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The International Writers Magazine :Fiction

The Samaritans of Terror
James Skinner

‘Terrorism has no meaning or description. It comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes. It destroys, it maims, and it hurts. It cannot be compared to any other form of retrograde activity known to the animal kingdom, either man or beast. There is no cause, be it religious, political, scientific, economical or even humanitarian that justifies brutal terrorism. It is evil at its peak.

After 9/11, the world changed dramatically. Many millions of complacent citizens of the world woke up to the reality of terroristic horror. Richard and Will, two schoolboy friends who’d ended up in the mayhem whirlpool of the advertising world of modern day consumerism were amongst them. They had grown up in the suburbs of Atlanta, in the deep rooted south of the USA and having experienced the inexplicable violence of the days of racial discrimination and the Ku Klux Klan were sympathetic to their fellow New Yorkers on that infamous day of tragedy. Dealing constantly with the media, and scanning the numerous worldly press reports with images of torn bodies and other atrocities including the prime time news prompted them as good American patriots to do something about it.

They considered the options. But which, and how?
They pondered over the fictional side, summarised by Hollywood’s money-making machine; clever scripts, but not practical. James Bond against Dr. No, the fiendish destroyer of the world, Batman, Robin and Spiderman versus the creeps, Superman saving the West, were just non-starters. ‘There must be another way,’ murmured Richard one morning as he slammed the latest copy of The Atlanta Daily World on his desk. ‘It’s the Russians again, having a go at Georgia’. Will dropped his coffee and rushed to the window. ‘No you bozo; not us!’
Will turned. ‘Georgia, somewhere in Europe, the Mid-East. Shit! Somewhere over there,’ added Richard, pointing nonchalantly in an eastern direction. ‘God damn it! There just must be a system to somehow bring law and order to this dying plant.’
It was Wills turn to comment. ‘Have you noticed that most of the terrorists are the bad guys?’
Silent seconds went by. Then they sprung into action.
‘Hey! Why not turn the cards around and convert the cuckoos into the good guys?’ said Will. ‘Think about it, man!’

Out came the files. They began to study the different methods used by the subversive groups known to date, as well as the overwhelming power and influence they had on most law abiding governing bodies around the world. The ongoing methodology in Iraq and Afghanistan were well known; most other attacks were similar, ignited by anonymous bomb planters or the like. Shopping malls, airplanes, hotels and other similar centres of human congregation were the usual targets. The demands of the terrorists, on the other hand, were just as ludicrous as the actions themselves. Release of so-called ‘political’ prisoners, independence from ‘who knows what’, hate towards religious order but never a move towards a just cause, like changing the administration methods of the human race based on true, rather than political justice. ‘Oh no!’ Said Will, ‘It’s always plant, hide, push button, boom and run and then. Ha! Ha! How great we were as the press blasts the news all over the place!’
‘What a collection these guys are, wherever they are,’ thought Richard as he shuffled through masses of cuttings and video clips of terrorist action over the years. ‘In the long run, they achieve sweet fuck all!’
‘Say that again?’ ‘I said that these terrorist, the whole goddam lot of them, for centuries have achieved nothing, repeat nothing.’
‘Well, if you take a look at the crap that comes out of Hollywood, it ain’t any different,’ answered Will. ‘Anyone would think that most of them were made of invisible ink.’ Richard looked puzzled. Will went on, ‘I mean; they just get away with murder.’
‘Hold on a sec,’ retorted Richard, ‘what about the good guys in WWII; those that went about upsetting the Krauts? You know; the French Resistance and the like?’ Surely they were on the right side?’
‘Yeah, sure! But we’re back to blow-up time. It’s always the same. Goddam dynamite.’ Richard finally admitted, ‘I think we’re way off beam, man! Something just doesn’t click!’

Weeks went by without either of them coming up with an answer. Frustration was running wild as more news of terrorist acts around the world hit the headlines. They thought of other methods that could be used, albeit extremely dangerous ones, such as water pollution, poisonous gas and the like, but they always had the same result – human suffering. They began to explore more sophisticated areas such as sending messages of dissuasion on the Internet to all known terrorist groups, pleading with the large banks of the world to freeze known terrorism accounts. They even came up with the idea of a propaganda campaign to convince the world that God just did not exist and religion was yet another of man’s inventions. ‘It’s all been tried before,’ cried Richard. They finally gave up.

