Bought with your tax dollars!
Libertarianism, similar to classical vs modern liberalism, has taken on a different meaning, and is a label applied to an entirely different movement from classical Libertarianism (I.E. the kind in the real world). I really at first just wanted to use the word Libertarian as an ironic insult, but I got to thinking it might be cool to expound upon it.
So, Libertarians are basically a combination of hippies, secessionists, autistic nerds, and Henry David Thoreau. They believe in personal freedom and self-determination to almost ridiculous extremes. Individuality is considered extremely important, and they consider it a right for every individual to choose their own social role.
They have a great cultural heritage. Libertarian art and music is widely copied by other societies, and is usually very popular. Self education is considered a virtue. Some are able to find commissions from larger societies, writing holo-logs, a kind of engineered sensory experience that can be shared. These can be everything from music and movies, to fictional narratives, to gonzo reporting of events in far-off places, even abstract simulations or “demos” that are widely revered.
The Libertarians are the true “internet” of the universal age. Most citizens who know anything of societies outside their own got it by way of Libertarians in one way or another.
Violence is generally not necessary anymore. Resources are so easy to come by, and the universe is so big, that there’s never any reason to attack anyone except for the sake of dominance. Libertarians love and cherish their weapons. They think they look cool mostly, and wear them as fashion accessories. Being able to defend themselves with them is a nice bonus.
They rose to prominence during the earliest days of consumer space travel. Some of them began as disaffected individuals, without prospects, searching for a new life elsewhere. Others were refugees of wars, genocide, and famine. Some were marginalized religious groups. Whatever their impetus, they scraped together what money and resources they had, and bought ship kits from other libertarians, often at a charitable price. They pointed their ships in random directions, and set out to find a place for themselves among the stars.
Sometimes they’d fall victim to accident or poor spacemanship. Some people just weren’t cut out for space travel. Still others were killed pointlessly by cruel citizens from Sol, a government which considered them pests rather than persons. They were often killed by crime syndicates or rogue pirate bands for similar reasons. They had no money, no riches, nothing at all worth stealing.
Their technology is always second-rate, sometimes slap-dash, handed down, repaired hundreds of times. While the rest of the world was busy spending millions of man hours developing newer and shinier technology, they were just puttering around with the same stuff they had from the beginning.
They are almost always subversive to the larger culture. They see any action that destabilizes (the extremely corrupt and unjust) society a solemn duty to be carried out at every opportunity. They must be careful, however. While some societies will tolerate them, and prosecute them for infractions on an individual basis, others will prosecute genocide at the slightest provocation.
They have also settled various celestial bodies, and built societies. Their primary objective is to stay out of the sight and attention of larger powers and eke out a living. It is usually necessary for such settled Libertarians to venture out to border worlds and black market bazaars in search of vital supplies. Individuals who have settled homes like this do not under any circumstances want to draw attention to themselves or reveal anything. The world is very harsh, and some power or other may take a notion and decide to wipe you out.
Libertarians lead comparably wholesome existences. Among them, human life still has value, and to the majority of them, it’s worth living.
(I’m starting to reconsider calling them Libertarians. Libertarian is supposed to be a borderline insult, but this description of them is pretty glowing. Also, Libertarian culture is going to vary widely depending on the situations they have to deal with… I mean, a Libertarian enclave in the middle of the Squats, surrounded by corporate and government interests is going to be more gung-ho and less trusting than one left to themselves cultivating rolling fields of grain under an asteroid sky somewhere. But I want them to have a shared philosophical heritage; memetic heritage is much more important to them than genetic.)
His name was Bali Aishwarya. Twenty three years old. 168cm tall, 41kg. Eyes, brown. Hair, brown. Skin tone, light to pale, likely from lack of sun. He originally hailed from Balu-Lakshmi, a rather ritzy subworld in the financial district of Sol. He was employed as an errand boy for the Sol branch of Angel Intelligence up until just two subjective months ago when he was fired for accidentally swapping two hand deliveries– one for the wife of the newest CEO in the Anderapbadhi dynasty, and (INSERT CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE STORY OF ABHAY RUINING AN IMPORTANT WEDDING OF IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN SUCH A HILARIOUSLY AND STUPENDOUSLY STUPID WAY THAT HE GETS A HIT CALLED ON HIM. MAYBE NOT A WEDDING BUT HE RUINED SOMETHING REALLY BADLY AND HILARIOUSLY. BASICALLY HE’S BOTH A SCHLEMIEL AND A SCHLOMOZZLE).
