Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spanner 19.1: Into the Snake Pit

[NOTE: Yesterday’s late post (of Part 18.6) was an error on my part (I clicked “Save” instead of “Publish” in the Blogger editor). Spanner is now right back on schedule.]

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Chapter 19: Hackers of Reality
Part 1: Into the Snake Pit

If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.
Malcolm X

Whom the mad would destroy, first they make Gods.
Bernard Levin

16 october 2014.
the streets.
The Minutemen, Moral Enforcers, National Guard, and armoured COPCO thugs have withdrawn, if only temporarily. The gangs have retreated to their hideouts to lick their wounds. For the first time since the coup, people in Seattle find they are left to themselves. They do not bother to exploit one another. Instead, they band together and start rebuilding.

They pool their funds to buy building materials from hardware and lumber stores eager for post-disaster profits. They scavenge industrial scrap, abandoned merchandise, and the remains of buildings and cars. They cook for each other. They tend to each other’s children. They bring in people in direst need. They watch for predators and chase them away.

They are not like the great and powerful, the men like gods. They do not live by the apotheosis of the ego. They are proud and simple folk to whom nature gave a social need. If God curses them and chooses the great and the powerful, then they can live without God. But they cannot live without each other. Their unity is their strength. In unity, in defiance of CPMC decree, they rebuild.

CPMC boardroom. “That’s socialism!” protests Brendan Sparks.

“It’s against all conservative principles!” says Brinkman. “God meant government to be private!

Radisson shakes his head sadly. “I’m afraid we have no choice if we want to keep the Chinese and the Mafias from destroying the revolution. The COPCO acquisition shall proceed, and we shall not be outbid.”

“You’re gonna have your ass purged before you pick up your first share,” says Litton. “You know that, Radisson.”

“Then the revolution falls. We face a stark choice between purity and survival.”

“So what’s this ‘Blackbeard Enterprises’ that says it’s liquidating COPCO?”

Jack Becket answers, “‘Blackbeard’ stands for ‘pirate.’ Shell company of guess who.”

Radisson shakes his head sadly. “I’m afraid we may have to seize the company altogether.”

The others’ cries of “Nooooo!” echo throughout the CPMC main building.
[in front of the Public Safety Building] Reports from the New York Stock Exchange say the Chinese government has launched a hostile takeover bid for COPCO after its shares collapsed yesterday due to the bloody infighting among its agents. We’re now getting word that a mysterious shell company said to be owned by revolutionary anarchists and connected to Spanner is attempting a hostile bid of its own, and that the government is drawing up plans to seize the company if either hostile bid goes through. [COPCO agents try to remove her and Scope from the premises]
KCUF studio. An underground metal-house video plays on the monitor bank. “COPCO’s down for the count!” exults Deth.

“But the MIAA still ain’t,” says Simon. “The Man’s lost his fist, at least for now, but his mouth’s still running. The nightmare won’t be over till we can shut it up.”

Alex says, “They’ll bring back COPCO, or something else like it. They have to. As long as they got their Eye, they’ll need a Fist. It ain’t over till we find some way to poke out the Eye.”

“Amanda, you willing to do the presenter job?”

“Uh-uh!” replies Amanda. “I’m tired of sitting at desks. I need to be out in the field, investigating.”

Alex hugs her. “That’s the Amanda we know and love! We missed you so much.” She kisses Amanda on the cheek.

Simon asks, “You’re saying you wanna get back into the field already? You just quit a few days ago.”

Amanda flashes him a wicked smirk. “I want revenge.”

“Against the MIAA,” asks Alex, “or Spanner?”

“Fuck Spanner. I want Drusilla’s pretty ass.”

Shira’s apartment. In the bathroom, Shira and Leila shower together. taking turns soaping each other’s bodies, kissing each other all over, making love creatively. In Shira’s bedroom, Jennifer introduces her gynoid Tansie to Freddy Freakbeak the Python-powered Furby for the first time. Shira has a gynoid of his own now. It looks just like her. With screws and solder, Jennifer patiently gives her a new brain. Leila’s hair is dry and brushed into perfection while Shira’s remains wet when they return. “Where’d you get this one?” asks Jennifer.

