THE MOUNTAIN OF LONG EYES
by Thomas Wm. Hamilton
Hegam Kakaichu set aside the eighth grade homework, glad to be done grading it. He picked up the day's Arizona Republic to see what news was in the world. Subconsciously, he stopped thinking of himself as a Tohono O'odom. He was now John Harris, holder of a Master's in anthropology from the University of Arizona, located in Tucson, about 40 miles from his home on the Papago reservation. As a Papago, or Tohono O'odom in their own language, he was an important figure, a shaman. To the white man, he was a school teacher, and that was how he made his money.
The newspaper's top headline screamed of a terrorist attack in Tucson, of all unlikely places. The Flandrau Planetarium had been hit with a powerful bomb. It seemed from the article that only one casualty had resulted, an electrician named Greene who worked in the planetarium. What really bothered Kakaichu was the message left at the scene. A group calling itself God's Avenging Army denounced the Flandrau Planetarium and all scientists for promoting what they called the "demonic falsehoods of science". Apparently these falsehoods included all of modern cosmology, a good deal of astrophysics, and generous portions of ordinary astronomy. Since the Flandrau, in their opinion, was leading the public to satanic blasphemy (his Tohono O'odom mind wondered for a moment if that meant they didn't mind other blasphemies), it had to go.
But Kakaichu was far more frightened that the message linked science and the developing field of magic. He had been one of the first to Blossom after the Change, incorporating is new abilities into his status as what vulgar whites called a medicine man, or what the educated or sophisticated called a shaman. His people had their own term. God's Avenging Army seemed, from its overwrought proclamation, to think those who could work magic were either possessed by invading demons from Hell, or demons themselves. Being quite confident that he was neither, and concerned how this GAA might react, he thought of what steps he could take to assure his own safety.
Kakaichu stepped out of his hogan and faced the mountain home of the chief god of his people. Kitt Peak rose 7000 feet above sea level, and was topped by one of the world's leading collection of telescopes, including the world's largest solar telescope. Over half a century had passed since the Papago had rented the top of the mountain to an association of universities.
The rental agreement, which the Papagoes called a treaty, had a few unique features. They retained the exclusive right to operate a gift shop aimed at tourists visiting the observatory. If a majority of the goods were made in Thailand, Malaysia, or Central America, and few if any were made by Tohono O'odom, the tourists were generally too dumb to notice or care. The native people also were exclusive providers of all non-technical services for the observatory, so in addition to the tribe making money from the rental fees and shop, they also benefited from some jobs.
At his distance Kakaichu could not see the road winding up the mountain, but several telescopic domes were visible, along with the angular image of the solar telescope. These he ignored. Ee-ee-toy lived in the caves of Kitt Peak, and the astronomers' rental agreement said the "men with long eyes", as they were called in the language of the People, would never enter or approach a cave. Kakaichu raised the leather pouch containing his objects of power and prepared to enter a trance state in which he asked Ee-ee-toy for guidance. As he gazed on the mountain, two great clouds of dust arose on its flank, one perhaps a thousand feet from the telescope-bedecked summit, the other about three thousand feet lower.
Kakaichu murmured a few words which most deities and all humans would have found offensive. He re-entered his hogan and waited for the news media to catch up with events. Within an hour it was clear God's Avenging Army had struck again. They claimed they had blocked the road to Kitt Peak National Observatory so it would not be used again until the astronomers stopped lying about the age of the universe. Would the GAA, wondered Kakaichu, insist on 9 a.m. on Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C., or could the astronomers quibble them into agreeing to 8:45 a.m.? Or maybe Saturday, October 22?
The Tohono O'odom did not have a precise age for the universe, nor they did have either a Big Bang or "Let There Be Light" in their beliefs. The Great Spirit in the guise of a Raven had laid an egg which became the world, while the shards from the shell became the stars.
Other, smaller eggs hatched to become the First People and animals. John Harris was obligated to teach the Big Bang, but as tribal shaman Hegam Kakaichu passed along the beliefs he had inherited. That this did not obstruct his having a television was fortunate. A bit less fortunate was the telephone.