Needless to say he needed to get out of dodge fast. He hitched a ride with a group of travelling libertarians, who jumped at the opportunity to harbor him. Partially, they liked the prospect of another recruit for their movement, partially they wanted to stick it to anyone in power. So, after an eventful voyage in a broken down tiny space van, he washed up here.
Social engineering has been a major part of hacking since the earliest days. Jay had commented with some disgust that our uniforms made us look like libertarians. We all had to admit she was right. The camo, the big guns, the copious amounts of primitive ugly tech accessories that were standard government issue ironically made us look like subversive elements. So we our backstory.
“OK. I got one on the hook,” I said. “Just need to reel him in. He came here with a group of friendly libertarians. Check his dossier on IR4 subchannel.”
“Hmm. Kind of a shrimpy fellow don’t you think?” Rourke said.
“Yeah, but the Libertarians are harboring him. I think we can use that to slip in amongst them. We can just claim to be acquaintances of some of his benefactors and slip in unnoticed,” I said.
“Well,” Parker said, “I guess playing the part of the nerd comes easy to a hacker like you, Curtis. What do you think, Fox?”
“Well, if this Hindu sees through us, we shouldn’t have too much trouble putting him down, and the Libertarians will probably just ask for a few rupees for their trouble. This seems as good as we’re gonna get. Go for it, Curtis.”
“Alright, ” I said, “I’ll use the old bladder jolt to separate him from the crowd. You’re not going to like this but the quickest way up there is through a latrine.”
“Augh! That smell!” Parker winced.
“Looks like this part of the atmosphere processor wasn’t meant for human habitation,” Fox said “There’s no sewer. They’ve just been shitting and pissing over a hole in the floor into the room below. What do you think Curtis?”
“Hmm…” I thought about it for a minute. “The comms here must be really good here to attract such a crowd. I’m thinking we may be able to score an encrypted uplink to the rest of the universe.”
“Good answer,” Fox said. “The local strong-men–organize crime, gangs, even minor governments–like to monopolize them for their own use. But Angel’s got about 80% of their codes cracked; I’ll send you the file once you’ve found a good vantage point.”
“Oh my god that is ratchet!” Jay suddenly cut in, “Oh my god Parker you little shit why are you sending the smell too?”
We all looked at Parker and smirked. Without missing a beat, Fox shot a climbing rope though the hole to the ceiling of the room above, we all hooked in and winched ourselves up. Definitely beat trying to walk over years of piss-and-vodka-soaked feces. As soon as we got up, we walked out into the dark alleyway outside, and hoped that we didn’t bring too much of the smell with us.
“Alright Squad,” Fox said. “This is the diciest part. First contact. Curtis has got our boy Bali thinking he’s about to piss himself, so he shouldn’t notice four nondescript lowlives like us hanging around the entrance smoking and talking. When he gets out, we need to pretend to recognize him. Curtis, let someone else do all the talking; I don’t want you speaking at all. I want your concentration one-hundred-percent on keeping him in check. You got it?”
“One more thing,” Fox said, now with her own mouth. “LOS comms are going to attract a lot of attention out here. We’re voice from here on out.”
“Understood,” we said in unison.
“Contact in fifteen,” I said.
“Look nonchalant!” Fox said. This seemed like a good time in Parker’s estimation to light up a cigarette.
Just as expected, Bali rounded the corner at the far end of the hall, and stomped past us in the stagnant dust, rushing for the bathroom. Being in plain sight while he was near us but not having to engage him in conversation was an important part of the hack. It allowed me a chance to get a read for what patterns his mind assigned to us, and with infinite subtlety, rewire them to have a greater significance to him. I tick-tacked away at my transponder, hanging back in the shadows, creating a social relationship with each of us out of whole cloth. Hmm… a little familiarity, yes, but not too much or it would start to seem wrong. Should he be relieved to see us? Nah. Awkward? Definitely. For a guy like Bali, dial it up to eleven. He should be a little snippy towards Rourke, she doesn’t get along well with nerds. Hmm… Fox? A mixture of fear and respect. Parker? Potential drinking buddy.
“Dammnit, Curtis,” Parker said after receiving his role, “Why do I always have to be all buddy buddy with our contacts?”
