In Part I of the story, Avery "Wort" McEwan had decided that he needed a high powered weapon to destroy Canute, the computer network that kept such accurate, deadly track of its citizens. To find this weapon, Wort needed to speak with The Juggler.
Something about colored balls circling in the air attracts children. Whether the rise and fall of colored spheres resembles the circling of heavenly bodies, or a subconscious symbol of freedom, The Juggler used its pull to make a living. He had learned his skill in a circus, where he'd worked until they discovered his drinking problem. He was also black, and hadn't cloistered, which made him a threat to the regime.
Street corner dwellers were viewed with great suspicion and an uneasy tension existed between The Juggler and police. But while they could have easily arrested him under the antiloitering law The Juggler was too well loved for the family-oriented regime to do away with. He would arrive at a spot abruptly, lay down his hat and begin tossing three, four, then five brightly colored balls into the air. Children and their parents would gather and begin tossing coins into his hat before the police could close in. He played the crowd as well as he practiced his trade, choosing the right moment to disappear also. Their coins allowed him to make a precarious living. He was also a major information source for renegades. He knew where to get weapons, armor-piercing ones.
Wort spotted The Juggler at C-4, Sector 7. He drove the trackmobile into an open lot and parked, reminding himself of the danger. Instead of approaching The Juggler, Wort circled, passing in his view and stopping at a family park across the street. After casing the police, Wort sat on a bench across the street from the brightly colored Juggler, and took out his copy of The New Zion Times.
A red ball tossed twice, behind his back, acknowledged Wort's arrival. Wort focused on the newspaper. The front page had a large story about the discovery of a still in Sector 6, the latest victory in the war against alcohol. Pictures of the criminals revealed a woman and two men, none of whom Wort recognized.
The Juggler approached Wort, accompanied by a bevy of children. "Hallelujah!" he yelled.
"Jesus loves you," Wort replied. The police stirred, but remained at their posts across the street.
"What dost thou seek?"
"He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through."
"I need something high powered," replied Wort. "Something that will pierce iron."
"The ice cream man hath what you seek," The Juggler said.
"Who?" asked Wort, glancing up. His glance reminded him that in the unspoken order of the age, The Juggler had lightened his skin. But the job had been botched, making him look like a circus freak. Wort dropped his eyes to the newspaper again.
"The ice cream man. He hath you seek. You must deal with him."
"How much?" Wort asked.
"Fifty Saint Pauls for what you seek," The Juggler responded. "Bless the Lord!"
Wort put the paper down and fished in his pocket for change, hiding his surprise. "That is a large sum." The agents began to cross the street.
"What you ask for is rare" The Juggler replied, tossing a ball high into the air to upset the rhythmic motion of his circle.
"Can I not get one for less dear a cost?" Wort asked.
"Only Inside," The Juggler replied, "but you don't want to go Inside. Away now—here come the police."
Wort stood up and bowed, then dropped a coin into The Juggler's hat. "God bless. The ice cream man cometh at dusk."
"Bless the Lord," Wort replied, then moved away.
"Thank Jesus!" The Juggler said loudly, then turned and recrossed the street. The children followed their Pied Piper and the police hesitated, then returned to their initial positions, allowing Wort to leave unchallenged.
Wort returned to the trackmobile and checked his timepiece. He had enough time to visit his uncle and seek advice. He couldn't come up with one Saint Paul, let alone fifty, and he was loath to return to his brother Gueuzers and ask for that much money.
As he entered the autobahn track, he read a giant billboard unconsciously.
Cast thy burden upon the Lord and he shall sustain thee.
Psalms 55: 22
As his trackmobile accelerated, Wort watched a man pulling over in front of the flashing lights of a Bureau agent. The man looked stressed, ready to break, his face wrinkled into a frightened frown. That was how they broke you, Wort reminded himself. They kept the level of tension high, knowing that eventually you would break. If you couldn't relax, they eventually wore you down and used your first evasive move as an excuse to flame you.
