounced pinball  like
through  the   cluttered  infinitude  of  America's  military  and  civilian
bureaucracies;  how  the  stuff in question was duly manufactured, procured,
trucked hither and yon, and caused to be placed on a ship; and finally, some
evidence to the effect  that said ship  was in  Sydney Harbor several months
ago. There's no evidence that this ship ever unloaded the stuff in question,
but  unloading stuff is what ships always do  when they reach  port  and  so
Comstock is going with that assumption for a while.
     After  Major Comstock  finishes his cigarette, he  resumes  his search.
Some of the papers on his clipboard specify certain magic numbers that ought
to be stenciled on  the outside of  the crates in question; at least, that's
what he's  been  assuming  since he started this  search at daybreak, and if
he's wrong, he'll have  to go back  and search every  crate in Sydney Harbor
again. Actually getting a look at each crates'  numbers means  squeezing his
body through narrow channels between crate piles and rubbing away the grease
and  grime that obscures the crucial data. The major is now as filthy as any
combat grunt.
     When  he  gets  close  to  the end of the pier,  his eye picks  out one
cluster of crates that appear to be all of the same vintage insofar as their
salt encrustations  are of similar thickness. Down low where the rain pools,
their rough sawn wood has rotted. Up where  it is roasted by the sun, it has
warped and split.  Somewhere these crates must have  numbers stenciled  onto
them, but something else has caught his eye, something that stirs Comstock's
heart, just as the sight of the  Stars and Stripes fluttering in the morning
sun might do for a beleaguered infantryman. Those crates are proudly  marked
with  the initials of the  company  that Major Comstock  (and  most  of  his
comrades in arms  up in  Brisbane) worked for, before they were shunted,  en
masse, into  the Army's Signal Intelligence Service. The  letters are  faded
and grimy, but he would recognize them anywhere in  the world: they form the
logo,  the  corporate  identity, the masthead,  of  ETC  the Electrical Till

     Chapter 23 CRYPT

     The terminal is supposed to echo the lines of a row of Malay longhouses
jammed  together  side by side. A freshly painted  jetway gropes  out like a
giant lamprey and slaps its neoprene lips onto  the side  of the plane.  The
elderly   Nipponese  tour  group   makes  no  effort  to  leave  the  plane,
respectfully leaving the aisles clear for the businessmen: You go ahead, the
people we're going to visit won't mind waiting.

     On his march up the jetway, humidity and jet fuel condense onto Randy's
skin in  equal measure,  and  he begins to sweat. Then he's in the terminal,
which  notwithstanding  the Malay longhouses  allusion  has  been engineered
specifically to look like any other brand new airport terminal in the world.
The air conditioning hits like a spike  through  the head. He puts  his bags
down on the floor and stands there for a moment, collecting his wits beneath
a Leroy Neiman painting the dimensions of  a volleyball court, depicting the
sultan in action on a polo pony. Trapped in a window seat during a short and
choppy flight, he  had never made it out to the lavatory, so  he goes to one
now and pees so hard that the urinal emits a sort of yodeling noise.
     As he steps  back, perfectly satisfied,  he becomes  conscious of a man
backing away from an  adjacent urinal one of  the  Nipponese businessmen who
just  got off  the plane. A couple of months ago,  the presence  of this man
would have ruled  out Randy's taking  a  leak at all.  Today, he didn't even
notice that the guy was  there. As a longtime bashful kidney sufferer, Randy
is  delighted  to  have  stumbled  upon the  magic  remedy: not to  convince
yourself that you are a  dominating Alpha Male, but rather to be too lost in
your  thoughts  to notice other  people around you.  Bashful kidney is  your
body's  way of telling you that you're  thinking  too hard, that you need to
get off the campus and go get a fucking job.
     "You were looking at the Ministry of Information site?" the businessman
says. He is in a perfect charcoal grey pinstripe suit,  which he  wears just
as easily and comfortably as Randy  does his souvenir t shirt from the fifth
Hackers Conference, surfer's jams, and Teva sandals.
     "Oh!" Randy  blurts, annoyed with himself. "I completely forgot to look
for it." Both  men laugh. The  Nipponese  man produces a business card  with
some deft sleight of hand. Randy has to rip open his nylon and velcro wallet
and delve  for his. They exchange cards in the traditional  Asian two handed
style, which Avi has forced Randy to practice until he gets it nearly right.
They  bow  at  each  other,  triggering  howls from  the  nearest  couple of
computerized self flushing urinals.  The bath  room door  swings open and an
aged Nip wanders in, a precursor of the silver horde.
     Nip is the word used by Sergeant Sean Daniel McGee, U.S. Army, Retired,
to refer to Nipponese people in his war  memoir  about Kinakuta, a photocopy
of which document Randy  is carrying  in  his bag.  It is  a terrible racist
slur.  On  the other hand, people  call British  people Brits,  and  Yankees
Yanks, all the  time. Calling a  Nipponese person  a  Nip is  just  the same
thing, isn't it? Or is it  tantamount  to calling a Chinese  person a Chink?
During the hundreds of hours of meetings, and megabytes  of encrypted e mail
messages, that Randy,  Avi, John  Cantrell,  Tom Howard,  Eberhard Föhr, and
Beryl have  exchanged, getting Epiphyte(2) off the ground, each of them  has
occasionally,  inadvertently, used the word Jap as shorthand for Japanese in
the  same way as  they used RAM to mean Random Access Memory. But of  course
Jap is a horrible racist  slur too. Randy figures it all has to do with your
state  of  mind  at the time you utter  the  word. If  you're just trying to
abbreviate,  it's not a slur. But if  you are fomenting  racist  hatreds, as
Sean  Daniel  McGee  occasionally  seems  to  be  not  above  doing,  that's
     This particular Nipponese individual is  identified, on  his  card,  as
GOTO Furudenendu  ("Ferdinand  Goto").  Randy, who  has spent  a lot of time
recently puzzling over organizational  charts of certain important Nipponese
corporations, knows already that he is a vice president for special projects
(whatever that means) at Goto Engineering. He also knows that organizational
charts  of  Nipponese  companies are  horseshit and  that  job  titles  mean
absolutely nothing. That he has the same surname as the guy  who founded the
company is presumably worth taking note of.
     Randy's card says that he is Randall L.  WATERHOUSE ("Randy") and  that
he  is  vice  president  for  network  technology  development  at  Epiphyte
     Goto and Waterhouse stroll out of the washroom and start to follow  the
baggage  claim icons  that are strung across the terminal like bread crumbs.
"You have  jet lag now?" Goto asks  brightly  following  (Randy  assumes)  a
script from an English textbook. He's a  handsome  guy with a winning smile.
He's probably in his forties, though  Nipponese people seem  to have a whole
different aging algorithm so this might be way off.
     "No," Randy  answers.  Being  a nerd, he answers  such questions badly,
succinctly, and truthfully.  He  knows that Goto essentially does  not  care
whether  Randy has jet lag or not. He is vaguely  conscious that Avi,  if he
were here, would use  Goto's  question as it  was intended as an opening for
cheery social batter. Until he reached thirty, Randy felt bad about the fact
that he was not socially deft. Now he doesn't give a damn. Pretty soon he'll
probably start being proud of  it. In the meantime, just for the sake of the
common enterprise,  he tries  his best.  "I've actually  been in Manila  for
several days, so I've had plenty of time to adjust."
     "Ah! Did your activities in Manila go well?" Goto fires back.
     "Yes, very well,  thank you,"  Randy lies, now that  his social skills,
such  as they  are,  have had  a moment to  get  unlimbered.  "Did you  come
directly from Tokyo?"
     Goto's  smile freezes  in place  for a moment,  and he hesitates before
saying, "Yes.''
     This  is,   at   root,  a  patronizing  reply.   Goto   Engineering  is
headquartered in Kobe and they would  not fly out of the Tokyo airport. Goto
said yes anyway, because, during that moment of hesitation, he realized that
he was just  dealing with a Yank,  who, when he  said "Tokyo," really  meant
"the Nipponese home islands" or "wherever the hell you come from."
     "Excuse me," Randy says, "I meant to say Osaka."
     Goto grins brilliantly and seems to execute a tiny suggestion of a bow.
"Yes! I came from Osaka today."
     Goto and Waterhouse drift  apart from each other at the luggage  claim,
exchange grins  as they  breeze through immigration, and run into each other
at  the  ground transportation  section.  Kinakutan  men in brilliant  white
quasinaval  uniforms with  gold  braid  and white  gloves  are  buttonholing
passengers, proffering transportation to the local hotels.
     "You are staying at the Foote Mansion also?" Goto says.  That being the
luxury hotel in Kinakuta. But he knows the answer already tomorrow's meeting
has been planned as exhaustively as a space shuttle launch.
     Randy  hesitates.  The  largest Mercedes Benz he's  ever seen has  just
pulled up to the curb, condensed moisture not merely fogging its windows but
running down them in literal streamlines.  A driver  in Foote Mansion livery
has  erupted from it to divest Mr. Goto of his luggage, Randy knows that  he
need only make  a  subtle  move toward that car  and he will be whisked to a
luxury hotel  where he can take a shower, watch TV  naked  while  drinking a
hundred dollar bottle of French wine, go swimming, get a massage.
     Which is precisely the problem. He can  already feel himself wilting in
the equatorial heat. It's too early to go soft. He's only been awake for six
or  seven  hours.  There's work to be done. He forces himself to stand up at
attention, and the effort makes him break a sweat so palpably that he almost
expects to moisten  everything within a radius  of  several meters. "I would
enjoy sharing a ride to the hotel with you," he says, "but I have one or two
errands to run first."
     Goto understands. "Perhaps drinks this evening."
     "Leave me a message," Randy says. Then Goto's waving at him through the
smoked  glass of the  Mercedes as it pulls seven gees  away  from the  curb.
Randy does a one eighty, goes back inside to the halal Dunkin' Donuts, which
accepts eight currencies, and sates  himself.  Then  he reemerges  and turns
imperceptibly toward a line  of taxis. A driver hurls himself bodily towards
Randy  and  tears his  garment  bag  loose  from  his shoulder. "Ministry of
Information," Randy says.
     In the long run,  it  may, or may not, be a good idea for the Sultanate
of  Kinakuta  to  have  a gigantic  earthquake  ,  volcano  , tsunami ,  and
thermonuclear weapon  proof Ministry of Information with a cavernous sub sub
basement  crammed with  high powered computers and data  switches.  But  the
sultan has decided that it would be sort of cool. He has hired some alarming
Germans to design it, and Goto Engineering to  build it. No  one, of course,
is more familiar with staggering  natural disasters than the Nipponese, with
the  possible  exception  of  some peoples who are now extinct and therefore
unable to bid on jobs like this. They also know a thing or two  about having
the shit bombed out of them, as do the Germans.
     There  are  subcontractors, of  course, and  a plethora of consultants.
Through some miraculous feat of fast talking, Avi managed to land one of the
biggest consulting contracts:  Epiphyte(2)  Corporation  is  doing  "systems
integration"  work,  which means plugging together a bunch  of junk made  by
other  people,  and  overseeing  the  installation  of  all  the  computers,
switches, and data lines.
     The  drive to the site is surprisingly short. Kinakuta City  isn't that
big, hemmed in as it is by steep mountain ranges, and the sultan has endowed
it with plenty of eight lane superhighways. The taxi blasts across the plain
of  reclaimed  land on which the  airport is built, swings  wide around  the
stump of Eliza Peak, ignoring two  exits for Technology City, then turns off
at an unmarked exit. Suddenly they are stuck in a queue of empty dump trucks
Nipponese  behemoths emblazoned  with  the word  GOTO  in  fat  macho  block
letters. Coming towards them is  a stream of other trucks that are identical
except  that these are fully laden with stony rubble.  The taxi driver pulls
onto the right shoulder and zooms past trucks for about half a mile. They're
heading  up Randy's  ears pop once.  This  road  is built on the floor  of a
ravine that climbs up into one  of the mountain ranges. Soon they are hemmed
in  by vertiginous  walls of  green, which  act like a  sponge,  trapping an
eternal cloud of mist, through which sparks of brilliant color are sometimes
visible. Randy can't  tell whether they  are  birds or flowers. The contrast
between  the  cloud forest's lush vegetation and the dirt road, battered  by
the house sized tires of the heavy trucks, is disorienting.
     The  taxi stops. The driver  turns  and looks at him expectantly. Randy
thinks for a moment that the driver has gotten lost and is looking to  Randy
for instructions. The road  terminates  here, in  a parking lot mysteriously
placed in the middle  of  the cloud forest. Randy sees half a dozen big  air
conditioned trailers  bearing the logos of  various  Nipponese,  German, and
American firms; a couple of dozen cars; as many buses. All the accoutrements
of a major construction site are here, plus  a few  extras, like two monkeys
with giant stiff penises fighting over some booty from a Dumpster, but there
is no construction site. Just a  wall of green at the end of the road, green
so dark it's almost black.
     The empty  trucks are disappearing  into that darkness.  Full ones come
out, their  headlights emerging from  the mist and  gloom first, followed by
the colorful displays that the drivers have built onto the radiator grilles,
followed by the highlights on their chrome and glass, and finally the trucks
themselves. Randy's eyes adjust, and he  can see now that he is staring into
a cavern, lit up by mercury vapor lamps.
     "You want me to wait?" the driver asks.
     Randy glances  at the  meter, does a  quick conversion, and figures out
that the ride  to this point has cost him a dime. "Yes,"  he says, and  gets
out of the taxi. Satisfied, the driver kicks back and lights up a cigarette.
     Randy stands  there  and  gapes into the cavern  for a  minute,  partly
because it's a hell of a thing to look at and partly because a river of cool
air is draining out  of it, which feels good. Then he trudges across the lot
and goes to the trailer marked "Epiphyte."
     It is staffed by three tiny Kinakutan women who know exactly who he is,
though they've never met him before, and who give  every indication of being
delighted  to  see him. They wear long,  loose wraps  of brilliantly colored
fabric on top of Eddie Bauer turtlenecks to ward off the nordic chill of the
air conditioners. They are all  fearsomely efficient and  poised. Everywhere
Randy  goes in  Southeast  Asia he  runs into women who ought to be  running
General Motors or  something. Before  long  they  have sent  out word of his
arrival via walkie talkie and cell phone, and presented him  with  a pair of
thick  knee  high  boots,  a  hard hat, and a cellular  phone, all carefully
labeled with his name. After a couple  of minutes, a young  Kinakutan man in
hard  hat  and muddy boots  opens the trailer's door, introduces himself  as
"Steve," and  leads Randy into the entrance of  the  cavern.  They  follow a
narrow pedestrian board walk illuminated by a string of caged lightbulbs.
     For the first hundred meters or so, the cave is just a straight passage
barely wide  enough to admit two Goto  trucks and the pedestrian lane. Randy
trails  his hand  along the wall. The stone is rough and  dusty,  not smooth
like the surface of a natural cavern, and he can see fresh gouges wrought by
jackhammers and drills.
     He can  tell by the echo that something's about  to change. Steve leads
him  out into the  cavern proper. It is, well, cavernous. Big enough  for  a
dozen of the huge trucks to  pull around in a circle  to be laden with  rock
and muck. Randy  looks up, trying to find the ceiling, but all he sees  is a
pattern of bluish white  high intensity lights, like the ones in gymnasiums,
perhaps ten meters above. Beyond that it's darkness and mist.
     Steve goes off in search of  something and leaves Randy alone for a few
minutes, which  is  useful since  it takes a long  time for him  to  get his
     Some of the cavern wall is smooth and natural; the rest of it is rough,
marking the enlargements  conceived  by  the  engineers  and executed by the
contractor. Likewise, some of the floor is smooth, and not quite level. Some
places it has been drilled and blasted to bring it down,  others it has been
filled in to bring it up.
     This, the main chamber, looks  to be about finished. The offices of the
Ministry of Information will be here. There are two other, smaller chambers,
deeper inside the  mountain,  still being  enlarged. One  will  contain  the
engineering plant (power generators and so forth) and the other will  be the
systems unit.
     A burly blond  man in  a white hard  hat  emerges from  a hole  in  the
chamber wall: Tom Howard, Epiphyte  Corporation's vice president for systems
technology. He takes  his hard hat off and waves  to Randy, then beckons him
     The passageway that leads to the systems chamber is big enough that you
could drive a delivery van down it, but it's not as straight or as level  as
the main entryway. It is  mostly occupied by a conveyor system of terrifying
power and speed, which  is carrying tons of  dripping grey muck out  towards
the  main chamber to be dumped into  the  Goto trucks. In  terms of apparent
cost and sophistication, it beats the same relationship to a normal conveyor
belt  as an  F  15 does to  a  Sopwith  Camel. It is  possible to speak  but
impossible to be  heard when  you are near it, and so Tom  and Randy and the
Kinakutan who  calls  himself  Steve  trudge silently down  the passage  for
another hundred or so meters until they reach the next cavern.
     This one is only large enough to  contain a modest one story house. The
conveyor passes right through the middle of it  and disappears  down another
hole; the muck is coming from  deeper  yet in the mountain.  It's  still too
loud in here to talk. The floor has been leveled by pouring in concrete, and
conduits rise  from it every  few  meters with  orange  cables dangling from
their open tops: optical fiber lines.
     Tom walks towards another opening in the wall. It appears that  several
subsidiary caverns branch away from this one. Tom  leads  Randy  through the
opening, then turns to put a hand on his arm and steady him: they are at the
top of a steep wooden staircase that has been built down  a nearly  vertical
shaft that descends a good five meters or so.
     "What you just saw is the  main switch room," Tom says. "That'll be the
largest  router in the world when it's  finished. We're using some  of these
other chambers to install  computers and mass  storage systems.  The world's
largest RAID, basically, buffered with a big, big RAM cache."
     RAID means  Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks; it is a  way to store
vast quantities of information cheaply and reliably, and exactly the kind of
thing you would want to have in a data haven.
     "So  we're still  cleaning  out  some  of  these  other chambers,"  Tom
continues. "We  discovered something, down here, that  I thought  you'd find
interesting." He turns around and begins to descend  the staircase. "Did you
know that  these  caves  were used  as an air raid shelter by the  Japanese,
during the war?"
     Randy has  been  carrying the map page from his photocopied book around
in his pocket. He unfolds it and holds it up near a lightbulb. Sure  enough,
it  includes  a  site,  up in  the mountains,  labeled ENTRANCE TO  AIR RAID
     "And a command post?" Randy says.
     "Yeah. How'd you know that?"
     "Interlibrary loan," Randy says.
     "We didn't know it until we got here and found  all of these old cables
and  electrical shit strung around the place.  We had to tear  it  out so we
could string in our own."
     Randy begins to descend the steps.
     "This shaft was full of rocks," Tom says, "but we could see wires going
down into it, so we knew something had to be down here."
     Randy looks  nervously at the ceiling. "Why  was it  full of rocks? Was
there a cave in?"
     "No," Tom says, "the Japanese soldiers  did it.  They threw  rocks down
the shaft until  it was  full. It took  a dozen of our laborers two weeks to
pull all the rocks out by hand."
     "So, what did the wires lead to?"
     "Lightbulbs,"  Tom   says,   "they  were   just  electrical   wires  no
     "Then what was it they  were trying to  hide down here?" Randy asks. He
has almost reached the bottom of the staircase, and he can see that there is
a room sized cavity.
     "See for yourself" Tom says, and flicks a light switch.
     The cavity is  about the  size of a  one car  garage, with a nice level
floor. There is a wooden  desk, chair, and filing cabinet, fuzzy with  fifty
years' growth of grey green fungus. And there is a metal footlocker, painted
olive drab, stenciled with Nipponese characters.
     "I  forced the lock  on this  thing," Tom  says. He steps  over  to the
footlocker and flips the lid open. It is filled with books.
     "You were  expecting maybe  gold  bars?"  Tom  says,  laughing  at  the
expression on Randy's face.
     Randy sits down on the  floor  and grabs  his ankles. He's staring open
mouthed at the books in the chest.
     "You okay?" Tom asks. "Heavy, heavy deja vu," Randy says. "From this?"
     "Yeah," Randy says, "I've seen this before."
     "In my grandmother's attic."


     Randy  finds  his way up  out  of the  network of caverns and  into the
parking lot. The  warm  air feels good  on his skin,  but by the time he has
reached the Epiphyte Corp. trailer to turn in his hard hat and boots, he has
begun  to sweat  again. He bids good  bye to the three women who work there,
and once again is struck by their attentiveness, their solicitousness.  Then
he remembers that he is  not just some interloper. He is a shareholder,  and
an important officer, in the corporation that employs them he is paying them
or oppressing them, take your pick.
     He trudges  across the parking lot, moving  very  slowly, trying not to
get  that metabolic furnace  het up. A  second taxi has pulled alongside the
one  that  is  waiting for Randy, and the drivers  are  leaning out of their
windows shooting the breeze.
     As  Randy  approaches his taxi,  he happens to glance  back towards the
entrance of  the  cavern.  Framed  in  its  dark  maw,  and  dwarfed  by the
mountainous  shapes of  the  Goto  dump  trucks, is  a solitary man,  silver
haired, stooped, but trim and almost  athletic looking in a warmup suit  and
sneakers. He is standing with his back to  Randy, facing the cavern, holding
a long spray of flowers. He seems rooted in the mud, perfectly motionless.
     The front  door of the  Goto  Engineering  trailer flies open.  A young
Nipponese  man in a white  shirt, striped tie, and orange  hard hat descends
the  stairs and moves briskly towards the old man with  the flowers. When he
is still some distance away, he stops, puts his  feet together, and executes
a  bow.  Randy hasn't spent  enough time  around Nipponese to understand the
minutiae, but  this looks  to  him  like an extraordinarily  major  bow.  He
approaches the old man with a bright smile and holds one beckoning hand  out
towards the Goto  trailer. The old  man seems  disoriented  maybe the cavern
doesn't  look  like it  used  to  but  after a  few  moments  he  returns  a
perfunctory bow and allows the young  engineer to lead him out of the stream
of traffic.
     Randy gets in his taxi and says, "Foote Mansion," to the driver.
     He has been harboring an illusion that he will read Sean Daniel McGee's
war memoir slowly and thoroughly, from beginning to end,  but  this  has now
gone the way of all illusions. He hauls the photocopied stack out of his bag
during the  drive to the hotel and begins ruthless  triage. Most  of it  has
nothing to do  with Kinakuta at all it's about McGee's  experiences fighting
in New Guinea and the Philippines. McGee is no Churchill, but he does have a
distant  blarney tinged narrative talent, which  makes  even banal anecdotes
readable. His skills as  raconteur must have made  him  a big hit around the
bar at  the NCOs' Club; a  hundred tipsy sergeants must have  urged  him  to
write some of this shit down if he ever made it back to South Boston alive.
     He did make it back, but unlike most of the other GIs who  were  in the
Philippines on V J  day, he didn't go  straight back home. He took  a little
detour  to  the  Sultanate of Kinakuta, which was still home to  almost four
thousand  Nipponese troops. This explains an oddity about  his book. In most
war memoirs, V E Day or V J Day happens on the last page, or at least in the
last chapter, and then our  narrator goes home and buys a Buick. But V J day
happens about two  thirds of the way through Sean Daniel  McGee's book. When
Randy sets aside  the  pre August 1945 material, an ominously thick stack of
pages remains. Clearly, Sergeant McGee has something to get off his chest.
     The Nipponese garrison on Kinakuta had  long since been bypassed by the
war, and  like the other bypassed garrisons, had turned  what  energies they
had  left  to vegetable  farming,  and  waiting for the  extremely  sporadic
arrivals of  submarines, which, towards  the close of the war, the Nipponese
used to haul the most extremely vital cargo and to ferry certain desperately
needed specialists, like airplane mechanics, from one place to another. When
they got Hirohito's broadcast  from Tokyo, ordering  them to  lay down their
arms, they did so dutifully but (one has to suspect) gladly.
     The only  hard part was finding someone to surrender to. The Allies had
concentrated on planning the invasion of the  Nipponese home islands, and it
took them a while to get troops out to the bypassed garrisons like Kinakuta.
McGee's account of the confusion  in Manila is mordant at this point  in the
book McGee  starts to lose his patience, and  his charm.  He starts to rail.
Twenty pages  later, he's sloshing  ashore  at Kinakuta  City.  He stands at
attention while his company captain accepts the  surrender of  the Nipponese
garrison. He posts a guard around  the entrance  to the  cavern, where a few
diehard  Nips  have  refused  to  surrender.  He  organizes  the  systematic
disarming of the Nipponese soldiers, who are terribly emaciated, and sees to
it  that their rifles and ammunition are dumped into the ocean even as  food
and medical  supplies are  brought ashore.  He helps a  small contingent  of
engineers  string  barbed  wire  around  the  airfield,  turning  it into an
internment camp.
     Randy flips through  all of  this during the drive to  the hotel. Then,
words like "impaled" and  "screams" and "hideous" catch his eye, so he flips
back a few pages and begins to read more carefully.


     The upshot is  that the Nipponese had, since 1940, marched thousands of
tribesmen out  of  the  cool,  clean  interior  of  the island to  its  hot,
pestilential edge, and put  them to work. These slaves had enlarged  the big
cavern where the  Nipponese  built their air raid shelter  and command post;
improved the  road  to the top of Eliza Peak, where  the radar and direction
finding stations were perched; built another runway at the air field; filled
in  more of  the harbor; and died  by  thousands  of malaria,  scrub typhus,
dysentery, starvation, and overwork. These same tribesmen, or their bereaved
brothers, had then watched, from their redoubts high  in  the  mountains, as
Sean Daniel McGee and his comrades came  and stripped the Nipponese of their
armaments and concentrated them all in the airfield, guarded by a  few dozen
exhausted GIs  who were frequently drunk  or asleep.  Those tribesmen worked
around the clock, up there in the jungle, making spears, until the next full
moon illuminated the sleeping Nipponese like a searchlight. Then they poured
out  of the forest  in what  Sean  Daniel  McGee describes as "a  horde," "a
plague of wasps," "a howling army," "a black legion unleashed from the gates
of Hell," "a screaming mass," and in other ways he could never get away with
now. They flattened and disarmed the GI's, but did not hurt them. They flung
tree limbs over the barbed  wire until the fence had  become a highway,  and
then swarmed  into  the  airfield with  their  spears  at the ready. McGee's
account goes  on for about twenty pages, and, as much  as  anything else, is
the story  of  the night that one affable sergeant  from South Boston became
permanently unhinged.
     Randy is  startled to realize that the  taxi's door is open.  He  looks
around and finds that  he's under the awning of the Hotel Foote Mansion. The
door is being held open for him by a  wiry  young bellhop  with  a different
look  than  most of  the  Kinakutans Randy has encountered so far. This  kid
perfectly matches Sean Daniel McGee's description  of  a  tribesman from the
     "Thank  you," Randy  says,  and  makes a  point  of tipping the  fellow
     His  room is  all  done  up  in furniture designed  in  Scandinavia but
assembled locally from various endangered hardwoods. The view is towards the
interior mountains, but if he goes onto his tiny balcony he can see a bit of
water, a containership being unloaded, and most of the memorial garden built
by the Nipponese on the site of the massacre.
     Several  messages  and faxes  await him:  mostly  the  other members of
Epiphyte Corp., notifying  him that they  have arrived, and letting him know
in which room they can be found. Randy unpacks his bags, takes a shower, and
sends  his shirts down to the  laundry for tomorrow. Then  he  makes himself
comfortable at his little table, boots his laptop, and pulls up the Epiphyte
(2) Corporation Business Plan.

     Chapter 24 LIZARD

     Bobby Shaftoe and  his buddies  are  just out for a nice little morning
drive through the countryside.
     In Italy.
     Italy! He cannot fucking believe it. What gives?
     Not his job to know. His job has been very clearly described to him. It
has to be clearly described, because it makes no sense.
     In the good old days, back on Guadalcanal, his commanding officer would
say something like "Shaftoe, eradicate that pillbox!" and from there on out,
Bobby Shaftoe was  a free agent. He could walk, run, swim or crawl. He could
sneak up and lob in a satchel  charge,  or he could stand  off at a distance
and hose the  objective down with a flame thrower. Didn't matter as long  as
he accomplished the goal.
     The  goal  of  this  little  mission  is  completely  beyond  Shaftoe's
comprehension. They awaken him; Lieutenant Enoch  Root;  three  of the other
Marines,  including the  radio  man; and several of  the  SAS blokes  in the
middle of the night, and hustle  them down to one of the  few docks in Malta
that  hasn't  been blasted away by  the  Luftwaffe. A submarine  waits. They
climb aboard and play  cards  for about twenty four hours. Most  of the time
they are on the surface, where submarines can go a hell of a lot faster, but
from time to time they dive, evidently for the best of reasons.
     When next they are allowed up  on the  flat top of the submarine, it is
the middle  of  the  night  again. They are  in a  little cove in a parched,
rugged coastline; Shaftoe can see that much by the moonlight. Two trucks are
waiting  for them. They  open  hatches in the sub's  deck  and begin to take
stuff  out: into one of the trucks, the U.S. Marines  load a bunch  of cloth
sacks bulging with what  appears to be  all kinds  of trash. Meanwhile,  the
British Special Air Service are at work with wrenches, rags, grease and much
profanity  in the back of  the other truck, assembling something from crates
that  they  have  brought  up from  another part of  the submarine.  This is
covered up by  a tarp before Shaftoe can get a good look, but he  recognizes
it as something you'd rather have pointed away from you.
     There are a couple of dark men with mustachioes hanging around the dock
smoking  and arguing  with the skipper  of the submarine. After all  of  the
stuff is unloaded, the skipper appears to pay them with more crates from the
submarine. The men  pry a couple of them open for inspection, and appear  to
be satisfied.
     At  this point Shaftoe still  doesn't even know what continent they are
on. When he first saw the landscape he  figured Northern Africa. When he saw
the men, he figured Turkey or something.
     It is  not until the sun comes up on their little convoy, and (lying in
the back of the  truck on  top of the sacks of trash, peeking out from under
the  tarp) he is  able  to see road signs and  Christian churches,  that  he
realizes it has to  be Italy or Spain. Finally  he sees a sign pointing  the
way to ROMA and figures it's Italy. The sign points away from the midmorning
sun, so  they must be somewhere south  or  southeast of  Rome. They are also
south of some burg called Napoli.
     But he doesn't  spend a  lot of time looking. It is not encouraged. The
truck is being  driven by some fellow who speaks the language, and who stops
from time to time to converse with the natives. Some of the time this sounds
like  friendly  banter. Sometimes  it  sounds  like arguments  over  highway
etiquette.  Sometimes it is  quieter,  more guarded.  Shaftoe  figures  out,
slowly, that during these  exchanges the truck driver is  bribing someone to
let them go through.
     He finds it shocking that in a country actively embroiled in the middle
of the greatest war in history in a country run by  belligerent Fascists for
God's  sake  two truckloads of  heavily  armed enemy soldiers can just drive
around freely, protected  by  nothing except a couple of  five dollar tarps.
Criminy!  What kind of  a  sorry operation is this? He feels like leaping to
his feet, casting the tarp aside, and giving  these  Eyties a good  dressing
down. The whole place needs a good scrubbing with  toothbrushes anyway. It's
like these people aren't even trying. Now,  the Nips, think of them what you
will, at least when those guys declare war on you they mean it.
     He resists  the temptation to  upbraid  the Italians. He thinks it goes
against the orders he had thoroughly memorized  before the shock of figuring
out  that he was driving around  in an Axis country jangled everything loose
from his  brain. And if  they  hadn't come from the lips of  Colonel Chattan
himself the chap or bloke who's the commanding officer of Detachment 2702 he
wouldn't have believed them anyway.
     They are going to be putting  in  some bivouac time. They  are going to
play a lot of cards for a while. During this time, the radio man is going to
be very busy. This phase of the operation might last as long  as a week.  At
some point, it is likely that strenuous, concerted efforts to kill them will
be made  by  a  whole lot  of  Germans and,  if  they happen  to  be feeling
impetuous that day,  Italians. When this happens,  they are  to  send  out a
radio message, torch  the joint, drive to a certain field that passes for an
airstrip, and be picked up by those jaunty SAS flyboys.
     Shaftoe didn't believe a word of it at first. He pegged it as some kind
of  British  humor  thing, some  kind of  practical  joke/hazing ritual.  In
general  he doesn't know  what to make of  the Brits because they appear (in
his personal observation) to  be  the  only other people on the face  of the
earth, besides Americans, who possess a sense of  humor. He has heard rumors
that some Eastern  Europeans can do it, but he hasn't  met  any of them, and
they don't have much to yuk it up about at the  moment. In any case, he  can
never quite make out when these Brits are joking.
     Any  thought  that  this was  just a  joke evaporated when he  saw  the
quantity of armaments they were being issued. Shaftoe has found that, for an
organization devoted to shooting and blowing up people on a large scale, the
military  is  infuriatingly reticent about passing out weapons. And  most of
the  weapons  they  do  pass out  are for  shit. It is  for this reason that
Marines have long found it necessary to buy their  own tommy guns from home:
the Corps wants them to kill people, but they just won't give them the stuff
they need!
     But this Detachment 2702  thing is  a whole different outfit. Even  the
grunts are carrying  trench brooms!  And if that didn't get their attention,
the cyanide capsules sure did. And the  lecture from Chattan  on the correct
way  to blow  your  own  head off  ("you  would  be astonished  at how  many
otherwise competent chaps botch this apparently simple procedure").
     Now, Shaftoe realizes  that there is  an unspoken codicil to  Chattan's
orders:  oh, yeah,  and if  any of the Italians, who actually live in Italy,
and  who run the  place, and who are Fascists and who  are at war with us if
any of them notice you and, for some  reason, object  to  your little  plan,
whatever the fuck it  is, then  by all means kill  them. And if that doesn't
work,  please,  by  all means, kill  yourself, because you'll probably  do a
neater job of it than the Fascists will. Don't forget suntan lotion!
     Actually, Shaftoe doesn't  mind this mission. It is certainly  no worse
than  Guadalcanal. What bothers him  (he decides, making himself comfortable
on the sacks  of mysterious trash, staring up at a crack in the tarp) is not
understanding the purpose of it all.
     The rest of the platoon may or  may not be dead; he thinks he can still
hear some of them crying out, but it's hard to tell between  the pounding of
the  incoming surf  and the relentless  patter of  the machine gun.  Then he
realizes that some of them must be alive or else the Nips would not continue
to fire their gun.
     Shaftoe knows that he is closer to the gun than any of his buddies.  He
is the only one who has a chance.
     It  is  at  this  point  that  Shaftoe  makes his Big  Decision. It  is
surprisingly easy but then, really stupid decisions are always the easiest.
     He crawls  along  the log to the point that is  closest to  the machine
gun. Then he  draws  a few deep  breaths  in a row, rises to a  crouch,  and
vaults over the log! He has a clear view of the cave entrance now, the comet
shaped muzzle flash of the  machine gun tesselated  by the black grid of the
net  that  they put up  to reject incoming  grenades.  It is  all remarkably
clear. He looks back over the beach and sees motionless corpses.
     Suddenly he realizes they are  still firing the gun, not because any of
his buddies are alive,  but to use up all of their excess ammunition so that
they will not have to pack it out. Shaftoe is a grunt, and understands.
     Then the muzzle  swings abruptly towards him he has been sighted. He is
in the clear, totally exposed. He can dive into the jungle foliage, but they
will sweep it with fire  until  he is  dead. Bobby Shaftoe  plants his feet,
aims his  .45 into the cave, and begins pulling  the  trigger. The barrel of
the machine gun is pointing at him now.
     But it does not fire.
     His .45  clicks. It's empty. Everything is silent except  for the surf,
and for the screaming. Shaftoe holsters his .45 and pulls out his revolver.
     The voice that is doing the  screaming is unfamiliar.  It's  not one of
Shaftoe's buddies.
     A  Nipponese Imperial Marine bolts from the mouth of the cave, up above
the level of Shaftoe's head. The pupil of Shaftoe's right eye, the sights of
his revolver, and this Nip  are all arranged briefly along the same line for
a  moment, during  which  Shaftoe pulls the  trigger  a  couple of times and
almost certainly scores a hit.
     The  Imperial  Marine  gets  caught  in the netting and plunges  to the
ground in front of him.
     A   second  Nip  dives  out  of  the  cave  a  moment  later,  grunting
incoherently, apparently speechless with horror.  He lands wrong and  breaks
one of his leg  bones; Shaftoe can hear it snap. He  begins running  towards
the surf anyway, hobbling grotesquely on  the bad leg. He completely ignores
Shaftoe. There  is terrible bleeding from his neck and  shoulder, and  loose
chunks of flesh flopping around as he runs.
     Bobby Shaftoe holsters his revolver. He ought to shoulder his rifle and
plug the guy, but he is too confused to do anything for the moment.
     Something red flickers in the mouth of the cave. He glances up that way
and sees nothing clear enough to register against the deafening visual noise
of the jungle.
     Then he sees  the flash of red  again, and it  disappears again. It was
shaped like  a  sharpened  Y. It was shaped  like the  forked  tongue  of  a
     Then a moving slab of living jungle explodes from the mouth of the cave
and crashes into the foliage below. The tops of the plants shake  and topple
as it moves.
     It  is out, free  and clear,  on the beach. It is low  to  the  ground,
moving on  all fours. It  pauses for a moment and flicks its  tongue towards
the Imperial Marine  who is  now  hobbling into the Pacific Ocean some fifty
feet distant.
     Sand erupts  into the air, like smoke from the burning  tires of a drag
racer, and  the lizard is rocketing across the beach. It covers the distance
to the Imperial Marine in one, two, three seconds, takes him in the backs of
the knees, takes him down hard into the surf. Then  the lizard  is  dragging
the dead Nip  back up onto  the land.  It stretches him out there  among the
dead Americans, walks around him a couple of times, flicking its tongue, and
finally starts to eat him.
     "Sarge! We're here!" says Private Flanagan.  Before he even  wakes  up,
Bobby Shaftoe notices that Flanagan is speaking  in  a normal voice and does
not  sound  scared  or  excited.  Wherever  "here"  is, it's  not  someplace
dangerous. They are not under attack.
     Shaftoe opens his eyes just as  the tarp is being peeled back from  the
open top of the  truck. He stares straight up  into a blue  Italian sky torn
around  the edges by the scrabbling branches of  desperate trees. "Shit!" he
     "What's wrong, Sarge?"
     "I just always say that when I wake up," Shaftoe says.


     Their new home  turns out  to be an old stone farm building in an olive
farm, plantation, orchard or whatever the fuck you call a place where olives
are  grown. If this building were in Wisconsin, any cheesehead who passed by
would peg it as abandoned. Here, Shaftoe is not so sure. The roof has partly
collapsed into the building under the killing weight of  its red clay tiles,
and the  windows and  doorways  yawn,  open  to  the elements.  It's  a  big
structure, big enough that after several hours of sledgehammer work they are
able to drive one  of the trucks inside and conceal it from airborne snoops.
They unload the  sacks of trash from the other  truck. Then  the Italian guy
drives it away and never comes back.
     Corporal Benjamin, the radio man, gets busy  clambering up  olive trees
and stringing  copper wires around the place. The blokes of the  SAS  go out
and  reconnoiter while  the guys of the Marine Corps open the sacks of trash
and start spreading them around. There are several  months' worth of Italian
newspapers. All of them have been opened, rearranged, haphazardly  refolded.
Articles have been torn out, other articles circled or annotated in  pencil.
Chattan's orders are beginning to filter back into Shaftoe's brain; he heaps
these newspapers in the corners of the barn, oldest  ones  first, newer ones
on top.
     There is a whole sack filled with cigarette butts, carefully  smoked to
the nub. They  are of a  Continental brand  unfamiliar to  Shaftoe.  Like  a
farmer broadcasting seeds, he carries  this sack around the premises tossing
handfuls onto the ground, concentrating mostly on places where  people  will
actually work:  Corporal  Benjamin's table and another makeshift  table they
have  set up  for  eating and playing poker.  Likewise with a salad of  wine
corks and beer caps. An equal number of wine and beer bottles are flung, one
by  one,  into a dark and unused  corner of the barn. Bobby Shaftoe  can see
that this is the most satisfying work he will ever get, so he takes it over,
and flings  those bottles like a Green Bay  Packer quarterback firing spiral
passes into the sure hands of his plucky tight ends.
     The blokes come  back from reconnoitering  and there  is a  swappage of
roles; the Marines now  go out to familiarize themselves  with the territory
while  the SAS continue  unloading garbage. In an hour's worth  of wandering
around, Sergeant Shaftoe and Privates Flanagan and Kuehl determine that this
olive ranch is on a long skinny shelf of land that runs roughly north south.
To the west, the territory rises up steeply toward a conical peak that looks
suspiciously like a volcano. To the east, it drops, after  a few miles, down
towards  the  sea.  To the  north,  the plateau  dead ends  in  some  nasty,
impassable  scrubland,  and  to  the  south  it  opens  up on  more  farming
     Chattan wanted him to find a vantage point on the bay, as convenient as
possible to the barn. Toward sunset,  Shaftoe finds  it: a rocky outcropping
on the slopes of the volcano, half an hour's walk northeast of the  barn and
maybe five hundred feet above it in altitude.
     He and his Marines almost don't find their way back to the barn because
it has been  so well  hidden  by this point. The  SAS  have put  up blackout
shades over every opening, even  the  small chinks in the collapsed roof. On
the inside, they have settled in comfortably to the pockets of usable space.
With  all  of the  litter (now  enhanced  with  chicken  feathers and bones,
tonsorial trimmings  and  orange  peels)  it looks like they've been  living
there for a year, which, Shaftoe guesses, is the whole point.
     Corporal  Benjamin has about a  third of the  place to himself. The SAS
blokes keep calling  him a lucky sod. He has his transmitter set up now, the
tubes  glowing warmly, and he has an unbelievable amount of  paperwork. Most
of it's old and fake, just like the cigarette butts. But after  dinner, when
the sun is down not only here but in London, he begins tapping out the Morse
     Shaftoe knows Morse code, like  everyone else in the place. As the guys
and  the blokes sit around the table, anteing up for what promises to  be an
all  night Hearts  marathon,  they  keep  one  ear  cocked  towards Corporal
Benjamin's keying. What they hear  is gibberish. Shaftoe goes and looks over
Benjamin's shoulder  at one point, just to verify that  he  isn't crazy, and
sees he's right:
     and so on and so forth, for pages and pages.
     The next morning they dig a latrine and then proceed to fill it halfway
with a couple of barrels of genuine  U.S. Mil. Spec. General Issue 100% pure
certified  Shit. As  per  Chattan's  instructions,  they pour the  shit in a
dollop at a time, throwing in handfuls of crumpled  Italian newspapers after
each dollop to make it  look like it got there  naturally. With the possible
exception  of  being interviewed  by Lieutenant Reagan,  this  is the  worst
nonviolent job Shaftoe has ever had to do in the service of his  country. He
gives  everyone the rest  of  the day off, except for Corporal Benjamin, who
stays up until two in the morning banging out random gibberish.
     The next day they make  the observation post look good. They take turns
marching up there and back, up and back, up and back, wearing  a  trail into
the ground, and they scatter some cigarette butts and beverage containers up
there along with  some  general issue shit and  general issue piss. Flanagan
and  Kuehl hump a footlocker up there and hide it in the  lee  of a volcanic
rock. The locker contains books of silhouettes of various Italian and German
naval  and merchant ships,  and similar spotter's  guides for  airplanes, as
well as some binoculars, telescopes,  and camera equipment,  empty notepads,
and pencils.
     Even though Sergeant  Bobby Shaftoe is for the  most part  running this
show, he  finds  it  uncannily difficult  to arrange  a  moment  alone  with
Lieutenant Enoch Root. Root has been avoiding him  ever since their eventful
flight on  the Dakota. Finally,  on about the fifth day, Shaftoe tricks him;
he and a small contingent leave Root  alone  at the  observation point, then
Shaftoe doubles back and traps him there.
     Root  is  startled  to  see  Shaftoe come  back,  but  he  doesn't  get
particularly  upset.  He lights  up an  Italian cigarette and offers Shaftoe
one. Shaftoe  finds, irritatingly enough, that he is the nervous one. Root's
as cool as always.
     "Okay," Shaftoe  says, "what did  you  see? When you looked through the
papers we planted on the dead butcher what did you see?"
     "They were all written in German," Root says.
     "Fortunately,"  Root  continues,  "I  am  somewhat  familiar  with  the
     "Oh, yeah your mom was a Kraut, right?"
     "Yes, a medical missionary," Root says,  "in case that helps dispel any
of your preconceptions about Germans."
     "And your Dad was Dutch."
     "That is correct."
     "And they both ended up on Guadalcanal why?"
     "To help those who were in need."
     "Oh, yeah."
     "I also learned some Italian along the  way. There's a lot of it  going
around in the Church."
     "Fuck me," Shaftoe exclaims.
     "But  my  Italian  is  heavily  informed by  the  Latin that my  father
insisted that I learn. So I would probably sound rather old fashioned to the
locals. In fact, I would probably sound like a seventeenth century alchemist
or something."
     "Could you sound like a priest? They'd eat that up."
     "If  worse comes  to worst," Root allows, "I will try hitting them with
some God talk and we'll see what happens."
     They both puff on their  cigarettes and look  out across the large body
of water before them, which Shaftoe has learned is called the Bay of Naples.
"Well anyway," Shaftoe says, "what did it say on those papers?"
     "A lot of detailed  information about military  convoys between Palermo
and Tunis. Evidently stolen from classified German sources," Root says.
     "Old convoys, or..."
     "Convoys  that were still  in  the future,"  Root says  calmly. Shaftoe
finishes his  cigarette,  and does not speak for a  while. Finally  he says,
"Fuckin' weird." He stands up and begins walking back towards the barn.

     Chapter 25 THE CASTLE

     Just as Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse detrains,  some rakehell hits him
full in the face with a turn of brackish ice water. The barrage continues as
he walks a gauntlet of bucket slinging ne'er do  wells. But then he realizes
no  one's there. This is just an intrinsic quality of the  local atmosphere,
like fog in London.
     The staircase that leads over the tracks  to  Utter Maurby  Terminal is
enclosed  with roof and walls,  forming a gigantic organ pipe that resonates
with an infrasonic throb as it is  pummeled  by wind  and water. As he walks
into the  lower end of the staircase, the storm is suddenly peeled away from
his face and he is able to stand there for a moment and give this phenom the
full appreciation it deserves.
     Wind and water have been  whipped  into an essentially random froth  by
the storm. A microphone held up in the air would register only white noise a
complete absence of information. But when that noise  strikes the  long tube
of  the staircase, it drives a physical resonance that  manifests  itself in
Waterhouse's brain  as a low hum. The physics of the tube extract a coherent
pattern from meaningless noise! If only Alan were here!
     Waterhouse experiments by singing the harmonics of this low fundamental
tone: octave, fifth, fourth,  major third,  and so on. Each one resonates in
the  staircase to a greater or lesser degree. It is the same series of notes
made  by a brass instrument. By hopping from one note to another, Waterhouse
is able to play some passable bugle calls on the staircase. He does a pretty
decent reveille.
     "How lovely!"
     He spins around. A woman is standing  behind him, lugging a portmanteau
the size of a hay bale. She is perhaps fifty years old, with the physique of
a stove, and she  had a nice new big city permanent until a few seconds  ago
when she stepped out of  the train. Salt water  is running down her face and
neck and disappearing beneath her sturdy frock of grey Qwghlm wool.
     "Ma'am,"  Waterhouse  says.  Then he  busies  himself  with hauling her
portmanteau up to the top of the stairs. This  puts the two of them, and all
of their  luggage, on a narrow covered bridge that leads  across the  tracks
and into the terminal building. The bridge has windows in it, and Waterhouse
suffers a nauseating attack of vertigo as he looks through them, and through
the half inch of rain and saltwater that is streaming down them at any given
moment, towards the North Atlantic Ocean. This major body of water is only a
stone's throw away and is trying vigorously to get much closer. This must be
an optical illusion, but the tops of the waves  appear to be  level with the
plane on which they're standing despite the  fact  that it's at least twenty
feet off the ground. Each one of those waves  must weigh  as much  as all of
the freight trains in Great Britain combined, and  they  are rolling towards
them relentlessly, simply hammering  the living daylights out  of the rocks.
It all  makes Waterhouse want to pitch a  fit,  fall  down, and throw up. He
plugs his ears.
     "Are you a bandsman, then, I take it?" the lady enquires.
     Waterhouse turns to look at her.  Her gaze is  darting  back  and forth
around the front  of his uniform, checking the insignia. Then  she looks  up
into his face and gives him a grandmotherly smile.
     Waterhouse realizes,  in that instant, that this woman is a German spy.
Holy cow!
     "Only in peacetime, ma'am," he says. "The Navy has other uses, now, for
men with good ears."
     "Oh!" she exclaims, "you listen to things, do you?"
     Waterhouse smiles. "Ping! Ping!" he says, mimicking sonar.
     "Ah!" she says. "I am Harriett Qrtt." She holds out her hand.
     "Hugh Hughes," Waterhouse says, and shakes.
     "All mine.
     "You'll   be  needing   a  place  to  stay,  I  suppose."  She  blushes
ostentatiously. "Forgive me.  I just assume you are bound for Outer." That's
Outer, as in Outer Qwghlm. Right now, they are on Inner Qwghlm.
     "Quite right, actually," Waterhouse says.
     Like  every  other place name  in the  British Isles,  Inner and  Outer
Qwghlm represent a gross misnomer with ancient and probably comical origins.
Inner Qwghlm  is hardly even  an island; it is joined to the main  land by a
sandbar that used to come and go with the tides, but that has been beefed up
with a causeway that carries  a  road and the railway line.  Outer Qwghlm is
twenty miles away.
     "My husband and I operate  a small bed and  breakfast," Mrs. Qrtt says.
"We  should be honored to have  an Asdic man stay with  us." Asdic is simply
the  British  acronym for what Yanks refer  to as  sonar, but every time the
word  is mentioned in the presence of  Alan, he gets a naughty look  on  his
face and goes on an unstoppable punning tear.
     So he ends  up  at the Qrtt residence. Waterhouse and Mr. and Mrs. Qrtt
spend the  evening  huddled round the  only source of heat:  a coal  burning
toaster that has been bricked into the socket of an old  fireplace. Every so
often Mr. Qrtt  opens the door and pelts the ashes with a mote of coal. Mrs.
Qrtt ferries  out the chow and spies on Waterhouse. She notices his slightly
asymmetrical walk and manages  to ferret out that he had  a spot of polio at
one point. He plays the organ they have  a  pedal powered  harmonium in  the
parlor and she remarks on that.