Richard was working on yet another new and ridiculous advertising campaign on his computer for a well-known car manufacturer. It showed the new model advancing at great speeds in the desert with a luscious blonde at the wheel, wind blowing through her hair, sucking a super soda with one hand whilst talking on her mobile with the other. The ad implied that ‘no hands’ driving was the new in-thing. The machine was controlled by a computer. ‘They never show a car in a superb traffic jam or a mighty great pile up… ’ thought Richard, then sighed. After all, he was paid to do just that, produce saleable fantasy advertising for companies to bombard the gullible public.

He popped up another account on the screen called Mobo Appliances Inc. to review the latest washing machine to be launched the following month. ‘Swish Swash Bubble and Dry’ was the new logo. ‘God, this is ridiculous,’ he mumbled, as he moved to yet another account. He felt he was going through male menopause after years in the business and was becoming bored with his own existence. He suddenly realised how pointless and similar advertising was to terrorism. ‘Full of bullshit.’ The new display on his screen was yet another example. It showed a series of dishes with coloured liquid goo and some guy dipping his finger into two of them with hardly anything happening; then doing the same with the remaining two and magically the slushy muck changed colour. It was Murko Cleansing Inc.’s new brand of washing-up liquid.

At the local diner and as he was waiting for his usual hamburger and fries, he couldn’t help but notice the girl behind the counter spraying some liquid onto the greasy pans that were used to cook the burgers, passing a cloth over them and presto – spotlessly clean; a routine chore that every client would notice as he waited in line for his order. Somehow, Richard couldn’t forget the effect of that simple act of cleaning a cooking pan. ‘Liquid on grease and disappear. Sounds like a good logo for my client’s product,’ he thought. But that was not the only thought going through his mind. It niggled him. It would come back to him over and over again as he returned to his office.

‘Grease disappearing, grease disappearing…that’s it!’ he yelled out. He called Will on the intercom. Will hadn’t even closed the door as Richard bellowed out, ‘Come over here, look what I’ve got!’
He showed him the Murky’s advert. ‘That’s it, guy. We can stop the world from madness and get everyone to start again.’ ‘Are you nuts or something?’ said Will, ‘what the fuck has that piece of shit got to do with it?’
‘Grease, oil, petroleum, gasoline. Don’t you get it?’ Richard went on, ‘a drop of this stuff and it disappears. We can do a little bit of tinkering with a few oil wells here and there without hurting anybody and what have we got? The world economy at our fingertips!’

Will didn’t say anything. He went over to the coffee machine and filled his cup. He scratched his chin, rubbed his nose and then smiled at Richard. ‘Maybe, I mean just maybe, you’ve got something!’ He sipped some coffee. ‘Hell, it’s worth checking out,’ he finally added.

They needed to investigate exactly what this substance was and if in effect it could either neutralise or transform oil into a useless liquid. They visited the company’s lab that made the stuff and sure enough, a few drops of the concentrated base before it was diluted for mass production could turn the equivalent amount of oil the volume of Lake Titicaca into sheer H2O – water! The lab technician also told them that a similar number of drops of vinegar could turn it all back into oil. ‘Great, it’s like dressing a salad,’ thought Richard.
‘Does it also work with gasoline?’ asked Will. ‘Yeah, only you gotta use a little less, otherwise ‘she’ turns into vapour.’ The technician went on, ‘the bad news is you can’t have any of it! It’s confidential and a classified substance only handled by our lab, even if we are a client of yours. Sorry!’

Back at their office, they worked out a plan. All they needed was a small amount, just to test on the unsuspecting citizens of Atlanta. ‘I’ve got it. Let’s buy a few cases of washing-up liquid and get some local lab to extract the concentrate. I’m sure that all we need is about the amount of a coffee spoon,’ said Richard.

With three crates of a dozen bottles each and some negotiating with a friend of Will’s at the university, they were handed a small syringe with about one millilitre of the concentrated dynamite.