Unlike the man he'd just past, Wort's uncle had taught him to hide his emotion, especially the anger. Bureau agents could spot anger in a rock.
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Ten minutes later, Wort found himself walking through a Burn Zone toward his uncle's home. Uncle Theo had survived the Cleansing by preparing for it. He lived in the mountains and had begun to dig in years before the Cleansing began. By the time the regime chose the area as a Burn Zone, Uncle Theo had built a self-sustaining bunker deep enough underground to withstand Centigrade 363. He had survived on bottled oxygen for weeks, while the conflagration roared above him. Uncle Theo had even retrieved some of the vestiges of their unclean society before agents had cleaned up: undesirable books and videos that heíd brought to his bunker.
Wort heard the buzz of a tracker craft overhead and stepped under a nearby overhang. His uncle had planned the routes well, in order to keep the brewers meetings clandestine. Once the craft had disappeared, Wort made his way to the hidden entrance nearby.
"You want a beer?" his uncle asked as soon as he'd entered the underground home. Wort hid the chill that raced through him, and asked, "What do you got?"
His uncle reached into the refrigerator. "I called this one Electric Dave Amber Ale," he said. "The recipe is from one of our first heroes."
"I like amber ales," Wort said.
"This one is nice, just enough caramel flavor, and just enough bitterness to...but forget that and come see what Iíve done!"
His uncle led Wort toward the center of the home. "Let me show you what I did to the brewery.'
Wort walked toward the center of the house, marveling as he always did how much room his uncle had carved out of rock and earth.
"Remember the problem I had with that old pot leaking around the spigot?" Wort's uncle asked.
"Yeah," Wort said.
"Well, I got some scrap 304 stainless and made this kettle." He kicked open the door to the brewery, and proudly pointed to the stove, where a 17 gallon kettle sat.
"Where did you get the metal?" Wort asked.
"Trade secret," his uncle said. "I wouldn't want to get you into any more trouble than you're already in. But that's not the big news. The big news is down there."
Wort followed his uncle down, to the second level, where the brewing took place. "One more door," his uncle said, and growing even more visibly excited, he lifted a hatch door in the floor. The smell of fermenting sugars emerged. "My new room."
Wort hesitated as his uncle disappeared down the hatch. "Come on down!" his uncle yelled.
He descended the fire station style steps, and found himself in an entirely new room, which was filled with open and enclosed, roughly welded tanks. "The last stage of my gravity powered system," his uncle said proudly. "And look, a drainage pipe that leads all the way to the edge of the cliff!"
"Tell me about Dad, Uncle Theo," Wort said, once they were seated among the fermenters. His uncle had aged, and often rambled on with the same stories, but Wort had learned a lot from him. He was still alive thanks to his uncle.
"He was our hero," Uncle Theo said. "He was a teacher before he began to brew. He got me into the profession."
Wort knew this but remained silent, caught up in the stories again. "I remember when he got caught in the science lab with one of his teaching assistants. He used to sleep at the school he was so dedicated. The students loved him.
"Well that was the last straw. They had already discovered the yeast bank the kids kept going for him. Once the incident with the TA came up, they threatened to file charges, so he quit. But the students sure loved him. I think that's why they really got rid of him. He was too popular.
"You didn't go to school long enough, so you couldn't know how they used the institution," his uncle said, abruptly changing time periods. "It was the perfect setup, a captive audience, a benevolent dictatorship and a primary goal of obedience training. Education was secondary. The problem was that they would rather tell youth what to do rather than guide them to reaching their own conclusions. It's easier.
"Once they got tv piped into our classrooms, and anesthetized everyone with special effects, greater control wasn't far behind. The regime made their pact with the fundamentalists, and began to pipe in their law and order doctrine. They decorated their obedience package with Christ as the fancy ribbon."
Wort's uncle stopped to drink deeply from the beautifully colored amber ale he held. "That was just one sign," he continued. "They also began closing the school's trade shops. Wood, metal, ceramic workshops were shut down so they could open 'Communications studios'. Of course they kept food service programs open so we could produce better hamburger flippers, but schools stopped developing skills that emphasized self reliance. Instead, students learned how to manage.
