Posted By Kevin J. Anderson on July 22, 2014
My buddy and coauthor Brian Herbert has a new solo novel just released in hardcover by Tor Books, a science fiction ecothriller, THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK OF CHAIRMAN RAHMA. Here’s a taste of the first two chapters. If you liked our Dune or Hellhole novels, you might enjoy this novel.
A revolution has taken over the government of the United States and the environment has been saved. All pollution has been banned and reversed. It’s a bright, green new world. But this new world comes with a great cost. The United States is ruled by a dictatorship and the corporations are fighting back. Joining them are an increasing number of rebels angered by the dictatorship of Chairman Rahma. The Chairman’s power is absolute and appears strong, but in The Little Green Book of Chairman Rahma by Brian Herbert, cracks are beginning to show as new weapons are developed by the old corporate powers, foreign alliances begin to make inroads into America’s influence . . . and strange reports of mutants filter through the government’s censorship.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
In the Corporate War of 2041-2043, the multinational corporations lost every major battle in North and South America, and were vanquished by the counterculture AOE, the Army Of the Environment. In full disarray, the few surviving Corporate elements in the Americas went into hiding, and a new, all-encompassing government was established by the victorious radicals to rule what had previously been multiple nations on the two continents. Led by Chairman Rahma Popal, the environmental activists renamed their domain the Green States of America. Their stated goal: A Golden Age in which all citizens and companies live in harmony with the environment, so that the bulk of the land could be completely transformed, returning it to nature.
—From Green Shock, a history of the Corporate War
SciOs! Collectively, the power of the Science Overseers is roughly equivalent to that of Chairman Rahma himself, because they are responsible for providing critical scientific technology to the Green States of America. Under the GSA Charter, they are able to keep their scientific secrets while maintaining a monopoly on such technology, providing equipment to the government that contains fail-safe devices to prevent tampering. Most of all, the SciOs closely guard the secrets of their Janus Machines.
—From a children’s ecology primer
SciOs? They are the most sophisticated and devious of all green profiteers. There are even suspicions that they have sold military technology to the sworn enemies of the Green States of America. The SciOs are a nation within a nation, with autonomy stemming from their crucial contribution to the victory of the Army of the Environment against unscrupulous Corporate interests.
—From The Green Profiteers (Anarchist Press, banned)
For the environmental health of the American continents, all inhabitants who survived the Corporate War will be relocated onto densely populated human reservations, with the remaining land slated for either collective farms or comprehensive greenforming, returning it to the pristine beauty of nature. As part of his historic Edict 101, our beloved Chairman Rahma Popal has announced, “Anyone who resists will be dealt with severely. He will be recycled.”
—Government News Flash, March 17, 2043
The nuclear-powered truck flexed its long body around highway turns without slowing, its air-whistle keening to ward off wild animals. Inside the passenger dome sat a man and a woman in complementary uniforms — his forest green and hers black, with peace symbols on the lapels. They held hands and gazed out at the sun-mottled trees of autumn, bearing leaves that were a spectacular array of golden-brown hues. This was an old road, bumpy from decay and debris, having fallen into disuse because of the mass exodus of population in the last two decades. It was the year 2063 in the New England Conservancy, and soon there would be no more need for this route.
Ahead of the vehicle and behind it, police cars created a security zone, their strobe lights flashing and fender-mounted weapons glow-ready, while a Greenpol aircraft flew low overhead. For years there had been attacks by disaffected Corporate elements against GSA assets, and the Chairman had ordered extra precautions to secure his valuable equipment and personnel. Greenpol was the special police force he had created, with divisions to stop eco-criminals, prosecute other crimes, and bodyguard his person.
Presently the big armored truck slowed and turned onto the rough, weed-encrusted surface of an abandoned parking lot, where it screeched to a stop. Outriggers shot into position and adjusted for the uneven surface, leveling the great machine mounted on the chassis. The two passengers, both eco-techs, exited the dome and stepped onto a wide turret platform on the vehicle. They secured their stylized, owl-design helmets and dark goggles, then grabbed hold of safety bars. Other crewmembers rushed to their stations, to operate the complex equipment and monitor the results. They wore black trousers, jackboots, green jackets and shiny green helmets.
The platform rose to the proper height, and the twin, opposing barrels of the Janus Machine telescoped out to their full extensions, pointing in opposite directions. The barrels — one bright green and the other deep black — began to glow intensely. While the man waited, the woman climbed into a bucket seat at the rear of the long black barrel and tapped keys on an instrument console. The turret swung around, so that the barrel was pointed at the center of the industrial plant.
