The investors were spread out around the world, but Harry had to stick close to home.
Neary was good with location based technology, and our underground used that power for good. He designed a handheld locator device and left it under his seat when I drove him home one night. Every few minutes, it shows me the direction to Harry’s phone. I learned from Harry’s conversation with Tink to keep my friends close and my enemies closer.
The mansion | Sep 20 | 11:47pm
One night, I got home from dropping off the programmers, and the locator said Harry wasn’t home. I made myself a cup of coffee, put the locator device on the van’s dash and followed the signal.
Drinking coffee, I feel completely healed for a little while, like my tolerance is back and I could start drinking wine like I used to, but switching off uppers and downers to get the right level is just what Casimir was doing at the end. I remember that now.
I was half way downtown when I realized where Harry had the Dude. Of course. I’m such an idiot.
Dispatch | 33 min later
When I opened the door to the office we both worked in at different times, Harry looked at me without surprise. “Hi, Winston.” He stood behind The Dude, who was at the desk looking at the laptop. They must have tracked the van.
“Hi, Dude.” I stepped inside and closed the door behind me. “Harry, why did you say the Dude was dead?” He looked tired and weak without his hood, but he was definitely alive, with his arm apparently healed up.
Harry shook his head. “I said he was gone. I had to make them afraid of me, keep them in line. I had to get rid of the surveillance log too, or there would be a record of where I was keeping him.”
I sat down in front of the desk. “But here we all are. Do you want to tell them, or should I?”
He looked at me with sad, tired eyes. “Don’t, please.”
“Why, so you can maintain discipline?”
“Yes.” Watching everyone all the time gave him the eyes of an old man. Living without weed probably didn’t help.
“I remember what we used to stand for, and this isn’t it. You’re oppressing these people.”
“They’re free to leave.”
“Not when you control every second of their days. Do you really think you’re making things better than him?” I looked at the Dude, who ignored us for the computer screen.
“The Dude didn’t care about money.” Harry came around to my side of the table, standing over me. “That’s fine for him, but we can’t let him run the company that way. We need to survive in the free market. I’m trying to rescue this place.”
The Dude picked that moment to join the conversation. “Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world, where none suffered, where everyone would be happy.” Both of us turned to look at him. The Matrix came along at the right time to be a part of the Dude’s vocabulary, but his eyes stayed on that laptop screen.
I pointed at the Dude. “See, that sounds like a noble goal.”
Harry leaned on the desk. “Fine, but we needed a goal we could profit from.”
I leaned back in the chair. “And you came up with…”
“Selling stock in the company.”
“But then we work for everyone who buys stock. Don’t makes things worse, Harry.”
“It’s either that or sell the company completely. We don’t have to sell all the stocks. I would rather keep this place independent. The only way to do that is to give the investors a return.” The problem of the investors again.
“I liked you better when you were just a stoner.”
“I didn’t. You guys got to sit around in the tour van, while I was on the phone to venues. That reputation you were so proud of? Nobody wants to book that shit. You gave me so much stress, the only thing that let me deal with it was the fucking bud.”
“I don’t remember it that way.” I thought of him baked during shows and laughed.
“Because I took care of things. You guys lived in a fantasy world, where all you had to do was play.”
I guess he thought of things that way, and I had to keep him close. “Well, thank you then, I guess.”
“You introduced me to Casimir, and I listened to his songs, shouting about anarchy, but he was always fighting against the system. The system exists, whether we want it to or not. We need it in order to survive.”
“No we don’t. We can shut it down.”
“Not our system, society, the bigger one. If we can learn to understand that system, we can work it to our advantage.” I didn’t have time to think about the full meaning of that, but it sounded pretty evil.
“The Matrix is a system, Neo.” The Dude talked about the Matrix again, deadpan, eyes locked on the laptop. “That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save.”
Harry chuckled and pointed at him. “Casimir used to hang out with this guy, you know.”
“I know. That investor guy told me Casimir was the only reason he gave the project money in the first place.”
Harry nodded. “Casimir knew the band would end. He knew we could only reach the people who came to see us, but he saw what the Dude was going to create. He knew punk rock could never change the world like this technology.” He looked at the laptop. “This is what everyone around us has been working on so hard all this time. A lot of people paid a lot of money to make that vision real.”
The Dude agreed, staring at it. “This was mine and Tyler’s gift, our gift to the world.”
Harry gave me a big fake smile. “Now we just have pay for it, and I get to deal with that fucking stress.”
The Dude kept going with Fight Club. “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won’t.”
Fight Club came along at the right time in both our lives, but I saw in the Dude’s eyes, he was talking about his own disappointment. I pointed that out to Harry. “Listen, the Dude wanted to be like Casimir. Is that so bad, trying to live with no compromises?”
