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Chaos Angel Spanner — Chapter 16: Don’t Change the Channel
Part 4: Live on Pirate Television KCUF
Part 4: Live on Pirate Television KCUF
7 october 2014.
Bangor. At the southern edge of the edge city, on the Seabeck Highway near the border with Bremerton, there is a large strip mall that used to have big-box and other chain stores but now contains only antique malls and ethnic shops. Behind it is what used to be the largest self-storage facility on the Westside but has recently been converted to squats; other homeless people tore up the parking lot to build a large and squalid shantytown from fragments of derelict buildings. Behind it is a complex of warehouses, some of which the squatters have dismantled to build their slum. Of the few that remain, one serves as headquarters to the most popular pirate television station on the West Coast, KCUF.
The KCUF studio is indistinguishable from any other warehouse still intact here. It has no visible transmitters to betray its location. It broadcasts entirely on the Darknet, piggybacked on encrypted signals, thus undetectable by Echelon’s paranoid packet sniffers. Anarchist guerrilla hackers capture the signal and put it on satellite uplink so that anyone with a Ku-band dish antenna can receive it. Some satellite receivers then put it onto unused broadcast channels in the UHF spectrum.
Jennifer, Connor, Polly, and the Shelley twins meet Shira and Sparks inside the front door. Shira greets them by kissing them on the lips; she saves the biggest kiss for Leila. In the busy lobby, a Max Headroom, illegally projected onto a large-screen 3D monitor by the latest Ono-Sendai supernetbook, stutters hello. Polly giggles.
“Wow,” Leila marvels, “we never saw anything like this in Pretty City.”
“They spend way too much making everything look tawdry and decadent,” Rob adds.
Shira winks. “The hacker underground pride themselves on getting the most out of the least.”
Back in the studio itself, they can see the latest episode of the Go-Man cartoon currently streaming. Alex Plus, Deth Pussy, Simon Sez, and the Scope await them. They trade handshakes and hugs; Alex makes sure to give both her cousin Shira and kid sister Jennifer a firm kiss on the lips. The logo on Deth’s T-shirt is Wu-Tang Clan turned into a Hello Kitty.
“So how’s the Go-War going?” asks Shira.
“We got underground anime, they got reality TV, no contest,” says Deth.
“Nobody who’s “in” wants to see the good guys forced to fight their own mentors,” Simon complains. “They wanna see a Tournament. Hyper City, Pretty City, no diff, innit?” Accent: English. Surrey. He’s the Band with No Name’s sound tech and a longtime father figure to Shira, Jennifer, and Connor.
Shira smiles and looks sidelong at Simon. “Simon baby, how come you weren’t at my quinceañera?”
“You know I was busy.”
“I forgive you.” She kisses him on the cheek.
“So what brings you here?” asks Deth.
Sparks answers. “The buzz at the station says the Cartel’s taking our friend Spanner seriously this time.”
“Way. What’s more, they’re blaming him for all the damage his late majesty and his loyal followers did in addition to all the robot destruction. The official spin already claims he took out the king.”
“Like what’s new. Like they don’t blame everything on the liberals.”
Shira stares into Deth’s eyes. “They’re calling in the Rat Bastard.”
“What?!” Every worker in the studio stops their work. Everybody stares at Sparks and Shira. “Oh. shit—” Deth squeaks.
“Looks like they’re not yet prepared,” says Sparks.
“We’re here to prepare ’em,” says Jennifer.
Deth paces back and forth across the studio. “This is bad. This is really, fucking, bad.”
“What’s so bad?” asks Polly.
He stomps up to her. “You know who that guy is?”
“Some political consultant my wife likes to complain about.”
“He’s only the greatest fucking political consultant on earth.” Deth stomps around the studio and throws his arms around. “The man’s a genius! A master magician with a fucking doctorate in public relations!”
Simon adds, “He started as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration under Pat Buchanan and then rose to the top of the advertising industry. He helped Karl Rove get Bush elected and reelected. So when the renamed Republican Party cancelled the 2012 election, he was the man they chose to spin it.”
“What they don’t have,” says Scope, “is a sense of the underground.”
“And they’ve been remarkably successful in driving society and the economy underground,” concludes Alex.
Shira says, “Randolph Grant Litton, Esquire, sorcerer of the official spin and bastard son of rats, is a champion in dire need of a Challenge.”
The KCUF crew crowd around her. Still skeptical, Deth asks, “And who’s gonna throw him the Challenge?”
“Three guesses and the first two don’t count.”
“Spanner’s not real,” Alex chides.
“He doesn’t have to be as long as I’m the puppeteer. Speaking of which, I’ll need to borrow a few spare bots from you guys and soon.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding,” says Simon.
