Thursday, January 07, 2016

Death Merchant #60: The Methuselah Factor

Bloody Blitz

The CIA and the KGB want the DNA from the BND...and they'll stop at nothing to get it.

West German scientists have just discovered a way to slow the aging process in man. A fountain of youth for those who possess it; a cauldron of death for those who don't.

When a corrupt double agent leaks the info to both sides, the race is on. Moscow dispatches an elite squad of expert assassins. Washington sends Camellion, the Death Merchant.

Mercenary master of munitions, masks, and mayhem, Richard Camellion turns the autobahn into a battleground; gives both the Germans and the Russians a lesson in blitzkrieg on his way to capturing The Methuselah Factor.

While Richard Camellion is intent on securing the West Germans' "life extension formula" for the United States government, he believes the idea of extending the normal life expectancy to 150 years would create too many problems. First of all, the planet is already overpopulated. Also, "we could end up with ten or twelve billion gooks ... not to count all the freeloaders and assorted trash pouring through our southern borders."

Joseph Rosenberger delivers a bit of a dud with The Methusaleh Factor. First of all, he holds back on the usual amount of violence. In the book's first 140 pages, there is only a brief street fight in the opening chapter (followed by a long car chase) and then a short shoot-out later on in a factory building. Neither scene is very extensive. Most of the time is spent with the Death Merchant and his cohorts planning and discussing the possibilities of every single option available to them, and then every single aspects to every single option. A huge chunk of the middle of the book is devoted to preparing for a raid on the building where the two scientists are believed to be working. However, when the KGB get there first and nab the two scientists, the mission is aborted. Upon learning that the KGB "snuffed" 30-40 Germans in the raid, a U.S. official says he has "always considered the Soviets capable of any kind of vicious action". Of course, the Death Merchant's plan was almost exactly the same as the KGB's.

Rosenberger gives us three points of view - which I think is a first for the series - as the story unfolds, dedicating various chapters to the points of view of the KGB and the West Germans/BND. The KGB spends time wondering if one of the American agents is der Tod Kaufmann ("that mysterious death machine who often worked for American agencies, especially the CIA").

Camellion's boss, CIA Chief of Station Courtland "The Fox" Grojean, says that he knows where the KGB is hiding the two West German scientists and when they are going to be moved and transported to Russia. They are being held in West Berlin, in an old Nazi factory building, most of which is underground. Now facing a deadline, the Death Merchant quickly comes up with a new plan (much quicker than the Institute invasion that never happened) and two teams of commandos arrive via helicopters. The eggbeaters are equipped with the infamous Gf-Mechanism, which renders them invisible to both radar and the human eye. Once the commandos land on the snow-covered roof and kill a KGB lookout, the Russians know they are trapped - and all they will be able to do is mount a final stand and hope for the best. The finale is pretty low-key compared to past Rosenberger's finishes.

In two epilogues, we learn what happened to all of the main characters, something Rosenberger has never provided before. One of the two scientists died of a heart attack on board a US submarine; the other one reached the United States and "the world never heard from him again". What about the "life extension formula" that was so vital to the US? We do not hear even one word from Rosenberger about it. After the Death Merchant and most of his men survive the shootout with the KGB, that is that. The End.

Rosenberger indulges in his usual right-wing soapboxing. Camellion is paired (once again) with an agent who admires Adolf Hitler, so we get a handful of racist rants from him before he becomes a cold cut in the factory shoot-out.

One of the Russian officers, thinking about American liberals:
He knew that liberalism represented the attempt to superimpose on reality an artificiality, to substitute sham for real, a philosophy of racial suicide that maintained that "all men are equal" and demanded that everyone and everything be reduced to a gray uniformity. That was the trouble with liberals: they were all intellect and no instinct. For that reason, they habitually used words and expressions without any meaning. All the liberals could do was to perform cerebral circles in a spiritual desert and end by dying of thirst.
One lengthy section concerns modern day "revisions" made to the Bible:
"If you say so, Lieutenant." Burnett's voice was hard. "But if I were a religious man, I'd still do some praying when we start down for a landing. It's snowing just as hard at Rhinemein as it was in West Berlin."

Bagley made snickering sounds. "The way they're fiddling around with the Bible, you might as well pray to stones."

Sitting to the right of Camellion, Burnett leaned out, turned, and looked at Bagley, who was to the left of the Death Merchant. "How can anyone change the Bible? That's nonsense."

"No, it isn't." Bagley was firm. "Back during the summer of 1983 the National Council of Churches rewrote a lot of the Bible. Isn't that right, Heffner? Or wouldn't you know?"

The Death Merchant [using the alias Heffner] knew. Not only was he an omnivorous reader, but he was also gifted with almost total recall, within 99.99 percent accuracy.

He shifted his thought processes into high gear. "It really started back in the 1970s when the revisers of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer made a stab at removing 'male bias' from the Psalms. But having put their best foot forward in Psalm One, they tripped over it a few psalms later.

"In the old 1928 prayer book, Psalm One read, 'Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly.' ... The revisers, considering the language to be sexist, changed it to 'Blessed are they' and so on. But when they got to Psalm Fourteen, 'The fool hath said in his heart,' and so on, the revisers let that 'his' stand. Apparently the pro-feminist editors deemed it sexist to limit the 'blessed' to men, but when it comes to 'fools'—well, if the Bible said it was man who was the fool, who are we to tamper with 'Holy Writ'?"

By now, most of the men were interested and intrigued, and Camellion went on to explain that it was the National Council of Churches that had made a shambles of the Bible with its newly released lectionary, a compendium of Bible readings to be read in worship services in liturgical churches. "For example . . ."

