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For All Nails #115: "Come And See The Show, It's A Dynamo"

by Bernard Guerrero

My thanks to the FANTL gang for the initial idea that led to this story, and for their help in putting it together.

Campo "Martillo" FN1
Outside Collares, Regency of Grão Pará
20 August 1974
0800 hours

"Goddamned politicians!"

Major-General Tintoreo slammed the phone down into its cradle so hard that Captain Montana visibly jumped in his seat.

"Something, ah, wrong sir?" he said, slowly swiveling his chair.

Guillermo Tintoreo was, characteristically, not sitting in his. Tintoreo hardly ever sat. His perpetual motion was merely one of the more outward signs of the ferocious energy that he brought to any task he was given. Square-jawed, crew cut and built like a bull, he often gave the appearance of a runaway locomotive.

"Goddamned politicians!" he repeated, pacing, though nobody within a hundred yards could have missed the first exclamation. "If you thought the new regime was different, Captain, you thought wrong. Elbittar's a solid man, but that pack of civilians he just installed is just as bad as the old ones." Inside, General Tintoreo felt that this probably wasn't true, but it certainly felt like it at the moment.

"Damned Foreign Secretary, Quintana. Wants me to make an appearance at the damned Palácio Grande. As if I have nothing better to do with my time. Damned city's barely ours, I still have holdouts out on Ilha Marajo and those crazies we have holed-up in Trinidade, but that bastard thinks I have time to go babysitting politicians and starlets."

Captain Montana's ears perked at the mention of ‘starlets', but he knew better than to interrupt El Tin-Toro mid-rant. The General might not actually throw him out a window, seeing as how he wouldn't have actually interfered with an operational matter, but Montana might end up wishing he would. Instead, he waited for the chain of expletives to burn itself out, and then made a suggestion.

"Ah, sir, you could always find yourself, ah, unavoidably detained by circumstances." Montana grinned conspiratorially after offering this, hoping against hope that the General might send him in his stead, but the grin faded as he watched Tintoreo's face flush a very interesting shade of purple. He steadied himself for the explosion, and began to plan for his next career.

The explosion never came. Instead, he watched Tintoreo make a very visible effort to control himself. The words, when they came, were oddly quiet

"Captain Montana, as you have been assigned to my staff for less than a year, I will accept your ... suggestion as an honest mistake, never to be repeated." Tintoreo took a step closer to Montana, and Montana felt his testicles try to hide in his stomach.

"Let me make one thing perfectly clear, Captain. I am not in the habit of defying direct orders from the duly constituted authorities, no matter how ridiculous those orders may be. I am not a barracks-room barrister, I am not Maxim ... Prime Minister Elbittar, I am not a punyetero Mexican." This last bit threatened to break free from Tintoreo's control, and bits of spittle landed on Captain Montana's nose. "Do I make myself clear, Captain?"

Montana nodded once and uttered a nearly whispered "Yessir".

Tintoreo returned to a more human shade. "In that case, Captain, consider this minor misunderstanding to have never happened. Now get me Major Manzon at the Palácio and have a loke brought around. Goddamned Quintana wants a show, he'll goddamned get one." As he turned to grab his cigar from the desk, Montana let go another hurried "Yessir" and scurried out the door.

Tintoreo watched his receding back and took a puff from the cigar. "World's going to mierda."

Palácio Grande
Belem, Regency of Grão Pará
20 August 1974
1230 hours

Tintoreo was steaming. Having to baby-sit "dignitaries" was more than enough to infuriate him. Having them show up late made him explosive. Having his own men show up late was nearly enough for apoplexy.

"Major, I hope you have a good fucking explanation for this miserable performance. My staff contacted you nearly 5 hours ago."

Major Manzon gulped. "Sir, it's, well, we ... "

"Out with it, Major, I've already wasted the better part of a day on this little escapade."

"Well, sir, your staff requested a knowledgeable guide for the Palácio, but, really we don't have one."

Tintoreo felt himself simmering and counted to ten. He had a feeling that Major Manzon was about to tell him something that would require strangling him. If this nonsense dragged out for another day ...

