Authors: Project Itoh
© 2007 Project Itoh
Originally published in Japan by Hayakawa Publishing, Inc.
English translation © 2012 VIZ Media, LLC
Cover design by Sam Elzway
All rights reserved.
No portion of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the copyright holders.
Published by VIZ Media, LLC
295 Bay Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Itoh, Project, 1974–2009.
[Gyakusatsu kikan. English]
Genocidal organ / Project Itoh ; translated by Edwin Hawkes.
Summary: "The war on terror exploded, literally, the day Sarajevo was destroyed by a homemade nuclear device. The leading democracies transformed into total surveillance states, and the developing world has drowned under a wave of genocides. The mysterious American John Paul seems to be behind the collapse of the world system, and it's up to intelligence agent Clavis Shepherd to track John Paul across the wreckage of civilizations, and to find the true heart of darkness—a genocidal organ"— Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-1-4215-4272-0 (pbk.)
I. Hawkes, Edwin. II. Title.
The rights of the author of the work in this publication to be so identified have been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Haikasoru eBook edition
"According to esoteric calculations found in ancient Vedic texts, the divine tongue and the languages of man together represent only a quarter of all possible forms of linguistic expression."
—from La haine de la musique
(Hatred of Music)
by Pascal Quignard
So, there was this little girl’s head shoved face first into the tire tracks in the mud.
It looked almost like a scene from
Alice in Wonderland
—it was as though the girl were trying to enter the magical kingdom through the deep furrows in the mud left by truck tires. Only I don’t remember the back of Alice’s head being shot clean open or the contents of Alice’s skull glistening under the sky like a crimson flower in full bloom.
The next thing I laid my eyes on was a kid sprawled on his side in the mud. Less than ten feet away from the girl. Bullets had ripped his back open and had spun their way through his guts before exiting his body somewhere around his belly. His intestines flopped out, washed pink by the rainfall that had just stopped a couple of hours ago. His mouth was open a little, just enough for me to see he had an almost goofy-looking little overbite. It was as if there’d been something he had wanted to say before he died but never had the chance.
We followed the tire tracks and arrived at a small village, maybe twenty or so families in size.
A large pit had been dug in the area that could have been called the village green. At the bottom of the pit was a pile of bodies, charred and smoldering, all heaped on top of one another. There was the smell of singed hair and the smell of burning flesh. The heat had caused the muscles of the half-cooked bodies to contract violently, so the corpses were spread out in a whirlwind. Many of the bones were broken, defeated by the contracting muscles, and limbs were folded over and twisted in ways that no limb would or could ever bend naturally. A tangled web of bodies.
Everyone’s dead. I open the door to see my mom, whose body has just been treated with the cocktail of preservatives, sanitizers, disinfectants, and additives as mandated by law in Washington. The embalmer has made her face up good and pretty, and she’s ready for her eternal sleep.
“Take a good look behind you, darling. You’ll see all the dead pass by,” my mom says to me, so I do as she says and turn around. I see a vast landscape of dead people, grinning and waving at me. Some of the dead are fully intact, others have virtually disintegrated. Don’t ask me how I know that even the headless ones are somehow smiling at me—I just know, I can tell, and as I look on at them they casually fiddle around with their guts that are spilling from their bellies.
“Everyone’s dead, aren’t they?” I ask, turning back to my mom.
Mom nods and then gestures to me. “Of course they are, darling. Just take a look at your own body.”
I look down and notice that I’m starting to rot away. That’s when it clicks that I’m also dead.
Up in the distance I see a stream of dead bodies—everyone who has ever lived and died—flowing gently and inexorably toward their destination, wherever that is.
I ask Mom whether we’re now in the underworld. But Mom just shakes her head gently. Just like when she used to correct me when I was a boy.
“No, darling. This is just the regular world. The world you and I have always lived in. The world that’s always been here right beside us.”
Oh, I see
, I say. Tears of relief are streaming down my face. I can now recognize some faces in the distance. Benjamin, who died of cancer as a child. My dad, who blew his own head off.
Mom takes me by the hand. “Ready to go?” she asks. I nod, and we start walking toward the line of dead people in the distance. This is a bit like how it was the first day of school, I seem to remember. My tears turn into tears of nostalgia. And then I realize that they’re all here beside me—the girl in the tire tracks who had the back of her head blown off, the boy who had his guts blown out, the villagers who were burnt up in a seething mass in the pit. They’re walking alongside us, and we head on over to join the column of the dead.
I killed my mother with my own words.
I’ve killed plenty of people in my time, using all sorts of guns and every caliber of ammo. But I didn’t need any of that stuff to kill my mother. Just a couple of little phrases: “yes” and my name. Put the two of them together and my mom died.
Yes, I’ve killed plenty of people in my time. Mainly using a gun.
Sure, I’ve killed using the blade as well, but truth be told I’m not so keen on that as a method. Quite a number of my colleagues do swear by it, though. They make it a point of honor to specialize in the blade for “professional purposes.” These are the guys who can approach you from behind in absolute silence, slice your windpipe clean open, slit your jugular, sever your aorta, and then go on to pierce your heart, all in less than three seconds flat.
I’m not quite at that level myself, although I’m pretty confident I could acquit myself well enough on this front if I needed to. But guns and ammo are what I know best, and I guess they’re what I’m going to carry on using to do my killing for the foreseeable future. All because a couple of airplanes plowed into two buildings standing side by side in New York, back during one fine morning in the year 2001.
