Entourage:2039 Chapter 12: Three things happen at once (part two).

Ari Gold is not at peace. Never has been, and apparently never will be- not if bullshit like this keeps happening. You can’t get good help: That’s the one thing that’s never changed since the old days.

And they still get out of his way when he walks down the hall- that hasn’t changed either. You would too, if you saw the Ari Gold of 2039 coming at you. The big pistol on his belt, the bulging arm muscles, obvious even under his suit. And then there’s those legs- cosmetic surgery has come a long way in thirty years. It’s hard to even call it cosmetic anymore, when the recipient’s leg looks more like a horse’s, and he can (and has) knocked people stone cold unconscious with one kick to the head.

It’s obvious to Ari what happened. They came up through the tunnels, under the wall. The places his men are supposed to be charting, and mining, if they weren’t so scared, and lazy, and worthless. They’re still scrubbing the blood off the walls and taking the bodies away when Ari gets there. He feels nothing for these men, nothing at all. They were weak, and lazy, and careless. All the evidence he needs to make this judgment is right there in front of him, stiffening by the minute.

In a few minutes Ari finds the storeroom he was looking for, the place where they came in. A quick inspection, and he knows exactly who he’s dealing with. The calling card is handed to him a second later by an underling who literally turns and flees in terror before Ari can say a word to him. The black card, blacker now with dried blood, only confirms what Mr. Gold already knows.

He reads the label anyway: “The Murphy Group.” A little smile curls on the end of his lip. They realize, of course, that this means war.

Meanwhile: Turtle’s slow breathing is the only movement in his cell. There is no light, no sound, no nothing. Right now there is not even Turtle. He throws his entire self into the meditative void with an almost Trappist zeal.

Ari Gold is meditating too. His practice area is a little different: For starters, there’s the gigantic gold-plated Buddha that almost envelops Mr. Gold as he sits cross-legged in front of it on the giant, Opium-den-red pillow. There are Buddhas everywhere, and maybe a few of the more well-known Hindu deities for good measure. As he sits, Ari’s mind is not what a Zen teacher would consider “clear” by any stretch. When he closes his eyes, his anger does not dissipate. No, quite the opposite. With his concern temporarily withdrawn from the waking world, Mr. Gold’s rages are free to careen though the black gulf of his semi-consciousness , like pulsars transmitting through deep space.

But maybe that is a kind of meditation. Beggars can’t be choosers. And maybe, just maybe, on some astral plane, the minds of Ari and Turtle meet. They’ve had thirty years after all, to get to know each other, to get inside each other’s thoughts. Thirty years since that fateful day when Turtle barged into the offices of the Miller/Gold agency and demanded Ari helped him go into business. He’d said “no,” of course, given the kid some big, half-made-up lecture about what it had been like for him starting out, and then sent him on his way with no help whatsoever- just as a matter of principle. That had been the beginning. And now, the beginning of the end.

Ari, lost in memory, is maybe the only thing in his entire fiefdom not moving right now: In the cyborg workshops under the Silver Lake reservoir, in the hangars and barracks of what was once the Paramount lot, from the tops of skyscrapers and half a mile under the Hollywood Hills, Mr Gold’s people are preparing to make war.

But first, dinner. Ari halted his practice mid-breath and stood to the meditation cabana. If he’s going to unleash hell, why not a little taste of heaven first? He walks to the table, where a lavish meal is waiting: The finest veal still gettable anywhere west of the Great Divide, and an eight year old Bordeaux brought up from the deep cellar for the occasion. His face bathed in red-tinted candlelight, Mr. Gold eats.

Entourage:2039 Chapter Nine: Remembrances of Vincent Chase’s Penis Past (Part two)

Vincent Chase’s blood ran cold. This fear was beyond the “crapping his pants” fear he had felt back in the street- it seemed like a hundred years ago now- when he’d come face to face with the first doppelganger. This was different, a thousand times worse. He wished he could crap his pants, but he wasn’t wearing pants, and his bowels felt frozen now, as if they would never move again.

He was lying under a blanket on a military-surplus cot in some kind of- basement apartment? Bunker? Torture chamber? – and he was looking at another replica of his younger self. But, the eyes. The eyes were the worst part. Like the blind guy in that Hallmark Hall of Fame movie he’d had to do when times got tough, but a thousand times more disturbing- and Turtle wasn’t here to snicker about it with and get him high back in his trailer. This was wrong; horribly wrong in some way Vince could never have described, but just knew, deep down in what was left of his soul.

The girl, Mary, looked at him. “Something wrong, honey?” Her smile did nothing to reassure Vince. “Don’t worry, it gets good in a second.”

Mary pressed another button on her remote and suddenly the Vince-double was… alive. Instantaneously, the dead eyes transformed into deep pools of sensitivity, sexuality, the seven-figure eyes of Vincent Chase, movie star.

The Vince-double turned to Mary, waiting.

“Get number two.”

He (it, whatever) walked across the room and pressed a button. Another compartment opened, just like the first. And inside was another dead-eyed Vince. The first Vince-double put its hand on the back of the neck of the second, and then they were both alive. Two Vinces. Three, if you counted the shell of a man cowering pantsless on the cot.

Mary’s mouth curled into a different kind of smile. “You ready, guys?” Both Vince-doubles smiled back at her. Cot-Vince knew that smile. They wanted her. Those bastards! Nobody got between him and a chick. He was Vincent Chase! Or at least, he was pretty sure he was.

But it was hard to be sure, with the surreal drama taking place before his eyes. Mary was sitting back in one of those spherical, padded chairs that hung from a chain on the ceiling. Vince-double #1 walked towards the second one, and then… #1 touched #2 on the shoulder, stroking him, and then lifted his tee shirt over his head.