     Waterhouse first sees Outer  Qwghlm through  a scupper. He doesn't even
know what a scupper is, except a modality  of vomiting. The  ferry crew gave
him and  the  other  half  dozen  passengers  detailed vomiting instructions
before they fought past the Utter Maurby breakwater, the salient point being
that if you  leaned  over  the  rail, you would  almost  certainly  be swept
overboard. Much better to  get down on  all  fours and aim at a scupper. But
half the time when Waterhouse peers down one of these, he sees not water but
some distant  point  on the horizon,  or seagulls chasing the ferry, or  the
distinctive three pronged silhouette of Outer Qwghlm.
     The prongs, called Sghrs, are basaltic  columns.  This being the middle
of  the  Second World War, and  Outer Qwghlm  being the part of  the British
Isles closest  to the  action  of the  Battle of the Atlantic, they are  now
flecked  with little white radio shacks and hairy with antennas. There is  a
fourth  sghr,  much  lower than the others and easily  mistaken  for  a mere
hillock, that rises  above Outer Qwghlm's  only harbor  (and,  indeed,  only
settlement, not counting the naval base on the other  side).  On top of this
fourth  sghr  is  the  castle that  is the  nominal home  of Nigel  St. John
Gloamthorpby  Woadmire and that is to be the new  headquarters of Detachment
     Five minutes' walk encompasses the whole town. A furious rooster chases
a feeble sheep down the main street. There is snow at the higher elevations,
but just  grey slush down here,  which  is indistinguishable  from  the grey
cobblestones  until  you  step  on  it  and  fall  down  on  your  ass.  The
Encyclopedia Qwghlmiana  had made much use of the definite article the Town,
the  Castle,  the  Hotel,  the  Pub, the Pier.  Waterhouse stops  in  at the
Shithouse to deal with some aftershocks of the sea voyage, and then walks up
the  Street. The Automobile pulls up  alongside  and offers him a  ride;  it
turns out to be the Taxi, too.  It takes him round the Park where he notices
the Statue (ancient Qwghlmians thrashing hapless Vikings); this gesture that
does not go unnoted by  the Taxi Driver, who veers into the Park to give him
a better look.
     The Statue is  the  sort  that  has  a great  deal to say and covers  a
correspondingly  large expanse  of real estate. Its  pedestal is  a  slab of
native basalt, covered on at least one side with what Waterhouse recognizes,
from the  Encyclopedia, as Qwghlmian runes. To an ignorant philistine, these
might look like an endless, random series of sans serif Xs, Is, Vs, hyphens,
asterisks, and upside down Vs. But it is an enduring source of pride to
     "We  didn't  care for  those Romans  and  that  Julius Caesar  fellow,"
observes  the taxi  driver, "and we weren't too  taken with  their  alphabet
     Indeed the Encyclopedia Qwghlmiana features a lengthy article about the
local system of runes.  The  author of this article  has such a  chip on his
shoulder that the thing is almost physically painful  to read. The Qwghlmian
practice of eschewing the use of curves and loops, forming all glyphs out of
straight lines, far from being crude as some English scholars  have asserted
gives the script a limpid austerity.  It is an admirably functional style of
writing in a place where (after all  the trees were cut down by the English)
most  of  the  literate  intellectual  class suffered from chronic bilateral

     Waterhouse has rolled  down the window so that  he  can  get  a clearer
view; apparently  someone has lost  the Squeegee.  The chill breeze  washing
over his face finally begins to clear  away  his seasickness, to  the  point
where  he begins to wonder how  he should go  about making contact  with the
     Then he realizes, with some disappointment, that if the Whore  has half
a brain in her head, she's across the island at the naval base.
     "Who's  the wretch?"  Waterhouse asks. He  points  to a  corner of  the
statue, where a  scrawny,  downtrodden loser,  with  an iron  collar  welded
around his  neck and a chain dangling from that, quivers  and  quails at the
carnage  being  meted out  by  the  strapping  Qwghlmian he  men. Waterhouse
already knows the answer, but he can't resist asking.
     "Hakh!" blurts the taxi driver, as if he is working up a loogie. "He is
from Inner Qwghlm, I can only suppose."
     "Of course."
     This exchange seems to have put the  driver  into a  foul  and vengeful
mood that can only be assuaged with  some fast driving. There are a dozen or
more  switchbacks in the road  up to the Castle, each  one glazed with black
ice and fraught with mortal danger. Waterhouse is glad he's not  walking it,
but  the switchbacks  and the  skating motion  of the taxi revive his motion
     "Hakh!" the driver  says, when they are about three quarters of the way
up, and nothing has  been said for several minutes. "They  practically  laid
out the welcome  mat for the Romans. They spread their legs for the Vikings.
There are probably Germans over there now!"
     "Speaking  of bile,"  Waterhouse says, "I need  you to  pull over. I'll
walk from here."
     The  driver is  startled and miffed,  but he  relents  when  Waterhouse
explains that the alternative is  a  lengthy  cleanup  job.  He  even drives
Duffel up to the top of the sghr and drops it off.
     Detachment 2702 arrives at the Castle some fifteen minutes later in the
person  of Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse USN, who is serving as  the advance
party. The  walk gives him  time to get  his story straight, to get  himself
into character. Chattan has warned him that there will be servants, and that
they will  notice things,  and that they will gossip. It would be  much more
convenient if the  servants could simply be packed  off  to the mainland for
the  duration, but this  would be a  discourtesy  to the  duke. "You  will,"
Chattan said, "have to work out a modus vivendi." Once Waterhouse had looked
this term up, he agreed heartily.
     The castle is a mound of rubble about the size of the Pentagon. The lee
corner has been fitted  out with a functional roof, electrical wiring, and a
few other  frills  such as doors and windows.  In  this  area, which  is all
Waterhouse gets to see for that first  afternoon and evening, you can forget
you are on Outer Qwghlm and pretend that you are in some greener and balmier
place such as the Scottish Highlands.
     The next morning, accompanied by the butler, Ghnxh, he strikes out into
other parts  of the building  and is delighted to  find that you can't  even
reach them without going outside; the internal connecting passages have been
mortared  shut  to  stanch  the seasonal migrations  of  skrrghs (pronounced
something  like "skerries"), the  frisky,  bright  eyed, long tailed mammals
that  are  the mascot  of  the  islands.  This  compartmentalization,  while
inconvenient, will be good for security.
     Both Waterhouse and Ghnxh are encased in planklike wrappings of genuine
Qwghlm wool,  and  the latter carries the GALVANICK LUCIPHER.  The Galvanick
Lucipher is of antique design. Ghnxh, who is  about a hundred years old, can
only  smile in condescension  at Waterhouse's U.S.  Navy flashlight. In  the
sotto  voce tones one might  use  to correct an enormous  social  gaffe,  he
explains that the galvanick lucipher is of such a superior design as to make
any further reference to the Navy model a grating embarrassment for everyone
concerned. He leads Waterhouse back to a special room behind the room behind
the room behind the  room behind the  pantry, a  room that exists solely for
maintenance  of the  galvanick lucipher and  the storage  of  its parts  and
supplies.  The  heart  of the device is a hand  blown  spherical  glass  jar
comparable  in  volume  to a gallon  jug. Ghnxh,  who suffers  from a pretty
advanced case of either hypothermia or Parkinson's, maneuvers a glass funnel
into the neck of the jar. Then  he wrestles a glass carboy from a shelf. The
carboy, labeled  AQUA REGIA,  is filled with a  fulminant orange liquid.  He
removes its glass  stopper, hugs it,  and heaves  it over so that the orange
fluid begins to glug out  into the funnel and thence into the jar.  Where it
splashes out onto  the tabletop, something very much like smoke  curls up as
it eats holes just  like the  thousands of  other holes  already there.  The
fumes  get  into  Waterhouse's  lungs;  they  are astoundingly corrosive. He
staggers out of the room for a while.
     When  he ventures back, he finds Ghnxh  whittling an electrode from  an
ingot of pure carbon. The jar of aqua regia has been capped off  now, and  a
variety  of anodes, cathodes, and other working  substances are suspended in
it,  held in place  by clamps of hammered  gold. Thick wires, in  insulating
sheathes of hand  knit asbestos,  twist out of the jar and into the business
end of the galvanick lucipher: a copper salad bowl whose mouth is closed off
by a Fresnel lens like the ones on a lighthouse. When  Ghnxh gets his carbon
whittled to just the right size and shape, he fits it into a little hatch in
the side of this bowl, and casually throws a Frankensteinian blade switch. A
spark pops across the contacts like a firecracker.
     For a moment,  Waterhouse thinks  that  one  wall of the  building  has
collapsed,  exposing  them to the  direct light of  the sun. But  Ghnxh  has
simply  turned on the galvanick lucipher, which soon becomes about ten times
brighter,  as  Ghnxh  adjusts  a  bronze  thumbscrew.  Crushed  with  shame,
Waterhouse  puts  his  Navy  flashlight  back  into its prissy  little  belt
holster, and precedes Ghnxh out of the room,  the galvanick lucipher casting
palpable warmth on the back of his neck. "We've got about two  hours  before
she goes dead on us," Ghnxh says significantly.
     They work out a modus vivendi,  all right: Waterhouse kicks an old door
open and then Ghnxh strides  into the room  that  is on the  other  side and
sweeps the beam of the lantern around as if it were a flame thrower, driving
back  dozens  or   hundreds  of  squealing  skerries.   Waterhouse  clambers
cautiously into the  room, typically  making  his  way  over  the  collapsed
remnants of whatever roof or story used to be overhead. He gives the place a
quick inspection, trying to gauge how much effort would be required to  make
it liveable for any more advanced organism.
     Half of the castle has, at one point  or another, been burned down by a
combination of Barbary corsairs,  lightning bolts,  Napoleon, and smoking in
bed. The Barbary corsairs  did the best  job of it (probably just trying  to
stay  warm),  or  maybe  it's just  that  the  elements have  had  longer to
decompose  what little was  left behind by the flames. In any  case, in that
section of the castle, Waterhouse finds  a  place where there's not too much
rubble to shovel out, and where they can  quickly enclose  an adequate space
with a  combination of tarps and planks. It is diametrically opposed to  the
part of the castle  that is still inhabited,  which  exposes  it  to  winter
storms but  protects it from the  prying eyes of the staff. Waterhouse paces
off some rough measurements,  then goes to his room, leaving Ghnxh to see to
the decommissioning of the galvanick lucipher.
     Waterhouse sketches out  some plans for the upcoming work, at long last
putting his hitherto misspent engineering skills to some use. He draws  up a
bill of required materials, naturally involving a good many numbers:
     100 8' 2 x 4s is a typical entry. He writes out the list a second time,
in words not  numbers: ONE HUNDRED EIGHT FOOT TWO  BY FOURS. This wording is
potentially confusing,  so  he  changes it to TWO BY FOUR BOARDS ONE HUNDRED
     Next he  pulls  a  sheet  of  what looks  like  ledger  paper,  divided
vertically into groups of five  columns.  Into these columns  he transcribes
the message, ignoring spaces:

     and so on. Wherever he encounters a letter  J he writes I in its stead,
so that JOIST comes out as IOIST. He only uses every third line of the page.
     Ever  since he left Bletchley Park, he has been carrying several sheets
of onionskin paper around in his breast pocket; when he sleeps, he puts them
under his  pillow. Now  he takes them out and selects one  page, which has a
serial  number  typed across the top  and  is otherwise covered with  neatly
typed letters like this:

     and so on, all the way down to the bottom of the page.
     These sheets were typed up by a Mrs. Tenney,  an aged vicar's  wife who
works  at Bletchley  Park. Mrs. Tenney  has a peculiar job which consists of
the following: she takes  two sheets of  onionskin paper and puts a sheet of
carbon paper between them and  rolls them into a  typewriter.  She  types  a
serial number at the top. Then she turns the crank on a device used in bingo
parlors, consisting of a spherical cage containing twenty five wooden balls,
each with a letter printed on it (the  letter J is not used). After spinning
the cage the exact number  of  times specified in the procedure  manual, she
closes her eyes, reaches through  a hatch in the cage, and removes a ball at
random. She reads the letter off  the  ball and types it, then  replaces the
ball,  closes the hatch, and repeats the process. From time to time, serious
looking  men come into the  room,  exchange pleasantries with her, and  take
away the sheets that she has produced. These sheets end up in the possession
of men like Waterhouse, and men  in infinitely more desperate  and dangerous
circumstances, all over the world. They are called one time pads.
     He  copies  the  letters from  the  one time pad into  the  empty lines
beneath his message:

     When he is finished, two out of every three lines are occupied.
     Finally, he returns to the top of  the page one last time and begins to
consider  the letters two at a  time.  The first letter in the message is T.
The  first  letter from the  one time pad, directly  below  it  in the  same
column, is A.
     A is the first letter  in  the alphabet and so Waterhouse, who has been
doing this cipher stuff for much too long, thinks of it as being  synonymous
with the number 1. In the same way, T is equivalent to 19 if you are working
in a J less alphabet. Add 1 to 19 and you get 20, which is the letter U. So,
in the first column beneath T and A, Waterhouse writes a U.
     The  next  vertical  pair is W and T,  or  22 and 19,  which  in normal
arithmetic add up to 41, which has no letter equivalent; it's too large. But
it  has  been many years  since  Waterhouse  did normal arithmetic.  He  has
retrained his  mind  to work in modular arithmetic specifically, modulo  25,
which  means  that  you  divide  everything  by  25  and  consider only  the
remainder.  41 divided by 25 is 1 with a remainder of 16. Throw  away the  1
and the 16 translates  into the letter Q, which is what Waterhouse writes in
the second column. In the third column, O and H give 14 + 8 = 22 which is W.
In the fourth, B and O give 2 + 14 = 16 which is Q. And in the fifth, Y  and
P give 24 + 15 which  is 39.  39 divided by 25  is 1 with a remainder of 14.
Or, as Waterhouse would phrase it, 39 modulo 25 equals 14. The letter for 14
is O. So the first code group looks like

     By adding the random sequence ATHOP onto the meaningful sequence TWOBY,
Waterhouse has produced undecipherable gibberish. When he has enciphered the
entire message in this way, he takes  out a new page and copies out only the
ciphertext UQWQO and so on.
     The  duke has  a cast iron telephone which  he has put  at Waterhouse's
disposal. Waterhouse heaves it out of its cradle, rings the operator, places
a call across the island to the naval station,  and  gets through to a radio
man. He reads the ciphertext message to him letter by  letter. The radio man
copies it down and informs Waterhouse that it will be transmitted forthwith.
     Very  soon, Colonel Chattan,  down in  Bletchley Park,  will  receive a
message  that begins with UQWQO  and goes on in that vein. Chattan possesses
the other  copy  of  Mrs.  Tenney's  one  time pad.  He will  write out  the
ciphertext  first,  using every third  line. Beneath the ciphertext  he will
copy in the text from the one time pad:

     He  will  then perform  a  subtraction  where  Waterhouse  performed an
addition. U minus A means 20 minus 1 which equals 19 which gives the  letter
T. Q minus T means 16 minus  19 which equals 3, giving us 22 which is W. And
so  on.  Having deciphered  the  whole  message,  he'll  get  to  work,  and
eventually two by fours one hundred count will show up at the Pier.

     Chapter 26 WHY

     Epiphyte Corp.'s business plan is about an inch thick, neither  fat nor
skinny  as these things  go.  The interior  pages  are slickly and  groovily
desktop published out of Avi's laptop. The covers are rugged hand laid paper
of  rice  chaff,  bamboo tailings, free range  hemp, and crystalline glacial
meltwater made by wizened artisans operating out  of a mist shrouded  temple
hewn from  living  volcanic  rock on some  island known  only to aerobically
gifted, Spandex sheathed  Left Coast travel bores. An impressionistic map of
the  South China  Sea has  been dashed  across  these covers by  molecularly
reconstructed Ming  Dynasty calligraphers  using brushes  of  combed unicorn
mane dipped into ink made of grinding down charcoal slabs fashioned by blind
stylite monks from hand charred fragments of the True Cross.
     The actual  content of the  business  plan hews  to a logical structure
straight  out  of the  Principia Mathematica. Lesser  entrepreneurs purchase
business  plan writing software: packages  of  boilerplate  text and  spread
sheets, craftily linked together so  that you need only go through  and fill
in  a few  blanks. Avi and Beryl have written enough business plans  between
the  two of  them that they can  smash them  out  from brute  memory.  Avi's
business plans tend to go something like this:
     MISSION: At [name  of  company] it is  our conviction  that [to  do the
stuff  we  want  to  do]  and  to increase shareholder value are not  merely
complementary activities they are inextricably linked.
     PURPOSE: To increase shareholder value by [doing stuff]
     EXTREMELY  SERIOUS WARNING (printed on a  separate page, in red letters
on a yellow background):  Unless  you are as smart as Johann  Karl Friedrich
Gauss, savvy as  a  half blind Calcutta bootblack,  tough as General William
Tecumseh Sherman,  rich as the Queen of England,  emotionally resilient as a
Red  Sox  fan, and as generally able to take care of yourself as the average
nuclear missile submarine commander, you should never have been allowed near
this document. Please  dispose  of  it as you would any piece of high  level
radioactive waste and then arrange with a qualified surgeon to amputate your
arms at the  elbows and  gouge your eyes from their sockets. This warning is
necessary because once, a hundred years ago, a little old  lady  in Kentucky
put a hundred dollars into a dry goods company which went belly up and  only
returned her ninety nine dollars. Ever since then the government has been on
our  asses. If you ignore this warning, read on at your peril you  are  dead
certain to  lose everything  you've  got  and live  out your  final  decades
beating back waves of termites in a Mississippi Delta leper colony.
     Still reading? Great. Now that we've scared off the lightweights, let's
get down to business.
     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: We will raise [some money], then [do some stuff] and
increase shareholder value. Want details? Read on.
     INTRODUCTION:  [This  trend],  which  everyone  knows about, and  [that
trend], which is so incredibly arcane that you probably didn't know about it
until just now, and [this other trend over here] which might seem, at  first
blush, to  be completely unrelated, when all taken together, lead us  to the
(proprietary, secret, heavily patented, trademarked, and NDAed) insight that
we could increase  shareholder value  by  [doing  stuff]. We will  need $ [a
large  number]  and  after [not  too long]  we  will  be able to realize  an
increase in value to $ [an even larger number], unless [hell freezes over in
     Phase 1: After taking vows of celibacy and abstinence  and forgoing all
of our  material  possessions for homespun robes, we (viz, appended resumes)
will move into a  modest complex  of  scavenged  refrigerator boxes  in  the
central  Gobi  Desert,  where real estate is so cheap  that  we are actually
being paid to occupy it,  thereby enhancing shareholder value even before we
have actually done anything. On  a daily ration consisting of  a  handful of
uncooked rice and a ladleful of water, we will [begin to do stuff].
     Phase 2, 3, 4, . . . , n  1: We will [do more stuff, steadily enhancing
shareholder value in the process] unless [the earth is struck by an asteroid
a thousand miles in diameter, in which case certain assumptions will have to
be readjusted; refer to Spreadsheets 397 413].
     Phase n: before the ink on our Nobel Prize certificates is dry, we will
confiscate the property of our competitors, including anyone  foolish enough
to have  invested  in their pathetic companies. We will  sell  all of  these
people   into  slavery.  All  proceeds  will  be   redistributed  among  our
shareholders, who  will  hardly notice, since Spreadsheet  265  demonstrates
that, by this  time, the company will be  larger than the British  Empire at
its zenith.
     SPREADSHEETS: [Pages and pages  of numbers in  tiny print, conveniently
summarized  by  graphs  that  all  seem  to be exponential  curves screaming
heavenward,  albeit  with  enough  pseudo  random  noise  in  them  to  lend
     RESUMES: Just recall the opening reel of The Magnificent  Seven and you
won't have to  bother with this part;  you should crawl to us on  hands  and
knees and beg us for the privilege of paying our salaries.


     To Randy and the others,  the business plan  functions as Torah, master
calendar, motivational text, philosophical treatise. It is a dynamic, living
document.  Its spreadsheets  are palimpsests,  linked to the company's  bank
accounts and  financial records  so that they  automatically adjust whenever
money flows in or  out. Beryl handles that stuff. Avi handles  the words the
underlying,  abstract  plan, and the  concrete  details,  that  inform those
spreadsheets interpreting  the numbers. Avi's part of the  plan mutates too,
from week  to week, as he  gets new input  from articles  in  the Asian Wall
Street Journal, conversations with government officials in flyblown Shenzhen
karaoke bars, remote sensing data  pouring in from satellites,  and  obscure
technical  journals   analyzing  the  latest  advances   in   optical  fiber
technology.  Avi's brain  also  digests the  ideas of Randy  and  the  other
members of  the  group  and incorporates them into the plan.  Every quarter,
they take a  snapshot of the business plan in its current state, trowel some
Maybelline onto it, and ship out new copies to investors.
     Plan Number Five is about to be mailed simultaneous  with the company's
first anniversary. An  early draft had been sent to each of them a couple of
weeks ago in an  encrypted e mail message, which  Randy  hadn't  bothered to
read, assuming he knew its contents. But little cues that  he's picked up in
the last few  days tell him that  he'd  better find  out what the damn thing
actually says.
     He fires up  his  laptop, plugs it into  a telephone jack, opens up his
communications software, and dials a  number in California. This  last turns
out  to be  easy, because this is a modern hotel and  Kinakuta has a  modern
phone  system.  If  it  hadn't  been  easy,  it  probably  would  have  been
     In a  small,  stuffy,  perpetually  dark,  hot plastic  scented  wiring
closet,  in a cubicled  office  suite leased  by Novus Ordo Seclorum Systems
Incorporated,  sandwiched between an escrow  company  and  a discount travel
agent in the  most banal imaginable disco  era office building in Los Altos,
California,  a modem  wakes  up  and  spews  noise  down  a  wire. The noise
eventually travels  under  the  Pacific  as a pattern of scintillations in a
filament of glass so  transparent that if the ocean itself were  made out of
the same  stuff, you'd be able to see Hawaii from California. Eventually the
information reaches Randy's computer,  which spews noise  back. The modem in
Los Altos is  one of half a dozen that are  all connected to the back of the
same  computer, an entirely typical  looking tower  PC of  a  generic brand,
which has been  running, night and day, for  about  eight  months now.  They
turned its monitor  off about seven  months ago because it  was just wasting
electricity. Then John Cantrell (who is on  the board of Novus Ordo Seclorum
Systems  Inc.,  and  made  arrangements to put  it in the company's  closet)
borrowed the monitor because one of the coders who was working on the latest
upgrade  of  Ordo needed  a second  screen.  Later, Randy  disconnected  the
keyboard and mouse because, without a monitor, only bad information could be
fed into the system. Now it is just a faintly hissing off white obelisk with
no human interface other than  a cyclopean green LED staring out over a dark
landscape of empty pizza boxes.
     But there  is  a  thick  coaxial cable connecting it to  the  Internet.
Randy's computer talks to  it for a few  moments, negotiating the terms of a
Point to Point Protocol,  or PPP connection, and  then Randy's little laptop
is part of  the Internet, too; he can send data to Los Altos, and the lonely
computer  there,  which  is  named  Tombstone, will route it in  the general
direction of any of several tens of millions of other Internet machines.
     Tombstone,  or as it is  known to the  Internet,
has  an inglorious existence as a mail  drop and  a cache for files. It does
nothing that a thousand online services couldn't do for them more easily and
cheaply.  But  Avi,   with  his  genius  for  imagining  the  most  horrific
conceivable worst case scenarios, demanded that they have their own machine,
and that Randy and the others go through its kernel code one line at a  time
to verify that  there were no security holes. In every book store window  in
the Bay Area,  piled in heaps,  were thousands of copies of  three different
books about how a famous cracker had established total control over a couple
of  well  known  online  services.  Consequently, Epiphyte  Corp. could  not
possibly  use such an  online  service for  its secret  files while  with  a
straight face saying that it was exerting due diligence on its shareholders'
behalf. Thus
     Randy logs on and checks his mail: forty seven messages,  including one
that came two days ago from Avi ( that is labeled:
     epiphyteBizPlan.5.4.ordo. Epiphyte  Business  Plan,  5th  edition,  4th
draft, in a file format  that can  only be  read by [Novus] Ordo [Seclorum],
which is wholly owned by the company of the same name, but whose hard  parts
were written, as it happens, by John Cantrell.
     He tells the computer to begin downloading that file it's going to take
a while. In the  meantime, he  scrolls  through the list of other  messages,
checking  the names of their senders, subject headings, and sizes, trying to
figure  out,  first  of all,  how many of  these can  simply be  thrown away
     Two messages jump out  because they are from an address that ends  with,  the cyberspace  neighborhood of parents and children  but never of
students, hackers, or people who actually  work in high tech. Both  of these
are from Randy's  lawyer,  who  is trying  to get Randy's  financial affairs
disentangled from Charlene's with as little rancor  as possible. Randy feels
his blood pressure  spiking,  millions  of capillaries  in the brain bulging
ominously. But they  are very short  files,  and  the  subject headings seem
innocuous, so he calms down and decides not to worry about them now.
     Five  messages originate  from computers  with extremely familiar names
systems that are  part of the  campus  computer network  he used to run. The
messages come from system administrators who  took over the reins when Randy
left, guys who long ago asked him all the easy questions, such as What's the
best place to order pizza? and  Where did you hide the staples? and have now
gotten to the  point  of e mailing him  chunks  of arcane code that he wrote
years  ago  with  questions like, Was this an error, or something incredibly
clever I  haven't figured out  yet? Randy declines to answer  those messages
just now.
     There  are about  a  dozen  messages from friends,  some  of  them just
passing along Net  humor  that  he's already  seen a hundred  times. Another
dozen from other members of Epiphyte Corp., mostly concerning the details of
their itineraries as they all converge on Kinakuta for tomorrow's meeting.
     That  leaves a  dozen or so other  messages which  belong in  a special
category that  did not  exist  until a week ago, when a new issue of  TURING
Magazine  came  out,  containing  an  article about  the Kinakuta data haven
project,  and a cover  photo of Randy on a  boat in the Philippines. Avi had
gone to some lengths to  plant this article  so that he would have something
to wave in the faces of the other participants in tomorrow's meeting. TURING
is such a visual magazine that it cannot be viewed without the protection of
welding goggles,  and  so they  insisted on  a picture.  A  photographer was
dispatched to  the Crypt,  which was found visually wanting. A tizzy ensued.
The photographer was diverted to Manila Bay where he captured Randy standing
on a boat deck next to a big reel of orange cable, a volcano rising from the
smog in  the back  ground. The magazine  won't  even be  on  newsstands  for
another  month, but the article  is on  the  Web as  of a week ago, where it
instantly  became  a subject of  discussion on  the Secret Admirers  mailing
list,  which is where all of the cool  guys like John Cantrell hang  out  to
discuss  the  very  latest  hashing  algorithms  and  pseudo  random  number
generators.  Because  Randy  happened  to  be  in  the  picture,  they  have
mistakenly fastened upon  him as being more of a prime mover  than he really
is.  This  has  spawned  a  new category  of messages  in  Randy's  mailbox:
unsolicited advice and criticism from crypto freaks worldwide. At the moment
there are fourteen such messages in his in box, eight of them from a person,
or persons, identifying himself, or themselves, as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.
     It  would be tempting to ignore these, but the problem is that a  solid
majority of people  on the Secret Admirers mailing list are about ten  times
as smart  as Randy.  You  can check the  list anytime you want  and  find  a
mathematics  professor  in Russia slugging it out with  another  mathematics
professor in  India,  kilobyte for  kilobyte, over  some stupefyingly arcane
detail in  prime number theory, while an  eighteen  year old, tube  fed math
prodigy in Cambridge jumps  in every  few days with an even more  stupefying
explanation of why they are both wrong.
     So when people  like this send him mail,  Randy tries to at least  skim
it.  He is a little  leery of the  ones  who  identify themselves as Admiral
Isoroku Yamamoto, or with the number 56 (which  is a code meaning Yamamoto).
But just because they are political verging on flaky doesn't mean they don't
know their math.
     Subject: data haven
     Do you have public key somewhere posted? I would  like to exchange mail
with you  but I don't want Paul  Comstock to  read it:) My public key if you
care to respond is
     –  BEGIN ORDO  PUBLIC  KEY  BLOCK  –  (lines and  lines  of
     Your concept of  data haven is good but has important limits.  What  if
Philippine  government shuts down your cable? Or if the good Sultan  changes
his mind, decides to nationalize your computers, read all the disks? What is
needed is  not ONE data haven but a NETWORK of data havens more robust, just
like Internet is more robust than single machine.
     The Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto who signs his messages thus:
     –  BEGIN  ORDO  SIGNATURE  BLOCK  –  (lines  and  lines  of
     Randy closes that one without responding. Avi doesn't want them talking
to  Secret Admirers for  fear  that  they  will later be accused of stealing
someone's ideas, so the reply to all of these  e mails is a form letter that
Avi paid  some  intellectual property lawyer about  ten thousand dollars  to
     He reads another message simply because of the return address:
     On a UNIX machine, "root" is the name of the most godlike of all users,
the one who can read, erase, or edit any file, who can run any program,  who
can sign up new users and  terminate  existing  ones. So receiving a message
from someone who has the  account  name "root" is like getting a letter from
someone who  has the  title "President"  or  "General"  on  his  letterhead.
Randy's been root on a few different systems, some  of which were worth tens
of millions of dollars, and professional courtesy demands  he  at least read
this message.
     I read about your project.
     Why are you doing it?
     followed by an Ordo signature block.
     One  has  to  assume  this  is  an  attempt  to  launch  some  sort  of
philosophical debate. Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet  is a
sucker's  game  because  they  almost  always  turn  out  to  be  or  to  be
indistinguishable from self righteous sixteen year olds  possessing infinite
amounts  of free time.  And  yet the "root" address either  means that  this
person is in  charge of a large computer installation, or (much more likely)
has a Finux  box on his desk  at home. Even a  home Finux user has got to be
several cuts above  your average Internet surfing dilettante. Randy opens up
a terminal window and types
     and a second later gets back a block of text from the InterNIC: (Societas Eruditorum)
     followed by a mailing address: a P.O. Box in Leipzig, Germany.
     After  that a  few contact numbers are listed.  All  of  them  have the
Seattle area code. But the three digit exchanges, after the area code,  look
familiar  to Randy,  and he recognizes  them as gateways into  a  forwarding
service, popular among the highly mobile, that  will bounce your voice mail,
faxes, etc.  to wherever you  happen  to be at the moment. Avi, for example,
uses it all the time.
     Scrolling down, Randy finds:
     Record last updated on 18 Nov 98.
     Record created on 1 Mar 90.
     The "90" jumps out. That's a prehistoric date by Internet standards. It
means that Societas Eruditorum was way  ahead of the game.  Especially for a
group based in Leipzig, which was part of East Germany until about then.
     Domain servers in listed order:
     followed  by  the  dotted  quad  for,  which  is  a  packet
anonymizer used  by  many Secret  Admirers to  render  their  communications
     It all adds up to nothing, yet Randy can't get away with assuming  that
this message came from a bored sixteen year  old.  He should  probably  make
some token response. But he's afraid that it'll turn out to be a come on for
some  kind of  business proposition: probably some mangy  high tech  company
that's looking for capital.
     In the  latest version  of  the business plan,  there is  probably some
explanation of why Epiphyte(2) is  building  the Crypt. Randy can simply cut
and paste  it  into an e mail reply to  It'll be
something   vaporous  and  shareholder  pleasing,  and  therefore  kind   of
alienating. With any luck it will discourage  this person from pestering him
anymore. Randy double clicks on Ordo's eyeball/pyramid icon, and it opens up
a  little text window on the  screen, where he  is invited to type commands.
Ordo's also got a lovely graphical  user interface, but  Randy scorns it. No
menus or buttons for him. He types
     >decrypt epiphyteBizPlan.5.4.ordo
     The computer responds
     verify your  identity: enter  the  pass  phrase  or  'bio' to  opt  for
biometric verification.
     Before Ordo will decrypt the file, it needs  to have  the private  key:
all  4096 bits  of it. The  key is stored on Randy's hard disk. But bad guys
can break into hotel rooms and read the contents of  hard disks, so  the key
itself has been encrypted. In order to decrypt it, Ordo needs the key to the
key, which (in  Cantrell's one  concession to user friendliness)  is a  pass
phrase: a string  of words, easier to remember than 4096  binary digits. But
it has to be a long phrase or else it's too easy to break.
     The last  time Randy  changed  his pass phrase, he  was reading another
World War II memoir. He types:
     >with  hoarse shouts of "banzai!"  the drunken Nips  swarmed  out of
their trenches,  their  swords  and bayonets flashing in  the beams  of  our
     and hits the "return" key. Ordo responds:
     incorrect pass phrase
     reenter the pass phrase or "bio" to use biometric verification.
     Randy  curses and tries  it a few more times,  with  slight changes  in
punctuation. Nothing works.
     In desperation and out of curiosity, he tries:
     and the software responds:
     unable to locate biometric configuration file. Talk to Cantrell : /
     Which is of course not a normal  part of the  software.  Ordo  does not
come  with biometric verification, nor do its error messages  refer to  John
Cantrell, or anyone else, by name. Cantrell has apparently written a plug in
module, a little add on, and distributed it to his friends in Epiphyte(2).
     "Fine," Randy  says, picks up his phone, and dials John Cantrell's room
number. This  being a brand new, modern hotel, he gets a  voice  mail box in
which John has actually bothered to record an informative greeting.
     "This   is   John  Cantrell  of   Novus   Ordo  Seclorum  and  Epiphyte
Corporations. For those of you who have reached me using my  universal phone
number  and  consequently have no idea where I am:  I am in  the Hotel Foote
Mansion in the Sultanate of Kinakuta please  consult  a quality atlas. It is
four o'clock  in the afternoon, Thursday  March  twenty first. I'm  probably
down in the Bomb and Grapnel."


     The Bomb  and  Grapnel is the pirate  themed hotel bar, which is not as
cheesy  as  it sounds.  It  is  decorated  with (among  other  museum  grade
memorabilia)  several brass  cannons  that seem authentic.  John Cantrell is
seated at a corner table, looking as at home here as a man in a black cowboy
hat possibly can.  His laptop is open on the table  next to a rum drink that
has  been served  up in a soup tureen. A two foot long  straw connects it to
Cantrell's mouth. He sucks  and types. Watching incredulously  is a cadre of
tough  looking Chinese  businessmen sitting at the bar;  when they see Randy
coming in, carrying his own laptop, they buzz up. Now there's two of them!

     Cantrell looks  up  and  grins something he cannot do  without  looking
fiendish.  He  and Randy shake hands triumphantly. Even  though they've only
been riding around on 747s, they feel like Stanley and Livingstone.
     "Nice tan,"  Cantrell  says puckishly,  all  but twirling his mustache.
Randy's caught off guard, starts and stops talking twice, finally shakes his
head in defeat. Both men laugh.
     "I got the tan  on boats," Randy says, "not by the hotel pool. The last
couple of weeks, I've been putting out fires all over the place."
     "Nothing that'll impact shareholder value, I hope," Cantrell deadpans.
     Randy says, "You're looking encouragingly pale."
     "Everything's  fine on  my end," Cantrell says. "It's  like I predicted
lots of Secret Admirers want to work on a real data haven."
     Randy orders  a  Guinness and says, "You also  predicted that a lot  of
those people would turn out to be squirrelly and undisciplined."
     "Didn't hire those,"  Cantrell says.  "And with Eb  to handle the weird
stuff,  we've  been  able  to roll right  over  the  few speed  bumps  we've
     "Have you seen the Crypt?"
     Cantrell raises an eyebrow and  shoots  him  a flawless imitation of  a
paranoid glance. "It's like that  NORAD command bunker in Colorado Springs,"
he says.
     "Yeah!" Randy laughs. "Cheyenne Mountain."
     "It's too big," Cantrell announces. He knows Randy is thinking the same
     So  Randy decides  to  play  devil's  advocate.  "But  the sultan  does
everything big. There are big paintings of him in the big airport."
     Cantrell  shakes  his  head.  "The  Information Ministry is  a  serious
project. The sultan didn't just make it up. His technocrats conceived it."
     "I'm told Avi did a little bit of deft turkey baster work ..."
     "Whatever. But  the people behind it,  like  Mohammed Pragasu, are  all
Stanford B School types. Oxford and Sorbonne graduates. It's been engineered
to the doorstops by Germans. That cave is not a monument to the sultan."
     "No, it's not a vanity project," Randy agrees, thinking of  the  chilly
machine  room  that Tom  Howard is building  a thousand feet below the cloud
     "So there must be some rational explanation for how big it is."
     "Maybe it's in the business plan?" ventures Randy.
     Cantrell shrugs; he hasn't  read it  either. "The last one I read cover
to cover was Plan One. A year ago," admits Randy.
     "That was a good business plan," Cantrell says. (1)
     Randy changes  the subject. "I forgot my pass  phrase. Need  to do that
biometric thing with you."
     "It's too noisy here," Cantrell says,  "it  works by listening  to your
voice, doing Fourier shit,  remembering a few key numbers. We'll do it in my
room later."
     Feeling  some need to explain why he  hasn't been keeping up with his e
mail,  Randy says,  "I have been  totally obsessed,  interfacing  with these
AVCLA people in Manila."
     "Yup. How's that going?"
     "Look. My job's pretty simple," Randy says. "There's that big Nipponese
cable from  Taiwan down  to Luzon. A  router at  each end. Then  there's the
network of short run, interisland cables that the AVCLA people are laying in
the  Philippines. Each  cable segment  begins and ends at  a router,  as you
know. My job  is to program the routers, make sure the data will always have
a clear path from Taiwan to Kinakuta."
     Cantrell  glances away, worried  that  he's about  to get bored.  Randy
practically  lunges across  the table,  because he  knows it's  not  boring.
"John! You are a major credit card company!"
     "Okay." Cantrell meets his gaze, slightly unnerved.
     "You  are storing  your  data  in the  Kinakuta data haven. You need to
download a terabyte  of crucial  data. You begin the process  your encrypted
bytes are screaming up through the  Philippines at a gigabyte per second, to
Taiwan, from there across to  the States."  Randy pauses and swigs Guinness,
building the drama. "Then a ferry capsizes off Cebu."
     "So, in the space of ten minutes, a hundred thousand Filipinos all pick
up their telephones simultaneously."
     Cantrell actually whacks his forehead. "Oh, my god!"
     "Now  you understand! I've  been configuring  this network  so that  no
matter what happens, the data continues to flow to that credit card company.
Maybe at a reduced speed but it flows."
     "Well, I can see how that would keep you busy."
     "And  that's why  all I'm really  up to  speed on is these routers. And
incidentally  they're good routers, but they just don't have enough capacity
to feed a Crypt of that size, or justify it economically."
     "The gist of Avi and  Beryl's explanation,"  Cantrell  says,  "is  that
Epiphyte is no longer the sole carrier into the Crypt."
     "But we're laying the cable here from Palawan "
     "The sultan's minions  have been  out drumming  up  business," Cantrell
says. "Avi and Beryl are being vague, but from comparing notes with Tom, and
reading tea leaves, methinks there's one, maybe two other cables coming into
     "Wow!"  Randy says. It's all  he  can think of. "Wow!"  He drinks about
half of his Guinness.  "It makes  sense. If  they're doing it  once with us,
they can do it again, with other carriers.
     "They used us as leverage to bring in others," Cantrell says.
     "Well . . . the question is, then, is the cable through the Philippines
still needed? Or wanted?"
     "Yup," Cantrell says.
     "It is?"
     "No. I mean, yup, that's the question, all right."
     Randy considers  it.  "Actually, this could be good news for your phase
of the  operation. More pipes into the Crypt means more business in the long
     Cantrell  raises his eyebrows, a little worried about Randy's feelings.
Randy leans back in  his chair and  says,  "We've had  debates before  about
whether it makes sense  for Epiphyte to  be screwing around with cables  and
routers in the Philippines."
     Cantrell  says, "The business plan has  always maintained that it would
make economic  sense to  be running a cable through the Philippines  even if
there weren't a Crypt at the end of it."
     "The  business plan has to say  the Intra Philippines network  could be
spun off  as  an independent  business, and still survive,"  Randy says, "to
justify our doing it."
     Neither one of  them needs to say any  more. They've been concentrating
on each other pretty intensely for a while, shutting out the rest of the bar
with  their  postures,  and  now,  spontaneously,  both of them  lean  back,
stretch, and  begin looking around.  The timing's  fortuitous, because  Goto
Furudenendu has just come in with a posse of  what  Randy  guesses are civil
engineers: healthy looking, clean cut Nipponese men in their thirties. Randy
invites him over with a smile, then flags down their waiter and orders a few
of those great big bottles of bitterly cold Nipponese beer.
     "This  reminds me  the  Secret Admirers are really  on  my case," Randy
     Cantrell grins, showing some affection for those crazy Secret Admirers.
"Smart, rabidly  paranoid people are the backbone of  cryptology,"  he says,
"but they don't always understand business."
     "Maybe they understand it  too well," Randy  says. He is left with some
residual annoyance that he came down to the Bomb and Grapnel party  in order
to  answer  the  question  posed by ("Why are you doing
it?") and he still doesn't know. As a matter of fact, he knows less now than
he did before.
     Then the  men from  Goto join them,  and it just  happens that Eberhard
Föhr and Tom Howard show up at just the same time. There is  a combinatorial
explosion of  name card exchanges and introductions. It seems  like protocol
demands  a  lot  of  serious  social  drinking   now  Randy's  inadvertently
challenged these guys'  politeness by  ordering them  beer, and they have to
demonstrate that  they will not be  bested in  any such  contest. Tables get
pushed  together  and everything  gets just unbelievably jovial. Eb  has  to
order some beer for everyone too.  Pretty soon things have  degenerated into
karaoke. Randy gets up and sings "Me and  You and a  Dog Named Boo." It's  a
good choice because  it's a mellow, laid back song that  doesn't demand lots
of emoting. Or singing ability, for that matter.
     At some  point  Tom Howard  puts  his  beefy  arm up  on  the  back  of
Cantrell's chair, the better  to shout into his ear. Their matched Eutropian
bracelets,  engraved  with  "Hello  Doctor,  please  freeze  me  as follows"
messages,  are  glittery and  conspicuous,  and  Randy's  nervous  that  the
Nipponese guys are  going  to  notice  this  and ask questions  that will be
exceedingly difficult to answer. Tom is reminding Cantrell of something (for
some reason they always refer to Cantrell in this way; some people  are just
made to be called by last names). Cantrell nods and shoots Randy a quick and
somewhat furtive look. When  Randy looks back at him,  Cantrell glances down
apologetically and takes to chivvying his beer  bottle nervously between his
hands. Tom just keeps looking at Randy kind  of  interestedly.  All of  this
motivated glancing finally brings Randy and Tom and Cantrell together at the
farthest end of the bar from the karaoke speakers.
     "So, you  know  Andrew Loeb," Cantrell  says. It's clear he's basically
dismayed by this and yet sort of impressed too, as if he'd just learned that
Randy had once beaten a man to death with his bare hands and then just never
bothered to mention it.
     "It's true," Randy says. "As well as anyone can know a guy like that."
     Cantrell is paying undue diligence to the  project of picking the label
off of  his  beer bottle  and so Tom picks up  the thread  now. "You were in
business together?"
     "Not really. Can I ask how you guys are aware of this?  I  mean, how do
you  even know that Andrew  Loeb exists in  the first place? Because  of the
Digibomber thing?"
     "Oh, no it was after that. Andy became a  figure of note in some of the
circles where Tom and I both hang out," Cantrell says.
     "The only  circles I can  imagine that Andy'd be  a  part  of would  be
primitive  survivalists,  and  people who  believe they've  been Satanically
ritually abused."
     Randy says  this mindlessly,  as  if his mouth is a mechanical teletype
hammering out a weather forecast. It kind of hangs there.
     "That helps fill in a few gaps," Tom finally says.
     "What did you think  when the FBI searched  his  cabin?" Cantrell asks,
his grin returned.
     "I didn't know  what to think,"  Randy  says. "I remember  watching the
videotape on the  news  the  agents coming out of  that shack  with boxes of
evidence, and thinking my  name  must be on papers in them. That somehow I'd
get mixed up in the case as a result."
     "Did the FBI ever contact you?" Tom asks.
     "No.  I think  that once they searched through  all of  his stuff, they
figured out  pretty quickly that he wasn't the  Digibomber, and  crossed him
off the list."
     "Well,  not long  after that happened, Andy Loeb showed up on the Net,"
Cantrell says.
     "I find that impossible to believe."
     "So did we. I mean, we'd all received copies of his manifestoes printed
on this  grey recycled paper that was like the sheets of  fuzz that you peel
off a clothes dryer's lint trap."
     "He used some kind  of organic,  water  based ink that flaked off  like
black dandruff," Tom says.
     "We used to joke about  having Andy grit all over  our desks," Cantrell
says. "So when this guy  called Andy Loeb showed up on  the Secret  Admirers
mailing list, and the  Eutropia newsgroup, posting all of these long  rants,
we refused to believe it was him."
     "We  thought that someone had just written really brilliant parodies of
his prose style," Cantrell says.
     "But when they kept coming, day after  day, and he started getting into
these long  dialogs with people, it became obvious that it  really was him,"
Tom grumbles.
     "How did he square that with being a Luddite?"
     Cantrell: "He said  that he'd always thought of  computers as  a  force
that alienated and atomized society."
     Tom: "But as the result of being the number  one Digibomber suspect for
a  while, he'd  been  forcibly made aware of  the  Internet,  which  changed
computers by connecting them."
     "Oh, my god!" Randy says.
     "And he'd been mulling over the Internet  while he  was doing  whatever
Andrew Loeb does," Tom continues.
     Randy:  "Squatting  naked in icy mountain  streams strangling  muskrats
with his bare hands."
     Tom: "And he'd realized computers could be a tool to unite society."
     Randy: "And I'll bet he was just the guy to unite it."
     Cantrell: "Well, that's actually not far away from what he said."
     Randy: "So, are you about to tell me that he became a Eutropian?"
     Cantrell: "Well,  no.  It's  more  like  he discovered a  schism in the
Eutropian movement  we didn't know was there,  and created  his own splinter
     Randy:  "I  think  of  the  Eutropians   as  being  totally  hard  core
individuals, pure libertarians."
     "Well, yeah!" Cantrell says. "But the basic premise  of Eutropianism is
that technology has made us post human. That Homo sapiens plus technology is
effectively a whole  new species: immortal,  omnipresent because of the Net,
and headed towards  omnipotence. Now, the first people to talk that way were
     Tom  says, "But the  idea has  attracted all kinds of people  including
Andy Loeb. He showed up one day and started yammering about hive minds."
     "And  of course he  was  flamed to a  crisp by most  of the Eutropians,
because that concept was anathema to them," Cantrell says.
     Tom:  "But  he kept  at  it,  and  after  a while, some  people started
agreeing with  him. Turned out there was really a pretty substantial faction
within the  Eutropians who didn't especially care for libertarianism and who
found the idea of a hive mind attractive."
     "So, now Andy's the leader of that faction?" Randy asks.
     "I would suppose so," Cantrell says. "They split  away and formed their
own newsgroup. We haven't heard much  from them in  the  last six  months or
     "So how did you become aware of a connection between Andy and me?"
     "He stills pops into the Secret Admirers newsgroup from  time to time,"
Tom says.  "And  there's  been a  lot  of discussion there  about  the Crypt
     Cantrell says, "When he found out  that  you and Avi were involved,  he
posted  this  vast rant twenty  or thirty K  of run  on sentences.  Not very
     "Well, Jesus. What's his  beef? He won the case. Completely  bankrupted
me. You'd think he'd have something better to do than beat this dead horse,"
Randy says, thumping himself on the chest. "Doesn't he have a day job?"
     "He's some kind of a lawyer now," Cantrell says.
     "Ha! Figures."
     "He's  been  denouncing  us," Tom says.  "Capitalist roader.  Atomizing
society.  Making  the  world  safe  for  drug  traffickers and  Third  World
     "Well, at least he got  something right," Randy says. He's delighted to
have an answer, finally, to the question of why they're building the Crypt.


     Sio is a mud cemetery. Those who have already given their lives for the
emperor compete for mire space with those who  intend to. Bizarre forktailed
American planes dive out of the sun every  day  to murder them with terrible
glowing rains of cannon fire and the mind crushing detonations  of bombs, so
they sleep in open topped  graves and only come out at night. But their pits
are  full  of reeking water that chums with hostile  life, and when  the sun
goes down, rain  beats them, carrying into their bones the  deadly  chill of
high altitudes. Every man in the 20th Division knows that he will  not leave
New  Guinea  alive, so  it  remains  only  to choose  the  method of  death:
surrender to be tortured, then massacred by the Australians? Put grenades to
their  heads? Remain where they  are to be killed by the airplanes  all day,
and  all  night  by  malaria,  dysentery,  scrub   typhus,  starvation,  and
hypothermia? Or walk two hundred miles over mountains and flooding rivers to
Madang, which is tantamount to suicide  even when it is  peacetime  and  you
have food and medicine...?
     But that is what they are ordered to do. General Adachi flies to Sio it
is the  first friendly plane they have seen in weeks and lands on the rutted
septic field that they call an airstrip, and orders the evacuation. They are
to move  inland in four detachments.  Regiment  by regiment, they bury their
dead,  pack up what is left  of their equipment,  hoard what  little food is
left, wait for dark,  and  trudge towards the mountains.  The later echelons
can find  their path by smell,  following  the reek of  dysentery and of the
corpses dropped behind the pathfinder groups like breadcrumbs.
     The top commanders stay to the  end, and  the radio platoon stays  with
them;   without  a  powerful  radio  transmitter,   and  the   cryptographic
paraphernalia that goes with it,  a general is not a  general, a division is
not  a  division.  Finally  they go off  the  air,  and  begin  breaking the
transmitter down into the smallest pieces  they can, which unfortunately are
not all that small; a divisional radio transmitter is a powerful beast, made
for  lighting  up   the  ionosphere.   It  has  an   electrical   generator,
transformers, and other components that cannot be made light. The men of the
radio platoon, who  would find it difficult to move even the weight of their
own skeletons over the  mountains and across the surging rivers, will  carry
the additional burdens of engine blocks, fuel tanks, and transformers.
     And  the  big steel trunk with all  of  the Army codebooks. These books
were heavy as death when  they were bone dry; now they are sodden. To  carry
them out is beyond imagining. The rules dictate that they must  therefore be
     The men of the 20th  Division's radio platoon are not much inclined  to
humor of  any kind at the moment, not even the grim sardonic humor universal
among soldiers. If anything in the world is  capable of making them laugh at
this moment,  it  is the concept  of trying to construct  a  bonfire out  of
saturated  codebooks in  a  swamp during a rainstorm. They might  be able to
burn them if they used  a lot of aviation fuel more than they actually have.
Then the fire would produce a towering column of smoke that would draw P 38s
as the scent of human flesh draws mosquitoes.
     Burning  them  can't be necessary. New Guinea is a howling maelstrom of
decay and destruction; the only things that endure are rocks and wasps. They
rip off  the covers to bring  home as  proof that they  have been destroyed,
then  pack  the books  into  their trunk  and bury  it in  the  bank  of  an
especially vindictive river.
     It's not  a very good idea. But they have been  getting  bombed  a lot.
Even if the shrapnel misses you, the bomb's  shock wave is like a stone wall
moving  at  seven hundred  miles  an  hour. Unlike a  stone wall, it  passes
through your body, like a  burst of light through  a glass figurine.  On its
way  through  your  flesh,  it  rearranges every part of  you  down  to  the
mitochondrial  level, disrupting  every  process  in every  cell,  including
whatever enables your  brain to keep track of time and experience the world.
A few of these detonations are enough  to break  the thread of consciousness
into a snarl of tangled and chopped filaments. These men are not as human as
they were when they left home; they cannot be  expected to think  clearly or
to  do things for good reasons.  They throw mud  on  the trunk not as a sane
procedure for getting rid of it but as a kind of ritual, just to demonstrate
the proper respect for its lode of strange information.
     Then they shoulder  their burdens of iron and rice and begin  to strain
up into the  mountains. Their comrades  have left  a  trampled path that  is
already growing  back  into  jungle.  The mileposts are  bodies by now  just
stinking battlegrounds disputed by frenzied mobs  of microbes, bugs, beasts,
and birds never catalogued by scientists.