"I remember the very day the campaign against alcohol became heated. Your father called me, furious. You had come home from school with literature on alcoholism, and a contract requesting that he and your mother not drink for one whole month. He was a brewer! Well, after screaming at me for still being associated with schools, he went in and complained. That earned him a place on their list. That was the beginning of the end for him."
His uncle stopped talking, finished his beer, and turned to Wort. "So to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? I didn't expect you until the weekend."
"I need to go Inside," Wort replied.
His uncle didn't respond for a long time, then finally said, "I knew you'd get into trouble with The Gueuzers. They're a wild bunch."
"It's not them. They know nothing."
"Who are you running from?"
"I'm going in to get something."
"I can't tell you."
"Then why are you telling me where you're going?"
"It's for your own good, Uncle Theo, trust me."
His uncle sat quietly for another long moment, then said, "So you want me for my dollars—old money."
"You have old dollars," Wort said.
"You can't go Inside. I can't let you do that."
"Everyone who couldn't deal with the regime was sent Inside or to the colonies. If they found out where you were from here, they'd make a Bureau agent look civilized."
"I have to go," Wort said.
"Not with my blessing," his uncle said.
"With your money?" Wort asked. His uncle was about to refuse, and Wort said, "We live with the fear of death every day, don't we?"
"But you've learned to operate here," his uncle said. "In there you'd be a sitting target. You know nothing about the Inside culture."
"They like money don't they?"
"Of course. And they'd jump you, take it, and kill you."
Uncle Theo was speaking with entrenched obstinacy, so Wort dropped the subject. He would rob the money from him if he had to. “ I gotta go,” Wort said.
“So soon?” his uncle asked.
“Yeah,” Wort replied. “I gotta meet somebody.”
“You got a girlfriend?” his uncle said.
Wort reddened, surprised, but said nothing.
“I can tell,” he said. “You’re at ease. How’s your rent-a-wife?
"You’re unfair,” Wort replied.
"Let me get you some cash," Uncle Theo said.
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“That one will go down in the history books,” Elizabeth said, fingering the hair on Wort’s chest.
“What?” Wort asked.
“The way you made love that time,” Elizabeth replied. “It was historic.”
“In what history book can I read about it?” Wort asked.
“My personal one,” Elizabeth said.
“Can I get a copy?” Wort said.
"No, you're making the story."
"Well, I can't think of a better way," Wort said, then blurted, "I'm gonna miss you."
“Where are you going?” Elizabeth asked.
Wort cursed himself silently. He hadn’t wanted to alert Elizabeth to his plan, but as he grew closer to her, he found himself opening up more. It was involuntary, the words forcing themselves through the protective coating he’d built. “How did you find this place?” he asked, waving at the hidden glade where they lay. “It’s ideal.”
“Tell me where you’re going,” she said, rolling up against him.
Elizabeth grabbed his arm, unable to hide her shock. “Why?” she asked.
“I need to get something.”
“Something I can’t get out here.”
Elizabeth was silent for a while, then said, “I’m going with you.”
Wort looked at her, smiling at the suggestion. “It’s too dangerous for you," he said. "I’d never let you go.”
“If you die, I want to join you,” she said carefully.
“I won’t die. I know what I’m doing.”
“When are you planning to go?”
“I can get you old money,” she said.
“I have it,” Wort replied.
“How are you getting in?”
“Through the gates.”
“The same way.”
“Wrong,” Elizabeth said. “They do face scans of everyone coming out. You’ll be captured.”
Wort didn’t say anything, surprised at Elizabeth’s knowledge.
“I know a Coyote that can get you out,” she said, and Wort started. “A safe one.”
“You’ll help me?” Wort asked.
“For a price,” she replied.
“What price?” he asked.
“I go with you.”
By Bill Metzger
Copyright 1994, Southwest Brewing News