Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spanner 22.3: Brinkmanship

I came up with the title sometime in the mid-1990s. The entire character of Governor Brinkman grew out of it. And of course brinkmanship (actually “brinksmanship” with an “s,” but you can’t get the name “Brinkman” out of that) is a running theme in this episode.

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Chapter 22: There Is No Law
Part 3: Brinkmanship

1 november 2014.
Day two of what has exploded from a mere anti-bullying rally held by a high-school peace committee into a citywide general strike. Today it spreads statewide, to the major cities of Vancouver and Portland, to the ten university towns, to normally conservative industrial towns across the state. Calls to action spread by rapid electric samizdat from phone to phone, avoiding the censor-crippled blogosphere and official social networks. The strikers’ demand: transfer control of the state government from private control under CPMC to the collective control of the state citizens.

Black Tower. “They’re calling for everything we fought the revolution against!” cries Brinkman. “We saved America from communism, and that ingrate rabble’s now calling for it?”

Ross says, “Sooner or later they will call upon their proletarian messiah to steal away our hard-won freedom.”

Litton says, “You mean Stalin, don’t you. That was in Russia, and Russia is still Russia. This is America, comrades. We’ve had to struggle against democratic tendencies since the Puritans landed on Plymouth Rock.”

“Well, then,” says Everson, “we must gird our loins and prepare ourselves for the next round of the democratic menace. Round two starts now.”

Brinkman growls, “Those traitorous peons want a fight? Let’s give ’em one.”

Shira’s apartment. Jennifer joins Shira and Leila for their morning lovemaking and the following shower. They return to the bedroom to dress, fix breakfast, and visit the Cockroach Twins at election central in the study. Shira asks, “How’s everything going, guys?”

“Everything’s all handy-dandy, boss,” says Moon Roach.

“We got the open-source voting system all set up,” says Punisheroach.

“All we need to do now is set up the touch-tone dialing input,” says Wolveroach.

Moon adds, “Evil the Cat and El Kabong went to get some surplus terminals for the firewall.”

“Good,” says Jennifer. “We can never be too careful with Mob botnets and Echelon.”

“Shall we go?” asks Leila.

“Let’s.” The three girls stride out arm-in-arm.

coffee shop. Several leaders of the Student Union and the former Student Council join Team Bremelo at the Beit al-Qahwah, the big new espresso place with a 2011 Arab Spring theme, owned by Noor al-Siddiqi, a beautiful and eloquent Caliphate refugee from the ancient Yemeni port the mocha was named after. She relishes the simple freedom to own her own business, go unveiled in public, drive a car, love whoever she wants, and not believe in God. Her shop’s name is simply the Arabic phrase for “coffee house.” “Uncle” Renzo Ferrari, owner of Pizza Mafia next door, complains to her, “They’re ruining our business.”

Noor replies, “Who, the strikers or the government?”

Jennifer interrupts, “Don’t you guys forget that CPMC has the power to arbitrarily take away any business license and give it for free to any rich moocher with sufficient pull with Governor Wally and friends. As for the Governor himself, he hates coffee and prefers scotch.”

“Well then, let’s make him drink more of it.” Noor winks; Jennifer winks back.

At the meeting table, Rachel asks, “Why were they trying to kill Karen? She didn’t do anything wrong.”

Sparks replies, “The bastards play dirty. The house always tries to get its way, and always cheats in order to get it.”

“Wally’s been hiring gangsters anyway,” adds Shira, “so I wouldn’t put it past him.

“That high up in the hierarchy, it isn’t,” says Courtney.

“It’s basic animal psychology,” Jennifer explains. “Every social animal has a pecking order, and every male who doesn’t give up and let the alphas rape him fights to the death for one purpose only, to be alpha himself, so he can hog all the women. That’s why kings are almost always polygamous.”

Shira chuckles. “Which means it’s not ‘kill or be killed,’ J.T., but rape or be raped.”

“Unlike the other animals, we’ve got the moral intelligence that allows us to break the animal dominance wars once and for all. Once we do, we’ll rise above our animal origins and take our place among the free citizens of the universe.”