     Chapter 28 HUFFDUFF

     The huffduff mast is  planted before  they even have  a roof on the new
headquarters of Detachment  2702, and the huffduff antenna is raised  before
there is any electricity to run it.
     Waterhouse does his best to pretend as if he cares. He lets the workers
know: vast tank armadas clashing in the African desert might be dashing  and
romantic, but the  real battle of this war (ignoring, as always, the Eastern
Front)  is the  Battle  of the Atlantic.  We  can't  win the  Battle of  the
Atlantic without sinking some  U boats, and we can't sink them until we find
them,  and  we  need  a  way of finding them  other  than the tried and true
approach of letting our convoys  steam  through them and get  blown to bits.
That way, men, is to get this antenna in action as soon as humanly possible.
     Waterhouse is no actor, but when the second ice storm of the week blows
through  and inflicts grievous damage on  the antenna, and he has to stay up
all night repairing it by the light  of the Galvanick Lucifer, he  is pretty
sure that he has them hooked. The castle staff work late  shifts to keep him
supplied with hot tea and brandy, and the builders  give him some zesty  hip
hip hoorays the next morning when the patched antenna is winched  back up to
the top of the mast. They are all so sure that they are saving lives  in the
North Atlantic that they would probably lynch him if they knew the truth.
     This huffduff story is  ridiculously plausible. It is so plausible that
if Waterhouse were working for the Germans, he'd be  suspicious. The antenna
is a highly directional model.  It  receives  a strong  signal  when pointed
towards the source and a weak signal otherwise. The operator waits  for  a U
boat to begin transmitting and then swings  the antenna back and forth until
it gives  the maximum reading;  the direction of the antenna then  gives the
azimuth  to  the  source. Two  or more such readings, supplied by  different
huffduff stations, can be used to triangulate the origin of the signal.
     In order  to keep  up  appearances,  the station needs to be  manned 24
hours a  day, which almost kills Waterhouse during  the first weeks of 1943.
The  rest of Detachment 2702 has not shown  up on schedule, so it is  up  to
Waterhouse to preserve the illusion in the meantime.
     Everyone within ten miles basically, the entire  civilian population of
Qwghlm, or, to put it another way, the entire Qwghlmian race can see the new
huffduff antenna  rising  from  the mast on  the castle. They are not stupid
people  and  some of  them,  at least,  must understand that the  damn thing
doesn't do any good  if it is always pointed in the  same direction. If it's
not moving, it's  not working. And if it's not working,  then just what  the
hell is going on up there in the castle anyway?
     So Waterhouse has to move it. He lives in the  chapel, sleeping when he
sleeps  in  a  hammock  strung  at  a  perilous  altitude  above  the  floor
("skerries" are excellent jumpers, he has found).
     If he sleeps during the daytime, even casual observers in the town will
notice that the antenna does not move. That's no good. But he can't sleep at
night, when  the Germans  bounce  their  transmissions  off  the  ionosphere
between the U boats in the  North Atlantic  and their bases in Bordeaux  and
Lorient because a really close observer say an insomniacal castle worker, or
a German spy up in the rocks with a pair of binoculars will suspect that the
immobile huffduff antenna is  just  a  cover  story. So Waterhouse  tries to
split the difference by sleeping for a few hours around dusk and another few
hours around dawn a plan that does not go over well with his  body. And when
he gets up, he has absolutely nothing to look forward  to besides sitting at
the  huffduff console  for eight or twelve hours at a stretch, watching  the
breath come out of his mouth, twiddling the antenna, listening to nothing!
     He freely stipulates that he is a selfish bastard for feeling sorry for
himself when other men are being blown to bits.
     Having gotten that out of the way, what is he going to do to stay sane?
He has  got  his  routine down  pat: leave  the  antenna  pointed  generally
westwards for  a while, then swing it back and  forth  in  diminishing arcs,
pretending to zero  in on a U boat, then leave it sitting for a while and do
jumping  jacks to  warm back up. He has ditched his uniform for raiments  of
warm Qwghlmian  wool.  Every  once in  a  while,  at  totally  unpredictable
intervals,  members of the castle staff will burst in on him  with an urn of
soup or tea  service  or simply to see how he is  doing and tell  him what a
fine  chap he  is.  Once a day,  he  writes down  a  bunch of  gibberish his
purported results and dispatches it over to the naval base.
     He  divides his time between thinking  about  sex  and  thinking  about
mathematics. The former keeps intruding  upon the latter. It gets worse when
the stout fiftyish cook named Blanche, who has been bringing him  his meals,
comes down with dropsy or ague or gout  or colic or some other Shakespearian
ailment and is replaced by Margaret, who is about twenty and quite fetching.
     Margaret really messes up his head. When it gets really intolerable, he
goes  to  the  latrine (so  that the  staff will  not break in on  him at an
inopportune moment) and executes a Manual Override. But one thing he learned
in Hawaii was  that  a Manual Override is  unfortunately not the same as the
real thing. The effect wears off too soon.
     While  he's  waiting  for it  to  wear off, he gets a lot of solid math
done. Alan provided him with some notes on redundancy and  entropy, relating
to  the  voice  encryption  work  he  is currently doing  in New  York City.
Waterhouse works through that stuff and comes up with some nice lemmas which
he  lamentably cannot send to Alan  without violating both  common sense and
any  number of security  procedures.  This done, he turns  his attention  to
cryptology, pure and raw.  He spent enough time at Bletchley Park to realize
just how little of this art he really understood.
     The  U boats talk on the radio way too  much and everyone in the German
Navy knows  it. Their  security  experts have been  nagging  their brass  to
tighten up  their security, and they  finally did it by introducing the four
rotor version of the Enigma machine, which has knocked Bletchley Park on its
ass for about a year...
     Margaret has to walk round the castle out of doors to bring  Waterhouse
his  meals, and by the time she  gets here, her cheeks have turned rosy red.
The steam coming from her mouth floats around her face like a silken veil
     Stop that, Lawrence! The subject of today's lecture is the German Naval
four wheel  Enigma, known  to  them  as  Triton and  to the Allies as Shark.
Introduced  on 2 February of last year (1942), it wasn't until  the recovery
of the beached German U boat U 559 on 30 October that Bletchley Park got the
material  they  needed  to break the code.  A  couple of  weeks  ago, on  13
December,   Bletchley   Park  finally   busted   Shark,  and  the   internal
communications  of  the German Navy became an open book  to the Allies  once
     The  first  thing they have  learned, as  a result, is that the Germans
have broken  our merchant  shipping codes wide open, and that  all year long
they have known exactly where to find the convoys.
     All of  this  information  has  been  provided  to  Lawrence  Pritchard
Waterhouse within the  last  few days,  via the totally secure one  time pad
channel. Bletchley is telling him this stuff because it raises a question of
information  theory, which  is his department and his problem. The  question
is: how quickly can  we replace our busted  merchant shipping  codes without
tipping the Germans off to the fact that we have broken Shark?
     Waterhouse does not have to think about this one  for very  long before
he  concludes that it is far too tricky to  play games with. The only way to
handle the  situation is  to  concoct  an  incident  of some sort that  will
explain to  the Germans why  we have totally lost  faith in our own merchant
shipping codes and are changing them. He writes up a message to this effect,
and begins to encrypt it using the one time pad that he shares with Chattan.
     "Is everything quite all right?"
     Waterhouse stands and whirls around, heart thrashing.
     It is Margaret, standing there veiled in the steam of her own breath, a
grey wool overcoat  thrown over her maid's uniform, supporting a tray of tea
and scones with grey wool mittens. The only parts of her not encased in wool
are  her ankles and her face.  The former are  well turned; Margaret is  not
above wearing heels. The latter has never been exposed to the direct rays of
the sun and brings to mind rose petals strewn over Devonshire clotted cream.
     "Oh!  Let me take it!" Waterhouse  blurts,  and lunges  forward  with a
jerkiness  born  of passion blended with hypothermia. While taking  the tray
from her hands, he inadvertently  pulls off one of  her mittens, which falls
to the  floor. "Sorry!"  he says,  realizing  he has  never seen  her  hands
before. She has red polish on the nails of the offended hand, which she cups
over her mouth and blows on. Her large green  eyes are  looking at him, full
of placid expectation.
     "Beg pardon?" Waterhouse says.
     "Is everything quite all right?" she repeats.
     "Yes! Why shouldn't it be?"
     "The antenna," Margaret says. "It hasn't moved in over an hour."
     Waterhouse is so flummoxed he can barely remain standing.
     Margaret is still breathing  through her lacquered  fingertips, so that
Waterhouse  can  only  see  her green eyes,  which  now  angle  and  twinkle
mischievously.  She  glances towards his  hammock. "Been napping on the job,
have we?"
     Waterhouse's first  impulse is to  deny it  and  to explain the  truth,
which is that he was thinking about  sex and  crypto and  forgot to move the
antenna.  But then he realizes that Margaret  has supplied him with a better
excuse. "Guilty as charged," he says. "Was up late last night."
     "That  tea will keep you alert," Margaret says. Then her eyes return to
the hammock. She pulls her mitten back on. "What is it like?"
     "What is what like?"
     "Sleeping in one of those. Is it comfortable?"
     "Very comfortable."
     "Can I just see what it's like?"
     "Ah. Well, it's very difficult to get in at that height."
     "You manage it, though,  don't you?"  she  says  chidingly.  Waterhouse
feels himself blushing. Margaret walks over to the hammock and kicks off her
heels. Waterhouse winces to see her bare feet on the  stone floor, which has
not been warm since the Barbary Corsairs burned the place down. Her toenails
are also  painted  red.  "I  don't mind it," Margaret says, "I'm a  farmer's
daughter. Come on, give me a leg up!"
     Waterhouse has completely lost whatever control he might ever have  had
over the situation and  himself. His  tongue seems  to be made  of  erectile
tissue. So he lumbers  over, bends down,  and makes a stirrup of  his hands.
She  puts  her  foot  into  it  and  launches  herself   into  the  hammock,
disappearing with a whoop and  a  giggle into his  bulky nest of  grey  wool
blankets. The hammock swings back and forth across the center of the chapel,
like a censer dispersing a  faint  lavender scent. It swings once, twice. It
swings five times,  ten  times, twenty. Margaret  is silent  and motionless.
Waterhouse stands  as if his feet were planted in mortar. For the first time
in weeks he does not know exactly what is going to happen next, and the loss
of control leaves him stunned and helpless.
     "It's   dreamy,"  she  says.  Dreamily.  Then,  finally,   she  shifts.
Waterhouse sees  her little face peeking out over the edge, shrouded  in the
grey cowl  of  a blanket. "Ooh!" she  screams,  and  flips flat  on her back
again. The sudden movement puts an eccentric jiggle into the rhythmic motion
of the hammock.
     "What's wrong?" Waterhouse says hopelessly.
     "I'm  afraid of heights!"  she  exclaims.  "I'm  so sorry, Lawrence,  I
should have warned you. Is it all right  if I call you Lawrence?" She sounds
as  if she would be terribly hurt if he said no. And how  can Lawrence wound
the feelings of a pretty, barefoot, acrophobic girl, helpless in a hammock?
     "Please.  By all means," he  says. But he knows perfectly well that the
ball is still in his court. "Can I be of any assistance?"
     "I should be so obliged," Margaret says.
     "Well, would  you like to climb down onto my shoulders, or some thing?"
Waterhouse essays.
     "I'm really far too terrified," she says.
     There is only one way out. "Well.  Would you take it the wrong way if I
came up there to help?"
     "It would  be  so heroic of you!" she says.  "I  should be  unspeakably
     "Well, then . . ."
     "But I insist that you continue with your duties first!"
     "Beg pardon?"
     "Lawrence," Margaret says, "when  I get down  from this hammock I shall
go to  the kitchen  and mop the floor which is  already quite  clean enough,
thank you. You, on the other hand, have important work to do work that might
save the lives of hundreds of men on some Atlantic  convoy!  And I know that
you have been very  naughty in sleeping on the job. I refuse to allow you up
here until you have made amends."
     "Very  well," Waterhouse  says, "you  leave  me  no  alternative.  Duty
calls." He squares his shoulders, spins on his heel, and marches back to his
desk.  Skerries have already made  off with all of Margaret's scones, but he
pours  himself some tea.  Then he  resumes  encrypting his  instructions  to
     The  one  time  pad encryption takes  a while.  Lawrence can  do mod 25
arithmetic in  his sleep,  but doing it  with  an  erection  is a  different
matter. "Lawrence? What are  you doing?" Margaret  asks from her nest in the
hammock,  which,  Lawrence imagines, is  getting  warmer  and cozier  by the
minute. He glances surreptitiously at her discarded high heels.
     "Preparing my  report," Lawrence says.  "Doesn't do me any good to make
observations if I don't send them out."
     "Quite right," Margaret says thoughtfully.
     This is an excellent time to stoke the chapel's pathetic iron stove. He
puts in a few scoops of precious coal, his worksheet,  and the page from the
one  time pad  that he  has just used to  do the encryption. "Should warm up
now," he says.
     "Oh, lovely," Margaret says, "I'm all shivery."
     Lawrence  recognizes this as his  cue to initiate  a rescue  operation.
About fifteen seconds later, he is up there in the hammock with Margaret. To
the great surprise  of  neither one  of them,  the  quarters are awkward and
tight.  There  is some  flopping around which ends with Lawrence on his back
and Margaret on top of him, her thigh between his.
     She   is  shocked  to  discover  that  he  has  an  erection.  Ashamed,
apparently,  that she  did  not anticipate his  need.  "You poor  dear!" she
exclaims. "Of course! How could I have been so  dense! You must have been so
lonely here." She kisses his cheek, which is nice since he is too stunned to
move. "A brave warrior deserves  all the support we  civilians  can possibly
give him," she says, reaching down with one hand to open his fly.
     Then  she  pulls the  grey wool over her head  and  burrows  to  a  new
position. Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse  is stunned by what happens next. He
gazes up  at  the ceiling of the  chapel through half closed eyes and thanks
God for having sent him what is obviously a German spy and an angel of mercy
rolled into one adorable package.
     When it's finished, he opens his  eyes again and takes a deep breath of
cold Atlantic air. He is seeing everything around him with newfound clarity.
Clearly,  Margaret  is  going  to do wonders  for  his productivity  on  the
cryptological front if he can only keep her coming back.

     Chapter 29 PAGES

     It  has been  a  long time since horses ran at the  Ascot Racetrack  in
Brisbane. The  infield's  a commotion of stretched khaki. The grass has died
from lack of sun and  from the trampling feet of enlisted men. The field has
been punctured with latrines,  mess tents have been pitched. Three shifts  a
day, the residents  trudge across  the track,  round back  of the silent and
empty stables. In the field where the horses used to stretch their legs, two
dozen Quonset huts that have popped up like mushrooms. The men work in those
huts,  sitting before radios or  typewriters  or card  files  all day  long,
shirtless in the January heat.
     It  has been just as  long since  whores sunned  themselves on the long
veranda of the house on Henry Street, and passing gentlemen, on their way to
or from  the  Ascot  Racetrack,  peered  at  their charms through  the white
railing, faltered, checked their  wallets, forgot their scruples, turned  on
their heels,  and climbed up the house's front stairs. Now the place is full
of male officers and math freaks: mostly  Australians on  the  ground floor,
mostly Americans upstairs, and a sprinkling of lucky Brits who were spirited
out  of  Singapore before  General Yamashita, the  Tiger  of Malaya  and the
conqueror of that city, was able to capture them and  mine their  heads  for
crucial data.
     Today the old bordello has been turned upside down; everyone with Ultra
clearance  is out  in the garage,  which thrums and roars  with the sound of
fans,  and virtually glows with contained heat.  In that garage  is a rusted
steel trunk, still spattered with riverbank mud that partially  obscures the
Nipponese characters  stenciled on its sides. Had  a  Nipponese spy glimpsed
the trunk  during  its  feverish passage from the port  to  the whorehouse's
garage, he would have recognized it as belonging to the radio platoon of the
20th Division, which is currently lost in the jungles of New Guinea.
     The rumor, shouted  over the sound  of the fans, is that  a  digger  an
Australian grunt found it. His unit was sweeping the abandoned  headquarters
of the 20th Division for booby traps when his metal detector went nuts along
the banks of a river.
     The codebooks  are stacked inside  as neatly as gold bars. They are wet
and  mildewed  and  their  front  covers are  all missing, but this is  mint
condition  by the standards of wartime. Stripped to the waist and  streaming
with sweat, the  men  raise the books out one  by  one, like nurses  lifting
newborn infants  from the  bassinette, and carry  them to  tables where they
slice away the rotten bindings and peel the sodden pages  off the stacks one
by one,  hanging  them from  improvised  clotheslines  strung overhead.  The
stench and damp of New Guinea saturate the air as the river water trapped in
those pages  is  lifted out  by the rushing air; it all vents to the outside
eventually,  and half a mile downwind, pedestrians wrinkle their  noses. The
whorehouse's closets still redolent of French perfume, powder, hairspray and
jism, but now packed to the ceiling with office supplies are raided for more
string. The web  of clotheslines  grows,  new layers crisscrossing above and
below the old ones, every inch of string claimed by a wet page as soon as it
is stretched.  Each  page is a grid, a  table  with hiragana  or katakana or
kanji in one box, a group of digits or Romanji in another box, and the pages
all  cross referenced to other pages in a scheme  only a cryptographer could
     The photographer  comes in, trailed by assistants who are burdened with
miles of  film.  All he  knows  is  that  each  page  must  be  photographed
perfectly. The malarial reek practically flattens him the moment he walks in
the door, but  when he recovers, his eyes scan  the garage.  All he can see,
stretching as if to infinity, are pages dripping  and curling, turning white
as they dry, casting their grids of information into sharp relief, like  the
reticules  of  so  many  bomb  sights, the  graven  crosshairs  of  so  many
periscopes,  plunging  through  cloud and fog to focus,  distinctly  on  the
abdomens  of Nipponese troopships, pregnant with  North  Borneo  fuel, alive
with burning steam.

     Chapter 30 RAM

     "Sir! Would you mind telling me where we are going, sir!"
     Lieutenant  Monkberg  heaves  a deep,  quivering  sigh,  his  rib  cage
shuddering like  a  tin shack in a cyclone.  He  executes a none too  snappy
pushup. His  hands are planted on the rim, and so this action extricates his
head  from  the bowl, of  a toilet or "head," as  it is  referred to in this
context: an alarmingly rundown freighter.  He jerks down a strip of abrasive
Euro  bumwad  and  wipes his  mouth before  looking up  at  Sergeant  Robert
Shaftoe, who has braced himself in the hatchway.
     And Shaftoe  does need  some serious  bracing, because  he is  carrying
close to his  own  weight  in gear. All of it was issued to him thoughtfully
     He could have  left  it  that way. But this is not  how an  Eagle Scout
operates. Bobby Shaftoe  has gone through and  unpacked all of it, spread it
out on the deck, examined it, and repacked it.
     This allowed Shaftoe to do some  serious inferring. To be  specific, he
infers  that the men of  Detachment 2702  are expected  to spend most of the
next three weeks  trying as hard as they  can not  to  freeze to death. This
will  be  punctuated by trying to kill a  lot of well armed sons of bitches.
German, most likely.
     "N  N N Norway," Lieutenant Monkberg  says. He looks so  pathetic  that
Shaftoe  considers offering him some m m m  morphine,  which induces  a mild
nausea of its own but holds  back the greater nausea of seasickness. Then he
comes to his senses, remembers that Lieutenant Monkberg is an  officer whose
duty it is to  send  him  off to die, and decides that he can  just go  fuck
himself sideways.
     "Sir! What is the nature of our mission in Norway, sir?"
     Monkberg unloads a rattling belch. "Ram and run," he says.
     "Sir! Ram what, sir?"
     "Sir! Run where, sir?"
     Shaftoe likes the sound of this. The perilous sea voyage through U boat
infested waters, the collision  with Norway, the desperate run across frozen
Nazi occupied territory, all seem trivial  compared with the shining goal of
dipping into the world's largest  and purest reservoir  of authentic Swedish
     "Shaftoe! Wake up!"
     ''Sir! Yes, sir!"
     "You have noticed the way we are dressed." Monkberg refers to  the fact
that  they  have discarded their dog tags  and are all  wearing civilian  or
merchant marine clothing.
     "Sir! Yes, sir!"
     "We don't want the Nuns, or anyone else, to know what we really are."
     "Sir! Yes, sir!"
     "Now, you might ask yourself, if we're supposed to look like civilians,
then why  the hell are we carrying tommy guns, grenades, demolition charges,
et cetera."
     "Sir! That was going to be my next question, sir!"
     "Well, we have a cover story all worked out for that. Come with me."
     Monkberg  looks enthusiastic all  of a sudden. He clambers  to his feet
and leads  Shaftoe  down various passageways and  stairs to  the freighter's
cargo hold. "You know those other ships?"
     Shaftoe looks blank.
     "Those other ships around us? We  are in the middle  of  a convoy,  you
     "Sir,  yes sir!" Shaftoe says, a little less certainly. None of the men
has been abovedecks very much in the  hours since  they were delivered,  via
submarine, to  this  wallowing wreck. Even  if they had gone  up for  a look
around they would have seen nothing but darkness and fog.
     "A Murmansk  convoy,"  Monkberg  continues.  "All of  these  ships  are
delivering weapons and supplies to the Soviet Union. See?"
     They have reached a cargo  hold. Monkberg turns on  an overhead  light,
revealing crates. Lots and lots and lots of crates.
     "Full  of  weapons,"  Monkberg  says, "including  tommy guns, grenades,
demolition charges, et cetera. Get my drift?"
     "Sir, no sir! I do not get the lieutenant's drift!"
     Monkberg  comes one  step closer to him. Unsettlingly close. He speaks,
now,  in a conspiratorial  tone. "See, we're all just crew  members  on this
merchant  ship, making the  run to Murmansk. It gets foggy. We get separated
from  our  convoy. Then, boom! We slam into fucking Norway. We  are stuck on
Nazi held territory. We have to make a  break for Sweden! But wait a second,
we say to ourselves. What about all those Germans between us and the Swedish
border? Well, we had better be armed to the teeth,  is what. And who is in a
better position  to  arm  themselves  to  the teeth than  the crew  of  this
merchant  ship that is jam packed  with armaments? So  we run down into  the
cargo hold and hastily pry open a few crates and arm ourselves."
     Shaftoe looks at the crates. None of them have been pried open.
     "Then," Monkberg continues, "we abandon ship and head for Sweden."
     There is a long silence. Shaftoe  finally rouses himself to say,  "Sir!
Yes, sir!"
     "So get prying."
     ''Sir! Yes, sir!"
     "And make it look hasty! Hasty! C'mon! Shake a leg!"
     "Sir! Yes, sir!"
     Shaftoe tries to get into  the spirit of the  thing. What's he going to
use to pry a crate open?  No crowbars in sight. He exits  the cargo hold and
strides down a passageway. Monkberg following him  closely, hovering, urging
him to be hastier: "You're in a hurry! The Nazis are coming! You have to arm
yourself! Think of your wife and kids back in Glasgow or Lubbock or wherever
the fuck you're from!"
     "Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, sir!" Shaftoe says indignantly.
     "No,  no!  Not  in  real  life!  In your pretend  role as this stranded
merchant son of a bitch! Look, Shaftoe! Look! Salvation is at hand!"
     Shaftoe turns around to see Monkberg pointing at a cabinet marked
     Shaftoe pulls the  door  open to find,  among other  implements, one of
those  giant axes that  firemen  are  always carrying in and  out of burning
     Thirty  seconds later,  he's down in the  cargo hold,  Paul Bunyaning a
crate of .45 caliber ammunition.  "Faster! More haphazard!" Monkberg shouts.
"This isn't a precise operation, Shaftoe! You are in a blind panic!" Then he
says, "Goddamn it!" and runs forward and seizes the ax from Shaftoe's hands.
     Monkberg swings wildly, missing the crate entirely as he adjusts to the
tremendous weight and length of the implement.  Shaftoe  hits  the  deck and
rolls to safety. Monkberg finally gets his range and azimuth worked out, and
actually makes  contact with the crate. Splinters  and chips skitter  across
the deck.
     "See!"  Monkberg says, looking over his  shoulder at  Shaftoe,  "I want
splinteriness! I want chaos!" He is swinging the ax at the same time as he's
talking and looking  at Shaftoe,  and he's  moving his feet too  because the
ship is rocking, and consequently the blade of  the weapon misses  the crate
entirely, overshoots, and comes down right on Monkberg's ankle.
     "Gadzooks!" Lieutenant Monkberg says, in a quiet,  conversational tone.
He is looking  down  at his  ankle in fascination. Shaftoe comes over to see
what's so interesting.
     A  good  chunk of  Monkberg's  lower  left  leg has been  neatly  cross
sectioned.  In the  beam  of Shaftoe's  flashlight,  it is possible  to  see
severed  blood vessels and ligaments sticking  out of  opposite sides of the
meaty wound, like sabotaged bridges and pipelines dangling from the sides of
a gorge.
     "Sir! You are wounded, sir!"  Shaftoe says. "Let  me  summon Lieutenant
     "No! You  stay here and work!" Monkberg says. "I can find Root myself."
He reaches  down  with both  hands  and squeezes  his  leg above the  wound,
causing  blood  to gush  out  onto the  deck.  "This is  perfect!"  he  says
meditatively. "This adds so much realism."
     After several repetitions of this order, Shaftoe reluctantly  goes back
to crate hacking. Monkberg hobbles and staggers  around the hold  for a  few
minutes, bleeding on everything, then  drags himself  off in search of Enoch
Root.  The  last thing he says is,  "Remember! We are aiming for a ransacked
     But the bit with  the leg wound gets  the idea across  to Shaftoe  more
than Monkberg's words ever could.  The sight of the blood brings up memories
of  Guadalcanal  and more recent adventures. His  last  dose of morphine  is
wearing  off, which makes  him  sharper.  And he's  staffing  to get  really
seasick, which makes him want to fight it by doing some hard work.
     So he more or less goes berserk with that ax. He loses track of what is
going on.
     He wishes that Detachment 2702 could have stayed on dry land preferably
dry warm land such as that place they stayed, for two sunny weeks, in Italy.
     The  first part  of that mission had been  hard work, what with humping
those  barrels  of shit around. But the remainder of it (except for the last
few hours) had  been  just like shore leave, except that there  weren't  any
women.  Every day they'd taken turns  at the observation site,  looking  out
over the Bay  of Naples with their  telescopes  and binoculars. Every night,
Corporal Benjamin sat down and radioed more gibberish in Morse code.
     One night, Benjamin received  a message and spent some time deciphering
it. He announced the news to Shaftoe: "The Germans know we're here."
     "What do you mean, they know we're here?"
     "They know that for at least six months we have had an observation post
overlooking the Bay of Naples," Benjamin said.
     "We've been here less than two weeks."
     ''They're going to begin searching this area tomorrow."
     "Well, then let's get the fuck out of here," Shaftoe said.
     "Colonel Chattan orders  you to wait,"  Benjamin  said, "until you know
that the Germans know that we are here."
     "But I do know  that the Germans know that we are  here," Shaftoe said,
"you just told me."
     "No,  no no no no," Benjamin said, "wait until you would know  that the
Germans knew even if you didn't know from being told by Colonel Chattan over
the radio."
     "Are you fucking with me?"
     "Orders," Benjamin said, and handed  Shaftoe the  deciphered message as
     As  soon as  the  sun  came up  they could  hear the observation planes
crisscrossing the sky.  Shaftoe was ready  to execute their escape plan, and
he made sure that the men were too. He sent some of those SAS blokes down to
reconnoiter the  choke points along  their exit route. Shaftoe  himself just
laid down on his back and stared up at the sky, watching those planes.
     Did he know that the Germans knew now?
     Ever since he'd woken up, a couple of SAS blokes had been following him
around,  staring at  him.  Shaftoe  finally  looked  in their direction  and
nodded. They ran away. A moment later he heard wrenches crashing against the
insides of toolboxes.
     The  Germans had  observation planes all over the fucking sky. That was
pretty  strong  circumstantial evidence  that  the Germans knew.  And  those
planes  were clearly visible to  Shaftoe, so he  could,  arguably, know that
they knew. But Colonel Chattan had ordered him to stay put "until positively
sighted by Germans," whatever that meant.
     One  of those planes, in particular, was  coming closer and  closer. It
was searching very close  to the ground, cutting only a narrow swath on each
pass. Waiting for  it to pass over their position, Shaftoe wanted to scream.
This was too stupid to be real. He wanted to send  up a  flare  and get this
over with.
     Finally, in midafternoon, Shaftoe, lying  on his back in the shade of a
tree, looked straight up into the air and counted the rivets on the belly of
that German  airplane: a Henschel Hs  126 (1) with a single swept
back wing mounted above the fuselage, so as not to block the view downwards,
and with ladders and  struts and giant  awkward  splay footed  landing  gear
sticking out all over. One German encased in a glass shroud  and flying  the
plane,  another out in the open, peering down  through goggles and  fiddling
with a swivel mounted machine  gun. This one did all but look Shaftoe in the
eye, then tapped the pilot on the shoulder and pointed down.
     The Henschel altered its normal  search pattern, cutting the pass short
to swing round and fly over their position again.
     "That's  it,"  Shaftoe said to himself. He stood up  and began  walking
towards the dilapidated barn. "That's it!" he shouted. "Execute!"
     The SAS guys were in the back  of the truck, under a tarp, working with
their  wrenches.  Shaftoe glanced in  their direction and saw gleaming parts
from the Vickers laid  out on  clean white fabric. Where the hell  had these
guys gotten clean white fabric? They'd  probably been saving  it  for today.
Why couldn't they have got the Vickers in good working order before? Because
they'd had orders to assemble it hastily, at the last possible minute.
     Corporal  Benjamin  hesitated,  one  hand  poised above his radio  key.
"Sarge, are you sure they know we're here?"
     Everyone  turned  to  see  how  Shaftoe  would  respond  to  this  mild
challenge.  He had been slowly gathering  a reputation  as a man who  needed
     Shaftoe turned  on his  heel  and strolled  out  into the  middle  of a
clearing  a  few yards away.  Behind him, he  could  hear  the other  men of
Detachment 2702 jockeying for position in the doorway, trying to get a clear
view of him.
     The  Henschel was coming  back for another  pass, now  so  close to the
ground that you could probably throw a rock through its windshield.
     Shaftoe unslung his tommy gun, pulled back the bolt,  cradled it, swung
it up and around, and opened fire.
     Now some might complain that the trench broom lacked penetrating power,
but he was positive he could see pieces of crap flying out of the Henschel's
motor. The Henschel went out of control almost immediately. It banked  until
its wings were vertical,  veered, banked some more until it was upside down,
shed  what  little altitude it had to begin  with, and  made  an upside down
pancake landing in the olive  trees no more than a hundred yards distant. It
did not immediately burst into flame: something of a letdown there.
     There  was perfect silence from the other men. The  only sound was  the
beepity  beep of Corporal Benjamin, his  question now  answered, sending out
his little message. Shaftoe was able to follow the Morse code for  once this
message  was  going  out plaintext. "WE ARE DISCOVERED  STOP EXECUTING  PLAN
     As their first contribution  to Plan Torus, the other  men climbed onto
the truck, which pulled out from its hidey hole in the barn and idled in the
trees nearby. When Benjamin was finished, he abandoned  his radio and joined
     As his first task of Plan  Torus, Shaftoe walked around the premises in
a neat  crisscross  pattern echoing  that of  the  searching  reconnaissance
planes. He was carrying an upside down gasoline can with no lid on it.
     He left the can about one third full, standing upright in the middle of
the  barn. He pulled the pin  from a grenade, dropped it into the  gasoline,
and ran out  of the building.  The  truck  was already pulling away when  he
caught up with it and dove into the waiting arms of his unit, who pulled him
on board. He got himself situated  in  the back of the truck just in time to
see the building go up in a satisfying fireball.
     "Okay," Shaftoe said to the men. "We got a few hours to kill."
     All  the men in  the truck  except for the  SAS  blokes working on  the
Vickers looked at each other like did he really just say that?

     "Uh, Sarge,"  one of them  finally said,  "could you  explain that part
about killing some time?"
     "The airplane's not going to be here for a while. Orders."
     "Was there a problem or "
     "Nope. Everything's going fine. Orders.
     Beyond  that  the men  didn't want to gripe, but a lot more looks  were
exchanged across the bed  of the  truck. Finally, Enoch  Root spoke up, "You
men are probably wondering why we couldn't  kill time for a few hours first,
before  alerting  the Germans to our presence, and rendezvous with the plane
just in the nick of time."
     "Yeah!" said a whole bunch of guys and blokes, vigorously nodding.
     "That's a good question," said Enoch  Root. He said it  like he already
knew the answer, which made everyone in the truck want to slug him.
     The  Germans had deployed some ground  units  to secure the area's road
intersections.  When Detachment 2702 arrived at the first crossroads, all of
the  Germans were freshly  dead, and  all they had  to do  was to  slow down
momentarily so that  some Marine Raiders could run out of hiding and jump on
     The  Germans at the  second intersection had no idea what was going on.
This   was  obviously  the  result   of  some  kind  of  internal  Wehrmacht
communications fuckup, clearly recognizable as such even across cultural and
linguistic  boundaries. Detachment  2702 were able to simply  open fire from
underneath the  tarp and tear  them to pieces, or at least  drive them  into
     The  next Germans they ran  into  weren't having any  of it;  they  had
formed  a roadblock out of a  truck and two cars, and  were  lined up on the
other  side of it, pointing  weapons at them. All of their weapons looked to
be small arms. But by this time  the  Vickers had finally been put together,
calibrated, fine  tuned, inspected, and loaded. The  tarp came  off  Private
Mikulski, a surly, brooding two  hundred and fifty  pound Polish British SAS
man, commenced  operations with the Vickers at about the same time  that the
Germans did with their rifles.
     Now when Bobby Shaftoe had gone through high  school, he'd been slotted
into a vocational track and ended up taking a lot of shop classes. A certain
amount of his  time was therefore, naturally, devoted to sawing large pieces
of wood  or metal  into smaller  pieces. Numerous saws were available in the
shop for that  purpose, some better than others. A sawing job  that would be
just  ridiculously hard and lengthy using a hand  saw would  be accomplished
with a  power  saw.  Likewise,  certain  cuts and  materials would cause the
smaller power saws to  overheat or seize up altogether and  therefore called
for  larger  power saws. But even with  the biggest  power saw  in the shop,
Bobby Shaftoe always got the sense that he was imposing some kind  of stress
on the machine. It would slow down when the blade contacted the material, it
would vibrate, it would heat  up, and if you pushed the material through too
fast it would threaten to jam. But then one summer he worked in a mill where
they  had a bandsaw. The bandsaw, its  supply of  blades, its  spare  parts,
maintenance  supplies,  special tools and manuals  occupied a whole room. It
was the only tool he had ever seen with infrastructure. It was the size of a
car. The two wheels that drove the blade were giant eight spoked things that
looked to have been salvaged from steam  locomotives.  Its  blades had to be
manufactured from long rolls  of blade stuff by unreeling about half a  mile
of  toothed ribbon,  cutting  it off,  and  carefully  welding  the cut ends
together into  a loop. When you hit the  power switch, nothing  would happen
for a little while except that a subsonic vibration would slowly rise up out
of  the earth,  as if a freight train  were  approaching from  far away, and
finally the blade would begin to move,  building speed slowly but inexorably
until  the teeth disappeared and  it  became a bolt  of pure  hellish energy
stretched taut between the table and the machinery above it. Anecdotes about
accidents involving the bandsaw  were told  in hushed voices and not usually
commingled with  other  industrial  accident  anecdotes.  Anyway,  the  most
noteworthy thing about  the bandsaw was that  you could cut anything with it
and not only  did it do  the job quickly  and  coolly but it didn't seem  to
notice  that  it was doing anything. It wasn't even aware that a human being
was sliding a great  big  chunk of  stuff through it. It never  slowed down.
Never heated up.
     In Shaftoe's  post  high school experience he  had found  that guns had
much in common with saws. Guns could fire bullets all right, but they kicked
back and heated up, got  dirty,  and  jammed  eventually.  They  could  fire
bullets in other words, but it  was a big deal for them, it placed a certain
amount of stress on them, and they  could not take that  stress forever. But
the Vickers in  the back of this truck was  to other guns as the bandsaw was
to other saws.  The  Vickers  was  water  cooled. It actually had  a fucking
radiator  on  it. It had infrastructure, just  like the bandsaw, and a whole
crew  of technicians  to fuss  over  it. But once the  damn thing was up and
running, it  could  fire  continuously  for  days as  long  as  people  kept
scurrying  up to it  with more belts of  ammunition. After  Private Mikulski
opened fire with the  Vickers, some of the  other Detachment 2702 men, eager
to pitch  in and  do their bit,  took  potshots at those Germans with  their
rifles, but doing so  made  them feel so small  and  pathetic that they soon
gave up and just  took cover in the ditch and  lit up cigarettes and watched
the  slow  progress  of  the  Vickers' bullet stream  across  the roadblock.
Mikulski hosed  down all  of  the German vehicles for  a  while,  yawing the
Vickers back and  forth  like a man  playing a fire extinguisher against the
base of  a  fire. Then he picked out a few  bits of  the  roadblock  that he
suspected  people might  be  standing behind and concentrated on them for  a
while, boring tunnels  through the wreckage of  the vehicles until he  could
see what was  on the  other side, sawing  through  their frames and breaking
them in half. He cut down half a dozen or so roadside  trees behind which he
suspected Germans were hiding, and then mowed about half an acre of grass.
     By  this time  it  had become  evident that some  Germans had retreated
behind a gentle swell in the earth just off to one side of the road and were
taking potshots  from there,  so Mikulski swung the muzzle of the Vickers up
into the air at a steep angle and  shot the  bullet  stream  into the sky so
that  the bullets plunged down like mortar shells on  the other side of  the
rise. It took him a while to get the angle just right, but then he patiently
distributed bullets over the entire field, like a man watering his lawn. One
of the SAS blokes actually  did some calculations on his knee, figuring  out
how long Mikulski  should keep  doing  this to make  sure  that bullets were
distributed over the  ground in  question at the right density  say, one per
square foot.  When  the  territory had  been properly sown with  lead slugs,
Mikulski turned back  to the roadblock  and made sure  that the truck pulled
across  the pavement was in small enough pieces that it could be shoved  out
of the way by hand.
     Then  he  ceased firing at  last. Shaftoe felt like he should  make  an
entry in a log book, the way ships' captains do when they pull  a man of war
into port. When they drove past the wreckage,  they slowed down for a bit to
gawk.  The  brittle  grey iron  of the  German vehicles' engine  blocks  had
shattered  like  glass and you could look into  the engines all neatly cross
sectioned and see the  gleaming pistons and  crankshafts exposed to the sun,
bleeding oil and coolant.
     They  passed through what was left  of the roadblock and  drove onwards
into a sparsely populated inland area that made excellent strafing territory
for  the Luftwaffe. The first two fighters that came  around were torn apart
in midair by Mikulski and  his Vickers. The next pair managed to destroy the
truck, the big  gun, and Private Mikulski in one pass. No one else was hurt;
they  were  all in the ditch,  watching as  Mikulski sat placidly behind the
controls  of  his  weapon,  playing  chicken  with  two  Messerschmidts  and
eventually losing.
     By now it was getting dark. The detachment  began to make its way cross
country on foot, carrying Mikulski's remains on a stretcher. They ran into a
German patrol and fought it out with them; two of the SAS men were  wounded,
and one of these had to be carried the rest of the way. Finally they reached
their rendezvous  point, a  wheat  field where they laid down road flares to
outline a landing strip for a U.S. Army DC 3, which executed a deft landing,
took them all on board, and flew them to Malta without further incident.
     And that was where they were introduced to Lieutenant  Monkberg for the
first time.
     No sooner  had they been debriefed than they were on another submarine,
bound for  parts unknown or at  least unspecified.  But when  they turned in
their warm  weather gear for ten pound oiled wool sweaters, they started  to
get an idea. A few claustrophobic days later, they had been transferred onto
this freighter.
     The vessel itself is  such  a pathetic heap that they have been amusing
themselves  by substituting the  word "shit"  for "ship" in various nautical
expressions, e.g.: let's get  this cabin shit shape! Where in hell  does the
shit's master think he's taking us? And so on.
     Now, in the shit's hold, an impassioned Bobby Shaftoe is doing his best
to create a  ransacked effect. He strews  rifles and tommy guns  around  the
deck. He opens boxes of .45  cartridges and flings them all over  the place.
He finds some skis, too they'll be needing skis, right? He plants mines here
and there,  just to throw  a scare  into  whatever  German  happens along to
investigate this shitwreck. He opens crates  of grenades. These do not  look
very  ransacked, sitting there full, so he pulls out dozens of them, carries
them abovedecks, and  throws  them  overboard. He tosses  out some skis also
maybe they will wash up on shore  somewhere and  contribute to  the  overall
sense of chaos that is so important to Lieutenant Monkberg.
     He  is  on his way across the upper deck,  carrying an armload of skis,
when something catches his eye out there in the fog. He flinches, of course.
Many strafings have turned Bobby Shaftoe into a big flincher. He flinches so
hard  that  he drops all of those skis on the deck  and comes this close  to
throwing himself  down among  them.  But he holds his ground long  enough to
focus in on this  thing  in the fog.  It is directly in  front of them,  and
somewhat higher than the bridge of the freighter, and (unlike plunging Zeros
or Messerschmidts) it is not moving fast just hanging there. Like a cloud in
the sky. As if the fog had coagulated into  a dense clump, like his mother's
mashed potatoes. It  gets brighter and brighter as  he stands there watching
it, and the  edges get more  and more sharply  defined, and he starts to see
other stuff around it.
     The other stuff is green.
     Hey, wait a  minute!  He is  looking at a green mountainside with a big
white snowfield in the middle of it.
     "Heads up!" he screams, and throws himself down on the deck.
     He  is hoping  to  be  surprised by the gradualness, the gentleness  of
their collision with  the earth's crust. He  has in  mind the  kind  of deal
where you run a little motorboat at a sandy beach, cut the motor and tilt it
out of the water at the last minute, and glide up gently onto the cushioning
     This turns out to be a  very  poor analogy  for what happens  next. The
freighter is actually going a lot faster than your typical putt putt fishing
boat. And  instead of gliding up onto a sandy beach, they have a nearly head
on collision  with a vertical  granite  wall. There  is  a really impressive
noise,  the  prow of the vessel actually bends upwards, and suddenly,  Bobby
Shaftoe finds that he is sliding  on his belly across the ice glazed deck at
a high speed.
     He is  terrified, for a moment, that  he's going to slide right off the
deck and  go flying into the drink, but he manages to steer himself into  an
anchor chain, which proves  an effective  stopper.  Down below,  he can hear
approximately ten  thousand other small and large objects finding  their own
obstacles to slam into.
     There  follows a  brief and  almost  peaceful interlude  of near  total
silence. Then a hue and cry  rises up  from the extremely sparse crew of the
     The men of Detachment 2702 head for  the lifeboats. Shaftoe  knows that
they can take  care  of themselves, so he heads for the  bridge, looking for
the few oddballs who always find a way to make things interesting:
     Lieutenants Root and Monkberg, and Corporal Benjamin.
     The  first person  he sees is the skipper,  slumped in a chair, pouring
himself a drink and looking like a guy who just bled to death. This poor son
of a bitch is a Navy lifer who got detached from his regular unit solely for
the  purpose  of  doing what he just did. It clearly  does not sit well with
     "Nice  job, sir!" Shaftoe says, not knowing  what  else to say. Then he
follows the sound of an argument into the signals cabin.
     The dramatis personae are Corporal  Benjamin, holding up a  large Book,
in a pose that recalls an exasperated preacher sarcastically acquainting his
wayward  parishioners  with  the unfamiliar sight  of the  Bible; Lieutenant
Monkberg, semireclined in  a chair,  his damaged  Limb up  on a  table;  and
Lieutenant Root, doing some needle and thread work on same.
     "It is my sworn duty " Benjamin begins.
     Monkberg interrupts him. "It is your sworn duty, Corporal, to follow my
     Root's medical supplies are scattered all over the deck  because of the
collision.  Shaftoe begins to pick them up  and sort  them out,  keeping  an
especially sharp eye out for any small bottles that may have gone astray.
     Benjamin  is  very excited. Clearly,  he  is  not  getting  through  to
Monkberg, and so he opens up the hefty Book at random and holds  it up above
his  head. It contains line  after line,  column  after  column,  of  random
letters.  "This," Benjamin  says,  "is the  Allied MERCHANT SHIPPING CODE! A
copy of THIS BOOK is on EVERY SHIP of EVERY CONVOY in the North Atlantic! It
is used by those ships  to BROADCAST THEIR POSITIONS! Do you UNDERSTAND what
is going to HAPPEN if THIS BOOK falls into the hands of THE GERMANS?!"
     "I have given you my order," Lieutenant Monkberg says.
     They go  on in this vein for a couple  of minutes as Shaftoe scours the
deck for  medical debris.  Finally he  sees what  he's  looking for:  it has
rolled beneath a storage cabinet and appears to be miraculously unscathed.
     "Sergeant Shaftoe!" says Root peremptorily. It is the  closest  he  has
ever  come to sounding  like  a  military  officer.  Shaftoe straightens  up
     "Sir! Yes, sir!"
     "Lieutenant Monkberg's  dose  of  morphine  may wear off pretty soon. I
need you to find my morphine bottle and bring it to me right away."
     "Sir!  Yes, sir!" Shaftoe is a Marine, which means he's  really good at
following  orders  even when his  body is telling him not  to. Even so,  his
fingers do  not  want to release  their grip  on the little bottle, and Root
almost has to pry it loose.
     Benjamin and Monkberg,  locked in their dispute, are  oblivious to this
little  exchange.  "Lieutenant Root!" Benjamin says, his voice now  high and
     "Yes, Corporal," Root says absent mindedly.
     "I have reason  to believe that Lieutenant Monkberg is a German spy and
that he should  be relieved of his command of this mission and placed  under
     "You son of a bitch!" Monkberg shouts. As well he might, since Benjamin
has just accused him of treason, for which he could face a firing squad. But
Root has Monkberg's leg clamped in place up there on the table, and he can't
     Root  is completely  unruffled. He seems  to welcome this  unbelievably
serious accusation. It is an  opportunity to talk about  something with more
substance  than, for example, finding ways to substitute the word "shit" for
"ship" in nautical expressions.
     "I'll see you court martialed for this, you bastard!" Monkberg hollers.
     "Corporal Benjamin, what grounds do you have for this accusation?" says
Enoch Root in a lullaby voice.
     "The lieutenant has refused to allow me to destroy the codebooks, which
it  is my sworn duty to  do!" Benjamin  shouts.  He has  completely lost his
     "I  am under  very specific  and  clear orders  from  Colonel Chattan!"
Monkberg says, addressing Root.  Shaftoe is startled by this. Monkberg seems
to be recognizing  Root's authority in the matter. Or maybe he's scared, and
looking for an ally. The officers closing ranks against the enlisted men. As
     "Do you have a  written  copy of  those  orders  I could examine?" Root
     "I don't think it's  appropriate for  us  to be having this  discussion
here and now," Monkberg says, still pleading and defensive.
     "How would you suggest  that we handle it?" Root says, drawing a length
of silk through Monkberg's numbed flesh. "We are aground. The  Germans  will
be here soon. We either leave the code books or we don't. We have  to decide
     Monkberg goes limp and passive in his chair.
     "Can you show me written orders?" Root asks.
     "No. They were given verbally," Monkberg says.
     "And did these orders specifically mention the code books?" Root asks.
     "They did," Monkberg says, as if he's a witness in a courtroom.
     "And did these orders state  that the code books were to be  allowed to
fall into the hands of the Germans?"
     "They did."
     There is silence for  a moment as  Root ties  off  a  suture and begins
another  one.  Then  he says, "A  skeptic, such  as Corporal Benjamin, might
think that this business of the code books is an invention of yours."
     "If I falsified my own orders," Monkberg says, "I could be shot."
     "Only if you, and some witnesses to the event, all made their  way back
to  friendly territory, and compared notes with Colonel Chattan," says Enoch
Root, coolly and patiently.
     "What the fuck is going on!?"  says one of the SAS blokes,  bursting in
through  a hatch down below and  charging up the gangway. "We're all waiting
in the fucking  lifeboats!"  He bursts into the room, his face red with cold
and anxiety, and looks around wildly.
     "Fuck off," Shaftoe says.
     The SAS bloke pulls up short. "Okay, Sarge!"
     "Go down  and tell the men in the boats to fuck off too," Shaftoe says.
"Right away, Sarge!" the  SAS man says, and makes himself scarce. "As  those
anxious men in the  lifeboats  will  attest,"  Enoch  Root  continues,  "the
likelihood of you and several witnesses making it back to friendly territory
is diminishing by the minute. And  the fact that you just happened to suffer
a grievous self inflicted leg wound, just a few minutes ago, complicates our
escape  tremendously. Either  we  will all be captured together, or else you
will  volunteer  to  be left behind  and captured. Either way, you are saved
assuming that  you  are a  German spy from the court martial and  the firing
     Monkberg  can't  believe  his  ears.  "But  but  it  was  an  accident,
Lieutenant Root! I hit myself in the leg with a fucking ax you don't think I
did that deliberately!?"
     "It is very difficult for us to know," Root says regretfully.
     "Why don't we just destroy  the code  books? It's  the safest thing  to
do,"  Benjamin says. "I'd just be following  a  standing order nothing wrong
with that. No court martial there."
     "But that would ruin the mission!" Monkberg says.
     Root thinks this one  over  for a  moment.  "Has  anyone ever died," he
says,  "because  the enemy  stole  one  of  our secret  codes  and read  our
     "Absolutely," Shaftoe says.
     "Has  anyone on our side ever died," Root continues, "because the enemy
didn't have one of our secret codes?"
     This is quite  a poser.  Corporate Benjamin makes  his mind up soonest,
but even he has to think about it. "Of course not!" he says.
     "Sergeant  Shaftoe? Do you have an opinion?" Root  asks, fixing Shaftoe
with a sober and serious gaze.
     Shaftoe says, "This code business is some tricky shit."
     Monkberg's turn. "I ...  I think... I believe I  could  come up with  a
hypothetical situation in which someone could die, yes."
     "How about you, Lieutenant Root?" Shaftoe asks.
     Root  does not say anything for a long time now. He just works with his
silk and his  needles. It seems like several minutes go by. Perhaps it's not
that long. Everyone is nervous about the Germans.
     "Lieutenant Monkberg  asks me to believe  that  it will  prevent Allied
soldiers from dying  if we turn over the Allied merchant shipping code books
to. the Germans today," Root finally  says. Everyone  jumps nervously at the
sound of his voice. "Actually, since we must use a sort of calculus of death
in these  situations, the real question  is, will this  some  how save  more
lives than it will lose?"
     "You  lost  me  there, padre,"  says Shaftoe. "I  didn't even  make  it
through algebra."
     "Then let's start with what we know: turning over  the  codes will lose
lives  because it  will enable the  Germans to figure  out where our convoys
are, and sink them. Right?"
     "Right!" Corporal Benjamin says. Root seems to be leaning his way.
     "That will be true,"  Root continues, "until such  time  as  the Allies
change the code systems which they will probably do as soon as possible. So,
on the negative side of the calculus of death,  we have some convoy sinkings
in  the  short term.  What about the positive side?" Root  asks, raising his
eyebrows in contemplation even as he stares down into Monkberg's wound. "How
might  turning  over  the  codes   save  some  lives?   Well,  that  is   an
     "A what?" Shaftoe says.
     "Suppose,  for  example,  that there is a secret convoy  about to cross
over from New York, and it contains thousands of troops, and some new weapon
that will turn the tide in the war and save  thousands of lives. And suppose
that it is using a different code system, so that even after the Germans get
our code books  today  they will  not know about it. The Germans will  focus
their  energies  on sinking  the convoys  that  they do know about  killing,
perhaps, a few hundred  crew members. But while their  attention is on those
convoys, the secret convoy will slip through and  deliver its precious cargo
and save thousands of lives."
     Another  long  silence. They  can  hear  the  rest of  Detachment  2702
shouting now, down in the lifeboats,  probably having a detailed  discussion
of their  own: if we leave all of  the fucking officers behind on a grounded
ship, does it qualify as mutiny?
     "That's  just hypothetical," Root says. "But it demonstrates that it is
at least theoretically possible that there might be a  positive  side to the
calculus of death. And now that I think about  it, there might not even be a
negative side."
     "What do you mean?" Benjamin says. "Of course there's a negative side!"
     "You are assuming that the Germans have not  already broken that code,"
Root says, pointing a bloody and  accusing finger at Benjamin's  big tome of
gibberish. "But maybe they have. They've been sinking  our convoys left  and
right, you know. If that's the case, then there is no negative in letting it
fall into their hands."
     "But that contradicts your  theory  about the secret convoy!"  Benjamin
     "The secret convoy was just a Gedankenexperiment," Root says.
     Corporal  Benjamin rolls his eyes;  apparently,  he actually knows what
that means.  "If they've already broken it, then why are  we going to all of
this trouble, and risking our lives to GIVE IT TO THEM!?"
     Root ponders that one for a while. "I don't know."
     "Well, what  do  you think,  Lieutenant Root?" Bobby Shaftoe asks a few
excruciatingly silent minutes later.
     "I  think  that  in  spite  of  my  Gedankenexperiment,  that  Corporal
Benjamin's explanation i.e., that Lieutenant Monkberg  is  a  German spy  is
more plausible."
     Benjamin lets  out a sigh  of relief. Monkberg  stares  up into  Root's
face, paralyzed with horror.
     "But implausible things happen all the time," Root continues.
     "Oh, for pete's sake!" Benjamin shouts, and slams his hand down  on the
     "Lieutenant Root?" Shaftoe says.
     "Yes, Sergeant Shaftoe?"
     "Lieutenant Monkberg's injury was an accident. I seen it happen."
     Root looks up into Shaftoe's eyes. He finds this interesting. "Really?"
     "Yes, sir. It was an accident all the way."
     Root  breaks  open  a  package of sterile gauze  and  begins to wind it
around  Monkberg's leg; the blood soaks through immediately, faster  than he
can wind  new layers around it. But gradually, Root starts to get the better
of it, and the  gauze  stays white and  clean.  "Guess  it's time to make  a
command decision," he says. "I say we leave the code books behind, just like
Lieutenant Monkberg says."
     "But if he's a German spy " Benjamin begins.
     "Then his ass is grass when we get back on friendly soil," Root says.
     "But you said yourself the chances of that were slim."
     "I shouldn't have said that," Enoch Root  says apologetically.  "It was
not  a wise or a thoughtful comment. It did not  reflect  the true spirit of
Detachment 2702.  I am convinced  that  we will  prevail  in the face of our
little problem here. I am convinced that we will make  it to Sweden and that
we will bring Lieutenant Monkberg along with us."
     "That's the spirit!" Monkberg says.
     "If  at any point, Lieutenant Monkberg shows  signs  of malingering, or
volunteers to be  left behind, or in any way behaves  so as to  increase our
risk of capture by the Germans, then we can  all  safely assume that he is a
German spy."
     Monkberg seems  completely  unfazed.  "Well, let's get the fuck out  of
here,  then!" he blurts, and gets to  his feet, somewhat unsteady from blood
     "Wait!" Sergeant Shaftoe says.
     "What is it now, Shaftoe?" Monkberg shouts, back in command again.
     "How are we going to know if he's increasing our risk of capture?"
     "What do you mean, Sergeant Shaftoe?" Root says.
     "Maybe it  won't  be  obvious," Shaftoe says. "Maybe  there's a  German
detachment  waiting  to capture us at a certain location in  the woods.  And
maybe Lieutenant Monkberg is going to lead us directly to the trap."
     "Atta boy, Sarge!" Corporal Benjamin says.
     "Lieutenant  Monkberg," says Enoch Root, "as the closest thing  we have
to a ship's doctor, I am relieving you of your command on medical grounds."
     "What medical grounds!?" Monkberg shouts, horrified.
     "You are short on blood,  and what blood  you do  have is  tainted with
morphine," says Lieutenant Enoch Root.  "So the second in command will  have
to  take over for you and make all decisions as  to which direction  we will
     "But you're the only  other  officer!"  Shaftoe says.  "Except  for the
skipper, and he can't be a skipper without a boat."
     "Sergeant Shaftoe!" Root  barks, doing such  an effective impersonation
of a Marine that Shaftoe and Benjamin both stiffen to attention.
     "Sir! Yes sir!" Shaftoe returns.
     "This is the  first  and last order I am  going to give you, so  listen
carefully!" Root insists.
     "Sir! Yes sir!"
     "Sergeant Shaftoe, take me and the rest of this unit to Sweden!"
     "Sir!  Yes  sir!"  Shaftoe  hollers, and  marches  out  of  the  cabin,
practically knocking Monkberg  aside.  The others soon follow,  leaving  the
code books behind.
     After about half an hour of  screwing around with lifeboats, Detachment
2702  finds  itself on the ground  again,  in Norway. The snowline  is about
fifty feet above sea level; it is fortunate that Bobby Shaftoe knows what to
do with  a pair of skis. The SAS blokes also know this particular drill, and
they even know how to rig up a sort of sled arrangement that they can use to
pull Lieutenant Monkberg.  Within a few hours,  they are deep in the  woods,
headed east, not having seen a single  human  being,  German  or  Norwegian,
since they ran  aground. Snow  begins  to  fall, filling  in  their  tracks.
Monkberg is behaving himself not demanding to be left behind, not sending up
flares. Shaftoe begins to think that making it out to Sweden might be one of
Detachment 2702's  easier  missions.  The  only  hard  part,  as  usual,  is
understanding what the fuck is going on.