Shira smiles ironically and shrugs. “Nope. Totally serious. I beat Doc Becket in chess every time, yet he still keeps throwing me Challenges. The Rat Bastard thinks he can beat me at my own game. I say, let him assume.”
The studio crew cross their arms and stare at him. Deth says, “You know what you’re up against, don’t you.”
“Of course I do. You wanna play him, you scout him. But the big question is, what have we got to deal him with?”
Deth and Simon stare at each other. Then they look back at her and shrug.
Shira winks. “We’ve got chaos.”
school. The vidscreen bank at the school entrance greets Team Bremelo by relentlessly and narmily mourning King Patriot as if it believed it could bring him back from the dead through virtual tears alone. Shira snarks, “Looks like our American Stalin just turned into our Kim Il Sung.” Polly looks at her strangely. “Did you know Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are still co-heads of state in North Korea even though they’re dead? Now the ghost of old King Rodge can be co-ghost leader along with Emperor Jesus America, President Goldman Sachs, and Secretary General News Corporation.” Polly, still confused, still stares at her. She grins. “I guess we’ll have to explain it to you as soon as we can.”
“I sure hope so,” says Polly. “This is getting so weird, I feel like I’m trapped in a funhouse with monster clowns.”
“And I’m scheduled to duel with the makeup artist. This was weird already. Now it starts getting interesting.”
As they walk toward the cafeteria, they notice the Fleer sisters arguing with unusual hysteria. They cannot hear what they’re saying because they keep talking over each other, but they notice Dorian failing to calm her younger sisters down and Christian succeeding in making her sisters more hysterical, and that what they’re arguing over is Spanner. “Losing their great-grandfather sure hit ’em hard, Karen observes.
“It’s even worse,” says Shira. “They’re afraid of the monster that killed him.”
Kelly intrudes angrily into Shira’s face. “I hope to God you’re not connected with that horrible terrorist.”
“You mean Spanner?” replies Shira. “That guy doesn’t need our help, and probably doesn’t want it either.”
Bart rudely pushes Kelly aside (Kelly: “Ow!”) and growls with a wavering half-hysteria he has never shown before: “That terrorist murdered our king!”
Shira smiles sweetly and shrugs. “How do you know he’s even dead?”
principal’s office. “Where’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?” mocks Leila. “Are they not feeling like real men?”
A man in a Dictel mercenary officer’s uniform stands sternly behind Dean Principal and Honey Sue Falconer. He stares down menacingly at Shira, the Blair siblings, and the Shelley twins and sister Fiona. The two assistant principals are conspicuously absent.
Principal Principal says through his permasmirk, “We summoned you here because there is someone we need to introduce to you.” He gestures toward the man behind him without moving his gaze. “This is Lieutenant Morton Spiekerman, the Party official in charge of this miserable little school.”
“I’ve been hearing interesting things about you kids,” Spiekerman drawls. “Mr Principal and Major Falconer tell me you’re quite the handful, to say the least. After the martyrdom of our King at the hands of that terrorist Spanner, I decided it was time to take control of the situation and personally make sure you kids stay in line, y’hear?”
Shira smiles ironically. “We’ve heard things about you too, Comrade Spiekerman. We’re confident you’ll find it impossible to keep a rational person in line.”
Falconer stands up and shrieks, “You’re out of line, Thomas!”
“Don’t think we won’t punish you for your insolence, Shira Thomas,” Spiekerman warns.
Shira’s smile morphs into a wicked smirk. “If we’re right about your fondness for corporal punishment, Comrade, I’ll have to warn you: we might just like it.” She winks. Spiekerman tries to hide his shudder.
library. The school is still half deserted, but all the foreign exchange students are present; so instead of holding the regular homeroom class, Mr Whitmer calls a meeting for them and their friends in the library. From Italy: Elena Moretti and Giulio Bartimeo. From Germany: Uwe Steinberg, Bobby Visser, and Anna St. Cyr. From Greece: Niko Pappaioannou. From France: Régine Coury (Protestant), Daniel Bergman (Jewish), and the Ibrahim sisters: Sharifa (Muslim), wearing her blue scarf; Sultana (Catholic), wearing her silver crucifix pendant; and Sana (secular), carrying her ever-present spiral notebook. From Japan: Fuyumi, Harumi, and Seika Tachibana. From Britain: Brandi Quinn. Robert, Leila, and Fiona Shelley come from Ireland, but they’re here because their father plays for the Pumas (and against their grandfather the Governor’s will); yet they insist on coming anyway.