Out on the street Will asked, ‘Now what?’

Without replying Richard looked around the block and focused on the gas station across the road. He crossed over and walked up to a customer who had just filled up his tank and making sure he hadn’t replaced the lid asked him where the nearest post office was. As the man pointed in the direction of the building, Richard put his hands behind his back and squeezed a couple of drops from the syringe into the tank. ‘Thanks a million, guy,’ and walked toward the post office. Will, who was standing on the other side of the road kept watch. What happened next was shear pandemonium.

The man got into his car, started up, revved slightly, placed the lever in ‘drive’ and began to move a couple of feet when the engine spluttered, coughed and finally died. The small amount of gas in the carburettor was used up in split seconds whilst the rest turned into water. He tries to start again but with no effect. Man gets out, scratches his head with the tell tale thought of, ‘what the…shit!’ He then calls over the mechanic at the garage, who comes over and also tries to start the engine. Same thing. Dead as a dodo. The mechanic looks under the hood, tinkers about with a few bits and pieces in the carburettor section and tries again. No go. He also scratches his head and thinks, ‘what the…shit!’

They both go over to look for the boss. The boss comes over and goes through the same motion. Same thing. Finally, as all three are looking under the hood, the mechanic takes out the carburettor and notices something odd about the liquid. Sniffs it, smears his finger and tastes it. With a smile on his face he tells the other two bystanders, ‘No problem, only water in the carb!’ He then cleans it, puts it back and has another go at the ignition. Nothing. Once again he takes out the carburettor and once again it’s filled with water. Puzzled looks all round. The inevitable happens. They find the tank full of water. The customer calls the garage owner a ‘piece of shit’. The owner tells him to ‘fuck off’. The mechanic runs for help as they all start having a go at each other.

Richard and Will are in heaven. ‘It works!’ they say in unison. Minutes later, a smile died down, Richard looks at Will and with a serious look asks, ‘what next?’ Their test is with a public city-commuter bus in midtown right in the middle of the rush hour.

The effect was stunning. Not only did they cause the fuel to turn to water, they had added a little extra liquid that caused the bus’ deposit to start bubbling over, with steam coming out of all pores. The bus itself had stopped right in the middle of a junction. Police cars, ambulances, fire engines and other security vehicles turned up. The next day it was all over the news headlines. ‘CITY BUS EVAPORATES’, read one. ‘ATLANTA’S NEW STEAM TRANSPORT!’ Read another. Discussions were held in the town hall to figure out what had happened. The police department was totally baffled. No scientific explanations were given. The event however remained as local news.

Richard and Will discussed their next move. They had tested the effect on gasoline and they now needed to prove whether oil itself would react in the same way. This was more difficult and could prove more dangerous. They had to go international.

Most of the Arab nations were out of the question until the right time came along. Other large oil producers such as Venezuela were too bureaucratic and would not react in the right way. Their only choice was to try it out on a North Sea oil rig. The British were always obliging to any American publicity stunts and both our ‘terrorist’ heroes knew that any excuse would do to visit one of these sea monsters. They arrived in Aberdeen, loaded with cameras and videos and were welcomed by the BP representative, John T., who was responsible as the personal escort. ‘What’s the commercial called?’ asked John. ‘It’s a new product that we hope will sell like hotcakes as a seagull repellent. It’s called ‘Buzzoff.’

John welcomed them with open arms as seagulls were a cause for concern on the rigs. Part of their plan was to check on the reversal process that had yet to be proven. They needed to know what exact amount of vinegar was required to transform the water back into oil. They knew it would not work on any sample of water because it was a locked-in reversed chemical reaction, or so the lab technician had led them to believe.

They ‘helicoptered’ out to the rig one bright and brisk spring Monday morning, still burping after a hearty breakfast of smoked haddock and bacon and eggs.

