Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bad Company Preview #1: Prologue

I haven't posted lately because I've suffered a bad case of writer's block for the past 11 days. It's finally broken now, so I'm able to write again, and post on forums and my blogs.

Now down to business. To give something of the flavor of Bad Company, I've decided to post excerpts of the prologue and first chapter. First, here's the novel's opening, in the version from the currently unfinished second draft. If there's a vague resemblance to, say, the 1999 Seattle anti-WTO riots, there's a reason for that which I'll explain later. (Bad Company excerpt © 2008 Dennis Jernberg)

Bad Company Preview: Intro

The Dictel Corporation logo looms over the crowd of protesters outside the company headquarters like a gigantic all-seeing eye: a high-tech "D" superimposed over an outline of the American map atop a raised fist, all enclosed within a sunburst-outlined circle transforming it into a malevolent mandala, all in blue on black. Above the logo, "Dictel Corporation"; below, the corporate motto: "We Are America."

Below the giant sign, lining the top of the fortress wall around the gate, a row of heavily armed and armouired mercenary guards point their M-16s at the crowd, awaiting the order to annihilate the protesters. At their center, Dictel security chief James Gabriel, the man giving the order to shoot, stands astride the gate like a high priest preparing his sacrifice.

The crowd below have come from all over the world to protest at the entrance of the out-of-the-way corporate headquarters of America's largest defense contractor. Dictel is infamous for its atrocities in the American-occupied territories of Iraq and Afghanistan. But Dictel management have just persuaded their close friend President Bush to sign an executive complete immunity from prosecution anywhere in the world. The protesting crowd hold signs and chant in unison their demand that Gabriel and his paymasters be arrested and tried for war crimes and Dictel be dissolved. Scope, wearing mirrorshades concealing a dual webcam, hides in plain sight among the crowd to record the event. He notices a half-panicked Gabriel opening up his cellphone to talk. In a rapid series of eye movements, he calls up a program to intercept the cellphone's signal. A notification on his heads-up display informs him that Gabriel is making the call to Colonel Tom Becket, Dictel's chairman/CEO.

"Colonel! We don't have the police support to take on a crowd this size. What do you want us to do?"

In a reassuring voice, the Colonel tells him, "Patience, old friend. There's no way they can break the walls, no matter how hard they try. Besides, we've already determined which organizations they work for. Starr's working on it right now." Clayton Starr is Dictel's chief legal counsel.

"I don't know, Colonel. We don't know who might me lurking in the crowd...the Black Bloc, the SRO, the ERF, or Al-Qaeda, for all we know. And Starr's just content to sue 'em? That'll take forever."

"If anybody starts shooting or throwing bombs, give the order."

"Thank you, Colonel." Gabriel breaks the signal and puts the phone away. The notification disappears from Scope's HUD.

Bob Van Zandt has taught Scope to always seek a darker agenda behind anything the lords of Dictel do or say, publicly or privately. At once he realizes that Colonel Becket has planted a detachment of Dictel mercenaries in the crowd, disguised as anarchist militants. It's one of Becket's favorite tricks, and it almost always works. He also knows that Dictel's as good at intercepting cellphone signals as any phreak. It has an entire division dedicated to monitoring them for the NSA. So he can't call Bob, or anyone else, not while he's in Dictel's scanning range.

Soon enough, a bomb goes off near the wall. Some militant group is trying to invade the headquarters compound. Scope knows that Dictel does not need to infiltrate its opponents in order to drive them to the violence it needs for the company to justfy its crimes as acts of self-defense. Someone hates Dictel so much that they're willing to kill anyone who gets in their way of their revenge. When the smoke dissipates, he sees that part of the wall has collapsed; his HUD informs him that at least two of the armoured guards in the area are dead.

James Gabriel needs no prompting from Colonel Becket to order retaliation. The company has prepared for situations like these almost since it was founded after World War II. Gabriel raises his arm and points down at the crowd of protesters. This is all the prompting the surviving guards need. At once they empty their rifles into the crowd.

Hundreds of protesters fall in the rain of lead. Those who survive Dictel's murderous rage, fearing their own annihilation, flee for their lives, leaving the wounded. Sensing the scoop of a lifetime, Scope gambles his life to record the horror. "Bingo, you fucking psychopaths," he mutters under his breath. Dictel has given him a weapon he can use against it.

Police helicopters full of SWAT strike cops from the county and several cities arrive at Gabriel's command to arrest as many of the survivors as possible. Scope overhears the police call in an army of paramedics to evacuate the wounded. To minimize his chances of arrest, he flicks his eyes across his HUD to cloak himself from the corporate and police signal sniffers. Now that he has everything he needs to use against Dictel, he makes his escape from the scene as fast as he can. But he keeps his head turned toward the killing ground to record as much of the atrocity as he can before he finally turns his cam off.

Back to Spanner’s World...

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