Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Company

From Luke Bellmason:

I’ve fallen way behind with my NaNo this year, so I’ve had to abandon the idea of writing the novel in the month of November. However, I think the story is interesting enough to continue with so I’m going to write the 30 parts I would have written and had roughly planned out. It might take until the end of December or beyond, but who’s counting?
2 The Company
The investigation into the bombing began almost immediately. As usual, each of the three sides of the Earth Expedition wanted their own people on the investigation and the local aliens had both a police investigation and a branch from the government. Despite the huge number of people on the job, or maybe because of it, none of them found anything. This was as expected.
Warbur waited a discreet amount of time after Dita had left the scene, then followed him to the Capital city of Tho-Tewr-Turl. ‘Turl was a stark contrast to Tok-Cenb; an industrial hub with factories pumping out smog and manufacturing consumer goods in an early example of an emerging capitalist economy.
The Vonbekians had managed to accomplish all this before the Earthers had arrived and the smog in the atmosphere had allowed astronomers to identify Vonbek as a planet that was not only inhabited, but also in the latter stages of an industrial revolution.
Current estimates placed the most advanced sections of Vonbekian society somewhere around the middle of Earth’s 20th Century. Only later, before the first ships were ready, did the Earth astronmers detect the tell-tale traces of nuclear explosions in the Vonbekian atmosphere. It seemed that Earth history was being followed all too closely. This single fact had thereafter been used to justify every interference made by the Earth Expedition.
The factory on the outskirts of ‘Turl was older than most of the others which had been built around it later. It’s original function had already been outmoded by various engineering advances and several attempts had been made by the owners over the years to update its machinery to keep up with current technology. To Warbur, every building in the whole district was as useless as the other, age made no difference. On the Corporation ships they had fabrication systems which could fit on a desk and manufacture anything.
The owners of the block had been only too happy to rent it out to the newly formed company. ‘The Company’ was how Warbur and Dita referred to it too. It had a nice, anonymous ring to it. Their ‘front’ was the newly formed branch of xeno-linguistics. They ran a language teaching service and provided translations into English. They did not have many customers, but since they were being secretly bankrolled by the Earth Government, this didn’t really matter. The company had recruited many new teachers and linguists who were interested in this new field of study. Invariably these aliens were pro-Earth and among the most intelligent of their species; precisely the kind of people they wanted to recruit.
Warbur drove the car along the newly constructed highway from the airport and turned off into the side road and finally into the factory car park. There were a couple of lights on at the top of the building and only one other vehicle in the parking space next to his.
He found his way inside the factory through a low door and climbed the long shallow stairway up through seven or eight flights to the top floor. There, he saw the tiny offices from where the lights eminated and the single figure crouched over a desk.
Dita was reading from a computer screen and Warbur could see clearly from the images and vid-clips that he was studying the Earth-Encyclopedia entry on ‘Terrorism’.

“It’s all rather depressing, isn’t it?” Said Warbur as he entered. “Remember that everything you read about in there happened over centuries, seeing it all compressed down like that might give you the impression that humans aren’t the kind of people you would want visiting your planet.”

“Hmmm,” said Dita, “seems like there’s plenty of Vonbekians who think that already.”

“We aren’t proud of our past,” said Warbur, “but we always hoped you could learn from our mistakes. That was one of our reasons for coming here.”
Dita closed the display down and pulled out some sheets of paper that had been lying on the desk beneath it.

“Do we know any more about the attack?” He asked.

“Not really, it was a bomb, planted some time before the presentation took place. No word on whether it was a trigger or a timer. There’s not much we can piece together.”

“So what do we do now?” Said Dita, looking up at Warbur.

“We figure out who planted it, and why.”
Dita handed the papers to Warbur. There was a list of names, photos and details, all written in English.
“These are all the people we know about who belong to the Separatist movement. You’ll remember I told you about them before, but until now they’ve been content to merely talk about getting rid of the Visitors from Earth and holding demonstrations.”

“So something must have changed,” Warbur mused.

“What were the motives for terrorist acts?” Asked Dita, “in Earth history, what did they hope to achieve?”
Warbur sat and studied the names while he thought about Dita’s question.

“Terrorists were usually people out of power, marginalised, who felt they were being ignored or persecuted. Minorities usually. Many governments saw them as criminals and refused to even talk to them.”

“We refuse to negotiate with terrorists!” Dita quoted from the encyclopedia entry.

“Despite that, these groups often achieved what they wanted; exposure in the media, and recognition from whoever they were targetting.”

“But their methods?” Said Dita, “civilian targets, indiscriminate bombings.”

“It made them almost impossible to stop, and the methods worked. That’s why they used them. They often achieved what they wanted, though sometimes only after years and at great cost. Would the people on this list fit that profile?”
Dita went to a larger, older computer at the back of the office and turned it on.

“We have a couple of agents in the Seperatist movement, we had them recruited last year at your suggestion.” Warbur nodded.

“What level?”

“Intel mainly, we get updated about what’s happening, but not near the top level. Pretty weak stuff really, but from what we’d been hearing we hadn’t considered this group to be much of a threat. Are you sure they’re responsible for the bombing?” Dita asked, then started opening some of the files which had popped up on the screen.

“I admit, it’s very odd.” The old computer was not a Corporation model. It was at least thirty years old, pre-dating even the formation of the seven companies that eventually created the Corporation.
Non-corp technology was now almost impossible to find, but it was vital they used something which Warbur knew had not been made by the ‘enemy’. That computer Dita used had more processing power than all of the computers on the rest of the planet combined. Almost everything in the office that Warbur had provided them with was a relic from Earth’s twentieth century and the spycraft that went with it was even older than Warbur was, but it had to be this way. Vonbek was at a stage of technology roughly equal to the post-atomic age and there were strict guidelines and agreements about what technologies Earthers could bring down, or even talk about. If ELIJA stumbled onto this office and found computers, a large scale scandal would ensue which could jeopardise the whole expedition and lose favour back home.
“Here we are, the Separatist leader. No Earth name I’m afraid, but we have given her the codename ‘Ysna’.” Alien names were unpronouncable, so the four letters of the postcode for the location they were born in could be used. It made for some interesting combinations. Warbur went to look at the file which Dita had brought up on the screen.

“We should bring her in. I’d like to ask her a few things.” Said Warbur.

“I think we could handle that, but where?”

“Some local office,” said Warbur. “The local police station if there is one, I can arrange the necessary orders, whatever you need.”


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