The Program — White hat, black hat: Chico's story

White hat, black hat: Chico's story

ANNOUNCER: Uncovered at the same time as the docu-memoir from the previous episode, the following recording offers us a rare opportunity to observe the same historical event from a different perspective. As such, we strongly recommend you listen to the preceding episode first. As for the reason why the original author hadn’t bundled the two narratives together, we can only speculate.

NARRATOR: I left Hannah’s house devastated. My mission failed spectacularly - I learned nothing concrete about my father, and I understood war less than ever. I told as much to David when I saw him next time. His eyes squinted, and he leaned towards me in his chair. If you want to know the story of the Update - he told me in a conspiratorial tone of voice - you shouldn’t talk to Program lackeys or rebel minions! You should talk to Chico. ”Who is Chico?”, I asked. “Was he a hero of the Program, a forgotten legend who was somehow skipped in a tragic misunderstanding of history? Or was he a Crockett warrior champion, a figure so fierce that he was deliberately erased from the chronicle of the war after he ended on the losing side of it?” Hearing this, David first gave me a puzzled look, and then laughed. “No” - he said - “Chico’s a drug addict.” No one knows where Chico was born or how old he is. Applied mathematics avers he must be at least 50, but he has one of those baby faces that makes any method of visual carbon dating unreliable. When I asked him about his age he simply told me it’s much higher than anyone thought he would ever live to see, including himself. What drove to that general consensus was the lifestyle he led in his youth, which could euphemistically be described as disorderly, or, in Chico’s own words:

CHICO: Back then, the whole area from Albuquerque to Monterrey was my living room, and I would spend time in three places: my car, the couch, and high above the clouds. [laughs]

[Pacha Massive - Pachangueando]

NARRATOR: He floated from one narco-scene to another, following oscillations in prices and supply like planetary bodies follow their revolving trajectories in blackness of space. During the course of his tribulations, Chico tried everything, from LSD and PCP to THC and MDMA, staying clear only of DEA. Drifting from one town to another always on the lookout for his next hit, Chico’s mindset was unusually singular, so it’s not a surprise that in this eternal search for euphoria he completely disregarded the socio-economical aspect of the world surrounding him. He didn’t have the Snapchat; he didn’t follow the news; in fact, the only time he’d go online was to contact his dealers through Tor. So it is quite understandable that during that time had no notion of the Program, or that he completely missed the whole build-up to the Update. The day before the government of the United States banned the Program and in effect triggering the Update, Chico got a word that considerable quantity of grade A white was available for most agreeable price in a small town south of the border. With his personal stash dropping down to 22 grams, Chico deemed this a propitious opportunity to restock, so he decided to wake up earlier than usual tomorrow and make the trip.

CHICO: So I wake up a few minutes before noon, drink my coffee, down a few uppers, and jump into my sweet sweet ride.

NARRATOR: Travelling in his maroon Ford Fiesta towards the border, Chico was oblivious that by that time the Update was in full swing and skirmishes had already started. The streets were eerily empty and some neighbourhoods were without power but Chico noticed none of this, until he approached the border and to his consternation realized it was full of police and special ops.

CHICO: Naturally, my first thought was “Who was the motherfucking hijo de puta who ratted me out?!” I mean what other reason could it be for so many police officers to be there other than a narco line being cut off? [laughs]

NARRATOR: He knew he had to quickly hide his stash, so he took the package containing the heroin and put it into a special hidden pocket sewn into his jacket. Then he approached the border patrol with a cool face. What he didn’t know was that 14 hours before the government had issued a total curfew and that anybody found out in the open was automatically regarded to be part of the Program’s forces. So there was no way for him to make sense of the flabbergasted look on the officers’ faces when they saw him gliding into the war zone in his maroon Ford Fiesta.

CHICO: So I pull over at the border and I was just about to hand the officer my ID, when he asks me, almost like he saw la chupacabra or something: “You a Little Sister?”. I had no fucking idea what he was saying, so he asked me once again: “Are you a Little Sister?”. I replied “¿Perdón?”, to which the officer shouted “FUCK YOUR PERDON IN YOUR ASS” and started beating me like he was my stepfather!

NARRATOR: Chico was accustomed to beatings in his life, so he reports he was not that puzzled by the fact he was getting his ass kicked so much as why. He didn’t understand what “Little Sisters” meant, as he’d never heard this term before. He concluded it must be the name of a cartel or something. The officers told him to wipe the blood off his face and then took him inside the immigration building. Once inside, the officers asked their superior what should they do with this Chico character, to which the superior replied to take him to the Crocketts and let them decide what to do with him. Again, Chico was confused hearing about the Crocketts, a term unfamiliar to him. Luckily, Chico was then left alone in a locked room while police officers set about to prepare everything for his transport.

