Chapter 4
It's Wednesday morning and I'm gonnna meet Sandoor in a few minutes. Sandoor was the best Investor we had. He bought cheap and he sold dear. He would set his sites on a city with a high level of social expenditures and then proceed to murder those who depended on the state. He would stalk and kill indigents, blow up prisons, whatever was needed until the share price for that particular city would rise from the reduced costs. He would then sell his shares and move on.

The idea of the investors was thought up by Will one day while in the throes of one of his "the glories of the free-market wet dreams." The concept was simple: Create a franchise type operation whereby neophyte capitalists could earn credits by saving the government money. It was an easy sale to a population ravaged by government waste and inefficiency. A nation of glorious efficiency experts, so efficient they wouldn't even need a salary: they were paid three per-cent of whatever they could save the government.

It was a WIN-WIN situation, at first. Nobody asked too many questions, and the economy just kept getting better.

The real story is Will unleashed a virtual feeding frenzy. For a country 88% Episcocapitilist, the investor program represented the keys to the kingdom. Would-be capitalists came out from the woodwork like flies on dead meat.

Sandoor felt patriotic. To me, he was just a tool. What a guy. He has all the tact of a sexually transmitted disease. Always pissing people off with his bluntness. He learned his interpersonal communication skills by reading the Cliff Notes version of Machiavelli's The Prince. Working with Sandoor is like shaving with a blunt razor: unpleasant but it gets the job done.

Sandoor has an eruptive, bulimic way of speaking and walked with a "take no prisoners" stride. He looked like a typical investor with his short hair slicked back, starched shirt, and rep tie. Usually suspenders held up his neatly creased funeral dark blue pants. He kept his shoes shined daily. Part of the investor story line was all great civilizations started to decline after businessmen stopped keeping their shoes shined. Hence, every investor kept a shoe shine kit in his car. Sandoor shaved twice a day. His jaw had a wax shine giving him the appearance he never grew facial hair. He also changed his shirt and underwear twice a day. His eyes were too big and his ears had long hairs he refused to trim.

He had biological parents: his mother was Croatian and his father was a Serb. Sandoor had received the typical private sector education: mainly Cds emphasizing efficiency logarithms. He was a decent programmer; it was said he gained membership into the investors because he outwitted a programmer who falsified Nationstate balance sheets by hiding food stamp costs. Sandoor publicly admired programmers with reputations for cheating the system. "All I ask is there be a level playing field," he would frequently say to those who questioned him. The Investors liked to talk about "level playing fields."

I knew him from my minesweeping days. I had been a Sargent in the Army's minesweeping unit. Sandoor was too. Young bucks--both of us. Everybody else wanted to be in the Air Force or the Navy. Not us. We wanted out feet flat on Mother Earth. Should have been home breast-feeding, but instead were stuck in the middle of the Mojave Desert. We were given the same assignment one hell-hot afternoon, to sweep a one mile stretch of valley floor recently mined by a roaming band of confederates. Sandoor and I had to walk a half-mile apart slowly through the valley's length. I can still see him in his armor standing a full two feet taller in his mining platform boots. Holding his wand sensor, he looked like one of King Arthur's knights.

We both walked one step at a time, our wand sensors extended ten feet in front of us; both marching like two advancing soldiers with bayonets extended slowly, slowly, slowly. My wand advances, feedback monitor in my helmet shines green, left foot lifts and steps down. Monitor still green, right foot lifts and steps down. Foot by foot, wand sweeping in a graceful semi-circle. Light turns red, helmet siren activates, foot freezes and retracts as I pinpoint the mine's electrical field. Mine located and mapped. And then, the part I could never get used to: retrieval. These mines were too damn expensive to blow up, so we had to dig 'em up, deactivate 'em, and bring 'em home. This worked out okay as long as you didn't step on one. Once you pinpointed the mine, you would dig a little hole around it with your hands and then reset the detonator with a digital magnetic eraser.

We looked like two starving beachcombers digging desperately in the beach for clams. Once the mine was visible, I felt I knew what archaeologists must feel like when they uncover some ancient bone in the sand. I too, would lean over my discovery and slowly brush the sand away revealing more and more of my find to the light of day. I hated to touch the mines. It was like sneaking up on a sleeping, diamondback rattlesnake, trying to grab him by the back of the neck to strangle him before he could wake up. It was mainly a question of narrow focusing your attention span to the max. I had one blow on me once. Everything turns bright red. I guess it must be like getting hit by a car; it all happens so quickly you don't feel anything until you wake up in the hospital. The armor protects you from the shrapnel, but every part of your body is bruised from the impact of your body slamming and vibrating inside the armor. A broken nose, a couple cracked ribs, and two weeks later you're back on the job.

I looked down at my floor monitor. There he was waiting to come in to my office like a flea on a carpet hoping to find some warm body to hop onto.

"Good morning Sandoor. Come in, please."

"How are you Lane?"

"Not bad, can't complain." I lied. "And you?"

"Just fine. Just made top grade for the third year in a row."

"Yeah. You're a celebrity around here now. How's it feel?"

