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By J. O. Quantaman
Monday, September 08, 2014
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
At an exclusive business summit, Jen has climbed a skyscraper and is about to attack the CEOs.
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Kuala Lumpur: 12 May 2076, 1:55 p.m.
Tuesday, 12 May 2076, 5:55 GMT
Leonid Turku scans the central readout. All the beacons are glowing green. They signify realtime feeds from 102 sensor clusters and dedicated links to 78 roosters deployed in or around Petronas tower 2.
He allows himself a partial grin.
So far, so good.
No leaks, no loiterers,
no apparent threats.
Leonid has two more checks to make before his long-deferred breakfast of soft-boiled eggs, sirloin shish kebobs, hash browns doused with spicy tomato paste, buttered toast and one-superlarge UltimaPop.
Hold fast, cavernous stomach.
Business before pleasure.
His job is safeguarding the VIPs. This summit must be kept under wraps. The public can't even suspect the CEOs of the largest transnats are gathered here for cartel business. Since the building is owned by his employer, he has the authority to vacate quebies and onlookers from the upper eight floors, which has been done as a precaution. That leaves the VIPs, the in-house crew who've been screened and his roosters whom he trusts without question.
The meeting has already begun and will continue through the afternoon. The CEOs are gathered on the 81st-floor where height alone deters steeple climbers. To thwart aerial spies or assassins, solid steel plates reinforce the windows of the summit room. Vidcams and networked sensors monitor the corridors, lifts and stairways, so his roosters will arrest party crashers before they reach the upper floors.
Leonid mulls over the feed from the wide-angle camera atop Petronas tower 1, which takes in 70 hectares of the KLCC complex. Alongside its twin tower, there is the concert hall, the office tower, conference center, hotel, hypermall and parking space for 6,600 vehicles beside a park with gardens and scenic lagoon. Hundreds of shoppers and tourists stroll across the complex to & fro the buildings and car park. Any of them could be spotters who'd alert the media or worse.
He has moved the VIPs on-site with utmost discretion. When their private jets arrived, each VIP entourage split in two separate parties and shuttled to KLCC. The tag-along folks showboated in luxurious limos to the conference center, whereas the CEOs and key aides rode older mud-splattered (though armored) limos to the underground freight docks of Petronas Tower 2.
Everything has gone down as planned, but he can't afford to relax. A paparazzo could be snooping amidst the tourists and shoppers. Worse, it takes but seconds to foul a ventilation system with anthrax, sarin or black-lab virals. Even though his roosters keep checking for biological, chemical and radiological residues, the best precautions can't be trusted for a millisecond. The summit's defenses are no better than those of the Maginot Line, the Iron Curtain or Great Wall of China, all of which were breached, despite the efforts of their builders. Shit happens, and it always lands on the desk of the security chief.
Leonid opens a voice link to the crew in the park. "Rashid?"
"How's the sweep going?"
"We've covered every square meter. Nothing here but creepy bugs and bird brains."
"Good work. Keep a lookout for the odd tourist."
"All entrances covered, Leo."
"Right on, Ahmad. Puts my mind at ease." He closes the link.
Six quartets of surveillance drones have been deployed since dawn. They're circling the tower and other points of interest around KLCC.
Leonid's stomach growls as he calls on the drone maestro. "Wen?"
"On the ball, Leo."
"Good to hear. Any of our drones squawking?"
"Not a one."
Leonid would've liked to put the birds in the air earlier, but there were delays in obtaining permits. Kuala Lumpur's privacy laws are a bloody nuisance to say the least. Private security outfits need special permits to fly aerodrones at altitudes less than 400 meters from human habitats. Since the Petronas twins stand 450 meters above ground, drones without permits must hover at 850 meters, rendering them next to useless.
Leonid suspects the bylaw for surveillance drones was enacted in the wake of a scandal involving Miss Malaysia of '74, who lost her title after her nude photos were posted online and subsequently "discovered" by a data miner at Webvine News. Months earlier, a drone happened to be patrolling the mansion next-door. One of the teleoperators pointed his "eyes" over the walled compound and took snapshots of Ms. Hloh as she rubbed sunblock on her privy glands. Contest organizers had recommended a full-body suntan to remove the telltales peeking out of swimsuits.