CHICO: As soon as they left, I squeezed a quick hit. At the time I used to take 300 milligrams at most, but I had a feeling the day was going to be rough, so I treated myself to 500 milligrams. I was down to 21 and a half grams.

NARRATOR: Chico barely finished ingesting the drug and was still sitting in his chair when a tall man in a camouflage uniform entered the room. Chico didn’t really understand what the army had to do with a narcotic fiend such as himself, but he didn’t have time to dwell about it for long as the soldier suddenly started talking, or better said doing something that to Chico’s ears sounded like chanting. He later learned that this was an incantation of a Poet.

RECORDING OF A POET: From the ruins upon which the patty stands, cry out the vanquished, making whole of what has been shattered. But a violent storm is blowing from the square, irresistibly propelling the racoon into the future, the future to which his back is turned. This storm is what we call progress; this battle its acceleration.

NARRATOR: The soldier suddenly stopped talking and looked at Chico, expectantly. Chico had never encountered a Poet before, so he had no idea how he was supposed to respond.

CHICO: I looked at this guy and thought to myself: “Is this gato even higher than I am?” But then he approached me and said: “I’m a blue eagle, you’re a blue eagle - pleased to meet you.” And then he smacked me in the head And as the room went black the last thought that passed through my mind was: “Who the fuck are the blue eagles now?”

NARRATOR: When Chico woke up he came to realize he was no longer in the immigration building, but bundled together with a few dozen other men in a large room that seemed to be part of a giant warehouse. He had no notion that ordinary citizens were getting rounded up in special detention centres for mere suspicion they aided the Program’s cause, so the best Chico could conclude was that this was a pre-trial facility. The problem was, the people around him didn’t look like criminals at all. Seeing that no one there was in the mood for chit chat, Chico didn’t pursue the conversation, but decided to treat himself with another generous helping of heroin. This brought his reserve down to 21 grams, just like the title of that ancient film with screwed-up chronology, which would right now still make more sense to Chico than what was going on around him. He needed the high to stay alert as he was expecting to be taken in front of the county judge any moment now. Then the doors of the room opened with a bang. Chico opened his eyes wide and his mouth even wider: standing in front of him, in the flesh, was Davy Crockett. And he was drunk.

CHICO: There he was in front of me, a man in a suede leather shirt with fringes. On his head he had a coonskin hat with a tail dangling behind him. A hunting knife flashed around his waist and he held a two-barrel shotgun in his hand. When I saw him the first thought that sprang into my mind was: “Chico, those shrooms you took two days ago sure have facking awesome flashbacks!”

NARRATOR: But then the figure opened his mouth and uttered “You!”, pointing his finger at Chico, which is how he realized Davy Crockett was a) referring to him, and b) real. He violently grabbed Chico and took him out of the room, which is when he apprehended he was not in a county jail, but in the Amazon distribution centre next to the highway. Simultaneously a much more troubling realization occurred to him: he was surrounded not by one, but at least a dozen men dressed like Davy Crockett.

CHICO: So my next theory was that I somehow went through a time portal and woke up a couple of centuries in the past, or you know, whenever the frontier was won.

NARRATOR: Chico got tied to a chair and a short, stubby Davy Crockett who comported himself as if he was their commander came dangerously close to Chico’s face. “We know you are a Little Sister” - he enunciated with a theatrical flair, even though if we are to view Chico as the intended recipient of this message, he had already lost his entire target audience. “What we don’t know is who you’re getting the orders from”, adding that his purpose was to find that out. Then he explained to Chico the method they devised to get to the truth. They would ask him a series of questions; if they judge his answers to be truthful, nothing was going to happen to him. If however they deem that Chico was not being earnest, they would make him drink acid from an old automobile battery. After the Crockett commander finished his speech, a rusty car battery was ceremoniously placed on the table in front of Chico. Then came the first question: “Are you Russian?”

CHICHO: And I was like “Do I fucking look Russian to you?!” The last time I even thought about Russia was when it played against Mexico in the World Cup, so there was not a lot I could tell him about the country. Well, unless he wanted to know about the result.

NARRATOR: Of course, he hadn’t told the Crocketts any of this, so the only retort he was able to muster was:

CHICHO: I told them I’ve never been to Russia in my life.