He picked up on the second ring. "John, is that you?"
"Which John do you want? We have several models in stock." It was an old joke, but he recognized the caller's voice, an associate producer of news documentaries for the local PBS station. They had first met when Kakaichu was a sophomore education major at Arizona State, and the caller was was little more than a gofer on a show about the Tohono O'odom. "So, Greg, what's my favorite paleface doing these days? Blowing up observatories, are you?"
"Be careful, Kemo Sabe, a lot of Homeland Security types are real upset. Astronomy is actually a fairly major contributer to the state's economy with all the observatories we have around here. And my own kids liked to go to the Flandrau."
"Okay, your work keeps you close to the news. I heard this Avenging Army drivel. Should I be worried?"
"Everybody's worried. Nothing's left of the Flandrau. Even the mural near the entrance was destroyed. The Governor's ordered National Guard units to Lowell Observatory, the Naval Observatory, and Mount Hopkins. She even has a platoon patrolling the Barringer Meteor Crater. Local police are being provided with the names and addresses of all the registered magic users. Small planetariums like the one in Flagstaff are getting protection also."
Kakaichu let out a long whistle. "Are these nuts using magic to get by any wards that magic users put up?"
"Your guess is as good as anyone else's. From their antagonistic views on magic, my guess is no, but I usually guess wrong."
The two chatted for a few more minutes, with the TV producer finally asking Kakaichu if he or any other member of his tribe might be willing to comment on the air about the Kitt Peak bombing, since it happened not only on land they owned, but on their sacred mountain.
"So that's the point of this call! Well, I can't answer for the tribe's civil authorities, but speaking as the tribal shaman, my response is no comment."
"Oh, come on, John. We've know each other a long time. Surely you can squeeze out a deplore for me."
"I'd deplore a whole lot more if the GAA saw me on your show, and decided a devil worshipping tribal shaman would make a nice target for their next bomb!"
"Phooey, you're already well known. Besides, you can always use your powers to block whatever they try."
"And if they're smarter than me that will leave you short one Injun contact for future shows. No, why don't you try the Tribal Council? A couple of them love to shoot their mouths off."
Kakaichu did not tell his friend that he needed to visit Kitt Peak to see if any caves had been damaged. It was, after all, his responsibility to look after the tribe's sacred affairs. After some more social exchanges, Kakaichu hung up. He gathered several objects of Power, and together with his leather bag of shamanistic items, planned first to protect his home, and then himself.
The damned insurance companies still wouldn't give a discount on home insurance for magic users, but he long since had a fire suppression spell on the hogan. He enhanced this with a spell that should prevent rapid expansion, as from a bomb. Finally, since he did not have the power of invisibility, and in any case, an apparently empty car driving to Kitt Peak might attract attention, he decided to use an idea he had come up with but never tried. He withdrew from his leather pouch the feather of a quail and the six clawed paw of a squirrel. When his spell was finished, anyone looking at him would see his body four feet to the right of where he really was.
He went out to his car to drive to Kitt Peak. As Kakaichu opened the door of his car, two rifle shots rang out. Powerful magic-user or not, he ducked. As he cautiously looked around, he saw two bullet holes in his car chassis. They were both four feet to the right of where his head had been. Drawing on the knowledge gained in a physics course taken to fulfil a science requirement, Kakaichu remembered that the kinetic energy of the bullets had just been changed to heat energy. With a few words, he gathered that energy and enough additional energy drawn from the air around him to create a sudden chill. All the energy was directed back to where the bullets had originated. He heard a scream, and a man with short-cropped, blond hair popped out from behind a boulder. The man was wearing desert fatigues. Totally pissed off, Kakaichu turned him into a roadrunner. The bird hopped up and down in place, clacking loudly to his right.
Kakaichu pulled out his cell phone, and dialled the state police. "I have a member of God's Avenging Army here. The SOB just tried to snuff me. Please send a team to collect him."
"I beg your pardon? Who is this?"