     Chapter 31 DILIGENCE

     Maps  of Southeast Asia  are  up on  the walls,  and even  covering the
windows, lending a  bunkerlike ambience to Avi's hotel room. Epiphyte  Corp.
has assembled for its first full on shareholder's meeting in two months. Avi
Halaby,  Randy Waterhouse, Tom Howard,  Eberhard Föhr,  John  Cantrell,  and
Beryl Hagen crowd into the room and pillage the minibar for  snacks and soft
drinks. Some  of them sit on the bed. Eberhard sits barefoot and crosslegged
on the floor with his laptop up  on a footstool.  Avi remains  standing.  He
crosses  his arms  and  leans  back, eyes  closed,  against  the  endangered
mahogany  doors  of his  entertainment  center. He  is wearing a brilliantly
laundered white shirt, so freshly and heavily starched that  it still cracks
when he moves.  Until fifteen minutes ago he was wearing a t shirt he hadn't
taken off his body for forty eight hours.
     Randy thinks for  a  minute  that Avi  may have  fallen  asleep  in the
unorthodox standing position. But "Look at that map," Avi says suddenly,  in
a  quiet voice. He opens his eyes  and swivels them in their sockets towards
same,  not  wasting precious energy  by turning  his head.  "Singapore,  the
southern  tip of  Taiwan,  and the northernmost point  of  Australia  form a
     "Avi," says Eb solemnly, "any  three points form a triangle." Generally
they don't look  to  Eberhard to leaven the  proceedings with  humor,  but a
chuckle passes around the room, and Avi grins not so much because it's funny
as because it's evidence of good morale.
     "What's in the middle of the triangle?"
     Everyone  looks again. The  correct answer is a point in the middle  of
the Sulu Sea, but it's clear what Avi is getting at. "We are," Randy says.
     "That's correct," Avi says.  "Kinakuta is ideally situated to act as an
electronic crossroads. The perfect place to put big routers."
     "You're talking shareholderese," Randy warns.
     Avi ignores him. "Really it makes a lot more sense this way."
     "What way?" Eb asks sharply.
     "I've become aware that  there are other  cable people here. There is a
group  from Singapore and  a consortium from  Australia and New Zealand.  In
other words:  we used  to be  the sole carriers  into the Crypt. As of later
today, I suspect we will be one of three."
     Tom Howard grins triumphantly: he works in the Crypt,  he probably knew
before anyone. Randy and John Cantrell exchange a look.
     Eb sits up stiffly.  "How long  have you known  about this?"  he  asks,
Randy sees  a look of annoyance flash across Beryl's face. She does not like
being probed.
     "Would  the rest of  you  excuse  Eb and me  for a minute?" Randy says,
getting to his feet.
     Dr. Eberhard Föhr looks startled, then gets up and follows Randy out of
the room. "Where are we going?"
     "Leave  your laptop," Randy  says, escorting him  out into the hallway.
"We're just going here."
     "It's like this," Randy says,  pulling the  door closed but not letting
it lock. "People like Avi and Beryl,  who  have been in business a lot, have
this noticeable preference for two person conversations like the one you and
I are having right now. Not only that, they rarely write things down."
     "It's  kind of an  information theory thing. See,  if  worse  comes  to
worst, and there is some kind of legal action "
     "Legal action? What are you talking about?"
     Eb  came from a small city near the border with Denmark. His father was
a  high  school  mathematics  teacher,  his  mother an  English teacher. His
appearance  would  probably  make him an outcast in  his home town, but like
many of the people  who still live there, he believes that things should  be
done in a plain, open, and logical fashion.
     "I don't mean to alarm  you,"  Randy says,  "I'm not implying  that any
such thing is happening, or  about to. But America being the way it is right
now, you'd be amazed how often business ventures lead to lawsuits. When that
happens, any and all documents are disclosable. So people like Avi and Beryl
never  write  anything  down  that they wouldn't want  to see in open court.
Furthermore,  anyone  can be  asked,  under  oath,  to  testify  about  what
happened. That's why two person conversations, like this one, are best."
     "One person's word against another. I understand this."
     "I know you do."
     "We should anyway have been discreetly told."
     "The reason that Avi and Beryl didn't tell us about this  until now was
that they wanted  to  work  out the  problem  face to  face,  in  two person
conversations.  In other  words,  they did  it  to  protect  us  not to hide
anything from us. Now they are formally presenting us with the news."
     Eberhard is no longer suspicious. Now he is irked, which is worse. Like
a lot of techies, he can become obstreperous when he decides that others are
not being logical. Randy holds up his hands, palms out, in surrender.
     "I stipulate that this does not make sense," Randy says.
     Eb glares into the distance, not mollified.
     "Will you agree  with me that the world  is full of  irrational people,
and crazy situations?"
     "Jaaaa " Eb says guardedly.
     "If you  and I  are going to  hack and get paid for  it, people have to
hire us, right?"
     Eb considers it carefully. "Yes."
     "That means dealing with those people, at some  level, unpleasant as it
may be.  And accepting a whole  lot of  other nonsense, like lawyers and  PR
people and marketroids. And if you or I tried to deal with them, we would go
out of our minds. True?"
     "Most likely, yes."
     "It  is good, then, that people  like Avi  and  Beryl  have  come  into
existence, because they are our interface." An image from the Cold War comes
into  Randy's  head.  He reaches out  with both hands and gropes in the air.
"Like those glove boxes that they use to handle plutonium. See?"
     Eberhard nods. An encouraging sign.
     "But  that  doesn't  mean  that  it's  going  to  be  like  programming
computers. They  can only  filter  and soften the irrational  nature  of the
world  beyond, so  Avi  and Beryl  may still  do things that  seem a  little
     Eb has been getting a more and more faraway look in his eyes. "It would
be  interesting to  approach this  as a problem in  information  theory," he
announces. "How can data  flow back and forth between  nodes  in an internal
network" Randy  knows  that  by  this Eb means people in a small corporation
– "but not exist to a person outside?"
     "What do you mean, not exist?"
     "How could a  court subpoena a document if, from their reference frame,
it had never existed?"
     "Are you talking about encrypting it?"
     Eb looks slightly pained by Randy's simple mindedness. "We are  already
doing that.  But  someone  could still prove that a document, of  a  certain
size, had been sent out at a certain time, to a certain mailbox."
     "Traffic analysis."
     "Yes.  But what if one jams it? Why couldn't I  fill my hard drive with
random bytes, so that individual files  would not be discernible? Their very
existence would be  hidden in the noise, like a striped tiger in tall grass.
And we could continually stream random noise back and forth to each other."
     "That would be expensive."
     Eberhard waves his hand dismissively. "Bandwidth is cheap."
     "That  is  more an article of  faith than  a  statement of fact," Randy
says, "but it might be true in the future."
     "But  the rest  of  our lives  will happen in the future, Randy,  so we
might as well get with the program now.
     "Well," Randy says, "could we continue this discussion later?"
     "Of course."
     They go back into the room.  Tom, who has  spent the most time here, is
saying: "The  five footers  with yellowish brown spots on an aqua background
are harmless and make great pets. The six footers with brownish yellow spots
on a  turquoise  background  kill  you  with a single  bite, in ten minutes,
unless you commit suicide in the meantime to escape the intolerable pain."
     This is all a way of letting Randy and Eb know that the others have not
been discussing business while they were out of the room.
     "Okay,"  Avi  says,  "the  upshot  is that  the  Crypt  is going to  be
potentially much bigger than we thought  at first, so this is good news. But
there is one thing that we have to  deal with." Avi has known Randy forever,
and knows that Randy won't really be bothered by what is to come.
     All  eyes  turn towards Randy, and  Beryl picks up the thread.  She has
arrogated to herself the role of worrying about people's feelings, since the
other people  in  the company  are so manifestly unqualified, and she speaks
regretfully. "The work Randy's been doing  in the Philippines, which is very
fine work, is no longer a critical part of this corporation's activities."
     "I  accept that," Randy says. "Hey, at least  I got my first tan in ten
     Everyone seems immediately relieved that Randy is not pissed off.
     Tom,  typically, gets  right to brass  tacks: "Can we pull  out  of our
relationship with the Dentist? Just make a clean break?"
     The rhythm  of the  conversation  is abruptly  lost. It's  like a power
failure in a discotheque.
     "Unknown," Avi finally says. "We looked at the contracts. But they were
written by the Dentist's lawyers."
     "Aren't some of his partners lawyers?" Cantrell asks.
     Avi shrugs impatiently, as if that's not the half of it. "His partners.
His  investors. His  neighbors, friends,  golfing buddies.  His  plumber  is
probably a lawyer."
     "The point being that he is famously litigious," Randy says.
     "The other potential problem," Beryl  says, "is  that, if we did find a
way to  extract ourselves from  the  deal with AVCLA, we would then lose the
short term cash flow that we were counting on from the  Philippines network.
The ramifications of that turn out to be uglier than we had expected."
     "Damn!" Randy says, "I was afraid of that."
     "What are the  ramifications?" Tom says, hewing  as  ever to the bottom
     "We  would have to  raise some more money to cover  the shortfall," Avi
says. "Diluting our stock."
     "Diluting it how much?" John asks.
     "Below fifty percent."
     This magic figure  touches  off  an epidemic of  sighing,  groaning and
shifting around among the officers of  Epiphyte Corp., who collectively hold
over  fifty  percent  of  the company's  stock. As  they  work  through  the
ramifications in their heads, they begin to look significantly at Randy.
     Finally Randy  stands, and holds out his  hands as if warding them off.
"Okay,  okay,  okay," he  says. "Where does this take us? The business  plan
states,  over and over, that the Philippines network makes  sense in and  of
itself that it could be  spun  off into an  independent business at any time
and still make money. As far as we know, that's still true, right?"
     Avi thinks this over before issuing the carefully engineered statement:
     "It is as true as it ever was."
     This elicits  a  titter,  and  a  bit of sarcastic  applause,  from the
others. Clever Avi! Where would we be without him?
     "Okay,"  Randy says. "So if  we stick with the  Dentist even though his
project is now irrelevant to us we hopefully make enough money that we don't
need to sell any more stock. We can  retain control over the company. On the
other hand, if we break our  relationship with AVCLA, the Dentist's partners
start to hammer us with lawsuits which they can do at virtually no cost,  or
risk. We get mired in court in  L.A.  We  have to fly back there and testify
and give depositions. We spend a ton of money on lawyers."
     "And we might even lose," Avi says.
     Everyone laughs.
     "So we  have to stay  in," Randy concludes. "We have to work  with  the
Dentist whether we want to or not."
     No one says anything.
     It's not that they disagree with Randy; on the contrary. It's just that
Randy is the guy who's been doing the Philippines stuff, and who is going to
end up handling this unfortunate  situation. Randy's going  to take all  the
force of this blow  personally. It is better that  he volunteer than that it
be forced on him. He is volunteering now, loudly and publicly,  putting on a
performance. The other actors in the ensemble are Avi, Beryl, Tom, John, and
Eb. The  audience consists of  Epiphyte Corp.'s minority  shareholders,  the
Dentist, and various  yet to  be empaneled juries.  It is a performance that
will never come to light unless  someone files a  lawsuit  against them  and
brings them all to the witness box to recount it under oath.
     John decides to trowel  it on a little thicker. "AVCLA's financing  the
Philippines on spec, right?"
     "Correct,"   Avi  says  authoritatively,   playing   directly   to  the
hypothetical juries of the future. "In the old days, cable layers would sell
capacity first to raise capital. AVCLA's building it with their own capital.
When it's  finished, they'll own it outright, and  they'll sell the capacity
to the highest bidder."
     "It's not all AVCLA's money  they're  not that rich," Beryl says. "They
got a big wad from NOHGI."
     "Which is?" Eb asks.
     "Niigata Overseas Holding Group Inc.," three people say in unison.
     Eb looks baffled.
     "NOHGI laid the deep sea cable from Taiwan to Luzon," Randy says.
     "Anyway," John says, "my point is that  since the Dentist is wiring the
Philippines  on  spec,  he  is  highly exposed.  Anything  that  delays  the
completion of that  system  is going  to  cause  him  enormous  problems. It
behooves us to honor our obligations."
     John is saying to  the hypothetical jury in  Dentist v. Epiphyte Corp.:
we carefully observed the terms of our contract with AVCLA.

     But this is not  necessarily going to look so good to the  hypothetical
jury in  the other hypothetical  minority  shareholder  lawsuit, Springboard
Group  v.  Epiphyte  Corp.  So  Avi  hastens  to  add,  "As  I  think  we've
established, through  a  careful  discussion  of the  issues,  honoring  our
obligations to the Dentist is part and  parcel of our obligation  to our own
shareholders. These two goals dovetail."
     Beryl rolls her eyes and heaves a deep sigh of relief.
     "Let us therefore go forth and wire the Philippines," Randy says.
     Avi addresses him  in  formal tones, as if his hand were  resting, even
now, on a Gideon Bible. "Randy, do you  feel that  the resources allotted to
you  are  sufficient  for you  to  meet our  contractual  obligations to the
     "We need to have a meeting about that," Randy says.
     "Can it wait until after tomorrow?" Avi says.
     "Of course. Why shouldn't it?"
     "I have to use the bathroom," Avi says.
     This is a signal  that Avi and  Randy have used many times in the past.
Avi gets up and goes into the bathroom. A moment later, Randy says, "Come to
think of it . . ." and follows him in there.
     He is startled to find that Avi is actually pissing. On the spur of the
moment,  Randy unzips and starts pissing  right along  with him. It  doesn't
occur to him how remarkable this is until he's well into it.
     "What's up?" Randy asks.
     "I went down to the lobby to change money this morning," Avi says, "and
guess who came stalking into the hotel, fresh from the airport?"
     "Oh, shit," Randy says.
     "The Dentist himself."
     "No yacht?"
     "The yacht's following him."
     "Did he have anyone with him?"
     "No, but he might later."
     "Why is he here?"
     "He must have heard."
     "God. He's the last guy I want to run into tomorrow."
     "Why? Is there a problem?"
     "Nothing I can put my finger on," Randy says. "Nothing dramatic."
     "Nothing  that,  if  it  came  to  light  later,  would  make you  look
     "I don't think so," Randy says.  "It's just that this Philippines thing
is complicated and we need to talk about it."
     "Well,  for  God's  sake," Avi  says,  "if  you  run into  the  Dentist
tomorrow, don't say anything about your work. Keep it social."
     "Got it," Randy says, and zips up.  But what he's  really thinking  is:
why did I  waste  all those  years in academia when I could have  been doing
great shit like this?
     Which then reminds him of something: "Oh, yeah. Got a weird e mail."
     Avi immediately says "From Andy?"
     "How'd you guess?"
     "You said it was weird. Did you really get e mail from him?"
     "I don't really  know who it was from. Probably  not  Andy.  It  wasn't
weird in that way."
     "Did you respond to it?"
     "No. But did."
     "Who's that? is the system you used to administer, right?"
     "Yeah.  I still  have  some  privileges there.  I created a new account
there, name  of  dwarf,  which can't be traced to me. Sent anonymous  e mail
back to this guy telling him that until he proves otherwise, I'm assuming he
is an old enemy of mine."
     "Or a new one."

     Chapter 32 SPEARHEAD

     The  young Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse,  visiting his grandparents in
Dakota, follows a plow across a field. The diving blades  of the  plow heave
the  black soil up  out of the furrows and pile  it into  ridges, rough  and
jumbled when seen up close  but mathematically clean and  straight, like the
grooves of  a  phonograph  record, when  viewed  from  a  distance.  A  tiny
surfboard shaped object  projects  from  the crest of one  of those  earthen
waves.  Young  Waterhouse  bends down and  plucks  it  out. It is  an Indian
spearhead neatly chipped out of flint.
     U 553 is  a black  steel spear point  thrusting into the  air about ten
miles  north  of Qwghlm. The  grey rollers pick  it up and slam it down, but
other  than  that,  it does not  move;  it is  grounded on  a submerged  out
cropping  known  to the locals as  Caesar's Reef,  or Viking's Grief, or the
Dutch Hammer.
     On the  prairie, those flint arrowheads  can be  found lodged  in every
sort of natural matrix: soil, sod, the mud of a riverbank, the  heartwood of
a tree. Waterhouse has a talent for finding  them. How can  he walk across a
field salted, by the retreat of the last glacier, with countless stones, and
pick out the arrowheads? Why can the human eye detect a tiny artificial form
lost in nature's torn and turbulent  cosmos, a needle of data in  a haystack
of noise? It  is a sudden, sparking  connection between minds, he  supposes.
The  arrowheads are human things broken loose  from humanity, their  organic
parts  perished, their mineral forms enduring  crystals of intention. It  is
not the form  but the lethal intent that demands  the attention of a selfish
mind. It worked for young Waterhouse, hunting for arrowheads. It worked  for
the pilots  of the airplanes that  hounded U 553 this morning. It  works for
the listeners of the Beobachtung Dienst, who have trained their ears to hear
what is being said by Churchill and FDR on what are supposed to be scrambled
telephones.  But it doesn't  work very well with crypto. That is too bad for
everyone except the British and the Americans, who have devised mathematical
systems for picking out arrowheads amid pebbles.
     Caesar's Reef gashed  the underside of U  553's bow section  open while
shoving  the entire boat  up  and  partly out of the water. Momentum  almost
carried her over the hump, but she got hung  up  in the middle,  stranded, a
wave battered teeter totter. Her bows have mostly filled with water now, and
so it is  the sharp stern that projects up above the crests of the seas. She
has been abandoned by her crew, which means that according to the traditions
of maritime law, she is  up for  grabs. The Royal  Navy  has called dibs.  A
screen  of  destroyers patrols the area, lest some sister U boat slip in and
torpedo the wreck.
     Waterhouse had  been collected from the castle  in unseemly haste. Dusk
is now  falling like a lead curtain, and wolf packs hunt  at night. He is on
the bridge  of a corvette, a tiny escort ship that, in any kind of chop, has
the exact hydrodynamics  of an empty oil drum. If he stays down  below he'll
never  stop vomiting, and so he stands  abovedecks, feet braced wide,  knees
bent, holding  onto a rail with both hands, watching the wreck  come closer.
The number 553 is painted on her conning tower, beneath a cartoon of a polar
bear hoisting a beer stein.
     "Interesting,"  he says to  Colonel Chattan.  "Five five three  is  the
product of two prime numbers seven and seventy nine."
     Chattan manages  an appreciative  smile, but  Waterhouse can tell  that
it's nothing more than a spectacular display of breeding.
     The  remainder of  Detachment  2702  is,  meanwhile,  finally arriving.
Having just  finished with the successful Norway ramming mission,  they were
on their way to their new base of  operations on  Qwghlm  when they received
word of U 553's grounding.  They  rendezvoused with Waterhouse right here on
this  boat haven't  even had a chance  to sit  down yet,  much less  unpack.
Waterhouse  has  told  them several times how much  they  are going to  like
Qwghlm  and has  run out  of other things  to  say the crew of this corvette
lacks  Ultra  Mega clearance, and there is  nothing  that  Waterhouse  could
conceivably talk about with Chattan and the others that is not classified at
the Ultra Mega level. So he's trying gamely with prime number chitchat.
     Some of  the detachment the Marine lieutenant and most of  the enlisted
men were  dropped off in  Qwghlm so that they could  settle  into  their new
quarters.  Only Colonel Chattan  and a noncom  named Sergeant Robert Shaftoe
have accompanied Waterhouse to the U boat.
     Shaftoe  has a wiry build,  bulging Alley Oop  forearms and hands,  and
blond hair in a buzz cut that makes his big blue eyes look bigger.  He has a
big nose  and a big Adam's  apple  and big  acne  scars and some other scars
around the orbits of his eyes.  The large features in the trim body give him
an  intense presence; it is hard not to keep looking over in his  direction.
He  seems  like a  man  with  powerful emotions  but  an  even more powerful
discipline  that  keeps  them   under   control.   He  stares  directly  and
unblinkingly into the eyes of whoever is talking. When no one is talking, he
stares  at  the horizon and  thinks. When he is  thinking,  he  twiddles his
fingers incessantly.  Everyone  else  is using  their fingers  to hold on to
something, but Shaftoe is  planted on the deck like  a fat geezer waiting in
line  for  a movie.  He, like Waterhouse, but unlike  Chattan, is dressed in
heavy foul  weather gear  that  they  have  borrowed from the stores of this
torpedo boat.
     It is known, and word has  gone  out to all present, that the U  boat's
skipper the last  man to abandon ship had the presence of mind to bring  the
boat's Enigma  machine with  him. The RAF  planes, still circling  overhead,
watched the  skipper  rise  to a precarious kneel in his life raft and fling
the wheels of the machine in different directions, into the steep pitches of
hill sized waves. Then the machine itself went overboard.
     The Germans know that the machine will never be recovered. What they do
not know  is  that they will  never even be looked for, because there  is  a
place called Bletchley  Park that  already knows  all that there  is to know
about the four  wheel naval  Enigma. The Brits will  make a show  of looking
anyway, in case anyone is watching.
     Waterhouse is not looking  for Enigma machines. He is looking for stray
     The corvette first approaches the U  boat  head on, thinks better of it
and swings  far  around  astern of the wreck, then beats upwind towards  it.
That way, Waterhouse reckons, the wind will  tend to blow them away from the
reef. Seen from underneath, the U boat is actually kind of fat  cheeked. The
part that's supposed to be above water, when it's surfaced, is neutral grey,
and it's as skinny as a knife. The part that's supposed to be below, when it
hasn't just crashed into a  great big rock, is  wide and black. She has been
boarded by  adventuresome  Royal  Navy  men who have cheekily raised a White
Ensign from her conning tower.
     They have apparently reached her in a shallow draft whaler that is tied
up alongside, loosely bound to her  by a sparse web of  lines,  kept away by
bald  tires slung  over  the rail.  The  corvette  carrying the  members  of
Detachment  2702 edges  towards the U  boat cautiously;  each  rolling  wave
nearly slams the boats together.
     "We're  definitely in a non Euclidean spatial geometry now!" Waterhouse
says puckishly. Chattan  bends towards him and cups a hand to his  ear. "Not
only  that but it's real time dependent, definitely something that has to be
tackled in four dimensions not three!"
     "I beg your pardon?"
     Any closer and they'll be grounded on the  reef themselves. The sailors
launch an actual rocket that carries a line between the  vessels, and devote
some time to rigging up a ship to ship transfer system. Waterhouse is afraid
they're  going to  put him  on it. Actually he's more resentful than afraid,
because  he  was under the impression  that he  wouldn't be put in any  more
danger  for  the  rest of the  war. He  tries to kill  time  looking  at the
underside of the U boat and watching  the sailors. They've formed  a sort of
bucket brigade  to haul books and papers up out  of the wreck to the conning
tower  and  from  there  down  into  the  whaler. The conning  tower  has  a
complicated  spidery  look  with gun barrels  and  periscopes  and  antennas
sticking out all over the place.
     Waterhouse  and Shaftoe  are  indeed sent  over  to  U 553 on a sort of
trolley contraption that rolls along a stretched cable. The sailors put life
jackets on them first, as a sort of hilarious token gesture, so that if they
avoid being smashed to bits they can die of hypothermia instead of drowning.
     When Waterhouse is halfway across, the trough  of a wave passes beneath
him, and he looks down into  the sucking cavity and sees the top of Caesar's
Reef, momentarily exposed, covered  with an indigo fur of mussels. You could
go  down there and  stand on it. For  an instant.  Then thousands of tons of
really cold water slams into the cavity and rises up  and punches him in the
     He  looks up  at  U 553, entirely  too much of which  is above him. His
basic impression is that it's hollow,  more colander than warship. The  hull
is perforated with rows of oblong slots arranged  in swirling  patterns like
streamlines  tattooed  onto the metal.  It seems impossibly flimsy.  Then he
peers through the slots light is shining all the way through from more slots
in the deck and perceives the silhouette of the pressure hull nested inside,
curved and much more solid looking than the outer hull. She's got two triple
bladed brass  propellers,  maybe a yard across,  dinged here and there  from
contact with who knows what. Right now  they are thrust up into the air, and
looking  at  them  Waterhouse  feels  the  same absurd embarrassment he felt
looking at  dead  guys in  Pearl Harbor whose  private parts  were  showing.
Diving  planes  and  rudders  stick  out  of  the  hull  downstream  of  the
propellers, and  aft of those, near the apex  of the stern,  are  two  crude
hatchlike slabs  of  metal which,  Waterhouse realizes, must  be  where  the
torpedoes come out.
     He slides the last twenty feet  at  terrifying speed  and is caught and
held, in various  places, by eight strong hands who lift  him to what passes
for safety: the deck of the U boat,  just  aft of the conning tower, sort of
nestled underneath an antiaircraft gun. Way up at the boat's  stern, there's
a big T shaped stanchion with cables  coming out of the ends of the crossbar
and stretched tight all  the way to the conning tower railing, near to hand.
Following  the example  of  a  Royal  Navy  officer  who  appears to  be his
appointed guardian, Waterhouse climbs uphill i.e.  towards  the stern  using
one of those cables as  a sort of banister, and follows him  down a hatch in
the afterdeck  and into the  interior  of the boat.  Shaftoe  follows a  few
moments later.
     It is the worst place Waterhouse has  ever been. Like  the  corvette he
has just  left, it rises smoothly on each roller, but unlike the corvette it
comes down with a crash on the rocks, nearly throwing him to the deck. It is
like  being sealed  up  in  a  garbage  can  that  is  being  beaten with  a
sledgehammer.  U 553 is about half full of a rich brew of cheap wine, diesel
fuel,  battery acid, and raw sewage. Because of the way she is pitched, this
soup quickly gets deeper as you go forward, but  it rolls aft in a drenching
tsunami every time  her midsection  slams down  on  the rocks.  Fortunately,
Waterhouse  is now  far  beyond nausea, in some  kind of transcendent  state
where his mind has become even more divorced from his body than usual.
     The officer in charge waits for the noise to subside and then says,  in
a  startlingly quiet voice, "Is there  anything in  particular you'd like to
inspect, sir?"
     Waterhouse is still trying to  get  some idea of where he is by shining
his flashlight beam around the place, which is  kind of like peering through
a  soda  straw.  He  can't get any  synoptic view  of his surroundings, just
narrow glimpses of pipes and wires. Finally he tries  holding his head still
and  sort  of  scribbling the flashlight beam around really  fast. A picture
emerges:  they are  in  a narrow crawl  space, obviously designed by and for
engineers,  intended to give access to a few thousand  linear miles of pipes
and wires that have been forced through some kind of bottleneck.
     "We  are looking for the skipper's  papers," Waterhouse  says. The boat
goes into free fall again; he leans against  something slippery,  claps  his
hands over his ears, closes his eyes and mouth, and exhales through his nose
so  that none of the soup  will force its way into his body. The thing  he's
leaning  against is  really  hard and cold and round. It's greasy. He shines
his light on it; it's made of brass. The light scribbling trick produces the
image  of a  brass spaceship of some sort, nestled  underneath (unless  he's
mistaken) a bunk. He's just on the verge of making a total ass of himself by
asking what it is, when he identifies it as a torpedo.
     In the next quiet interlude, he asks, "Is there anything like a private
cabin where he might have . ."
     "It's forward," the officer says. Forward is not an encouraging view.
     "Fuck!"  Sergeant Shaftoe says.  It's the  first  thing he has  said in
about half an hour. He begins to slosh forward, and the British  officer has
to hurry to  catch up.  The deck falls out from beneath their feet again and
they stop and turn around  so that the wave  of sewage will hit them in  the
     They travel  downhill. Every step's a pitched battle  vs. prudence  and
sound judgment, and they take a lot of steps. What Waterhouse had pegged  as
a bottleneck goes on and on  all the way, apparently, to the bow. Eventually
they find something that gives them an excuse to stop: a cabin, or maybe (at
about  four by six  feet) a corner of  a cabin. There's a bed, a little fold
out table, and cabinets  made of actual  wood. These in combination with the
photographs of family and friends give it  a cozy, domestic flavor which is,
however, completely  ruined  by  the framed picture  of Adolf Hitler  on the
wall.  Waterhouse finds  this  to  be in  shockingly  poor  taste  until  he
remembers it's a German boat. The mean high tide level  of the sewage angles
across  the  cabin  and  cuts it approximately  in half.  Papers  and  other
bureaucratic detritus are floating every where, written in the occult Gothic
script that Waterhouse associates with Rudy.
     "Take it all," Waterhouse says, but Shaftoe and the officer are already
sweeping  their  arms  through  the  brew and bringing  them up  wrapped  in
dripping papier mâché. They stuff it all into a canvas sack.
     The skipper's bunk is on the aft or uphill end of  the  cabin.  Shaftoe
strips it, looks under the pillow and under the mattress, finds nothing.
     The  fold out table  is on the totally  submerged end. Waterhouse wades
into  it carefully, trying not to lose his footing. He  finds  the desk with
his feet, reaches down into the murk with his hands, explores as a blind man
would.  He finds  a few drawers  which he  is able to  pull out of  the desk
entirely and hand off to  Shaftoe, who dumps their contents  into the  sack.
Within a short time he is pretty sure that there's nothing left in the desk.
     The boat rises and slams down. As the sewage rolls forward, it exposes,
for just a moment, something in the corner of  the cabin, something attached
to the forward bulkhead. Waterhouse wades over to identify it.
     "It's a safe!" he says.  He spins the  dial.  It's  heavy. A good safe.
German. Shaftoe and the British officer look at each other.
     A British  sailor  appears in the open  hatchway. "Sir!" he  announces.
"Another U boat has been sighted in the area."
     "I'd love to have a stethoscope," Waterhouse  hints. "This thing have a
     "No,"  says the British officer. "Just a box of medical gear. Should be
floating around somewhere."
     "Sir!  Yes sir!"  Shaftoe  says,  and vanishes from  the room. A minute
later he's back holding a German  stethoscope  up above his head  to keep it
clean.  He tosses it  across the  cabin to Waterhouse, who snares it  in the
air, sockets it into his ears, and thrusts the business end down through the
sewage to the front of the safe.
     He has  done a little  of  this  before, as  an  exercise. Kids who are
obsessed  with locks  frequently  turn  into  adults who  are obsessed  with
crypto. The manager of the grocery store in Moorhead, Minnesota, used to let
the young Waterhouse play with his  safe. He broke the  combination,  to the
manager's  great  surprise, and  wrote  a  report about the  experience  for
     This  safe  is a lot  better than that one was. Since he can't see  the
dial anyway, he closes his eyes.
     He is  vaguely conscious that the other  fellows  on the submarine have
been  shouting  and  carrying  on  about something  for  a while, as if some
sensational news has just come in. Perhaps the war is over. Then the head of
the stethoscope is wrenched loose  from his grasp. He opens  his eyes to see
Sergeant Shaftoe lifting it to his mouth as if it were a microphone. Shaftoe
stares at him coolly and speaks into the stethoscope: "Sir, torpedoes in the
water, sir." Then Shaftoe turns and leaves Waterhouse alone in the cabin.
     Waterhouse is about halfway up the conning tower ladder, looking  up at
a disk of greyish black sky, when the whole vessel jerks and booms. A piston
of sewage rises up beneath him  and  propels him upwards,  vomiting  him out
onto the top  deck  of  the  boat,  where his  comrades  grab  him  and very
considerately prevent him from rolling off into the ocean.
     The movement of  the  U 553 with the  waves has changed. She's moving a
lot more now, as if she's about to break free from the reef.
     It takes Waterhouse a minute to get  his  bearings.  He is starting  to
think he may have  suffered  some damage  during all of that.  Something  is
definitely wrong with his left arm, which is the one he landed on.
     Powerful  light  sweeps  over  them: a  searchlight  from  the  British
corvette  that  brought them  here.  The British  sailors  curse. Waterhouse
levers himself up on  his good elbow and sights down the hull of the U boat,
following the beam of  the searchlight to a bizarre sight. The boat has been
blown open just beneath the waterline, shards of  her hull peeled back  from
the wound  and projecting  jaggedly into the air. The  foul  contents of the
hull are draining out, staining the Atlantic black.
     "Fuck!" Sergeant Shaftoe  says. He shrugs  loose from a small but heavy
looking  knapsack  that he's been carrying around, pulls it open. His sudden
activity draws the attention of the  Royal Navy men who help out by pointing
their flashlights at his furious hands.
     Waterhouse, who may be in  some kind of delirium  by this point,  can't
quite believe what he sees: Shaftoe has pulled out a bundle of neat brownish
yellow cylinders, as thick  as a finger  and maybe  six inches long. He also
takes out  some small items, including  a coil of  thick, stiff red cord. He
jumps to his feet so decisively that he nearly knocks someone down, and runs
to the conning tower and disappears down the ladder.
     "Jesus," an officer says, "he's going to do some blasting." The officer
thinks  about  this for  a  very  small  amount  of  time;  the  ship  moves
terrifyingly with the waves and  makes scraping noises which might  indicate
it's sliding off the reef. "Abandon ship!" he hollers.
     Most of them  get into the whaler. Waterhouse  is bundled back onto the
trolley contraption. He is about  halfway across to the torpedo boat when he
feels, but scarcely hears, a sharp shock.
     For the rest of the way over he can't really see diddly, and even after
he's  back  on the  torpedo  boat, all is confusion, and someone named Enoch
Root  insists on  taking  him  below  and working on his  arm and  his head.
Waterhouse did not know until now that his head was damaged, which stands to
reason, in that your head is where you know things, and if it's damaged, how
can you know it? "You'll  get  at least a Purple Heart for this," Enoch Root
says.  He says it with a marked  lack of enthusiasm, as if he couldn't  care
less about Purple Hearts,  but is condescending to suppose that it will be a
big thrill for Waterhouse. "And Sergeant  Shaftoe probably has another major
decoration coming too, damn him."

     Chapter 33 MORPHIUM

     Shaftoe still sees the word every time he closes his  eyes. It would be
a lot  better  if  he  were  paying  attention to the  work at hand: packing
demolition charges around the gussets that join the safe to the U boat.
     MORPHIUM. It is printed thus on  a yellowed  paper label.  The label is
glued to a  small glass  bottle. The  color of  the glass  is the  same deep
purple that you see when your eyes have been dazzled by a powerful light.
     Harvey,  the sailor who has volunteered  to help him, keeps shining his
flashlight into Shaftoe's eyes. It is unavoidable; Shaftoe is wedged into  a
surpassingly  awkward position beneath  the  safe, working with the charges,
trying to set the primers with slimy fingers drained of warmth and strength.
This  would  not even be possible if the boat hadn't been torpedoed; before,
this cabin was half full of sewage and the safe was  immersed in it.  Now it
has been conveniently drained.
     Harvey is  not wedged  into  anything; he is being flung around  by the
paroxysms of the U boat, which like a  beached shark, is trying stupidly but
violently to thrash  its way loose from the reef. The beam of his flashlight
keeps  sweeping across Shaftoe's eyes. Shaftoe  blinks, and sees a cosmos of
purple: tiny purple bottles labeled MORPHIUM.
     "God damn it!" he hollers.
     "Is everything all right, Sergeant?" Harvey says.
     Harvey doesn't get  it. Harvey thinks  that Shaftoe is cursing  at some
problem with the explosives.
     The explosives  are  just fucking  great. There's  no problem  with the
explosives. The problem is with Bobby Shaftoe's brain.
     He  was right  there.  Waterhouse  sent him to find a  stethoscope, and
Shaftoe went chambering through the U  boat until he found a wooden  box. He
opened it up and saw right away it was full of medic stuff. He pawed through
it, looking for what Waterhouse wanted,  and there was the  bottle, plain as
day, right in front of  his face.  His hand  brushed  against it,  for god's
sake. He saw the label as the beam of his flashlight swept across it:
     But he didn't grab it. If it had said MORPHINE he would have grabbed it
in a second. But it said MORPHIUM. And it  wasn't until about thirty seconds
later that he realized that this was a fucking German boat and of course the
words would all be different and there  was about a 99 percent  chance  that
MORPHIUM was, in fact, exactly the same stuff  as MORPHINE. When he realized
that  he planted his feet in the passageway of the darkened  U  boat and let
out  a deep long scream  from  way  down in  his gut. With the noise of  the
waves, no one heard him. Then he continued onwards and carried out his duty,
handing over the stethoscope to Waterhouse.  He carried out his duty because
he is a Marine.
     Blowing this fucking safe off the wall is  not  his duty.  It's just an
idea that popped into  his head. They've been training him  how to use these
explosives; why  not put it into  practice?  He's blowing this safe up,  not
because he is a Marine, but because  he is  Bobby Shaftoe. And also  because
it's a great excuse to go back for that morphium.
     The U boat bucks and sends Harvey sprawling to the  deck. Shaftoe waits
for the  motion  to subside, then flails for handholds and pulls himself out
from under the safe.  His weight is mostly on his feet now, but it  wouldn't
be correct to say he's standing up. In this place, the best you can hope for
is to  scramble for  balance somewhat  faster than you are  falling on  your
Keister. Harvey has just lost that race  and Shaftoe is winning  it  for the
     "Fire in the hole!"  Shaftoe hollers.  Harvey finds  his feet!  Shaftoe
gives  him  a  helpful shove out into the passageway. Harvey  turns left and
heads uphill for the conning  tower  and  the  exit. Shaftoe turns right. He
heads  downhill. Towards the  bow. Towards Davy Jones's Locker.  Towards the
box with the MORPHIUM.
     Where the fuck is that box? When he found it before,  it was bobbing in
the soup.  Maybe horrible thought maybe it just drained out of the hole made
by the torpedo. He passes through a couple of bulkheads. The boat's angle is
getting steeper all  the time and he  ends up walking  backwards, like  he's
descending a ladder,  making handholds  out of pipes, electrical cables, and
the chains that suspend the submarines' bunks. This boat is so damn long.

     It seems like  a strange way to kill people.  Shaftoe's not  sure if he
approves of  everything that  is implied by this U  boat. Shaftoe has killed
Chinese bandits on the banks  of the  Yangtze by stabbing them  in the chest
with  a bayonet. He thinks he killed one, once, just  by  hitting him pretty
hard  in  the head. On Guadalcanal he  killed Nips  by shooting at them with
several  different  kinds  of  arms,  by rolling  rocks  down  on  them,  by
constructing  large bonfires at the entrances to caves where they were holed
up, by  sneaking up on them in  the jungle and  cutting  their  throats,  by
firing mortars into their positions, even by picking one up and throwing him
off a  cliff into the pounding surf. Of course he has known for  a long time
that  this face to face  style  of  killing the  bad guys  is  kind  of  old
fashioned, but it's not like he's spent a lot of time thinking about it. The
demonstration of the Vickers machine gun that he witnessed in Italy did sort
of  get him  thinking,  and now here he is, inside one  of  the most  famous
killing machines in  the whole war, and what does he see? He sees valves. Or
rather the cast  iron wheels  that are used for opening and  closing valves.
Entire  bulkheads  are covered with iron wheels,  ranging from  a  couple of
inches to over a foot in diameter,  packed in as densely as barnacles  on  a
rock, in what looks like a completely random and irregular fashion. They are
painted  either red  or  black, and they are polished to  a  gleam from  the
friction of men's hands.
     And where it's not valves  it's switches, huge Frankenstein movie ones.
There is one  big rotary switch, half green and half red, that's a good  two
feet in diameter. And it's not like this boat has  a lot of  windows in  it.
It's  got no windows at all.  Just a periscope that can only be used by  one
guy at a time. And so for these guys, the war comes down to being sealed  up
in an airtight drum  full  of  shit and  turning valve  wheels and  throwing
switches on command, and from time to time maybe some officer comes back and
tells them that they just killed a bunch of guys.
     There's that box it ended up  on  a bunk. Shaftoe yanks it  closer  and
hauls it  open. The contents  are all jumbled up, and there's more than  one
purple  bottle in there,  and he panics for a moment, thinking he'll have to
read all of the labels in their creepy Germanic script, but in a few seconds
he finds the MORPHIUM, grabs it, pockets it.
     He's on  his way back up towards the  conning tower when  a big  roller
slams  into the  outside of the boat and knocks him  off balance. He tumbles
downhill for a long, long ways, doing backward somersaults straight down the
middle  of  the  boat,  before he gets himself under control. Everything has
gone black; he's lost his flashlight.
     He comes very close to panicking now. It's not that he's a panicky guy,
just that it's  been  a while since he  had morphine, and when  he gets this
way, his body reacts badly to things. He's half blinded by a  powerful flash
of blue  light  that is gone before his eyes have time to  blink.  There's a
sizzling noise down below. He moves his left hand and  feels  a  tug  on his
wrist:  the flashlight's lanyard, which  he had the presence of mind to wrap
around himself. The light scrapes  and  clanks against  the steel grating on
which  Shaftoe  is now spreadeagled, like a  saint on  the gridiron. There's
another  flash of  blue light, reticulated by black  lines, accompanied by a
sizzling  noise. Shaftoe smells electricity. He raps  the flashlight against
the grating a couple of times and it comes on again, flickeringly.
     The  grid's woven from  pencil  thick rods spaced a  couple  of  inches
apart. He's  facedown on it, looking into a hold that,  if this U  boat were
level, would  be below him. The  hold is a  disaster, its neatly stacked and
crated  contents  now  Osterized  into  a slumgullion  of  shattered  glass,
splintered  wood, foodstuffs, high  explosives, and  strategic minerals, all
mingled with  seawater so that it sloshes back and forth with the rocking of
the dead U boat.  A perfect, quivering  globe  of silver  fills through  the
grating right near his head and  descends  through  his  flashlight beam and
explodes against a piece of debris. Then another. He looks uphill and sees a
rain of silver globules bouncing and rolling down the deckplates toward him:
the mercury columns  that  they  use  to measure  pressure  must  have  been
ruptured. There's another blinding  blue flash: an electrical spark  with  a
lot  of power  behind  it. Shaftoe  looks  down through  the  grid again and
perceives that the hold  is filled with huge metal cabinets with giant bolts
sticking out of them. Every  so often a piece of wet  debris will bridge the
gap between a couple of those bolts and a spark will light the place up: the
cabinets are batteries, they are what enable the U boat to run underwater.
     As  Sergeant  Robert Shaftoe lies  there with his face pressed  against
that chilly grid,  taking a few deep breaths and trying to regain his nerve,
a big wave rocks the boat back  so hard that he's afraid  he's going to fall
backwards and  plummet all  the way to  the submerged bow. The swill in  the
battery  hold  rolls downhill, gathering power and velocity as it falls, and
batters the forward  bulkhead of the hold with terrifying power; he can hear
rivets  giving  way  under the impact. As this happens, most of the  battery
hold is exposed to the  beam of Bobby Shaftoe's flashlight, all the way down
to the bottom.  And  that  is when he  sees the splintered crates down there
very  small  crates, such  as might be  used to contain very heavy supplies.
They  have been busted open. Through the  gaps in the  wreckage, Shaftoe can
see  yellow bricks, once  neatly stacked, now  scattered. They look  exactly
like he  would imagine gold bars. The only thing wrong  with that theory  is
that there are way too many of them down there  for them to be gold bars. It
is  like when he turned over rotten logs in Wisconsin and found thousands of
identical insect eggs sown on the dark earth, glowing with promise.
     For a  moment, he's  tempted. The amount of money down there is  beyond
calculation.  If  he  could get his  hands  on just one  of those  bars  The
explosives  must have detonated,  because Bobby  Shaftoe has just gone deaf.
That's  his  cue  to  get  the fuck out of here. He  forgets about  the gold
morphine's  good enough plunder  for  one  day. He half scrambles  and  half
climbs up the grid, up the passageway, up the skipper's cabin, smoke pouring
out of its hatch, its bulkheads now weirdly ballooned by the blast wave.
     The safe has broken loose! And the cable that he and Harvey attached to
it, though it's damaged, is still intact. Someone must be hauling away on it
up abovedecks because it is stubbornly and annoying taut. Right now the safe
is caught up on jagged  obstructions. Shaftoe has to pry it loose. The  safe
jerks onward and upward, drawn  by the taut cable,  until it  gets caught in
something  else.  Shaftoe  follows  the  safe  out  of  the  cabin,  up  the
passageway, up the  conning tower ladder, and finally  levers himself up out
of the submarine and into the teeth of the storm, to a hearty cheer from the
waiting sailors.
     No more than five minutes later, the U boat goes away. Shaftoe imagines
it  tumbling end  over end down the side of the reef, headed for an undersea
canyon, scattering gold bars and mercury globules into the black  water like
fairy dust. Shaftoe's back on the  corvette and  everyone is pounding him on
the  back and toasting him. He just wants to find a private place to open up
that purple bottle.

     Chapter 34 SUIT

     Randy's posture is righteous and alert: it is all because of his suit.
     It is trite to observe that  hackers don't like fancy clothes. Avi  has
learned that  good  clothes  can actually be  comfortable the slacks that go
with  a business  suit, for example, are really much  more comfortable  than
blue jeans. And he has spent enough time with hackers  to obtain the insight
that is it not  wearing suits that they  object to, so  much as getting them
on. Which includes not only the donning process per se but also picking them
out,  maintaining them,  and worrying  whether they are still in  style this
last being  especially  difficult  for men  who  wear  suits once every five
     So  it's  like this: Avi has  a spreadsheet on  one  of  his computers,
listing the necks, inseams, and other vital measurements of every man in his
employ. A couple of weeks before an important meeting, he will simply fax it
to his tailor  in  Shanghai. Then,  in a classic demonstration of  the Asian
just in time delivery  system as pioneered by Toyota, the  suits will arrive
via Federal  Express, twenty four  hours ahead of time  so that  they can be
automatically piped to the hotel's laundry room. This morning, just as Randy
emerged from the shower, he heard a knock  at his door, and swung it open to
reveal  a  valet  carrying a  freshly  cleaned and  pressed  business  suit,
complete with shirt and tie. He put  it all on (a tenth generation photocopy
of a bad diagram of the half Windsor knot was thoughtfully provided). It fit
perfectly. Now he stands in  a lobby of the Foote Mansion, watching electric
numbers  above  an elevator count down, occasionally  sneaking  a  glance at
himself in a big  mirror. Randy's head protruding from a suit is a sight gag
that will be good for grins at least through lunchtime.
     He is pondering the morning's e mail.
     Subject: Re: Why?
     Dear Randy,
     I  hope  you don't  mind if  I address  you as  Randy, since it's quite
obvious that you are you, despite your  use of an anonymous front. This is a
good idea, by the way. I applaud your prudence.
     Concerning the  possibility that I  am ''an old  enemy'' of  yours. I'm
dismayed that one so young  can already have old enemies. Or perhaps you are
referring to a recently acquired enemy of advanced years? Several candidates
come to  mind.  But I suspect you are referring to Andrew Loeb. I am not he.
This would be obvious to you if you had visited his website recently.
     Why are you building the Crypt? Signed.

     – BEGIN ORDO SIGNATURE BLOCK – (etc., etc.)
     It is not at all interesting to  watch the  numbers over  the elevators
and try to predict which  one  will arrive first, but it is more interesting
than  just standing  there. One  of them has been stuck  on  the floor above
Randy's for at least a minute;  he can hear it buzzing angrily. In Asia many
business men especially some  of the overseas Chinese would think nothing of
commandeering  one of  the hotel's elevators around the  clock for their own
personal use, stationing minions in it, in eight hour  shifts, to hold their
thumbs on the DOOR OPEN button, ignoring its self righteous alarm buzzer.
     Ding. Randy spins around on the balls of his feet (just try that little
maneuver in a  pair of sneakers!). Once again he has backed the wrong horse:
the winner is  an elevator that was on the  very top floor of the hotel last
time  he scanned it. This is an elevator with purpose, a fast track lift. He
walks towards the  green light. The doors part. Randy stares  squarely  into
the face of Dr. Hubert (the Dentist) Kepler, D.D.S.
     Or  perhaps you are referring to a recently  acquired enemy of advanced

     "Good morning, Mr. Waterhouse! When you stand with your mouth open like
that, you remind me of one of my patients."
     "Good morning, Dr. Kepler." Randy hears his words from the other end of
a mile long bumwad  tube,  and immediately  reviews them in  his own mind to
make sure he has not revealed any proprietary corporate information or given
Dr. Kepler any reason to file a lawsuit.
     The  doors start  to close and Randy has to whack  them open  with  his
laptop case.
     "Careful! That's an expensive  piece of equipment, I'd wager," says the
     Randy  is  about  to say I go  through laptops like a transvestite goes
through nylons though maybe like a high speed drill through a necrotic molar
would be more thematically apropos, but instead he clams up and says nothing
at all, finding  himself in  dangerous territory: he is carrying proprietary
AVCLA information on this thing, and if the Dentist gets the impression that
Randy's being cavalier with it, he might spew out a barrage  of torts,  like
Linda Blair and the pea soup.
     "It's, uh, a pleasant surprise to see you in Kinakuta," Randy stammers.
     Dr.  Kepler wears eyeglasses the size of a 1959 Cadillac's  windshield.
They are special dentist eyeglasses, as  polished  as  the  Palomar  mirror,
coated  with  ultrareflective  material  so  that  you  can always  see  the
reflection of your own yawning maw in them, impaled on a shaft of hot light.
The Dentist's own eyes merely haunt the background, like a childhood memory.
They are squinty grey blue eyes, turned  down at the edges as if he is tired
of  the world, with Stygian pupils.  A trace  of a smile always seems to  be
playing  around his withered  lips. It is the smile of a man who is worrying
about  how to  meet  his next malpractice insurance  payment while patiently
maneuvering the point of his surgical steel  crowbar  under the edge of your
dead bicuspid, but who has read in a professional magazine that patients are
more likely  to come back, and less likely to sue you, if you smile at them.
"Say," he says, "I wonder  if I could have a quick huddle with  you sometime
     Spit, please.

