“So put on your big girl pants, stop being a bunch of pussies, and enforce the goddamned Constitution!”
Former Miss Tennessee Danielle Lusch, star of such films as ViperBlayde, Bayou Blood Queen, and Suck on This, B*****s!—and current spokesmodel for the coalition of American gunsellers—cocked a razor-sharp eyebrow at the Senate panel and gave the pouty sneer that invariably transfixed legions of Barrel and Bullets readers whenever they came across her face in full-page P.S.A. ads.
Committee Chair, Senator James Delson Dither, leaned to his mic. “Thank you, Ms. Lusch. This body always appreciates your, uh, candor.”
“The pleasure, Mr. Chairman, is all mine,” Ms. Lusch growled, seductive and castrating. She rose and reached skyward, her fingers crowned with ruby manicured talons in a pair of V-for-Victory signs, the downward delta of her arms paralleling the daring plunge of her neckline.
“God Bless America!”
She pivoted and stalked off, the staccato beats of her spike heels momentarily transforming the aisle of the Hart Senate Hearing Room into a Milan runway, her kickboxing-tuned buttocks under a clingy skirt ba-booming like two alternately palpitating hearts. When the doors closed behind her, the room breathed again.
Chairman Dither mopped his bald crown with a pocket square, his glasses noticeably fogged. “Any additional testimony for the day?”
A page nervously handed him a paper which he regarded with a frown, then a jolt of surprise.
The page whispered in his ear.
“Ok, then. It seems we have one late request to be added to the agenda. The Chair recognizes Mr. Edmund Darhenny.”
As eager as the tracking of Ms. Lusch’s departure was the twisting in seats to witness Darhenny’s arrival. The double doors swung wide and in came the world’s first self-made trillionaire, the apotheosis of the American tech mogul, all casual swagger and self-deprecating bravado. Darhenny wore his trademark black blazer and open, collarless shirt, his square-jawed grin and bouncy chestnut pompadour framing the friendly twinkling of his emerald eyes. He gave a few small waves of recognition to folks on each side of the aisle as he made his way to the witness’ table, sending waves of whispers rustling through the crowd.
Chairman Dither banged his gavel. “Welcome, Mr. Darhenny.”
“Thanks for having me, guys.”
To the side of the Chairman, a rotund figure grunted and shifted noisily in his seat. Vice Chair Senator B. Branford Stool harrumphed into his mic.
“Mister Chairman, I fail to understand why this assembly is permitting another speaker at this hour.”
“Senator, this was a late request from—”
“Obviously, it was a late request and, might I add, a wholly improper one. This man isn’t even from a relevant industry. He runs that computer company, what is it, Macro-Dick.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“The name of my company is pronounced macro-DEEK, with a long E sound. Macrodic Technology. It’s a conjugate, with macro to imply large or extensive and the Latin verb ‘dicit’ meaning ‘speak.’ Loosely translated, the name means ‘speak expansively.’ I’m surprised someone who went to law school doesn’t recognize that.”
Senator Stool shot the stink-eye at a page who failed to fully suppress a giggle-snort. He then continued with an evil, sow-faced smirk.
“Well then, Mister Dar-heiny—”
“Henny. I would have thought the pronunciation of that was perfectly clear but I don’t mind if you prefer dick and heiny.”
The page let out a single bark-laugh which he quickly buried in a fit of coughing.
Chairman Dither banged his gavel.
“Enough. Mr. Darhenny, you petitioned to speak to this Committee. Can you please tell us why?”
“Absolutely. Like any citizen, I’m concerned over gun violence and I was very glad to find out about this hearing to discuss the issue. Forgive me for being so bold, but I think I might have something worth contributing.”
“By all means then, Mr. DarHENney,” said Senator Stool. “Do enlighten us.”
“With pleasure. You see, my company’s flagship consumer product—the one that let us essentially revolutionize the world—is the so-called battery-less cell phone. To enable that, we’ve built a vast, saturated spectrum electromagnetic network that sustains both our telecom and utility grid businesses. The exact details are, of course, proprietary, but we transmit on a wide range of frequencies with terrestrial and satellite relays that interact recursively with not only active components but passive obstructions as well. It’s this last property that’s relevant here. Thanks to the ubiquity of our network—and the enormous body of data we’ve analyzed over the last decade—we’ve stumbled upon a kind of non-optical electromagnetic densitometry. Put simply: the predictable Gaussian signal dispersion of metal can enable geo-positioning.”
