The black Sikorsky gently lowered to the ground, the downdraft from the rotor blades beating circles into the fresh snow. Even before the helicopter had landed all the way, a man leapt out. The cold windbeat against his dark trenchcoat as he walked towards the house in front of which they had landed, followed closely by two LitPols with rifles, who had alit from the helicopter after him. His hair was cut close, and his face wore a frown and the duress of many years.
The house , on the other hand, looked like any other. A simple two-storey affair, done up in red bricks and tiling. A small white patio, with a few chairs out. He wasn’t sure what to think of the setup. It definitely did not look like the residence of Antagonist Zero.
The door of the house opened and another LitPol officer allowed the man in. The two LitPols with rifles stayed outside. The LitPol officer led the man into the kitchen, from where a side door opened into the garage. As he walked through the house, he noticed the small things that were all wrong with this house. A complete absence of paintings, statues or books. The walls were a pale shade of grey. The ceiling was stark white. Several banned words came to his mind. Dull. Humdrum. Unimaginative. Pedestrian. But that was before the government-ordered lexicon was enforced. Now they would call this normal.
Normalcy. That was what this was all about. To prevent the deviation from the standard mean, the widely accepted. To quelch the uniqueness of an individual, for the good of the community.
The Antagonist movement was exactly what the name suggested, a movement to antagonize the creative, the inventive, the innovative. A sort of anti-protagonist movement. The exact time when the movement started could not be pinpointed clearly. A few men and women, driven perhaps by jealousy or even hate. Jealous of the fact that the writers and artists of the world could afford to lose themselves in their work, while the rest of society suffered the drab starkness of reality. Hating the fact that creative license gave them this freedom to enjoy their work. And out of this jealousy, this hate, a revolution was born, led by a person whose identity had been lost in the annals of time. As Antagonist Zero put it, he had become a nameless shadow, devoid of culture and traits so that others would realize how unimportant, how futile the arts were, how unnecessary they were. And then they would emulate Antagonist Zero to become the conforming herd of sheep that they were meant to be. All equal in their banality. All normal.
The movement struck a chord with more people than had ever been expected. Political parties were formed, pressure groups and support systems put in place. Those who would not yield were bought off, or killed. The people’s consciousness was subverted, moulded into thinking that they did not need art or music or literature.
That was when the burnings began.
That was also roughly when the man in the trenchcoat decided he needed to keep his options open. He remembered how at first the feeble protests against the Antagonists started. Peaceful protests and candlelit marches which the Antagonists combated with brute force. But it was not the violence that was the Antagonists’ greatest weakness. It was their consistency. The Antagonists were too predictable, their modus operandi too familiar. It would not take long for them to be outwitted. For the Antagonists to sustain, they needed to innovate, to be unpredictable, something that was not in their capability or their party policy to do. And they couldn’t possibly defeat an enemy they couldn’t understand. So they hired someone else to do the job for them.
The LitPol opened the door for him, and once he went through, shut the door behind him.
“So, Commander Smith, what is new on the Oblit front?” A low, soft voice that could only be described as sterile spoke up.
Commander Smith was vaguely aware of a nebulous figure, hidden in the shadows on the far side of the garage. He cleared his throat to reply.
“We have good news on many accounts. Most importantly, the one they called Eloosive is dead.”
“Dead? Are you sure?” The tremor in Antagonist Zero’s voice was unmistakable.
“I shot him myself. I watched him die.” Commander Smith had a hard time keeping his voice neutral. Eloosive’s conversation with him was still fresh in his mind.
“Well, you’ve done a good job then. What did you do with the body?” The words were simple, but the glee hidden in them was equally clear.
“Even in death, he will be Eloosive. His body was buried in an unmarked location. We don’t want a martyr out of him, do we?”
“No, I suppose we don’t. And what of the other one who was found to be a collaborator?” Antagonist Zero’s voice had regained its usual flat tone.
“Private Addams. He is of no importance to us. To be honest, his poetry is quite…bad.”
“You read his poetry?!” The voice had grown a tad sharper.
Commander Smith couldn’t quite control the anger in his voice.
“Look, do you have any idea what I’m doing for you here? You hired us Obliterators to do all your thinking for you. You want us to do all your dirty creative work, come up with plans and plots and schemes. Everything I do is against the very foundation of the Antagonists. You know it just as well as I do. I’m here to do the job you cannot do. So why don’t you just let me do my job?”
“Commander, don’t forget, that is precisely every reason why you should keep your creativity to a minimum. You and the other Obliterators are a necessary evil, one that is useful to the cause, yes. But not integral. As long as you are useful, you will live.” The lack of tone in the voice did nothing to mitigate the threat Antagonist Zero had just made.
“Any other news?”
The commander forced down a curt reply, and said, “We have made contact with some of the Eastern countries, many of which already have strict curbs on freedom of speech. They are …warming to our ideals. We will receive word from them shortly.”
“That is indeed good news. The Asians always had a good sense of their priorities. And what of Operation BTL?”
“One of our crack explosives team is in France right now. By tomorrow, the Louvre will be demolished. There will be protests from the French government, but nothing to be worried about.”
“Excellent. The French make my head spin. Is that all?”
“One more thing. Our preliminary tests on our bio-weapons are in progress. They target creative minds specifically, so we should have appropriate beta test results soon.”
“Very well. Keep me posted. Are we done?”
Smith hesitated for a minute before saying, “Yes, AZ, I think we are.”
As he boarded the Sikorsky, he heard a small beep. He sat down inside the helicopter and then took out a small handheld display device from his inside pocket. The glow from several green dots on the display lit up his face. Tracers, on tabbed Protagonists. Smith pushed a switch and the green lights disappeared. The screen now showed only three red lights now. More tracers. But these weren’t tabbed Protagonists. They were free and moving. Smith was counting on the age old method of triangulation. If even two of them met at a point, he would know that he had found an important hideout of the Protagonists. Maybe he’d even stumble onto Nick himself.
Of course, he wasn’t ready to share this information with Antagonist Zero, just yet. He didn’t plan on expending his usefulness that quickly. He still had a job to do. The Obliterator took out his laptop and started entering data furiously.