“It’s Black Thunder time!” she shouted, as she began the three-minute countdown.
Joss Stuart smiled as he watched her admirable efficiency. Kupi Landau, tall, light-skinned and willowy, was his lover as well as co-worker. In her mid forties, she was his senior by a decade and a half, but he still found her attractive and exciting. Her waist-length hair was close to its natural auburn now, though she sometimes dyed it a bright color, which was not uncommon in the Green States of America. Her face was oval, with large brown eyes.
With a stubble of brown beard on his face, Joss had long hair, secured by a silver ring at the back. He was muscular and around her height, a mixture of races that gave his skin a smooth, light brown hue. Barely thirty, he was commander of the seven-person crew, having been transferred to this division from Greenpol, where he’d been a decorated eco-cop, busting wetlands violators, polluters, murderers of endangered species, and other heinous environmental criminals.
He nodded to her, then scanned the jobsite arrayed before them, a cluster of shabby, deteriorating metal buildings and smokestacks, sitting dull and lackluster in the light of midday. Years before this had been a major military products factory, belching pollutants into the atmosphere and draining contaminants into the nearby river system, as the greedy Corporate owners lined their pockets at the expense of the environment. It was one of many polluting industrial sites in the old days, before Chairman Rahma set society on the correct course and began the widespread greenification of the Americas.
Patting his uniform jacket, Joss felt the reassuring presence of his copy of The Little Green Book, a slender forest-green volume containing the favorite sayings of the Chairman, along with his sagacious, environmental-oriented poetry. Often during the day Joss liked to bring out the volume and find some piece of useful wisdom to inspire him, and guide him in his decisions.
He felt good about the contributions he and Kupi Landau were making to the grand ecological dream. Today Joss was leading the crew of Janus Machine No. 129 on a run through the conservancy, hitting sites that had not yet been reverted when nearby cities and towns were emptied of people, leveled, and returned to nature. In only a few moments Kupi would complete her portion of the task, and Joss’s turn would follow.
More than two decades ago she’d been a member of the legendary Berkeley Eight revolutionary committee that spearheaded the struggle against the Corporates and their lackeys, fighting for the inspirational Chairman and his anti-war, anti-establishment army. Kupi’s anarchistic, violent talents had been useful then, and were useful now in the aftermath of the conflict.
In a designated safety zone on the pavement, behind a clearplex blast shield, a handful of government officials had gathered to watch alongside black-suited anarchists and bearded, middle-aged men in green uniforms, all veterans of the Corporate War who now called themselves J-Watchers. The bearded vets were well organized, and liked to follow the routes of Janus Machine teams and cheer them on.
Joss noticed that three men wore patches indicating they had been Weather Warriors, a radical group that bombed Corporate and U.S. Government facilities during the revolution, including dams and power stations. He also saw a man wearing the round patch of the Green Planet Brigade, whose followers burned sport-utility vehicles in the old United States, and torched homes that were not constructed according to green building standards. In those days, these men (and others like them) were called domestic terrorists, but now they were decorated heroes.
Half a dozen young women in flower-design dresses and beads joined the J-Watchers and began dancing in a circle. In another protected area, feral dogs and cats had been rounded up, and specialists were using sonic devices to roust out rodents, raccoons and any other critters that might be inside the buildings and on the grounds, saving as many of them as possible.
The observers, in a festive mood, were among a small, elite class of citizens who were granted permits to leave their reservations for specific purposes – in this case to bolster the morale of J-Mac crews. Behind the protective barrier, they clapped and cheered, and exchanged stories from the revolution. Everyone was pleased that the good work of Chairman Rahma Popal was proceeding methodically, covering the Green States of America with magnificent trees and other flora, so that animals could thrive in their natural habitats.
The dancers began chanting, louder and louder: “Rahm-m-m-m-a . . . Rahm-m-m-m-a . . . Rahm-m-m-m-a . . .”
Kupi’s countdown went through its final seconds in a beeping of electronics. Preparing himself, Joss secured the noise-protective system of his helmet. He heard a low, gathering roar, and saw the big black barrel spew waves of stygian particles at the factory structures and split them all asunder, separating the components on a molecular level and then transforming them into a gooey gray amalgam of basic elements. For artistic effect, she left three of the smokestacks for last, then blasted their bases out from under them one at a time, sending the tall structures thundering down in a dramatic display of flying debris and vanishing shapes, as if they were ghostly creatures of the past, dying from the inside out. Never again would such ugliness reign over the American landscape. The onlookers clapped and cheered for her showmanship, making muffled sounds in Joss’s headset.