NARRATOR: The commander squinted and looked at Chico long and hard, like he was trying to solve a sudoku.

CHICO: He said that I should have gone, as that it’s a beautiful country. He was there for his honeymoon and he especially liked Minsk. But then he said he doesn’t believe my lying Russian ass and commanded others to gag me!

[По долинам и по взгорьям]

NARRATOR: Before he knew it, Chico had one of those breathable gag balls strapped to his mouth. Establishing military headquarters in a commercial warehouse apparently had the advantage of having access to an array of most peculiar items. However, no matter how vast the inventory at the Cricketts’ disposal, it was not infinite, so the only gagball they were able to procure was from a limited edition Hello Kitty BDSM kit, meaning Chico now had a pink ball bearing an expressionless visage of a white cat stuffed into his mouth. To add injury to the insult, he was just about to have acid poured through it. It feels only appropriate to let you hear about this experience in Chico’s own words.

CHICO: The first time I tried acid from a car battery was back in high school. [laughs] It’s how I used to get my kick after my dear abuela figured out I was pinching her medicines. Besides, I injected more than a gram of heroin into myself that day - they could have poured cyanide mixed with tabasco sauce into me and I still wouldn’t have felt anything! [laughs]

NARRATOR: These two facts - that during the course of his long career Chico experimented with much more potent substances than battery acid, and that he was already high as fuck - were of course not known to the Crocketts, who had no reason to believe their torturing technique wouldn’t lead to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so god help whoever was undertaking it. Which is naturally why they were astonished to witness how stoically Chico underwent the acid trial. They have never before seen a human being swallow liquid from a car battery without even flinching. Almost in awe, the room fell silent. Chico remembers a Crockett with red hair and red beard who then approached him, looked him straight into the eyes, and asked:

CHICO: “Are you an alien?” And I said, no, I have all my papers in order. To which he replied: “I’m not asking you if you are here legally, I am asking if you are an alien come to conquer us from another world?!” To which his comrades started groaning and telling him to shut up.

NARRATOR: Chico was then taken back to the cell with other men while Crocketts deliberated what to do with him. As soon as he was back in isolation, he grabbed the opportunity for a top up and ravenously consumed another 200 milligrams. This was enough to momentarily calm him and reinstate his I DON’T GIVE A FUCK attitude, but as soon as the drugs subsided the nagging WHAT THE FUCK feeling returned. So he looked at the detainees around him. He noticed for the first time that most of them seemed to be from what were then known as racial minorities. He then noticed an old black man sitting on the floor of the cell. He looked smart in a paternalistic sort of way, reminding him a bit of the long dead legend Morgan Freeman.

CHOCO: So I told him, “Yo, Morpheus, come here and impart me with some wisdom. Did I just see a bunch of characters that look like they walked out of a John Wayne movie, or did my brain go to mush like a spoiled avocado?” To which he replied: “It is not you who went avocado, my son”.

NARRATOR: Thus came the part where Morgan Freeman explained everything to Chico about what had been happening during the past few months - about the Program, about the Little Sisters, the Crocketts, then everything else. When Chico finally grasped what was going on, his first thought was fairly simple:

CHICO: I’ve got 20,8 grams of heroin left - how long is this going to take and when am I getting out of here?

NARRATOR: Meanwhile, in the other room the Crocketts were deliberating what to do with Chico. “He must know a lot if he was unwilling to talk under duress” - they reasoned, and concluded Chico was a Little Sister big-shot. What this meant was that his treatment considerably improved. Unlike civilian POWs, a lot of whom ended up having their arms and legs tied together with duct tape and thrown into the Rio Grande, Chico was given a room with a bed. In subsequent interrogations he was interviewed by fellow officers and was always unbound. Sometimes they would even treat him with coffee and cigarettes. All the Crocketts wanted in return for the VIP treatment was intel: Chico’s rank, formation of the troops, or anything really that would help them make sense of what the Program really was. Having spent years consorting with addicts and drifters, Chico had a knack at forming short term friendships based on camaraderie during hardship. So he was unusually adept at making up stories and talking ambiguous nonsense mixed with truisms about harsh realities of war.

CHICO: I was so full of shit my eyes were brown! [laughs] Basically I would tell them whatever they wanted to hear. So if the dude speaking to me was fixated on the Russians, I would offer just the right amount of mysterious remarks to imply Russians were behind the Program. Or the Chinese, or the aliens, or anyone really!

