Chess was back in his military uniform, holding an old flash drive that the dissidents had given him. His orders were to download any information about the location of their missing brothers in arms.
Once out of sight of their camp, he slipped his old I.D. badge out of his pocket and set it down on a rock. He was scared, yes. And he desperately wanted this plan to work, he thought, picking up another small rock. But there was no way that he was going to jeopardize his family’s stipend by being recognized out here. With the rock, he smashed the microchip inside the badge. Then he straightened, and continued on in the direction the dissidents had told him to go.
After about half an hour, he saw the military base. It was a small outpost, he realized. That might be a good thing. As he drew closer, he forced his steps to slow, and tried to calm his breathing. He refused to think about what would happen if he were caught: what would happen to his friends, to his family, and to himself. His words to Ileana had been brave, but he was feeling less and less of that courage as he got closer to almost certain doom. And the voice of failure in his head was loud.
Chess took a deep breath and tried to silence the barrage of doubts. The voice seemed to be telling him that he was too much of an idiot to accomplish this mission. Maybe someone else could do it, but not him. He could almost hear it shouting, “What do you really think you’re gonna do in there?”
Overwhelmed, he stopped… closed his eyes, and sent out a prayer for help. Then he opened his eyes, surprised at the reflexive action. But, he knew, he had never forgotten the idea of the goddess… or something out there; he had just let it fade into the background while other things claimed his attention. His brain seemed a little clearer now. “I’m going to try,” he said, and resumed walking.
The men at the guard post met him as he walked up. “Here temporarily for special I.T. stuff,” Chess explained. “Uh, sorry, my I.D.’s kinda scratched up. Might not work.” The thudding of his heart seemed to make his hand shake as he raised the badge.
One of the guards gave a sarcastic-sounding laugh. “Oh, you’re real funny.” He made no move to take the badge. “I guess you already heard about us, then?” He glanced at his companion.
Chess’s mind went instantly blank. “Huh?” he asked, still holding out the I.D.
“Yeah, that’s right…” the guy groaned, waving toward a box on the side of the guard post. “Our retinal scan is broken… again. I don’t think the last guy even fixed it at all.”
Chess stared at the scanner, suddenly terrified. Somehow, he had forgotten. At the larger bases, the scans were ambient, not a clumsy machine on the wall. They didn’t even need his card to identify him, unless he was dead. The white noise in his head grew so loud, he nearly missed the next words.
“Hey, you’re an electronics guy, right? How about taking a look?”
Chess blinked at him, trying to calm himself, trying to think. And then he shook his head. “Not unless you got a req for me,” he answered, shrugging as if helpless in the face of bureaucracy.
“Oh, come on,” the guard implored. “You know how long it takes to get those requisitions signed off. I’m amazed they even got you out here in this lifetime for… what is it you’re here for?”
Chess glanced toward the scanner again. If he could at least make them think he was trying to help, he realized, they might let him through without any questions. “I could take a quick look...”
With shaky fingers, Chess opened the side panel and pushed a few buttons. They were right: it was not working. But he did find something that appeared to be a database of identification numbers. Sending another silent message toward the goddess, he selected an I.D. at random and looked into the screen. Then he stepped back and shrugged. “Fixed,” he announced, vaguely wondering who had just been reported as entering the base. “Guess you don’t get many visitors out here,” he commented, both shocked and very, very relieved at the laxness of the security.
“We’re at the end of the world,” the guard shrugged. “Like the Romans stationed on Hadrian’s wall.” Then he grinned. “Hey, thanks a lot!”
“Well, don’t get overrun by the barbarians,” Chess said, feeling sympathetic as he walked past.
Continued next page...
Satan rolled his eyes. "Have you ever tried to hurry a bureaucracy?"
On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony
On the subject of violence and war, ancient mythologies may have provided answers or at least comfort for their adherents. Joseph Campbell argues that ceremonies of sacrifice in primitive societies, besides being a bribe to an otherwise indifferent god, might also have been a way of accustoming its members to the unfairness and ultimate tragedy of the universe or nature. This might be stretching things just a little, but he does propose an interesting idea:
And I think it may be said that if one of the chief problems of man, philosophically, is that of becoming reconciled, in feeling as well as in thought, to the monstrosity of the just-so world, no more telling initiatory lesson than that of these (primitive sacrificial) rites could have been imagined... In the primitive ritual... what is thus revealed is not simply the monstrosity of the just-so of the world, but this just-so as a higher reality than that normally sensed by our unalerted faculties: a god-willed monstrosity in being, and retaining its form of being only because a divinity is actualizing itself in the entire display.
- The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology by Joseph Campbell
Many primitive mythologies also taught that violence in war was a fact of life, which must have been helpful to the psyches of tribal members when violence was required of them to ensure the safety of the tribe. Again, this is not the case in our society or in most of our modern religions. When, a few blogs back, I was looking up a quote from the movie Cabin in the Woods, I ran across this sentiment in an interesting if rather odd and scattered post on an unusual website:
[Quoted from Cabin in the Woods, 2012]: “Maybe that’s the way it should be, if you’ve got to kill all my friends to survive. Maybe it’s time for a change,” Marty says.
Once you begin to see the world for what it is, once you get to the depths and ask the big questions, the world begins to change. The old world, the one you knew, ends.
I would add: because that world of safety and peace never really existed except in our own minds. For some people, who have been traumatized by war or other violence, certainly, it no longer exists. I believe peaceful revolutionaries like Gandhi understood this, but we have not yet figured out how to do anything about it.
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