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1979 Crown Publishers Alongside Night Cover

Alongside Night
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 26

As soon as Dr. Merce Rampart and Dr. Martin Vreeland, closely followed by Jack Guerdon and Elliot, entered the school cafeteria — now jammed to capacity with media representatives — the photo strobes began flashing rapidly. The four took seats at a front table facing the reporters, television cameras, and hot lights. Neither the hot lights nor photo strobes were technologically necessary for good color reproduction; they were present just so everyone would know the event was important. Considerable rumbling arose as they entered — Dr. Vreeland’s face was as well known as Dr. Rampart’s was not — and Merce Rampart began waiting for strobes and noise to die down, so she could begin.

Mr. Harper guided Lorimer to a seat in the rear, an empty seat in front of it so she could see well. After a brief discussion with Jack Guerdon, Merce Rampart had suggested Lorimer keep a low profile in case she wished to apply for Cadre status.

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” Dr. Rampart started, her voice echoing widely. “Welcome to the premier news conference of the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre. I am chairwoman of the Cadre Board of Directors, Merce Rampart.”

More rumbling and photo-flashing began as widely held opinions about Merce Rampart’s identity were shattered.

“If I may present those seated with me,” she continued over the din, “on my right is General Jack Guerdon, commander of our guerrilla forces . . . and I was able to see that you recognized a man we thought was no longer with us, on my left the esteemed Nobel laureate in economics, Dr. Martin Vreeland, with his son Elliot.”

There was heavy applause.

“If you don’t mind,” she continued, “I’ll pass on making a statement pertaining to our goals and ideas, referring you to the folios handed out earlier. After statements from General Guerdon, Dr. Vreeland, and Elliot, I’ll open up the conference to questions. General?”

Guerdon cleared his throat. “I’ll start with our intelligence on the military situation in the nation. You already know the extent of the military strikes that have been occurring since reveille this morning. What you may not know — since there has been no official confirmation of the rumors — is that simultaneous to these strikes, officers at about 20 percent of military installations — almost half at Marine bases — began immediate executions of strikers.”

It was almost a minute before it was quiet enough for Guerdon to continue.

“Reports have it,” he went on, “that 68 percent of officers pressing such executions have themselves been assassinated, the remainder successfully fleeing. Strikers are in present control of about a fifth of military communications, ground and air transport, naval vessels, ammunition dumps, and fuel depots, another two fifths being sabotaged. The computer networks of the Tactical Air Command are hopelessly fouled. The Strategic Air Command seems unique in that its personnel have refused to leave the government without nuclear retaliatory capability.

“Sympathy strikes paralyze the National Guards in thirty-three states. Few reservists have successfully been called up. And the most remarkable thing about all this revolutionary activity,” said Guerdon, “is that we’ve had nothing to do with it.”

There was considerable mixed reaction — noise, angry shouts, and laughter — from the press.

“Now,” Guerdon continued. “Our own operations and plans. First. We claim credit for the release of communications facilities last night, liberating them from statist control. Second. Cadre forces are available to communities and businesses needing help against looting and vandalism. Third. The Revolutionary Agorist Cadre became a nuclear power today, having expended four one-hundred-kiloton devices.”

Audible shock waves coursed throughout the hall.

“Only one,” Guerdon continued loudly, “was detonated, however — and that was in the Pacific, harmlessly, so that it could be recorded that we have nuclear capability. The other three devices were mere shells, without plutonium, planted at remote military sites within the U.S.S.R., China, and EUCOMTO, where civilian populations would have had time to protect themselves. We provided detailed directions on these devices’ locations to those powers’ security agencies, and presumably they have found them by now.

“We will not, of course, reveal how the devices were planted. But I think the point is clear. I am not expecting any foreign military intervention into American affairs.”

Guerdon paused to let the full impact sink in, then went on. “Domestically, we are recruiting only a small standing army — fifty-five thousand total — the first ten thousand being Cadre already called up. Forty-five thousand enlisted personnel — the cream from all services — will be hired into our three Cadre branches. Our forces will, of course, engage only in defensive actions in favor of our clients and their property. Anyone with complaints against us need only file an action with the arbiters we are submitted to.