“Because, Parker,” Fox said with bitter sarcasm, “You’re the kindest and gentlest out of all of us.”
It was true. Parker was the most socially adept out of all us, ironic for a former tekker. I didn’t realize until our target was coming back out that I had forgotten to write myself into his backstory. It was far too late now. Fox could introduce me as someone he hasn’t met.
The door clicked, and we had to let of of our tension fast. There was no longer any time for nervousness. Bali emerged from the bathroom, perplexed at how he couldn’t even squeeze out a drop when he had to pee so bad not thirty seconds ago.
“Yo! Hey! Bal-iii!” Parker said with an extra emphasis on the i in Bali. “What’s shakin’ homes!”
Bali stopped in his tracks and turned around. “Oh heheh… Eh, hello my friend, eh… Sorry… I seem to have forgotten your name, sir.” he replied, hand on his head.
“Oh hahah, it’s OK homes,” Parker said. “There are a hundred million people in the Squats. You can’t expect to remember everyone after meeting them once. I’m Billy. This here,” he said, pointing at Fox, “Is Martha.”
“Call me Marge.” Fox said sternly.
“And this little lady here,” Parker said, “Is Kimmy.”
“Uh huh,” Rourke said without much enthusiasm.
Parker now was standing entirely too close for Bali’s comfort, but that was the part I wrote for him. If I could keep him on edge, he’d be less likely to question who the hell these people are.
“I say my friends. I can’t begin to thank you enough for getting me out of
“Nah, think nothing of it my brother,” Parker said, now draping his arm around Bali’s neck. “I consider it an investment. We’re all together in our struggle. The more friends I make the more chances I have of being repaid when I need it most. Besides, your turning up missing is gonna put a thorn in the ass of those bastards from AngInt.”
“I most definitely appreciate it, my friend,” Bali said, clearly uncomfortable.
“So, what are your plans now, Bali?” Parker asked. “Got a nestegg to fall back on? Got any prospects?”
“Well, not to sound rude my friend but I wish to keep that a secret,” Bali said. “Now if you’ll excuse me I’m getting pretty tired. I wish to return to my room at the Doubles of Deuce.”
>”Damnit Curtis!” Parker angrily at me on radcom. “He’s pulling away. He was supposed to start hanging out with us and showing us around.”
>”Hang tight.” I said. “I’ll get him back.”
“I was thinking,” Parker interrupted him, “Y’know… I was thinking,” Parker started again, now taking a moment to collect his thoughts. He shot a desperate look at me.
“Billy, lay off the guy.” Rourke said, slapping his arm off of his shoulder. “He’s not interested in your sexual advances. Seriously. Damn overbearing dickhead. Let’s get out of here. Get some supper.”
>”Rourke what the hell are you doing?” Parker asked.
>”You were cornering the guy. There’s making it awkward and there’s going way overboard.”
“You can come too if you want,” Rourke said. “I’ll buy.”
“Well…” Bali said, “I am quite hungry.”
“Let’s get out of here then,” Fox said.
>”Nicely done, Rourke,” I said. “I like the love interest angle too.”
>”What?” Rourke said, now blushing, and trying to hide it “Love interest? I was just rescuing him from the jaws of a hungry bear… the kind that wears leather chaps.”
>”Shut up Rourke,” Parker said.
>”Fox’s right though, Rourke.” Fox said. “He’s like a lost puppy. If you show him any kindness, as a woman, he’s going to start following you around. He’s amped up on the possibility that you like him. Curtis made your first meeting with him cold and harsh. I think he’s getting off on that. He’s a masochist. I don’t think he’s the type to make bold moves but be ready for him.”
>”Good lord you’re all nerds,” Rourke said. “If he tries anything I shove my 12 gauge in his face. How does that sound?”
>”Haha that’s just going to make him horny,” Parker said, and we walked silently out of the alleyway into the neon glow and pulsing noise of the Squats.
>”Yeah, don’t mind me,” Jay said. “I’m just a small town girl watching idiots mill around.”
I know there are a lot of things that don’t really make sense in this first draft, and there are probably a lot of contradictions as well. I’m world building at the same time as I lay out the narrative, so most of this will probably change a lot. If I want to become a better writer, I need to practice.