     Saved by  the bell! They have  reached  the ground floor.  The elevator
doors  open to reveal  the  endangered  marble lobby of  the  Foote Mansion.
Bellhops,  disguised as wedding  cakes,  glide to and fro  as  if mounted on
casters. Not ten feet away is Avi, and with him are two beautiful suits from
which protrude the heads of Eb and John. All three heads  turn towards them.
Seeing  the Dentist,  Eb and John adopt the  facial  expressions of  B movie
actors whose characters  have just taken small caliber bullets to the center
of the forehead. Avi, by contrast, stiffens up like  a man  who stepped on a
rusty nail a week ago and has  just felt the first stirrings  of the tetanus
infection that will eventually break his spine.
     "We've got a busy day  ahead of us," Randy says. "I guess my answer  is
yes, subject to availability."
     "Good. I'll hold you  to it,"  says  Dr. Kepler, and  steps out of  the
elevator. "Good morning, Mr. Halaby. Good  morning, Dr. Föhr. Good  morning,
Mr. Cantrell. Nice to see you all looking so very much like gentlemen."
     Nice to see you acting like one.

     "The  pleasure  is ours,"  Avi says.  "I  take  it we'll  be seeing you
     "Oh,  yes,"  says  the Dentist, "you'll  be  seeing  me  all day." This
procedure will be a lengthy one,  I'm afraid.  He turns his back on them and
walks  across the lobby  without  further  pleasantries. He is  headed for a
cluster  of  leather  chairs  nearly  obscured  by  an explosion of  bizarre
tropical flowers. The occupants of  those chairs are  mostly  young, and all
smartly  dressed. They snap to attention as their boss glides  towards them.
Randy counts three women and two men. One of the men is obviously a gorilla,
but the  women inevitably referred to  as Fates, Furies,  Graces,  Norns, or
Harpies are rumored to have bodyguard training, and to carry weapons, too.
     "Who are those?" John Cantrell asks. "His hygienists?"
     "Don't laugh," Avi says. "Back when he  was in practice, he got used to
having  a staff of women do  the pick and  floss work for him. It shaped his
     "Are you shitting me?" Randy asks.
     "You  know how it works,"  Avi says. "When  you go to the  dentist, you
never actually see  the dentist, right? Someone else makes  the appointment.
Then there's always this elite coterie  of highly efficient women who scrape
the plaque out of the way, so that the dentist doesn't have to deal with it,
and  take your  X rays.  The  dentist himself sits in the back somewhere and
looks at the X rays he deals  with you as this abstract greyscale image on a
little  piece of film. If  he sees holes, he goes into  action.  If  not, he
comes in  and  exchanges small  talk with you  for a minute  and then you go
     "So, why is he here?" demands Eberhard Föhr.
     "Exactly!" Avi says. "When he walks into the room, you  never  know why
he's here to drill  a hole in your skull, or just talk about his vacation in
     All eyes turn to Randy. "What went on in that elevator?"
     "I nothing!" Randy blurts.
     "Did you discuss the Philippines project at all?"
     "He just said he wanted to talk to me about it."
     "Well, shit." Avi says. "That means we have to talk about it first."
     "I know that," Randy says, "so I told him that I might talk to him if I
had a free moment."
     "Well, we'd best  make damn sure you have no free  moments today,"  Avi
says. He thinks for  a  moment  and continues,  "Did he  have  a hand in his
pocket at any time?"
     "Why? You expecting him to pull out a weapon?"
     "No," Avi says, "but someone told me, once, that the Dentist is wired."
     "You mean, like a police informant?" John asks incredulously.
     "Yeah," Avi says, like  it's no big deal. "He makes a habit of carrying
a tiny  digital recorder  the  size  of a  matchbook around in  his  pocket.
Perhaps  with  a  wire running  up inside his  shirt  to  a  tiny microphone
somewhere. Perhaps not. Anyway, you never know when he's recording you."
     "Isn't that illegal or something?" Randy asks.
     "I'm not a lawyer," Avi says.  "More to the point, I'm not  a Kinakutan
lawyer. But it wouldn't matter in a civil suit if he slapped us with a tort,
he could introduce any kind of evidence he wanted."
     They all  look across the lobby. The Dentist  is standing flatfooted on
the  marble, arms  folded over his chest, chin pointed at  the floor  as  he
absorbs input from his aides.
     "He might have put his  hand  in his pocket. I  don't remember,"  Randy
says. "It doesn't matter. We kept it extremely general. And brief."
     "He could still subject the recording  to  a voice stress analysis,  to
figure  out  if you were lying," John points  out.  He  relishes  the  sheer
unbridled paranoia of this. He's in his element.
     "Not to worry," Randy says, "I jammed it."
     "Jammed it? How?" Eb  asks, not catching the irony in Randy's voice. Eb
looks surprised and interested,  It is clear from the look on  his face that
Eb longs to get into a conversation about something arcane and technical.
     "I was joking," Randy explains. "If the Dentist analyzes the recording,
he'll find nothing but stress in my voice."
     Avi and John  laugh  sympathetically. But  Eb is  crestfallen. "Oh," Eb
says.  "I  was thinking  that we could  absolutely  jam his  device if we so
     "A tape recorder doesn't use radio," John says. "How could we jam it?"
     "Van Eck phreaking," Eb says.
     At this  point,  Tom  Howard emerges  from the cafe  with  a thoroughly
ravished  copy of  the South  China  Morning Post  under  his arm, and Beryl
emerges from an elevator, prepped for combat in a dress and  makeup. The men
avert their eyes shyly and pretend  not to notice.  Greetings and small talk
ensue.  Then  Avi  looks at his watch  and says,  "Let's  head over  to  the
sultan's palace," as  if he were proposing they go grab some french fries at
Mickey Ds.

     Chapter 35 CRACKER

     Waterhouse has to keep an eye on that safe; Shaftoe is  itching to blow
it open  with  high explosives, and  Chattan (who  firmly overrules Shaftoe)
intends to ship it back to London so that it can be opened by experts at the
Broadway Buildings. Waterhouse only wants to  have  another crack at opening
it himself, just to see if he can do it.
     Chattan's position is the correct one. Detachment 2702 has a very clear
and specialized mission which most certainly  does not include opening safes
from  U boats. For  that matter,  it does not include going onto abandoned U
boats to recover safes, or other  crypto  data, in the first place. The only
reason they did that was because they  happened to be the  only people  with
Ultra clearance  who  were  in  the  neighborhood,  and U  553's  precarious
position did not give Bletchley Park time to send out its own experts.
     But Waterhouse's desire to open the safe himself has nothing to do with
Detachment   2702's  mission,  or   his  own   personal  duties,   or  even,
particularly, with winning the war. It is something that  Lawrence Pritchard
Waterhouse is driven to do. His is not to reason why. Even as he was reeling
down that stretched line from  U 553 to  the torpedo boat, battered by waves
and wind and rain, with a busted arm and a busted head, not knowing from one
moment to the next whether he would make it  back to the boat or plunge into
the Atlantic, he  was remembering the infinitesimal tremors picked up by the
half frozen neurons  in his  fingertips as he  twiddled the safe's submerged
dial. Even as Enoch  Root patched him up on  board the  boat, Waterhouse was
constructing  a crude mental  model  of how  the  safe's  tumblers  might be
constructed, visualizing the  thing in his mind's eye. And even  as the rest
of Detachment 2702 collapses into their cots and hammocks and sleeping  bags
around the chapel  of  Qwghlm Castle, the splinted and  bandaged  Waterhouse
stalks the polished corridors  of that building's better corner, looking for
a couple of used razor blades and a hunk of carbon.
     The razors he finds in a rubbish bin and  the carbon he steals from the
closet where Ghnxh  keeps the  galvanick  lucipher.  He brings them, plus  a
brick sized  crystal of hard glue and a blowtorch, back to the chapel, where
everyone else  is  sleeping. Enlisted men are in the nave, as befits Marines
who are  basically a  naval  organization. Officers  are  in  the  transept:
Chattan has the south arm  of it all to himself, Waterhouse and Root and the
SAS and USMC lieutenants have bunk beds  in  the north.  A  small  moiety of
Detachment 2702's astounding tarp supply has, then, been  hung up across the
eastern end of  the  place,  partitioning off the  chancel, Holy of  Holies,
where  once the Body  and  Blood  of Christ were  housed. Now it  contains a
Hallicrafters Model  S 27 15 tube superheterodyne radio receiver using state
of the  art  acorn tubes in its front end,  capable of tuning VHF from 27 to
143  Megahertz and of  receiving  AM,  FM,  and CW, and  including a  signal
strength meter which would  come in  handy if they were really  operating  a
huffduff station here, which they aren't.
     The lights are burning  behind those tarps and  one of the  Marines  is
snoring away in  a  chair in front of the altar. Waterhouse wakes him up and
sends  him to  bed. The Marine is  ashamed;  he knows  he was supposed to be
awake, twiddling that antenna convincingly.
     The radio itself has hardly been used they only turn it on when someone
comes to  visit  who is  not  in on the Secret.  It sits there on the altar,
pristine, as if it  had just come from the Hallicrafters factory in Chicago,
Illinois. All  of the altar's fancy bits (if  it  ever  had them) have  long
since succumbed to fire, rot, plunder, or the gnawing tusks of nest building
skerries.  What remains  is a  rectangular monolith  of basalt,  featureless
except for some  marks from the tools that were used to quarry and shape it.
It is a perfect foundation for tonight's experiment.
     Waterhouse  gets the safe  up  there  at some  cost  to the  disks  and
ligaments  in his lower back. It  is tubular  in  shape, like an  excerpt of
naval gun barrel. He stands it  up on its back end so that  its round  door,
with the round dial in the center, is staring up at the ceiling like a blind
eye, the radial lines on the  dial looking very  much like the striations of
an iris.
     Behind  that  dial is  a bunch  of  mechanical  stuff  that  has gotten
Waterhouse completely  pissed  off,  driven  him  into  a  frantic state. By
manipulating  this  dial  in  some  way, he  should  be  able to tease  that
mechanical stuff  into some configuration that allows the door to be opened.
That's all there is to it. That this door  remains locked is an outrage. Why
should the tiny volume inside  this  safe much less than a single cubic foot
be  so different from the space that Waterhouse moves through at  will? What
the hell is inside there?
     The  glue looks like bad amber, flawed and bubbled but still beautiful.
He fires up the little blowtorch and plays the flame over one end of it. The
glue softens, melts, and drips onto the door of  the safe, next to the dial,
forming a little puddle about the size of a silver dollar.
     Working quickly, Waterhouse sets two single edged razor blades into it,
the blades dangerously  upward facing, parallel  and somewhat  less than  an
inch apart. He holds them in place for a few moments while  the frigid metal
of the safe  sucks the heat out of that glue and makes it hard again. He has
employed a pair of toothpicks  as  spacers to make sure that the blunt backs
of the blades do not actually  touch the door of the safe; he  does not want
an electrical connection between them.
     He  solders a  wire  onto each of the razor  blades and runs the  wires
across  the altar  toward the radio. Then  he takes a little chunk of carbon
and lays it across the two blades, forming a bridge between them.
     He tears open the back of the radio and does a bit of rewiring. Most of
the rig  is already set up the way he  needs it; basically  he's looking for
something  that  will convert electrical impulses into sound  and pump  that
sound into the headphones, which is what a radio does. But the source of the
signal is no longer a transmitter on a U boat but rather the current flowing
up one of  Waterhouse's wires, into the left razor blade, across the  carbon
bridge, into the right razor blade, and back down the other wire.
     Getting this  hooked up the way he wants it  takes some doing.  When he
blunders down a blind alley and gets frustrated, he will go over and twiddle
the antenna for a while, pretending  to zero in  on a U boat. Then  an  idea
will occur to him and he will go back to work.
     Sometime around dawn, he hears a squeal from the headphones: a pair  of
Bakelite cups  bridged by a contraption that looks like a primitive surgical
device, hooked up to the radio by a twisted pair of black  and red wires. He
turns the volume down and claps the phones over his head.
     He reaches out and lays one fingertip on  the safe, and hears a painful
thud in his ears. He slides the fingertip over the surface of the cold metal
and  hears  a  rasping  sound. Any vibrations cause the bridge of carbon  to
tremble on the razor blades, making and breaking the  electrical connection,
modulating  the  electrical  current.  The  blades  and  the  carbon  are  a
microphone, and the microphone works almost too well.
     He takes his hand off the safe  and just sits  there and  listens for a
while. He can hear the footfalls  of skerries going through the detachment's
rations. He  can hear the impact of waves on the shore, miles  away, and the
thump of  the Taxi's bald tires  on  chuckholes out on the Road. Sounds like
the Taxi has a little alignment  problem! He can hear  the  scrub, scrub  of
Margaret  cleaning the floor  of the  kitchen, and some minor arrhythmias in
the heartbeats of the enlisted men, and the boom  of glaciers calving on the
coast of Iceland, and the  squirrely drone of hastily machined propellers on
approaching  convoy ships. Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse is plugged into the
Universe in a way that exceeds even what Bletchley Park has to offer.
     The center of that particular universe is the Safe  from U 553, and its
axis passes up through the center of the  Dial, and  now Waterhouse has  his
hand on it. He turns the volume way down before he touches any thing so that
he won't  blow  his eardrums out. The Dial spins  heavily but easily, as  if
mounted on gas bearings. Still,  there is mechanical friction in there which
is not perceptible to Waterhouse's admittedly frozen fingers but which comes
through in his earphones like a rockslide.
     When the  tumblers move, it sounds like Waterhouse is shooting the main
bolt on the Gate of Hell. It takes him a little while, and  a few more false
starts,  to get his bearings;  he  doesn't know how many  numbers are in the
combination, or  which way he should  turn  the dial to begin with. But with
experimentation,  some  patterns  begin to show through,  and  eventually he
works out the following combination:
     23 right  37 left 7 right  31 left 13 right  and then  there's a really
meaty click and  he knows in his marrow that he can take off the headphones.
He spins a little wheel that is mounted on the front of the safe adjacent to
the dial. This withdraws the radial dogs that  have been  holding  the  door
shut.  He  hauls  the  door up, careful  not  to slash his hand  on the twin
razors, and looks into the safe.
     His feeling of disappointment that accompanies this action has  nothing
to  do  with the  contents of the safe.  He is disappointed because  he  has
solved  the problem,  and has gone back to the baseline state of boredom and
low level irritation  that  always  comes  over  him  when  he's  not  doing
something that inherently needs to  be done, like picking a lock or breaking
a code.
     He sticks his arm all the  way down to the bottom of the safe and finds
a metal object about the size of a hot dog bun.  He  knew it  would be there
because,  like children  investigating wrapped  presents in  the days before
Christmas, they  have been tilting the safe this way and that, and when they
did,  they heard something sliding from one  end to  the  other  going tink,
tonk, tink, tonk – and wondered what it was.
     This  object  is  so  cold,  and  sucks  the heat  out of his  hands so
efficiently, that  it  hurts  to  touch  it. He  shakes  his  hand to  bring
circulation back, then grasps the thing, yanks it out briskly, and throws it
down on  the altar. It bounces once, twice in a seesawing  motion, and rings
piercingly  as it does the closest thing to a  musical sound that has shaken
the air  of  this  chapel in  many centuries. It  shines  gaudily under  the
electric lights they have  set up  around the chancel.  The glittering light
catches the eye of Waterhouse, who has been living on grey and cloudy Qwghlm
for weeks, wearing  and sleeping in  things that are black or khaki or olive
drab. He is  mesmerized  by this thing, simply because of its brightness and
beauty against the dull and rude basalt, even before his  mind identifies it
as a bar of solid gold.
     It makes a heck of a paperweight, which  is  a good thing, because  the
chapel  is nothing if not  drafty, and the  important contents  of the  safe
consist of onionskin pages  that  fly away in  the tiniest breeze. The pages
are ruled with faint horizontal and vertical lines, dividing each one into a
grid, and the  grids are filled in with  hand printed letters  in  groups of
     "Well, look what  you found!" says a quiet voice. Waterhouse  looks  up
into the unsettlingly calm and placid gaze of Enoch Root.
     "Yes. Encrypted messages," Waterhouse says. "Non Enigma."
     "No," Root says. "I was  referring to the  Root of All  Evil, here." He
tries to pick up the gold  bar, but his  fingers merely  slip off of  it. He
gets a firmer grip and hefts it up off the altar. Something about it catches
his eye, and he turns to bring it under one of the electric lights, frowning
at it with the critical intensity of a diamond cutter.
     "It's got Hanzi characters stamped on it," Root says.
     "Beg pardon?"
     "Chinese or  Japanese.  No,  Chinese  there's  the chop of  a  bank  in
Shanghai.  And  here are some figures the  fineness and  the serial number."
Showing unexpected familiarity with such matters for a missionary priest.
     Until this point, the gold bar has signified nothing to Waterhouse it's
just a bulk sample of a chemical element,  like a  lead weight or a flask of
mercury. But the fact that it might convey information is quite interesting.
He absolutely has to  stand up and go look at it. Root is correct:  the  bar
has been neatly marked with small Oriental characters, applied with a stamp.
The tiny facets of the ideograms glitter under the light, sparks jumping the
gap between the two halves of the Axis.
     Root sets the  gold bar  down on the altar. He saunters over to a table
where they keep stationery,  and pulls out  a sheet of onionskin and a fresh
pencil. Returning to the altar, he lays the frail  page over the top  of the
gold  bar, then  rubs  the side  of the  pencil lead back and forth over it,
turning it all black except for where the stamped numbers and characters are
underneath. Within  a few  moments  he has a perfect little rubbing, showing
the inscription in  full detail. He folds the page up  and pockets it,  then
returns the pencil to the table.
     Waterhouse  has long since gone  back to  his examination  of the pages
from the safe. The numbers are all written in the same hand. Now, since they
dredged all manner of other paperwork out of the sewage sloshing through the
U boat  skipper's  cabin, Waterhouse can recognize the captain's hand easily
enough; these sheets were written by someone else.
     The format of the  messages makes it clear that they were not encrypted
with an  Enigma  machine.  Enigma messages  always begin with  two groups of
three letters each, which tell the receiving clerk how  to set the wheels on
his machine. Those groups  are missing on all of these sheets, so some other
cipher system  must  have  been  used. Like every other modern  nation,  the
Germans have a plethora of different cipher systems, some based on books and
some on machines. Bletchley Park has broken most of them.
     Still,  it  looks like an interesting  exercise.  Now  that the rest of
Detachment   2702  has  arrived,  making   further  trysts   with   Margaret
impractical, Waterhouse  has nothing to look forward to. Trying to crack the
code used on these  sheets will be a  perfect puzzle to fill the gaping void
that opened up as soon  as Waterhouse broke  the combination of the safe. He
steals some paper of his own, sits down at the desk, and busies  himself for
an  hour  or  two  copying  out the ciphertext  from  the  skipper's  pages,
double– and triple checking each code group  to make sure he's  got an
accurate copy.
     On the one hand, this is a  pain in the ass. On the other, it gives him
a chance to go  through the ciphertext  by hand,  at the  very lowest level,
which  might be  useful later. The  ineffable talent for finding patterns in
chaos cannot do its thing unless he  immerses himself in the chaos first. If
they do contain patterns, he  does  not see them  just now, in any  rational
way. But there may be some subrational part of his mind that can go to work,
now that the letters have passed before his eyes and through his pencil, and
that  may  suddenly present  him with  a gift wrapped clue  or even  a  full
solution a few weeks from now while he is shaving or antenna twiddling.
     He has been  dimly aware, for a while, that  Chattan and the others are
awake  now. Enlisted men are not  allowed into the chancel, but the officers
get to gather round and admire the gold bar.
     "Breaking  the  code, Waterhouse?"  Chattan says, ambling over  to  the
desk, warming his hands with a mug of coffee.
     "Making  a clean copy," Waterhouse says,  and then, because  he is  not
without a  certain cunning,  adds: "in case the  originals are destroyed  in
     "Very prudent," Chattan nods. "Say, you didn't  hide a second gold  bar
anywhere, did you?"
     Waterhouse has been in  the military long enough that he  does not rise
to the bait. "The  pattern of  sounds made when we tilted the safe  back and
forth indicated that there was only a single heavy object inside, sir."
     Chattan chuckles  and takes a sip of his coffee. "I shall be interested
to see  whether you  can break  that  cipher,  Lieutenant  Waterhouse. I  am
tempted to put money on it."
     "I sure  appreciate that, but it would be a lousy bet, sir," Waterhouse
replied. "The chances are  very good that Bletchley Park has already  broken
this cipher, whatever it may be."
     "What makes you say that?" Chattan asks absently.
     The question is so silly, coming from a man in Chattan's position, that
it leaves Waterhouse disoriented. "Sir, Bletchley Park has broken nearly all
of the German military and governmental codes."
     Chattan   makes  a  face  of  mock   disappointment.  "Waterhouse!  How
unscientific. You are making assumptions."
     Waterhouse  thinks back and tries to work out the meaning of this. "You
think that this cipher might not be German? Or that it might not be military
or governmental?"
     "I am merely cautioning you against making assumptions," Chattan says.
     Waterhouse is still thinking this  one over as they  are approached  by
Lieutenant Robson, the commanding officer of the SAS squad.  "Sir," he says,
"for the benefit of  the fellows down in London, we  would like to  know the
     "The  combination?"  Waterhouse  asks  blankly.  This  word,  devoid of
context, could mean almost anything.
     "Yes, sir," Robson says precisely. "To the safe."
     "Oh!" Waterhouse says. He is faintly irritated  that they would ask him
this question. There seems little point in writing down the combination when
the equipment  needed to  break into the safe is sitting right  there. It is
much  more important  to have a safe  breaking algorithm  than  to have  one
particular solution to a safe breaking problem.  "I don't know," he says. "I
     "You forgot?" Chattan says. He says  it on behalf of Robson who appears
to be violently biting his tongue. "Did you perhaps write it down before you
forgot it?"
     "No," Waterhouse says.  "But  I  remember that it  consists entirely of
prime numbers."
     "Well! That narrows it down!" Chattan says  cheerfully. Robson does not
seem mollified, though.
     "And there are five numbers in all, which is interesting since "
     "Since  five is  itself  a  prime number!"  Chattan  says. Once  again,
Waterhouse is pleased  to see his commanding officer displaying  signs of  a
tasteful and expensive education.
     "Very well," Robson announces  through clenched  teeth. "I shall inform
the recipients."

     Chapter 36 SULTAN

     The  Grand  Wazir of Kinakuta leads them into the  offices of his boss,
the  sultan,  and leaves them alone for  a few minutes at one corner  of the
conference table, to build which a whole species of tropical  hardwoods  had
to be extinguished. After that, it  is a race among the founders of Epiphyte
Corp.  to  see who can blurt  out the first witticism  about the size of the
sultan's home office deduction. They  are in the  New Palace, three arms  of
which  wrap around  the exotic  gardens of the  ancient and magnificent  Old
Palace. This meeting room has a  ten meter  high  ceiling. The  walls facing
onto the garden are made  entirely of  glass, so the effect  is like looking
into a terrarium that contains a model of a sultan's palace. Randy has never
known much about architecture,  and his vocabulary fails  him  abjectly. The
best he could say is that it's  sort of  like a cross  between the Taj Mahal
and Angkor Wat.
     To  get here, they had  to drive  down a long  boulevard of palm trees,
enter  a huge vaulted marble  entrance hall, submit to metal  detection  and
frisking, sit in an anteroom for a while sipping tea, take their shoes  off,
have warm  rose water poured over their hands by a turbaned servant wielding
an ornate  ewer, and  then walk across about half a  mile of polished marble
and oriental carpets.  As soon  as  the  door wafts shut  behind  the  grand
wazir's ass, Avi says, "I smell a con job."
     "A  con  job?" Randy  scoffs. "What,  you think this  is a  rear screen
projection? You think this table is made of Formica?"
     "It's all real," Avi admits sourly. "But whenever someone gives you the
treatment like this, it's because they're trying to impress you."
     "I'm impressed," Randy says. "I admit it. I'm impressed."
     "That's just a euphemism for, 'I'm about to do something moronic,'" Avi
     "What are we going to do? This isn't the kind of meeting where anything
actually gets done, is it?"
     "If you mean,  are we going to sign contracts, is money going to change
hands,  then  no, nothing is going  to  get  done. But plenty  is  going  to
     The door opens again and the grand wazir leads a group of Nipponese men
into the room. Avi lowers his voice. "Just remember that, at the end  of the
day, we're back in the  hotel, and the sultan is still here, and all of this
is  just a memory  to  us. The fact that the sultan  has a big garden has no
relevance to anything."
     Randy starts to get irked: this is so obvious it's insulting to mention
it.  But part  of the  reason he's irked is  because he knows Avi saw  right
through him. Avi's always telling him not to be romantic. But he wouldn't be
here, doing this, if not for the romance.
     Which leads to the question: why is  Avi  doing  it?  Maybe he has some
romantic delusions of his own, carefully concealed. Maybe that's why he  can
see through Randy so  damn well. Maybe Avi is cautioning himself as much  as
he is the other members of Epiphyte Corp.
     Actually this new group is  not Nipponese, but  Chinese  probably  from
Taiwan. The  grand  wazir shows  them their  assigned  seats, which  are far
enough away  that  they could exchange sporadic  gunfire with Epiphyte Corp.
but not converse without  the  aid of bullhorns.  They spend a minute  or so
pretending to  give a shit  about the gardens  and  the Old  Palace. Then, a
compact, powerfully built man in  his fifties pivots towards  Epiphyte Corp.
and strides over to them, dragging out a skein of aides. Randy's reminded of
a computer simulation he saw once of a black hole  passing through a galaxy,
entraining a retinue  of stars. Randy recognizes the man's  face vaguely: it
has  been printed in business  journals more than once, but not often enough
for Randy to remember his name.
     If Randy were something other than a hacker, he'd have  to step forward
now and deal with protocol issues. He'd be stressed out and hating  it. But,
thank god, all that shit devolves automatically on Avi, who steps up to meet
this  Taiwanese  guy. They shake hands and  go through the  rote exchange of
business  cards.  But the  Chinese  guy  is looking  straight  through  Avi,
checking out the other Epiphyte  people. Finding Randy wanting,  he moves on
to Eberhard Föhr. "Which one is Cantrell?" he says.
     John's leaning against the window, probably trying  to figure  out what
parametric   equation  generated  the  petals  on  that  eight   foot  tall,
carnivorous plant. He turns around to be introduced. "John Cantrell."
     "Harvard Li. Didn't you get my e mail?"
     Harvard  Li! Now  Randy is starting  to  remember  this guy. Founder of
Harvard Computer Company, a medium sized PC clone manufacturer in Taiwan.
     John grins. "I received  about twenty  e mail  messages from an unknown
person claiming to be Harvard Li."
     "Those were  from me! I  do not understand  what you mean that  I am an
unknown  person." Harvard Li is extremely brisk, but not exactly pissed off.
He is, Randy  realizes, not the kind of man who has to coach himself not  to
be romantic before a meeting.
     "I hate e mail," John says.
     Harvard Li stares him in the eye for a while. "'What do you mean?"
     "The concept is good. The execution is poor. People  don't  observe any
security precautions. A message arrives claiming to be from Harvard Li, they
believe it's really from Harvard Li.  But this  message is just a pattern of
magnetized spots on a spinning disk somewhere. Anyone could forge it."
     "Ah. You use digital signature algorithm."
     John considers this carefully. "I do not  respond to any e mail that is
not digitally signed.  Digital signature algorithm  refers to one  technique
for signing them. It is a good technique, but it could be better."
     Harvard Li begins nodding about halfway through this, acknowledging the
point.  "Is  there a structural  problem? Or are  you  concerned by the five
hundred  and  twelve  bit key  length?  Would it  be  acceptable with  a one
thousand twenty four bit key?"
     About three sentences later,  the  conversation between Cantrell and Li
soars over the  horizon  of  Randy's cryptographic  knowledge, and his brain
shuts down. Harvard Li  is  a crypto  maniac! He has been studying this shit
personally not just paying minions to read the books and send him notes, but
personally going over the equations, doing the math.
     Tom Howard  is grinning broadly. Eberhard is looking about as amused as
he ever gets, and Beryl's biting back a grin. Randy is trying desperately to
get the joke. Avi notes the confusion on Randy's face, turns his back to the
Taiwanese, and rubs his thumb and fingers together: money.

     Oh, yeah. It had to be something to do with that.
     Harvard Li cranked  out a few million PC  clones in the  early nineties
and  loaded them  all  with Windows, Word, and Excel but  somehow  forgot to
write any checks to Microsoft. About a year ago, Microsoft kicked his ass in
court and won a huge judgment. Harvard claimed bankruptcy: he doesn't have a
penny  to his name.  Microsoft has been trying to prove he still has the odd
billion or two salted away.
     Harvard Li has clearly been  thinking very hard about how  to put money
where guys like  Microsoft can't get it. There  are  many time honored ways:
the Swiss bank  account, the false front corporation, the  big  real  estate
project in deepest, darkest China, bars of gold in  a vault somewhere. Those
tricks  might work  with  the average government, but Microsoft is ten times
smarter, a hundred times more aggressive, and bound by no particular  rules.
It gives  Randy  a little  frisson just to  imagine Harvard  Li's situation:
being chased across the planet by Microsoft's state of the art hellhounds.
     Harvard Li needs electronic cash. Not the lame stuff that people use to
buy  t shirts on the Web  without giving away their credit card  numbers. He
needs the  full on badass kind, based on hard crypto,  rooted in an offshore
data haven, and he needs it bad. So nothing's more logical than that  he  is
sending lots of e mail to John Cantrell.
     Tom Howard sidles up to him. "The question is,  is it  just Harvard Li,
or does he think he's discovered a new market?"
     "Probably  both," Randy guesses.  "He probably knows a few other people
who'd like to have a private bank."
     "The missiles," Tom says.
     "Yeah." China's been taking potshots at Taiwan with ballistic  missiles
lately, sort of like a Wild  West villain shooting at the good guy's feet to
make him dance. "There have been bank runs in Taipei."
     "In a  way," Tom  says, "these  guys are tons smarter than us,  because
they've never had a currency they could depend  on."  He and Randy look over
at John Cantrell, who has crossed his arms over his chest and is unloading a
disquisition  on the  Euler totient  function while Harvard Li nods intently
and his nerd de camp frantically scrawls  notes  on a legal pad. Avi  stands
far to one side, staring at the Old Palace, as in his mind the ramifications
of this  bloom and sprawl and twine about each other like a tropical  garden
run riot.
     Other delegations file into the  room behind the  grand wazir and stake
out chunks of  the conference  table's coastline.  The Dentist comes in with
his Norns or Furies or Hygienists or whatever  the hell they are. There's  a
group of white guys talking in Down Underish accents.  Other than that, they
are all Asians. Some of  them talk amongst themselves and some pull on their
chins and watch the conversation between Harvard Li and John Cantrell. Randy
watches them in  turn: Bad Suit Asians and Good Suit Asians. The former have
grizzled buzz cuts and nicotine tanned skin and look like  killers. They are
wearing bad suits, not because they can't afford good ones, but because they
don't  give  a  shit. They are from China.  The Good  Suit Asians have  high
maintenance haircuts, eyeglasses from Paris, clear skin, ready smiles.  They
are mostly from Nippon.
     "I want to exchange  keys, right now, so we  can  e mail," Li says, and
gestures to an aide, who  scurries to  the edge of the table and  unfolds  a
laptop.  "Something  something Ordo," Li says  in Cantonese. The aide points
and clicks.
     Cantrell  is gazing at  the  table expressionlessly. He squats down  to
look under it. He strolls over and feels under the edge with his hand.
     Randy bends  and looks  too. It's one  of  these  high tech  conference
tables with embedded power  and communications lines, so  that visitors  can
plug in their laptops without  having to string unsightly  cables around and
fight over power outlets. The slab must be riddled with conduits. No visible
wires connect it to the world. The connections must run down hollow legs and
into a hollow floor. John grins, turns to Li, and shakes his head. "Normally
I'd say fine," he says, "but for a client with your level of security needs,
this is not an acceptable place to exchange keys."
     "I'm not planning on using  the phone," Li says, "we  can exchange them
on floppies."
     John knocks on wood. "Doesn't matter. Have one of your  staff look into
the subject of Van Eck phreaking. That's with a 'p h,' not an 'f,' " he says
to the aide who's writing it down. Then, sensing Li's need  for an executive
summary,  he  says, "They  can read  the internal state of your computer  by
listening to the faint radio emissions coming out of the chips."
     "Ahhhhh,"  Li  says, and  exchanges hugely  significant  looks with his
technical  aides,  as if this explains  something that has been puzzling the
shit out of them.
     Someone begins hollering wildly at the far end of the room not  the end
by  which the guests entered,  but  the other one. It is a  chap in  a getup
similar to, but not quite as ornate as, the grand  wazir's. At some point he
switches to English the same dialect of  English spoken by flight attendants
for  foreign airlines,  who have told passengers to insert the  metal tongue
into  the  buckle so many times  that  it  rushes out in one phlegmy garble.
Small  Kinakutan men in  good suits begin  filing  into the  room. They take
seats  across the head  end of the table, which is wide enough  for  a  Last
Supper tableau. In the Jesus position is a really big  chair. It is the kind
of thing  you'd  get if you went  to a Finnish  designer with a shaved head,
rimless glasses,  and twin Ph.D.s in semiotics  and civil engineering, wrote
him  a blank  check, and asked him to  design a throne. Behind is a separate
table  for minions. All of it is backed up by tons  of priceless artwork: an
eroded frieze, amputated from a jungle ruin somewhere.
     All the guests gravitate  instinctively towards  their positions around
the table, and remain standing. The  grand wazir glares at each one in turn.
A  small man slips into the room, staring vacantly at the floor in  front of
him, seemingly unaware that other people are  present. His hair is lacquered
down to  his skull, his  appearance of portliness  minimized by  Savile  Row
legerdemain.  He eases  into the  big  chair, which  seems  like a  shocking
violation of etiquette until Randy realizes that this is the sultan.
     Suddenly everyone is sitting down. Randy pulls his chair back and falls
into it. The leathery depths swallow his ass like a catcher's mitt accepting
a baseball. He's  about  to pull  his laptop out  of  its bag,  but in  this
setting, both the  nylon  bag  and the plastic  computer have  a  strip mall
tawdriness. Besides, he has to resist this sophomoric tendency to take notes
all the  time.  Avi himself said  that  nothing was going to happen  at this
meeting; all the important stuff is going to  be subtextual.  Besides, there
is the matter of Van  Eck phreaking, which  Cantrell probably mentioned just
to make Harvard Li paranoid, but which has Randy a bit rattled too. He  opts
for a pad of graph paper the  engineer's answer to the  legal pad and a fine
point disposable pen.
     The sultan has an Oxford English accent with  traces of  garlic and red
pepper still wedged in its teeth. He speaks for about fifteen minutes.
     The room  contains a few dozen living human bodies, each one a big sack
of  guts and fluids so highly compressed that it will squirt for a few yards
when pierced. Each one is built around an armature of 206 bones connected to
each other by  notoriously fault prone  joints that are  given  to obnoxious
creaking, grinding, and popping noises when they are in  other than pristine
condition.  This  structure  is  draped with throbbing steak, inflated  with
clenching  air sacks, and pierced by a  Gordian sewer  filled  with burbling
acid and compressed gas and asquirt with vile  enzymes and solvents produced
by the many dark, gamy nuggets of genetically  programmed meat strung  along
its length. Slugs of dissolving food are forced  down this sloppy  labyrinth
by serialized convulsions, decaying into gas, liquid, and solid matter which
must all be regularly vented to the outside  world lest  the owner  go toxic
and  drop  dead.  Spherical, gel packed cameras swivel in mucus greased ball
joints.   Infinite  phalanxes  of  cilia  beat   back  invading   particles,
encapsulate them in goo for later disposal. In each body a centrally located
muscle  flails away at an eternal, circulating torrent of pressurized gravy.
And yet, despite all of this, not one  of these  bodies makes a single sound
at any time  during  the sultan's speech. It is a  marvel  that can only  be
explained by  the power of  brain over  body, and, in turn, by the  power of
cultural conditioning over the brain.
     Their host is trying to be appropriately sultanic: providing vision and
direction without getting  sucked down into the quicksand of management. The
basic vision  (or so it seems  at  first) is that Kinakuta has always been a
crossroads, a meeting  place of cultures: the original Malays. Foote and his
dynasty  of  White  Sultans.  Filipinos  with  their  Spanish,  American and
Nipponese governors  to the east. Muslims to the west. Anglos to  the south.
Numerous Southeast Asian cultures to the north. Chinese everywhere as usual.
Nipponese whenever they are in one of their adventurous moods, and (for what
it's worth) the neolithic tribesmen who inhabit the interior of the island.
     Hence nothing is more natural  than  that  the  present  day Kinakutans
should run big fat optical fiber cables in every direction, patch into every
major national telco within reach, and become a sort of digital bazaar.
     All  of the guests nod soberly at  the sultan's insight, his  masterful
ability to meld the ancient ways of his country with modern technology.
     But  this is  nothing  more  than  a  superficial analogy,  the  sultan
confesses.  Everyone  nods somewhat  more  vigorously than they  did before:
indeed, everything that  the sultan was just saying was, in fact, horseshit.
Several people jot down notes, lest they lose the Sultan's thread.
     After all, the sultan  says,  physical location no longer matters in  a
digitized, networked world. Cyberspace knows no boundaries.
     Everyone  nods vigorously except for, on  the  one hand, John Cantrell,
and, on the other, the grizzled Chinese guys.
     But  hey,  the  sultan  continues,  that's  just   dizzy  headed  cyber
cheerleading! What bullshit! Of course locations and boundaries matter!
     At this point the room is plunged into dimness as the light pouring  in
through  the window  wall is throttled by some  kind of  invisible mechanism
built into the glass: liquid crystal shutters or something.  Screens descend
from slots cunningly hidden in the room's ceiling. This  diversion saves the
cervical vertebrae of many  guests, who  are about to whiplash themselves by
nodding even more vigorously at the  sultan's latest  hairpin  turn. Goddamn
it, does location matter in cyberspace or doesn't it? What's the bottom line
here? This isn't some Oxford debating society! Get to the point!
     The sultan is whipping some graphics on them: a map of the world in one
of  those politically correct projections that makes America and Europe look
like  icebound reefs in the  high Arctic.  A pattern of  straight  lines  is
superimposed  on the map, each joining two major  cities. The  web of  lines
gets  denser and denser as  the  sultan  talks,  nearly  obscuring the  land
masses, and the oceans as well.
     This, the  sultan explains, is  the  conventional understanding  of the
Internet:  a  decentralized  web connecting  each place with  all  the other
places, with no bottlenecks or, if you will, choke points.
     But it's more bullshit! A  new  graphic  comes up:  same map, different
pattern  of lines.  Now we  have  webs within  countries,  sometimes  within
continents. But  between countries, and especially between continents, there
are only a few lines. It's not weblike at all.
     Randy looks at Cantrell, who's nodding slyly.
     "Many Net partisans are convinced  that  the  Net is robust because its
lines of communication are spread evenly across the planet. In fact,  as you
can see from  this graphic,  nearly  all intercontinental Web traffic passes
through  a small  number  of choke points. Typically these choke  points are
controlled and monitored by local governments. Clearly, then,  any  Internet
application  that  wants  to  stand  free of  governmental  interference  is
undermined, from the very beginning, by a fundamental structure problem."
     free  of  governmental  interference. Randy can't believe  he's hearing
this. If  the sultan was a scruffy hacker talking  to a room full  of crypto
anarchists, that'd be one  thing. But the sultan is  a government, for god's
sake, and the room is full of card carrying Establishment types.
     Like those Chinese buzz cuts! Who the  hell are they? Don't try to tell
Randy those guys aren't part of the Chinese government, in some sense.
     "Bottlenecks are only one of the structural barriers to the creation of
a free,  sovereign, location  independent cyberspace," the sultan  continues

     "Another is the  heterogeneous  patchwork of laws,  and indeed of legal
systems, that address privacy, free speech, and telecoms policy."
     Another map graphic  appears.  Each  country  is  colored,  shaded, and
patterned according  to  a  scheme of intimidating complexity. A  half assed
stab  at  explaining it  is  made by  a complex legend  underneath.  Instant
migraine. That, of course, is the whole point.
     "The  policy  of  any  given  legal  system  toward privacy  issues  is
typically the  result of  incremental changes made over  centuries by courts
and legislative bodies," the sultan says. "With all due respect, very little
of it is relevant to modern privacy issues.
     The lights  come back on, sun waxes  through  the windows, the  screens
disappear silently into the  ceiling, and everyone's mildly surprised to see
that the sultan is on his  feet. He is approaching  a  large and (of course)
ornate  and expensive  looking  Go board covered with a  complex  pattern of
black and  white stones. "Perhaps  I can make  an analogy to Go though chess
would  work just as well. Because  of  our history, we  Kinakutans are  well
versed in both games. At the beginning  of the game, the pieces are arranged
in a  pattern that is simple and easy to understand.  But the  game evolves.
The players make small decisions, one turn at  a  time, each decision fairly
simple in and of itself, and made for reasons that can be easily understood,
even by a novice.  But  over the course  of  many  such  turns, the  pattern
develops  such  great  complexity  that only the  finest minds or the finest
computers can comprehend  it." The sultan is gazing down thoughtfully at the
Go board as  he says this. He looks up and  starts making eye contact around
the  room.  "The  analogy  is clear.  Our policies concerning  free  speech,
telecommunications  and  cryptography  have evolved from a series of simple,
rational decisions. But they are today so complex that no one can understand
them, even in  one  single country, to say nothing  of all  countries  taken
     The sultan pauses and walks broodingly around  the Go board. The guests
have mostly given up on the obsequious nodding and jotting by this point. No
one is being  tactical now,  they  are all listening  with genuine interest,
wondering what he's going to say next.
     But he says nothing. Instead he lays one arm across the board and, with
a sudden violent  motion, sweeps all  the stones  aside. They rain down into
the carpet, skitter across polished stone, clatter onto the tabletop.
     There is a silence of at least fifteen seconds. The sultan looks stony.
Then, suddenly, he brightens up.
     "Time to start over," he says. "A very difficult thing to do in a large
country, where  laws  are  written  by  legislative  bodies,  interpreted by
judges, bound by  ancient  precedents. But this is the Sultanate of Kinakuta
and I am the sultan and I say that the law here is to  be very simple: total
freedom of information. I hereby abdicate all government power over the flow
of data  across and within my borders. Under  no circumstances will any part
of this government snoop  on  information flows, or use  its power to in any
way  restrict  such  flows. That is the  new  law of  Kinakuta. I invite you
gentlemen to make the most of it. Thank you."
     The sultan turns and leaves the  room to a dignified ovation. Those are
the ground rules, boys. Now run along and play.
     Dr. Mohammed Pragasu, Kinakutan Minister of Information, now rises from
his chair (which is to the right hand of the sultan's throne, naturally) and
takes the conn. His accent is almost as American as the sultan's is British;
he did his undergrad work  at Berkeley  and  got his  doctorate at Stanford.
Randy  knows  several people who worked and  studied  with him during  those
years. According to  them, Pragasu rarely  showed up  for work  in  anything
other than a  t shirt and jeans,  and showed just as strong an appetite  for
beer and sausage pizza as any non  Mohammedan. No one had a clue that he was
a sultan's second cousin, and worth a few hundred million in his own right.
     But that  was  ten  years  ago. More  recently,  in his  dealings  with
Epiphyte  Corp., he's  been better dressed, better  behaved, but  studiously
informal: first names only,  please.  Dr.  Pragasu likes  to be addressed as
Prag. All of their meetings have started with an uninhibited exchange of the
latest jokes. Then Prag inquires about his old  school buddies, most of whom
are  working  in Silicon Valley now. He delves  for  tips on the  latest and
hottest high tech stocks, reminisces for a  few minutes about the wild times
he enjoyed back in California, and then gets down to business.
     None of them has ever seen Prag in  his true  element until now. It's a
bit hard to keep a  straight face as if some old school chum  of theirs  had
rented  a  suit, forged an  ID card, and was now staging a prank at a stuffy
business meeting. But there is a solemnity about Dr. Pragasu's bearing today
that is impressive, verging on oppressive.
     Those Chinese guys across the table look like the Maoist  Mt. Rushmore;
it is impossible  to  imagine that any of them  has ever smiled in his life.
They are getting a live translation of the  proceedings through  ear pieces,
connected   through  the   mysterious  table  to   a  boiler  room  full  of
     Randy's  attention wanders. Prag's  talk is dull because it is covering
technical ground  with which Randy is already painfully familiar, couched in
simple  analogies  designed to  make  some  kind of  sense even  after being
translated  with  Mandarin,  Cantonese, Nipponese, or what have  you.  Randy
begins looking around the table.
     There  is  a delegation of Filipinos. One of them, a  fat  man  in  his
fifties, looks awfully  familiar.  As usual, Randy cannot remember his name.
And there's another guy who shows up late, all by himself, and is ushered to
a solitary chair down at the  far end: he might be a  Filipino with lots  of
Spanish blood, but he's more  likely Latin American or  Southern European or
just an American whose forebears came from those places. In any case, he has
scarcely  settled  into  his  seat  before he's  pulled out  a cellphone and
punched in a very long phone number and begun  a hushed, tense conversation.
He  keeps sneaking glances up the  table, checking  out  each delegation  in
turn,  then  blurting  capsule  descriptions into  his cellphone.  He  seems
startled to be here. No one who sees him can avoid noticing his furtiveness.
No  one who  notices it can avoid speculating on how he acquired it. But  at
the same  time,  the  man has a sullen glowering air  about  him that  Randy
doesn't notice until his black eyes turn to stare into Randy's like the twin
barrels of a derringer. Randy stares back,  too startled and stupid to avert
his gaze, and some kind of strange information passes from the cellphone man
to him, down the twin shafts of black light coming out of the man's eyes.
     Randy realizes that he and the rest of Epiphyte(2) Corp. have fallen in
among thieves.