Then Harry chuckled at me. “You remember Casimir like you want to. You always talked about him like that, but he was an asshole and a shithead, and when he overdosed and died, you’re the only one who was surprised.”
The Dude finally looked up from the laptop. “No, that’s not true. That’s impossible.”
I didn’t believe it either. “When he died, you were just as lost as me, Harry.”
“True, I didn’t know what to do after that. He was the one who took me out of the shit I knew before, taught me how to make my own decisions. Then this asshole put me back cleaning toilets, and I remembered the other skill, fighting back.”
“Because you had a small evil to fight.” I quoted the Dude. “You got stronger to fight bigger evils.”
The Dude looked at me when he recognized the phrase. I nodded at him.
“He was sneaking out on us.” Harry pounded the table. “Cheating on us with this guy. We were his band, but we weren’t good enough to be part of this? Well, we’re here now. We have the power to change the world, like he used to talk about.”
“With great power comes…” I looked at the Dude, but Spider-Man wasn’t a movie that came along at the right time for him. I sighed. “Change it into what, Harry?”
Harry lost all the force of his anger. “I don’t know. Casimir died without telling us.”
“But he put you here. He must have had a plan for all this.” I looked at the Dude.
“Maybe.” Harry stared at the wall. “Maybe Casimir had a way to take the investor’s money and not give anything back, but that plan went with him when he died. Now we owe them. Any ideas for that? What about you, Dude?”
The Dude looked at Harry. “No, dad. What about you?”
Harry shook his head. “There, look, he’s a vegetable.”
I saw the exhaustion on the Dude’s face and yelled at Harry. “Because of what you did to him. We were both locked in this room for too long. Did you enjoy it?”
“Well, that’s your problem right there. You like telling people what to do.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Anarchy was a dumb idea. It couldn’t last. Somebody has to be in charge.”
“Do they? The whole time I worked here, I was trying to find the boss and take him down, but look at this place. There’s no mastermind here. If you’re right about Casimir, there never was. We’re all little men, barely in charge of ourselves.”
The Dude looked between us. “Now nobody was the center of Fight Club except the two men fighting.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, but it occurred to me there never was a Tyler Durden in Fight Club. He was an ordinary guy people built up in their minds and chose to follow. I looked at the Dude. “Why didn’t you take charge? You let the system run itself. Did Casimir tell you to do that?”
“I found freedom. Losing all hope was freedom.” The Dude was too hard to read, but I saw more of him than his hood used to show when he pretended to be the evil mastermind — a small evil to his employees, so as a group, they could fight bigger evils together. That hood gave the programmers more reason to work long hours, following someone they believed was bigger than life.
Harry shouted. “No, he didn’t have the balls to take control. I do.” Harry tried the same thing, saying the Dude was gone, trying to make people think he was capable of anything, but he wasn’t as good at it.
“Nobody should be in charge.” I stood and faced Harry. “You took something beautiful and remade it in your own stupid image. You quit smoking because you thought this was serious. I can’t drink now either. Who are we without the drugs that used to drive us? What are we without the man who showed us how to be free?”
Then it clicked for me. My childhood devotion and the years I spent away from Casimir built him up in my mind, made him larger than life. I wanted to believe in that, didn’t want to live in a world where it wasn’t true, but part of me always knew Casimir wasn’t as great as I said.
“We’re nothing.” Harry shook his head.
I knew that wasn’t true. I started talking without a plan. “But we can change the world with this. Maybe we should, make it so nobody is in charge of everyone’s lives but themselves. Isn’t that what Casimir tried to teach us?” My head was spinning, but I realized, I didn’t have to do what Casimir wanted. I could do what I wanted, and that’s what Casimir really wanted.
The Dude spoke up. “I have eight bosses right now.”
I walked around the desk. “Right, and we don’t even know who they are. Let’s find out.” It turns out, the Dude was watching Mike describe our conversation.
#winston asking about #Investors
Harry was confused. “What are you saying?”
“Yeah, Mike gets it. You said we need goals. I have a goal for you, spy on the investors.”
Harry shook his head. “No, they’re too powerful. We can’t do anything to piss them off.”
I smiled. “But they don’t know what the system can do. Let’s follow the money. We can sell out and still be punks in secret.”
“Hold on.” He came around the desk. “This is too big. We can’t do this. They’ll kill us.”
“How long have we been friends? You think that scares me? We can turn the system they payed for to our advantage, take control of the small evil to fight the bigger one. If you won’t, I will.”
The Dude looked up at me. “I love this plan. I’m excited to be a part of it. Let’s do it.”
Harry took a deep breath. “You’ll take the responsibility?”
I eyed my oldest living friend. “Harry, I don’t want to, but I will take control of this company from you. Let me look after you for a change.”
Harry exhaled hard, the relief spreading across his face.