I really just want to introduce my ideas of the technology, and how solidering in this future has become a much more intelligent and subtle endeavor, akin to espionage. I want to just slap anything on the page at all, so that my ideas don’t degrade and disappear. I’ll explain in future installments the political and technological reasons why outright warfare isn’t exactly practical anymore.
My vision of how these soldiers work is that they are extremely cybernetically augmented, and they are synchronized to the point that they can communicate with one another as if through thought. I want to demonstrate that all these characters actually have a bond with each other, that makes them very cohesive in combat.
This particular operation consisted of eight soldiers, divided into two teams. Team alpha consists of only regular gun-carrying soldiers. They’re the muscle, set up to bust in and save the day if things go badly inside. I want to take some time to introduce the members of this team early on in later drafts. Team bravo is the team we’ve been following. Team bravo is a scapel-like detachment, their goal is to infiltrate unnoticed.
Team bravo is a standard infiltration unit. It consists of an engineer, a hacker, and two bodyguards.
The hacker’s job is to hack. Obviously. He does his job best when he stays unnoticed and out of sight. It is often enemy soldiers’ first goal to find and neutralize any opposing hackers, and they universally get no quarter if they’re found. A bullet to the head is often the only way to be sure they’re no longer a threat. The presence of a hacker on the battlefield makes regular gun-toters paranoid. A successful hack in a battle situation, when our fight-or-flight instincts are at their height can be crippling, sometimes life-changing. Sometimes worse than dying. His transponder is a large antenna and sensor array he uses to try and break the consciousnesses of others. A hacker is an offensive information warrior. He carries a one-handed recoil-cancelling shotgun.
The engineer’s job is to use listening devices and an attentive mind to see threats coming. In a crowded situation like this, he’s going to be scanning everyone, noting down their capabilities, monitoring radio activity, etc. He’s the eyes and ears, the xray and metal detector. He has an array of sensors, and the ability to keep everyone else informed on the enemy’s movements, troop strength, etc. He is usually a communication nexus for the others, relaying orders from the CO. His equipment load is the heaviest except for maybe someone carrying ultra heavy weapons which we won’t be exploring in this narrative. An engineer is a defensive information warrior. He also carries a shotgun for emergencies.
The body guards are the rank-and-file soliders. Rourke and Fox are this designation. They are there to handle things if the situation gets violent. Fox is the commanding officer, but she is an equally competent engineer and hacker; she probably knows Curtis’ job better than he does. The reason she’s a normal soldier despite being more experienced is because it’s thought to be important to keep a CO’s mind free of distractions so she can make the best decisions possible. Soldiers standard equipment consists of a rife for long-range encounters, a shotgun for close-quarters fighting, and grenades. Lasguns do exist but they lack power and have lengthy recharge cycles. They are mostly used for concealment.
Curtis is a student who fell for a predatory loan issued by the government. He knew there was a very good chance taking the loan may lead to a life of debt peonage, but (at least he thought at the time) it beat spending the rest of his life scrounging on the streets. The army needs hackers and engineers, so they often use underhanded tactics to secure their service. He can’t leave the service until he’s paid off his loan, which will take years on his army salary. Of course, the army will find any pretense to deny him his pay and keep him in for as long as they need him.
Fox is a hardened soldier who joined the military over two hundred years ago. Back then, it was considered an honor to protect others. Now, she’s trapped in it and has no way out. Her family, consisting of a husband and two children died a long time ago, and she has never met her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The military keeps replacing her bodies when they wear out rather than letting her die because she’s too valuable a soldier to let go. She’s world-weary and abiding, but will not give a millimeter to anyone who doesn’t keep their shit wired tight in a tricky situation.
Parker was making ends meet as a freelance tekker until his natural body started to degrade from a congenital disease. At the edge of death, he made the decision to join the military in exchange for medical care. He used to have a jovial and joking demeanor, but his misfortune has made him bitter. His skin is dark enough to pass for African.
Rourke is a rebellious young girl who is very determined and stubbornly refuses to recognize when something is unwinnable. She came from a poor family. Seeing her siblings and childhood friends become failures thanks to their own bad decisions, she took the only way out she could see and joined up. She has a good intuition and survival sense, but she lacks the patience for engineering or hacking. She is capable of insight when it’s least expected.
TENTATIVE PLAN: Next entry will move the action to the final main antagonist of the story, after that will be the actual fight with said antagonist, and another entry will wrap the story up. Then I’ll come back and over the next couple of weeks try to edit the story into one cohesive post and then clean it up and make it consistent and, hopefully, good.