Before that day, no matter how much of a bastard you were, the United States of America wouldn’t sanction an assassination attempt on you. Not officially, at least. Late last century, Executive Order 12333 reiterated President Gerald Ford’s original proscription of assassination or any government involvement in assassination. Even the Public Enemy Number One of the day—say the drug lord Pablo Escobar who flooded the US with South American drugs, or the US’s pet thorn-in-the-side dictator Saddam Hussein—however much the US might have wanted them dead, there was never any official attempt to actually assassinate them.
“No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” That’s how the executive order was worded. Just words, maybe, but each president in his turn—Reagan, then Bush, then Clinton—found himself increasingly bound by their power. That’s not to say that assassinations never took place, of course, but the executive order was respected. Assassination had become a risky move politically. More trouble than it was worth. Easier and cleaner all around simply to face the enemy down: engage in formal negotiations or have a war. As a political tool, assassination just didn’t have the
it used to. Unless it could be guaranteed top secret, it just wasn’t worth it anymore.
After all, couldn’t the US start a war with anyone they wanted to? All they needed to do was find some pretext. The bar was much lower than assassination. Far easier to convince the media that we should kill large numbers of people “fair and square” than it would be to try and explain away a botched assassination attempt. Who was it who said that a single death was a tragedy but that a million deaths was a statistic? Well, either way, it was easier to paint yourselves as the “good guys” when you killed tens of thousands—who
therefore have been bad—than when you killed an individual person. This was what the world used to be like anyway.
Everything changed the day we were attacked on home ground. Things started heating up. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that assassination was now back in as the flavor of the month, but within the halls of power in Washington it was at least back on the table as an option. A worthy contender. A necessary evil in the war against terror, in the fight for humanity. That’s how they’ve explained it. The dark arts that EO 12333 were supposed to have suppressed forever reemerged into the light of day.
And that, more or less, is how I ended up as an assassin.
Not because I’d particularly wanted to—it was just that my job seemed to involve increasing work of that sort. I had duties besides killing, of course. But we in Special Operations I Detachment had sole responsibility for all the assassination jobs parceled out by USSOCOM—the Unified Combatant Command that oversaw the various Special Operations Commands for the US Army, Air force, Navy, Marines, and Intelligence. Back last century the Green Berets sometimes used to get involved in that sort of work, as did that US Army detachment called Delta Force. But now, in the twenty-first century, it’s basically taken care of by us “Snake Eaters” in Intelligence. So much so, in fact, that the guys from the LRRP in the Marines and the Navy SEALS had contemptuously started referring to us as “wet boys”—a nickname derived from “wet work,” the Cold War–era euphemism for assassination. Novelists like Graham Greene and John le Carré used the term a lot.
Think of that famous poster for the film
. Poor, abused Sissy Spacek, standing petrified, doused from head to toe in pig blood. Same for us, only in our case it was human blood we were drenched in. The official headhunters of the United States of America. Or, as Intelligence had named us, Special Operations I Detachment.
And that’s pretty much how I’ve come to be sitting here in the belly of this Flying Seaweed Craft, double-checking the files on our next target.
The face, name, movement patterns, household setup, political leanings of our target were all here, collected in a single file. The next person we were going to kill. We had all sorts of observation techniques drummed into us during our Special Forces training. After all, we aren’t just about blowing things up. No more wham, bam, thank you Uncle Sam. These days, we were usually tasked with jobs along the lines of training allied forces in developing countries or winning the hearts and minds of locals through medical care, education, and propaganda. In other words, this job was a lot about the “soft skills” and not as suited to the cliché of the grizzled, misanthropic lone wolf as is often imagined. Those sorts usually became mercs instead—although in all honesty, mercenaries often ended up as tactical advisors for the armies in these Third World countries as well, so their job wasn’t all that different from ours.
In addition, we in Special Operations I Detachment had to undergo a rigorous program of psychological training to enable us to grasp a person’s character based on a cold reading of their psychometric graphs. You see, the assassination game was still a particularly delicate business—even though the level of political risk,
if you will, had grown more manageable. The world may have moved on from EO 12333, but there were still a shitload of CIA operations that had failed miserably. No, this was no gig for amateurs.
Bungled CIA ops were referred to as “paramilitary operations,” but really they were just playing Cowboys and Indians. And so it came to pass that a new category of forces was formed—Intelligence, specifically the Special Operations Branch with its Special Operations I Detachment. A military department that took over the CIA’s former remit in intelligence gathering. A sort of soldier-sailor-tinker-spy hybrid. The way the twenty-first century was panning out, intelligence activity was much more relevant in a military context than a civilian one anyway. Military intelligence is a moveable feast, and anywhere and everywhere was a theater of war these days.
Things just ain’t what they used to be, you see. There’s always that element of uncertainty that needs to be factored in. And because the name of the game was now all about trying to predict and manage that uncertainty on the one hand, and to adapt when that uncertainty did rear its ugly head on the other, it made sense for Special Forces personnel to have a clear mental image of the sort of person their target was.
In other words we needed to be able to apprehend, down to the last vivid detail, the personality of the person we were about to kill: what he was like, how he led his life. We had to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes, building our empathy with them to a crescendo—and then kill them. A task fit for a sadist. The stuff a Nazi’s wet dreams are made of. So why did this sort of work not cause us to go mad with psychological trauma of our own? One reason, and one reason only: Battle Emotion Adaptive Regulation. A powerful combination of pre-combat counseling and mind treatment that would “configure” our emotions, our morality. This allowed us to draw a clear dividing line between our personal ethics and our duty. Orwell’s “doublethink” made a banal reality by technology.