"I brought what we do have, sir. He's, well, not exactly a guide, but he is knowledgeable about the place."

Tintoreo's blood pressure dropped by what would have been a noticeable amount, had he been at one of his infrequent checkups. "What is he then, Major?"

"Well, technically sir, he's, er, a prisoner."

Palácio Grande
Belem, Regency of Grão Pará
20 August 1974
1300 hours

Guillermo Tintoreo looked at Iago Sebo and felt ... squeamish. This was not a feeling to which he was accustomed. Most 30-year veterans of the FANG wouldn't be, certainly not ones involved on the operational side of things. But Sebo had the air of something ... fetid about him. A scrawny, nearly albino little bald man with overly large eyes, he put Tintoreo in mind of something one would find under a rock. Tintoreo was surprised the troopers who caught him hadn't shot him out of hand, he was sure there must have been a temptation. Considering this, he made a mental note to look them up and pay a surprise visit. Time spent on public-relations outings was wasted time, in his opinion, but a pat on the back for above-average self-control was good for morale and discipline. The little worm-man had been captured near one of the exits to the Palácio while his boss, the Regent, was busy getting himself shot down in the bowels of the pile. One of the few taken alive, he was proving valuable to Major Manzon in unraveling the mysteries of the Regent's "administration." The dossier on Sebo was short on detail, as was info on the exact nature of his capture. Of some interest, it indicated that he had been taken with no resistance right inside one of the Gothic gates, apparently in tears at the prospect of trying to leave. Tintoreo looked at the man and simply couldn't see it; he didn't look like the loyal, sturdy type at all.

Tintoreo turned from Sebo, who stood nearest to their entrance and almost seemed to be cringing away from the sunlight, and looked at his fellow travelers. "Senator" Chillón (Tintoreo could not help but put the man's title in mental quotes) FN2 was basically a local Cartagena politician, newly important (and self-important) by virtue of having sided with the correct people during the recent sea change. He was here to bask in the afterglow of the FANG's impressive and wildly-popular recent successes. Accompanying him was Aquilina Christiano, new star of the Granadan music scene and the midnight dreams of boys across the nation. She had rather consciously adopted Mexican styles of dress and music (if one could call it that, Tintoreo had doubts), and the new regime was supporting her (with misgivings) as a counter to the cultural imperialism of their neighbors to the north. She'd come to Grão Pará as part of the FANG's extensive "morale support" operations, and apparently her agent had hit on the idea of draping her in the flag and attendant glory. Both were talking with assistants about camera angles and makeup, and Tintoreo had already dismissed them mentally as "the clown" and "the slut".

Rounding out their little party were Captain Montana, Major Manzon and a combat-cameraman, one Master Sergeant Naelio Davalos, whose decorations were not lost on Tintoreo.

Manzon spoke. "Ah, ladies and gentlemen, I want to remind you that the number of individuals on this, er, tour must be strictly limited for security and safety reasons. I haven't really been through the whole thing, myself. We've had troops pass through the areas designated for the tour on a safety-check, but the FANG can't afford to have important documents or evidence wrecked, even by accident."

Or to have these two idiots injured by stepping in the wrong spot, thought Tintoreo. The report on the safety-check had bothered him a bit, though. It seemed hurried and perfunctory, not at all the work of his beloved troops. He thought the occupation forces were getting too loose, too fast. The troopers Manzon had sent through were in entirely too much of a hurry to finish up, get out and have themselves a beer. Another mental note.

Senorita Christiano looked ready to protest at the draconian restriction of having to abandon her publicist and make-up artist, but a quick whisper from the man Tintoreo assumed was her manager quieted her down. Davalos snapped a few posed shots outside the Gothic arch and then the party trailed inside, Manzon and Sebo in the lead.