It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be happening. This had to be some kind of nightmare. But it was happening. Both Vinces were topless now, and they were kissing each other. And this was no act either; they were into it.

Mary looks over at the real Vince. “You want to get in on this?” Vince is stricken: He cannot speak, or move, or look away. “I’m just kidding. I know you’re not… up to it.” Mary’s eyes sparkle on these last words- she’s enjoying this. Then, to the doppelgangers: “All right guys, I don’t have all night. Let’s cut to the chase.”

The scene unfolds, with the two Vince-doubles doing everything Mary tells them. Everything. Vince hears a low moan from Mary as she pleasures herself, unashamed, her hand in her unbuttoned fatigues. She never touches the Vinces, she just watches- but that seems to be more than enough for her. She seems to have forgotten the “real” Vince even exists.

And then this happens: The real Vincent Chase sees his own penis. Not his penis of course- not the one he sees every morning taking a piss, when he takes the trouble to shift his now-expansive gut out of the way. No, what he sees is the penis of the duplicate-Vince who has now had his pants removed by the other one. And it is a deeply moving experience. In that moment, Vince finds his own penis beautiful. In that moment, everything floods back to him- his potential, his youth, everything he could have been, was, never became. This was the feeling he had in the street, when he saw the first double, but multiplied by a thousand. Vince feels he is in heaven and hell both at once. Here on what’s left on Earth, he can barely breathe, he feels his heart may explode at any second. He wants to give his last will and testament, to make some final statement to the press, to give some explanation of what he has done and who he has been, before it’s too late.

But he can’t move. All he can do is watch.

Entourage:2039, Chapter Eight: The Arms of the Prophet Joshua

It’s a hundred and thirty miles, give or take, from here to where the city of Los Angeles used to be.

The city is still there, sort of. Something of a skyline remains, blackened and battered but still standing. You could see if from here if the smoke ever cleared. Which it doesn’t. By day, an almost biblical plume half a mile high blocks all vision, and at night the lights of aircraft slicing through the dark red haze, and the occasional missile, give the impression of a nebula viewed from several light-years away.

Here in the desert it’s quieter. You get kind of a country vibe, even. Broken down muscle cars of 1960s vintage litter the ditches, and the restless ghost of Gram Parsons still haunts the little roadside motels, looking for good music and a cheap fix. Very little moves on the road at high noon except the lizards and the snakes.

The Mormon pilgrims of the 19th century named the cactus-like trees that dot the desert for their prophet: The trees, like Joshua, seemed to be extending their thorny arms heavenward in prayer. And now something else is moving along what was once the four-lane blacktop of the Twentynine Palms highway. A family of four, heads hidden under dark robes, backs bowed under the weight of a lifetime’s possessions. The mother holds an infant to be her breast, trying to shield him from the sun, and the father pulls a two-wheeled handcart lashed, oxen-like, to his shoulders.

Now there’s a noise behind them, the puttering of an ancient and underpowered gasoline engine. In an instant the trap is set: The father and the older son hide themselves in the scrub beside the road, while the mother and infant wait, centered on the cracked double yellow lines. The sidecar-ed motorcycle putters over the horizon, spots the woman and child, and stops. In less then a minute it’s over: the father slits the throat of the driver, while the son dispatches the passenger. The faith of these pilgrims lacks a prohibition against killing, or anything else. The family loads their gear onto the bike and putters away towards the horizon.

Four days of hard travel later, their water is almost gone. There hasn’t been a spring or a supply cache for two hundred miles. The family’s belief in their patriarch has always been unquestioned, but now they glance at him sideways as he uselessly wipes the sweat from his brow and studies the hand-drawn map one more time.

And then, as the sun sinks over the desert, they see it. Something metal reflects back at them. Approaching, they find a natural staircase wedged between two huge boulders. The air cools as they descend into a box canyon. No one would find this place in a thousand years, if they didn’t know where to look. But now a blonde-haired child, dressed in white, appears to them. Her smile shows a level of dental care that presumably no longer existed in this world- certainly there is no reasonable explanation for its existence here. And yet, she is not a hallucination. She speaks:

“You seek the Oracle?”

The man is too full of joy and exhaustion to speak, but he manages a nod. The child beckons for them to follow, and they move deeper into the canyon. Ten minutes later, they emerge from a series of switchbacks into an amphitheater. Ancient sandstone walls rise two hundred feet above, closing together as they do. Only a tiny sliver of sky is admitted into the Oracle’s chamber. There is a pool of cool fresh water here, more drinkable water than the family has seen in ten years. More blonde children frolic around it, each more perfect than the last. They splash each other without a care in the world, as if it were the pool at any middle-American motor inn. The armed guards don’t phase them a bit.

About those guards: They carry compact but deadly submachine guns, and their body armor is completed by their helmets, adorned with full faceshields, liberated from riot police of one of the region’s former cities. The ancient logo has been scrubbed away, and replaced by three crudely stenciled letters: “JDC.” Some who remember the ancient books, and the man for whom the desert trees are named, say it stands for “Joshua’s Dominion under Christ.” But the fact is, no one knows but the Oracle. And on this subject he is emphatically not talking.

But on other matters, to those of sufficient faith, the Oracle does speak. For there he sits, on his pedestal, face hidden under his black robe, his tall gaunt frame hunched over on his simple throne of wood. The father is afraid, but with the eyes of his wife and children on him, he walks eight trembling steps forward onto the wide mat of palm leaves, holding in his arms their humble offering.

He kneels.