The website io9.com posts a piece of concept art every Saturday challenging its viewers to write a piece of flash fiction based on that art. In the past, I would choose a piece at random, but this time I just picked one that appealed to me. Exciting, no?
This piece is entitled “The New Cold War,” inspired by the painting Fatigue 2 by John Brosio. I don’t own this image, I claim no rights to this image, and should John Brosio stumble across this post and demand that the image be removed, I will gladly do so. Also, you should go check out his work at his personal website, http://www.johnbrosio.com
Anyway, let’s begin!
“Goddamnit,” Frank muttered under his breath. He drew out the first syllable, savoring it like scotch. It’d been a while since something had cut through the dull sameness of day to day life, of reports and meetings, of the commute, of dinner with the wife and kids. He felt something, finally. Granted, it was a negative feeling, all bitterness with a touch of cynical amusement, but it was something.
And as far as reactions to seeing a giant crustacean do a jaunty dance across the parking lot went, that was a hell of a lot better than what some of the others were doing. Allan had fainted dead away. Carol wouldn’t stop screaming. Patrick was sobbing hysterically next to his messily perforated car. Frank shook his head. “Goddamn GenTek.”
One year ago, the Global Congress had passed new anti-espionage and assassination legislation that had ground the research wars between the Big Five to a screeching halt. The days of vat-grown spies and executives disappearing in the dead of night may have been over, but the need to dominate had remained. The executives at the Big Five settled into a new cold war, lords and ladies eying each other suspiciously across kingdoms built of nanotech and silicon and genesplicing.
And then Innovations Inc. used a microscopic drone swarm to capture the every move of William Port, the CEO of Port Solutions. Every bowel movement. Every dalliance with his mistress, his gigolo. Every drunken proclamation. They founded a new branch of the company just to edit the thing together into a minute and a half long clip complete with a soundtrack ripped from some ancient Benny Hill routine, and then they put it online.
It had a million views within a single day. Port Solutions’s stock tumbled by 20% after hours, and they put Billy Boy, as his gigolo called him while sodomizing him with a miniature pineapple, was put on suicide watch.
The research wars of the future were being fought in the court of public opinion. More than that, they were being fought by appealing to the lowest common denominator. Somewhere deep in the heart of the People’s Glorious New Republic of ChinaTawainTibet 2.0 Brought to You by Foxconn, Sun Tzu was spinning in his grave. If there were a camera on him, the footage would go viral.
The crab lifted up Johnson’s new electric sports car. It regarded the garish red thing with its black little eyes, and with a chirp, it cut the car in half. There seemed to be some kind of intelligence behind its mayhem, Frank noticed, and he made a mental note to have the his team dissect its brain once security brought it down.
It chirped again, waved its claws above its head, and stomped off towards the company cafeteria. Frank frowned. This was exactly the kind of work the socially maladjusted nerds at GenTek would have done. Talk about a lack of vision. Why the hell would you engineer a three story tall crab and not have the damn thing roar? I mean, really. After all the time and effort it would take to perfect its nervous system, its circulatory system, to strengthen its joints and its muscles and its organs so it could actually walk, to artificially enhance its aggression responses, why would you keep a stupid chirping noise better suited for a pet hermit crab?
The security team arrived (finally. The delay wouldn’t be reflecting well on their quarterly performance evaluation,) and opened fire on the beast with their rifles. The creature chirped and scrambled away, green ooze dripping out of its shell.
Frank arched an eyebrow. Company protocol mandated that the security team only use armor piercing ammunition if normal rounds proved ineffective. Why wouldn’t GenTek have reinforced its carapace? That’s when the smell reached his nose, all sulfur and rotten meat and ultra-durian. One last “fuck you” from GenTek. A living stinkbomb.
Frank sighed and turned to go into the office. The secretary unit rose to greet him, speaking in its synthetic, vaguely feminine voice. “Good morning, Sir. You have five new–”
“Hold that thought. Tell the Chem team that I want a combination laxative-emetic in the water coolers at GenTek first thing Monday morning.”
The secretary unit nodded. “Of course, Sir.”
Frank turned to go towards his desk when he paused, a devious new thought forming in his mind. He turned to look over his shoulder. “And tell the Nanotech team that I want assemblers in the GenTek sewer system. Program them to assemble metal plates the diameter of drainpipes for toilets and sinks, as appropriate, and have them go live at 8 on Monday morning.”
“Right away, Sir.”
Frank smiled as he walked away. It wasn’t as flashy as a giant crab and wouldn’t get as many hits, but sometimes you had to put art ahead of metrics.