The tour, Tintoreo decided, was hellish. The Palácio Grande was poorly lighted, the ex-Regent's taste in art bizarre (not that Tintoreo was an expert, he studiously avoided the stuff), and his company was unbearable. Senator Chillón took every opportunity to get himself photographed standing next to a Major-General (Tintoreo was not sure Chillón knew his name), while Christiano made a fuss about nearly every move Davalos made, ordering him about like a puppet. Sergeant Davalos was apparently not up on the latest techniques and Christiano was determined to make sure that every shot of her managed to flatter, no matter how odd the surroundings. Captain Montana was kept busy recording the dignitaries' every banal word, along with the running commentary of the worm-man.

"These chairs are fine Mexican leather, which the Master had imported in the second year of his Regency. Note the excellent stitch-work." The worm-man had a slight lisp, which only added to Tintoreo's growing annoyance and impatience. Finally, he spoke out.

"Major, the day is getting late and I'm sure our guests have a number of important things to take care of. Perhaps we can start wrapping things up." This was not a question.

Major Manzon, whose countenance had grown increasingly worried as they penetrated deeper into the Palácio, examined his map. "Well, sir, we have two options from this point. We can either continue northwards along the main layout of halls, which will require adding another third to our trip, or we can, ah, cut through this central area, which is indicated to be the Regent's former entertainment area."

Christiano, who had long since grown deathly bored, brightened at the words "cut" and "entertainment area." "Oh, please, General, let's go through the center!" Chillón seemed less enthusiastic, perhaps sensing no glory in examining a dead man's lounge. He much preferred shots in front of the large (and bloody) battle-murals.

Tintoreo was loath to continue the tour any longer than necessary. "The entertainment area it is, Major." Christiano clapped her hands and jumped, which immediately made him regret it.

Then Sebo spoke. "Are you sure you want to do that, General?" He was grinning from ear-to-ear, which in the half-light was a disturbing sight.

"And why wouldn't I?"

"Oh, General, my Master was a man of eclectic and ... interesting tastes. I'm sure his entertainments wouldn't be to your relatively ... unsophisticated liking."

Tintoreo shot a glance at Manzon. The Major shrugged. "No idea, sir, this area has barely been looked at, from what I can see. I have a few, er, odd comments, but nobody has written anything extensive. What's in there, Sebo?"

"Oh, all sorts of things, Major. Wonders beyond reckoning. But I don't think they'll be to Nuevo Granadan tastes, if you und --"

At this, Tintoreo cut him off. "Cut the mierda, you weasel. I'll be damned if I'm going to take this nonsense from some dead lunatic's butler, a prisoner of war and an easy collaborator, no less. Let's go see what your boss was into. Manzon?"

"Yessir. Move it, Sebo."

Sebo bowed deeply. "Your wish is my command, my lords and ladies." Davalos loaded more film as they turned from their previous axis and trooped through a particularly dark archway.

Tintoreo was disappointed. The first two rooms of the central zone had been fairly dull stuff. Sebo was right as far as the Regent's odd tastes, the paintings were tending more towards the obscene than the more public areas of the Palácio, but nothing that would particularly shock a worldly man. Senorita Christiano's face had taken on a suspicious cast, however, the weirdly drawn intertwined figures and hints of violence apparently not matching her preconceived notions of "entertainment."

Some of the odder ones did bother Tintoreo, though. Nothing lewd or explicit, just strange figures seen as through a mist. Some appeared to be people, others what he guessed were fanciful interpretations of children's tales. Tentacles, multiple eyes, impossible limbs. The Regent was an odd one, no doubt of that. But the FANG dealt with odd ones at every induction. Nothing that a few months with a good drill-instructor couldn't cure. Tintoreo grinned at the thought of some of the old bastards who had broken him down and then built him back up getting their hands on Sebo's Master.

Sergeant Davalos had switched back to his still-picture camera, there having been few useful opportunities for recording motion. He was now busy cataloging the artwork, as both Christiano and Chillón seemed to have lost their appetites for further publicity shots.

The current room was some sort of antechamber, well stocked with paintings and sumptuous-looking couches but little else. Four arched doors led out of the room, besides the archway they'd entered through.

"Which way, Major?"

Manzon consulted the map again. "Er, either of these two to the east will do the trick, sir. Sebo?"