"Non-toxic. Completely."

"Well I'll say it must."

"They gave me four 3F live-ins. Each with unlimited sex rights for the next two years."


"Forfeiture of Financial Freedom. Where you been, man? You get paid to give up a little freedom."

"Wow, someone upstairs likes you." I can't imagine anyone living with this guy. I guess you could get used to him. The way you'd get used to living with only one lung or kidney.

"Well, we're all proud of you in investor relations. That's for sure."

"Thanks Lane. That means a lot coming from you."

Sandoor always admired me in a big brother kind of way. Which is just the way I want to keep it.

"Sandoor, we've got a new problem city. You know how it goes. Entitlement payments are way up; revenues stink. xOMA, You heard of it?"

"xOMA...yeah sure." As I displayed the statistics, Sandoor's pupils dilated to the size of the pie charts appearing on the floor screen. Here is a man who loves his work. I leaned back in my chair and pulled a tobacco tube out of my right-hand drawer while watching the shadows of the charts and graphs dancing around Sandoor's shadow on the ceiling. Because the lights always dim automatically when the floor monitor turns on, Sandoor's face looked like a Jack-O-Lantern.

"Excellent. There is little doubt this town is, well, shall we say...fiscally unfit." As he spoke he took out his famous chain mail linked, black leather gloves and put them on. He massaged his knuckles, undoubtedly anticipating the bruises he would soon be leaving on someone's state financed body. To Sandoor, a bruise, the outer confirmation of internal damage, was an adornment from nature. He admired bruises the way other people admire jewelry.

Sandoor took the concept of pro-social cruelty to heart. That's probably why he was such a successful investor. He never let sympathy affect his investment choices because he never felt emotions like sympathy. When Macrohard first developed the investor franchise concept, Sandoor was one of the first to apply. It was the perfect job for him.

"Let me show you something," Sandoor said as he opened his briefcase.

"My latest vacation getaway." The monitor in his briefcase showed off his latest home movie of him in his bathing suit walking up a sandy path to a three-story house along the beach.

"Jamaica. Bought it last month after the New York job. Take a look inside." His home movie continued showing the tanned, sunglasses adorned Sandoor inside his place with three buxom, nearly naked women. All were silhouetted by the view of the ocean from his living room window.

"Look at these babes, I tell you Lane. Next month you gotta fly out with me."

I always took Sandoor's bragging with a grain of salt. He was always trying to show-off his latest possessions.

"Come to think of it, I could use a little vacation." I couldn't stop staring at his screen.

"Damn right you could use one. You've been sitting behind a monitor too damn long. It's time you get yourself the hell out of the office. Listen," he whispered as he turned from side to side as if he didn't know Macrohard records all conversations, "you need to come with me on the xOMA job. I really need your help on this job. Afterwards we'll fly south to the Caribbean to spend the weekend at the beach house. What do you say?"

"Well, let me tell you my problem. I gotta give a speech."

"Holy shit! Are you for real? You mean stand up and fuckin' talk?"

"Yeah, that's what I mean. A big speech for the big man."

"I can't believe it. Shit, you've got balls. I hope you got lots of medication."

"Don 't worry about the medication. I got a pharmacist working full-time on it."

"I am so sorry to hear about that. Shit, if he asked me to give a speech, I'd probably go underground. Yikes, just thinking about it gives me the creeps. Shit, I'd rather work as a crash test dummy than give a speech."

"What the fuck am I supposed to do? I can't just walk up to a podium and start talking to five million people. I'm gonna pass out. I'm telling you, Sandoor, this is causing me some serious aggravation."

"No shit. When you gotta do this thing?"

"One week from today."

"A week? What are you gonna do? Hey, you know, I know this dude."


"He's a voice recognition scientist. Doing all kinds of whacked shit."

"Like what?"

"Like weird bio vocal synthesis stuff. You know, makes computers more personable, and all that."

"Think dude can help me?"

"It's worth a try. His name's Hardeman. Hardeman Oxtot."

Sandoor sat up, snapped to attention, and looked me straight in the eye.

"Listen, I'll hook you up with this guy under one condition: first, you gotta come with me on this xOMA job. I need your help and you need to get your ass outta this office."

"You know this rough neck shit don't fly with me well, Sandoor. I'm much more into clubbin' than thuggin' these days."

"It's gonna be completely non-toxic. And I promise, you won't get your hands dirty. I need a guy like you to help with an operation like this. And you, you buddy, need to talk to my man, Hardeman. You're one sick puppy and my man's got the remedy."

"Okay, okay. But this guy better be as good as you say he is. When we leave?"

"Today at 5 o'clock. My plane will fly us."

"You're on."

"Sounds good my man." Sandoor stood up abruptly and shook my hand. "You're gonna love it."

Sandoor left and I walked over to the window. I stared out at the lawns below. Everything was on schedule, as usual. As one lawnmower was finishing mowing the last square yard of the small manicured plot below my window, another lawn mower began mowing from the opposite corner. Everywhere I looked there were two lawn mowers on every patch of green, guaranteeing the grass was always a standardized one centimeter in length, never more, never less.

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