     Chapter 37 SKIPPING

     It's a hot cloudy  day in the Bismarck  Sea  when Goto Dengo loses  the
war.  The  American bombers come in low and level. Goto  Dengo happens to be
abovedecks  on a fresh air and calisthenics  drill. To breathe air that does
not  smell of shit  and  vomit makes  him  feel  euphoric  and invulnerable.
Everyone else must be feeling the same way, because he watches the airplanes
for a long time before he begins to hear warning klaxons.
     The emperor's soldiers are supposed to feel  euphoric  and invulnerable
all  the time, because  their  indomitable spirit makes  them  so. That Goto
Dengo only feels that way when  abovedecks, breathing clean  air, makes  him
ashamed.  The other  soldiers never  doubt, or at  least never  show  it. He
wonders where he went astray. Perhaps  it was his time in Shanghai, where he
was  polluted with  foreign  ideas. Or maybe he  was polluted from the  very
beginning the ancient family curse.
     The  troop transports  are slow  there  is no  pretence  that they  are
anything  other  than boxes  of  air.  They  have  only  the  most  pathetic
armaments. The destroyers escorting them are sounding general quarters.
     Goto Dengo  stands  at the rail and watches the crews of the destroyers
scrambling to their positions.  Black smoke and blue light  sputter from the
barrels of their weapons, and much later he hears them opening fire.
     The American bombers must be  in some kind of distress.  He  speculates
that they are low  on fuel, or desperately  lost,  or have been chased  down
below the cloud cover by Zeros.  Whatever the reason, he knows they have not
come  here to attack the convoy  because American  bombers  attack by flying
overhead  at a great altitude,  raining down bombs.  The  bombs always  miss
because the Americans' bombsights  are  so poor and the crews  so inept. No,
the arrival  of  American planes here is just one of those bizarre accidents
of  war;  the  convoy  has been  shielded under  heavy  clouds  since  early
     The  troops all around Goto  Dengo are cheering. What good fortune that
these lost  Americans have  blundered straight  into  the gunsights of their
destroyer escort! And it is a good omen for the village of Kulu too, because
half  of  the town's young  men just  happen  to be abovedecks  to enjoy the
spectacle. They grew  up  together, went to school together, at  the age  of
twenty  took  the  military physical together,  joined the army together and
trained together. Now they are on their way to New Guinea together. Together
they were mustered up  onto the deck of the transport only five minutes ago.
Together  they  will enjoy the  sight of  the American planes softening into
cartwheels of flame.
     Goto Dengo, at  twenty six, is one of the old  hands  here he came back
from Shanghai to  be a leader  and  an example to them and he watches  their
faces,  these faces he has known since he was a child, never happier than at
this moment, glowing like cherry petals in the  grey world of cloud,  ocean,
and painted steel.
     Fresh delight ripples across their  faces. He turns to look. One of the
bombers  has  apparently  decided to lighten  its load  by dropping  a  bomb
straight  into the ocean. The boys of  Kulu break  into a jeering chant. The
American plane, having shed half a  ton of useless explosives, peels sharply
upward, self neutered, good for nothing but target  practice. The  Kulu boys
howl  at its  pilot in  contempt. A Nipponese pilot would  have  crashed his
plane into that destroyer at the very least!
     Goto Dengo, for some reason, watches the bomb instead of the air plane.
It does not  tumble from the plane's belly but traces a smooth flat parabola
above the waves, like an aerial torpedo. He catches his breath for a moment,
afraid that  it will never drop into the ocean, that it will skim across the
water until  it hits the destroyer that stands directly across its path. But
once again  the fortunes  of war smile  upon the emperor's forces;  the bomb
loses  its  struggle  with gravity and splashes into the water.  Goto  Dengo
looks away.
     Then he looks back again, chasing a phantom that haunts the edge of his
vision. The  wings of  foam  that  were  thrown up by  the  bomb  are  still
collapsing  into the  water, but beyond them, a black mote is  speeding away
perhaps  it  was a second bomb dropped by the same airplane. This  time Goto
Dengo watches it carefully. It seems to  be rising,  rather than  falling  a
mirage perhaps. No, no, he's wrong, it is losing altitude slowly now, and it
plows into the water and throws up another pair of wings all right.
     And  then the  bomb rises  up out  of  the  water  again. Goto Dengo, a
student of engineering,  implores  the laws of physics to take hold of  this
thing and make it fall and sink, which is what big dumb pieces of  metal are
supposed to do. Eventually it does fall again but then it rises up again.
     It is skipping across  the  water like the flat rocks that the boys  of
Kulu used to throw across the fish pond near the village. Goto Dengo watches
it skip several more  times, utterly fascinated. Once again, the fortunes of
war have provided a bizarre spectacle, seemingly for no other reason than to
entertain  him. He savors  it as if  it  were a cigarette discovered in  the
bottom of a pocket. Skip, skip, skip.
     Right into the flank of one of the escorting destroyers.  A  gun turret
flies straight up into the air, tumbling over  and over. Just as it slows to
its apogee,  it is completely enveloped in a geyser of flame spurting out of
the ship's engine room.
     The Kulu  boys  are still  chanting, refusing to accept the evidence of
their own eyes.  Something flashes in  Goto  Dengo's peripheral  vision;  he
turns  to watch another destroyer  being snapped in half like a dry  twig as
its magazines detonate. Tiny  black things are skip, skip, skipping all over
the  ocean  now, like  fleas across  the  rumpled  bedsheets  of a  Shanghai
whorehouse. The chant falters. Everyone watches silently.
     The Americans have invented a  totally new bombing tactic in the middle
of a  war  and implemented it  flawlessly. His mind staggers like a drunk in
the aisle of a careening train. They saw that they were wrong, they admitted
their mistake, they came up with a  new idea. The new idea  was accepted and
embraced all the way up the chain of command. Now  they are using it to kill
their enemies.
     No  warrior with  any concept of  honor would  have been so craven.  So
flexible. What  a loss of  face it  must have been  for the officers who had
trained their men to bomb from high altitudes. What has become of those men?
They must have all killed themselves, or perhaps been thrown into prison.
     The  American  Marines  in  Shanghai  weren't  proper  warriors either.
Constantly  changing  their  ways.  Like  Shaftoe.  Shaftoe  tried to  fight
Nipponese soldiers  in the street and failed. Having  failed, he decided  to
learn  new  tactics from  Goto Dengo.  "The  Americans  are  not  warriors,"
everyone kept saying. "Businessmen perhaps. Not warriors."
     Belowdecks, the  soldiers  are cheering and chanting. They have not the
faintest  idea what  is really going on. For just a moment, Goto Dengo tears
his eyes away from the sea full of exploding and sinking destroyers. He gets
a bearing on a locker full of life preservers.
     The airplanes all seem to be gone now. He scans the convoy and finds no
destroyers in working order.
     "Put on  the life jackets!" he shouts. None of the men seem to hear him
and so he makes for the locker. "Hey! Put on the life jackets!" He pulls one
out and holds it up, in case they can't hear him.
     They can hear him just fine. They  look at him as if what he's doing is
more shocking than anything they've witnessed in the last five minutes. What
possible use are life jackets?
     "Just in case!"  he shouts.  "So we can fight for the  emperor  another
day." He says this last part weakly.
     One  of the men, a  boy who lived  a few doors  away from him when they
were children, walks up  to him, tears the life jacket out of his hands, and
throws  it into  the ocean. He looks Goto up and down, contemptuously,  then
turns around and walks away.
     Another man  shouts and points: the second wave of planes is coming in.
Goto Dengo goes  to  the rail  to  stand  among his comrades, but they sidle
away. The American planes charge in unopposed and veer  away, leaving behind
nothing but more skipping bombs.
     Goto  Dengo watches  a bomb come directly toward him for a few bounces,
until he can make out the message painted on its nose: BEND OVER, TOJO!
     "This  way!" he shouts. He  turns  his back to  the bomb and walks back
across the deck to the locker  full of  life preservers. This  time a few of
the men follow  him.  The  ones  who  don't  perhaps  five  percent  of  the
population of  the village  of Kulu are catapulted into  the ocean  when the
bomb explodes beneath their feet.  The wooden deck buckles up  wards. One of
the Kulu  boys falls  with  a four  foot  long  splinter driven straight  up
through  his  viscera.  Goto Dengo and perhaps a dozen others make it to the
locker on hands and knees and grab life preservers.
     He would not  be  doing this  if he had not already lost the war in his
soul.  A warrior would stand his  ground and die. His men are only following
him because he has told them to do it.
     Two more bombs  burst while they are getting the life preservers on and
struggling to the rail. Most of the men below  must be dead now. Goto  Dengo
nearly doesn't make it to the railing because it is rising sharply into  the
air;  he ends up doing a chin  up on it and throwing one leg  over the side,
which is now nearly horizontal. The ship  is rolling over! Four others get a
grip on the rail,  the rest slide helplessly down the deck and vanish into a
pit of smoke. Goto Dengo ignores what his eyes  are telling him and tries to
listen to his inner ear. He is standing up on the side of the  ship now, and
looking toward the stern he can see one of the propellers spinning uselessly
in the  air.  He  begins  running  uphill. The four  others  follow  him. An
American fighter plane comes over. He  doesn't even  realize they  are being
strafed until he turns around and sees that the bullets have essentially cut
one  man in half and  crippled another  by exploding  his  knee, so that the
lower leg and foot dangle by  a few shreds of gristle. Goto Dengo throws the
man  over his  shoulders like a sack of  rice and turns to resume the uphill
race, but finds that there is no more uphill to race towards.
     He and the  other two are standing  on the  summit of  the ship now,  a
steel bulge that rises for no more than a man's height out of  the water. He
turns  around  once, then twice, looking for a place to run and sees nothing
but water all  around. The  water bloops and fizzes angrily as air and smoke
jet from the interior of the wrecked hull. Sea rushes in  towards them. Goto
Dengo looks down at  the steel bubble supporting his feet  and realizes that
he is  still,  just  for  a  moment,  perfectly dry. Then  the Bismarck  Sea
converges on his feet from all directions at once and begins to climb up his
legs. A  moment later the steel plate, which  has been  pressing  so solidly
against the soles of his boots, drops away. The weight of the wounded man on
his  shoulders  shoves  him straight  down into the ocean. He gulps fuel oil
into his sinuses, struggles out from beneath  the wounded man,  and comes to
the surface screaming. His nose, and  the cavities of his skull,  are filled
with oil. He swallows some of it and goes into convulsions as his body tries
to  eject it from every orifice  at once: sneezing, vomiting, hawking it  up
out of  his lungs. Reaching up to  his face with  one hand  he feels the oil
coating his skin thickly and knows that he dare not open his eyes. He  tries
to wipe  the oil from his face with his  sleeve, but the fabric is saturated
with it.
     He has to get down  in  the water and wipe himself clean so that he can
see  again,  but the  oil in his  clothing makes  him float. His  lungs  are
finally clear now and  he begins  to  gasp  in  air. It smells of oil but at
least  it's  breathable. But  the  volatile chemicals in the oil have gotten
into his blood now and  he feels them spread through his  body like fire. It
feels  as though a hot spatula is  being  shoved  between  his scalp and his
skull. The other men are howling and he realizes that he is too. Some of the
Chinese  workers in Shanghai used to breathe gasoline to  get high, and this
was the noise that they made.
     One of the men near  him screams. He hears a noise approaching,  like a
sheet  being torn  in half to make bandages. Radiant heat strikes him in the
face  like  a  hot  frying  pan,  just before  Goto  Dengo dives  and  kicks
downwards. The motion exposes a band  of  flesh around his calf, between his
boot and his trouser leg, and in the moment that it's poking straight up out
of the water, it gets seared to a crisp.
     He swims blind through an ocean of fuel oil. Then there is a change  in
the temperature  and  the viscosity of the  fluid  streaming  over his face.
Suddenly the life preserver  begins to tug him upwards;  he must be in water
now. He swims for  a  few more kicks  and begins to  wipe at  his  eyes. The
pressure on his ears  tells him he's not that deep, maybe a couple of meters
beneath the surface.  Finally he risks opening his eyes. Ghostly, flickering
light is illuminating  his hands, making  them  glow a bright green; the sun
must have come out.  He rolls over on his back and looks  straight up. Above
him is a lake of rolling fire.
     He rips the  life preserver off over his head and lets it go. It shoots
straight up and bursts out  of the  surface, burning like a  comet.  His oil
soaked clothing is tugging  him relentlessly  upwards,  so he rips his shirt
off and lets it tumble up towards the surface. His boots pull down, his oily
pants push up, and he reaches some sort of equilibrium.


     He grew up in the mines.
     Kulu is near the north coast of Hokkaido, on  the shore of a freshwater
lake where rivers converge from the inland hills and  commingle their waters
before draining to the Sea  of Okhotsk. The hills rise sharply  from one end
of  that lake,  looming over  a  cold  silver creek that rushes down  out of
forest inhabited only by  apes and demons.  There are small islands  in that
part of the lake. If you dig down into  the islands,  or the hills, you will
find veins of copper ore, and sometimes you will find zinc and lead and even
silver. That is what the  men of Kulu have done for many  generations. Their
monument is a maze  of tunnels that snake through the  hills,  not following
straight lines but tracking the richest veins.
     Sometimes the tunnels dip  below the level  of the lake. When the mines
were working these tunnels were pumped out, but now that they are exhausted,
the water has been allowed to seek its level and has formed sumps. There are
cavities and tunnels back in the  hills that can only be reached by boys who
are brave enough to  dive into  the cold black  water and  swim through  the
darkness for ten, twenty, thirty meters.
     Goto  Dengo went  to  all  of those places when  he was a boy.  He even
discovered some of them. Big, fat and buoyant, he was a pretty good swimmer.
He was not the best swimmer, or  the best at  holding his breath. He was not
even the bravest  (the bravest  did not put on life preservers,  and went to
their deaths like warriors).
     He went where the others wouldn't because he, alone among all  the boys
of  Kulu,  was not afraid  of the demons.  When he  was a boy, his father, a
mining  engineer, would take him hiking up into the places in  the mountains
where  demons were said to  live. They would  sleep out under  the stars and
wake up to find  their blankets covered with frost, and sometimes their food
stolen by bears. But no demons.
     The other boys believed that demons lived  in  some of those underwater
tunnels, and that this explained  why some of  the boys  who swam back there
never returned. But Goto  Dengo did not fear the demons and so  he went back
there fearing only the cold and the dark and the water.  Which was plenty to
     Now he  need only  pretend that the fire is a  stone ceiling.  He swims
some more. But he did not breathe properly before diving, and he is close to
panic now. He looks up again  and sees  that the  water is  burning only  in
     He is quite deep, he realizes, and he  can't  swim well in trousers and
boots. He fumbles  at his bootlaces, but they are  tied  in double knots. He
pulls a knife  from his belt and  slashes through the laces, kicks the boots
off,  sheds his pants and drawers too. Naked, he forces  himself  to be calm
for  ten more seconds,  brings his knees  to his  chest and hugs  them.  His
body's natural buoyancy  takes over. He knows that he must be  rising slowly
toward the surface  now, like a bubble. The  light  is growing brighter.  He
need only wait. He lets go of the knife, which is only slowing him down.
     His  back feels cold. He explodes out of the fetal position and thrusts
his head up  into  the air, gasping for  breath. A patch of  burning oil  is
almost close enough for him  to touch, and the oil  is trickling across  the
top of the ocean as if it were a solid surface. Nearly invisible blue flames
seep  from  it,  then  turn  yellow  and boil  off  curling black smoke.  He
backstrokes away from a reaching tendril.
     A glowing silver  apparition passes over  him, so close he can feel the
warmth of its exhaust and read the English warning labels  on its belly. The
tips of its wing guns are sparkling, flinging out red streaks.
     They are strafing the survivors. Some try to dive, but the oil in their
uniforms pops them right back to the surface, legs flailing uselessly in the
air. Goto Dengo first makes sure he is  nowhere near any  burning  oil, then
treads water,  spinning slowly in the water like a  radar dish,  looking for
planes. A P 38  comes  in low, gunning  for him.  He  sucks in a breath  and
dives. It is nice  and quiet under  the water, and the  bullets striking its
surface sound like the ticking of a big sewing machine. He sees a few rounds
plunging into the  water around him, leaving trails of bubbles as  the water
cavitates in their wake, slowing virtually to a stop in just a meter or two,
then turning  downwards  and sinking like bombs. He swims after  one of them
and plucks it  out of the water. It is still hot from its passage.  He would
keep  it as  a  souvenir, but his  pockets are gone  with his clothes and he
needs his hands. He stares  at the  bullet for a moment,  greenish silver in
the underwater light, fresh from some factory in America.
     How did this bullet come from America to my hand?
     We have lost. The war is over.
     I must go home and tell everyone.
     I must be like my father, a rational man,  explaining  the facts of the
world to the people at home, who are crippled by superstitions.
     He lets the bullet  go again, watches it drop towards the bottom of the
sea, where the ships, and all of the young men of Kulu, are bound.

     Chapter 38 MUGS

     Hey, it's an immature market.

     The rationalizations  have not actually begun yet Randy's still sitting
in the sultan's big conference  room, and the meeting's  just  getting up to
     Naturally the early adopters are not going to be your regular joes.
     Tom Howard has taken the floor to explain his work. Randy  doesn't have
much  to  do,  so he's  imagining  tonight's conversation in  the  Bomb  and
     It's like the Wild West a  little  unruly at first, then in a few years
it settles down and you've got Fresno.
     Most of the delegations have brought hired guns: engineers and security
experts who'll get a bounty if they  can find a flaw in Tom's system. One by
one, these guys stand up to take their shots.
     Ten years from now, widows and paperboys will be banking in cyberspace.
     Magnificent  isn't  the word you  would  normally use to  describe  Tom
Howard;  he's  burly and  surly, completely  lacking in  social graces,  and
doesn't apologize for  it. Most  of  the  time  he sits silently, wearing an
expression of sphinxlike boredom, and so it's easy to forget how good he is.
     But during this particular half hour of Tom Howard's life, it is of the
essence that he be magnificent. He  is going blade to  blade with the  Seven
Samurai here:  the  nerdiest  high  octane Ph.D.s and the  scariest  private
security clicks that Asia can produce. One by one they come after him and he
cuts their heads off and stacks them on the table like cannon balls. Several
times he  has to  stop  and think for  sixty  seconds before  delivering the
deathblow. Once he has to ask Eberhard Föhr to make some calculations on his
laptop.  Occasionally he has to call on the cryptographic expertise of  John
Cantrell,  or to  look over  at Randy  for a nod or  shake  of the head. But
eventually,  he  shuts  the  hecklers up. Beryl wears a not  very convincing
smile throughout the entire thing. Avi just grips the arms of his chair, his
knuckles going from  blue to white to pink to a normal healthy glow over the
course  of  the final  five  minutes,  when it's clear that the Samurai  are
withdrawing in disarray. It makes Randy want to empty a six shooter into the
ceiling and holler, "Yeee haaw!" at the top of his lungs.
     Instead he listens, just in case Tom gets tripped up in the briar patch
of plesiosynchronous protocol  arcana, whence  only Randy can  drag him out.
This gives him some more time to survey the faces of the other people in the
room. But the meeting is  a couple  of hours old now,  and they are  all  as
familiar to him as siblings.
     Tom wipes his sword on his pantleg and thwacks his big ass resoundingly
into his leather chair. Minions scurry into the room bringing tea and coffee
and sugar/fat pods. Dr. Pragasu stands up and introduces John Cantrell.
     Sheesh! So far, the agenda is revolving entirely  around Epiphyte Corp.
What gives?
     Dr.  Pragasu,  having  developed  a  friendly  relationship with  these
California hackers, is pimping  them to his big money  contacts. That's what
     This is very interesting from a business standpoint. But Randy finds it
a bit irksome and threatening, this one way flow of information. By the time
they  go home, this assemblage  of shady gmokes is going to know  everything
about  Epiphyte  Corp., but  Epiphyte will still  be in  the dark. No  doubt
that's exactly how they want it.
     It occurs to Randy to look  over at the Dentist.  Dr. Hubert Kepler  is
sitting on the same side of the table as he is, and so it's hard to read his
face. But  it's clear he's not listening to John Cantrell. He's covering his
mouth  with one  hand and staring into space.  His Valkyries  are  furiously
passing notes back and forth, like naughty cheerleaders.
     Kepler's just as  surprised as Randy. He doesn't seem like  the kind of
guy who delights in surprises.
     What can Randy do right now to enhance shareholder  value?  Intrigue is
not  his specialty;  he'll leave  that  to Avi. Instead,  he  tunes  out the
meeting, opens up his laptop, and begins to hack.
     Hacking is an overly glorious word for this. Everyone in Epiphyte Corp.
has a  laptop with a tiny  built in video camera,  so that  they can do long
distance  videoconferencing.  Avi  insisted on  it.  The  camera  is  almost
invisible:  just an orifice a couple  of millimeters across, mounted in  the
top center of the frame that surrounds the screen. It doesn't have a lens as
such it's a camera in the oldest sense, a camera obscura. One wall  contains
the pinhole and the opposite wall is a silicon retina.
     Randy   has   the   source   code   the  original   program   for   the
videoconferencing software. It is reasonably clever in its use of bandwidth.
It looks at the  stream  of frames (individual still images) coming from the
pinhole camera and notices that, although the total amount of  data in those
frames is rather large, the  difference  from one frame to the next is tiny.
It would be altogether different if Frame 1 were a talking head and Frame 2,
a  fraction of a second later,  were a postcard shot of a Hawaiian beach and
Frame  3  a  diagram  of  a printed  circuit  and  Frame 4 a  closeup  of  a
dragonfly's  head.  But  in  fact, each frame  is  a  talking  head the same
person's head, with minor  changes in position and expression. The  software
can save on precious  bandwidth by mathematically subtracting each new frame
from  the previous one  (since,  to  the computer, each image is just a long
number) and then transmitting only the difference.
     What  it  all  means  is that  this software has  a  lot  of  built  in
capabilities for comparing one image with another, and gauging the magnitude
of  the difference from  one frame to the next. Randy doesn't  have to write
that stuff. He just has to familiarize  himself  with these already existing
routines, learn their names and  how to  use them, which takes about fifteen
minutes of clicking around.
     Then he writes a little  program called Mugshot  that will take  a snap
shot from the pinhole camera every five seconds or so, and compare it to the
previous snapshot,  and, if the  difference is large  enough, save  it to  a
file.  An encrypted file with a meaningless, random  name. Mugshot  opens no
windows and produces no output of its own, so the only way you can tell it's
running is by typing the UNIX command
     and hitting the return key. Then the  system will spew out  a long list
of running processes, and Mugshot will show up somewhere in that list.
     Just in case someone  thinks of this, Randy  gives the  program a  fake
name: VirusScanner.  He  starts  it running, then checks  its directory  and
verifies that it has  just  saved an image file: one mug  shot of  Randy. As
long as  he sits fairly still, it won't save any more mug shots; the pattern
of light  that represents Randy's face striking the far wall  of  the camera
obscura won't change very much.
     In the  technology world,  no  meeting  is  complete  without  a  demo.
Cantrell and Föhr have developed a prototype of the  electronic cash system,
just to demonstrate  the user interface  and the built in security features.
"A year from now, instead of going to the bank and talking to a human being,
you will simply launch this piece of software from any  where in the world,"
Cantrell  says, "and communicate with the  Crypt." He  blushes as this  word
seeps  through  the translators  and into the  ears of the others. "Which is
what we're calling the system that Tom Howard has been putting together."
     Avi's on  his  feet, coolly  managing  the crisis.  'Mì  fú,"  he says,
speaking directly to the Chinese guys, "is a better translation."
     The Chinese guys  look relieved, and  a couple of them  actually  crack
smiles when they hear  Avi speaking Mandarin. Avi holds up a sheet  of paper
bearing the Chinese characters (1):
     Painfully  aware  that  he has  just  dodged  a  bullet,  John Cantrell
continues with  a  thick tongue.  "We  thought  you  might want to  see  the
software in action. I'm going to demo it on the screen now,  and  during the
lunch break you should feel free to come around and try it out yourselves."
     Randy fires  up the software. He's got his laptop plugged  into a video
jack on  the underside of the table so that the sultan's lurking media geeks
can  project  a  duplicate  of what  Randy's seeing  onto a large projection
screen at the end of the room. It is running the front end to the cash demo,
but his mug  shot  program is still running in the background. Randy  slides
the computer over to John, who runs through the demo (there should  be a mug
shot of John Cantrell stored on the hard disk now).
     "I  can  write the  best cryptographic  code  possible,  but  it's  all
worthless unless there is a good system for verifying the user's  identity,"
John begins, regaining some  poise now. "How does the computer know that you
are you?  Passwords are too  easy to guess, steal, or  forget.  The computer
needs  to  know something  about  you  that  is as  unique to  you  as  your
fingerprint. Basically it has to look at some part of your body, such as the
blood vessels in  your  retina or the distinctive sound  of  your voice, and
compare  it  against  known  values  stored in  its  memory.  This  kind  of
technology  is  called biometrics.  Epiphyte  Corp.  boasts  one of the  top
biometrics  experts  in the  world:  Dr. Eberhard  Föhr,  who  wrote  what's
considered to be the best handwriting recognition system in the world." John
rushes through this encomium. Eb and everyone else in the room look bored by
it  they've  all seen  Eb's  resume.  "Right  now  we're  going  with  voice
recognition,  but the code  is entirely modular,  so we  could  swap in some
other system, such as a hand geometry reader. That's up to the customer."
     John runs the demo, and  unlike most demos, it actually works and  does
not crash. He even tries  to fake  it out by recording  his own  voice on  a
pretty good portable digital tape recorder and then playing it back. But the
software is  not fooled. This actually makes  an impression  on  the Chinese
guys,  who,  up to  the  point, have  looked  like  the  contents  of Madame
Tussaud's Dumpster after an exhibit on the Cultural Revolution.
     Not everyone is such  a tough sell. Harvard Li is a  committed Cantrell
supporter, and  the Filipino  heavyweight  looks like  he can hardly wait to
deposit his cash reserves in the Crypt.
     Lunchtime! Doors are hauled open to reveal a dining room  with a buffet
along  the  far wall, redolent  of curry, garlic, cayenne, and bergamot. The
Dentist makes a point  of sitting at the same table with Epiphyte Corp., but
doesn't say  very much just sits there with a dreadfully choleric expression
on his face,  staring and chewing and  thinking.  When  Avi finally asks him
what he thinks, Kepler says, levelly: "It's been informative."
     The  Three Graces cringe epileptically.  Informative  is  evidently  an
extremely  bad  word in the  Dentist's  lexicon.  It means that  Kepler  has
learned  something  at  this  meeting,  which  means  that he  did not  know
absolutely everything  going  into  it, which  would certainly  rate  as  an
unforgivable intelligence failure on his scale of values.
     There is an agonizing silence.  Then Kepler  says,  "But  not devoid of
     Deep  sighs of relief  ventilate  the  blindingly  white,  plaque  free
dentition of  the Hygienists. Randy  tries to imagine  which  is worse: that
Kepler suspects that  the wool was pulled  over his eyes,  or that he sees a
new opportunity here. Which is more terrible, the paranoia or the avarice of
the Dentist?  They  are about to find out. Randy,  with his  sappy, romantic
instinct   for  ingratiation,  almost   says  something  like,  "It's   been
informative for us, too!" but he holds  back, noticing that Avi has not said
it. Saying it would not enhance shareholder value. Best to play one's  cards
close  to the vest,  let Kepler wonder  whether Epiphyte Corp. knew the real
     Randy has  chosen his  seat tactically, so  that  he can look  straight
through the door into the conference room and keep an eye on his laptop. One
by one, members of the  other  delegations excuse  themselves,  go into  the
room,  and  run  the  demo, imprinting their own voices  into the computer's
memory  and  then letting it  recognize them. Some  of  the nerds  even type
commands  on  Randy's  keyboard; probably that ps command, snooping. Despite
the fact that Randy's got it set up so it can't be meddled with too much, it
bothers him  at a  deep level  to  see  the  fingertips  of these  strangers
prodding away at his keyboard.
     It gnaws at him all through the  afternoon session, which is  all about
the communications links joining Kinakuta to the wide world.  Randy ought to
be paying attention to this, since it impinges massively on the  Philippines
project.  But he  doesn't.  He broods  over his  keyboard, contaminated by a
foreign touch,  and then he broods about  the fact that he's brooding  about
it,  which demonstrates his  unfitness for  Biz. It's technically Epiphyte's
keyboard  not  even his and if it enhances  shareholder value  for  sinister
Eastern nerds to poke around  his files,  he should be happy to let  them do
     They adjourn.  Epiphyte  and the Nipponese  dine together,  but Randy's
bored and distracted. Finally, about nine P.M.,  he excuses himself and goes
to his room. He's  mentally  composing  a response  to,
along the lines  of  because there seems to be a  hell of a market  for this
kind of thing, and  it's better that I fill the niche,  than someone frankly
and overly evil. But  before his  laptop has even had time  to boot  up, the
Dentist, clad in a  white terrycloth robe and  smelling like vodka and hotel
soap, knocks on  Randy's door  and invites himself in. He invades Randy (no;
the shareholders') bathroom and helps himself to a glass of water. He stands
at the shareholders'  window and glowers down at the Nipponese  cemetery for
several minutes before speaking.
     "Do you  realize  who  those  people  were?" he  says.  His  voice,  if
subjected  to  biometric  analysis,  would reflect disbelief,  bewilderment,
maybe a trace of amusement.
     Or  maybe  he's  just  faking it, trying to get Randy to  let down  his
guard. Maybe he is
     "Yeah," Randy lies.
     When Randy revealed  the existence of Mugshot,  after  the meeting, Avi
gave  him  a commendation for deviousness,  printed up the  mugshots in  his
hotel room, and Federal Expressed them to a private dick in Hong Kong.
     Kepler turns around and gives Randy a searching look. "Either I had bad
information about you guys," he says,  "or  else  you are in  way  over your
     If this were the  First Business Foray,  Randy  would piss his pants at
this  point.  If  it  were  the Second,  he  would resign  and  fly  back to
California  tomorrow.  But it's the third,  and  so  he manages to  maintain
composure.  The light is behind him, so perhaps Kepler's momentarily dazzled
and can't  read  his  face  very well. Randy  takes a swallow of  water  and
breathes deeply, asking,  "In  light of today's events," he says, "what's in
store for our relationship?"
     "It is no  longer about providing  cheap  long distance service  to the
Philippines if, indeed, it ever was in the first place!" Kepler says darkly.
"The data  flowing through the Philippines network now takes on entirely new
significance. It's a superb opportunity. At  the  same time, we're competing
against heavy hitters: those Aussies and the Singapore group. Can we compete
against them, Randy?"
     It  is  a simple  and direct  question,  the  most dangerous kind.  "We
wouldn't be risking our shareholders' money if we didn't think so."
     "That's  a predictable answer," Kepler snorts. "Are we going to have  a
real  conversation here, Randy, or should  we invite  our PR people into the
room and exchange press releases?"
     During an earlier  business  foray,  Randy  would have buckled at  this
point. Instead he says, "I'm not prepared  to have  a real conversation with
you, here and now."
     "Sooner and later we have to have one,"  says the Dentist. Those wisdom
teeth will have to come out someday.

     "In the meantime, here is  what you  should be  thinking about," Kepler
says, getting  ready to leave. "What the hell  can  we offer, in  the way of
telecommunications  services,  that  stacks  up  competitively  against  the
Aussies and those Singapore boys? Because we can't beat 'em on price."
     This  being  Randy's  Third  Business  Foray, he  doesn't blurt out the
answer: redundancy.  "That question will certainly be on all  of our minds,"
Randy says instead.
     "Spoken like a flack," says Kepler, his  shoulders sagging. He goes out
into the hallway and turns around, saying, "See  you tomorrow at the Crypt."
Then he  winks.  "Or  the Vault,  or  Cornucopia of Infinite  Prosperity, or
whatever the Chinese word  for it is." Having knocked Randy off balance with
this startling display of humanity, he walks away.

     Chapter 39 YAMAMOTO

     Tojo and  his claque of imperial army boneheads said to him, in effect:
Why don't you go out and secure the Pacific Ocean for us, because we'll need
a convenient shipping lane, say, oh, about ten thousand miles wide, in order
to carry  out our little plan to conquer South America, Alaska, and  all  of
North America west of the Rockies. In  the meantime we'll finish  mopping up
China. Please attend to this ASAP.
     By then they  were running the country. They had assassinated anyone in
their way, they had the emperor's  ear,  and it was hard  to  tell them that
their plan was full  of shit  and that the Americans were just  going to get
really  pissed  off  and  annihilate  them. So, Admiral  Isoroku Yamamoto, a
dutiful servant  of  the emperor,  put  a bit of thought into  the  problem,
sketched  out a  little plan, sent out  one  or two  boats  on a small jaunt
halfway across the  fucking planet,  and blew Pearl Harbor off the  map.  He
timed  it perfectly, right after the  formal declaration of war. It  was not
half bad. He did his job.
     One  of  his aides later crawled into his  office  in the  nauseatingly
craven posture that minions adopt when they  are  about to make  you really,
really unhappy and told him that there had been  a mix  up in the embassy in
Washington and that  the diplomats there had not gotten around to delivering
the declaration  of war until well after the American Pacific Fleet had gone
to the bottom.
     To those  Army fuckheads, this is nothing just  a typo, happens all the
time. Isoroku Yamamoto has given up on trying to  make  them understand that
the Americans  are grudge holders on a  level that  is inconceivable  to the
Nipponese, who  learn to swallow  their pride before they  learn to  swallow
solid food.  Even if he could get Tojo and his mob of shabby, ignorant thugs
to comprehend how pissed off the Americans are, they'd laugh it off. What're
they going to do about it? Throw a pie in your face, like the Three Stooges?
Ha, ha, ha! Pass the sake and bring me another comfort girl!
     Isoroku Yamamoto  spent a  lot  of time playing poker with Yanks during
his years in the States, smoking like a chimney to deaden the scent of their
appalling  aftershave.  The  Yanks  are  laughably  rude and uncultured,  of
course; this hardly constitutes  a sharp observation. Yamamoto, by contrast,
attained  some  genuine insight as a  side effect of being  robbed blind  by
Yanks  at the poker  table, realizing that the big freckled  louts could  be
dreadfully cunning. Crude and stupid would be okay perfectly understandable,
in fact.
     But crude and clever is  intolerable; this  is  what  makes  those  red
headed ape men extra double super  loathsome. Yamamoto  is  still  trying to
drill the notion  into the heads of his partners in the big Nipponese scheme
to conquer everything between Karachi and Denver.  He wishes that they would
get  the message. A  lot of the Navy men have  been  around  the world a few
times and seen it for themselves,  but those  Army  guys  have  spent  their
careers mowing  down Chinamen and  raping  their  women  and  they  honestly
believe  that the Americans are  just the  same except  taller and smellier.
Come  on  guys, Yamamoto  keeps telling  them, the world is  not  just a big
Nanjing. But they don't get it. If Yamamoto were running things, he'd make a
rule: each Army officer would have  to take some time  out  from  bayoneting
Neolithic savages in the jungle, go out on the wide  Pacific in  a ship, and
swap 16  inch  shells with an American  task force  for a while. Then maybe,
they'd understand they're in a real scrap here.
     This  is what  Yamamoto  thinks about,  shortly  before sunrise,  as he
clambers onto his Mitsubishi G4M bomber in Rabaul, the scabbard of his sword
whacking against the frame of  the narrow door. The  Yanks call this type of
plane "Betty," an effeminatizing  gesture  that really irks him. Then again,
the  Yanks name even their own planes after women, and paint naked ladies on
their sacred instruments of war! If they had samurai swords, Americans would
probably decorate the blades with nail polish.
     Because the plane's a bomber,  the pilot and copilot are crammed into a
cockpit above the main tube of the fuselage. The nose of the plane, then, is
a blunt dome of curving struts, like the meridians and parallels of a globe,
the trapezoids between them filled with sturdy panes of glass. The plane has
been  parked pointing east, so the glass nose is  radiant with streaky dawn,
the unreal hues of chemicals igniting in a lab. In Nippon nothing happens by
accident, so he has to  assume that this is a deliberate morale building tip
o' the helmet  to  the Rising  Sun. Making his  way up to the greenhouse, he
straps himself  in where he can  stare out the  windows  as this  Betty, and
Admiral Ugaki's, take off.
     In one direction is Simpson's Harbor, one of the best anchorages in the
Pacific, an asymmetrical U wrapped in a neat grid of streets,  conspicuously
blighted by a fucking British cricket oval! In the other direction, over the
ridge, lies  the Bismarck  Sea.  Somewhere down  there, the corpses of a few
thousand  Nipponese  troops  lie  pickled in  the wrinkled  hulls  of  their
transport ships. A few thousand more escaped to life rafts, but all of their
weapons and supplies went to the  bottom, so the men are just useless mouths
     It's  been like this for almost  a  year, ever since  Midway,  when the
Americans  refused to bite on Yamamoto's carefully designed feints and ruses
up Alaska way, and  just happened  to send all  of their surviving  carriers
directly into the path of  his Midway invasion force. Shit. Shit Shit. Shit.
Slit.  Shit.  Shit.  Yamamoto's chewing on  a  thumbnail,  right through his
     Now  those clumsy, reeking  farmhands are sinking every  transport ship
that the Army sends to New Guinea. Double shit! Their observation planes are
everywhere always showing  up in the  right place at the  right  time  tally
hoing the  emperor's  furtive convoys  in the sawing twang of  bloody gummed
Confederates.  Their  coast watchers  infest  the  mountains  of  all  these
godforsaken islands, despite the Army's efforts to hunt  them down and flush
them out. All of their movements are known.
     The two planes  fly southeastwards across  the  tip  of New Ireland and
enter the  Solomon  Sea. The Solomon Islands  spread out before them,  fuzzy
jade humps rising from a steaming ocean, 6,500 feet below. A couple of small
humps and then a much bigger one, today's destination: Bougainville.
     Have  to show  the  flag, go out  on  these  inspection tours, give the
frontline  troops  a glimpse of  glory, build  morale. Yamamoto frankly  has
better things  to do with his time,  so  he tries to pack  as many of  these
obligatory junkets into a single day as possible.  He left his naval citadel
at  Truk and  flew to Rabaul last week so that he could supervise his latest
big operation: a wave of  massed  air  attacks on American  bases  from  New
Guinea to Guadalcanal.
     The air  raids  were  purportedly  successful;  kind of. The  surviving
pilots reported  vast numbers of sinkings, whole fleets of American aircraft
destroyed on their mucky airstrips. Yamamoto knows perfectly well that these
reports will turn out to be wildly exaggerated. More than half of his planes
never  came back the Americans, and  their almost equally offensive cousins,
the Australians, were ready  for them. But  the  Army and the Navy alike are
full of ambitious men who will  do  everything they can to channel good news
the emperor's way, even if it's not exactly the truth. Accordingly, Yamamoto
has received a personal telegram of congratulations from none other than the
sovereign himself.  It  is  his  duty,  now,  to fly  round  to  his various
outposts, hop out of  his Betty,  wave  the sacred telegram in  the air, and
pass on the blessings of the emperor.
     Yamamoto's  feet  hurt like hell. Like everyone else within  a thousand
miles, he has a tropical  disease; in  his case, beriberi. It is the scourge
of the Nipponese and especially of  the  Navy,  because  they  eat too  much
polished rice, not  enough  fish and  vegetables. His long nerves  have been
corroded by lactic acid, so his  hands quiver. His failing heart can't shove
fluid  through his extremities, so his feet swell.  He  needs  to change his
shoes several times a day,  but he doesn't have  room here; he is encumbered
not only by the curvature of the plane's greenhouse, but also by his sword.
     They are  approaching the Imperial Navy airbase at Bougainville,  right
on  schedule,  at 9:35. A shadow passes overhead and Yamamoto glances up  to
see the silhouette  of an escort, way out  of position, dangerously close to
them. Who  is  that idiot? Then the green island  and  the blue ocean rotate
into  view  as his  pilot puts the  Betty into  a power dive.  Another plane
flashes overhead with  a roar  that  cuts  through the noise of the  Betty's
engines,  and  although it  is  nothing  more  than a  black  flash, its odd
forktailed silhouette registers  in his  mind. It was  a P 38 Lightning, and
the  last time Admiral  Yamamoto  checked,  the  Nipponese  Air Force wasn't
flying any of those.
     The voice of  Admiral  Ugaki comes through  on the radio from the other
Betty,  right  behind  Yamamoto's,  ordering Yamamoto's  pilot  to  stay  in
formation. Yamamoto cannot see anything in front of them except for the surf
washing  ashore on  Bougainville,  and the wall  of  trees,  seeming to grow
higher and  higher,  as the plane  descends the tropical canopy now actually
above  them. He is Navy,  not an Air Force man, but even he knows that  when
you can't see  any planes in  front of you in a dogfight, you have problems.
Red streaks  flash  past from  behind, burying  themselves in  the  steaming
jungle ahead,  and  the Betty begins to shake  violently.  Then yellow light
fills the corners of both of his eyes: the engines are on fire. The pilot is
heading directly for the jungle now; either the plane  is out of control, or
the pilot is already dead, or  it is  a move  of atavistic desperation: run,
run into the trees!
     They enter the jungle in level flight, and Yamamoto  is astonished  how
far they go before hitting anything big. Then  the  plane is bludgeoned wide
open by mahogany trunks, like baseball bats striking a wounded sparrow,  and
he  knows it's  over. The greenhouse disintegrates around him, the meridians
and  parallels crumpling and  rending which  isn't quite as bad as it sounds
since the body of  the plane  is suddenly filled  with  flames.  As his seat
tears loose  from  the broken dome and  launches  into space,  he grips  his
sword, unwilling to disgrace himself by dropping his  sacred weapon, blessed
by the emperor, even in this last instant of his life. His clothes and  hair
are  on fire  as he tumbles like a  meteor through the jungle, clenching his
ancestral blade.
     He realizes  something: The  Americans  must have  done the impossible:
broken all of their codes. That  explains  Midway,  it explains the Bismarck
Sea, Hollandia, everything. It especially explains why Yamamoto who ought to
be  sipping green tea and practicing calligraphy  in  a misty garden is,  in
point  of fact,  on fire and  hurtling through the jungle at a hundred miles
per  hour in a chair,  closely pursued by tons of flaming junk.  He must get
word out! The codes must all be changed! This is what he is thinking when he
flies head on into a hundred foot tall Octomelis sumatrana.

     Chapter 40 ANTAEUS

     When Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse sets foot on the Sceptered  Isle for
the first time in several  months, at the ferry terminal in Utter Maurby, he
is startled  to find allusions to springtime all over  the place. The locals
have installed flower boxes around the pier, and all of them are abloom with
some  sort of  pre Cambrian decorative cabbage.  The  effect is not  exactly
cheerful,  but  it  does  give the place  a haunted  Druidical  look,  as if
Waterhouse  is looking  at  the  northwesternmost  fringe  of  some cultural
tradition from  which a sharp  anthropologist might infer  the existence  of
actual  trees  and  meadows  several hundred  miles farther south.  For now,
lichens will do they have gotten into  the spirit  and turned greyish purple
and greyish green.
     He and Duffel, their old companionship renewed,  tussle their way  over
to the terminal and fight  each other for  a seat aboard the disconcertingly
quaint two car Manchester bound  whistle stop. It will sit there for another
couple of hours raising  steam before leaving, giving him  plenty of time to
take stock.
     He's been working  on some  information theoretical problems occasioned
by the Royal and U.S. Navies' recent (1) propensity to litter the
floor of the Atlantic with bombed and torpedoed milchcows.  These fat German
submarines, laden  with fuel, food,  and  ammunition, loiter in the Atlantic
Ocean, using radio rarely and  staying  well away  from the sea  lanes,  and
serve as covert floating supply bases so  that the U boats don't have  to go
all the way back to  the European mainland to refuel and rearm. Sinking lots
of 'em is  great for the convoys, but must seem  conspicuously improbable to
the likes of a Rudolf von Hacklheber.
     Usually, just for the sake of form, the Allies send out a search  plane
beforehand to pretend to stumble  upon the milchcow. But, setting aside some
of  their blind  spots in the political realm, the Germans are bright chaps,
and  cannot be  expected to fall for that ruse forever. If we  are going  to
keep sending their  milchcows  to  the bottom, we  need  to come  up with  a
respectable excuse for the fact that we always know exactly where they are!
     Waterhouse has  been coming  up with excuses as fast as he can for most
of the late winter and early spring,  and frankly he is tired  of it. It has
to be done  by a  mathematician  if it's to be  done correctly, but it's not
exactly mathematics. Thank god he  had the presence of mind to copy down the
crypto worksheets that he discovered  in the U  boat's safe,  which give him
something to live for.
     In a sense he  is wasting  his time; the originals have long since gone
off to Bletchley Park where they were probably deciphered within  hours. But
he's not doing it  for the war  effort per se, just  trying to keep his mind
sharp  and maybe add a few leaves to  the next edition of the Cryptonomicon.
When he  arrives at Bletchley, which is  his destination  of the  moment, he
will have to ask around and find out what those messages actually said.
     Usually, he is above  such cheating. But  the messages from  U 553 have
him completely  baffled.  They were not  produced  on an Enigma machine, but
they are  at least that  difficult to  decrypt. He does  not even know, yet,
what kind of  cipher he is dealing with.  Normally,  one begins  by figuring
out, based  on  certain  patterns in  the  ciphertext,  whether  it is,  for
example,  a  substitution  or  a  transposition  system,  and  then  further
classifying it into, say, an  aperiodic transposition cipher in which keying
units of constant length  encipher  plaintext groups of  variable length, or
vice versa. Once you have classified the algorithm, you know how to go about
breaking the code.
     Waterhouse  hasn't even gotten that far. He now  strongly suspects that
the messages were produced using a one time pad. If  so, not  even Bletchley
Park will be able to break them, unless they have somehow obtained a copy of
the pad. He is half hoping that they will  tell him that this is the case so
that he can stop ramming his head against this particular stone wall.
     In a way,  this would raise even more  questions  than it would answer.
The Triton four wheel naval Enigma was supposedly considered by  the Germans
to be perfectly impregnable to cryptanalysis. If that was the case, then why
was  the skipper  of  U 553  employing  his own  private system  for certain
     The locomotive starts hissing and sputtering like the House of Lords as
Inner Qwghlmians  emerge from the terminal building and take their  seats on
the train. A  gaffer comes through the car, selling  yesterday's newspapers,
cigarettes, candy, and Waterhouse purchases some of each.
     The train is just beginning to jerk forward when Waterhouse's eye falls
on the lead headline of yesterday's newspaper: YAMAMOTO'S PLANE SHOT DOWN IN
     "Malaria,  here  I  come,"  Waterhouse mumbles to himself. Then, before
reading any further, he sets the newspaper down and opens  up  his  pack  of
cigarettes. This is going to take a lot of cigarettes.


     One day, and a whole lot  of tar and nicotine later, Waterhouse  climbs
off  the  train  and  walks out  the front door of  Bletchley  Depot into  a
dazzling spring day.  The flowers in front  of  the  station are blooming, a
warm southern breeze  is blowing, and Waterhouse almost cannot bear to cross
the  road and enter some windowless hut in the  belly  of Bletchley Park. He
does it anyway and is informed that he has no duties at the moment.
     After visiting a  few other huts  on other business, he turns north and
walks three miles to the hamlet of Shenley Brook End and goes into the Crown
Inn, where the proprietress,  Mrs. Ramshaw, has, during these last three and
a  half years, made a  tidy  business out of looking  after stray,  homeless
Cambridge mathematicians.
     Dr. Alan Mathison Turing  is  seated at a table by  a  window, sprawled
across two or three  chairs in what looks like a very awkward pose but which
Waterhouse  feels sure is  eminently practical. A  full  pint of some  thing
reddish brown is on the table next to him; Alan is too busy to drink it. The
smoke from Alan's cigarette  reveals a prism of sunlight  coming through the
window, centered in which  is a mighty Book. Alan is holding  the book  with
one hand. The palm of his other  hand is pressed against his forehead, as if
he  could  get the  data from  book  to brain through  some kind  of  direct
transference. His fingers curl up into the air and a cigarette projects from
between  them, ashes  dangling perilously over his  dark hair. His eyes  are
frozen in place, not  scanning the page, and their focus point  is somewhere
in the remote distance.
     "Designing another Machine, Dr. Turing?"
     The, eyes finally begin to move, and swivel around towards the sound of
the visitor's voice. "Lawrence," Alan  says  once,  quietly, identifying the
face. Then,  once more warmly:  "Lawrence!"  He scrambles  to  his  feet, as
energetic as ever, and steps forward to shake hands. "Delighted to see you!"
     "Good to  see  you,  Alan," Waterhouse says. "Welcome  back." He is, as
always, pleasantly surprised by Alan's keenness, the intensity and purity of
his reactions to things.
     He is also touched by  Alan's frank and sincere affection for him. Alan
did not give this easily or lightly, but when he decided to  make Waterhouse
his  friend, he did so  in a  way  that is unfettered by either  American or
heterosexual  concepts  of manly bearing.  "Did you walk the entire distance
from Bletchley? Mrs. Ramshaw, refreshment!"
     "Heck, it's only three miles," Waterhouse says.
     "Please come and join  me," Alan says. Then he stops, frowns, and looks
at  him  quizzically. "How on  earth did you guess  I was  designing another
machine? Simply a guess based on prior observations?"
     "Your  choice  of  reading material," Waterhouse says,  and  points  to
Alan's book: RCA Radio Tube Manual.

     Alan gets a wild look. "This  has been my constant companion," he says.
"You must  learn  about  these valves, Lawrence! Or tubes as  you would call
them. Your education is incomplete otherwise. I cannot believe the number of
years I wasted on sprockets! God!"
     "Your  zeta  function machine?  I thought it  was  beautiful," Lawrence
     "So are many things that belong in a museum," Alan says.
     "That  was  six   years  ago.  You  had  to  work  with  the  available
technology," Lawrence says.
     "Oh, Lawrence!  I'm surprised at you! If it will take ten years to make
the machine with available technology, and only five years to make it with a
new  technology,  and  it will  only  take  two  years  to  invent  the  new
technology,  then  you  can  do  it  in  seven  years  by  inventing the new
technology first!"
     "This is the new technology," Alan says, holding up the RCA Radio  Tube
Manual  like Moses brandishing  a Tablet  of the Law. "If I had only had the
presence of  mind to use these, I could have built the zeta function machine
much sooner, and others besides."
     "What sort of a machine are you designing now?" Lawrence asks.
     "I've  been  playing  chess  with  a   fellow  named  Donald  Michie  a
classicist," Alan says. "I am wretched at it. But man has always constructed
tools to extend his powers why not a machine that will help me play chess?"
     "Does Donald Michie get to have one, too?"
     "He can design his own machine!" Alan says indignantly.
     Lawrence looks carefully around the  pub.  They are the only customers,
and  he cannot  bring himself  to  believe that  Mrs.  Ramshaw  is a spy. "I
thought  it might  have something  to do with  " he  says,  and  nods in the
direction of Bletchley Park.
     "They are building I have helped them build a machine called Colossus."
     "I thought I saw your hand in it."
     "It is  built from old ideas ideas we talked about in New Jersey, years
ago," Alan says. Brisk and dismissive is his tone, gloomy is his face. He is
hugging  the RCA  Radio  Tube Manual  to himself with one arm, doodling in a
notebook with the  other. Waterhouse thinks  that really the RCA  Radio Tube
Manual is like  a ball  and chain  holding Alan back. If he would just  work
with pure ideas like a  proper mathematician he could go as fast as thought.
As it happens, Alan has become fascinated by the incarnations  of pure ideas
in the physical world. The underlying math of the universe is like the light
streaming in through the  window. Alan is  not satisfied with merely knowing
that it  streams in. He blows smoke into the air to make  the light visible.
He   sits  in  meadows  gazing  at  pine  cones  and  flowers,  tracing  the
mathematical patterns in their structure, and he dreams about electron winds
blowing over the glowing filaments and screens of radio tubes, and, in their
surges and eddies, capturing something of what is going on in his own brain.
Turing  is neither a mortal  nor  a god. He is Antaeus.  That he bridges the
mathematical and physical worlds is his strength and his weakness.
     "Why are you so glum?" Alan says. "What have you been working on?"
     "Same stuff, different context," Waterhouse says. With these four words
he conveys, in full, everything  that he has been doing on behalf of the war
effort.  "Fortunately,  I  came  upon  something  that  is  actually  rather
     Alan looks delighted and  fascinated to hear this news, as if the world
had been  completely devoid of interesting things for the last ten  years or
so,  and Waterhouse had stumbled upon a rare find.  "Tell me about  it,"  he
     "It's a cryptanalysis problem," Waterhouse says. "Non  Enigma." He goes
on to tell the story about the messages from U 553. "When I got to Bletchley
Park this morning," he concludes, "I asked around. They said  that they  had
been butting their heads  against  the problem as long as I had, without any
     Suddenly, Alan  looks  disappointed and  bored.  "It must be a one time
pad," he says. He sounds reproachful.
     "It  can't  be. The  ciphertext is not devoid of  patterns," Waterhouse
     "Ah," replies Alan, perking up again.
     "I looked for patterns with  the usual Cryptonomicon techniques.  Found
nothing clear just some traces. Finally, in complete  frustration, I decided
to  start from a clean slate,  trying to think like  Alan Turing.  Typically
your approach  is to reduce a problem to numbers  and  then  bring  the full
power  of mathematical analysis to bear  on it. So I began by converting the
messages  into  numbers.  Normally, this would  be an arbitrary process. You
convert each  letter into a number, usually between one and twenty five, and
then dream  up  some sort of arbitrary algorithm  to convert this  series of
small numbers  into one big  number.  But this message was different it used
thirty two  characters  a power of two  meaning  that  each  character had a
unique binary representation, five binary digits long."
     "As  in Baudot code,"  Alan says  (1).  He  looks  guardedly
interested again.
     "So I converted  each letter into a number between  one and thirty two,
using the Baudot  code. That gave  me a  long series of small numbers. But I
wanted some way to convert  all of the numbers in the series into  one large
number, just  to see if it  would contain any interesting patterns. But this
was easy as pie! If the first letter is R, and its Baudot code is 01011, and
the second letter is F, and its code is 10111, then I can simply combine the
two into a ten digit binary number, 0101110111. And then I can take the next
letter's code and  stick that onto the end and get  a fifteen digit  number.
And so  on. The letters  come  in groups  of  five that's twenty five binary
digits per group. With six groups on each line of the page, that's a hundred
and fifty binary digits per  line. And with twenty lines on the page, that's
three thousand binary digits.
     So each page of the  message could be thought of not as a series of six
hundred letters, but as an encoded representation  of a single number with a
magnitude of around two raised to  the three thousandth  power,  which works
out to around ten to the nine hundredth power."
     "All right,"  Alan says, "I agree  that the  use  of thirty two  letter
alphabet suggests a binary coding scheme. And I agree that the binary coding
scheme, in  turn, lends  itself to a  sort of treatment  in which individual
groups  of five  binary digits  are mooshed together to make larger numbers,
and that you could even take it to the point of mooshing together all of the
data on  a whole page that way, to make one extremely large number. But what
does that accomplish?"
     "I don't really know," Waterhouse  admits.  "I  just have an  intuition
that what we  are dealing with here is a  new encryption scheme based upon a
purely mathematical  algorithm.  Otherwise, there would be no point in using
the thirty two letter alphabet! If  you  think  about  it, Alan,  thirty two
letters are all well and good as a matter of fact, they are  essential for a
teletype scheme, because you have to have  special characters like line feed
and carriage return."
     "You're right," Alan  says, "it  is extremely odd  that they  would use
thirty two  letters in a scheme that  is apparently  worked out using pencil
and paper."
     "I've been  over it  a  thousand times," Waterhouse says, "and the only
explanation  I can think of is that they are converting their messages  into
large binary numbers and then combining them with other large binary numbers
one time pads, most likely to produce the ciphertext."
     "In which case your project is doomed," Alan  says,  "because you can't
break a one time pad."
     "That is only true," Waterhouse says,  "if  the one time  pad is  truly
random. If you built up that  three thousand digit number by flipping a coin
three thousand times and writing down a one for  heads and a zero for tails,
then it would be truly random and unbreakable. But  I do not think that this
is the case here."
     "Why not? You think there were patterns in their one time pads?"
     "Maybe. Just traces."
     "Then what makes you think it is other than random?"
     "Otherwise it makes no sense to develop a new scheme," Waterhouse says.
"Everyone in  the  world has  been using one time  pads  forever. There  are
established  procedures for doing it. There's  no reason  to switch  over to
this new, extremely odd system right now, in the middle of a war."
     "So  what  do you suppose is the rationale for  this new scheme?"  asks
Alan, clearly enjoying himself a great deal.
     "The problem with one time pads is that you have to  make two copies of
each  pad  and get them to the  sender  and the  recipient.  I mean, suppose
you're in Berlin and you want to  send a message to someone in the Far East!
This  U  boat  that we  found  had cargo on board gold and  other stuff from
Japan! Can you imagine how cumbersome this must be for the Axis?"
     "Ahh,"  Alan  says.  He  gets  it  now.  But  Waterhouse  finishes  the
explanation anyway:
     "Suppose that you came up with  a mathematical algorithm for generating
very large numbers that were random, or at least random looking."
     "Pseudo random."
     "Yeah. You'd have to keep  the algorithm secret, of course. But if  you
could  get  it the algorithm,  that  is around  the world to  your  intended
recipient,  then  they  could, from  that  day forward, do  the  calculation
themselves and  figure out the  one time  pad  for that particular  day,  or
     A shadow  passes  over Alan's  otherwise beaming countenance. "But  the
Germans already  have  Enigma  machines all over the  place,"  he says. "Why
should they bother to come up with a new scheme?"
     "Maybe," Waterhouse says,  "maybe there are some Germans who don't want
the entire German Navy to be able to decipher their messages."
     "Ah," Alan says. This seems to  eliminate his last objection.  Suddenly
he is all determination. "Show me the messages!"
     Waterhouse opens up his attache case, splotched and  streaked with salt
from his voyages to and  from Qwghlm,  and  draws  out two manila envelopes.
"These  are the copies I made before I sent the originals down  to Bletchley
Park," he  says, patting one of  them. "They are much  more legible than the
originals " he pats the other envelope " which they were kind enough to lend
me this morning, so that I could study them again."
     "Show the originals!" Alan says. Waterhouse slides the second envelope,
encrusted with TOP SECRET stamps, across the table.
     Alan opens the envelope so hastily that he tears it,  and jerks out the
pages. He  spreads them out  on the table.  His mouth  drops open  in purest
     For a moment, Waterhouse is fooled; the expression on Alan's face makes
him think that his friend has,  in some Olympian burst of genius, deciphered
the messages in an instant, just by looking at them.
     But that's not it at all. Thunderstruck, he finally  says, "I recognize
this handwriting."
     "You do?" Waterhouse says.
     "Yes. I've seen it a thousand  times.  These  pages were written out by
our old bicycling friend, Rudolf von Hacklheber. Rudy wrote those pages."