The names of the characters and/or their connections to the real world may change. I’ve got general ethnicities in mind but I will probably want to fictionalize them.
Weapons still use heavy metals as ammunition. However, the cartridges are different, containing a charge of fuel meant to be expelled by the weapon to very precisely cancel out recoil. This can be used to make weapons that would be two-handed with today’s technology one-handed. Shotguns are always one-handed. Rifles can be wielded either way, they are balanced for one-handed use but two handing your weapon is an option to get better aiming control. Military weapons lack sights, and instead have small cameras on the barrel to act as aiming aids. These cameras use a very advanced form of near-field communication to relay the image directly to the soldier through either gloves or implants in their hands.
Also, I just realized it makes no sense for them to hack a random guy. Maybe they should explore the network to find people close to their target, but just peripheral enough to not be noticed before deciding on using Bali.
After about fifteen minutes trek along an old camel trail, we arrived at the old atmosphere processor. Jay was studiously doing her job the whole time, grousing at us for her own misfortune.
“I can’t believe you’re walking around out there after dark. You can barely see anything.” Jay said as the members of my fire team, which included Parker, Rourke, and Fox entered through a shattered and rusted airlock, its function long ago made obsolete due to the operation of the facility it once kept sealed. “I don’t know why you didn’t just take the front door like normal people. It was lit up. There were shops and everything.”
“We’re not on a pleasure trip here,” Fox said. “If we go in the front door, they’re going to be able to keep track of our every move. That’s not to say they can’t do that back here too but we can’t afford to turn down the remote chance of sneaking up on them.”
“Why the hell are you answering her, Fox?” Parker said. “She’s a fucking burd terd.”
“It’s our job.” Fox said. “Fire team alpha, stay back and out of sight. Bravo, switch to infrared LOS comms. Direct interface only. We don’t want to give them any more warning than they already have.”
We all switched to IR vision, and waited for our eyes to adjust to the monochrome dark. On top of each of our helmets, a light flashed, visible only to each of us, and only when we were in direct line of sight. It took me a moment to remember the protocol, but after a few seconds the rapid flashes started to make sense to me, and took on the sound of human voices.
“Alright. Keep your eyes open and don’t drift off. And keep in mind we can only hear you when we’re looking at you.” Fox said. Her voice was much more intense than usual; more emphatic. This was how she sounded in her own head. “I want you to all check in at thirty second intervals.”
We all voiced our assent, and began the march down the dusty decaying halls.
The atmosphere processor was a huge deal, about the size of a borough of a major city. Before the Apop III was terraformed, it along with countless others were constructed in the asteroid belt, and shipped down piecemeal to the surface, where they began the millennium-long task of making the planet habitable. The project was abandoned after multiple cost overruns and a recession scared away all the investors. Being in such a remote location, it wasn’t even worth salvaging or maintaining, so they left it to rot. Even though the project was never finished, the planet was perfectly habitable in the polar regions, and the lack of any political powers to stick their nose into things made it the premiere place for all kinds of scumbags and libertarians to congregate.
According to intel, this part of the facility was never used by squatters. It didn’t have any working communications equipment, and the electricity was spotty. What facilities could be expected to be operational were probably picked clean by scavengers centuries ago.
The plastic and metal panels were supposed to be made of materials that would last forever in any environment, back before anyone had ever tested to see what a thousand years would do to anything. Even the most durable alloys were corroding, rusty burgundy and purple. I didn’t know it at the time, but the air smelled heavily of copper and sulfur corrosion.
Every hallway looked the same, and in the dim light your peripheral vision was dulled. Only the flashing lights, the voices of my comrades stood out.
“It looks like a haunted house down there,” Jay said. “Are you all having fun being scared?”
We couldn’t tell her to shut up. A burst transmission this deep in the facility would give away our position. All we could manage was a steady stream, a pencil-thin LOS transmission to an Angel satellite in orbit.
“I think I hear something,” Rourke said. “It sounds like… a beat?” Sure enough, when we all stood still in the darkness we could hear the rhythm and fell the steady repetitive knock-knock of club music somewhere in the distance. We traced it down a long winding corridor, until we say a small patch of light shining through a rusted patch in a wall.
“Hold back, squad,” Fox said. “Parker. I want a roach probe through that hole. Use a micro wire. I don’t want any radio. And move quietly. Their mics can hear a mouse get sucked into a jet engine.”
