Thursday, September 1, 2011

Spanner 15.3: Hard Times in the City

For the first time, I’m making major changes to the plot. The first draft of Chapter 15 was climactic enough; I could have ended there, as the plot fell apart after this. But now I’m adding more characters, clearer (if no less surprising) strategies, a wilder climax, and a surprise at the finish. And after this Chapter 15 has run its course, there will be repercussions, and the plot will continue all the way to Chapter 23 and beyond.

Now things start getting serious.

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Chapter 15: Start the Violence
Part 3: Hard Times in the City

25 august 2012...
The world explodes in fire. Mechanical angels of death fly above the Washington Mall and drop hellfire onto the democratic masses. God speaks again and again; his voice destroys the world with fire.

Shira tries to find her sister among the charred torn corpses on the killing field. Again and again, she screams her sister’s name: “Kira! Kira!” But Kira is gone now, as if she had never existed.

The one-eyed man stares down at her with wicked grin and murderous intent. He points his pistol at the tempting target between Shira’s eyes. One-Eye Jack says he has unfinished business. Shira stares back as hard as she can, stares with all the hatred she can summon, stares into him and through him and into his black heart. She runs away to resume her search for her lost twin, leaving him screaming and twitching on the ground.

The next day, as if an assimilant has transformed them into a botnet, the government and the corporate media announce with one voice that the humanistic heresy of democracy has been abolished and the Kingdom of God established at last on earth...

5 october 2014.
COPCO Seattle.
Several precogs have gone mad. Some run around the lab screaming; some writhe as they are carried out on stretchers; all cry out with possessed tongues the name of Spanner.

Dr Henry Becket ignores the chaos. Listlessly he slouches in his chair along the wall. He stares at the chess piece in his hand: a black queen...

yacht. Shira holds a deck of cards in front of her. Several cards stick out of the deck. She pushes them back in so that a smaller number of cards emerge out the other side. She repeats until only one card remains: the joker. She smirks cockeyed.

Sparks says, “It’s time.”

Shira looks up at him. They stare at each other for a few seconds. Then she flings the deck so that the cards scatter all over the floor.

“What was that for?”

“My strategy.”

“Fifty-two pickup?”

“Joker’s wild.” She winks.

Downtown Seattle. The assembled Americans stand together in the sun and the open air. Collectively they call upon Jesus America to bless their meeting place and curse the city they’re in. With one mind they await their leaders. Some are unable to endure the wait; they swoon and babble in the Unknown Tongue.

The sun smiles down upon the crowd. The weather is too nice for what is about to happen to them. Martin Lansky, Billy Hunter, and Connor Blair sneak among them disguised as private security agents and wearing menacing sunglasses. The pilgrims are too preoccupied with their anticipation to notice them.

Amanda Currie breathlessly reports the event atop the ESPNBC News platform nearby. Behind his mirrorshades, Connor flicks a sideling glance her way and smiles. You have no idea just what you’re in for.

Snipers line the roofs of the surrounding buildings, ready to shoot and kill anything that looks suspicious. The strike cop next to Will Becket says, “I sure as hell hope this op goes off without a hitch!”

“Have faith in the terrorists,” Will deadpans, “and they’ll come straight to us. But don’t let your guard down until everything’s over. Until then, anything can happen.”

ferry terminal. As Sparks approaches the COPCO checkpoint, Shira tells the Shelley twins, “Don’t martyr anybody important, not even a terrorist. We need ’em alive and humiliated.”

Shira wears stripeless black tights, sleeveless white button-up blouse with the top two buttons open, brown flight jacket, thick-soled black lace-up fighting boots, and a gray fedora she has secured with hairpins; her Trackers Guild ID and bounty hunter license hang from a “What Would Scooby Do?” neck strap. She has stashed her Go-Yo in the jacket’s left pocket, her Droid and a Miniature Companion Cube in the right. Rob comes in his ninja gear; Leila sports a black skirt over her Sexy Kunoichi getup; they carry their helmets. Sparks wears his regulation COPCO windbreaker and cap.

The COPCO agent approaches and attempts to intimidate them. “What’s your business, Sparks?”

Sparks replies, “Catching terrorists, of course.”

The agent stares at Sparks’ companions. “Contractors?”


The agent registers Shira’s license with his handheld laser scanner. She points her thumb back at Leila and Rob. “Those two are mine.”

He looks the twins over carefully. “Aren’t those Fashion Assassins?”

“Reason I hired ’em.” She winks. The agent scans their cards; the scanner’s screen says they’re registered to her.

Shira takes the strap out of her blouse and holds up her cards: bounty hunter’s license, Trackers Guild membership, Incorporation card. They register on the TSA agent’s RFID reader. “She’s with me,” says J.T.

“Okay. You can go about your business, Agent Sparks. But make sure you keep those kids in line.”


COPCO Seattle. Desk cops swarm the monitors in the control room looking for anything suspicious. Jack Becket keeps his one eye focused on the screens. His sister, Agent Diana Shockley, says, “John, you look like you expect Spanner to pop in any second.”

“That’s the thing about him. You never know when he might strike.”