Representing Team Bremelo: Shira, Jennifer, Connor, Cory, Kio, and Polly. Mimi sits on Kio’s lap. Representing the GSA: Karen, Lorelei, Chuck, Lyssa, Donald, Lorine, and Eddie. Dexter comes with Karen; Courtney and Schuyler come with Dexter. Faculty present besides Mr Whitmer: librarians Sally, Kitty, and Christine, and teachers Sylvia Plame and Elsie Currie. Elsie asks Shira, “Did anything happen to my sister?”
Shira shrugs. “Amanda? She’s taking the disaster harder ’cuz she was there watching it all happen.”
Mr Whitmer says, “She’s far from the only one to take it too hard. Which is why we’re here.”
“I know for a fact the principals are squirming, ’cuz their Party superior’s taking up permanent residence. Morton Spiekerman has a notorious fondness for corporal punishment, so this should get plenty fun.”
“Let’s be glad he didn’t bring his Shepherd with him,” says Sana nervously.
“You mean Scofield? My team met him at our picnic last month. He’s quite the piece of work, lemme tell you.” The Bremeloes and GSA members respond with knowing groans.
Karen stands up. “Now for the reason we’re here.”
“We’re here ’cuz the Party’s blaming all us liberals for what Spanner did to their belovèd leader this last Sunday, and they’re going into purge mode.”
“This doesn’t just include the liberal minority within the Empire,” Lorelei adds, “but anyone they believe politically incorrect, including entire states such as Cascadia.”
Brandi warns, “That also includes most of Europe.”
“That’s right!” says Shira. “Everybody knows they’ve got a nasty orientalist stereotype toward Europeans. They apply it equally toward us West Coasters.”
Karen continues, “So we need to create an alliance so we can protect ourselves. All those in favor, raise your hands.”
Every single person here raises their hand, some quite enthusiastically.
“The Peace Committee is now official!” The whole library erupts into cheers.
pool locker room. The Bremeloes take their now regular coed shower, joined by Anna, Bobby, Fuyumi, and Sana. Fuyumi gently squeezes Leila’s breasts; Leila grins at her. “Wow, you’re all so beautiful,” Fuyumi rhapsodizes. “I’m in love with all of you.”
Schuyler asks, “How come there aren’t more guys here?”
“Most guys are wimps,” Kio answers. “Especially the tough guys.” The others laugh.
Anna muses, “I’m always amazed and disappointed at how uptight and prudish most Americans are.”
Jennifer replies contemptuously, “This country was founded by a cult, remember?”
“That’s right. This whole Conservative Revolution thing is the cult’s last-ditch panic effort to keep from losing the country they founded to the modern world.”
Shira adds, “And knowing what these revolutions are like, and who the revolutionaries are, it’s their biggest lost cause ever. Our challenge is to survive it so we can claim the ruins.”
“Is Spanner going to destroy them for us?” asks Fuyumi.
“Hardly. He’s not the hero, he’s just a weapon.”
“Do you think he’s gone now?” asks Sana.
“Him? We haven’t heard the last of him by a long shot.”
telesphere. At five o’clock sharp, Pacific Daylight Saving Time, the news shows do not come on. Instead, a helmeted cartoon hero, an Eight Man with skull and crossed wrenches replacing the eight, appears in eight-bit low resolution before a vertically scrolling Atari 800 rainbow background. He opens and closes his mouth in clockwork regularity. The standard male voice synthesizer says:
Greetings, Mr and Mrs America, and the world. Call me Spanner. This is the news.The piratecast breaks off. The network news presenters reappear in mid-scream.
Soon the phantoms who rule you will unleash a slick, coordinated, and highly expensive media blitz in an attempt to tell you who I am. They will make me an official hero and give me a reality show of my own. Or they will make me the Devil incarnate, or a servant of the Devil, and they will command you to throw stones at my image every Fifth of November. They will use every illusion available to Hollywood and Mad Ave in an attempt to make me not me. They will fail.
The phantoms rule you because they fear you. They claim you are unfit to rule yourselves. They claim you are unfit for salvation, merely because you are not phantoms like them. They are not like you. They are the Machine. I am the monkeywrench jammed into its gears.
I am not a hero, a villain, or a terrorist. I am Chaos. Where there is disorder, I am there. Where there is chaos, I am there. Where there is evolution, I have done my work.
I am the Angel of Chaos. I am not coming for you. In fact, I never left.
The rest of the TV schedule is preempted by nonstop news reports about the mystery man, in which the increasingly desperate presenters offer increasingly wild speculations as to his identity and motives. By the time everybody get tired of it and decide to watch movies on their DVRs instead, Glenn Beck spews two or three ever more ludicrously paranoid conspiracy theories, and the others feel compelled to top him. Sooner rather than later, something else interrupts the possessed propaganda stream. Shira says, “One shocking swerve, coming up.”
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Copyright © 2011 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.