"That is true, Major. I can see that your guests are less than impressed by the waiting room. Might I suggest the door to the right? It leads to the room which my Master had dubbed 'Lucifer & Prometheus.' Quite impressive."

"Let's move on, then." Tintoreo didn't wait for commentary, merely advancing to the door, opening the latch and passing through. "Another thing, Major. I had not been apprised of the full extent of the Regent's art collection, only the files that were recovered by Intelligence. We need to get guards set up along the entire building, and a program of catalo ..."

Manzon had entered on Tintoreo's heels. As both had entered into the now familiar half-light, Sebo had fiddled with a fixture next to the door. The room suddenly became lit to an extent far greater than any they had seen previously in the Palácio. It caught both men by surprise, and it took a moment for their eyes to adjust.

What Tintoreo saw then was easily the most bizarre sight of the tour. The room was, to begin with, full of lamps and chandeliers. Not five or ten, but dozens, perhaps hundreds. The metalwork differed from lamp to lamp, but all were covered with faux-Japanese paper shades of a sort that had been popular for a while before the Global War. The walls were covered in murals, mythological and religious scenes. Dominating these were large ones of Prometheus on the Rock, liver being gouged by eagles in a most realistic fashion, and an angel with fiery eyes bearing a shining sword. This explained "Lucifer & Prometheus".

Arranged around the center were comfortable looking chairs and couches in dark colors, all surrounding a single articulated chair mounted on a swivel.

Manzon spoke first. "What the Diablo was this for, Sebo?"

"Why, entertainment, of course, Major. My Master was a man of leisure, and entertained often. Oh, the parties that were held here! If these walls could talk ... "

Senorita Christiano had entered and was obviously impressed. She strolled around the room, looking at the lamps and murals. "Veerry chic, very on-the-edge. Sergeant, I'll need a few shots here."

She posed as Davalos reloaded and the others looked around. Tintoreo was drawn to the furniture in the center. The swivel chair looked uncomfortably like the last dentist's chair he'd been in ...

Christiano looked about her and selected another lamp. "Let's get one with this one, Sergeant. It has a little heart painted on it. I had no idea the Regent had a human side."

Sebo held his chin and shook his head, taking on an air of disappointment. "The Master was never entirely happy with that one. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but I could never quite get the heart off of the bicep."

The room seemed to freeze except for Christiano, who continued to pose. "Bicep?" she said, brushing back her hair.

"Oh, yes. There wasn't much left to work with from the fellow that produced that one. I had to use the biceps, tattoos and all."

Captain Montana had frozen with his canteen to his lips. All at once, the water exploded from his mouth in a spray, covering one of the chairs he'd been looking at.

"Tsk, Captain," continued Sebo. "Well, the chairs don't stain easily, thank goodness. We selected the material very carefully. I'm sure that will clean up, once the FANG sets up proper housekeeping. General?" He looked at Tintoreo with a mock-innocence, eyes wide, then smiled.

Chillón was first, this time. "Did that man just ... did I hear him correctly? General, did I hear that correctly?" He looked confused.

Sebo spoke. "Oh, yes, Senator. The young man needed enlightening. Caught out in the jungle trying to stir up trouble. The Master was a big believer in enlightenment." With this, he used an open-armed gesture to encompass the room as if to prove his point. "The other guests also became enlightened. It was, all in all, a very successful party."

Tintoreo looked at the central chair again. It was patterned, but he could now clearly make out some of the markings as signs of having been soaked in a dark liquid. He looked up at Major Manzon, nearly speechless for the first time he could recall. All that escaped from his lips was a simple query. "Major?"

Manzon seemed to shrink. "Sir, I, I ... I had no idea. We've only just, that is, the map only says ‘lamps' ... "

Sebo chuckled. "Don't be too hard on the poor Major, General. I must admit that I've been keeping some secrets to myself. One must always preserve some mystery, no?" He kept chuckling.

