Secure relay

Channel 4
secure relay

teslamomma says: hows that curly haired boy of yours?
han says: We are not going to talk about him
teslamomma says: you get him onto that locatelli quick
teslamomma says: my baby is coming out of his shell real fast now
teslamomma says: we got bug sign around him already
han says: that was fast
han says: will move him

Kang Dong Won in khaki jacket
Patience

Auren Han logs out of the relay tunnel, rubs tired eyes.

His curly haired boy is not coming back to the house tonight.  He’s doing some damn hyper-futuristic collaboration with a group of university students, actors and musicians. Auren can’t imagine how on earth he will bring up the subject of an obscure Baroque violinist when he, Auren, is supposed to be a flat-eared philistine.

Or how he will be able to watch the curly haired boy walk off, bearing that viola case towards the end of the world.

Barret, damn him, was not supposed to find the hole in a man’s heart and climb in through it.

That was not in the contract.

reiseishin, part 1

Korean actor Byung-hun Lee
Put the Game Face On

“Why don’t you tell me a little about your experience coordinating security,” Auren Han says.

His tablemate proffers him a Coke, which he accepts politely.

“In Taipei,” Don Pancras begins, promisingly enough; Barret, Han thinks, would already be calling him “Don Pancreas.”

While Pancras, who holds his shoulders a little too high in an effort to look mean, makes his way from Taipei to Kilimanjaro via the Snake Triads, Han lets his eyes ease left, over Pancras’ head. Pancras was eager to meet him at the gym, eager to interview and maybe go mano a mano with somebody, show off his kook sul won. Han nods, his eyebrows cocked in the closest thing his face ordinarily gets to affable. Not listening at all.

He’s not hiring Pancras. He’s not even not hiring Pancras. Pancras is a cover.

ATTN: TS

curving grid, switching station pic by Kim Høltermand
Switching Station - photo by Kim Høltermand
Hi Susan,
Just making sure your little … surveillance problem … got sorted out. Your friends seem like lovely people; would hate for them to have any trouble.
As for the other matter … well, I’ll be in touch.
Have a nice day.
AH

reiseishin, part 2

While Pancras does his spiel, Auren Han drinks his Coke and watches. He’s not watching Pancras. He’s in the deep field, watching something else, not Pancras, who is describing dangling a reticent witness–an attorney–out of a small propeller plane.

Beyond the booths and the snack bar, spreading out to Han’s left, is the rest of the gym, looking unsure of its purpose, full of new amenities and filtered light. The smell is right, though, and the sounds, the almost crystalline sound of the load dropping back into place on the rack, the muted sounds of sparring from the somewhat makeshift matted area where Asian-looking guys kick heavy bags.

black jacket fashion shoot, Chen Kun
What?

Han has already decided that Pancras, who looks too hopeful to have spent much time dangling people out of airplanes, is full of shit. But Pancras is also an avid talker, which suits his purposes, because the guy he’s really waiting for, the guy he came here to see, hasn’t come in yet.

Now Pancras is in Venezuela, rescuing kidnapped cocaine heiresses, all of whom, apparently, wanted to lick his balls.

There’s not a lot of ways to confirm his hypothesis, or even to gather data to further a hypothesis. Dance of Knives is just the name the subject goes by in the States. That, by itself, gave Han pause. He (Auren can hear Barret working on this: “So he’s Mister Knives? Mister-of-Knives? Sounds like a dude from a Scott Pilgrim comic.”) is not FOB enough that Han can dismiss the name as some kind of error of an immigration translator. Arty: Barret, again, in his head. It’s a strange direction, a strange choice, particularly if–

Sudden, turbulent movement in the matted area. Someone falls hard, makes a big slapping noise on the mat; tight, Han thinks, way too tight.

Three people fall down in swift sequence. The last person gets tossed back into the cloud of attackers. That person trips, rolls quite competently over his neighbors, rises to attack again, and is clotheslined.