“You tried that before?” Parker said, with a slight smirk. “God damnnit woman I know to use a fucking wire. Do you think I’m stupid?”
“Do you want me to answer that?” Fox snapped back.
“I’d love you to but I don’t think this is time for it baby.” Parker said. He climbed up a pile of broken metal shards the size of compact cars, and pushed a tiny black capsule through. On the other side of the hole, it sprang to life with tiny mechanical legs, skittered across the ceiling, and searched for a better view.
“Everyone look at me,” Parker said. “I’m going broadcast the feed.”
The flashes on his helmet suddenly stopped sounding like words. The flashes began to correspond with colors, sother sounds, sensations of tiny tooth-pick like legs on a metal surface. It’s impossible to describe it if you’ve never been hooked up to a direct sensory feed, but it was like I had a second body, several meters way in the other room. I could see and feel everything it did in perfect resolution.
“Ooooh it looks like a night club!” Jay said. “What song are they playing? Does anyone know? It’s really dapper down!”
“It’s an illegal parlor,” Fox said. “I think you can probably get anything here. It’d be a big deal if we were the cops, but since we aren’t we dont’ give a shit. Oi, Curtis. You haven’t done anything useful in a while. See if you can get a read on some people. See if they know about us.”
“On it serge.” I replied, like I just got done cleaning a latrine, and I climbed up next to where Parker was standing. I pushed my transponder through the hole, and saw if I could catch someone out of the corner of their eye. Everyone had implants of one kind of another, and if you could just convince them to cooperate with you, you could usually gain access to everything anyone thought. I had to lay on my stomach across a jagged pieces of metal to get a better angle. Finally, I caught a bartender. A hulk of a man with a metal midriff and and a poop plug on his belly. Someone must have slashed his guts out once, a long time ago. I flashed an overrun, sent an impulse to make his right shoulder twitch, and I knew I had him.
Hacking a human being is a subtle art. It’s part tech skills, part psychology, part theater. You have to convince both the meat and the metal to cooperate with you. You have to break through computer security, that’s a given, but you also have to be so low key that every instruction you give people think they want to do.
The bartender was not the target we wanted though. We couldn’t lead him aside; he’d be missed too easily.
Finally, I found my target. A skinny little guy with a dirty face and a five o’clock shadow. He looked like he hadn’t eaten in weeks, and his long coat hung baggy from his frame. He looked like a recent addition, a weakling, and someone nobody would miss. I had the bartender go over and talk to him, ask him about himself. As soon as he made eye contact, I knew for sure I would break him like an egg.
“What the hell are you guys doing?” Jay said. “Why are you just standing around!?” She broke my concentration for an instant.
“We are hacking a contact.” I replied. “We need someone from this place. Someone we can use.”
“Are you sure we can trust him?” Rourke asked. “Last time we took a meat puppet I got jumped.”
“He’s not all that bad,” Fox replied. “He was gonna be a scholar before the government called his loan.”
I like this less and less as I go along, but I have to get the idea out. I also just realized there are details I went too deep into, and details I didn’t even mention, like the fact that both Rourke and Fox have guns, but Parker and Curtis are an engineer (techie) and a hacker, respectively. Also Rourke is a young girl. Maybe if I can just finish the narrative I can come back later and turn it into somethign actually compelling.
The APC shook and lurched in a cloud of dust. The target came into sight over the next dune. I gripped my transponder tightly. Parker, my counterpart from Alpha Team, did the same. We pulled under the shadow of some huge araucana trees, and put our APC into secure mode. We were on foot from here.
There was no point hiding the vehicle, but if we were lucky people would think we were affiliated with one syndicate or another and leave well enough alone.
Fox, Larson and Rourke scanned the horizon. Nothing but a derelict atmosphere processor under a halo of neon signs, taken over by poor squatters from the reaches. Me and Parker nodded at each other; I hung the directional antenna outside as he tapped a few buttons into his transponder. I handed him the BNC plug to connect to his console, and with two keystrokes he relayed all the net traffic we could intercept up to Angel for decryption; nothing but a few porno streams and an illegal gambling app.
Still, even though the place looked innocent enough (in a relative sense), we knew they were there. And we knew they knew we were coming for them; they had been tracking us since long before we even set out from Ft. Apoptose. We loaded up our equipment, split into fire teams, and trudged off towards the old atmosphere processor.