Senorita Christiano still looked perplexed. "Bicep? Joke? What are you all ... " Awareness made a sudden appearance on her face. Her hands shot up to her mouth as she stared at the heart tattoo and Tintoreo distinctly heard gagging noises. As she stepped back from the shade, she bumped another and nearly leapt into the air. Her eyes grew desperate, darting this way and that until she spotted the entrance, and then she bolted out the door.

Sebo found this most amusing of all and now doubled over with laughter. Tintoreo and Manzon both advanced on him, but Tintoreo got there first.

"You think this is funny, worm?!" One large hand around Sebo's throat, the other grabbing the front of his shirt, Tintoreo slammed him up against the wall. The lamps shook, sending little quivering shadows across the room.

He expected Sebo to cringe, but the pale little man just continued to chuckle. "Oh, yes, General, this was rich. The look on Senorita Christiano's face was simply priceless. Reminds me of when the Master used to bring in some pretty little things from the slums in Pará. Enlightening humanity is hard work, sometimes he needed the pure entertainment that --"

The hand holding Sebo's shirt had released and was cocked back behind Guillermo Tintoreo's ear. Before he could release it, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He nearly dropped Sebo to strike it away, and turned his head to see Master Sergeant Davalos behind him, face white as a ghost's. "Sir, he's ... well ... sir."

Tintoreo realized his face was a mask of rage, and made a supreme effort to compose himself. Turning back to Sebo, he suddenly felt an overwhelming need to let go of him and wash his hands. As he released Sebo's throat and stepped back, the pale man slumped to the floor, still chuckling.

"I told you the Master's tastes would not be to your liking, General."

Tintoreo took another step back and tried to think.

"Captain Montana."

"Sir!" Montana snapped to attention, water still staining the front of his tunic.

"Captain, please go back along our route, locate Senorita Christiano and escort her from the premises. And send down a platoon from the guard station."

"Sir, yessir!" The Captain presented arms, took a final glance at Sebo and then sprinted out the door.

Chillón cleared his throat, never taking his eyes off Sebo. "Ah, General, I, ah, take it that the tour is over."

"Yes, Senator, the tour is over."

"In that case, I will, ah, join the Captain in escorting Senorita Christiano out." He turned and went out the door at a rapid walk, rubbing his arms as if the temperature of the now uncooled building had just dropped precipitously.

Tintoreo looked again at the slumped figure of Sebo. "What else is in here, hijo de mala madre? FN3 What's through that next door?"

"All sorts of things, General!" Sebo picked himself up off the floor, and the room no longer seemed as bright as it had been. "All sorts of things. The Master's collection of sports, though they haven't been fed for at least a week. You should see them, no arms, two heads, things you can't even imagine. Some are originals, but the Master was becoming creative. His kitchens, mmmm. The private halls where he took his ... pleasures. They probably haven't eaten recently, either. But where there are two people, there's always a way, eh, General?" Sebo seemed larger than he had been, a spindly white ghoul whose eyes seemed to grow bigger. "And there's always the Shrine to visit. The Master is dead but the Master lives on, and He has a Thousand Eyes."

He's baiting me, Tintoreo thought. That thing is trying to manipulate me. It has manipulated me. For the first time in a long, long time, Major-General Guillermo Tintoreo felt like running away. Instead, he took a deep breath, walked up to Sebo and spun him up against the wall. Hard.

"Major, secure this prisoner."

Manzon complied without a word, placing manacles on Sebo's thin wrists.

Tintoreo looked at him. A thin trickle of blood came from where his mouth had made contact with the wall, and a new dark smear adorned the mural. He turned to the two other men. "Gentlemen, please check your sidearms. Major, I suggest you carry yours drawn." As he said this, he pulled out his own. Davalos checked and holstered his, then fumbled with his camera, muttering about "faster film."

Then Tintoreo placed a large hand on the nape of Sebo's neck and pushed him towards the unknown door. "Now, gusano, now we will go for a walk. Just you, me, my men and El Diablo, eh?"

Manzon spoke. "Sir, shouldn't we wait, what about backup?"

"No, there's no time. There are people down there, right, gusano?"