The assembly leaned forward as one, awaiting elucidation. When none came, Chairman Dither voiced the inevitable question:
“Um… and that means…?”
“We’ve developed an app that can detect guns.”
“You what now?”
“We send out radio waves. The metal parts of guns interfere with the flow, like rocks in a stream, and we’ve learned to recognize that distinct pattern of interference. Integrated with a GPS, the app will show all the guns nearby, just like restaurants or hotels.”
Silence thickened the air in the chamber. A panelist spoke up uncertainly.
“You mean gun… stores?”
“No, I mean guns. Actual firearms. Technically, just the barrels. No matter what the grip or body is made of, the barrel of any gun is always a tube of dense metal, usually carbon or molybdenum steel. We can pinpoint where those tubes disrupt our signals. We can’t always tell what type or caliber, but the general location is pretty accurate.”
Darhenny flicked his wrist and a flap of clear plastic in his fingers snapped into a rigid, opaque control tablet. He poked at the touchscreen.
“So, for example, in this room, we can see four little red dots, corresponding to the position of the four armed officers by the doors. No one else seems to be packing, which is good since, save for the Capitol Police, the halls of Congress are gun-free zones. Zoom out, and we can see red dots for the additional armed guards in the corridors… entrances… parking lot… the Police Station on E Street. Zoom out further and you’ll notice scattered dots all throughout the Metro area, thanks to D.C. v. Heller. Now, we can also pick a spot to zoom in on such as… oh, let’s say, this conspicuous little cluster of red. According to the map, that’s a bar on the twelve-hundred block of Wisconsin Ave. in Georgetown—closed for the moment—but where the owner apparently feels it’s necessary to store… uh, looks like… eight pistols and, maybe, four rifles? As I said, the app isn’t very precise. Truthfully, it’s still in beta, but the hope is once people start using it, we’ll get more real-world feedback for further refinement.”
Ripples of bewilderment transited the room, congealing into a slurry of disapproval, combusting into spikes of outrage.
From the dais, one of the panelists managed to stutter out, “You’re… you’re not seriously… thinking of … of selling this?”
“No, of course not. Our intention is to make it available to—”
“Even if this were utilized by law enforcement, there would be enormous Constitutional issues.”
“I’ve considered that and, frankly, I don’t think it’s a big deal. You see, the notion of security in a free state is based on—”
“Mr. Darhenny,” bellowed Senator Stool, “your organization must immediately stop all development on this… this… app until the proper authorities have evaluated it!”
“Um… Senator, I don’t think you understand…”
“No, I don’t think you understand! This is an order to cease-and-desist and surrender everything you have on this technology before it can get out into the hands of—”
“It’s already out.”
The roiling sludge of outrage in the room froze.
“What did you say, boy?”
“It’s out. We released it in an update patch two weeks ago. It’s been pushed to the operating system of every Macrodic phone, tablet, laptop, server… everything. If you’ll all take out your phones—does everybody have a Macrodic phone? What the heck am I saying, there’s no other phone left on market! So, take out your phones, launch the Map application, pull down the Locator menu, and you should see ‘Guns’ listed between ‘Greenhouses’ and ‘Halal Carts.’”
The room erupted: politicians and press, witnesses and visitors, all fumbling for their phones. Throughout the chamber came gasps of awe and cries of wonder, the most articulate of which was the page’s drawn out “Whoa!”
“So, as you’re seeing, we all now have the ability to non-invasively monitor one another’s firearm possession. Schools and theaters can identify potential threats. Social services can check at-risk individuals. Police can use it before approaching a vehicle. If there’s a SWAT team descending on your meth lab, this will give you a heads-up. It creates full equanimity of awareness.”
“Mr. Darhenny,” began one of the panelists, “what you’ve done is incredibly dangerous!”
“How so? How does the mere awareness of the weapons compare to the danger posed by the weapons themselves? I mean, think about it. Personal defense is the most common pro-possession argument, right? But—other than a live firefight—the only defensive value of a gun is deterrence. If people know you’re armed, they won’t bother you. Easy-peasy. The app makes that manifest. Likewise, the notion of an armed populace as a bulwark against tyranny. A government that knows it’s surrounded by militias takes care not to overstep its bounds. Again, the app just bolsters a foundational American value.”
