Friday, July 30, 2010

Manufacturing consent

Maia was flushed, her jaw still tightly clenched and her arms crossed tightly across her chest in defiance and maybe a hint of trepidation. She had just stood up to Kain, releasing all her acrimony, venting weeks of fear and doubt, exposing all she perceived as hypocrisy and amorality that had been festered inside her quietly. Until now.

‘Good’ Tom thought to himself. He had feared for some time that she was a weak link in their group. Since taking her on in Basal she had proved useful enough to warrant his professional abduction of her person, but as their mission changed and their motivations vacillated it became harder and harder to gage how well she was still working with the group as opposed to being bound to it by contrition and happenstance: she was essentially their prisoner.

Tom was uncomfortable with her ambiguous state, it posed a security threat - their survival depended on trust after all. On a less prosaic level it also made him uncomfortable, he always saw this team as bound by a common cause (or the occasional individual cause all the group could temporarily band together for.) The thought of one of them feeling coerced into participation made him uncomfortable. In fact, now that he really thought about it, it was abhorrent and he was sickened by the way he had been treating Maia since their got to Okavango.

Tom was fairly certain Kain had no such self recriminations, though he shared the practical assessment that a committed volunteer was far more reliable. It was therefore ironic that Kain had born the brunt of her outrage; Tom was guiltily silent in the corner of the tent during the exchange. She was one of them, or at least for the first time, it appeared as if she could become one. In standing up to Kain she made a declaration of independence and in browbeating an admission of his heartfelt motivations she put her self on an equal footing. Only the free can volunteer.

Kain left the tent to plan more details with Gade. Sam had a poker game to attend; Tom reminded himself that an old card shark like him had no business playing with amateurs and a kid, even a precocious and brilliant one. Tom didn’t play for fun, it was clinical with him and such a cold-hearted card game would be impolitic so early in their collaboration with the young Emir. Still, he felt left out. First guilt, now self pity, he hadn’t felt as many emotions in two weeks as he had now in as many minutes. He struggled to keep it from his face.

“Feel better?” He regretted the words as soon as they came out, he knew she would construe it as…

“Shove it doctor!”

‘Yeah’, he thought to himself, ‘should have seen that coming.’


“Common Kessler, we need to talk to Ben.”

She fell in step behind him as he left the tent. Once again he noted how she had changed in the last half hour. A few minutes later they found Ben, Jo, Teg and Peter in an adjacent tent where they had been ushered too during the private meeting with the Emir.

“Gentlemen, Josephina, we are a go. The Emir is on board and I guess more to the point so are Kain and I.”

“Took you long enough Tom, you didn’t use to be so hard to convince to do the right thing.”

Ben was jovial in his tone and it was meant as friendly admonition but it stabbed at Tom.

“Be that as it may, that leaves us with you lot and what to do with you?”

“What are you talking about Doc, we’re coming in with you to get the bastards!” spat Josephina.

“Damn right.” Teg seethed menacingly.

“Wrong. Like it or not - and its clear which way you lean - you are not medically fit for an opp like the one Kain is planning.”

The silence was a good sign, it meant they knew it, the daggers in their eyes on the other hand meant they had a ways to go towards accepting it.

“Which is why I’m tasking you guys with a second prong of the attack.”

“The tunnels?” Jo said with a mix of apprehension and forlorn hope.

“No, no combat, not conventional combat anyway. I’m putting you on psy-ops. Kain feels we need a popular uprising, in more way than one, to pull this off. So, in deference to minimizing casualties, we need overwhelming odds in our favour which means getting as much of the population out on the street as possible. We need to stir the redjacket’s nest.

“I’ve got a few ideas on how to initiate a propaganda war, taking the message and the image of Brhavo to his people. They need a saviour and we need them ready to save themselves. So I want your guys to bring the saviour to them.”

They exchanged glances, all of them forming a nexus on Ben, this subset’s sergeant. These four would either never part or never see each other again after this was all over. Ben took in their silent votes and turned to Tom.

“OK Doc, give us the details, we’re your team.”

Maia held back a respectful distance during the negotiations-come-rally. Putting him arm around her shoulder now, Tom brought her into the fold.

Tom launched into details about trideo apparitions of Brhavo appearing in small but public places across Okavango. How his words would be whispered in the streets and houses. Hacking into public networks, setting up concealed projectors, viral word of mouth, everything orchestrated to feel like a genuine grassroots epiphany until, it was the Doc’s hope, it took on a life of its own. His image would inspire myth and faith in every downtrodden corner of his city.

The idea was to reinvigorate the faith of the sajhalin in their ruler, to elevate him from a divinely mandated sovereign to a religious icon of leadership.


Hermes 72 - Heavy Gear RPG - Most artwork Copyright 2002 Dream Pod 9, Inc.