Sebo snarled.

"Ok, gusano, time to go. Open the door." Tintoreo cocked his pistol and gave Sebo another shove. Sebo complied, and then one by one they passed into the darkness beyond.

Rectory of the Church of San Juan de Bogotá
Bogotá, Nuevo Granada
4 November 1974

They walked into the little room, and Father Carrera offered Guillermo Tintoreo a cup of coffee.

Each took one of the two comfortable chairs in one corner and sipped for a little while. Carrera spoke first.

"General ..."

"Guillermo, please."

"Guillermo, you still seem nervous. You've already decided to accept the Rule and join the Archconfraternity FN4, may I ask what troubles you?"

"Ah, well, Father, lately everything troubles me. I had not mentioned it earlier, but I learned yesterday from Naelio Davalos that Jorge Manzon committed suicide."

The priest sucked in a breath. "I'm sorry, Guillermo. I know you were close."

"Not as close as with Naelio. Jorge always kept too much of it to himself, I think it may be what did him in."

The priest looked pensive. "Guillermo, may I be frank?" At Tintoreo's nod, he continued.

"I understand, in a vague way, that your experiences in ... in Belem are what led you to the Fraternity, but it is a remarkable transformation. May I ask you what it was that truly changed your thinking? I would have thought that ending that madman's reign of terror would, if anything, have increased your determination to keep to your original path."

Tintoreo stared at the floor. "You've seen the shots they've released?" The priest nodded.

"Naelio got a lot more. Most of it will never see the light of day. I understand the Prime Minister and some intelligence types have seen most of the uncut footage and the pictures. But some of it is too horrible to ever put out in public, certainly for the sake of public relations." Father Carrera suppressed a shudder.

"When we got to the kit ... well, it doesn't matter where, now. Anyway, I ... tried to kill him."

"Who, Sebo?"

"Yes ... I ... with my bare hands. There wasn't much left of him. Davalos and Manzon only barely kept me from finishing it."

"A sin, my son, but an understandable one under the circumstances. God has forgiven you."

Tintoreo was looking up, now, but seemed to be staring off into the distance. "Some of the ones we found, you know, the ones still alive, they wanted us to finish them off. The filth we ... Manzon ... " Tintoreo sighed, seemed to deflate.

Father Carrera could offer no reply.

Tintoreo looked to be on the verge of saying something else. Finally, he spoke again. "Father, when I was growing up in the slums, my Uncle Negro had a dog. A little skinny thing. Negro drank, and he beat that dog silly. I used to sneak it food. My father kept telling Negro to quit beating his dog but Negro, well, Negro drank. One day, the dog finally broke. He went crazy, bit a bunch of the kids. My Dad took matters into his hands and put down the dog. I felt terrible about his killing it, but he told me it had to be done, and the blame for it was squarely on Negro. I felt damned ... excuse me, I felt bad for that dog, Father. Wasn't the dog's fault, really, it was Negro's. I remember my Dad asking me what else there was to do, beat it some more?"

Carrera nodded, beginning to understand.

"Anyway, I think Sebo was just another dog. Don't see what good another beating would have done, not anymore. Hell, whatever the Regent was getting mixed up in down there, he was probably just another dog too. And they needed to be put down, there's no question in my mind. But how many other dogs did I beat in Belem, Father? How many more over my whole career? I think I beat a lot of them. Casualties in Grão Pará were light, but what does that mean? A hundred new dogs? A thousand? Maybe in the end I've been no better than they were, I'm not sure anymore. Out in Belem or Para or Trinidade right now there might be another little Regent growing, all because I killed his father or his mother or ... and for what? I'm through with beatings. I don't feel clean, Father ... but it would be nice to get clean."

Carrera nodded once more, putting down his coffee.

Tintoreo bowed his head, closed his eyes and tried to remember how it went. It had been a long time.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been 40 years, give or take, since my last real confession ...."

Forward to FAN #116: The Garden of Forking Paths.

Forward to 21 August 1974: Party On.

Forward to New Granada: The Language of Love.

Return to For All Nails.