     Waterhouse  spends  much of  the next  week  commuting  to  London  for
meetings  at the Broadway Buildings. Whenever civilian authorities are going
to  be  present  at a meeting especially  civilians with expensive  sounding
accents Colonel  Chattan  always shows up, and before  the  meeting  starts,
always finds some frightfully cheerful and oblique way to tell Waterhouse to
keep his trap shut unless someone  asks  a math question. Waterhouse  is not
offended.  He prefers it, actually, because it leaves his mind  free to work
on important things. During  their  last meeting at  the Broadway Buildings,
Waterhouse proved a theorem.
     It  takes  Waterhouse about  three days to  figure  that  the  meetings
themselves make no sense  he reckons that there  is  no imaginable goal that
could be furthered by what they are discussing. He even makes a few stabs at
proving that this is so, using formal logic, but he is weak in this area and
doesn't know enough of the underlying axioms to reach a Q.E.D.
     By the end of the  week, though, he has figured out that these meetings
are just  one  ramification of  the  Yamamoto assassination. Winston Spencer
Churchill  is very fond indeed of Bletchley Park and all its  works,  and he
places the highest priority on preserving its  secrecy, but the interception
of  Yamamoto's airplane has  blown a gaping hole in the screen of deception.
The  Americans responsible for this appalling gaffe are now trying  to cover
their asses by  spreading a story that native islander spies caught  wind of
Yamamoto's trip and radioed the  news to Guadalcanal, whence the fatal P 38s
were dispatched.  But the P 38s were operating at the extreme limit of their
fuel range and would have had to be  sent out at precisely the  correct time
in order to make it back to Guadalcanal, so the Japanese would  have to have
their heads  several feet up their asses to fall for that. Winston Churchill
is  pissed  off  in the  extreme,  and these meetings  represent a prolonged
bureaucratic  hissy fit  intended  to produce some  meaningful  and enduring
policy shift.
     Every evening after the meetings,  Waterhouse takes  the tube to Euston
and the train to Bletchley, and sits up late working on Rudy's numbers. Alan
has been  working on  them during the daytime, so the two of them, combining
their efforts, can almost pound away on it round the clock.
     Not all  of the riddles are mathematical. For example, why the  hell do
the  Germans have Rudy copying out big long numbers  by hand? If the letters
do  indeed represent big numbers  that would  indicate  that Dr.  Rudolf von
Hacklheber had been assigned to a job as a mere cipher clerk. This would not
be the stupidest move ever made by a bureaucracy, but it seems unlikely. And
what little  intelligence they've been able to  gather from Germany suggests
that Rudy has  in fact been given a rather important job important enough to
keep extremely secret.
     Alan's hypothesis is that  Waterhouse has been making an understandable
but  totally  wrong assumption.  The numbers are  not ciphertext. They  are,
rather, one time pads that the skipper of U 553 was supposed to have used to
encrypt  certain  messages  too sensitive to go out over  the regular Enigma
channel. These one time pads were, for  some  reason, drawn up personally by
Rudy himself.
     Usually,  making one time pads is just  as lowly a job  as  enciphering
messages a  job for clerks, who  use  decks  of  cards or  bingo machines to
choose letters at random. But  Alan and Waterhouse are now operating on  the
assumption  that  this  encryption  scheme   is  a  radical  new   invention
presumably, an invention of Rudy's in which the  pads are  generated  not at
random but by using some mathematical algorithm.
     In other words, there is some calculation, some equation that Rudy  has
dreamed up. You give it a value probably the date,  and  possibly some other
information as well, such  as an arbitrary key phrase or number.  You  crank
through the steps of the calculation, and  the result is a number, some nine
hundred digits long, which is three thousand binary digits, which gives  you
six hundred letters (enough to cover one sheet of paper) when you convert it
using the  Baudot  code. The  nine hundred digit  decimal number, the  three
thousand digit binary number, and the six hundred letters are all  the  same
abstract, pure number, encoded differently.
     Meanwhile, your counterpart, probably  on the other side of the  world,
is going  through the same calculation and  coming up with the same one time
pad.  When you  send him a message encrypted using  the  day's  pad, he  can
decipher it.
     If Turing and Waterhouse can figure out how the calculation works, they
can read all of these messages too.

     Chapter 41 PHREAKING

     The  dentist is  gone, the  door locked, the phone  unplugged.  Randall
Lawrence  Waterhouse lies naked on the starched, turned  down  sheets of his
king sized  bed. His head is  propped up on a  pillow  so that he  can  peer
through  the  vee  of his  feet  at a  BBC  World  Service newscast  on  the
television.  A ten dollar minibar  beer is near at  hand.  It's six  in  the
morning  in  America  and so  rather  than a pro basketball  game, he has to
settle for  this  BBC  newscast, which is  strongly  geared to  South  Asian
happenings.  A long  and very sober story about  a  plague of locusts on the
India/Pakistan border follows  a piece on a typhoon about to nail Hong Kong.
The king  of  Thailand is calling in  some of his government's  more corrupt
officials to literally prostrate  themselves before him.  Asian news  always
has this edge of the fantastic to it,  but it's all dead serious, no nods or
winks anywhere.  Now he's watching a  story about  a  nervous system disease
that people in New Guinea  come down with as  a  consequence of eating other
people's brains. Just your basic cannibal story. No wonder so many Americans
come here on business and never really go home again it's like stepping into
the pages of Classics Comics.

     Someone  is knocking on his door. Randy  gets up and puts  on his plush
white hotel bathrobe. He peers through the peephole, half expecting to see a
pygmy standing there  with a blowpipe,  though he  wouldn't mind a seductive
Oriental  courtesan. But it's just  Cantrell. Randy opens the door. Cantrell
is already holding up his hands, palms out, in a cheerful "shut up  already"
gesture. "Don't worry," Cantrell says, "I'm not here to talk about Biz."
     "In  that case I won't break this beer  bottle over  your head,"  Randy
says. Cantrell must feel exactly  the  same way Randy does, which is that so
much wild shit happened today that  the only way  to  deal with it is not to
talk about it at  all. Most of  the brain's work is  done  while the brain's
owner is ostensibly thinking  about something else, so sometimes you have to
deliberately find something else to think and talk about.
     "Come to my room," Cantrell says. "Pekka is here."
     "The Finn who got blown up?"
     "The same."
     "Why is he here?"
     "Because there's no reason not to be. After  he got blown up he adopted
a technomadic lifestyle."
     "So it's just a coincidence, or "
     "Nah," Cantrell says. "He's helping me win a bet."
     "What kind of bet?"
     "I was telling Tom Howard about Van Eck phreaking a few weeks ago.  Tom
said it sounded like bullshit. He bet me ten shares of Epiphyte stock that I
couldn't make it actually work outside of a laboratory."
     "Is Pekka good at that kind of thing?"
     By way of saying yes, Cantrell  adopts a  serious look and says, "Pekka
is writing a whole chapter about it  for the Cryptonomicon. Pekka feels that
only  by mastering the technologies  that might  be  used against us can  we
defend ourselves."
     This sounds almost  like a call  to arms. Randy  would have  to be some
kind of  loser  to retreat to his bed after that, so he backs  into the room
and steps  into his trousers,  which  are standing there telescoped into the
floor  where  he dropped them upon his return from the sultan's  palace. The
sultan's  palace!  The television  is  now  broadcasting a  news story about
pirates  plying  the waters of  the South China Sea, making  freighter crews
walk the plank. "This whole continent is like fucking Disneyland without the
safety  precautions,"  Randy observes. "Am I the  only person  who finds  it
     Cantrell grins, but says, "If we begin talking about surreal, we'll end
up talking about today."
     "You got that right," Randy says. "Let's go."


     Before  Pekka became  known around Silicon Valley as the Finn  Who  Got
Blown  Up,  he was  known  as Cello Guy, because  he had  a nearly  autistic
devotion  to his cello  and took  it with  him everywhere,  always trying to
stuff  it into  overhead luggage racks. Not coincidentally, he was an analog
kind of guy from way back whose specialty was radio.
     When packet radio started to get  big as an alternative to sending data
down wires,  Pekka  moved  to Menlo Park and joined a startup.  His  company
bought their equipment at used computer stores, and Pekka ended up scoring a
pretty nice nineteen inch high  res multisync monitor perfectly adequate for
his adaptable twenty  four year old eyes. He hooked it up to a slightly used
Pentium box jammed full of RAM.
     He also installed Finux, a free UNIX operating system created by Finns,
almost as a way of proclaiming to the rest of  the world "this is  how weird
we are," and  distributed throughout  the world on  the Net. Of course Finux
was fantastically powerful and flexible and enabled you, among other things,
to control the machine's video circuitry to the Nth degree  and  choose many
different scanning frequencies and pixel clocks, if you were into  that kind
of  thing. Pekka most definitely  was  into it,  and so like  a lot of Finux
maniacs he set his machine up so that it could display, if he chose, a whole
lot of tiny little pixels (which displayed a lot of information but was hard
on the eyes) or, alternatively, fewer and larger pixels (which he tended  to
use after he had been hacking for twenty four hours straight and lost ocular
muscle tone), or various settings in between. Every time he changed from one
setting to another, the monitor screen would go black for a second and there
would be an  audible  clunk from  inside of  it  as the  resonating crystals
inside locked in on a different range of frequencies.
     One night at  three A.M.,  Pekka caused this to happen, and immediately
after the screen went black and made that clunking noise, it exploded in his
face. The front of the picture tube was  made  of heavy glass (it had to be,
to  withstand  the internal  vacuum) which fragmented and  sped into Pekka's
face, neck, and upper body.  The very  same phosphors that had  been glowing
beneath  the sweeping electron beam, moments  before,  conveying information
into  Pekka's eyes, were  now physically embedded  in  his  flesh. A hunk of
glass took one of his eyes  and  almost went through into his brain. Another
one gouged out his voicebox, another zinged past  the side of  his head  and
bit a neat triangular hunk out of his left ear.
     Pekka, in  other words, was  the first victim  of  the  Digibomber.  He
almost bled to death on the  spot,  and his fellow Eutropians hovered around
his hospital bed for a few  days with  tanks of  Freon, ready  to jump  into
action in case he died.  But he didn't, and he  got  even more press because
his startup company lacked health insurance. After a lot of hand wringing in
local newspapers about  how this poor innocent  from the land of  socialized
medicine had not had the presence of mind to buy health insurance, some rich
high tech guys donated money to pay his medical bills  and to equip him with
a computer voicebox like Stephen Hawking's.
     And now  here  is Pekka, sitting in  Cantrell's hotel  room. His  cello
stands in the corner,  dusty around  the bridge from  powdered rosin. He  is
facing a blank wall to which he has duct taped a bunch  of wires in  precise
loops and whorls. These lead to some home brewed circuit boards which are in
turn hooked up to his laptop.
     "Hello  Randy  congratulations  on   your  success,"  says  a  computer
generated voice as soon as  the door is shut behind Randy and Cantrell. This
is  a  little greeting  that Pekka has  obviously  typed  in ahead  of time,
anticipating  his arrival.  None  of the foregoing seems particularly odd to
Randy  except for the  fact that Pekka  seems  to  think that  Epiphyte  has
already achieved some kind of success.
     "How are we doing?" Cantrell asks.
     Pekka types  in a response.  Then he cups one hand to his mutilated ear
while using his other hand to cue the voice generator: "He showers." Indeed,
it's  possible  now  to  hear  the pipes  hissing in  the  wall. "His laptop
     "Oh," Randy says, "Tom Howard's room is right next door?"
     "Just  on the other side of that wall," Cantrell says. "I  specifically
requested it, so that I could win this  bet. See, his room is a mirror image
of this one, so  his computer  is only  a few inches away, just on the other
side of this wall. Perfect conditions for Van Eck phreaking."
     "Pekka, are you receiving  signals from his computer  right now?" Randy
     Pekka nods,  types,  and fires back, "I  tune.  I calibrate." The input
device for his voice generator is a one  handed chord  board strapped to his
thigh. He puts his right hand on it and makes flopping and groping  motions.
Moments later speech emerges, "I require Cantrell."
     "Excuse  me," Cantrell says,  and goes to  Pekka's side.  Randy watches
over their shoulders for a bit, understanding vaguely what they're doing.
     If you lay a  sheet of white paper on an  old gravestone, and sweep the
tip of a pencil across  it, you get one horizontal line, dark in some places
and faint  in others, and not  very meaningful. If you move downwards on the
page by a small distance, a single pencil  line width,  and repeat, an image
begins to emerge.  The process of working your way down the page in a series
of horizontal sweeps  is what  a  nerd would  call raster  scanning, or just
rastering. With a conventional video monitor a cathode ray tube the electron
beam physically rasters down the  glass something like sixty to eighty times
a second. In the case of a laptop screen like Randy's, there  is no physical
scanning; the individual  pixels are turned on or off directly.  But still a
scanning process is taking place; what's being scanned  and made manifest on
the screen is a  region of  the computer's memory called the screen  buffer.
The contents of  the  screen  buffer  have  to be slapped up onto the screen
sixty to eighty times every second or else  (1) the  screen flickers and (2)
the images move jerkily.
     The way that the computer talks to you is not by controlling the screen
directly but  rather  by manipulating  the  bits contained in  that  buffer,
secure in the knowledge that other subsystems inside the machine  handle the
drudge work of pipelining that information onto the actual, physical screen.
Sixty to eighty  times a second, the video system says shit! time to refresh
the  screen again,  and goes to the beginning  of the screen buffer which is
just a particular hunk of memory, remember and it reads the first few bytes,
which  dictate  what color the pixel  in the  upper left hand  corner of the
screen  is  supposed to be. This information is  sent  on down  the  line to
whatever is actually refreshing the screen, whether it's a scanning electron
beam  or some laptop style system  for directly controlling the pixels. Then
the next few bytes are read, typically for  the pixel just  to the right  of
that first one, and so on all the way to the right edge  of the screen. That
draws the first line of the grave rubbing.
     Since the  right edge of the screen has now been  reached, there are no
more pixels off in  that direction. It  is implicit that the next bytes read
from memory will be for the leftmost  pixel in  the  second raster line down
from the top. If this is a cathode ray tube type of screen, we have a little
timing problem here in that the electron beam is currently at the right edge
of the screen and now it's being asked to draw  a pixel at the left edge. It
has  to move back.  This takes a little while not long, but much longer than
the interval of time between drawing two pixels that are cheek by jowl. This
pause is called the  horizontal retrace interval. Another  one will occur at
the  end of every other  line  until the rastering has proceeded to the last
pixel at the bottom  right hand corner of the screen  and completed a single
grave rubbing. But  then it's  time to begin the process all over again, and
so the electron beam (if there is one) has to jump diagonally all the way up
to  the upper left hand pixel. This also takes  a little while and is called
the vertical retrace interval.

     These  issues all stem from  inherent physical limitations of  sweeping
electron beams  through space in a cathode ray tube, and basically disappear
in the  case of a  laptop screen like the one  Tom  Howard has set up a  few
inches  in front of Pekka, on the other side of  that  wall.  But  the video
timing  of a laptop screen is still patterned after that  of a  cathode  ray
tube  screen  anyway.  (This  is  simply  because   the  old  technology  is
universally understood by those who  need to  understand  it,  and  it works
well, and all kinds of electronic and software technology has been built and
tested to work within that framework, and  why mess with success, especially
when  your  profit  margins are so small that they  can only  be detected by
using  techniques  from  quantum  mechanics,  and  any glitches  vis  à  vis
compatibility  with  old stuff will  send your  company  straight  into  the
     On  Tom's  laptop,  each second  of time  is  divided into seventy five
perfectly regular  slices, during which  a full  grave  rubbing is performed
followed  by  a vertical  retrace  interval.  Randy  can  follow  Pekka  and
Cantrell's conversation well enough to gather that they have already figured
out, from analyzing the signals coming through the wall, that Tom Howard has
his screen set up to give him 768 lines, and 1,024 pixels  on each line. For
every  pixel, four bytes will be read from the video buffer and sent on down
the line to the screen.  (Tom is using the highest possible  level  of color
definition on his screen, which  means  that  one byte  apiece is needed  to
represent  the intensity of blue,  green, and red  and another is  basically
left over, but kept in there anyway  because computers like  powers  of two,
and  computers are so ridiculously fast  and powerful  now that, even though
all of this  is happening on a timetable that  would strike a human being as
rather  aggressive,  the extra bytes just don't make  any difference.)  Each
byte is eight binary digits or bits  and so, 1,024 times a line, 4 x 8 =  32
bits are being read from the screen buffer.
     Unbeknownst to Tom, his computer happens to be sitting right next to an
antenna. The wires  Pekka  taped to the  wall  can  read the electromagnetic
waves that are radiating out of the computer's circuitry at all times.
     Tom's  laptop is sold as a  computer, not as a radio station, and so it
might seem  odd  that it should  be radiating  anything at all. It is all  a
byproduct  of the fact that computers are  binary critters, which means that
all chip to  chip, subsystem to subsystem communication  taking place inside
the machine  everything  moving  down those flat ribbons  of  wire, and  the
little  metallic  traces on  the circuit boards consists of transitions from
zero to one and back again. The way that you represent bits in a computer is
by switching the wire's voltage back and forth between zero and five  volts.
In computer textbooks these transitions are  always graphed as if they  were
perfect square waves, meaning that you have this perfectly flat line at V 0,
representing a binary zero, and then it makes a perfect right angle turn and
jumps vertically to V 5  and then executes  another perfect right angle turn
and  remains at five volts until it's  time to go back to zero again, and so
     This is  the Platonic ideal  of how  computer circuitry  is supposed to
operate,  but engineers  have to build actual circuits  in the  grimy analog
world. The hunks of metal and  silicon can't manifest the  Platonic behavior
shown in those  textbooks.  Circuits can jump  between zero and  five  volts
really, really abruptly but if  you monitor them on an oscilloscope, you can
see  that it's not a perfectly square  wave. Instead you get some thing that
looks like this:
     The little  waves are  called ringing;  these transitions  among binary
digits hit the circuitry like a clapper  striking a bell. The voltage jumps,
but after it jumps it oscillates back and forth around the  new value  for a
little  while. Whenever you have an oscillating voltage in  a conductor like
this, it means that electromagnetic waves are propagating out into space.
     Consequently each wire in  a running  computer is like a  little  radio
transmitter. The signals  that it  broadcasts are completely dependent  upon
the details of what's going  on inside the machine. Since there are a lot of
wires  in  there,  and  the  particulars  of what they are  doing are fairly
unpredictable, it is  difficult for anyone  monitoring the transmissions  to
make head or tail  of them. A great deal of what comes out of the machine is
completely  irrelevant from a surveillance  point of view. But there is  one
pattern  of  signals  that is (1) totally predictable  and (2) exactly  what
Pekka  wants  to  see,  and that  is the stream of bytes being read from the
screen buffer and sent  down the wire  to the screen hardware. Amid  all the
random  noise coming  from  the  machine, the  ticks of  the  horizontal and
vertical retrace intervals  will  stand  out as clearly  as the beating of a
drum in  a teeming  jungle. Now that  Pekka has zeroed in  on that beat,  he
should be  able to  pick  up  the  radiation emanating  from  the wire  that
connects  screen buffer  to  video hardware,  and translate it  back into  a
sequence  of ones and zeroes that can be dumped  out  onto their own screen.
They  will  be able to see exactly what Tom Howard sees, through the kind of
surveillance called Van Eck phreaking.
     That's what Randy  knows.  When  it comes to  the details, Cantrell and
Pekka  are way  out of his league, so after a few  minutes he feels  himself
losing interest.  He sits down  on Cantrell's  bed, which  is the only place
left  to sit, and  discovers a little palmtop computer on the bedside table.
It is already up and running, patched into the  world over a telephone wire.
Randy's  heard of  this product.  It is supposed to  be  a first stab  at  a
network computer,  and so it's running  a  Web browser whenever it is turned
on; the Web browser is the interface.
     "May I surf?"  Randy  asks,  and  Cantrell says,  "Yes,"  without  even
turning around. Randy visits one of the big Web searching sites, which takes
a minute because the machine has to establish a Net  connection  first. Then
he searches for Web documents  containing the terms ((Andy OR Andrew)  Loeb)
AND "hive mind." As usual, the search finds tens  of thousands of documents.
But it's not hard for Randy to pick out the relevant ones.
     RIST 11A4  has experienced ambivalent feelings over the fact  that RIST
9E03  (insofar as s/he  is construed, by atomized society, as  an individual
organism)  is  a lawyer. No doubt the conflicted  feelings of RIST 11A4  are
quite normal and natural.  Part of  RIST 11A4 abhors lawyers, and the  legal
system in general, as symptoms of the end stage terminal disease of atomized
society. Another part understands that disease can improve the health of the
meme  pool  if it  slays  an  organism  that is  old and  unfit for  ongoing
propagation of its memotype.  Make no mistake about it:  the legal system in
its current form is the worst imaginable system for society  to  resolve its
disputes. It is appallingly expensive in  terms of money and in terms of the
intellectual talent that goes to waste pursuing  it as a career. But part of
RIST 11A4  feels that  the goals of  RIST  11A4  may  actually be  served by
turning  the  legal  system's most  toxic features against  the rotten  body
politic of atomized society and in so doing hasten its downfall.
     Randy clicks on RIST 9E03 and gets
     RIST 9E03 is the RIST that  RIST 11A4 denotes by the arbitrarily chosen
bit  pattern  that,  construed  as  an  integer,  is  9E03  (in  hexadecimal
notation). Click  here  for more about the system of bit pattern designators
used  by  RIST 11A4  to  replace the  obsolescent  nomenclature  systems  of
"natural languages." Click here if you would  like  the designator RIST 9E03
to  be automatically  replaced by a  conventional  designator (name) as  you
browse this web site.
     From  now  on.  the  expression RIST  9E03  will  be  replaced  by  the
expression Andrew Loeb. Warning: we consider such nomenclature fundamentally
invalid, and do not recommend its  use, but have provided it as a service to
first  time visitors to this Web site who are not accustomed to  thinking in
terms of RISTs.
     You  have clicked  on Andrew Loeb which  is a  designator  assigned  by
atomized society to the memome of RIST 9E03 . .
     memome is  the set of all  memes that define the physical  reality of a
carbon based RIST.  Memes can be divided into two broad  categories: genetic
and  semantic.  Genetic  memes  are  simply genes (DNA) and  are  propagated
through   normal  biological   reproduction.  Semantic   memes   are   ideas
(ideologies, religions, fads, etc.) and are propagated by communications.
     The  genetic part of  the  memome  of Andrew  Loeb  shares 99%  of  its
contents with the data set produced by the Human Genome Project. This should
not be construed as  endorsing  the  concept  of speciation  (i.e.  that the
continuum   of  carbon  based  life  forms  can  or  should  be  arbitrarily
partitioned into paradigmatic  species) in general, or the theory that there
is a species called "Homo sapiens" in particular.
     The  semantic  part of the memome of Andrew Loeb is  still  unavoidably
contaminated with many primitive viral memes, but these are  being gradually
and  steadily  supplanted  by new  semantic  memes  generated  ab  initio by
rational processes.
     RIST  stands for Relatively Independent Sub Totality. It can be used to
refer to any entity that, from one point of view, seems to  possess  a clear
boundary separating it from the world (as do cells in a body) but that, in a
deeper sense, is inextricably linked with a larger totality (as are cells in
a body). For example, the biological entities traditionally known as  "human
beings" are  nothing more than  Relatively Independent Sub Totalities of the
social organism in which they are embedded.
     A  dissertation  written  under  the  name  Andrew  Loeb,  who  is  now
designated RIST 9E03, indicates that even in those parts of RIST 0577 having
temperate climates and abundant food and water, the life of an organism such
as the  type designated, in old meme systems, as  "Homo sapiens," would have
been primarily  occupied with attempting to  eat  other  RISTs. This  narrow
focus would inhibit  the formation  of advanced semantic meme  systems (viz,
civilization as  that  word is traditionally construed). RISTs of this  type
can only attain higher levels of functioning insofar as they are embedded in
a larger society, the most logical evolutionary end point of which is a hive
     A hive  mind  is  a social organization of  RISTs  that  are capable of
processing semantic memes ("thinking"). These  could be either  carbon based
or silicon based. RISTs who enter a hive  mind  surrender  their independent
identities  (which are mere illusions anyway). For  purposes of convenience,
the constituents of the hive mind are assigned bit pattern designators.
     A bit pattern designator  is a random series  of  bits used to uniquely
identify  a RIST. For example, the organism traditionally designed  as Earth
(Terra, Gaia)  has been  assigned  the designator  0577.  This  Web site  is
maintained by  11A4  which is  a hive  mind. RIST  11A4 assigns bit  pattern
designators with  a  pseudo  random  number generator. This departs from the
practice used by that soi disant "hive mind" known to itself as the East Bay
Area Hive Mind Project  but designated (in the system of RIST 11A4) as  RIST
E772. This "hive  mind"  resulted  from  the  division  of "Hive  Mind  One"
(designated in  the system of RIST 11A4 as RIST  4032) into  several smaller
"hive minds" (the  East Bay Area Hive Mind Project, the  San  Francisco Hive
Mind,  Hive  Mind IA,  the  Reorganized  San  Francisco  Hive Mind,  and the
Universal  Hive  Mind)  as  the  result of  an  irreconcilable contradiction
between  several  different semantic memes that competed for mind share. One
of these  semantic memes asserted  that  bit  pattern designators should  be
assigned  in  numerical order, so that (for example) Hive Mind One  would be
designated RIST 0001 and so on. Another meme asserted that numbers should be
organized  in  order  of   importance,  so  that  (for  example)  the   RIST
conventionally  known  as the planet  Earth  would  be  RIST  0001.  Another
semantic meme agreed with this one  but disagreed as to whether the counting
should begin with 0000  or  0001. Within both the 0000 and 0001 camps, there
was disagreement about what RIST should  be assigned the first  number: some
asserted that Earth  was the first and most important RIST, others that some
larger  system (the solar system, the Universe, God) was in  some sense more
inclusive and fundamental.
     This machine has an e mail interface. Randy uses it.
     Subject: Re(2) Why?
     Saw  the website. Am willing  to stipulate that you  are not RIST 9E03.
Suspect  that you are the Dentist,  who yearns for honest exchange of views.
Anonymous, digitally signed e mail is the only safe vehicle for same.
     If you want me to believe  you  are not the Dentist, provide  plausible
explanation for your question regarding why we are building the Crypt.
     Yours truly,
     "We've got bits," Cantrell says. "Are you in the middle of something?"
     "Nothing I'm not eager to get out of," Randy says, putting the palm top
down. He  gets off the bed  and stands behind Pekka. The screen  of  Pekka's
computer  has a number of windows on  it, of which the biggest and frontmost
is the image of another computer's screen. Nested within  that  are  various
other windows and icons: a desktop. It  happens to  be a Windows NT desktop,
which  is  noteworthy and (to  Randy) bizarre because Pekka's computer isn't
running  Windows NT, it's running Finux.  A  cursor is moving around on that
Windows NT  desktop, pulling  down menus and clicking on things. But Pekka's
hand  is not moving.  The cursor zooms over to  a Microsoft Word icon, which
changes color and expands to form a large window.
     This copy of Microsoft Word is registered to THOMAS HOWARD.
     "You did it!" Randy says.
     "We see what Tom sees," Pekka says.
     A new document window opens up, and words begin to spill across it.
     Note to myself: let's see "Letters to Penthouse" print this!

     I don't suppose that  graduate  students  of either gender are  exactly
sought  out by sexual connoisseurs for their  great fucking skills. We think
about  it too  much. Everything  has to be verbalized. A person who believes
that fucking is a  sexual discourse is simply never  going to be any good in
the sack.
     I have a thing about stockings. They have  to be sheer black stockings,
preferably with seams up the back.  When I was thirteen years old I actually
shoplifted some  black pantyhose from  a grocery store  just so that I could
play with  them. Walking out of that store with those L'eggs in my backpack,
my heart was pounding, but the excitement  of the crime was nothing compared
to  opening  up the  package  and pulling  them out, rubbing them against my
fuzzy, adolescent cheeks. I even tried pulling them on, but this just looked
grotesque  what with  my hairy  legs  and did  absolutely nothing for me.  I
didn't want to wear them. I wanted someone else to. I masturbated four times
that day.
     It  disturbed the shit out of me when I thought about it. I was a smart
boy. Smart boys are supposed to be  rational.  So,  when I was in  college I
figured out  a  rationalization  for this. There  wasn't that many women who
wore sheer  black  stockings in college,  but sometimes I would  go into the
city  and  see  the well  dressed office workers walking  down the street on
their lunch breaks and make scientific observations of their legs. I noticed
that  where the stocking stretched itself thin to go over a wide part of the
leg,  such  as  the  muscle  of the calf, it became paler. just as a colored
balloon becomes paler  when  it is inflated. Conversely, it  was  darker  in
narrow regions such as the ankle.  This made the calf look more  shapely and
the  ankle  look more slender.  The legs,  as  a  whole,  looked  healthier,
implying that just above the  place  where they  joined  together, a  higher
class of DNA was to be found.
     Q.E.D. My thing about black stockings was a highly rational adaptation.
It  merely proved how  smart I  was, how rational  even  the most irrational
parts of my brain were. Sex held no power over me. It was nothing to fear.
     This  was  quintessentially  sophomoric  thinking,  but  nowadays  most
educated people  hold quintessentially sophomoric opinions well  into  their
thirties  and  so this  stuck  with me for a  long  time. My  wife  Virginia
probably had some equally  self serving  rationalization for  her own sexual
needs of which I was not to become aware for many years. So it's no surprise
that our premarital sex life was mediocre. Neither one of us admitted it was
mediocre, of course. If I had admitted it, I would have had to admit that it
was mediocre because Virginia didn't like to wear stockings, and at the time
I was too concerned with being a Sensitive New Age Guy to admit such heresy,
I loved Virginia for her mind. How could I be so shallow, so insensitive, so
perverse as  to spurn her because  she  didn't like to pull filmy  tubes  of
nylon over her legs? As a pudgy nerd, I was lucky to have her.
     Five years into our  marriage,  I attended  the  Comdex  convention  as
president of a small new high tech company. I was a little less pudgy  and a
little less nerdy. I met  a marketing girl  for a big  software distribution
chain. She was  wearing sheer black  stockings. We ended  up  fucking  in my
hotel  room. It  was  the best  sex  I'd ever had. I  went  home baffled and
ashamed. After that, my  sex life with Virginia was pretty miserable. We had
sex maybe a dozen times over the next couple of years.
     Virginia's grandmother died  and we  went back to upstate  New York for
the funeral. Virginia had  to wear a dress, which meant she had to shave her
legs and wear stockings something she'd  done on only a handful of occasions
since our marriage.  I practically  fell  over when  I saw her, and suffered
through the funeral with a big, scratchy erection, trying to figure  out how
I could get her alone.
     Now, Granny had lived by herself in a  big old house  on a hill until a
couple of  months  earlier when she had fallen down and broken her hip,  and
been moved into  a  nursing  home. All of  her children, grandchildren,  and
great grandchildren came together for the funeral, and that house became the
central gathering place. It was a nice place full of good old furniture, but
in  her declining years Granny had become something of a compulsive pack rat
and so  there were  heaps of newspapers and accumulated mail squirreled away
everywhere. In the end we had to haul away several truckloads of junk.
     In some other ways, Granny had been pretty well organized  and had left
behind a very  specific last will and testament. Each one of her descendants
knew exactly which pieces  of furniture, dishes, rugs,  and curios they were
going to  take home. She had a lot of possessions, but she also had a lot of
descendants, and so the loot had to be sliced pretty thin. Virginia ended up
with a black  walnut dresser which was  stored in an unused bedroom. We went
up there to have a look at it, and I ended up fucking  her there. I stood up
with  the flimsy  trousers  of my dark suit collapsed around my ankles while
she  sat on  top  of that dresser with  her legs wrapped around me  and  her
stocking clad heels digging into my  butt cheeks.  It was the best fuck we'd
ever had, bar none. Fortunately there were a lot of people eating, drinking,
and talking downstairs or they would have heard her moaning and hollering.
     I finally came clean to her about the stockings. It felt good. I'd been
reading a lot about how the brain develops and had finally come to accept my
stocking kink.  It seems that when you are a certain age,  somewhere between
about two and five  years,  your  mind  just  gels. The  part of  it  that's
responsible for sex  becomes  set into a pattern that you'll carry  with you
for the rest of your life. All of the gay people I've ever discussed it with
have told me that they  knew they  were gay,  or  at least different,  years
before  they  even  began thinking  about sex, and  all  of  them agree that
gayness  cannot be converted into straightness, or vice versa, no matter how
hard you might try.
     The  part of  your brain that handles sex  frequently  gets cross wired
into other, seemingly irrelevant areas at this age. This is when people pick
up an orientation towards  sexual  dominance or submission, or when a lot of
guys pick up  highly specific kinks say, rubber, feathers, or shoes. Some of
them  are unfortunate enough to get turned on by little kids, and those guys
are essentially doomed from that point onwards there is nothing to do except
castrate them or lock them up. No therapy will unkink the brain  once it has
     So, all  things considered,  being turned  on by black stockings wasn't
such a bad sexual card to have  been dealt.  I laid this all out to Virginia
during the  trip  home. I was surprised by how calmly she accepted it. I was
too big of a  jerk to realize that she was thinking about how it all applied
to her.
     After we got back home,  she gamely went out and  bought some stockings
and tried to  wear  them on occasion. This  was not  easy. Stockings imply a
whole lifestyle.  They  look  stupid  with  jeans  and  sneakers. A woman in
stockings has to wear a dress  or a skirt, and  not  just a blue denim skirt
but  something  nicer,  more formal. She also has to wear  the type of shoes
that  Virginia didn't  own and didn't like to wear. Stockings are not really
compatible  with  riding  a  bicycle  to  work. They  were  not even  really
compatible  with our  house. During  our  frugal grad  student  days we  had
accumulated  a lot of furniture from Goodwill, or I had hammered it together
myself out of two by fours.  This furniture turned  out to be  riddled  with
hidden  snags that a person in blue jeans would never  notice but that would
destroy a pair  of stockings in a moment. Likewise, our half finished  house
and  our  old junker cars had many  small sharp  edges that  were  death  to
stockings. On the  other hand,  when we went away for an anniversary trip to
London, getting around in black  taxis,  staying in a nice hotel, and eating
in  good  restaurants, we  spent  a  whole  week moving in a world that  was
perfectly  adapted to stockings.  It just went  to show us  how radically we
would have to change our  circumstances in order for her  to  dress that way
     So, much money was spent on stockings in a fit of good intentions. Some
good sex was had, though I seemed to  enjoy it  much more than Virginia did.
She never achieved the shocking, animal  intensity she had shown at Granny's
house after  the funeral .  Attrition reduced  her supply of stockings  very
quickly, sheer inconvenience  prevented her from renewing it, and  within  a
year after the funeral we were back to square one.
     Other things were changing, though. I made a lot of money by cashing in
some stock options, and we bought a new house up in the hills. We hired some
movers to come  pick up all of  our  junky furniture and move  it  into that
house, where  it  looked  much shabbier. Virginia's  new  job forced her  to
commute in  a car.  I didn't  think our old junker was safe, and so I bought
her a nice little Lexus with leather seats and wool carpet, all of it nicely
snag  free. Soon, kids came along and I traded in my old beater pickup truck
for a minivan.
     Still,  I couldn't  bring myself to begin spending money  on  furniture
until my back started going bad on me,  and I realized it was because of the
slack, twenty  year old  Goodwill mattress that Virginia and I were sleeping
on. We had to  buy a new bed. Since it was my back at stake, I went  out and
did the shopping.
     I 'd rather stub out cigarettes on my tongue than go shopping. The idea
of hitting every big  furniture  store in  the area, comparing beds, made me
want to die. All I wanted was to go to one place and buy a bed and have done
with it. But I didn't want a shitty bed that I'd be  sick of in a year, or a
cheap mattress that would mess up my back again in five years.
     So I went straight down to my local Gomer Bolstrood Home Gallery. I had
heard  people talk  about  Gomer  Bolstrood furniture. Women, in particular,
seemed  to speak of it in hushed, religious tones. Their factory was said to
be up in some New England town where they had been based for the last  three
hundred years.  It was said that  loose curls of walnut  and  oak from Gomer
Bolstroods  block  plane  had  been  used as  tinder beneath  the  pyres  of
convicted witches. Gomer Bolstrood  was the answer  to a question  I'd  been
ruminating over ever since Granny's funeral, namely: where does all of  this
high quality grandma furniture come  from? In every family, young  people go
to  grandma's house for  Thanksgiving, or other obligatory visits,  and lust
over the nice antique furniture, wondering which pieces  they will take home
when  the old  lady kicks the bucket. Some people  lose patience  and go  to
estate sales or antique stores and buy the stuff.
     But if the  supply of old, high grade,  heirloom  quality furniture  is
fixed,  then where will the grannys of  the future come  from? I could see a
situation, half a century in the future, when Virginia's  and my descendants
would all  be squabbling over that one black  walnut dresser, while bringing
in Ryder trucks to haul the rest of our stuff straight to the  dump.  As the
population  grows, and  the supply  of old  furniture remains constant, this
kind of  thing is inevitable. There must be a source  for  new granny  grade
furniture,  or else the  Americans  of tomorrow will  all end up sitting  in
vinyl beanbag chairs, leaking little foam beads all over the floor.
     The  answer  is Gomer Bolstrood,  and  the  price  is  high. Each Gomer
Bolstrood chair and table really ought to come in  a little felt  lined box,
like a piece  of jewelry.  But at the time,  I was  rich and impatient. So I
drove to Gomer Bolstrood and stormed through the door, only to be brought up
short by a receptionist. I felt tacky in  my  white tennis  shoes and jeans.
She had probably seen  a lot  of  high tech  millionaires come through those
doors,  and took it pretty  calmly. Before I knew it a middle aged woman had
emerged  from the back of the store and appointed herself my personal design
consultant.  Her name was Margaret.  "Where  are  the  beds?"  I asked.  She
stiffened and informed  me  that  this not the kind of place where you could
walk into a Bed Room  and see a row  of beds  lined  up like pig's feet at a
butcher shop. A Gomer Bolstrood Home Design Gallery consists  of a series of
exquisitely  decorated  rooms,  some of which happen  to  be bedrooms and to
contain beds. Once we had that all straightened out. Margaret showed me  the
bedrooms. As she led me from one room to the next. I couldn't help  noticing
that  she  was  wearing  black stockings  with seams up the  back  perfectly
straight seams.
     My erotic feelings for Margaret made  me uncomfortable.  For a while, I
had to restrain the impulse to say "just sell me the biggest, most expensive
bed you have." Margaret showed me beds in different styles. The names of the
styles  meant  nothing  to  me.  Some  looked modern  and  some  looked  old
fashioned.  I  pointed to a  very  large, high four  poster that looked like
granny furniture and said. "I'll take one of those."
     There  was  a  three month delay while the bed was hand carved  by  New
England craftsmen working at  the same wage as plumbers or psychotherapists.
Then  it showed up at  our  house and was assembled by technicians  in white
coveralls, like the guys who work in semiconductor chip fabrication  plants.
Virginia  came home  from work. She was wearing  a  denim skirt, heavy  wool
socks, and Birkenstocks. The kids were  still at school. We had sex  on  the
bed. I performed dutifully enough, I suppose. I could  not really sustain an
erection and ended  up with  my head stuck  between her bristly thighs. Even
with  my  ears blocked by  her quadriceps. I  could  hear  her  moaning  and
screaming. She went into erotic convulsions near the end, and almost snapped
my neck. Her climax must have lasted for two or three full minutes. This was
the moment when  I first came to terms with the fact that Virginia could not
achieve orgasm unless she  was in close  proximity to preferably on top of a
piece of heirloom grade furniture that she owned.
     The window containing the image of Tom Howard's desktop vanishes. Pekka
has clicked it into oblivion.
     "I  could  not  stand  it  any  more,"  he says, in  his electronically
generated deadpan.
     "I predict a ménage à trois Tom,  his wife, and Margaret  doing it on a
bed at the furniture store, after hours," Cantrell says ruminatively.
     "Is it Tom? Or a fictional character of Tom's?" Pekka asks.
     "Does this mean you win the bet?" Randy asks.
     "If only I can figure out how to collect on it," Cantrell says.

     Chapter 42 AFLOAT

     A brown miasma has settled across the Bismarck Sea, smelling of oil and
barbecue.  American torpedo boats hurtle  out of this reeking fog, their fat
hulls barely touching the water, their giant motors curving white scars into
the  sea  as they  line  up their targets:  the few remaining ships in  Goto
Dengo's troop  convoy,  whose  decks are  now  covered  with a  dark mat  of
soldiers, like moss on an old rock.  The  torpedos  spring into the air like
crossbow  bolts,  driven by compressed gas from tubes on  the  boats' decks.
They belly  flop into the  water, settle  to a  comfortable depth where  the
water  is  always  calm, and  draw bubble  trails  across the  sea,  heading
directly for  the  ships.  The crowds  on the ships' decks fluidize and gush
over  the  edges.  Goto Dengo turns  away  and hears  but  doesn't  see  the
explosions. Hardly any of the Nipponese troops know how to swim.
     Later, the airplanes come back to strafe  them some more. Swimmers  who
have the wit and the  ability to  dive are invulnerable. Those who don't are
dead very soon. The airplanes leave. Goto Dengo strips  a life preserver off
a  shattered  corpse. He  has the worst  sunburn of his life and it is  only
midafternoon,  so he pilfers a  uniform blouse, too, and ties  it around his
head like a burnoose.
     The ones who are still alive, and who can swim, try to converge on each
other. They are in a complicated  strait between New Guinea and New Britain,
and tidal currents rushing through it tend  to  pull  them apart.  Some  men
drift slowly away, calling out to  their comrades. Goto Dengo ends up on the
fringes of a  dissolving  archipelago  of maybe  a hundred swimmers. Many of
them  clutch life preservers or  bits of wood  to  stay afloat. The seas are
considerably higher than their heads and so they can't see very far.
     Before sunset, the  haze lifts for an hour.  Goto Dengo can clearly fix
the  sun's position, so for the first time all day  he knows west from east,
north  from  south.  Better, he  can  see  peaks rising  above the  southern
horizon, slathered with blue white glaciers.
     "I will swim to New  Guinea," he shouts,  and begins doing it. There is
no point in trying to discuss it with the  others. The ones who are inclined
to follow him, do: maybe a few dozen in all. The timing is right the sea has
become miraculously  calm.  Goto Dengo settles into a slow, easy sidestroke.
Most of the others are moving in an improvised dogpaddle. If they are making
any progress at  all it is totally imperceptible. As the stars begin to come
out, he rolls over into a  backstroke and gets a fix on Polaris. As long  as
he swims away from that,  it is physically  impossible for  him to miss  New
     Darkness falls.  Dim light is shed by the stars and by a half moon. The
men call to one another, trying to  stay bunched together. Some of them  get
lost; they  can be heard but not seen,  and  those  in the main group can do
nothing but listen to their pleadings dwindle.
     It must be around midnight when the sharks come. The  first victim is a
man who had lacerated his forehead on a hatch frame when scrambling out of a
sinking ship, and who has been bleeding ever since, drawing a thin pink line
across the sea, leading the  sharks straight to them. The sharks do not know
yet what they are dealing with, and so they kill him slowly, worrying him to
death in small bites. When he turns  out to be easy prey, they  explode into
some kind of berserk rage  that is all  the more fantastic for being  hidden
beneath the  black water.  Men's voices are cut off  in  mid cry as they are
jerked  straight down. Sometimes a leg or head will suddenly burst free from
the surface.  The water splashing into Goto Dengo's mouth begins to taste of
     The attack  goes  on for several hours. It appears  that the noise  and
smell have attracted some  rival  shark packs, because sometimes there is  a
lull  followed  by renewed  ferocity. A severed shark  tail bumps up against
Goto  Dengo's  face; he  hangs  onto  it. The  sharks  are eating them;  why
shouldn't he retaliate? In Tokyo restaurants charge a lot of money for shark
sashimi.  The skin  of the shark  tail is tough,  but hunks  of  muscle  are
hanging out of the torn edge. He buries his face in the meat and  feasts  on
     When  Goto  Dengo was young, his father had owned a fedora with English
writing  on  its  ivory  silk liner, and a  briar pipe, and tobacco  that he
bought through the mail from America. He would sit on a rock up in the hills
and snug his fedora down to keep the chilly air from the bald spot on top of
his  head  and smoke his  pipe  and just look at  the  world. "What  are you
doing?" Dengo would ask him.
     "Observing," father would say.
     "But how long can you observe the same thing?"
     "Forever. Look over there." Father pointed with the stem of his pipe. A
thread of white smoke piped out of the mouthpiece, like a silk thread  being
unwound from a cocoon. "That band of dark rock is  mineral bearing. We could
get copper out of there, probably some zinc and lead too. We would run a cog
railway  up the  valley to that  flat spot there, then sink  an  angle shaft
parallel to the face  of the deposit  Then Dengo would get into  the act and
decide where the workers would  live, where  the  school would be  built for
their  children, where the  playing  field  would be. By  the time they were
finished they would have populated the whole valley with an imaginary city.
     Goto  Dengo  has  plenty of time  to  make observations  this night. He
observes that severed body parts almost never get attacked. The men who swim
most violently are  always the first to get it. So, when the sharks come in,
he tries to float on his back  and not  move a muscle,  even when the jagged
ends of someone's ribs poke him in the face.
     Dawn arrives, one  or two  hundred hours after the previous sunset.  He
has never stayed awake  all night long before, and finds  it shocking to see
something as big as the sun go down on one side of the planet and come up on
the opposite. He is a virus,  a germ living on  the surface of  unfathomably
giant bodies  in  violent  motion. And, amazingly  enough, he is  still  not
alone: three other men have survived the  night of the sharks. They converge
on one another  and  turn to face the ice covered mountains  of New  Guinea,
salmon colored in the dawn light.
     "They have not gotten any closer," one of the men says.
     "They are deep in the  interior," Goto Dengo says. "We are not swimming
to the mountains only to the shore much closer. Let's  go before we  die  of
dehydration!" And he plunges forward into a sidestroke.
     One  of  the  others, a boy who  speaks with an Okinawan accent, is  an
excellent swimmer.  He and Goto Dengo can easily outdistance the others. For
most  of the  day, they try to  stay together with the other two anyway. The
waves come up and make it difficult even for good swimmers to move.
     One of the slower swimmers has been fighting diarrhea since long before
his ship was  sunk  out from  under him and was probably dehydrated to begin
with. Around midday,  when the  sun is  coming  straight down on top of them
like a  flamethrower,  he goes into convulsions,  gets  some  water into his
lungs, and disappears.
     The  other  slow swimmer  is from Tokyo. He's  in much better  physical
condition he simply doesn't know  how to swim. "There  is  no better time or
place  to learn," Goto Dengo says. He  and the Okinawan spend an hour  or so
teaching him the  sidestroke  and backstroke, and  then they resume swimming
     Around sunset, Goto  Dengo catches  the Okinawan gulping down  mouthful
after  mouthful  of seawater. It  is  painful to  watch,  mostly  because he
himself has been wanting to do it. "No! It will make you sick!" he says. His
voice is  weak.  The  effort  of  filling his  lungs, expanding his  ribcage
against the relentless pressure of the water, is ruining  him; every  muscle
in his torso is rigid and tender.
     The  Okinawan has  already  started retching  by  the  time Goto  Dengo
reaches him. With the help of the Tokyo  boy, he sticks his fingers down the
Okinawan's throat and gets him to vomit it all up.
     He is very  sick  anyway, and until late at  night  cannot do  anything
except  float on his back and mumble deliriously. But just  as Goto Dengo is
about to abandon him, he becomes lucid, asking "Where is Polaris?"
     "It is cloudy tonight," Goto Dengo says. "But there is a bright spot in
the clouds that might be the moon."
     Based  on the position of that bright  spot, they guess the position of
New Guinea and resume swimming. Their arms and legs  are like sacks of clay,
and all of them are hallucinating.
     The  sun seems to be coming up. They  are in a nebula of vapor, radiant
with peach  colored  light, as  if hurtling through a distant  part  of  the
     "I smell  something  rotten," says  one of them. Goto Dengo cannot tell
     "Gangrene?" guesses the other.
     Goto Dengo fills his nostrils, an  act that consumes about half of  his
remaining  energy reserves.  "It  is  not  rotten  flesh,"  he says. "It  is
     None of them can swim anymore. If they could, they wouldn't  know which
direction to choose,  because the mist  glows uniformly.  If  they picked  a
direction, it  wouldn't matter, because the  current is taking them where it
     Goto Dengo sleeps for a while, or maybe he doesn't.
     Something bumps his leg. Thank  god; the  sharks have  come  to  finish
     The  waves have grown  aggressive.  He  feels  another bump. The burned
flesh on his leg screams. It is something very hard, rough, and sharp.
     Something  is projecting  out of the water just ahead, something  bumpy
and white. A coral head.
     A wave breaks  behind them,  picks  them  up,  and flings  them forward
across the  coral, half  flaying them. Goto Dengo breaks a finger and counts
himself lucky. The next  breaker  takes  what  little  skin he has left  and
flings him into a lagoon. Something forces his feet upwards, and because his
body is just a limp sack of shit at  this point, doubles him over head first
into  the water. His face strikes a bed of sharp  coral sand. Then his hands
are in it too. His limbs have forgotten how to do any thing except swim, and
so it takes him a while to plant them in the bottom and lift his head out of
the water. Then  he  begins to crawl on  his  hands and knees. The  odor  of
rotten vegetation  is  overpowering  now,  as  if  a  whole  division's food
supplies had been left out in the sun for a week.
     He  finds some sand  that is not covered with  water, turns around, and
sits down on it. The Okinawan is right behind him, also on hands and  knees,
and the Tokyo boy has actually  clambered to his feet and is wading  ashore,
being knocked this way and that by incoming waves. He is laughing.
     The  Okinawan boy  collapses  on the sand next to Goto Dengo, not  even
trying to sit up.
     A  wave  knocks  the  Tokyo  boy off  balance. Laughing,  he  collapses
sideways into the surf, throwing out one hand to break his fall.
     He  stops laughing and  jerks back sharply. Something is dangling  from
his forearm: a wriggling snake.  He  snaps it  like a whip and  it flies off
into the water.
     Scared  and sober, he  splashes the last half  dozen  steps up onto the
beach and  then falls flat on his face. By the time Goto Dengo reaches  him,
he is stone dead.
     Goto Dengo gathers his forces for some period of time that is difficult
to measure. He may have fallen asleep sitting up. The  Okinawan boy is still
lying on the sand,  raving. Goto Dengo gets his  feet underneath himself and
staggers off in search of fresh water.
     This is not a proper beach, merely a sandbar maybe ten  meters long and
three wide,  with  some tall grassy  stuff sprouting out  of the top. On the
other side of it is a brackish  lagoon that  meanders  between banks, not of
earth,  but  of living things all tangled together. That tangle is obviously
too thick to penetrate. So, notwithstanding what just happened to the  Tokyo
boy, Goto Dengo wades into the lagoon, hoping that it  will lead inland to a
freshwater stream.
     He wanders for what seems like  an hour, but the lagoon takes him  back
to the edge of the sea again. He gives up and drinks the water  he's  wading
in,  hoping it will be a little less  salty. This  leads to  a great deal of
vomiting but makes him feel slightly better somehow. Again he wades into the
swamp, trying to keep the sound of the surf behind him, and after an hour or
so he finds a rivulet of water that is actually fresh.  When he has finished
drinking from that, he feels strong enough to go back and carry the Okinawan
boy here, if need be.
     He gets back to  the beach  in midafternoon and finds that the Okinawan
is gone. But  the sand is all churned up by footprints.  The sand is dry and
so the footprints  are too indistinct to read.  They  must have made contact
with a patrol! Surely their comrades must have heard about the attack on the
convoy and are combing beaches for survivors. There must be a bivouac in the
jungle not far away!
     Goto Dengo follows the trail  into the jungle. After he's  proceeded  a
mile or  so, the track crosses  a small, open mud  flat where he gets a good
look at the  footprints, all  made  by  bare feet with  enormous,  bizarrely
splayed toes. Footprints of people who have never worn shoes in their lives.
     He proceeds more cautiously for another few hundred meters. He can hear
voices now. The  Army taught him  all about jungle infiltration tactics, how
to creep through the enemy's lines in the middle of the night without making
a sound.  Of course,  when they practiced it  in  Nippon they  weren't being
eaten alive by ants  and mosquitoes the whole time. But it hardly matters to
him now.  An hour of patient work gets him to a vantage point from  which he
can  see into a flat clearing  with a  stagnant creek wandering  through it.
Several long dark houses are built on tree trunk stilts to  keep them up out
of the ooze, and roofed with bushy heaps of palm fronds.
     Before he finds the Okinawan, Goto Dengo needs to get some food. In the
middle of  the clearing,  white  porridge is steaming in a pot over  an open
fire, but it's being tended by several tough looking women, naked except for
short fringes  of  fibrous  stuff tied round  their waists  and  just barely
concealing their genitals.
     Smoke is rising from some  of the long buildings too. But to get inside
one of them, he would have to clamber up its heavy, slanting ladder and then
worm through  what  looks  like  a rather small doorway.  A  child, standing
inside  one of those doorways with a stick,  could prevent an intruder  from
coming in. Hanging outside some of the doorways  are sacks, improvised  from
lengths  of fabric (so  at  least they have textiles!) and filled  with  big
round lumps: coconuts,  possibly or some  kind of preserved food  set  up to
keep it away from the ants.
     Perhaps seventy people are gathered around something of interest in the
middle of  the  clearing. As  they  move  around, Goto Dengo gets occasional
momentary glimpses  of someone, possibly Nipponese,  who is sitting  at  the
base of a palm tree  with his hands behind his back. There's a lot of  blood
on his face and he's not moving. Most of these people are men, and they tend
to carry spears. They have those fringes of hairy stuff (sometimes  dyed red
or  green) concealing their private parts, and  some of the bigger and older
ones have decorated themselves by  tying strips of fabric around their arms.
Some  have  painted  designs  on their skin  in  pale mud.  They have shoved
various  objects,  some  of  them quite  large, sideways through their nasal
     The bloodied man seems to have captured everyone's  attention, and Goto
Dengo reckons that this will be his only chance to steal some food. He picks
the longhouse farthest away from where the villagers have gathered, clambers
up its ladder, and reaches for the bulging sack that  hangs by the entrance.
But the fabric is very old and it has rotted from the damp of the swamp, and
maybe from the attacks of the hundreds  of flies that buzz around it, and so
when he grasps it his fingers  go  right through. A long  swath  of it tears
away and the contents tumble out around Goto Dengo's feet. They are dark and
sort of hairy,  like  coconuts,  but their shape is more complicated, and he
knows intuitively that some thing is wrong even before he recognizes them as
human skulls. Maybe half  a dozen of them. Scalp and  skin still  stuck  on.
Some of them are dark  skinned with bushy hair, like the natives, and others
look distinctly Nipponese.
     Sometime later, he is able to think coherently again. He  realizes that
he  does not know how long he might have spent up here, in  full view of the
villagers, gazing on the skulls. He turns around  to look, but all attention
is still focused on the wounded man seated at the base of the tree.
     From this vantage point Goto Dengo is able to see that it is indeed the
Okinawan, and that his arms have been tied together behind the tree trunk. A
boy of maybe  twelve is standing over him, holding a spear. He steps forward
cautiously and  suddenly pokes it into the  midsection of the Okinawan,  who
comes awake and  thrashes from side to side. The boy's obviously startled by
this, and jumps back. Then an older man, his head decorated with a fringe of
cowrie shells, takes  a stance behind and beside the boy, showing him how to
hold  the spear, guiding him forward again.  He adds his own strength to the
youngster's and they shove the spear straight into the Okinawan's heart.
     Goto Dengo falls off the house.
     The men become very  excited and pick the boy up on their shoulders and
parade him around the clearing  hollering and leaping and  twirling, jabbing
their spears defiantly into the  air.  They are pursued by  all but the very
youngest children. Goto Dengo, bruised but not  damaged by the fall onto the
mucky  ground,  belly crawls  into  the jungle  and  looks for  a  place  of
concealment. The  women of  the village  carry  pots and knives towards  the
Okinawan's body and begin to cut it up with the conspicuous skill of a sushi
chef dismantling a tuna.
     One of them is concentrating entirely on his  head. Suddenly she  jumps
into  the air and  begins  to dance around  the clearing,  waving  something
bright and glittery. "Ulab! Ulab! Ulab!" she cries ecstatically.  Some women
and children begin following her around, trying to get a look at whatever it
is she's holding. Finally she stops and centers  her hand in a rare shaft of
sunlight coming down through the trees. Resting in the palm of her hand is a
gold tooth.
     "Ulab!" say  the women and children. One of the kids tries to snatch it
out  of  her  hand and  she knocks him flat on his ass. Then one of the  big
spear carrying men runs up and she hands the booty over to him.
     Several of the men now gather round to marvel at the find.
     The  women go back to working over the  Okinawan boy, and soon his body
parts are stewing in pots over an open fire.

