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Monday, May 25, 2009

FAR Future, Episode 88: Heat Wave

Sorry folks, vacation and the following three-day weekend threw me off. Let me make up for it with a two-fer. Come back tomorrow for the next one…

Wednesday, August 20, 2036
Heat Wave

The Boy sent me a track of his raunchy new song, “On the Centerline.” It’s about a chance encounter with a woman on the road, which he says an opt-out told him about (saying “an opt-out told me about it” is like “the dog ate my homework”). The third verse, which gives you an idea without being completely offensive: Her skin was tough and wrinkled / weathered by the road / But her eyes still twinkled / with stories she had told / Despite her rough appearance / she still looked sorta fine / 'Cause woman are few and far between / Out on the centerline. The storyteller ends up with an itchy souvenir of his encounter…

It’s getting hot, in more ways than one. It’s been really pleasant this summer — temps around 30 most of the time, breezy (not enough to turn the windmills, but still feels good), humidity reasonable. That all changed Monday… it jumped to 35+ and that good ol’ Planet Georgia humidity has returned. We handle it like we did last summer: get the things done that need to get done as early as possible, and spend the rest of the day at the creek. Bobby and Martina have been a huge help in that regard, since they’re up even before the chickens and get a lot of things done before breakfast. We have a screen tent, picnic table, cooler, all the conveniences of modern life down at the creek (the cooler has a small refrigeration unit that runs off a solar panel). Since it runs alongside the pasture, we can send someone to check on the cows every so often and it’s actually more convenient than doing it from the house. Mini-vacation for a baker’s dozen.

If it’s hot outside, it’s getting even hotter on the newsfeeds. The New Talon bunch surfaced again, this time online, newsbombing refugee-oriented sites with fakeumentaries, opinion pieces, and breathless snippets of supposed news. The theme seems to be how the refugees are mostly being neglected by the feds and treated as second-class citizens (if that) by the surrounding populace. There are three or four different “organizations” flogging this goop, but it all sounds like the same stuff written by different people. On “local news” sites, it’s just the opposite: wild-eyed reports of refugees inflicting illegal drugs, crime, and general disorder on everyone around them, while getting lavish handouts from the feds. Both sides carry horror stories about adopted refugee families… the Talon video featured two people who were obviously Sean and Mary, although their faces were blurred out, the names were assumed, and the voices were completely different even accounting for the deliberate distortion “to protect our sources.” Sean shook his head, but Mary was incensed about having words literally put into her mouth and wanted to recruit Serena and Daughter Dearest to help her wreak some mayhem on their offices.

Serena got Rene to spill one bean. “That address is a dropbox,” he told Mary. “I really didn’t want to say anything until I finished working this puzzle, and I’m missing a couple of pieces. But it won’t hurt to tell you that much.” Knowing Rene and what he’s capable of, he probably has the home addresses for Fred and Barney, but would consider that need to know. The government is a lot less intrusive than it used to be, thanks to a reduced energy supply, but can still get very intrusive on an individual basis if provoked.

While we were eating lunch, I got a ping from Col. Mustard down in John’s Creek. Call me. Ears only. I made up an excuse — it was my day to check the greywater irrigation and I’d forgotten to do it — and hiked away, calling once I was sure I was out of earshot.

“Thanks for getting back to me,” he said. “Did you see the stuff popping up on the newsfeeds today?”

“Yeah. One of the videos had Sean and Mary, but they dubbed in what they wanted them to say and blurred their faces.”

“Right. Did you get the idea that it all looked… coordinated?”

“Seems like things blew up overnight. I was seeing occasional rumor-mongering before, but it’s like… I don’t know.”

“Turning up a leaky faucet,” Col. Mustard said, getting a laugh out of me.

“Coordinated. Any ideas who’s doing the coordinating?”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say it looks a lot like the kind of job Palmer Lanois would’ve done.”

I’d not heard that name in a decade, and it still made me shiver. “Swamp Thing? Wouldn’t he have gotten a life sentence?” Lanois was an Evil Genius with propaganda, perhaps the Goebbels of the 21st century; he made Karl Rove look like an amateur. Whatever harebrained idea the junta came up with, Lanois put frosting on the crap and served it up to the people as cupcakes. “Please don’t tell me he talked his way out of prison.”

“Not necessarily. It was pretty well-known even in the outer circles that he was a nutter. He wouldn’t have been safe in general population, and they wouldn’t have put him with junta symps because he’d have organized them into a riot squad. I think he ended up in a mental hospital.”

“And probably walked away not long ago,” I suggested. He wasn’t violent himself, so he wouldn’t be watched carefully… after a while, even famous inmates don’t engender much fascination, especially when they aren’t doing anything eye-catching. He could have simply stood up one day and checked himself out sans paperwork.

“Could be. It could be someone else, someone who studied under him. Or someone who came along later, who studied his methods.” He paused. “Damn. They caught somebody poaching our garden. I gotta process him. Call me later, if you need to.”

“Sure. Thanks much!” I hung up and called Rene. “Hey, could you come up here and — ahem — give me a hand? I think we can do it ourselves, no need to bring anyone else.”

“Um… sure,” he said. About five minutes later, he came jogging up the path. “What’s up? It ain’t the pipes, is it?”



  1. Gee,far, is this leading up to the grand finally?

  2. Just for this sub-series, Yooper.

    Good to see you around again!


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