“I’ll venture a guess: the point at which he can inflict the most damage.”

“You sound confident we can stop this guy for once.”

“The when is easy. What we should be worrying about is how.”

Pioneer Square. Shira peeks out of an alley dumpster. There’s no smelly rotting garbage in here, but there are reams upon reams of unshredded documents discarded by various tech, science, medical, and security companies and institutions. She is dumpster diving, or what the hackers call trashing. What she finds is an identity thief’s wet dream. She picks the most incriminating ones and hands them over ream by ream to Sparks as he passes by in his FBI windbreaker and cap. Leila and Rob put it into the back of a black van painted COPCO, where El Kabong and Evil the Cat wait in spare uniforms Sparks swiped. Leila says, “Why won’t you let me kill the King? If anyone deserves oblivion, it’s him.”

“Leila, my love,” Shira replies, “that’s exactly what the old man wants. He craves martyrdom."

“But we have the perfect opportunity to kill—”

“You wanna become God, first you gotta be crucified. We don’t touch the body till we get a shot at his ghost.” Leila sighs in despair.

Security androids walk past without noticing them; surveillance drones hover by and see nothing. As they pass in proximity to Shira’s phone, it detects them and notifies the wearable computer in her bra, which transmits augmented reality filters through her earpiece transmitter into them and block her out. They transmit the filters to other machines with their hardware and OS until she becomes completely invisible to the security net.

A Seattle cop (human, this time) comes by and taps Sparks’ shoulder with his billy club. “What are you doing?”

“Following Chairman Sparks’ explicit orders. We’ve got a fraud case we’re investigating and a lot of people stupid enough to hand us the incriminating evidence on a silver platter. But this is corporate business on a need-to-know basis, so you’d best move on and get on with your job.”

From the dumpster, Shira looks at one of the several sheets of paper she holds in her hand, then points at the cop. “Say, aren’t these yours?”

Alarmed, the cop peers into the dumpster. Shira holds the papers in front of him. “Hey!” He tries to snatch the papers from her; she whisks them away.

“You shouldn’t throw your ID number and password into the trash basket. Do you realize what would happen if a malicious hacker got his grubby hands on these” He could swipe your identity and commit who knows how many crimes in your name and make it look like you did it, and the whole department would have all kinds of egg on their face, just like in L.A.! The SPD’s already in enough trouble as it is. You don’t want a scandal on your hands, do you?”


“Aren’t you supposed to be a cop? Shred it, officer! It’s a matter of basic security!” She hands the papers over to the cop. Sheepishly, he scampers away.

As the four finish taking their collection to the van, a security android in MIB getup watches them. A bird-sized surveillance bugbot flies around it in a futile attempt to distract it. Sparks’ party walk out of the alley. The van peels out toward its next stop. The MIBbot suddenly grabs the camdrone, crams it into its mouth, and eats it.

COPCO Seattle. In the control room, Jack Becket sits at his desk, watches the monitors display his security cameras’ feeds, and downs cup after cup of coffee to try to keep himself awake. Secretary Radisson stands behind him. “I hope you know what you’re doing, John,” he says.

Jack Becket takes a drag on his Cuban cigar. “The beautiful thing about robots is that they always obey and never talk back. They do what you program them to do and nothing more. They make the perfect cops.”

“I’m afraid they can’t replace human detectives.”

“Human detectives don’t have the latest expert systems in their meat CPUs or telephoto lenses in their eyes. They’ve got biases computers don’t have. Humans need policing, Karl, but they make lousy detectives.”

“Only a strike cop could say that.”

Becket and Radisson stare at each other until one of the cops manning the monitors cries out, “Did you see that?”

“What?” the two chiefs say in unison.

One screen has turned blue. The picture returns. The camera hovers around a MIBbot staring down a Pioneer Square alley. Suddenly, one of the android’s hands whips out and grabs the camdrone. The camera tracks the drone’s trajectory into the android’s mouth. Once the camera is inside, the screen turns blue again.

Becket and Radisson stare at each other in shock.

Union Station. Shira, Sparks, and the Shelley twins climb the stairs to the footbridge over the train tracks. A train south of the stadiums announces its coming. “If you’re such a celebrity, Shira,” says Rob, “why don’t you have much of a presence online?”

“Not safe. You’re female, dark-skinned, non-straight, and/or politically incorrect and you’re online, you attract hordes of proudly woman-hating Slashers at once. They attack in hordes with death threats and autoban requests. Some of ’em even tracked me to my apartment, armed with evil-looking blades and automatic weapons, and I shot ’em dead. That’s how the Slasher Hunters found out about me. Slashers make up the entire Party militant wing, the driving force of the whole Conservative Revolution.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Pretty City must have sheltered you too long. I don’t allow comments on my videos, I use my Twitter and Facebook accounts strictly for disinformation, I don’t even touch Google+ or MS Socl with a ten-foot pole. Not that it’ll stop ’em from stalking you in person; but then, only brute force and FUD can do that.”

By the time they reach the center of the footbridge, two vicious-looking men enter from Fourth Avenue and one more, huffing and puffing from the climb, from the Pioneer Square side. “Contractors,” says Sparks.