“But… but…” he sputtered. “The power you’ve put into people’s hands, it’s… it’s…!”
“Well, Senator, knowledge is power, but when fewer possess it, they hold the greater share. This just disseminates knowledge, democratizes information if you will, and an informed society is a civil society. Now, you want to talk actual power, we’re looking at using chirped pulse Fourier microwaves for in situ destabilization of the oxidation potential of nitrocellulose.”
“You’re who what?”
“We can remotely neutralize gunpowder. It’s very tricky, requires a lot of energy and precision, but the lab results have been promising so we’ve accelerated field testing.”
“That’s it,” declared Senator Stool. “I’ve heard enough. Officer, take Mr. Darhenny into custody until we can sort this out.”
The chamber gasped. Four uniformed, armed men began to approach—reluctantly, hesitantly—but Senator Stool waved them forward.
Darhenny calmly leaned to his mic. “Senator, I point out you do not have the authority to give that order.”
“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do! Arrest him!”
“Honestly, Senator, this is a mistake. You’ll regret it.”
“Now you’re threatening me?”
“I saying I’m a citizen with rights and you are overstepping your bounds.”
One of the guards reached Darhenny and touched him lightly on the shoulder.
“Sir, I think you’d better come with us for the moment.”
Darhenny glanced back. “Last chance, Senator.”
“Take him away.”
Darhenny rose with a sigh. He looked at the panel and shook his head. Then, in a blur, he moved.
Quick and light as smoke, he pirouetted and plucked the officer’s sidearm from its holster. The room shrieked. Darhenny took a deep step back and placed the muzzle against his own temple.
The moment quivered on a knife edge. Breathing stopped, hearts clenched, and veteran and innocent alike stood frozen in perceptive unreality. And in that silence—that terrible, awful, galactic expanse of horrific silence—Darhenny moved a finger and the tiny sound was heard:
Darhenny’s shoulders dropped several inches and he exhaled like a train whistle.
“Hooooo…. You know, no matter how good the lab work is, that first field test is always a nail-biter.”
He spun the pistol and extended it, butt first, to the guard from whom he’d yoinked it.
“Sorry about that, officer.”
The man received it like he was being handed the severed horn of a unicorn.
Slowly, the wide-eyed gallery returned to normalcy. Senators peeped up from behind desks—a panel of Kilroys—until they recovered themselves enough to resume their outrage.
“Guards! Arrest him! Take him away!”
Darhenny snapped out his tablet, held it toward the guards.
“Any of you fellas want to come work for me at twice your salary and three times your pension? Just need your thumbprints. Offer expires in five… four… three…”
Four thumbs fumbled to press onto Darhenny’s screen.
“Excellent. Welcome to Macrodic, gentlemen. Signing bonuses are in your accounts.” He turned back to the panel. “We done here?” When no answer formed, Darhenny gave a crisp salute and said, “God Bless America.”
As Darhenny turned to go, Senator Stool found his voice at last.
“Who the hell do you think you are?!”
Darhenny stopped. Turned. Leaned down to the mic.
“Before I answer that, let me tell you who you are. You’re a slovenly public servant who got your job by telling people you’d stop immigrants taking jobs that were offshored decades ago by your fraternity brothers. As for me, I run the company everyone on the planet uses to communicate, helped wean the world from fossil fuels, and made the internet obsolete. I, Senator, think I’m part of the technological entrepreneurial system that sustains this country and offers the best hope of saving the world from your antiquated thinking. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have things to do. But don’t worry. You’ll hear from me again before November.”
Darhenny tapped his tablet a few more times.
“Oh, and just for fun, I’ve pushed to all your devices some highlights of an adult film Danielle Lusch made when she was nineteen. It’s under your Shared Media directory. Enjoy.”
He walked down the aisle, flanked by his four newest employees. At the doors, he spun around, pointing out individuals flipping through their phone screens.
“Ha! Made you look!”
As the officers opened the double doors wide, Darhenny smirked and pointed over his shoulder with his thumb.
Matt McHugh was born in suburban Pennsylvania, attended LaSalle University in Philadelphia, and after a few years as a Manhattanite, currently calls New Jersey home.
WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “Well Regulated”:
Combine great writing with pointed humor, a wonderful voice, compelling three-dimensional characters, and a killer—and believable—premise, and you end up with a story that’s nothing short of brilliant, one that punches all the right buttons for us. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the piece gets in a few of digs and face slaps along the way.