"Hegam Kakaichu, the tribal shaman of the Tohono O'odom. I'm at home. I was about to drive to Kitt Peak to see if these jackasses had done any damage to the caves. He fired twice and missed. I've got him, well, pinned down until you get some people here." It took more talk to convince the state police he was serious, but after an hour's wait, three state police cars pulled up, accompanied by a tribal police car. A lieutenant who seemed to have taken charge started talking to Kakaichu's right shoulder. Realizing he had forgotten something, Kakaichu ended the displacement spell. The cops all blinked at his seeming sudden hop to one side.
The anglo cops were a bit taken aback to learn they were expected to arrest a bird, but the tribal cops found it very funny (and not a little reassuring). Kakaichu turned the failed assassin back into his human form. Since his clothing had been left behind, the nude gunman amused the two female members of the state police contingent. After dressing him and putting on cuffs, the state police indicated that they wanted to impound Kakaichu's car as evidence. This led to a loud and prolonged argument. "Dammit, I need my wheels to get around."
One cop responded, somewhat snottily, "Why don't you just mount a broomstick? Flying is usually faster anyway."
"Because I'm a shaman, not a witch. Or would you like me to demonstrate on you how to be turned into a bird?"
The cop put his hand on his holster and backed away. "That could be regarded as an assault on a peace officer. Don't try it."
The police lieutenant in charge tried to settle things. "We'll document the damage to your car with photos, and take the bullets and rifle with us. I don't think we'll need the car. Anyhow, our main interest in this bozo is getting the names of the rest of his group."
Finally, hours late, Kakaichu headed for Kitt Peak.
The road at the foot of the mountain was blocked by National Guard troops. There was no way that Kakaichu could convince them to let him through. Their orders were to block everyone. As the Lt. Colonel commanding explained, even Dr. J. Carlin Smith, Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory, could not get past them. That Kakaichu represented the owners of the mountain mattered not one iota. Homeland Security investigators might reopen the mountain in a couple weeks. Meanwhile, the commanding officer had already heard from outraged astronomers how his blocking them just aided God's Avenging Army in interfering with critical research. He had his orders. Sorry, sir, and goodbye.
Kakaichu drove about a mile away, and parked his car well off the road. He placed a glamour on it, so anyone looking would see only a badly battered and dying saguarro. He took the quail feather out of his leather pouch, and hid the pouch and his clothing under a large rock. Finally, he transformed himself into a quail. "That dopey cop expected me to fly 40 miles over this desert. I'd have been exhausted by the time I got here. It'll be bad enough flying up the mountain, searching the caves."
The quail flew a search pattern, looking at the known caves and grottos. He was a couple hours into his flight, and about 1500 feet above the base of the mountain when he spotted two men wearing desert combat gear. His human eyes would almost certainly have missed them, but quail have extra sharp vision as a defense against their many predators. He swooped down, and landed near them.
"We're wasting our time, wandering around this accursed mountain. Everyone is off it but the Security investigators. We're just risking getting caught."
"Relax, the head of the team sent here by Homeland Security is one of us. If we're caught, he'll let us go. Meanwhile, we can hunt out the caves the pagans worship. Destroy them, and the pagans will have no choice but to admit God is great. Smiting the blasphemous astronomers and the pagans together! A true blessing."
Kakaichu heard the first one grunt. Now he was stumped. These two nutcases wanted to destroy the caves, as the home of Ee-ee-toy, and he couldn't tip off Homeland Security as to their whereabouts if the H.S. team was infiltrated. He knew one way of stopping them. He reverted to human form, and crept to where they were in view. Since they were so ardent about the Bible, Kakaichu used a biblical source, and turned them both into pillars of salt. After that he had to rest. Form changing and flying around took as lot out of him. He found the camp the two members of God's Avenging Army had been using, and slept on one of their bedrolls. The next morning right at dawn he searched for the Homeland Security team, flying directly to the top of Kitt Peak. The problem with being a quail on top of Kitt Peak was that no real quail would ever be found at such an altitude. Would Homeland Security types be aware of this? Kakaichu would be slightly embarrassed to revert to human, since his clothing was back at his car. He landed atop the dome of the Mayall telescope, the largest and highest on Kitt Peak, and looked around. At least a dozen men, all toting M16s, could be seen wandering around. Two stood at the entrance to the gift shop the Tohono O'odom ran. Others were patrolling around the domes of the other telescopes. The solar telescope, slightly lower and adjacent to the parking lot, seemed to have an armored vehicle parked beneath it. He fluttered over to get a better look.