“Most importantly, we will offer a quarter-year salary — up front, in gold — to any serviceman or woman who signs with us as a reservist, then goes home. This policy will solve half a dozen problems at once, not the least of which is need for quick injection of noninflationary capital into the economy.”

Guerdon nodded to the chairwoman that he was finished.

“Thank you, General,” she said. “Dr. Vreeland?”

Dr. Vreeland gazed out into the audience. “Most of you,” he began, “have no doubt been wondering why I am sitting here if I am dead.” He waited out the laughter. “My first duty is to explain to you that my death charade was part of a cover story I planted hoping to arrange an escape out of the country for my family.

“I had a report that the Vreeland name was on the FBI list of persons to be secretly arrested. It was my intention to avoid those arrests.” Dr. Vreeland took a breath. “My plan did not work. My wife and daughter were imprisoned in the deathtrap raided this morning, by luck or divinity taken out just before the extermination. But I still do not know where they are . . . or even if they are still alive . . . only that they have not been returned to me. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to the motives of their kidnappers.

“Let me close by saying that at the time of the arrests, neither myself nor any member of my family considered ourselves subversive. I would say, at this juncture, that I would now embrace that term heartily.”

After shattering applause had died out, Dr. Rampart turned to Elliot.

Elliot started to speak, found his throat dry, and sipped a glass of water. “Uh — there’s not much I can add to that,” he finally got out. “You’ve all seen the tapes of what happened in Cheshire. I was there. I lost my best friend there, a student from this school.” He paused to swallow. “His last act was handing out three infants, the only prisoners who survived. All I can say is, it’s up to you the sort of world they have when they grow up. If this is a revolution, then let’s not fuck it all up this time.” He paused a moment. “Uh — I guess that’s all.”

“Thank you, Elliot,” Dr. Rampart said. “I’ll open the floor to questions at this time.” She recognized Frieda Sandwell, who identified herself as representing ABC Television.

“Dr. Rampart, inasmuch as you seem at this moment to have won your revolution, would you tell us what your Cadre intends doing with millions of civil servants?”

“We don’t intend ‘doing’ anything with or to them,” she replied. “Though I regard government workers as being among the worst victims of statism — forced by destruction of market opportunities into sterile bureaucracies — the Cadre have limited resources and cannot restore overnight an economy it took the government a century to destroy. Nonetheless, we can suggest an approach by which government workers can solve their own unemployment problems.”

Sarcastically, Freida Sandwell asked, “Would you enlighten us?”

“Surely,” Dr. Rampart answered, taking the question at face value. “With the exception of those government workers who perform no marketable service — tax collectors, regulators, and so on — we are urging them to declare their agencies independent from the government, and to organize themselves into free workers’ syndicates. Shares of stock could be issued to employees and pensioners by whatever method seems fair, and the resultant joint-stock companies could then hire professional managers to place the operation on a profitable footing. I can envision this for postal workers, municipal services, libraries, universities, and public schools, et cetera. As for those civil servants whose jobs are unmarketable, I suggest that most have skills in accounting, administration, computers, law, and so forth, that readily could be adapted to market demand. There’s the idea. It’s now up to those with the necessary interests to use it or come up with something better.”

Dr. Rampart recognized Carey Sanford of Liberation. “Is the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre a friend or foe of the corporate capitalists?”

“A foe. Agorist theory recognizes that most of the evils attributed to capitalism were true of it — but caused by its historic role of private industry working hand in hand with governments. An extreme form of this is fascism.”

“But isn’t the Cadre itself a corporation?”

“Oh, my, no. We are a joint-stock company with all profits automatically reinvested to maximize operating capital — a deferred-profit venture, if you will. Corporations are creatures of the State, created by it and having two privileges that protect them from market pressures. First, corporate liability for damages to others is automatically limited by fiat; and second, responsibility is shifted away from individuals to a fictional entity. Each of the Cadre assumes full responsibility for his or her actions, though liabilities may be insured.” She saw another hand. “Yes?”