Charmian says scornfully, “Only a genius like you would get away with saying that, Jennifer. Most people are too stupid to rise anywhere near your level. They’re cattle.”

“And it’s the hierarchs’ job to make sure people remain cattle, just to make sure the hierarchs remain in power. Clearly you underestimate how far humanity’s come just in the last few hundred years. Slavery used to be normal; now it’s a crime. Rape used to be acceptable; now some circles consider it worse than even murder. It’s moral evolution, Charmian. The alpha males of the world have been fighting it tooth and claw all the way. It always threatens their power. That’s why they commit crimes against humanity.”

Shira emphasizes, “They’re the primitive savages and barbarians we’re fighting against to save civilization.”

“In other words,” says Colette, “what the people can do peacefully, the authorities can only do through violence, right?”

“That’s pretty much most of history.”

“Is that why you insisted on there being no leaders, Mr Sparks?” asks Rachel.

“I’m just holding our friends to their own principles,” Sparks replies. “This is their first real test.”

COPCO Seattle. “Chief, our sources say those insolent peons still think they’re gonna get away with their insurrection against everything that’s right and moral,” says Jack Becket to Secretary Radisson over the videophone.

“What exactly did your sources say?”

Chief Becket snarls and rolls his one eye. “The primary one said, ‘Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, we’re gonna pwn y’all.’ Those sick perverted spawn of mine...”

“So your youngest has turned traitor at last...”

“The little bitch turned dyke on me! I swear to Jesus America, I’m gonna make myself childless again...”

“You’d better concern yourself first with making sure Spanner doesn’t show up again and ruin everything, John.”

“Don’t worry, Chief. Spanner’s the only thing I can think about anymore.”
To our disloyal subjects, we speak in the holy name of Jesus America, amen. You have defied us for the last time. You are defying the order of the universe. Your defiance threatens to unravel the very fabric of reality itself. We have no choice but to force you back into line. We must do everything we can to restore order, up to and including permanent martial law. If you do not surrender unconditionally this instant, we will find ourself forced to—

Why, listen to His Brinkmanship. Does he realize what “brinkmanship” means? It means expertise in playing chicken. [shows phonecam video of two teenage male hotrodders driving at each other] Governor Brinkman’s playing chicken with the people, his investors, and reality itself. Sooner or later he’s gonna go out with a bang. [The video ends with the hotrodders dying in a fiery head-on collision.]
Black Tower. “That went well,” says Litton.

“You shut up!” snaps Brinkman.

“You’re the one she’s interrupting now. You think you can shout her down now that she’s spinning you playing chicken?”

Brinkman calls up Brendan Sparks. “Well, good morning, Walter. I hear you’ve got problems in three big cities now, not just one.”

“And ten college towns, twelve ports, and thirty-six industrial towns,“ says Brinkman, “and that’s just at last count. How many agents you think it’ll take to put it all down?”

“I already put all our agents in your state in Seattle, under your cousin John’s command. If you want all your cities pacified, I’ll probably have to move all the agents we have in California your way, and that’ll probably leave California vulnerable. Our agents already have their hands full with the Mexican syndicates in Texas and New African agents in New Israel.”

“Well, can’t you hire?

“Walter, we’ve been hiring. But crime marches on. Why don’t you call on the National Guard?”

“It’s already in Afpakistan, Siberia, Mexico, and Colombia, that’s why. I’ll call cousin Will and see what he thinks.”

Next, he calls Will Becket. “Hello, Walter. Hands full today?”

“How much personnel and equipment can you spare?”

“Right now we have to deal with a major escalation in Al-Qaeda and Omega Syndicate activity. I’ll tell you something, if we had anything to spare, you wouldn’t be having such a mess today. Sorry.” Will shrugs, then disconnects.

