ASH/HCC: STRAFE #18 - "Necktie"

Andrew Perron pwerdna at
Mon Feb 4 13:25:39 PST 2013

On Sat, 12 Jan 2013 23:20:13 +0000 (UTC), Dave Van Domelen wrote:

>      [Cover shows a younger Dan Tracey at a desk in a large office.
>       His is the only neatly organized one, the eye in a hurricane of
>       chaos.  And he looks like he's about to snap.]

Ah, man. I forgot how much I'd missed Grind.

> But with the increasing numbers of both rogue
> Khadamite Artificial Consciousnesses and the rumors (largely true) of a
> growing micro-nation of not-rogue-but-not-actually-loyal-to-anyone-else ACs,
> mid-level functionaries were starting to commit more and more material to
> unhackable paper.  Grind estimated that it would be another three months
> before both friendly and unfriendly nations got their human intelligence
> operations spun up and ready to start intercepting couriers, at which point
> the pendulum would swing back towards electronic transmissions.

Ah, yes. Delicious delicious worldbuilding. Homnomnomnom

>      "Yes.  This one is from the Oceania branch of DSHA, and has the stench
> of 'I need to look decisive' all over it," Dan tossed it aside.

Well, being a flip-flopper is the ultimate sin, after all. `.`

> Karl was a super-bureaucrat, and
> there was talk of actually giving him a field mission into the Multiversal
> Office to see if he could wrangle something out of it.  So far, though, the
> consensus was that there was too much risk the Office would co-opt the young
> man.

Oooooh. o.o Yeah, dangerous as heck.

> [February 13, 2023 - Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Sector]

...huh. XD I've been to Wilkes-Barre (the bus I took home from college had
a stopover there, and I got stranded there overnight twice due to
lateness). It's an appropriately mediocre place (my girlfriend refers to it
as 'a dive').

> A lot of students Dan's age picked up their parents' "wage slave"
> habits and managed to finish all their classroom work before the end of their
> final semester of school, but most colleges hadn't caught up to the trend yet
> and still only handed out degrees at the end of term.  These "All But Degree"
> students tried to get into the workforce before the awarding of their
> diplomas, usually as temps or interns.

Interesting. More worldbuilding, with indications of how odd ASH's
postapocalyptic culture is.

>      Also, the manager was lying.  Companies rarely hired their own ABD
> temps, for reasons tied up in labor laws, office politics and a somewhat
> old-fashioned sentiment on the part of upper management that people who are
> too eager to jump ship on college will be job-hoppers in general.

Blegh. Yeah that sounds familiar.

> "I'm not on the prowl, I'm an ABD," he said, trying to put an edge
> of "Back, off, lady" into his voice without sounding totally like a freaked
> out teenager.  Which, come to think of it, he felt like.

Makes sense - this is exactly the kind of thing he wouldn't have that usual
distance from.

>      "Ouch," Zeke winced.  "So young to be so cynical."
>      "Am I wrong?" Dan asked.
>      "No," the other two chorused.

Heeheehee. I like how this gives them both a bit of an extra dimension.

>      Dan froze.
>      Afterwards, he tried to tell himself that it was a plausible thing for
> a noncombatant like Jerry Danson to do, but in truth it was no cover.  Every
> one of his instincts screamed at him to do something about Smithfield, but
> his brain fought back just as hard.  Jerry wasn't a fighter, and there were
> at least three security cameras looking at Smithfield's part of the room.
> The odds of video analysis blowing his cover were too great.  Even something
> sneaky or deliberately clumsy would....

Seems reasonable enough. `.`

> So that left him nothing but to do Jerry's job, which
> could have been performed adequately by one of Radner's first attempts at
> artificial consciousness.  Dan had segued into imagining Radner being forced
> to do brain-dead paperwork in prison, which helped make it a little more
> bearable.  

Heeheeheehee. <3

>      "Must not strangle co-workers.  Must not strangle co-workers.  While in
> an area covered by security cameras."


>      "If one more person points out that it's two-twenty-three-twenty-
> twenty-three, I may have to do a Smithfield," Dan confided to Zeke.
>      "Ugh.  At least you weren't here a year and a day ago," Zeke rolled his
> eyes.
>      "Oh, God.  It was bad enough in school that day," Dan shook his head.

XD This is great.

>      Something made him pause at the door.  None of the sensors had been
> tripped, but there was a bad vibe he couldn't consciously explain.

Tracey-senses tingling!

>      Of course, because it *was* the spot he'd have chosen for an ambush, it
> had an extra little security measure he'd whipped up with some odds and ends
> of "spy stuff" and a six-pack of beer picked up at the convenience store down
> the block.  It amounted to a squib attached to a full bottle of beer sitting
> on top of the minifridge, and pressing a button on his keychain made it
> detonate.

Oh, very nice. <3

>      "Corp...ha!" Carla barked a laugh.  "You're not dealing with some
> rent-a-spy, Mr. Danson, or whatever your real name is.  You just assaulted a
> CBI agent...and unless you want to get in a lot deeper trouble, you'll let me
> up and..."
>      "That son of a bitch," Dan stood and offered Carla a hand up. 
>      "Wait...what?"

Ohhhhhhh. XD Nice, I'd been too distracted to remember the setup.

>      "Hush, you.  Anyway, Carla had been careful enough that her cover didn't
> get blown, the data I'd skimmed managed to satisfy her boss that there wasn't
> enough there to keep her in place.  She got to move on after a few more
> weeks.  My own departure was explained by having Jerry's after-work efforts
> succeeding in getting an early diploma issued, but I think the office
> scuttlebutt had me and Carla..."
>      "...blowing each other's covers?"


>      Dan finished writing a reply in the confidential folder, sealed it and
> handed it to Karl.  "Something like that.  Now off with you, get this in the
> delivery queue."
>      "Does it have the proper cover sheet?"
>      "I know ten ways to cripple you without getting out of this chair, you
> know...." 

Twelve if you let him lean forward and put his feet on the floor.

>      Written for High Concept Challenge #34, "A Working Class Hero."  I'm
> kinda pushing the bounds of the challenge specifics, but I tried to get the
> spirit of having a job that got in the way of being a hero.

Works for me.
>      Yes, this is the first issue of STRAFE to come out in over a decade, and
> the first not written by Marc Singer.

And gladly so! Woo

>      Here's some info on Karl Oyono I couldn't find a graceful way (or even a
> clumsy way) to work into the story, but wanted to write down lest I forget
> it.  His parents were in America on student visas in 1998, both were Cameroon
> natives who met after getting to America (dad started college in 1996, mom in
> 1997, but same school and same sponsoring program).  By the time things had
> settled down enough to try returning home, there wasn't much home left...the
> economic instability of the 1990s had left Cameroon particularly vulnerable
> to the blandishments of the Godmarket.  He is at best distantly related to
> Ferdinand Oyono, noted author, but he likes to see if he can string people
> along into believing he's Ferdinand's great-grandson, demonstrating how
> easily people can be fooled.

YES GIVE IT ALL TO ME. Nom nom nom backstory.

Andrew "NO .SIG MAN" "Juan" Perron, nomtastic.

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