|[Ben]:||Some scenes from The Big U ||Discuss This [2 comments so far] View Comments|
|I'm rereading this for the umpteenth time.|
|The driver was young, a philosophy Ph.D. only two years out of the Big U. He obviously knew Virgil was asking him to commit an illegal act. "Give me a rational reason to dump my cement down that hole," he demanded. |
Virgil thought it over. "The reasons are very unusual, and if I were to explain them, you would only be justified in thinking I was crazy."
"Which doesn't give me my rational reason."
"True," admitted Virgil. "However, let's not forget the con- ventional view of craziness. Our media are filled with images of the crazy segment of society as being an exceptionally dangerous, unpredictable group. Look at Hinckley! Watch any episode of T. J. Hooker! So if you thought I was crazy, the reaction consistent with your social training would be to do as I say in order to preserve your own safety."
"That would be true with your run-of-the-mill truck driver," said the truck driver after agonized contemplation, "who tends to be an M.A. in sociology or something. But I can't make an excuse based on failure to think independently of the media."
"True. Follow me." Virgil walked across the HWA, leading the truck driver over to the heavy door that led into the Refuse Area. Here he paused, allowing the truck driver to notice the long red streaks on the floor. Virgil then opened the door and pointed at the nine bloody corpses, which he had dragged there to get them off the platform. "Having seen the remains of several savagely murdered people, you might conclude that my showing them to you so dramatically constituted a nonverbal threat. You might then decide—" but the truck driver had already decided, and was running for the controls at the back of the truck. The concrete was down the hole in no time. The truck driver did not even wait to be given an official American Megaversity voucher.
|He began scaling the emergency ladder on the shaft wall. When he got to thirteen, he pounded the wall switch and the doors slid open. Seeing him jump through the aperture onto thirteen, I began to follow him up the ladder, not really thinking about what I'd do when I arrived. The two adjacent elevators began to head down, and as theypassed, someone on a roof fired off a wild shot in my direction. A tremendous roar rang up and down the shaft. It came in three bursts, and not until the third one did I realize it was machine-gun fire. I had been dimly aware of it—"Oh, that's a machine gun being fired"—but it was not for a few moments that I comprehended that machine guns were in use at my institution of higher learning. There were also three WHAMs, and then silence.|
| "We're okay unless they have something like a hand grenade or satchel charge they can drop down this central well," said Krupp. "Hold it right there, son! That's right! Keep those paws in the air! Say, I know you." |
We had surprised Casimir Radon on a landing. He merely stared at S. S. Krupp's AK-47, dumbfounded.
"Let's all hold onto our pants for a second and ask Casimir what he's up to," Krupp suggested.
"Well," said Casimir, taking off his glacier glasses to see us better in the dim stairwell. "I was going to visit Sarah. Things are getting pretty wild now, you know. I guess you do know," he concluded, looking again at the assault rifle.
"Physics problem:" said Krupp, "how far does a hand grenade fall in the seven seconds between handle release and boom?"
"Well, air resistance makes that a toughie. It's pretty asymmetrical, and it would probably tumble, which makes the differential equation a son-of-a-bitch to solve. You'd have to use a numerical method, like…"
"Estimate, son! Estimate!"
"Eight hundred feet."
"No problem. But what if they counted to three? How far in four seconds?"
"Sixteen times four…two hundred fifty-six feet."
"If they count to five?"
"Two seconds… sixty-four feet."
"That's terrible. That's six stories. That would be about the sixth floor, which is where we make the run into the lobby. Do you think they'd be dumb enough to pull the pin and count to five?"
"Not with a Soviet grenade."
"If I'm not mistaken, sir," said Casimir, "they all have impact fuses on them anyway. So it'd go off on six in any case."
"Oh. Well…what the hell?" said Krupp, and started to run down the stairs again.
"Wait!" I said. Krupp stopped on the next landing. "You don't want to go up there," I told Casimir.
"Yeah. If you think it's wild down there, you should see thirteen. It's wilder than a cat on fire, thirteen. Those people are irrational," said Krupp.
"Are you going to stop me by force?" asked Casimir.
"Well, anyone traveling with S. S. Krupp today is a prime target, so I couldn't justify that," said Krupp.
"Then I'm going," said Casimir, and resumed his climb.
"Let's get a move on. Let's build up a good head of steam here so we can charge right through the danger zone at the bottom. I think the twenty-third psalm is in order."
Reluctantly, I left Casimir to his own dreams and we began to charge down the steps side by side, crossing paths at each turn, listening upward. I saw a 7 painted on the wall. We were practically diving down the last flight when I heard someone yell "Five!" We were on the level now, sprinting for a door with a small rectangular window and a sign reading E TOWER MAIN LOBBY.
"Did he say five, or fire?" Krupp wondered as we neared the door. We punched it open together and were in the lobby. And there, waiting for us, were three Crotobaltislavonians with UZIs. "Professionals, I see," said Krupp. He had gone through on the hinged side of the door and now pushed it all the way around so that it was flat against the lobby wall, where he leaned against it. Back in the stairwell there was a series of metallic clanks, like something heavy bouncing off an iron pipe. Having seen many TV shows involving foreigners with submachine guns, I had already raised my hands; I now took the opportunity to clap them over my ears. Krump. Bits of fire shot out the door at incredible speed. The three janitors just seemed to melt and soften, sagging to the floor quietly.
|For the first time, we heard shouting and shooting from the main hallway which led to the Cafeteria. "Don't look forward to fighting my way through whatever that sounds like," said Krupp. "Shit. Shit in a brown bag. Great fucking ghost of Rommel," I said. "That thing is a tank." |
Indeed, a small tank was approaching our location. We retreated.
Some scenes from The Big U