CHAPTER 23.5 – INITIATION
Liberty knew that if she lost her husband now, she would have lost the love of her life forever. It seemed likely MacGregor’s people were onto them. So Tim cut two fake IDs and dropped the pair off by the North Central Expressway. If they had counted the windows of just the facing exterior they would have seen six hundred and forty-eight panes of glass in total: a hive. The light was just strong enough so the ugly clouds were reflected there.
The foyer was plain and empty: crisp white and red walls and carpets, several Party logos emphasizing blues. Identification cards presented them as Slippery Comerica, and her son, Constituent. Security took them through to Chester Wobblegock, an explosion of random hair, eyes and teeth, who in turn took them through to a rear office. The room wasn’t large. Filing cabinets took up the back and sides. Wobblegock’s desk was glass and marble and a velvet red curtain hung behind it. He gestured the woman and child to sit.
“It’s a very exciting time for us here at the Republican Party Office,” said Wobblegock. “What with the President accused of breaking regulations on holiday spending and the announcement of our new candidate, Axel America. Local boy, perhaps you know him.”
Liberty changed the subject. She told Wobblegock America ought to break from Mexico entirely, via a process of laser fracking along the border. “It wouldn’t be dangerous, everyone knows the Earth is flat,” she said.
“So, what are your reasons for wanting to volunteer with the Republican Party?” asked Wobblegock.
“We want to make a difference,” said Liberty.
“Yeah, and to fight all those communists,” said Constitution. “I want to hit them. Punch them back to Mother Russia!”
Wobblegock laughed. “Unfortunately son, you’re too young to vote. But we could use spunk like yours.”
Liberty gazed into his face, heavy with crow’s feet, chin extension and wank lines. She’d have torn him apart with her nails, but it looked like someone already tried. She steadied herself. “I try to raise him right. He has a paper route so he’d be perfect for handing out flyers. And I could make calls and bake buns for the campaigners.”
“That sounds great!” said Wobblegock. “Where’s the boy’s father at?”
“Oh, he’s off fighting a war,” said Liberty. That much was true; always true.
“If it were up to me, Mrs. Comerica, you’d be in,” said Wobblegock with a rub of his chin. “We have an intensive screening process in selecting our volunteers.”
“Bring it on,” said Liberty. “I’ll wrassle with immigrants, even shoot a few if you know where to bury the bodies.” She laughed, and so did he, and Constitution, and they laughed and laughed and laughed.
“Alright,” said Chester Wobblegock as he dried a tear from his eye with the side of his thumb. He got up and turned off the light switch, then returned to his desk. He tugged at the curtain cord. It rolled back to reveal another room, endless in size, black and cold and seeping into their souls. Chester was gone.
“Mr. Wobblegock, are you under your desk?” asked Liberty.
“Look Mom, it’s Doctor Who!” said Constitution.
The desk banged suddenly, and a scream came from the floor.
Then two tall men shuffled forward out of blackness. Their legs were clad in heavy red fiberglass tubing decorated with blue stars and white stripes. They seemed to have run out of material over the crotch, exposing shabby white briefs. Their arms flailed in pink-scarlet rubber and they wore boisterous shoulder-pads also of fiberglass, colored oak. Their faces were covered with scarlet leather gimp masks several sizes too big, so when they came to speak the bottoms of their faces flapped as they spoke.
“Oh for goodness sake Wobblegock!” said one of the men. “He’s banged his head under the table again.”
Sewn onto each mask were two ping-pong balls and four pieces of string, so they looked like prawns and these bobbed as they bent down to pick up Chester Wobblegock. On their heads were red cones, bearing Roman numerals: I and II. Underneath, glued cartoon eagles posed atop cartoon elephants, cut out in tinfoil. Hats I and II fell off as they brought the man to his feet.
“These are the Inquisitors of the Triangle!” said Wobblegock. Blood streamed from his head. He wore the fiberglass armor, and a cone hat identifying him as Inquisitor III, but was missing his pants.
“I announce the Inquisitors of the Triangle!” insisted II.
Chester Wobblegock motioned Liberty and Constitution to follow, into the blackness. Without provocation a net was cast over them, and they were pulled along by II and III. A hundred yards into the back a flickering light illuminated a too-faded sign hung askew on a battered metal post. The hall was filled with busts of occult scholars, and inscriptions quoted their curses of eugenicide on all humanity, in Latin. These sat on pedestals and pillars and randomly around the metal floor. They crossed under an archway of chipped white paint and the terrain became more like an Iron Age mining settlement hit by a nuclear bomb. The net hastened Liberty and Constitution past the face of an angry old God jailed in the shape of the rock for all eternity.
Then they were swept into a vast coliseum full of men in white cloaks and loose gimp masks. Deathly quiet until now, the hundreds roared from the balconies and got up from their chairs, waving their pickaxes and javelin spears.
“We have to separate you now, but it’s routine,” said Inquisitor III, putting his pants on as the spectators laughed.
The net was removed and Liberty taken from her son to the source of the light. It was a black and white film screened against the wall over a stone lion broken in three places. The film showed a million troops with horses and flags.