"Son of God" (for Jesus) is out. The nonsexist "Child of God" was in. "Lord God" was out. Lord is masculine. The new term was the ridiculous "Sovereign One." Male pronouns were omitted when referring to God or Christ, resulting in sentences like (from Philippians 2:8): "Christ humbled self," substituting for the King James "He humbled himself."

Camellion said, "As I recall, Time magazine called the new revision 'ludicrous,' a 'total disaster,' and cited as an example this rewriting of John three-sixteen: which to religious people is one of the most beloved passages in the Bible: For God so loved the world that God gave God's only child. If you can't use male pronouns to refer to God, you have to repeat the name of God, no matter how terrible it sounds—or stilted."

"Who says that God has to be either male or female?" said Leonard Tuffs, one of the MAC-ATOG men. "Why does God have to have any sex, or maybe God's a hermaphrodite?" (Tuffs actually said "morphadite.")
Rosenberger gets a little post-modern at the end, with his narrator informing the reader what one of the characters actually said rather than what was written within quotations!

Camellion also has some deep thoughts:
It was the diabolical detachment of Grojean's voice that made tiny shivers ski up and down the spines of the other men, the single exception being Mrs. Camellion's third son, Richard, who could easily visualize his own extinction. To Camellion, the death of any human being—and this meant the death of the brain—was neither a "great mystery" nor an event to be contemplated with fear. All life was a march toward death, for nature could never be static. Nature demanded change. Death had to be fed, and Death always fed on Life. In this respect, there were only two possibilities: either Death meant total oblivion—like a star that becomes a super nova—in which case the individual would cease to exist totally, as if he or she had never been born. Or else memory and personality of the individual took up residence in another plane of awareness. A far more interesting prospect. Unless reincarnation is a part of some cosmic scheme. That could be hell! I could be reborn stupid and become a liberal as an adult. Worse, suppose I was born a—Russian? A damned pig farmer!
And he muses on his boss, Grojean:
The Death Merchant gazed contemplatively through the unfrosted section of the window glass and studied the three tarp-covered helicopters waiting on the FAARP (Forward Area Arming and Refueling Point); at the same time he reflected on Courtland Grojean. It was not the job of the CIA boss to ponder history or he would have known that history often repeats itself, that human beings persist in making the same mistakes. This was not the fault of the hundreds and hundreds of millions of Little People but of the men (and often women) unfortunate enough to reach pinnacles of power and permit self-aggrandizement to smother common sense, fools who could not bring themselves to admit that a little pride was a small thing, to lose compared with honor.

The great masses of every nation were always excluded from the decision-making process, even if they did think they participated. These were the plastic people with sponge minds eager to soak up the fads of the moment, victims of advertising, political lies, and propaganda, a subtle brainwashing that resulted in flesh and blood windup toys, in robots that could be manipulated and never, for a moment, suspect it.

The people of the United States were no exception. If West Germany was divided, the United States was totally fragmented, because of the Machiavellian politicos who were quick to give wild and ridiculous promises to any self-interest group that might help them get elected. A Great Society? A general public of fools whose heroes were not scientists but "stars" of television and motion pictures, or big names in sports—most of whom were functional illiterates while being experts in either hitting a ball with a bat, kicking a football, or tossing a basketball into a basket. Ironic that an ape could earn more money in a few years than a Ph.D. could earn in a lifetime!
Finally, a couple of gun porn footnotes:
1. The "Hardcap" shotshell resembles a 230-grain FMJ .45 ACP round. However, inside the Hardcap is either no. 6 or no. 9 shot, with more than enough energy to do the job. Upon discharge, the nose cap travels ahead of the shot pellets, impacting the target near the point of aim. The shot pellets saturate the target area around the central hole created by the nose cap, resulting in increased "hit probability."

2. The Whisperload is a subsonic cartridge, designed specifically for the suppressor-equipped Ingram M-10 submachine gun. Although "silencers" contain most of the blast produced in firing, they cannot quiet the "crack" produced by a bullet traveling at supersonic speed as it exits from the muzzle. The high-pressure 9mm cartridge is one of the hardest to effectively suppress.

"And he had the ethics of a fungus ..."

"This is worse than bringing a ham hock to a bar mitzvah!"

"Only five-feet eight-inches tall, the man appeared to be of greater height, but only because he was so thin he could have taken a shower in a shotgun barrel."

"I'm not your friend, you cabbage-headed Hitler-lover!"

"Camellion's frigid stare would have frozen a polar bear." Speaking of the Death Merchant's "icy calm": "Camellion didn't have ice water in his veins. He had pure acid."

Camellion is described earlier as being "as calm as a sleeping clam".

"Christ with kittens!"

"Son of a bitch three times over!" ... And 15 pages later: "Son of a bitch five times over!"

"The news from Grojean had been everything but amazing, Camellion being so much of a 'practical pessimist' that he wouldn't have been surprised if Moses, Jesus Christ, and Confucius had appeared in Briefing Room 4 on pogo sticks—chasing Joe Stalin on skis!"

"Camellion gave his opinion, all the while wishing he had a glass of coconut milk."

"'Things could be worse,' said Jeff Burnett, who was driving the vehicle. He gave a slight laugh. 'Suppose we were being attacked by killer tomatoes or man-eating cucumbers?'"

"The second slug wouldn't have killed him. It had only cut through the trapezius muscle, broken the clavicle, and lodged in the rhomboid muscle in the back."

"'And to think I could have stayed home and pasted plastic daisies on my bathtub,' cracked Eugene Carry."

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