} As he rounded the dry clapboard building at the end of the dusty
} street, the man known only as The Oracle paused. It was quiet. Too
} quiet. The town was a deserted, no-account corner of Hell, and he knew
} the Cyberpromo Gang was here someplace.
} The Oracle squinted up at the sun, beating down mercilessly on the
} dead plain, as he relit his cheroot. Nothing moved but the blowflies
} on the poor dead dawg lying in front of the abandoned saloon. He
} stepped boldly forward, loosening his pistol in its holster. His pistol
} was his only friend; the only one to stand firmly by his side during
} the mess with that dance-hall girl (Lisa? Michelle? the names, like the
} faces, all blended together) and the worm he knew as Zadoc. But Zadoc
} was gone, too, dead as The Oracle's loyal companion Og; dead as his
} horse; dead as the Cyberpromo Gang was going to be. Soon. Real soon.
} "Spamford!" called The Oracle. "I know you're here! I've come to call
} you to account!"
} A feeble gust of wind blew a pathetic dust devil down the street as
} the gang appeared. Skulking like the rats they were, they stepped from
} the alleys between the buildings, slipped out of doorways, crawled out
} from beneath the sidewalks. Spamford was there, and a dozen others,
} faces without names, none of whom would have done anything worse than
} selling used horses without Spamford. Spamford fed their sickness, and
} drove them on, and railed at them. Spamford was the means by which they
} had become more than just the town drunk or a bully in a loud suit. But
} none of that mattered anymore. They made their choice. And, just like
} Spamford, The Oracle would make them each pay for the crimes they'd
} "We-ellll," drawled Spamford. "If it ain't T.I. Oracle. Mister High
} and Mighty. To whut do ah owe the pleasure?"
} "You know why I'm here, Spamford," replied The Oracle. " I aim to rid
} the world of you and your kind. You've taken what was once clean and
} pure and dragged it through the dirt. You've turned the inboxes of the
} world into your toilet, and you've dragged these boys into the sewer
} with you. I aim to make you pay."
} "Haw. Haw. Haw." Spamford laughed without humor, biting off each
} syllable. "Clean and pure? Wise up, Orrie, boy. The guv'mint paid fer
} all of it. Men like me built it. And men like me are gonna use it. You
} kin have yer dreams of schoolkids playin' in the open fields. Meantime,
} me 'n my boys are gonna make a killin' off them dreams. It's already
} dirty. I'm just doin' what you and your kind don't dare."
} The Oracle stood firmly, glaring grimly at Spamford. It was true, the
} dreams of purity and beauty had faded long ago. The dancehall girls and
} the rodeo boys had taken that dream, and twisted it, and Spamford and
} his kind had left a bad taste in the mouths of the honest folk that
} still remained. But a new dream had arisen, one even he didn't quite
} understand. And there was no room on the new homestead for the likes of
} Into the silence, The Oracle said, "Draw, Spamford."
} Spamford stood, hands clenching and unclenching. Suddenly he shouted,
} "HOW MUCH WOO---"
} A single shot rang from the wooden face of the town. Spamford's
} shirtfront blossomed red, and he looked down, mouth working silently.
} He looked up at The Oracle, and his eyes opened wide, curious, silently
} asking the question he knew he would never be able to ask.
} "Forty-two," breathed The Oracle.
} "Forty-two _what_?" asked Spamford, before he fell face down in the
} The Oracle stood, watching the remnants of the Cyberpromo Gang. One by
} one, they slipped quietly away from him, disappearing in different
} directions. When they all had gone, The Oracle knew he hadn't seen the
} last of their kind. Evil fled to the dark corners when it was beaten,
} but one day, they would find another Spamford, and they'd be back. But
} when they returned, they would find him standing tall, defending a
} dream he didn't understand, and answering the question no one can ask
} with the answer no one understands. Because he is The Oracle.
} You owe the Oracle some Louis Lamour, some Kurosawa, and a little John