Briggette Rathbone, VP of marketing of Mucko Cleansing Inc., dropped the bombshell at the routine monthly VP meeting. ‘We’ve got a problem. Our large plastic bottles that contain our washing-up liquid product are cracking. I’ve asked our lab to give us a report which should be ready within a few days.’ What do you mean, cracking up?’ butted in James Middlecaff, VP of Finance, ‘are you implying that the company is at risk?’
‘Not exactly Jim, but am afraid we’re going to have to bite the bullet and recall that particular product range. I’ll need you to give me a breakdown of the costs involved plus losses, even if they’re rough figures.’

Problem was the basic formula had a destructive element that needed to be modified. The remedy was simple. A certain substance in the base was changed that would ‘attack’ only animal greases and fats and not mineral oils such as plastic. Although by this time Richard and Will had proven that there scheme was viable their future plans were blown out of the water. They were still unaware of the events back in Atlanta.

The small samples of crude that John allowed them to tamper with were converted backward and forwards into water and back into oil. ‘What next, Richard?’ asked Will as they were returning to the US, ‘do we go for broke and screw up the Arab’s oil network in exchange for peace in the Middle East? Do we keep it simple by just showing GM and the others what it could do to their motor industry and let them figure it out? Or do we just go to the White House and drop it on the President’s lap and let him decide?’ They had discussed these points before, but now was the time to test the real McCoy.

Within days of their arrival back home, they managed to obtain more washing-up liquid before the bottles were taken off the shelves and extracted enough 'base' to knock out Venezuela’s oil production. They were, in fact, still in possession of a lethal weapon and able to carry forward their plan.

Jim opened the monthly VP meeting with the following statement: ‘I am pleased to report that we have finalised the washing-up liquid remedy campaign and we’re back on track with forecasts. Yet one thing has puzzled me. For some unknown reason, and just before we got back all the bottles, we had a short burst of sales of the old stuff in the downtown area of Atlanta. Not much cash involved but it did have a positive blip on the sales figures…’
‘Hold it,’ interrupted Briggette, ‘you mean that an abnormal number were sold somewhere in a matter of days? I don’t like it. Something’s wrong. Our competition has stumbled on our problem. Get the inspection boys working on it right away!’

In the meantime, as Richard and Will were about to launch into their plan, they were called up by the account manager from Mucko Cleansing Inc. that handled the advertising contract who needed to review the whole program. They naturally became suspicious. We’ve been found out!’ thought Will. All kinds of hypothetical scenarios went through both their minds. Trials, prison sentences, disgrace to their families; it all tied in. ‘We’ve got to tell them the truth,’ said Richard. Next day, they went stumbling into Thomas Dilckeck’s office, VP of sales of Soap Company. ‘It was his idea, not mine. He made the base,’ said Will. ‘You son of a bitch! You bastard!’ retorted Richard. ‘How could you…’
‘Hey, calm down you guys! What are you yelling about? I called you as I need you to come up with a new ad campaign. It looks like we screwed up on the washing-up liquid and one of our competitors is trying to muscle in on us.’

After he wiped the sweat off his brow, Richard, smiling and nodding at Will, explained the whole story to Tom. What they had done, why they had done it, and what they had planned to do in the future to put the world right. Tom listened without flinching. His own mind was turning the amazing story over in his head. ‘OK. No harm has been done except that I understand the boss is checking on the quantity of extra bottles that were sold last month.’ He chuckled, ‘you should have seen the face of the poor warehouse owner when our inspectors turned up. The son of bitch nearly had a heart attack!’ He paused for a few moments and added, ‘we can solve this whole matter in no time. This is the beef…’

The headlines all over the country were simple and to the point:
‘Anti-Grease Terrorists on Skids - ’. The article went on to state:
‘Members of a little known terrorist group called ‘Samaritans’ from a remote island in the Pacific have been uncovered and have subsequently been terminated. Their intention was to dominate the world’s total economy by using a new chemical with a vinegar base that was capable of turning our water system into oil. Although the world would benefit from an enormous and incalculable new oil supply the loss of water would mean the end of the world. Thanks to the quick and intelligent action of the executives of Mucko Cleansing Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, especially their new President, Thomas Dilcheck and his senior VP team, Mr Richard and Will Doe, once again America and the world are safe from a new threat of unknown terrorism.’

© James G. Skinner. August 2008

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