Not clotheslined, Han corrects himself. Lighter than that, what Aikido smartalecks call a touchless throw. Han has not seen much of that working outside of the confines of a traditional dojo. This is a motley group of guys who don’t seem to know each other well. Mixed styles. A lot of flashy tats in odd places on their bodies. Except the guy in the middle–

The guy in the middle is his guy, and Han makes a private personal confirmation. Must have come in from the dressing room while Pancras was in Venezuela, catching Han a little off-guard with the reference to his balls.

black tribal back tattoo on seat guy
Guardian

A very strange move, unexpected even in a traditional dojo, and very strange in a fancy gym: coordinated. You show up, towel over your shoulder, in sweats and bare feet; step on the mat, and wham! Four guys are all over you, all at once. Like a movie, Han reflects.

One of those tattooed guys out there has a cinematic imagination, maybe wanted to test him, the guy in the middle; surprised there aren’t bamboo swords out there, big wooden sticks, bowls of water balancing on doorjambs.

The guy in the middle, the guy nobody landed a punch on, is holding his hands out, laughing.

It’s already clear to Han that this is not the same guy whose files Bennie pulled out of the mess in Russia, despite the resemblance.

And the resemblance is there, right down to the burn marks on his cheekbones. Just angled differently, by about an inch. Same family nose. Same arches, same toe bones. But what he’s built himself is all new. The shoulders don’t lead the parade like a bull, there’s no vodka slung on his middle. No sad fists of fury, busy hammering a bag, day in and day out.

This one, it’s all mileage put onto those legs. He’s queer, of course. If this is Ahn Ha-Neul’s little brother, the thick sullen thug will never admit it.

Nobody in the gym, here, seems to give a damn.

His guy makes sad wry faces, swift gestures of his own mistakes, and they laugh too. His arms are built up from hours of practice, all right–after Barret, one ought to recognize the signs. String player’s forearms ridge up as the guy talks with his fluid performer’s hands.

Not the thick pro boxer knobs from the Russian files, the ones that left those pulpy marks in the forensic shots. No consolation to the families of the dead girls. Diplomatic immunity, hell.

Stalking the Stalker

The younger man picks up the remote and clicks it off. “More sex,” he says, and not the kind of sex that makes me happy.

man's face, lace shadows, photo by Samantha West
photo by Samantha West

“And lots of it?” says the true cynic in the room, in a dirty old man’s voice. He cackles, but he’s not amused by the younger man’s behavior. Silly youngster, ignoring the chance to watch how these people interact in their most trusting moments! Giving up the chance to learn their most ingrained habits? What kind of intelligence-gathering is that?

Ah well, that one won’t be so dismissive about the chance to watch naked people waggling such pretty asses when he gets as old as me, thinks the true cynic in the room. If he lives that long. But then, if I needed the kind of sex that this very tiresome young man seems to be wired for, I’d have ended up in the pen for about twice as long. It’s risky, expensive, and so pathetically ineffectual at accomplishing anything else useful. The younger man would tear them to bits, bone by bone, to feed some inner demons that will never be full. He’d never think of saving them up like a rare wine in his cellar, figuring out how to use them properly, and making up the kind of story that could make them into his allies, forge them into nice strong tools. In short, to drive them like a spear right through any obstacle he cared to aim them at.

Pearls before swine. So wasteful of such rare material, always. He’s always so disappointed when he pulls in the trawling net and takes a look at what the creature next to him has turned into.

Give them that much, when the Trio have sex, they’re at least getting some decent exercise.

But he says, coolly, “Ahh, they do like to tell stories around the campfire, how quaint. Their capacity for schmaltz continues to astonish me. Have you had a chat with the pathetic little B & E amateur who got himself beat up by this girl?”

“He just messed up the place, he wasn’t paying enough attention to remember details. And of course that’s not what we asked him to do.”