“Havin’ them a fun break,” says Shira.

“Speak of the devil,” says Leila.

The mercenaries quickly converge on them, howling in homicidal glee. Sparks thumbs at the two. “Take them?”

Shira smirks. “Should be no problem.”

“I’ll let you take this guy,” says Rob.

Leila frowns. “Not feeling merciful, I see.” She slips onto the nearest uncovered platform stairway.

Shira and Sparks rush the two; Shira slides between them, and they find themselves surrounded. “Pwned!” she says.

The one raises his his huge knife against Rob. He kicks the attacker to the side toward Leila. He spins to face her, only to find himself suddenly headscissored. He would enjoy the closeup view if she did not pull him over the railing into free fall. Her firm grip on the railing breaks their fall; the force wrenches his neck into an impossible angle in her leg hold, and his spine snaps. She drops the twitching corpse onto the train tracks. The onrushing train runs over it and cuts it into several pieces. The twins high-ten and kiss.

They pass two mercenaries beaten unconscious as they run the remainder of the footbridge to meet Shira and Sparks. “No problem?” asks Sparks.

Leila winks. “No problem.”

yacht. “How’s the security situation?” asks Peck.

“Wowie zowie,” says Moon, “they got some nasty ICE. Hardware firewalls, sniffers, everything.”

Deth says, “All that won’t be nothing once we find even one back door.”

“Industrial espionage. Competitors put back doors in their rivals’s systems so they can spy on each other. Crackers take advantage.”

“Kuang Zeta ready,” says Punisheroach.

“Not yet. Wait till they’re distracted. Can’t spoil the surprise.”

COPCO Seattle. The image on one monitor zooms in on Sparks. Jack suddenly sits bolt upright when he sees Shira behind him. He moves the camdrone to her face, then down to her IDs, and finally back to the agent. “Sparks, you hired her?

“She proved herself effective against Al-Qaeda and several Klown gangs at once.”

“Don’t you dare trust her. Keep your eye on her at all times.”

“Who said I trusted anybody? They do what I paid ’em for, or they don’t get paid. Bottom line’s all that counts.”

“If I were you, Chief,” Shira adds, “I’d watch out for some of your uniforms. Don’t forget you got moles, and they probably slipped in some of your terrorist friends.”

streetcar. The Shelley twins take a waterfront streetcar. Shira and Sparks commandeer the one to Capitol Hill. They will converge at Amazon, where Alex and Jennifer will meet them after driving the long way in a stolen Flexcar.

Only after Sparks has driven away from Union Station do they find it has a stowaway. She wakes up. Shira notices her: black, gaudily painted, garishly dressed. A Styler. The woman recognizes her. “Well, well, well! What’s the Loca Fantoma herself doin’ here on a nice fuckin’ day like this?”

Shira grins. “Just pwnin’ the Man. All thirty-six factions of him.”

“Thirty-six of him?”

“Meaning the terrorists. They’re all here ’cuz o’ Tournament Rule Number Thirteen: you beat the Man, you be the Man.”

The woman stares at Shira lustfully, slinks up to her, strokes her shoulder; Shira smiles mischievously at her attention. “Girl be crazy stylin’ even when she all business. So what you doin’ wit’ th’ wrong team?”

“C’mon, you know me. I swing both ways. Lemme guess, you bat strictly left-handed.”

Lefty Lucy is my nym. So I hear you been doin’ Leila Shelley.”

“We’re steady for, I guess, two weeks now. She wants me to torture her more. But you know who I really gotta fuck?”

“Who? Me?”

“Amanda Currie. I so wanna corrupt her.” Shira starts unfastening her hat.

“I warn you, Lefty Lucy,” says Sparks. “What Shira Thomas wants, Shira Thomas gets, no exceptions.”

“Congratulations, Shira,” says Lucy, “ya got me. Now let me give you somethin’ he ain’t got.”

“You two have at, then. Me, I’m keeping my eyes on the road. Corpo drivers get crazy drunk.”

Shira and Lucy throw off their clothes and throw themselves at each other. Sparks leaves them alone, drives the trolley, and keeps himself vigilant.

yacht. Three monitors, three windows: Leila on the left, Jennifer in the center, Sparks on the right. “Where’s Shira?” asks Deth.

“Listen carefully, and you’ll find she’s a little, shall we say, busy.”

Leila rolls her eyes and groans. Jennifer quietly chuckles and says, “She always had a talent for finding some...recreation in the middle of the most serious business.”

“Figures. Now here’s the deal: the Roaches got the Kuangs. You do your thing, that’s when we hit the ICE.”

“Shira at one end, Connor at the other, I sync ’em, then you’ll be ready. Send me the models now.”

“3D CGI entertainment, comin’ right up.” He alt-tabs up a Dolphin window, drops a file youarethedemons.tgz onto Jennifer’s image. “Now hurry up, the show’s about to begin!”

Alex says, “Soon, we’ll cause a distraction.”

Deth says, “Then we hit the ICE.”

Lars says, “Then we take out the terrorists.”

Peck says, “That’s when we strike.”

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Copyright © 2011 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
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