A man who seemed to be in charge called the others to attention. Lined up in rows, Kakaichu counted 21 in the Homeland Security contingent searching and guarding the mountain top. He listened as the commander gave out various assignments, and then wrapped up with, "Recite our oath."
The entire group presented arms, and chanted "One republic, one people, one language, one God." What the hell is that all about? the quail was unable to say. Kakaichu landed about fifteen feet from the APC under the solar telescope. As he tilted his head to examine it, a man stepped out of it. "So one of the devil practitioners couldn't stay away from the facilities of their scientist allies, eh? Die demon." He fired, but at his appearance Kakaichu had taken off. More gun fire followed him across the sky, and it became obvious a lot more than one person was firing at him. Kakaichu flew up the side of the vertical tower of the solar telescope, dodging bullets.
At the top, where the vertical tower met, and supported, the sloping mouth of the telescope, there was a wide opening to admit the Sun's rays. The quail flew in for sanctuary, easily slipping past the mirrors and lens at the top of the sloping telescope tube. He flew down its length to the room where the solar telescope created the largest image on Earth of the Sun, so large that it fell on a polished table over two meters in diameter. Kakaichu landed on the floor next to the table and reverted to human form. This room was clean, but a neighboring room had a workman's overalls hanging on a hook. The fit was poor, but good enough.
The rooms were below ground level. Kakaichu had no desire to be trapped underground, and headed for the exit. He could still hear sporadic gun fire outside, so he waited just inside. He heard a voice ordering that someone check inside the telescope. Gently, he reached out and locked the door. Then he created a spell to freeze the door in place, in case anyone outside had a key. He had no easy way of communicating. The solar telescope was unique on Earth in its size and construction, but if Kakaichu could get inside the Mayall telescope, he had two chances to ask for help. Best if his enemies were distracted searching here. He unfroze the door and went back to the observing room, where he became a hawk. As he flew up the sloping tube past the lens and mirrors, he could hear the outside door being smashed open.
Resting on the lip of the solar telescope, Kakaichu considered his chances. Gunmen were posted far below, watching for a bird to fly away, while others were searching the control rooms of the solar telescope. Hawks can fly fast, and Kakaichu flung himself into the air. As men began to react to his appearance, he flew a circuitous path past several smaller telescopes. The dome of the Mayall was closed. But the ground level door was open. Kakaichu flew in and went straight to the office door. He reverted to human form, and opened the door. He entered, shut the door, and froze it solid. No key, no merely human force would open it. As expected the telephones were dead. Now, the real test of my abilities. He reached out to complete the connection.
Kakaichu drew himself into the telephone system, past the gross visual level to the molecular, past that to the atoms. As his consciousness descended past the quarks, he saw a flash of the Great Raven. Deeper. Light appeared. Deeper. The Big Bang. Deeper, past the Big Bang into the time modern physics said was undefined, reaching out. Quantum effects began appearing. He was in realms Einstein had refused to approach. To a level--ultimate???-- where the quantum effect of application at a distance melded with Magic's Law of Contagion.
Kakaichu lost his consciousness.
He never was to know how long before he came back to himself. He could feel he was lying on a floor, and was drenched in sweat. After a long time he was able to open his eyes. He lay in the observatory office. There was banging on the door. Gunshots. The sound of bullets impacting an unyielding door. Painfully he pulled himself upright with the aid of a table.
The labor of using the telephone came close to putting him on the floor again, but at last he heard the dial tone. What was the area code? Ah, yes. He dialed.
"Office of the Governor of the State of Arizona. How may we help you?"
"This is John Harris, tribal shaman of the Papago Nation. I have vital information on the terrorist attacks that is for the Governor's ear only."