“Alan O’Neill, Time magazine. Who’ll run the highways?”

“Why ask me? I suggest you take it up with the American Automobile Association.”

Amidst laughter, Dr. Rampart recognized Halpern Sinclair of the Washington Post. “Dr. Vreeland. Does your presence here today indicate merely an alliance-of-convenience with the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre, or have you secretly been a member all along?”

“Neither one, Mr. Sinclair. Though I only came into direct contact with the Cadre this morning, I would not be sitting here were I not in agreement with the principles I have been assured the Cadre stand for.”

As Dr. Rampart recognized Waldo Hinckle of US News & World Report, who asked Guerdon a question regarding the costs of his military expansion, a reporter who had arrived late sat down on the seat in front of Lorimer, blocking her vision. She began looking around for another seat, and found one in the second row, getting up to head for it.

Guerdon filled a pipe with nonaromatic burley. “If all two million U.S. military personnel signed on with us as reservists,” he said, “it would cost us a bit over one-and-a-half billion eurofrancs this year. Add in another half billion for TacStrike — the other divisions are financially self-supporting — and our military budget this year would be somewhere around two billion eurofrancs, taking into account . . .”

A dark-suited photographer with long hair and a beard moved from his third row seat out to the aisle.

“I hadn’t realized your organization was that well-heeled,” Waldo Hinckle said.

“Mr. Hinckle,” said Dr. Rampart, “Cadre allies did well over sixty billion eurofrancs’ worth of business last year, of which the Cadre took in just under seven billion eurofrancs in payment for services rendered. I would think that the approximately 12 percent overhead we represent — ”

The bearded photographer reached into his camera, pulling out a .32 caliber automatic pistol.

Lorimer was up to the fourth row.

The gunman raised his automatic pistol toward Dr. Vreeland.

Elliot was the first to see the photographer raise the gun at his father. Everything that happened in the next second-and-a-half seemed in slow motion to him. He reached into his holster and pulled out his own pistol. It did not seem that he, himself, was doing it.

“–was not unreasonable, considering–” Dr. Rampart saw the gunman and stopped short.

The assassin now had his automatic pistol pointed directly at Dr. Vreeland. He shouted, “Death to traitors!

Elliot now had his revolver out but did not have it fully raised.

Lorimer walked into the assassin’s visual range — not in front of the gun, but simply within his range of peripheral sight. The assassin noticed her and seemed thrown off stride, distracted by her presence.

Dr. Vreeland looked up, seeing that it was his own chest the gun was being aimed at.

Somebody screamed.

Elliot had automatically gone into a precisely correct Weaver stance — left foot slightly forward, right hand — its arm slightly bent — aiming the gun, left hand holding the right fist to steady it . . . and during that mere instant when the assassin was distracted by Lorimer, Elliot fired once at his head.

The .38 bullet from Elliot’s revolver struck the assassin’s head, knocking off a wig and tearing a chunk out of his skull. A final muscle spasm knocked him back against the chairs, and from there to the aisle floor.

The image of his daughter standing over him was the last thing the assassin saw before he died.

There were more screams. Several people threw themselves onto the floor.

Lorimer averted her eyes, then started pushing her way through the crowd to Elliot. Along the way, she casually grabbed the camera of a news photographer who had snapped a picture of the body, and smashed it to the floor.

Cadre guards were now pulling reporters and other photographers away from the dead man — blood seeping slowly from his head — cordoning off the death scene.

Lorimer finally reached Elliot, who was standing at the table, being steadied by Dr. Rampart and his father. With a strange tone in her voice that he had not heard before, she told him:

“Thank you. You’ve just killed my father.”

Elliot gasped.

Then Lorimer reeled a moment and began throwing up onto the floor.


Concluding Alongside Night is Chapter XXVII.

Alongside Night is
Copyright © 1979 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

Now in production: Alongside Night. Look for it in 2013!

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