The exposé crushed Ms. Hloh. It got her wealthy father angry as a pit bull. He was devoted to his daughter, and he never let her go without chaperones. He swore the photos had been faked, and his legal hounds forced the offensive webpage offline. Then a lawsuit was brought against Webvine News, but it failed after the court ruled the photos were genuine. Next Mr. Hloh hired private investigators who linked the photos to the security drone. His lawyers moved in for a lethal kill, but they came up empty when the security outfit decamped and vanished. At this point Mr. Hloh blew his fuses; smoke poured from his ears. He sent complaints to City Council, half of whom owed him their campaign funds. Shortly after, Kuala Lumpur passed a new bylaw governing aerial drones.
The sleazebag teleoperator has ruined the scene for every other security outfit. If the fool ever tried a stunt like that under Leonid's command, he'd be spending the next six years tracking reindeer in Siberia. The fool could've shared the photos with his buds, and Leonid would've turned a blind eye. Boys must be boys afterall. The fool stepped way out of bounds when he sold the pics via a 3rd-party to Webvine News. The newsies weren’t much better. They must've smelled a rat, but they knew a juicy scandal would boost their viewer ratings, which it did for a week. Ms. Hloh paid the price, her virtue gone down the toilet.
The drones are now sweeping all over KLCC. The stealthy aircraft carry out set-patterns in semiautonomous mode, so one teleoperator can handle twelve drones, no prob. Highres cams record suspicious actions in the visible spectrum. He has disabled infrared mode since the targeted surfaces absorb solar heat at different rates. Humanlike heat signatures would be lost in the torrent of anomalies.
"OK, Wen. I'm gonna grab my breakfast and switch the comm over to you."
"Right, got it."
"Ring me, anything comes up."
At the pinnacle under the ornamental sphere, Jen Marov hums a favorite melody from the Nutcracker Suite while she assembles half-a-wing of the aerofoil. Funny though, she can't recall where the music appears in the ballet.
Her do-it-yourself skills have been less than stellar till enough pieces are joined, and the framework starts looking as it should. The second half ought to take no time at all. It's just busy work afterall, not demanding physically or mentally. Perfect therapy after her marathon climb of the night before.
Five strenuous hours have left her with sore muscles, stiff joints and bone-deep pleasure for having made the ascent in record time to catch the bundles. Without them the mission would've failed, and she'd be stranded and off to jail or worse.
Close or not, I've survived riskier stunts.
Not many climbers will ever top my feat.
Jen enjoys sitting on the highest perch in Kuala Lumpur. She isn't worried about dozens of armed guards who'd shoot her on sight. She has climbed mountains that would make Petronas tower 2 look like a dwarf shrub. She rather enjoys playing the lone wolf. Inbred talent and tenacious willpower haven't failed her yet.
Her pixielike face has up-slanted eyes and high-rounded cheeks, a small classic nose, sensual lips and a cute cleft in her chin. Years of outdoors ventures have etched modest crow's feet and laugh lines, but they add rather than detract from an aura of natural beauty. Given her petite stature, men have often mistaken her for pushover in need of firm hands. Guys who've tried a macho grab have gotten flipped head over heels then pretzeled in pain.
She cares for her friends in Dog Breakfast co-op, and she's loyal to fault, which is why she's perched atop this venerable skyscraper, ready to wreak havoc on a bunch of haughty CEOs.
As she starts on the other half-wing, an absent smile betrays a missing upper-front tooth, for she hasn't bothered to slot the prosthetic surrogate. She's here to make a statement, not win a beauty pageant.
Jen left home at age 15 to become aerial acrobat for the Imperial Circus. She has been a self-made woman ever since. Her family and childhood friends believe she was killed in a Chilean highway accident. It grates her sometimes that she's forbidden to tell them otherwise. Her pact with Dog Breakfast co-op doesn't allow chitchat with the unwashed. Leastwise she has kept track of the old gang. Most of her friends are working at humdrum jobs. Her parents are looking forward to retirement. Her younger brother hasn't lost his soul to the Russian Mafia. In fact, he's settled down, become IT manager for a large Russian oil company and married a local gal to make a family of four.
The security dudes won't detect her presence under the camouflaged lean-to. The fabric shows an illusion that'll fool all but diligent human eyes. Aerodrones aren't smart enough to pick out parallax quirks in the holoproj. They'll just keep circling the tower, clueless as blind mice. Their minders have to monitor several screens, and minor blips will go unheeded when the camera angles keep changing.
Last night she got a break from a sympathizer in the city's license bureau. He delayed the permits till this morning, so none of the drones could watch her nighttime ascent.