“Think we’ll need an analyst for this?” I asked Parker.
“Do we ever?” Parker said bitterly. “I don’t want some desk jockey mumbling in my ear while I get shot at.”
“Still, Angel paid for this mission. We have to.” I said.
“Fuck off,” he snapped.
“No, fuck you Parker,” I said, trying to stay quiet. “I’ve got three demerits on my account already, if they find out we went in without a CA I don’t get a paycheck!”
“Alright, hold up guys,” Parker said.
“Damnit, what is it? Curtis are you being a little bitch again?” Fox said.
“He wants to make sure we got a bird turd on us before we go in.” Parker said.
“God damnit,” Fox almost spat, “Really? Augh!”
“Fuck you all. I’ve got student loans to pay.” I said.
“Yeah like you’re ever going to get those paid off. But since you asked so nicely I’ll call them up,” Fox said. “Everyone take ten. Curtis why don’t you go change your tampon while we wait.”
In order to keep the army accountable, (and to ensure AngInt’s retained earnings got fat on that government payola) we were required to have a “Conscientiousness Advocate” or CA watching our operations whenever we went into a situation involving non combatants. The CA was by legal necessity a civilian from the upper quarters on Earth. They were a misguided attempt by the populace, 99% of whom would never have to get a paying job let alone fight in a war, to give the military a “conscience.” They were supposed to be that voice in the back of our heads, the little bit of humanity that was conditioned out of us, telling us not to give in to our worst desires. The CA was allowed to question everything we did, and they could even give orders when they felt like it. They usually caused missions to go very badly. These were the kind of people nothing bad every happened to. In theory, being so sheltered would mean they would manifest the best of morality humanity had to offer. In practice, when they didn’t just ignore the feeds and play video games, they treated everything that happened as a joke.
“Thank you for calling Angel Intelligence. Please stay on the line and your request will be accommodated in the order it was received. You have been on hold for… nine …minutes. Army mandated wait time is… eleven …minutes. Please stay on the line!”
“Oh man I think we may be home free guys.” Fox said. “We got two minutes left!”
A couple of us whooped. CAs were a liability we could do without tonight.
“Augh god! What do you people want!” a voice burst over all of our comms. A voice like nails on a chalkboard. The familiar ‘burd turd’ symbol, indicating we were being watched, glowed blue on our HUDs. It was supposed to be an angel wing, but whoever drew it couldn’t draw, so it looked more like a spiral pile of poop with fingers sticking out the side.
“We’re squad 4-8 of Mandrill. You will be our CA tonight. Will that be a problem?” Fox asked her.
“God damnit guys! I’m like three minutes from the end of my shift, can’t you like, hang up and call back or something?” She asked.
“No we can’t.” Fox said.
“Ugh fiiiiine! Ooooogh! You have reached Angel Intelligence, I will be your conscientiousness advocate for this evening. Will that be enough for you, ma’AM?” the CA asked.
Fox winced as if she were punched in the gut. “Please, CA, let’s try to make this as painless as possible.” Fox said.
“Stop calling me CA damnit. I have a name you know.” the CA said.
“Please, do entreat me my darling. How shall we be addressing you tonight?” Fox asked.
“My friends call me Jilly Fresh but you’re not my friends. Call me Jay.” She said.
“Fine, Jay. Let us set out then.” Fox said.
“I hope you know you’re making me late for a date.” Jay said.
“I am truly sorry for the inconvenience, Ma’am.” Fox said.
“I’m not a MA’AM!” she nearly screamed, “I’m only 24 you bitch!” Jay said.
“My apologies, dear.” Fox said. She seemed to only have a dim idea of Fox’s sarcasm.
“Your suits are ugly.” Jay said. She was one of those who always had to get in the last word. Not willing to waste any more time, we shoved off.
TBC. I think this story will have two more parts, about as long as this one.
sigh… I got accused of being a pick-up artist today. :|
Why, his metrics, of course.
some of these i started drawing what i think my customers look like over the phone. this one guy kept talking about his “nemesises” trying to hack is WoW account while insisting that he never ever played WoW before, with such powers i drew him as a mighty wizard of unparalleled power.
In my day, if you wanted to get high, your only option was to climb a hill. There was no sun. We ate gravel. We drank sand. Every day it rained sharp sticks.