Shira gently caresses her likeness. “They found her at the bottom of the pile. I took first dibs. And now here she is.”

Leila asks, “Why would they make sexbots that look just like you, Shira?”

“Apparently more guys lust after me than I thought. No matter how much the Cons and Corpos deny it, there’s a market for every kink.”

Jennifer tightens the last screw. “There.” She sets the screwdriver aside and smiles at Shira. “So what should we name her?”

“She’s a sexbot, so how about ‘Bliss’?”

“‘R. Bliss Thomas’ it is.”

Leila looks at Jennifer skeptically. “‘R.’?”

“Science fiction in-joke, understood only among Fen.” Jennifer winks.

The vidphone pompously plays the Battle Hymn of the Republic. “Excuse me,” Shira says. She casually strolls over to the desk and sits down, taking her time to torture her caller with the delay. She takes the black queen off her chessboard, fondles it, puts it to her lips. Once Dr Becket is sufficiently flustered, she answers. The bespectacled old man is as impotently angry as expected.

“I hope you do not intend to make this a habit, Miss Thomas,” he says.

She licks the queen. “I admire your stubbornness, Doc, but I’m afraid it makes you predictable.”

A crude white CGI chessboard appears on screen. He moves a bishop in an attempt to protect his endangered king.

Shira puts her queen back on its square, moves the rook on her chessboard, and captures his bishop. “I hope you’re not about to make these weekly white riot things a regular occurrence, Doc. There’s only so much the city and its local business community can tolerate before they start calling their lawyers.”

“Not even an infinite number of lawyers can withstand our superior firepower,” says Henry Becket grimly.

“Not till you run out of ammo. Checkmate.”

Dr Becket punches his videophone and breaks the signal.

ferry terminal. Shira puts her finger to her mouth to signal silence. She brings Jennifer close and whispers into her ear, “Don’t let anybody say anything as long as those bots are around. Anything we say, we're saying in front of You Know Who.”

“I’m betting their mics are parabolic so they can hear for miles. I hope they don’t have remote brain scanners that can detect our thoughts.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised.”

bus. Chief Becket has decreed that at least one of his security androids must ride every public transit vehicle. The #24 from the ferry terminal is oppressively silent. The riders are too terrified to even breathe.

Except for the Bremeloes. They are utterly calm.

The virus on Shira’s phone works differently this time. Instead of directly infecting robots running Windows or iOS, it spreads to other devices running Android, which act as carriers. When two Android phones or tablets come close enough, the carrier spreads the virus; when two Android phones connect over the airwaves, they spread the virus. When the time comes, the copies will leap operating systems and wipe themselves from their original carriers. They will spread via iPhone and Windows Phone, and from there to the robots. Shira and Jennifer hacked it to leave no trace. Not even Henry Becket’s precogs will be able to trace it back to them.

school. Everybody has grown weary of the chaos. Everything has calmed down. The conservative teachers don’t pick arguments with the tutors. The broken Student Council does not meet; the two factions studiously ignore each other. No one calls the tutors to the principal’s office.

During lunch, Shira brings Colette and Marina to Mr Whitmer’s office. “So what’s your strategy this time, Shira?” he asks.

Shira touches her phone to the implants in their necks. “Poison pill. Any system that tries to jack your brains will come down with a nasty virus.”

Marina asks, “You think this’ll work?”

“Is Texas burning?” Shira winks.

Kitsap Kouriers. Shira comes in, still dressed in her yellow school uniform and not carrying her hoverboard. As usual, the first thing she does is go to the desk and give Kei a huge kiss. “We missed you,” says Kei. “What have you been doing all this time?”

“Teacher’s assistant stuff, mainly. Tonight I’ve got a meeting, but first I need a word with Adam.”


“Treece. I’m afraid this is urgent.”

Kei summons Adam Treece on the intercom. Worry threatens to mar his blandly pretty face. “Sorry about yesterday.”

Shira hugs him and syncs her phone to his implant. “How ya feeling?’

“Still kinda nauseous. So what’s this for?”

“Making sure they can’t pull this crap on me twice. Especially not my friends. I’m jacking your implant so they can’t jack you.”

“Should I say thanks?”

