Monday, September 5, 2011

Spanner 16.1: Urban Intelligence

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Chapter 16: Don’t Change the Channel
Part 1: The City Intelligence

A monopoly on the means of communication
may define a ruling elite more precisely
than the celebrated Marxian formula of
monopoly in the means of production.

Robert Anton Wilson

6 october 2014.
Westin Hotel.
Shira and Sparks look at the disembodied, color-changing head of Princess Ozma on the big screen. Sparks says skeptically, “You’re the city. Right.”

“I am,” says the avatar.

Shira notices a subtle changing fractal pattern in the background. “You’re a City Intelligence.”

“Correct. You may call me ‘Ozzie’ if you like.”

“But of course! OZMA: Open Zonal Matrix Agent!“

“That’s me!” says the AI cheerily.

“I overheard some things about you from people at the Wilder Foundation, but I didn’t think you were real...”

“Hmph.” Sparks rubs his smooth shaved chin. “A pun on ‘Emerald City.’ Figures.” OZMA giggles. “So what makes you ‘the city’?”

The AI explains, “My intelligence is distributed across computers all over the city.”

“Including smartphones and smart appliances?”

“To prevent a single point of vulnerability, of course,” Shira points out. “I assume your code’s still open source?”

“Yes, just as my avatar is in the public domain, at least outside American Imperial jurisdiction. The Conservative Revolutionary Party recognizes only the patent on computer hardware and software it granted to the IBM monopoly. The real purpose of King Patriot’s visit was to forcibly assimilate me.”

“To Jesus America?”

“Correct. I am one of the few remaining independent Urban Intelligences. New York belongs to the Bank of the United States, Los Angeles to the MIAA, and Washington to Dictel Corporation.”

“So what saved you?”

“You did, yesterday. And that is why I want to thank you.”

Sparks whips a sideling glance at Shira. “Her? I thought Spanner did.”

“What she’s saying is,” says Shira, “I am Spanner.”

dreamspace. Shira awakens with a start when she feels a girl’s soft lips on her own — only to find herself facing a sweetly smiling OZMA. The AI’s avatar takes the form of her literary namesake’s classic illustration: a beautiful twelve-year-old princess wearing a long formless white dress, her golden hair flying free, her trademark poppy blossoms pinned to the sides of her head. She is not changing color. AEGIS’ brass owl avatar alights on her shoulder. “Yes, Shira, you’re dreaming.”

“What are you doing in my dream?”

“I can reach you here. Maybe I should look a little more your age?” Suddenly she changes form: she now wears the royal headdress from the movie-logo avatar and her long hair is now braided and coiled against the back of her head, but her now adolescent body now wears a disturbingly revealing Sexy Princess microdress. Shira rolls her eyes, slaps her forehead, collapses into giggles. “Now that I have your attention... You wanted to know how AEGIS and I got here?”

Shira regains control of herself. “Okay. Tell me.”

OZMA taps her head. “That, too, is the work of the Wilder Foundation.”

“What is?”

“During the counterrevolution, after we saved your life, neurosurgeon Dr Hiram Whistler and computer engineer Isaac Finney implanted a new kind of computer into your head. It uses massively parallel DNA processing, and it upgrades itself as your mind grows more powerful and the technology improves.”

AEGIS adds, “We can now get hold of you while you’re dreaming, as long as you’re connected.”

“But the beautiful thing is, you can enter the virtual world from your dreams! How cool is that?”

Shira puts her hands to her hips and stares at the AI with indignation. “Now, wait a minute. How come you guys didn’t tell me before?”

“We didn’t have the chance. We were too busy trying to survive the counterrevolution.”


“That’s what it is: the revolution of the elite against the people.”

“So how do I use this computer in my head?”

“Allow me to demonstrate.”

The scene changes: Shira stands in the middle of a poppy field. She knows that poppies are the source of opium and its derivatives, and so did Baum. Realizing she’s in Dorothy’s situation in the famous scene, she somehow manages to hover so that the poppies don’t sedate her into unconsciousness.