     Chapter 43 SHINOLA

     Men who believe that they are accomplishing something by speaking speak
in  a  different way  from men who believe that speaking is a waste of time.
Bobby Shaftoe has learned most of his practical knowledge how to fix a  car,
butcher a deer, throw  a spiral, talk to a lady, kill a Nip from  the latter
type of  man. For them, trying to do anything by talking is like  trying  to
pound  in  a  nail  with  a  screwdriver. Sometimes you  can  even  see  the
desperation spread over such a man's face as he listens to himself speak.
     Men of the other  type the ones who use speech as a tool of their work,
who  are  confident and fluent aren't necessarily more intelligent, or  even
more educated. It took Shaftoe a long time to figure that out.
     Anyway, everything  was neat and tidy  in Bobby Shaftoe's mind until he
met  two of the  men in  Detachment 2702: Enoch Root  and Lawrence Pritchard
Waterhouse. He can't put his finger on what bugs him about those two. During
the weeks they spent together on Qwghlm, he spent a lot of time listening to
them yammer at each other, and  began to suspect that there might be a third
category  of man, a kind so rare that  Shaftoe  never met  any of them until
     Officers  are discouraged  from  fraternizing with enlisted men and non
coms, which  has  made  it more difficult for Shaftoe to pursue his research
into the matter. Sometimes, though, circumstances  jumble all of  the  ranks
together willy  nilly.  A prime  example  would  be this  Trinidadian  tramp
     Where do they get this stuff? wonders Shaftoe. Does the U.S. government
keep a  bunch of Trinidadian tramp steamers riding at anchor at a naval yard
somewhere, just in case one is needed?
     He  thinks not. This one shows  signs of a very recent and hasty change
of  ownership.  It  is  a  mother  lode  of  yellowed,  ragged,  multiethnic
pornography, some of  it  very run  of the mill and some  so  exotic that he
mistook  it  for  medical literature at  first. There  is  a  lot  of  stray
paperwork on the bridge and in  certain cabins, most of  which Shaftoe  only
sees  out of  the corner of his eye as these areas tend  to be the domain of
officers. The  heads are still littered with their predecessors' curly black
pubic  hairs, and  the  storage  lockers  are sparsely  stocked  with exotic
Caribbean foodstuffs,  much of them rapidly going  bad. The  cargo  hold  is
filled with  bales  and  bales of coarse brown fibrous material raw material
for life preservers or bran muffins, he supposes.
     None of them much cares, because Detachment 2702 has been freezing  its
ass  off in the Far North  ever since they left Italy a few  months ago, and
now  they are running around shirtless, of  all things. One little  airplane
ride, that's all it took, and they  were in the balmy Azores.  They did  not
get any  R and  R  there  they  went  straight  from  the  airfield  to  the
Trinidadian ship,  in the  dead  of night,  huddled under tarps in a covered
truck. But even the warm air that streamed in underneath the  tarp felt like
an exotic massage  in  a  tropical  whorehouse. And once they steamed out of
sight of port, they were allowed to come up abovedecks and take in some sun.
     This  gives   Bobby  Shaftoe  the  opportunity  to   strike  up  a  few
conversations  with Enoch Root, partly just for the hell of it and partly so
that he can try to figure  out this  whole business about the third category
of men. Progress comes slowly.
     "I don't like the word 'addict'  because it has terrible connotations,"
Root says one day, as they are sunning themselves on the afterdeck. "Instead
of  slapping  a   label  on   you,  the   Germans  would   describe  you  as
'Morphiumsüchtig.'  The  verb  suchen  means  to  seek.  So  that  might  be
translated, loosely, as  'morphine seeky' or even more loosely  as 'morphine
seeking.' I prefer 'seeky' because it means that you  have an inclination to
seek morphine."
     "What the fuck are you talking about?" Shaftoe says.
     "Well, suppose  you have  a roof with a hole in it. That means it is  a
leaky roof. It's  leaky all the time even if it's not raining at the moment.
But it's only leaking when it  happens to  be  raining.  In  the  same  way,
morphine  seeky  means that  you  always  have  this  tendency  to  look for
morphine, even if you are  not  looking for it  at the moment. But I  prefer
both of them  to  'addict,'  because  they  are adjectives  modifying  Bobby
Shaftoe instead of a noun that obliterates Bobby Shaftoe."
     "So what's the  point?"  Shaftoe asks.  He  asks  this  because  he  is
expecting  Root to  give him an  order, which  is  usually what  men  of the
talkative sort end up doing after jabbering  on  for  a while.  But no order
seems  to be forthcoming,  because that's not Root's agenda. Root  just felt
like talking about  words. The  SAS blokes refer to this kind of activity as
     Shaftoe has had  little  direct  contact  with  that  Waterhouse fellow
during their stay on  Qwghlm,  but he  has noticed that  men  who  have just
finished talking to Waterhouse tend to walk away shaking their heads and not
in the slow way of a man saying  "no," but in the sudden convulsive way of a
dog who  has  a  horsefly in his middle  ear. Waterhouse never gives  direct
orders,  so men of  the first category  don't know what to  make of him. But
apparently men of the second category fare no better; such men usually  talk
like  they have an agenda in their heads and they  are checking off boxes as
they go, but Waterhouse's conversation doesn't go anywhere in particular. He
speaks,  not as a way of telling you  a bunch of stuff he's  already figured
out, but  as a way of making up a bunch of new shit as he goes along. And he
always  seems to  be hoping  that you'll join in. Which  no  one  ever does,
except for Enoch Root.
     After they've  been out to sea for a  day, the  captain (Commander Eden
the same poor son of a bitch who got the job of ramming his previous command
into Norway) staggers out of his cabin, making use of every railing or other
handhold  that comes  within flailing  distance. He announces  in  a slurred
voice that from here on out,  according to orders from On High, anyone going
abovedecks must wear black turtle necks, black gloves, and  black ski  masks
underneath  their  other clothes. These articles are duly issued to the men.
Shaftoe gets the skipper really pissed off by asking him three times whether
he's sure he has the  order worded  correctly. One of the reasons Shaftoe is
so  highly regarded by  the enlisted men is  that he  knows how to ask these
kinds  of  questions without technically  violating the  rules  of  military
etiquette. The skipper,  to his credit, doesn't  just pull rank and yell  at
him. He takes Shaftoe back  to his cabin and shows him a  khaki covered Army
manual, printed in black block letters:
     It is a  pretty interesting order,  even by Detachment  2702 standards.
Commander Eden's drunkenness is also kind of disturbing not the fact that he
is drunk, but the particular type of drunk the sort of drunk of say, a Civil
War soldier who knows that  the surgeon is about to remove his femur with  a
     After  Shaftoe has finished  getting the  turtlenecks, gloves, and  ski
masks passed  out  to the  men,  and  told them  to simmer  down and do  the
lifeboat drills again,  Shaftoe finds Root in what  passes for the  sickbay.
Because he figures it is time to have one of  those open ended conversations
in which you try to figure out a bunch of shit, Root is his man.
     "I know  you're expecting  me to ask for morphine, but I'm  not gonna,"
Shaftoe says. "I just want to talk."
     "Oh," Root says. "Should I put on my chaplain hat, then?"
     "I'm a fucking Protestant. I can talk to God myself whenever I god damn
well feel like it."
     Root is startled and bewildered by Shaftoe's burst of hostility. "Well,
what do you want to talk about, Sergeant?"
     "This mission."
     "Oh. I don't know anything about the mission."
     "Well, let's try to figure it out, then," Shaftoe says.
     "I thought you were just supposed to follow orders," Root says.
     "I'll follow 'em, all right."
     "I know you will."
     "But  in the meantime I got  a lot of time to kill, so I might  as well
use that time to figure out what the fuck is going on. Now, the skipper says
to wear this stuff if we are abovedecks, where we might be seen. But who the
hell is going to see us, out here?"
     "An observation plane?"
     "Germans don't have no observation planes, not out there."
     "Another ship?" Root asks rhetorically, getting  into the spirit of the
     "We'll  see  them  at the same time  they see  us,  and that'll give us
plenty of time to put that shit on."
     "It would have to be a U boat that the skipper is worried about, then."
     "Bingo," Shaftoe says, "because a U boat could look at us  through  its
periscope, and we'd never know we were being looked at."
     But that day,  they don't  get much further  in their attempt to figure
out the deeper question of  why their commanding officers want them to  make
themselves look like Negroes in the eyes of German U boat captains.


     The  next day,  the  skipper  plants himself  on the  bridge, where  he
evidently means to  keep a close  eye on things. He seems less drunk but  no
happier.  He is wearing a  colorful  short sleeved madras shirt over a  long
sleeved black turtleneck, and rope sandals over black socks.  Every so often
he puts on his black gloves and ski mask and  goes out  to scan the  horizon
with binoculars.
     The ship  continues westwards for a few hours after sunrise, then turns
north for a short time, then heads east for an hour, then goes north  again,
then turns  back  to  the  west. They  are  running  a  search pattern,  and
Commander Eden does  not appear to be looking forward to finding whatever it
is  that they are searching  for. Shaftoe runs another lifeboat  drill, then
checks the lifeboats himself making sure that they are lavishly stocked.
     Around noon, a lookout hollers. The ship changes course, headed roughly
northeast.  The skipper  emerges  from  the  bridge  and,  with  an  air  of
sepulchral  finality, presents Bobby Shaftoe with a crate of dark brown shoe
polish and a sealed envelope containing detailed orders.
     Minutes  later, the men of  Detachment 2702, under orders from Sergeant
Shaftoe,  strip to  their briefs  and begin  coating  themselves  with  shoe
polish. They already own black  Shinola, which  they are ordered  to massage
into  their hair if it's not already black. Just another example of  how the
military screws the little man Shinola ain't free.
     "Do I look like a Negro yet?" Shaftoe asks Root.
     "I have traveled a bit," Root says, "and you don't look like a Negro to
me.  But  to a German  who  has never seen  the  genuine article,  and who's
looking through a periscope what the heck?" Then: "I take  it you've figured
out the mission?"
     "I read the fucking orders," Shaftoe says guardedly.
     They are headed towards a ship.  As they get closer, Shaftoe checks  it
out with a borrowed spyglass, and is startled,  but not really surprised, to
see that it's not one ship but  two ships side by side. Both of these  ships
have  the  long fatal lines of U boats, but one  of them  is fatter,  and he
figures it's a milchcow.
     Beneath his feet, he feels the engines throttling back to a dim idle.
     The sudden quiet, and the palpable loss of momentum and  power, are not
reassuring. He  gets the usual sick, electric, nauseous, hyperactive feeling
that always makes combat such a stimulatin' experience.


     The beat up Trinidadian steamer has  plied  the waters of  the Atlantic
without incident throughout the  war to date, running back and forth between
African and Caribbean ports,  and occasionally venturing as far north as the
Azores.  Perhaps  it has been sighted, from time  to time, by a patrolling U
boat, and judged to be  not worth spending  a torpedo on. But today its luck
has changed  for the worse. They have, by  random chance, blundered across a
milchcow a  supply  U  boat of  the  Kriegsmarine of the  Third  Reich.  The
steamer's normally jaunty  crew  of shoe brown  Negroes has  gathered at the
rails to  peer  across  the  ocean at  this peculiar  sight  two  ships tied
together in the middle of the ocean, going nowhere. But as they draw closer,
they  realize that one of those  ships  is a  killer, and that the other  is
flying the  battle  flag  of the  Kriegsmarine.  Too late,  they  cut  their
     There is wild confusion for a minute or so this might be an interesting
spectacle to the lowly,  deck swabbing Negroes, but the smart Negroes  up on
the bridge  know they're in  trouble they've  seen  something they shouldn't
have. They swing her around to the south and make a run for it! For  an hour
they dash desperately across the seas. But they are trailed implacably  by a
U boat,  cutting through  the waves  like a Bowie  knife. The U boat has its
whip  aerial  up,  is  monitoring  the  usual  frequencies,  and  hears  the
Trinidadian steamer fire up her radio and send out an SOS. In a short stream
of  dits  and dahs,  the  steamer broadcasts her  location and that  of  the
milchcow, and in so doing taps out her own death warrant.
     Pesky untermenschen! They've really  gone and done it now!  It won't be
twenty  four hours before the milchcow is located and sunk  by  the  Allies.
There is a good chance that a few U boats will be hounded to their deaths as
part of the bargain.  That is not a good way to die being chased  across the
ocean  for several  days, suffering  the  death  of  a  thousand  cuts  from
strafings and  bombings. Stuff  like this really drives home, to  the common
ordinary Obertorpedomaat, the wisdom of the Führer's plan to go out and find
all of the people who aren't Germans and kill them.
     Meanwhile, our basic Kapitänleutnant has got to be asking himself: what
the  hell are the chances that a tramp Trinidadian  steamer is going to just
happen upon us and our milchcow, out in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean?
     You could probably work it out, given the right data:
     N [sub n] = number of Negroes per square kilometer
     N [sub m] = number of milchcows
     A [sub a] =Area of the Atlantic Ocean
     and so  on. But wait a sec, neither Negroes nor  milchcows are randomly
distributed, so the  calculation becomes immensely more complicated. Far too
complicated for a Kapitänleutnant to mess  around with, especially when he's
busy trying to effect a dramatic reduction in N [sub n]

     The Trinidadian steamer is brought up short by a shell fired across her
bows from the  U boat's deck gun.  The Negroes gather on the decks, but they
hesitate, just for  a moment,  to  launch the lifeboats. Perhaps the Germans
are going to give them a break.
     Typical,  sloppy,  sentimental   untermenschen  thinking.  The  Germans
brought them up short so  they would hold still to be torpedoed. As soon  as
they  realize this,  the Negroes  stage  an impressive lifeboat  drill. It's
remarkable that they even have enough lifeboats to  go around, but the calm,
practiced skill with which  they launch and  board them is truly phenomenal.
It's enough  to make a German naval  officer reconsider, just  for a moment,
his opinions about the shortcomings of darkies.
     It is a textbook torpedoing! The torpedo  is set to run  nice and deep,
and as it passes underneath the ship, the detonation circuit senses a change
in the magnetic field and triggers the explosive, neatly snapping the ship's
keel, breaking its back, and sending it down  with incredible speed. For the
next five  or  ten  minutes,  bales of  brown  stuff erupt  from  the water,
released from  the cargo holds as the ship plummets  towards the bottom.  It
gives the whole scene an unexpectedly festive air.
     Some  U boat skippers would not be above machine gunning the survivors,
at this point, just to let off a little steam.
     But the  commander, Kapitänleutnant Günter Bischoff, is not yet a  card
carrying member of the Nazi Party and probably never will be.
     On the  other hand, Bischoff is wrapped in a straightjacket and blasted
half out of his mind on drugs.
     Acting commander of the U boat is Oberleutnant zur See Karl Beck. He is
a card carrying National Socialist, and, in other circumstances, he might be
game for a bit of punitive machine gunning, but at the moment he's exhausted
and pretty badly shook up. He  is intensely  conscious of the fact that he's
probably  not  going to live  very  long  now that  their  location has been
     So he doesn't. The  Negroes are jumping  out of the lifeboats, swimming
to  the bales, and clinging to them with just their  heads out of the water,
realizing it would  take forever to  hunt  them all down. OL Beck knows  the
Liberators and the Catalinas are  already airborne and vectored towards him,
so he has to  get the hell  out  of there.  Since he has plenty of fuel,  he
decides to head south for a while, planning to double back north in a day or
two, when the coast  might be a bit clearer. It is the kind of thing that KL
Bischoff would do if  he had  not gone  crazy, and everyone on  the boat has
unlimited respect for the old man.
     They run on the  surface, as they always  do when they are not making a
positive effort  to  sink  a convoy,  so  they  can send and  receive  radio
messages. Beck gives one to  Oberfunkmaat Huffer,  explaining  what has just
happened, and  Huffer gives  it to one of his Funkmaats, who  sits  down  in
front of U 691 's Enigma machine and encrypts it using the key for the  day,
then taps it out on the radio.
     An hour later, they get a message back, straight from U boat Command at
Wilhelmshaven,  and when the Funkmaat runs  it  through  the Enigma, what he
     It's a classic example of military  commandsmanship:  if the  order had
come in a more timely fashion it would have been easy  to obey, but now that
they are  an hour away it  will be extremely difficult  and  dangerous.  The
order doesn't make any sense, and no effort is made to clarify it.
     Given the time lag, Beck figures he can get away with giving this one a
half assed try. He really should swing round and  approach the wreck on  the
surface,  which  would  get  him  there faster, but  which  would  be nearly
suicidal. So instead, he closes  the hatches and descends to periscope depth
as he draws closer. This cuts the U boat's speed to a crawling  seven knots,
so it takes them about three hours to get back to the atoll of bobbing brown
bales that marks the site.
     A damn  good thing,  too, because another  fucking submarine  is there,
picking up survivors. It is a Royal Navy submarine.
     This is so weird it makes the hairs on the back of Beck's neck stand up
and there's a lot of hair there, because like most  submariners, Beck hasn't
shaved in weeks. There's nothing weird, though, that can't be settled with a
single well  placed  torpedo. Seconds later  the submarine  explodes like  a
bomb; the torpedo must have touched off her munitions. Her crew, and most of
the  rescued Negroes, are trapped within, and don't have a chance of getting
out  even  if  they  survived the  explosions.  The submarine drops  off the
surface of the ocean like  the wreckage  of the Hindenberg tumbling down  on
New Jersey.
     "Gott  in  Himmel,"  Beck  mumbles,  watching  this   all  through  the
periscope. He'd been pleased by the  success, until he'd remembered  that he
had specific orders, and that killing everyone in sight was not one of them.
Will there be any survivors for him to pick up?
     He takes the U boat up  onto the surface, and  climbs up on the conning
tower  with  his  officers.  First  thing they  do is  scan  the  skies  for
Catalinas. Finding  none, they  post lookouts, then begin to nose the U boat
through  the sea of bales,  which by now has spread  out to cover at least a
square   kilometer.  It  is  getting  dark,  and  they  have  to  bring   up
     All looks rather dismal until one searchlight picks out a survivor just
a head, shoulders, and a  pair of arms reaching up clenching a rope around a
bale.  The survivor does not move or respond as they approach, and not until
a  wave rolls the bale over is it revealed that everything  below the  man's
solar plexus  has  been  bitten  off by  sharks.  The  sight sets even  this
hardened  crew of murderers to gagging. In  the quiet that ensues, they hear
low voices echoing across the calm  water. With  a bit more searching,  they
find two men, evidently talkative sorts, sharing a bale.
     When the  searchlight picks them out, one of the Negroes lets go of the
bale  and  dives  beneath the  surface. The  other  just  stares  calmly and
expectantly into the light.  This Negro's  eyes are pale, almost  colorless,
and he has a skin condition: parts of him are turning white.
     As they  draw closer, the pale  eyed Negro  speaks to  them  in perfect
German. "My comrade attempts to drown himself," he explains.
     "Is that even possible?" asks Kapitänleutnant Beck.
     "He and I were just discussing that very question."
     Beck checks his wristwatch. "He must want to  kill himself very badly,"
he says.
     "Sergeant  Shaftoe takes his duty  very seriously. It's kind of ironic.
His cyanide capsule dissolved in the seawater."
     "I  am afraid that  all irony has become tedious and depressing to me,"
Beck says, as a body breaks the surface nearby. It is Shaftoe,  and he seems
to be unconscious.
     "You are?" Beck asks.
     "Lieutenant Enoch Root."
     "I'm only supposed to take officers," Beck says, casting a cold  eye in
the direction of Sergeant Shaftoe's back.
     "Sergeant  Shaftoe  has  exceptionally  broad  responsibilities,"  says
Lieutenant  Root  calmly, "in  some  respects  exceeding  those  of a junior
     "Get them  both.  Fetch  the  medicine box. Revive the  sergeant," Beck
says. "I will  talk to you later, Lieutenant Root." And  then  he  turns his
back on the prisoners, and heads for the nearest hatch. He is going to spend
the next week trying very hard to stay alive, in spite of the  best  efforts
of the Royal and United States Navies. It's going to be quite an interesting
challenge. He should be thinking about his  strategy.  But he  can't get the
image of Sergeant Shaftoe's back out of his mind. His fucking head was still
underneath the water! If they weren't about to fish him out of the ocean, he
would have succeeded in  drowning himself. So  it was possible. At least for
one person.

     Chapter 44 HOSTILITIES

     As  the vans, taxis, and  limousines  pull into the parking  lot at the
Ministry of  Information site, the members of Epiphyte Corp.  are greeted by
smiling  and bowing  Nipponese virgins  wearing, and bearing, gleaming white
Goto Engineering helmets. The time  is  about  eight in  the morning, and up
here  on  the  mountain the temperature is  still  tolerable,  though humid.
Everyone mills  around before  the cavern's maw, carrying their hardhats  in
their hands,  as no one wants to be the first to put his on and look stupid.
Some  of  the  younger  Nipponese  executives are  mugging hilariously  with
theirs.  Dr.  Mohammed Pragasu circulates. He has an  authentically used and
battered  hardhat  which  he whirls  absentmindedly around one  finger as he
strolls from group to group.
     "Has  anyone simply asked Prag what the fuck is  going on?" says Eb. He
rarely uses English profanity, so when he does, it's funny.
     The only member of  Epiphyte Corp.  who does not at least crack a smile
is  John  Cantrell,  who  has  been looking  distant  and  tense ever  since
yesterday.  ("It's  one thing  to write  a  dissertation  about mathematical
techniques in cryptography," he said, on the way up here, when someone asked
him what  was bothering him. "And  another  to gamble  billions of  dollars'
worth of Other People's Money on it."
     "We need a new category," Randy said. "Other, Bad People's Money."
     "Speaking  of  which "  Tom  began,  but  Avi  cut him  off by  glaring
significantly at the back of the driver's head.)
     Subject: Re(3) Why?
     You ask me to justify my interest in why you are building the Crypt.
     My interest is a mark of my occupation. This is, in a  sense, what I do
for a living.
     You continue to  assume that I am someone you know. Today you think I'm
the Dentist,  yesterday  you thought I was  Andrew Loeb. This  guessing game
will rapidly become tedious for both of us, so please believe me when I tell
you that we have never met.
     To: From: Subject: Re(4) Why?
     Damn, after you said you did it for a living. I was going to guess that
you were Geb, or another one of my ex girlfriend's crowd.
     Why don't you tell me your name?
     To: From:  Subject:  Re(5) Why?
Randy, I've already  told  you my  name,  and it meant  nothing  to  you. Or
rather, it meant the wrong thing. Names are tricky that way. The best way to
know someone is to have a conversation with them.
     Interesting that you assume I'm an academic.
     To: From:  Subject: Re(6) Why?
     I  didn't  specify  who  Geb was. And yet you knew  that  he and my  ex
girlfriend were academics. If (as  you claim) I don't know you, then  how do
you know these things about me?
     Everyone now turns to look towards Prag, who seems to be having trouble
with his peripheral vision today. "Prag is avoiding us," Avi snaps.
     "Which means it will be completely impossible for us to reach him until
after this is all over."
     Tom steps  towards  Avi, drawing the corporate circle in  closer.  "The
investigator in Hong Kong?"
     "Got some IDs, struck out  on  others," Avi says. "Basically, the heavy
set  Filipino gentleman  is  Marcos's  bagman. Responsible  for keeping  the
famous billions out of the hands of the Philippine government. The Taiwanese
guy not  Harvard Li but the  other  one is a lawyer  whose  family  has deep
connections to Japan, dating back to  when Taiwan was part of  their empire.
He has held down half  a dozen government positions at various times, mostly
in finance and commerce now he's sort of a fixer who does jobs of  all sorts
for high ranking Taiwanese officials."
     "What about the scary Chinese guy?"
     Avi  raises  his eyebrows  and  heaves  a little sigh before answering.
"He's a  general in the People's Liberation Army. Equivalent to a four  star
rank. He's been working their investment arm for the last fifteen years."
     "Investment  arm?  The  Army!?"  Cantrell  blurts.  Re's  been  getting
uneasier by the minute, and now looks mildly nauseated.
     "The People's Liberation  Army  is a  titanic  business  empire," Beryl
says. "They control the biggest pharmaceutical company in China. The biggest
hotel  chain.   A  lot  of  the   communications  infrastructure.  Railways.
Refineries. And, obviously, armaments."
     "What about Mr. Cellphone?" Randy asks.
     "Still working on him. My man in Hong Kong is sending his mug shot to a
colleague in Panama."
     "I think  that  after  what we  saw  in  the lobby,  we  can make  some
assumptions," Beryl says. (1)



Subject: Re(7) Why?


You ask  how I  know these  things about you. There are many things  I could
say, but the basic answer is surveillance.BEGIN ORDO SIGNATURE BLOCK – (etc.)END ORDO SIGNATURE BLOCK

     Randy figures  there's no better time to ask this question. And because
he's known Avi longer than anyone  else, he's the  only one who can get away
with asking it. "Do we really want to  be  involved  with  these people?" he
says. "Is this what Epiphyte Corp. is for? Is this what we are for?"
     Avi heaves a big sigh and thinks about it for  a while.  Beryl looks at
him searchingly; Eb and John and Tom study their shoes, or search the triple
canopy jungle for exotic avians, while listening intently.
     "You know,  back  in the  forty  niner days,  every gold mining town in
California  had a nerd with a scale," Avi  says. "The assayer. He  sat in an
office  all  day.  Scary looking rednecks came in with pouches of gold dust.
The nerd weighed them, checked them for purity, told them what the stuff was
worth. Basically, the assayer's scale was the exchange point the place where
this  mineral,  this  dirt  from  the  ground, became money  that  would  be
recognized as  such in  any  bank or  marketplace  in  the world,  from  San
Francisco to London to Beijing. Because of the  nerd's special knowledge, he
could put his imprimatur  on dirt and  make it  money. Just like we have the
power to turn bits into money.
     "Now, a lot of the people the nerd dealt with were incredibly bad guys.
Peg  house  habitues. Escaped convicts from all  over the  world.  Psychotic
gunslingers. People  who owned  slaves and massacred Indians. I'll bet  that
the first  day, or week, or month, or year, that the nerd moved to the  gold
mining town  and hung out his shingle, he was  probably scared  shitless. He
probably had moral  qualms  too  very  legitimate ones, perhaps," Avi  adds,
giving  Randy  a  sidelong glance. "Some  of those pioneering nerds probably
gave up and went  back East. But y'know what? In a surprisingly short period
of  time, everything  became pretty  damn civilized, and the towns filled up
with churches and schools and  universities, and the sort of howling maniacs
who got there first  were  all  assimilated or driven  out  or  thrown  into
prison, and the nerds had boulevards and opera houses named after them. Now,
is the analogy clear?"
     "The analogy is clear,"  Tom  Howard says. He is less troubled  by this
than any of them, with the possible exception of Avi. But then, his hobby is
collecting and shooting rare automatic weapons.
     No one else  will say  anything;  it is Randy's job to be  troublesome.
"Uh, how many  of those assayers  got gunned down in the  street after  they
pissed off some psychotic gold miner?" he asks.
     "I don't have any figures on that," Avi says.
     "Well, I am not fully convinced that I really need this," Randy says.
     "We all need to decide that question for ourselves," says Avi.
     "And then vote, as a corporation whether to stay in or pull out right?"
Randy says.
     Avi and Beryl look meaningfully at each other.
     "Getting out, at this point, would  be, uh,  complicated,"  Beryl says.
Then,  seeing  a  look  on  Randy's  face, she  hastens  to  add:  "not  for
individuals who might want to leave  Epiphyte. That's easy. No problem.  But
for Epiphyte to get out of this, uh . . ."
     "Situation," Cantrell offers.
     "Dilemma," Randy says.
     Eb mumbles a word in German.
     "Opportunity," Avi counters.
     "...would be all but impossible," Beryl says.
     "Look," Avi says, "I don't want anyone to  feel compelled to stay in  a
situation where they have moral qualms."
     "Or fear imminent summary execution," Randy adds helpfully.
     "Right. Now, we've all put a ton of work into this thing, and that work
ought to be worth something. To be totally above board  and explicit, let me
reiterate what is already in the bylaws,  which is that anyone can pull out;
we'll buy back your stock.  After what's happened  here  the  last couple of
days, I'm pretty  confident that we could raise enough money to do so. You'd
make at  least as much as if  you had  stayed home doing a  regular salaried
     Younger, less experienced high  tech  entrepreneurs would  have scoffed
bitterly at this.  But everyone  on  this crew actually  finds it impressive
that Avi can put a company together and keep it alive long enough to make it
worth the work they've put into it.
     The black  Mercedes cruises  up. Dr. Mohammed  Pragasu strides  over to
meet it, greets the South Americans in fairly decent Spanish, makes a couple
of introductions. The scattered  clumps of  businessmen begin to draw closer
together, converging on the cavern's entrance. Prag is making a head  count,
taking attendance. Someone's missing.
     One  of the  Dentist's  aides is  maneuvering towards Prag in  lavender
pumps, a cellphone clamped to her head. Randy breaks away from  Epiphyte and
sets a collision course, reaching  Prag's vicinity just in  time to hear the
woman tell him, "Dr.  Kepler will be joining us late some important business
in California. He sends his apologies."
     Dr. Pragasu nods brightly, somehow avoids  eye contact with Randy,  who
is now close  enough  to floss Prag's teeth, and turns, clamping his hardhat
down on top of  his glossy hair. "Please follow me, everyone," he announces,
"the tour begins."
     It is a dull tour, even for those who have never been inside the place.
Whenever Prag leads them to a new spot, everyone looks around and gets their
bearings; conversation  lulls for  ten or  fifteen  seconds, then  picks  up
again; the high ranking executives  stare unseeingly at the hewn stone walls
and mutter to each other while their engineering consultants converge on the
Goto engineers and ask them learned questions.
     All  of the construction  engineers work  for Goto and  are, of course,
Nipponese. There  is another  who stands apart.  "Who's the  heavyset  blond
guy?" Randy asks Tom Howard.
     "German  civil engineer  on  loan  to Goto. He seems to  specialize  in
military issues."
     " Are there any military issues?"
     "At  some point, about halfway into this project, Prag suddenly decided
he wanted the whole thing bombproof."
     "Oh. Is that Bomb with a capital B, by any chance?"
     "I think he's just about to  talk about that," Torn says, leading Randy
     Someone  has  just  asked the German  engineer whether  this  place  is
nuclear hardened.
     "Nuclear  hardened is not the issue,"  he says  dismissively.  "Nuclear
hardened  is  easy it  just  means  that the  structure can support a  brief
overpressure of so many megapascals. You see, half of Saddam's bunkers were,
technically, nuclear  hardened.  But  this  does no  good  against precision
guided, penetrating munitions as  the Americans proved.  And it  is far more
likely this structure will be attacked  in that way than that it  would ever
be nuked we do not anticipate that the sultan will get involved in a nuclear
     This is the funniest thing that anyone has said  all day, and it gets a
     "Fortunately,"  the German continues, "this  rock above us is  far more
effective  than  reinforced  concrete.  We  are   not  aware  of  any  earth
penetrating munitions currently in existence that could break through."
     "What  about  the  R and  D  the  Americans  have  done  on the  Libyan
facility?" Randy asks.
     "Ah,  you  are  talking about the  gas  plant in Libya, buried under  a
mountain," the German says, a bit uneasily, and Randy nods.
     "That  rock in Libya is so brittle," says the German, "you  can shatter
it with a hammer. We are working with a different kind of rock here, in many
     Randy exchanges a look with Avi, who looks as if he is  about to bestow
another commendation  for  deviousness.  At  the same  time  Randy grins, he
senses  someone's  stare. He turns and  locks eyes with Prag, who is looking
inscrutable, verging on pissed off. A  great many people in this part of the
world would cringe and wither under the glare of Dr.  Mohammed  Pragasu, but
all Randy sees is his old friend, the pizza eating hacker.
     So  Randy  stares  right back into Prag's black  eyes,  and grins. Prag
prepares for the staredown. You asshole, you tricked  my German for this you
shall die! But he can't sustain  it.  He breaks eye contact, turns away, and
raises one hand to his mouth, pretending to stroke his goatee. The  virus of
irony is as  widespread in California as herpes,  and  once you're  infected
with  it, it  lives in  your brain forever. A  man like  Prag can come home,
throw away his Nikes, and pray to Mecca  five times a day, but he  can never
eradicate it from his system.
     The tour lasts for a couple of hours. When they emerge, the temperature
has  doubled.  Two dozen cellphones  and  beepers sing out  as they exit the
radio silence  of the cavern. Avi has  a brief and clipped conversation with
someone,  then hangs  up and herds Epiphyte Corp. towards  their car. "Small
change of plans," he says. "We need to  break away for a little meeting." He
utters an unfamiliar name to the driver.
     Twenty minutes  later,  they  are filing  into the  Nipponese cemetery,
sandwiched between two busloads of elderly mourners.
     "Interesting place for a meeting," says Eberhard Föhr.
     "Given the people we're dealing with, we have to assume that all of our
rooms, our car, the hotel  restaurant, are bugged," Avi snaps. No one speaks
for a minute, as Avi leads them down a gravel path towards a secluded corner
of the garden.
     They end up in the corner of two high stone  walls. A  stand  of bamboo
shields  them from the rest  of the garden, and  rustles soothingly in a sea
breeze that does little  to cool their sweaty faces. Beryl's fanning herself
with a Kinakuta street map.
     "Just got a call from Annie in San Francisco," he says.
     Annie in San Francisco is their lawyer.
     "It's, uh ...  seven P.M. there right  now. Seems  that just before the
close  of  business, a  courier walked into  her office, fresh off the plane
from LA, and handed her a letter from the Dentist's office."
     "He's suing us for something," Beryl says.
     "He's this far away from suing us."
     "For what!?" Tom Howard shouts.
     Avi sighs. "In a way, Tom, that is beside the point. When Kepler thinks
it's in his best interests to file a tactical lawsuit, he'll find a pretext.
We must  never forget that this is not  about legitimate legal issues, it is
about tactics."
     "Breach of contract, right?" Randy says.
     Everyone looks  at Randy. "Do you  know something we should know?" asks
John Cantrell.
     "Just an educated guess,"  Randy says,  shaking his head. "Our contract
with him  states  that  we are  to keep  him  informed  of  any  changes  in
conditions that may materially alter the business climate."
     "That's an awfully vague clause," Beryl says reproachfully.
     "I'm paraphrasing."
     "Randy's right," Avi says.  "The  gist of this letter is that we should
have told the Dentist what was going on in Kinakuta."
     "But we did not know," says Eb.
     "Doesn't matter remember, this is a tactical lawsuit."
     "What does he want?"
     "To scare us," Avi says. "To rattle us. Tomorrow or the next day, he'll
bring in a different lawyer to play good cop to make us an offer."
     "What kind of offer?" Tom asks.
     "We  don't know, of course,"  Avi says, "but I'm  guessing  that Kepler
wants a piece of us. He wants to own part of the company."
     Light dawns on the face of everyone except  Avi himself,  who maintains
his almost perpetual mask of cool control. "So it's bad news, good news, bad
news. Bad news number one: Anne's phone call. Good news: because of what has
happened here  in the last two days, Epiphyte Corp. is suddenly so desirable
that  Kepler  is  ready to play  hardball  to get his hands  on some  of our
     "What's the second bit of bad news?" Randy asks.
     "It's very simple." Avi turns away from them for a moment, strolls away
for a couple  of paces until he is  blocked by  a stone bench, then turns to
face them again. "This  morning I told you that  Epiphyte was  worth enough,
now, that we  could  buy  people  out  at a  reasonable  rate.  You probably
interpreted that as a good thing. In a way, it was. But a small and valuable
company in the business world is like a bright and beautiful bird sitting on
a branch  in a jungle,  singing a  happy song that can  be heard from a mile
away. It  attracts  pythons." Avi pauses for a moment.  "Usually,  the grace
period is longer.  You get valuable,  but then you  have some time weeks  or
months  to establish  a  defensive  position,  before the  python manages to
slither up the trunk. This time, we happened  to get  valuable while we were
perched virtually on top of the python. Now we're not valuable any more."
     "What do  you mean?" Eb says. "We're just  as valuable as  we were this
     "A small company that's being sued for a ton of money by the Dentist is
most certainly not valuable. It probably has an enormous negative value. The
only way  to give it  positive value again is to make  the  lawsuit go away.
See,  Kepler  holds  all  the  cards.  After  Tom's  incredible  performance
yesterday, all  of  the other guys in that conference room probably wanted a
piece  of us just as badly as  Kepler  did. But Kepler had one advantage: he
was already  in  business with us. Which gave him a  pretext for filing  the
     "So I hope you enjoyed our morning  in the sun, even though we spent it
in  a  cave,"  Avi  concludes. He  looks  at  Randy,  and lowers  his  voice
regretfully. "And if any of you were  thinking of cashing out, let this be a
lesson to you: be like the Dentist. Make up your mind and act fast."

     Chapter 45 FUNKSPIEL

     Colonel Chattan's aide shakes  him awake.  The first  thing  Waterhouse
notices is that the guy is breathing fast and steady, the way Alan does when
he comes in from a cross country run.
     "Colonel  Chattan requests your presence in the Mansion most urgently."
Waterhouse's  billet is in the  vast, makeshift camp five minutes' walk from
Bletchley Park's Mansion. Striding briskly whilst buttoning up his shirt, he
covers the distance in four. Then, twenty feet  from the goal, he  is nearly
run over by a pack  of Rolls Royces, gliding  through  the night as dark and
silent  as U boats. One  comes  so close that  he can  feel the heat of  its
engine; its muggy exhaust blows through his trouser leg and condenses on his
     The old  farts  from the  Broadway Buildings climb out  of  those Rolls
Royces  and precede  Waterhouse into the  Mansion. In the  library, the  men
cluster obsequiously  round  a telephone, which  rings frequently  and, when
picked up, makes distant, tinny, shouting noises  that can be heard, but not
understood, from across the room. Waterhouse estimates that the Rolls Royces
must have driven up from London  at an average  speed of about nine thousand
miles per hour.
     Long tables are  being  looted  from other rooms and chivvied  into the
library by glossy  haired young men in uniform, knocking flecks of paint off
the doorframes.  Waterhouse takes an arbitrary chair at  an arbitrary table.
Another aide wheels in a cart of wire baskets piled with file folders, still
smoking from the friction of being jerked  out of Bletchley Park's  infinite
archives. If this were a proper meeting, mimeographs might have been made up
ahead of  time  and  individually  served.  But  this  is  sheer  panic, and
Waterhouse knows  instinctively that he'd better take advantage of his early
arrival if he wants to know anything.  So he goes over to the cart and grabs
the folder on the bottom of  the stack, guessing that they'd have pulled the
most important one first. It is labeled: U 691.
     The first few pages are just a form: a U  boat data sheet consisting of
many boxes. Half  of them are empty.  The other half have been filled in  by
different hands using different writing implements at different  times, with
many  erasures and  cross  outs  and marginal  notes  written by bet hedging
     Then there is a log containing everything U 691 is ever  known to  have
done,  in   chronological  order.  The  first  entry   is  its   launch,  at
Wilhelmshaven on September 19, 1940, followed by a long list of the ships it
has murdered. There's one odd notation from a few months ago:
been tearing up and  down like  mad, sinking ships  in  the Chesapeake  Bay,
Maracaibo, the approaches  to the  Panama Canal, and a bunch of other places
that  Waterhouse, until now, has thought of only as  winter resorts for rich
     Two more people come into the room and take seats: Colonel Chattan, and
a young man in a disheveled tuxedo, who (according to a rumor that makes its
way around the room) is  a symphonic percussionist.  This latter has clearly
made some  effort to wipe  the lipstick off his face, but has missed some in
the crevices of his left ear. Such are the exigencies of war.
     Yet another aide rushes in with a wire basket filled with ULTRA message
decrypt slips. This looks like  much hotter stuff; Waterhouse puts the  file
folder back and begins leafing through the slips.
     Each  one  begins with a block  of data identifying the Y  station that
intercepted  it,  the time,  the frequency, and  other minutiae. The heap of
slips boils down to a conversation, spread out  over the last several weeks,
between two transmitters.
     One of these is in a  part of Berlin called Charlottenburg, on the roof
of  a  hotel at  Steinplatz: the temporary  site of U boat Command, recently
moved there from  Paris. Most  of these messages are signed by Grand Admiral
Karl Dönitz.  Waterhouse  knows that Dönitz has  recently become the Supreme
Commander in Chief  of the entire German Navy,  but he  has  elected to hold
onto his previous title of Commander in Chief of U boats as well. Dönitz has
a soft spot for U boats and the men who inhabit them.
     The other transmitter belongs to none other than U  691. These messages
are signed by her skipper, Kapitänleutnant Günter Bischoff.
     Bischoff:  Sank  another  merchantman. This  newfangled radar  shit  is
     Dönitz: Acknowledged. Well done.
     Bischoff: Bagged  another tanker. These  bastards seem to know  exactly
where I am. Thank god for the schnorkel.
     Dönitz: Acknowledged. Nice work as usual.
     Bischoff: Sank  another merchantman.  Airplanes  were waiting for me. I
shot one  of them down; it landed on me in a fireball and incinerated  three
of my men. Are you sure this Enigma thing really works?
     Dönitz: Nice work,  Bischoff! You get another medal! Don't worry  about
the Enigma, it's fantastic.
     Bischoff: I attacked a convoy and sank three merchantmen, a tanker, and
a destroyer.
     Dönitz: Superb! Another medal for you!
     Bischoff: Just for the hell of it, I doubled back and finished off what
was left of that  convoy. Then another destroyer showed up and dropped depth
charges on  us for  three days. We are all half  dead,  steeped in  our  own
waste, like rats who have fallen into a latrine and are slowly drowning. Our
brains are gangrenous from breathing our own carbon dioxide.
     Dönitz: You are a hero  of the Reich  and the Führer himself  has  been
informed  of  your brilliant  success!  Would  you  mind heading  south  and
attacking the convoy  at such  and such coordinates? P.S.  please limit  the
length of your messages.
     Bischoff: Actually, I could use a vacation, but sure, what the heck.
     Bischoff (a week later): Nailed about  half of that convoy for you. Had
to surface  and  engage a  pesky destroyer with  the  deck gun. This  was so
utterly suicidal, they didn't expect it. As  a consequence  we blew them  to
bits. Time for a nice vacation now.
     Dönitz:  You are now  officially  the  greatest U boat commander of all
time. Return to Lorient for that well deserved R & R.
     Bischoff: Actually I had in mind a Caribbean vacation. Lorient is  cold
and bleak at this time of year.
     Dönitz: We have not heard from you in two days. Please report.
     Bischoff: Found a nice secluded  harbor with a white sand  beach. Would
rather  not  specify coordinates  as  I no longer trust security of  Enigma.
Fishing is great.  Am working on my tan. Feeling  somewhat better.  Crew  is
most grateful.
     Dönitz:  Günter, I  am willing to overlook  much from you, but even the
Supreme  Commander in  Chief must answer  to his  superiors. Please end this
nonsense and return home.
     U 691: This is  Oberleutnant zur  See Karl Beck, second in command of U
691. Regret to  inform  you that  KL Bischoff  is in  poor  health.  Request
orders. P.S. He does not know I am sending this message.
     Dönitz: Assume command.  Return, not to Lorient, but to  Wilhelmshaven.
Take care of Günter.
     Beck: KL Bischoff refuses to relinquish command.
     Dönitz: Sedate him and get him back here, he will not be punished.
     Beck:  Thank  you  on behalf of  me and the crew.  We are underway, but
short of fuel.
     Dönitz:  Rendezvous  with  U  413  [a  milchcow]  at   such  and   such
     Now more people come into the room: a wizened  rabbi; Dr. Alan Mathison
Turing;  a big man  in a  herringbone tweed suit  whom  Waterhouse remembers
vaguely as an Oxford don; and some of the Naval intelligence fellows who are
always  hanging  around Hut  4.  Chattan  calls  the meeting  to  order  and
introduces  one of  the  younger men, who stands up  and gives  a  situation
     "U  691,  a  Type   IXD/42  U  boat  under   the  nominal  command   of
Kapitänleutnant Günter Bischoff, and the acting command of Oberleutnant  zur
See Karl Beck, transmitted an Enigma message to U boat Command at 2000 hours
Greenwich  time.  The  message  states  that,  three  hours  after sinking a
Trinidadian  merchantman, U 691 torpedoed  and sank a  Royal  Navy submarine
that  was picking up survivors.  Beck has  captured two of  our men:  Marine
Sergeant Robert Shaftoe, an American, and Lieutenant Enoch Root, ANZAC."
     "How much  do  these  men know?"  demands  the  don,  who  is making  a
stirringly visible effort to sober up.
     Chattan fields the question: "If Root and  Shaftoe divulged  everything
that  they  know,  the  Germans  could infer that we were  making  strenuous
efforts to conceal the existence of an extremely valuable  and comprehensive
intelligence source."
     "Oh, bloody hell," the don mumbles.
     An extremely  tall, lanky, blond civilian, the crossword puzzle  editor
of one of the London newspapers currently on loan to Bletchley Park, hustles
into the room and apologizes for being late. More than half of the people on
the Ultra Mega list are now in this room.
     The young naval analyst continues. "At 2110, Wilhelmshaven replied with
a  message instructing OL Beck to interrogate  the prisoners immediately. At
0150, Beck replied with a message  stating that in his opinion the prisoners
belonged to some sort of special naval intelligence unit."
     As  he speaks, carbon copies of  the fresh message  decrypts are  being
passed round to all the tables. The crossword puzzle editor studies his with
a tremendously furrowed brow. "Perhaps you covered this before I arrived, in
which  case  I  apologize,"   he  says.  "but  where  does  the  Trinidadian
merchantman come in to all of this?"
     Chattan silences Waterhouse with a look, and answers: "I'm not going to
tell  you." There is  appreciative  laughter all  around, as  if he had just
uttered a bon mot at a dinner party. "But Admiral Dönitz, reading these same
messages, must be just as confused as  you  are. We should like to  keep him
that way."
     "Datum 1: He knows a  merchantman  was sunk,"  pipes up Turing, ticking
off points on his fingers.  "Datum 2: He knows a Royal Navy submarine was on
the scene a few hours later, and was also sunk. Datum 3: He knows two of our
men  were  pulled  out  of the  water,  and  that they  are probably in  the
intelligence business, which is a rather broad categorization as far as I am
concerned. But he  cannot necessarily  draw any inferences, based upon these
extremely  terse  messages,  about  which  vessel  the  merchantman  or  the
submarine our two men came from."
     "Well, that's  obvious,  isn't it?"  says  Crossword Puzzle. "They came
from the submarine."
     Chattan responds only with a Cheshire grin.
     "Oh!" says Crossword Puzzle. Eyebrows go up all around the room.
     "As Beck continues to send messages  to Admiral Dönitz, the  likelihood
increases that Dönitz  will  learn  something  we don't want him  to  know,"
Chattan says.  "That  likelihood  becomes a  virtual  certainty  when U  691
reaches Wilhelmshaven intact."
     "Correction!" hollers the rabbi. Everyone is quite startled  and  there
is a long silence while the man grips the edge of  the  table with quivering
hands,  and rises precariously  to his  feet. "The  important  thing is  not
whether  Beck  transmits  messages!  It  is  whether Dönitz  believes  those
     "Hear, hear! Very astute!" Turing says.
     "Quite  right!  Thank you for that  clarification, Herr  Kahn," Chattan
says.  "Pardon  me  for  just  a moment," says  t