Brinkman lets his head fall onto the desk and sighs in frustration.

the protests. Though Saturday is not a work day, the streets and public plazas of the cities of Cascadia fill up with fed-up citizens in protest against the Corporatist régime. They trade horror stories about how they were driven into virtual slavery by tax debt imposed by CPMC to subsidize the decadent lifestyles of the “deserving” Corporate aristocrats who call them “moochers” of “their” entitlements. They complain about the Corporates’ all-consuming entitlement mentality that drives them to steal everything they can and stab each other in the back. The people the Corporates call parasites protest the parasitic aristocrats of corporate socialism. Their new chant: “Take Back Our State!”

Brinkman’s demand for their unconditional surrender to CPMC enrages them. They vow never to give in to his increasingly unhinged tyranny, even if he must kill them all and destroy his state. They fully expect him to call in the Air Force and apply to the cities of the homeland the standard American military doctrine of carpet bombing, the strategy currently not working against SinoPec in Siberia, the Syndicate dictatorship in Mexico, FARC in Colombia, or even Al-Qaeda, whether in Afpakistan or Arkansas.

The strikers hold a vote by phone. They vote to reject Brinkman’s demand and stand by their own.

Kitsap Kouriers. Kei Thompson sees a familiar dark-skinned beauty through the window, wearing a flight jacket over her yellow school uniform. “Hey! It”s Shira!” All the couriers rush toward the door to greet her as she strides through, hoverboard slung over her back. In order, she hugs and kisses Kei, Sophie, Adam Toren, Warren Smith, and Adam Treece. The three remaining couriers are new; they know Shira only through the legends that have grown around her: through media hit pieces, tales of impossible feats, and episodes of her own vlog that have been circulating the Darknet. Two men and one woman approach her. “You must be that Shira we’ve been hearing about,” says the young Filipino man.

Shira winks. “You must be the new hires.”

He holds out his hand. “I’m David Isabella. Pleased to meet you.” She shakes his hand.

The black kid shakes her hand. “Gary Indiana at your service.”

The woman looks Indian but talks British. “Tana Bexter,” she says. “I’ve been hearing very bad things about you.” She shakes Shira’s hand and winks.

Sophie asks, “What brings you here so early, Shira?”

Shira shrugs. “School’s out, you know.”

“I heard your former Head Boy trashed the school,” says Treece.

“I’m glad none of us were in there,” adds Adam Toren. “No offense to you, redhead.”

Shira chuckles. “Hey, I did most of the fighting.” She takes out her Go-Yo™ and walks the dog.

“Ohhh,” say Adam Toren and Warren Smith in unison.

Shira puts the Go-Yo back into its pouch. “Not just the school bombing. SPEC stock’s getting bombed too, thanks to my short-selling friends. Some of them turned out to be as bitter at the homeschool ban as I am.”

Sophie gives her the work order. “There’s a delivery from Tacoma. We know you’re the best.”

She kisses Sophie and gives it back. “I’d love to, but I’m actually here to pass it on. I got preempted by circumstances you all well know about.”

Everybody looks at Adam Toren and Warren Smith. They shake their heads. Treece takes the work order out of Shira’s hand and holds it at the new couriers. “Any of you willing to prove yourselves?”

“I can do it,” says Tana.

“Here, take this.” Shira gives Tana her hoverboard, then takes off her flight jacket and hands it to her. “You’ll want this too. I won’t be needing it for this job.”
Right now my gorgeous girlfriend and I are on the foot ferry speeding toward Seattle from beautiful downtown Bremerton. I bet our lords and masters are wondering, why oh why did Big Al Fleer have to get himself whacked in such humiliating fashion? If he hadn’t, there probably wouldn’t have been a peace rally at Bremerton High in the first place. I’m hearing the Fearsome Foursome don’t have the manpower or machine power to put down ten million angry Cascadians.

My question to One-Eye Jack, Lucky Luke, and Porky Pete is: Are y’all willing to play chicken with moi? Are y’all even able? Didn’t think so. Some brinkmanship. [kisses at the phonecam before the picture goes black]
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Copyright © 2011 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

[Revision 2, 10/16/11: The coffee shop, COPCO Seattle, and courier company scenes heavily modified from the unpublished first draft; everything else is new material.]

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