Notes on (mostly) Canadian politics from a fiscally conservative social libertarian green interspersed with hopefully more-than-occasional writings for a satirical speculative fiction book series concerning a near-future faux-libertarian dystopia centered around the Great Lakes region of North America. By Mark R. Francis.
Saturday, 4 July 2015
The first words
This is how the first book started, once I thought myself happy with it. I won't change this post. Ever. I wonder how well it stands up over time...
Chapter 1: Through the Eyes of a Hero
The sun is an hour from setting, its yellow-red tint casting long shadows across endless rows of apple trees. There's a worn paved highway cutting across the orchards. I'm watching this from a bird's eye point of view, the land below bobbing as I bank then climb. The view suddenly dives towards the ground, while speeding to the right, then rotating to the direction of travel as the descent stalls over a road. Ahead vehicles race. Now I'm accelerating to catch them. Subtitles tell me the rearmost is a Coywolf Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV). It's moving towards a distant pickup truck following a transport. The Coywolf is damaged, trailing smoke, but the chase is clearly still on.
The field of view accelerates toward the vehicles, and then skyward. Ahead is more road and orchard. Then a wide river comes into view. Upstream -- to the left -- something is under construction spanning riverbeds. Subtitles say it’s the Cornwall Barrier crossing the St. Lawrence River. That's where they’re headed.
Then the scene spins wildly.
"Randall!", I yell. " This is too real! I'm getting sea sick already!"
The scene freezes. Randall speaks. "You'll get used to it... Mostly."
He laughs, and the replay starts back up again.
Abruptly, the picture changes. The Coywolf is framed from the front, its eight huge wheels chewing asphalt. From the turret protrude two small cannons. All over the armour slopes in odd ways, not a flat surface to be seen, its colours subtly changing as the shadows from the trees rise and fall. Randall quickly explains that the covering is something called 'stealth photon adjusting reactive armour'. It's hard to electronically detect, has chameleon-like camouflage, and detonates projectiles on contact, protecting the armour beneath.
The front of the Coywolf is blackened and pitted. The metal underneath is dented and charred. The beast is wounded.
The pickup truck ahead has a Swiss Army Knife of destruction: A multi-barrelled turret is poised in its box. The largest gun fires to the rear.
The Coywolf is struck! Deadly metal shards erupt from the forward passenger side. Bright fire flashes as more reactive shielding is set off. Black smoke pours from the cracked armour. It is now out of control, veering hard to its right, leaving the road. Rocking violently, it smashes through a fence and into an orchard, vanishing from view. The zoom pulls back, and brings us into the cab of the pickup. The passenger is looking out the back window, then to the driver, who is now in view. They both speak with a terrible approximation of a french accent.
“We got ’im. ‘es morty, moan a-me. Dat autocannone work good!”
“Long viver socialism! Soon we kablooey da dam. Don’t dey understand dey must share da low!”
“Ooeey! We will ‘ave da water flow!”
“D’just a little more, we be der!” The driver smiles large.
A touch-screen interface is shown on the passenger side dashboard. On what looks like a radar display, two red flashing icons are moving towards the centre out of the sun. The passenger says, with fear, “Saccharin blue! Drones!”
“Take t‘em out!” says the driver.
The scene blurs as the view accelerates out of the truck cab into the sky to settle with a camera jerk upon two ominous Cougar Class attack drones (more subtitles) descending for a strafing run.
The touch screen in the pickup is frantically pressed. The turret in the box is shown pivoting towards the West, adjusting vertically. Then one, two, three, four small missiles take rapid flight. Spinning in unpredictable paths they approach and destroy the drones with dramatically spectacular explosions.
“We got t‘em!” The pickup truck passenger say with relief. “On to da dam!”
They both stare straight ahead, grinning. Far behind them, barely visible through the rear window is the Coywolf re-entering the roadway.
They don’t notice.
The pickup starts going around a bend, and the view veers the other way to focus upon the ravaged LAV, which has come to a wild sideways skidding stop on the highway. Thrown up dust rolls off the road.
The forward passenger side is smashed, penetrated. The view zooms towards the breach in the skin, enters inside to briefly settle upon a woman soldier’s blood-and-guts splattered body. She’s still seated. A chunk of her head is torn away. A single sightless eye stares. Behind her are more bodies, too tangled to accurately count. Something got in and butchered all that meat.
Except for Sergeant Randall Weir Dean.
He’s young, but his look is seasoned. The sun has known his skin. His neck is thick with muscle. His unusually large hands grip the steering wheel. His short brown hair is bloodied. Trickles of ochre leave trails along a slightly bent nose. Smoke rises like steam from his singed uniform.
The Randall I know is much, much older. But Old Randall is no less formidable. His massive hands make my bones feel like twigs.
“F’ing drones! C’mon! Never send a machine to do a man’s job!” the young Randall snaps through clenched teeth. He looks briefly at the woman’s body to his right, sadly shaking his head. There’s smoke clinging to the ceiling. He reaches over to the red-stained control panel before her and defiantly presses something. Heavy metal music fills the cabin.
A subtitle appears: *Red Racecar, by Random A, Copyright 2097, All Rights Reserved.
The song starts quietly with guitar harmonics as he rests back into the pilot chair. He breathes, recovers his composure. A tough grin crosses his face. "I need something more." He fast forwards the song, past the mellow intro.
He grabs the wheel. “Drive like the wind, baby. Hope you have it in ya.” He nails the accelerator just as a hammering bass riff bangs the air. The Coywolf’s wheels start spinning, laying smoke. The wheels catch, drums pound into action, and the LAV leaps forward, as a driving guitar adds to the mix.
Tires turn faster and faster. The engine surges ever higher. Lyrics claw the air:
I can’t believe my geared eyes It’s no altreal gloss I see
A hip tek-resto red racecar
I transact it to my property
Revving the ancient combust engine
Climate death be damned
I slip her into manual guide
Breaching my comcon
While the guitar reaches for a screaming crescendo, I realize the tune's familiar to me, despite not being written for another 80 years or so. "Randall? This song's familiar! How? And what's with those lousy lyrics?"
The scene freezes again. "Can you stop interrupting and just watch?" He manages to sigh the entire sentence. "And you couldn't have heard this before. And I like those lyrics!"
"What do they mean?"
The scene fades away, and I'm back in the real world. Old Randall is sitting on the edge of a cot, shaking his head, frustrated.
"Just watch! I'll fill you in when I see fit."
"There's a lot going on here..."
"Do you not want to ever see more? I can get someone else to do this."
Straight to the leverage. Can I say no to immersive 3D experiences depicting the actual future? "Turn it back on," I say.
He points a huge finger at me, and holds it.
"You watch what I show. I fill you in as I see fit when I see fit. You take what you see and what I say, and write it up. In time, you will understand it all."
He leans in. "Stop second guessing me, or this is over. Get it?"