NARRATOR: Chico became a sort of a Rorschach test, in which everybody would see what they wanted to see, even though all there was in front of them was just a blotchy mess. The only thing he was careful not to let away was that he was not in fact an adversary commander who was more willing to give up his life rather than military secrets. Weeks passed by without Chico getting any information from the outside world. This of course didn’t bother him per se - after all, you could say that he found himself in this situation for that exact reason - but the thing that was making him restless was that his stash was getting depleted with no replenishment in sight. He was down to three grams when the word got out that the Crocketts and the Little Sisters were planning an exchange of prisoners. A few days afterwards, the Crockett colonel came into his room and confirmed that Chico was going to be traded for ten Crockett soldiers. Everything was already agreed upon with the Little Sisters, who just wanted to know the identity of the war hero in the Crocketts’ captivity. It was a formality, really - the other side merely wanted to make sure they weren’t swapping ten Crocketts for a nobody who would made up he was an army commander held by the enemy. When he heard this, Chico’s mind began to race. He knew whatever he was about to say had to sound convincing to the Little Sisters or else he would be done for. And then, in a moment of drug-fuelled inspiration, he came up with this:

CHICO: So I controlled my voice and solemnly pronounced to the Crockett colonel: tell Little Sisters you’ve captured the Blue Eagle! Then I held my breath and silently started to pray to la Virgen María or the Heroin god or whoever the patron saint of addicts is!

NARRATOR: The Crockett colonel nodded his coonskin-carrying head and left, allowing Chico to start breathing again. No sooner were the doors closed was he injecting every single milligram of heroin he still had straight in his vein. Fast forward to the next day and Chico is walking towards the bridge where the exchange is scheduled to take place. It’s a two hour walk in the sun, and Chico is starting to feel the effects of abstinence crisis creeping over him. His brain is boiling and he can barely stand up straight. With the last joules of his strength he crosses the bridge from one side, and ten bearded men cross from the other. He literally tumbles into the Little Sisters’ hands.

CHICO: You can imagine the scene: two dozen soldiers expecting to see a warrior king, and getting a drooling, trembling, sorry excuse for a man. [laughs] I’ll never forget the moment they realized what happened and Little Sister commander yelled: “HE’S NOT A BLUE EAGLE - HE’S A JUNKIE!” And the hell of a beating they gave me! [laughs]

NARRATOR: Having realized they just exchanged 10 Crocketts for a drug addict, one can excuse the Little Sister’s brash reaction. They kept him locked in a solitary room for days and threatened to send him back to the Crocketts, like he was something they ordered by mistake from the Internet. At the same time Chico was going through withdrawal, his whole body in cramps and sweating like he was giving birth to a piglet. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because as far as withdrawal treatments go, a gang of armed soldiers yelling at you to shut up might be more efficient than methadone. We can’t tell for certain, as no peer-reviewed medical trial exists, but what we can tell is that eventually Chico’s fever let go, and the Little Sisters did the same with him. After all, it was their own fault they read too many Wild West novels and believed in stories about war heroes. This is where Chico’s tale ends. After he was released he went back to his town. But since the Update cut off all the regular drug lines he wasn’t able to get his hands on anything. The fact that he was off the needle probably saved his life after the Program finally prevailed and Karmageddon started. It’s strange when you think about it; the event that led millions into perdition helped Chico do the exact opposite - get clean. Chico’s story still didn’t offer me the sense of closure I was hoping would finally allow me to make sense of the Update. David went to war and joined the Crocketts because he thought it was his duty. His story lead to John and his valour. At the end came Hannah, who spoke softly about the pain that comes in war’s wake. I asked Chico what kind of lesson did he get out of his war story. He looked at me with the eyes of a man that has seen both highest highs and lowest lows, and told me:

CHICO: The only thing I concluded is that the whole thing is absurd.

NARRATOR: As far as conclusions go, this one was pretty good.

[The Program main theme]

ANNOUNCER: This episode of the Program was made by three people: Luis Restrepo, Chris Peterson, and IMS. Main music theme by Matt Podd. If you like our work and want to support us, don’t rate us, and don’t leave a review. Screw algorithms and screw analytics! Instead, strike a conversation with a person you would like to know better and mention this show. Perhaps that cutie at the gym who always has the headphones on. Ask them if they are listening to the Program right now. With those headphone types it’s the only resort you have.


Ivan Mirko S.


NARRATOR - Chris Peterson (website)
CHICO - Luis A. Restrepo (twitter)


Matt Podd (website)