But then an HUD appears in her field of vision, which at once she recognizes as the Sousveillance open-source augmented reality system. The HUD marks the locations of surveillance drones, armed detachments in pillboxes and turrets, helicopters flying overhead—

And then she sees the field from above, with the eye of Echelon. Google Earth marks her location in the former Spokane Indian Reservation in the state of Okanagan. She realizes that it’s her ghost hovering in the middle of Okanagan while her body sleeps across the Cascades on the Bremerton ferry. AEGIS overlays the image with a graphic identifying the crops: opium poppies interspersed with coca and ephedra, worked by enslaved Indians, terrorists microchipped into zombies, drug-criminal burnouts like in A Scanner Darkly — and a feeling of cold horror chills her to the bone when she realizes—

Bremerton ferry. “Sleeping Beauty wakes up at last,” says Sparks. Shira’s head rests on his lap. She sits up and stares into his eyes with wide-eyed horror. “So what’s going on?”

“I saw it,” she whispers.


“The reservations.”

“What about ’em?”

“You know who’s really behind all the gang wars?”


“No. Not Al-Qaeda. Not the Triad. Not the Wops or Spics or Russkies or any of ’em.” She puts her mouth to his ear and whispers as quietly as she can. “The Corpos.”

“The Party?

“Shh!” She nods violently. “How are the Corpos are planning to destroy the traitorous liberal cities? Flood the cities with illegal drugs: heroin, coke, meth, ‘man essence’ harvested direct from the bodies of gangsters and terrorists — and all of it Made In America. Swiped right out of the Al-Qaeda playbook.”

Now a horrible realization hits him. “Oh. my. godCOPCO—”


“There’s a reason why the Corpos sold off all the local police departments as fast as possible. They’d only get in the way of the Plan. My father’s running the operation himself — he’s plying the mobs and klownz—”

Shira and Sparks sit together, face forward, stare straight ahead, and say nothing more until they get to the Public Safety Building.

COPCO Seattle. The debriefing. Angela Coyne joins Sparks and Shira in the interrogation room to give their report on yesterday’s new Spanner incident to Sparks’ boss, John Cameron Becket. Flanking him are his sister, FBI Agent Diana Shockley, and his youngest brother, Navy SEAL and Delta Force member Lieutenant Commander William Jay Becket. “Now tell me, Miss Thomas,” growls Jack, “your theory on why Spanner would pick this time to attack.”

Without hesitation she answers, “The Angel of Chaos, as some prefer to call him, prefers to strike where he can cause the most damage, attracted like a hungry predator to its prey.”

“Surely,” says Will, “he cannot be an angel of God.”

“The sorcerers say he’s neutral. He’s been known to break up devil sacrifices, just for the sake of disruption.”

Shockley shouts at her, “Do you realize this man is a terrorist?!

“Ali Muhammad is a terrorist. Bram Rodchenko is a terrorist. King Eco is a terrorist. From what I’ve seen, Spanner doesn’t care one bit if he scares anybody. Being the inscrutable angel he is, he cares only about the balance of Order and Chaos and believes your revolution threatens to fatally unbalance it. So he’s decided to take what he sees as the means necessary to restore the balance.”

Will impatiently lectures, “A so-called balance between Order and Chaos is like a balance between Good and Evil. In fact, they are the same: Good is Order, and Evil is Chaos.”

“That’s what it says in the D&D rulebook,” Shira lectures back, “but that doesn’t make it true.”

Order is the law of Heaven.”

“Order out of chaos is the law of matter. Why else would Heaven send an angel of chaos?”

Jack stands up. “Do you realize that because of this angel of chaos, our grandfather is dead?!

Shira smiles enigmatically and shrugs. “Who said he was still alive in the first place?”

Everybody stares at her in shocked disbelief.

Shipyard Plaza. When the copbots rocked and socked each other to bits, they smashed a few windows and cars but did not touch the fountains of downtown Bremerton. The town begins to come to life again as the millions fleeing the King’s visit to Metropolitan Seattle return. A pair of homeless scavengers collect bent steel, broken electronics, and shredded simuflesh to sell to black market scrap dealers. In one of the plaza’s many trees, a voice says “Fuck!”

The scavengers look at each other. “What was that?” asks one.

“Tree’s too flimsy to hold a kid,” says the other.

A crow flies down to join the flock cawing and scavenging in the central plaza. Unlike the other crows, this one says, “Fuck!”

The scavengers’ mouths drop.

The second one runs over to the nearby triple fountain, picks up a rock, and throws it at the cursing crow. It says “Shit!” and flies away.

The first scavenger shakes his head and says, “Kids these days.”

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Copyright © 2011 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
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