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Authors: Victor Robert Lee

Performance Anomalies

BOOK: Performance Anomalies
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Copyright © 2012 Victor Robert Lee

Published by Perimeter Six

Email: [email protected]

Perimeter Six is an imprint of The Pacific Media Trust.

All rights reserved.

This book is a work of fiction. Although certain settings and events can be found in the public historical record, they are used fictitiously. All names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, groups, organizations, or locales is entirely coincidental.

ISBN 978-1-938409-20-2 E-book

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012937262

First published in the United States of America

Printed in the United States of America


“Human performance anomalies arising from extremely rare genetic variations will be exploited for strategic and tactical purposes.”


“Capabilities for a New Millennium,” U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency classified document, serial no. 55-89-144, p. 87.







His sun-bleached hair floats in the breeze. The wave lifts him, the spray is warm. He rides the board as if airborne like the gulls, torques and glides up to skim the crest the way the big boys do, sweeps down again to the hollow of the water, faster, faster.

In the final curling of the sea he drops to hug the plank and rolls onto the sand, soaking in its heat as the waves dash themselves around him. Mama leans down and takes him by the hand. How can you surf on just a piece of broken wood? she laughs. Come dance with me, filho. Papa’s favorite song is on the radio.

Beads of sweat on Mama’s brown skin sparkle before his eyes. Her body takes the shape of the music. Like this, she says, like this. Her bronzed legs move faster. He feels the acceleration through her clasping hands and molds his steps to match every one of hers. Yes, filho! she says. Meu Deus, how fast you catch on!

Gostosa! Mais cerveja! A fat man with red eyes is pounding one of Mama’s tables on the beach. Yes, yes, Mama says, more beer, only a minute. My little boy is learning to dance. See how quick he is! The man pounds again. Other men look over.

Cerveja, puta! Mama’s legs slow down. Her hips stop, her shoulders go limp. Her fingers peel away from his in a thousand miniature steps that seem to have no end. The fat man stands and stumbles toward them. His arm begins to swing. It seems to stand still, and yet it is moving fast, toward Mama’s head. Fear flickers across her face. With the speed of a hummingbird, a small fist hits the fat man hard between his legs. The man bellows and lunges.

Mama cries out.


Cono woke up suddenly. His mother was gone. The window of colored glass above his head was glowing as if it were too hot to touch. Sunlight pierced the holes in the sheet hung over the other window in the bare room where he lay. He was sweating. He was in Istanbul. A phone was buzzing.

He rose and pulled aside the sheet, squinting out at nearby Galata Tower. Beyond, he could see the ferries of Eminönü criss-crossing in the softly glittering waters of the Bosporus, and farther still, the hovering dome of Hagia Sophia and the sharp minarets of the Sultanahmet, like upright javelins in the haze. He picked up the mobile phone. The woman on the static-filled line was speaking rapidly in Mandarin, one of Cono’s mother tongues. Finally Cono could make out a few words. “It’s Xiao Li, your Xiao Li.”

“Xiao Li who sings and likes to be held in the air from a balcony eight stories up?” Cono said in Mandarin. He knew exactly who it was. For a few years now their telephone conversations had always ended with her saying, “I remember you holding me there …”

“I’m in trouble, Cono.” The line became clearer. “No time. They cut my hand.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m locked in. It’ll get worse.”

Where are you?

“Here.” Her voice cracked. “Almaty.”

. In late summer the city would be overgrown with green, its streets running in tunnels through the trees. Kazak girls in sunflower dresses. Russian men in fake Nikes huddling on street corners. Chinese traders in wrinkled suits. A hungry city with one foot in its herdsmen past and the other in its oil-rich future.

“Who and where exactly? And numbers.”

“Hotel Svezda, Room 217. They killed my customer. Beijing men. Three of them. I think they want to kill me, too,” she said, her voice rising. In Xiao Li’s way of life there were countless dangers, but she had never before phoned Cono in distress. Her call had been forwarded via one of a dozen lines that tied him to the workaday world.

“Phone number, Xiao Li. There’s no caller ID showing.”

“I don’t know! They took my phone!”

“What’s the number you’re calling from, Xiao Li? Concentrate.”

There was a moment of semi-silence, with only the sound of Xiao Li’s uneven breathing rising above the static on the line. “Here, here it is, I got it to come up.” She repeated the number. “Cono, I’m the baby mouse in the three-scream meal. Baby mouse screams when the chopsticks pick her up. I have one more scream before …”

“I’ll try to get you out. But I’m far away.”

He heard a muffled sound.

“No crying, Xiao Li. Stay alert.”

“Cono, I’m afraid.” The panic in her voice was unbearable. “Cono, I need to tell you. I love you. Promise me …” The phone beeped and the line went dead.

Xiao Li
. She called herself Julie in English, Yulia in Russian. She had been twenty years old and a newcomer to her trade when he’d met her, another keen-eyed arrival from Xinjiang, the Chinese province hugging the country of Kazakhstan for a thousand miles along a border that obeys no natural features of the earth. The one night Cono spent with her had turned into weeks of sex and breakfasts, of laughing and walking and afternoons singing at an outdoor karaoke box in the center of Almaty, a capital of post-Soviet dislocation.

BOOK: Performance Anomalies
8.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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