“If you want. Now stop worrying and get back to work.” She kisses him.

Underground City. Oddly, the decadent underworld beneath Pioneer Square, the playground of gangsters, was left relatively untouched by the wave of destruction. It’s just as loud and crowded in the techGothic as ever. The dancers still jerk around to the unpleasant industrial disco; the robot whores still have no shortage of paying customers; five representatives of Team Spanner still meet in the secure booth behind it all. This time, Shira, Sparks, and Deth Pussy are joined by Alex Plus and Nick Cyphers.

Sparks slams down a small stack of newspapers whose headlines announce the impending collapse of COPCO. “How are we gonna spin this?”

Alex: “As a complete disaster for America, of course,”

Nick: “But the lamestream’s crying anarchy and disorder.”

Shira: “That’s just the alleged good guys being sore losers. ‘Anarchy and disorder’ is code for ‘the people suck,’ ’cuz if the people don’t suck, all the Corpos are out of a job.”

Shira adds, “We’ve got a weapon they can’t use. It’s the Law of Plausible Deniability. All we have to do is make the lamestream newsbots deny something, and hopefully some government spokesbots too. Whatever they deny is by definition true.”

“If we do that, they’ll fall right into our trap.”

J.T. shakes his head. “They have the guns to force their lies on us. I know, I’ve used some of ’em myself.”

Shira grins. “But the second they use their guns, we’ve won.”

“You don’t get it, Shira. When they use their guns, they win, ’cuz we’re dead. Got it?”

“What’s the principle? Moral Event Horizon. Once they cross it, they lose all their moral standing. They just proved today they’re no different from Al-Qaeda or the Manson Family.”

Alex sighs. “Ah, old Charlie Manson, our future Party leader.”

“Once David Duke gets whacked, of course.”

“Don’t those Corpos know they”re fighting just another lost cause?”

“They wouldn’t be in if it weren”t a lost cause.”

“Nah, they think their lost cause can actually be won for once.”

“They’ve already lost the cities. The only question is, when’ll this Cause be lost too? Not if. When.”

“The real question is, how long can we hold out before they start throwing nukes around and destroy everything?”

“Knowing my father and his so-called friends,” says Arvid Shield, standing above them, “probably not long.”

Dictel headquarters. The three Becket brothers sit before the ghost of their father on the boardroom’s big vidscreen. Roger Steele Becket survives only as the recording of his personality in AI form. Henry asks, “Father, what shall we do about these rebellious Cascadians?”

“We must destroy them,” says the late King Patriot.

“That’s much easier said than done, Father,” says Richard. “My expert systems have not yet calculated all the potential financial and political consequences, but obliterating one of the world’s largest economies will spell certain financial ruin. This goes double for California. Without them, we’re bankrupt, and a bankrupt empire cannot stand.”

“God hath gifted us with infinite resources. You must silence your reason and put your faith in God. He will provide.”

Tom, chairman of Dictel, speaks from his wheelchair. “Father, we are overstretching our forces overseas, and our domestic enemies are taking advantage. We cannot sustain this kind of situation forever. Faith is not enough. We need resources, and we need men to secure them.”

“Take them. God gifted them to you, and to you alone. Destroy the infidel and the hordes of darkness. It is your duty. The war must continue till Jesus America hath achieved world dominion and established the Millennium.”

Henry says, “The thing to remember is that if one colony goes, the others will rebel as well. We cannot destroy them all without destroying the planet.”

“And we cannot have an empire if we don’t have a planet left to conquer,” Richard adds. “We haven’t yet prepared any other planets for life in this or any other known solar system.”

Tom says, “Who said this planet had to be fit for carbon-based life? The future is in not perishable flesh, but durable steel and silicon.”

“You mean the Moravec Plan?”


King Patriot says, “The new flesh shall prevail. But first, we must take dominion over the old flesh. This is God’s commandment to the true Chosen Race. My sons, you must stop the rebellion by any means possible. But above all, you must call their Corporations to the new flesh. They are the future.”

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Copyright © 2011 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
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[Revision 2, 9/25/11: Underground City scene heavily modified from Chapter 18 first draft; final scene nearly unmodified from first draft except to correct continuity errors; everything else is all new material.]

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