Constitution was taken to a cage on the other side of the room. Between him and his mother a torpedo raised from the base of the floor, a twenty foot high bullet.
Liberty was caged too, and their cages rolled to the rocket and attached each to one side. The three inquisitors stood, their silhouettes lined up in the light as the audience roared once more. II went to the front of the mob and came back with barcode scanners for the prisoners.
“Place your hands on the GOP-E-meter.” boomed Inquisitor I.
They did as asked and ran their hands into razor sharp blades. Liberty and Constitution both screamed as the knives cut into their fingers and they pulled away quickly. The crowd laughed, then were instructed by Inquisitor I to be silent. “People are still working,” he told them. “Applicants, hold the device as you answer our questions.”
“My bloods all over it,” said Liberty, her hand coated in red fluid. “Are you going to analyze it?”
“No no. That’s just a standard sacrifice,” said Inquisitor I. “You know, for fun,” said Inquisitor II.
“We shall ask you a series of questions,” said Wobblegock, aka Inquisitor III. “These will determine your suitability as a Republican Party volunteer. Failure to answer correctly will result in banishment. Slippery Comerica: you are working late in the office with access to party funds. You find a woman outside screaming. She says she has been raped, by her hermaphrodite mother. She may miscarry and wants money for an abortion. You have access to party funds and your own wages. Can you help her? She may die.”
Liberty steeled herself. “No. The woman has clearly targeted our offices and is a deviant, possibly a Muslim, but definitely part of a union.”
“Correct!” said Inquistor III. “Well done, little lady.” He cleared his throat and walked around the side of the torpedo. “Constitutent Comerica: you like guns don’t you?”
“Yes sir,” smiled Constitution.
“A bill is passing through congress for a nuclear powered sidearm,” continued Inquisitor III. “This sounds a bit dangerous, doesn’t it?”
“Not really Sir,” smiled Constitution, “It’s passing through congress, so it must be safe.”
“Good boy,” said Inquisitor III.
Inquisitor II stepped forward to speak then, but a white cloaked gimp stepped out from the mob.
“Now, the gladiator trials,” he roared. “Only one of them lives!”
Inquisitor I held up his hand. He was stern and rasping. “Settle down, Rockefeller. This is the volunteer recruitment interview.”
The one called Rockefeller looked around himself, and then left the room, with thirty others following.
“You want Room 501 down the hall,” called Inquisitor I after them.
Inquisitor II pulled a card from his cloak and peered in through the bars of the pen Liberty shared with the nuclear warhead. “Oil is found underneath your house by researchers from ‘Good Oil.’ Give me three reasons why you should move house.”
“The state will see that I’ll be compensated in gold,” said Liberty. She was keeping her head up, concealing any stress or guilt. “Good Oil are a party sponsor and unlikely to invest in corrupt foreign governments like Lebanon or Somalia. And thirdly climate science is nonsense. There is no risk. We have to drill as much as we can to expose their lies.”
The crowd applauded, but Inquisitor II spoke louder. “Explain your answer further, Mrs. Comerica.”
“The Republican Party has always looked after the environment in the past,” said Liberty. “There couldn’t be anything wrong with more drilling.”
“Well done,” said Inquisitor II. He whipped his head around to the boy. “Constitutent: a friend in school tries to kiss you.”
“Reuben?” he asked earnestly.
“What is the appropriate reaction to this boy kissing you?” asked Inquisitor II.
“Why I’d report Reuben,” said Constitution. “They have camps for fixing brains. It’s something like stem cell research isn’t it?”
There was some clapping then a sudden mass intake of breath.
“Oh god no,” said Inquisitor II. “’It’s like stem cell research?’”
“We can’t do it,” said Inquisitor III. “Electrocute a boy?”
“What do you mean electrocute him?” asked Liberty.
“There has to be a forfeit,” said Inquisitor I. “But worry not. He gave the correct answer before the very incorrect one. Constitutent, your final question: you get free tickets to a Christian rock band, no questions asked. What do you–?”
Constitution blew out a raspberry. “Don’t give me that Stryper-are-great crap. Christian rock is the worst and rock music aids ISIS.”
“Congratulations,” said Inquisitor I, his mask flapping with what seemed to be a smile. “You’re now a member of the GOP. We recognize the equality of child labor.”
The boy threw his hands in the air. “GOP, makes me excited, I want to wee!” He was dancing, pushing Moonwalk moves, and strutting into the middle of the cage with pelvic thrusts. “Republicans forever, G.O.P. in leather! Huh, haha, huh, haha!”
Inquisitor I turned to Liberty. “Slippery Comerica: final question. God made the world in six days. But why did he make slaves?”
The threat of the forfeit loomed over her. “Women are weak so they needed help looking after the home, and t-the slaves, they were always at risk of getting eaten by d-dragons.”
The lights came on all around the room. The crowds applauded until the moment they were freed from their cages. The missile opened, ejecting fireworks: Catherine Wheels; Roman Candles and rockets and showers of burning confetti. The Inquisitors raised cone-hats on both their heads.
“Welcome to the Republican Party,” said Chester Wobblegock.