Just Enough Power - 9

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Simon assumed the room was bugged, possibly under micro-cam surveillance as well. His anger was mounting, but he kept his breathing steady, making the sounds of a sleeping man. Under the coverlet, he gripped the phone that Shiowshu Chen had slipped into his lunch, considering what to do with it. No, that wasn't really true. He already knew what he was going to do; it was just a question of taking that step. Once he turned it on and sent a message to Lonnigan, he'd be placing himself in someone else's power, that much was certain. What was entirely uncertain was the nature of the bargain he was about to strike. The more he thought about his situation, the way he was being led around and the straws he had to clutch at, the more furious he became.

Dreams are the stepchildren of desire, Simon thought. Lying awake in the darkness of his room, he forgot where he'd first heard that phrase. Deep sleep was the product of serenity and a clear conscience.

No small part of his anger was directed at himself for his hesitation in the face of a decision. Things had been so stable in recent decades that he always got what he wanted without taking real risks. A risk-free life meant a life without fear or desires, and therefore without dreams. Since his imprisonment by Meng-Shiu, he'd been forced to realize that he'd grown soft, so pitifully soft and weak that it disgusted him. As a young man, he'd dreamed every night. His unconscious hours were full of images of power and dominion over his enemies, over his friends, over women of every color and shape - the usual simple stuff of fiery youth. Those dreams were a delight, a goad to his waking efforts.

Later, as his aspirations grew more complicated, he understood his dreams less and less, and came to resent them. Simon never doubted that his dreams were oracular, and that they contained the truths he needed to succeed. It was the confusion of them that was such an affront. He was long past forty before he came to appreciate the subtleties of reading the entrails of his own mind. It allowed him to develop his skill at seeing the hidden machinery in other men and their actions. There was no small measure of irony that he was far better at achieving the dreams of his youth once he embraced the dreams of his middle age.

After he turned eighty, when he finally knew what he wanted and how to get it, he essentially stopped dreaming. Decades went by, complacent, orderly years where he would sleep out his night hours, peaceful and uninterrupted. He'd managed to convince himself that dreams were for the young, and that he, at long last, had finally become just another old man. How could he have been so blind? Why didn't he see that his empty, blank nights were as much a message as the others?

He held the illicit cell phone and thought of the two years since Meng-Shiu took over as head of the Organization.

Just another old man? Nonsense. If he'd been more honest with himself, the truth of the situation would have been more apparent, if no more palatable. When Qing-Mei died, Simon could have seized power, but he'd spent too many years as an adviser, a lieutenant. It was the perfect role for his talents and temperament. Faced with the chance to step out of the shadows and command, his own detailed self-knowledge told him he wasn't the man to lead the Organization. Meng-Shiu had been energetic and ruthless enough to step in and consolidate control, but had been unwilling to let Simon help him run things. After just a few months, it was obvious that the Mouse was the wrong person for the job.

It took a punch to the face and a week of shitty food for him to figure out who the right person was. Simon turned on his side and brought the cell phone up so he could see the blank screen as his head rested on the pillow.

All the formal training he and Qing-Mei had given Lonnigan had been to mold her into a weapon. Even after it was obvious that she was capable of so much more, he'd allowed himself to be blinded by his prejudices and assumptions. Stupid old fool, he thought. Instead of prepping Lonnigan simply as a killer, and then as a means for his escape, he should have been prepping her to take over. All the discussions of strategy and tactics that she'd sat in on, quietly observing and asking those tricky questions of hers. She knew as much about how to run an Organization as any three of the other members of the inner circle; why hadn't he thought of this sooner?

Because she's a woman, he told himself, and you are just as much an idiot as Meng-Shiu. You're just more polite about it.

Fine, it was a mistake. Now what? They hadn't captured her, and she hadn't come in on her own, either hot or cold. She had to be planning something. It was unlikely that she'd just walked away, not with the bulk of her retirement money wrapped up in Organization accounts. Gone freelance? Eventually, but if he knew Lonnigan, she was getting ready to come in here to tear the place apart in a rescue attempt, and probably so she could kill Meng-Shiu as well. Killing the little shit was fine with Simon, but did Lonnigan see the alternative to destroying everything? Could he make her see it before she set her plans in motion, whatever they were? But how? None of the message codes he'd set up with her covered this kind of complexity.

The phone was certainly tapped; voice and datastream were compromised. As soon as he turned it on, they'd be tracking him. Still, whatever he was going to do, he had to do it soon. She could be on her way even now, he thought.

Like as in a dream, the solution came to him. He smiled to himself and turned the phone on. When it established a connection with the network, he logged onto one of his dummy e.mail accounts. With his teeth bared in the darkness, he started composing his message.

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  1. Can't wait to see the message. The rabbit hole keeps getting deeper, the plot thickens, and so on. This has the feel of a really good Hong Kong sci-fi gun-fu movie.

  2. Valerie - I don't know if you coined "gun-fu" yourself or not, but it is an awesome, amazing descriptor!

    Another excellent scene, waiting to see how the House you're slowly building will be built. Can't wait!

    *cough*Graphic Novel*cough*

  3. I've been happily reading along since you started this serial and I must say, this is one of your best posts ever! Such eloquent language about dreams and dreaming...wow! Online fiction readers tend to be silent admirers (in general), but I wanted to step out of the shadows to let you know that we _are_ here and in love with your work!

  4. Thanks for reading and commenting, guys. I'm glad you're enjoying it!

    According to my outline, things get a lot faster and uglier for everyone involved before we reach the end of the ride.


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