Not unlike you, my pet reptile, thinks the cynic. “Convey our regrets to the amateur’s mother,” says the cynic. He doesn’t miss the flash of the eyes for that reward.

“So what are you going to do about Hyphen, as they called him?”

The cynic grunts. He’s been toying with the idea of doing likewise with his companion’s mother as well as with Hyphen’s mother. The choice of that woman was this man’s idea, the fool.

But of course, why bother notifying Hyphen’s mother of his demise? She never loved him, and she’s not Hyphen’s real mother after all, is she? Just the woman who took the money to keep the sullen, defiant creature fed and clothed and attending school. As if that kind of starved, distant discipline was going to make such a powerful creature into a trustworthy guard dog.

woman with twisted updo, photo by Manu-Fauque
photo by Manu Fauque

What on earth was this young fool thinking, when he tossed Hyphen over to some faceless Korean bureaucrat, who promptly tossed Hyphen at one of their grim little servants? Without so much as a security check on the family’s own rickety structural dynamics? Christ, you’d think none of them had ever heard of psych evaluations, however minimal or pathetic that might be.

If you want a test-case on it, one can see what a difference that makes to these creatures when you look at the other twin, that laughing brown face on the monitor. You can see the callouses on his hands and feet, where he fights in a dojo. Given some final bet between them, the cynic would not bet on Hyphen, their bird in the hand. No, he’d pick the other one, the faggot who plays violin.

It’s not like the queer little musician has left all his martial arts skills to rot, is it? His adoptive mother was some nameless scrubby little Army servicewoman left to dry out like a sliced apple among the red desert rocks of Utah. Whatever else she was, she loved that child. So there he is, rolling over on his back and offering himself to his lovers, as trusting and wide-open and human as anything you’ll ever see.

Certainly more human than anything in this room, thinks the cynic.

architecture, man at railed point on water
point on the water

reiseishin, part 3

By his own telling, this is the guy who argued.

His comments, in Dance’s emails to his Grandmother-teacher, reveal that he still thinks he was disobedient.  Defied the rules, became an artiste, ran away from home, changed his name, and embarrassed the hell out of them.

There’s no reply to his efforts to reach discarded old family addresses. There’s no proof he ever existed there. The one who argued, nobody knows him.

Auren has all the emails sent to the music teacher, and doesn’t need them. This is not the one who will disgrace the family name.

The family– ah well, it seems they’ve made their bed.  By all you can tell from the server back home in Korea, there’s only one guy. Not two.

They chatter quite a lot to one of them. They talk to the one in Minsk and Jakarta and Monte Carlo, standing guard over the generals in the junta, the good boy. The one who sends lots of money home via email, which taps in an endless supply of ingenuous multiple shell-game bank accounts, always shifting. Last month Ahn Ha-Neul wrote his emails on servers in Odessa, while he waited on pale girls rewrapping Afghan packages for his bosses. Hotel security has surveillance on all that.  They’re not subtle, they’re not clever, they’re not particularly careful. Who needs to be? Not when you control work on oil company pipelines at will, and even the Chinese are afraid to offend you.

actor Aloys Chen Kun
Yes?

And Dance?  This guy here in the dojo, he goes hungry. The guy who changed his name, he hasn’t changed his bank for two years. Law enforcement could bully this guy with impunity, which is sad. Auren finds it curiously touching. There’s no extra money here– just look at the record of his struggles to pay rent. His grocery checks get tiny toward the end of the month.

The curious thing: Dance of Knives says he’s an only son, in his emails to his music teacher.

The even more curious thing, that non-barking dog in the night: The teacher replies to him from deep in a defense contractor’s system. No volleying from satellites, or from servers in Japan or Guam or Alaska. There’s no other evidence of involvement. No other associated addresses, no other friends, no other traceable links.

The trail ends cold at a door that Auren used to know, in the way that you learn from taking falls.

It was, once, owned by enemies. Personal enemies.