When the prep is all finished, she'll climb down the tower and blow the CEOs all to hell. She has nothing against them personally. They're true to their business doctrines and devoted to friends and family, but they manage transnats that control or influence major aspects of the global economy. The CEOs sit at the apex of the pyramid that puts 50% of the wealth in the hands of 1% of the populous. They don't bear direct blame for inequities in the social system, but they aren't anxious to fill the gaps. Employers gain more leverage when workers have to compete for jobs.
The CEOs recount tales of their mighty struggles to climb the corporate ladder before attaining their executive offices. Such achievements, they claim, are there for anyone with enough smarts and drive. The truth is their status has come more from pure chance, from the fortunes of circumstance and birth. Their efforts to serve the common good don't add up to their glorified clout and wealth.
There's nothing good or bad about money. But trailing zeros never count at the top of the pyramid. For the CEOs, money looks like so many casino chips, mere symbols to keep score. The chips seldom show a human face. Their presence or lack often inspires untold human misery. A single plant closure causes marriage breakups, alcohol abuse, anger, despair and aimless suicides. From the top of the pyramid, the shit always rolls downhill.
The CEOs support a rampant consumerism that's running out of steam. Five of six continents have already achieved basic techno parity, and Africa is itching to become the next consumer demographic. Some urbanites have risen above the poverty line, but the middle class still labors like mad to repay its debts. They're wage slaves who haven't much voice in the forum of public policy. The costs of modern amenities have skyrocketed, for there are fewer resources within easy reach. Earth's ecosystems are under threat if not in imminent collapse. The world cries for a more sensible approach, yet the CEOs uphold the status quo.
Jen has no qualms about using her bomb. It won't prove fatal; it's more of a blatant warning. The chaos will embarrass W. A. Rathbone who's supposed to be attending in teleconference mode. He won't bear the physical abuse of the other six. His roosters are charged with safeguarding the summit, so there will be questions asked which ought to weaken his hold over the others. Dissention in the cartel is good for the co-op, good for TCP and good the orbital habitats.
Once she finishes the prep, she'll activate a personal holoshield then climb down several stories to the summit room. The building is broader at the 81st-floor, but not as broad as the 50-meter diameter of the lowest 57 floors. The upper stories are set back in stages. Where she sits atop the ziggurat, the diameter is but six meters. The central pedestal that supports the ornamental sphere hogs some of it. The lean-to is curved to blend with the quasicircular platform. Her 8-mm rope, which is camouflaged and too thin to attract notice, has been looped and anchored around the lightening rod.
The perimeter design stays the same from ground to pinnacle, though the bazooms grow smaller as the building narrows in the upper stories. The design is an Islamic motif where two squares are superimposed at 45° from each other, making an eight-pointed star with eight-square corners. Between each pair of corners lies a rounded bazoom, so the perimeter mimics a corrugated circle with sixteen outcrops.
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|Reviewed by Regis Auffray
|Thank you for sharing your interesting story. I live in Chilliwack, by the way. Love and peace,
|Reviewed by Ronald Hull
|R Buckminster Fuller said that he always made predictions about the future at least 50 years in advance so that he could make sure he wouldn't be criticized for making wrong predictions in his lifetime. Some of his ideas have stood the test of time. Some haven't.
Your story is out there, over 50 years, so only time will tell whether or not it will have any validity in 2076. When I read it I see a lot of 2014 stuff, enhanced slightly. The story seems more likely, 2020 rather than 2076. The Petronas Towers, used ad nausea in many stories and movies, and the site of base jumping, tower climbing, and other stunts, are likely to still be around. CEOs, likewise, will probably still be the heads of multinational corporations, and drones will probably be prolific and ubiquitous. Jet transport seems to be a bit unlikely in spite of its long reign and the use of luxury towers in population centers for major meetings seems not to have any real value except to create urban mayhem portrayed in video games and movies.
Aside from the risk of technological prediction, the story is full of all kinds of techno innovation that makes it rather interesting as well as the heroine/villain who is about to pull off the daring deed to correct a world financial scenario that is very 2015.
I downloaded the "full story," only to be disappointed, finding that it was also truncated like the one here. I would appreciate it if you would post the entire story. My stories are complete even though I may have post them in installments. As the author, you have an inherent copyright, so I wouldn't worry about your story being co-opted by some Chinese opportunist. But then, maybe I should.
J. O. Quantaman