“Black Thunder has spoken,” Kupi Landau said to the crew, over the comm-radio. She was referring to what the SciOs called the black barrel of every Janus Machine, more commonly referred to as a Splitter or a Splitter Cannon. Janus Machine technology was secret and closely guarded; only the SciOs could build new units, and if anyone tampered with the machines they would self-destruct.
Kupi was particularly well-suited for her job, still able to vent her simmering anger against the foul remnants of Corporate civilization. Splitting was an anarchist specialty, one of the few GSA-authorized professions that the government haters actually seemed to enjoy. It was a union job, of course, like every profession in the Green States of America. Even soldiers in the Army of the Environment were unionized.
Now it was Joss’s turn. The bright green barrel had a SciO name as well: The Seed Cannon. Most people called it a greenformer, though, and the process was known as greenforming. He sat at another instrument panel behind that barrel, tapped the opening sequence to make the turret spin around slowly. He made subtle, last-minute adjustments to the seed mixture, tailoring it to this locale more than he’d already done in the setup, further eliminating any elements of vegetation that, even though native, he had now decided were not appropriate for the site. Like the work Kupi did, this was an art form, though one that religious radicals liked to call, derisively, “playing god.” He didn’t pay attention to such comments. They came from scofflaws, fugitives who were on the run from Greenpol.
Over Joss’s headset, pre-war rock music surged on, the hard-driving beat of an old Grateful Dead song, harking back to a time of fantastic idealism in the prior century, when the seeds of rebellion were sowed, and ultimately cultivated. His job gave him a good feeling that he was doing something significant, something important. Brave Greenies had died in order to provide him with this opportunity. He held a privileged, high-level job, and appreciated having it.
He had the turret in position now and ran the test circuits through their course, causing an array of colored lights to dance across the top of the instrument panel. Using a viewscreen, Joss sighted along the top of the long, glistening green barrel and aimed carefully at the center of the gooey amalgam of elements that Kupi had left for him. Taking a deep breath, he held down a button at the center of the panel, then felt a percussive thump as cartridges spewed into the air and detonated over the landscape like a green fireworks display in the sunlight, scattering microorganisms, infinitesimally tiny seeds that would grow quickly, replacing the factory eyesore with beautiful vegetation.
He fired twice more to fill in bare spots, using smaller bursts. Finally, his task completed, he rose and tilted back his owl-helmet in satisfaction. The music went off, and he heard the applause of the onlookers. On one side of the turret, Kupi stood at the rail gazing out on the landscape, as if imagining she could already see the new plants sprouting. Joss chuckled. He had used a fast-grow recipe, but it was not that fast. In a matter of weeks, maple and oak trees would be half a meter high, and soon the animals, insects, and birds of the forest would reoccupy their habitat. It was only justice, he thought, returning the land to its rightful inhabitants, after humans had carelessly abused it for so long. . . .
Later that afternoon, the Janus Machine crew was on its way to the next site. Inside the dome, Kupi sat on a cushioned bench with Joss. She took a long drag on a juana-stick, exhaled the smoke and said, “This rig has only been on fifty-seven missions, and it’s already getting long in the tooth. I felt more than the normal vibration when I fired the cannon. Did you notice it, too?”
Joss shook his head. “No, not when you fired, nor when I did, either.”
“Well I sure noticed it. Damn thing shook my chair, hurt my teeth, and made my bones feel like they were turning into jelly.”
“Part of the mystery of Dark Energy?” he asked, referring to the term for the destructive splitting technology, a power that reportedly was not fully understood by the SciOs who had discovered and harnessed it. The stuff was like a wild bronco, he’d been told, but on an exponentially higher level. The strange technology was rooted in the days of the revolution, when it enabled Chairman Rahma and his ragtag army to defeat Corporate armies – using the black cannons of early-model Janus Machines as weapons.
Kupi scowled and said, “Damned SciOs build these rigs so that they have to be replaced frequently. Just like the old Corporate crooks and their diabolical theory of ‘planned obsolescence.’ “
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Joss said. “Our cannons have unknown key components. Maybe the SciOs don’t have any other way to build them.”
“Yeah, yeah. True Green Joss, accepting everything you’re told to think. You’d better wake up, sweetie. Our lives could be at risk running these machines, and do you think the SciOs give a rat’s ass what happens to us? Do you think Chairman Rahma does?”
Joss fell silent, knowing he didn’t accept everything blindly at all, though she seemed to think he did. Even so, he didn’t want to argue with her. He gazed forward as the truck sped south, with peace symbols and stylized tree designs sparkling on the hood, and triangular green GSA banners fluttering on the front fenders. He liked Kupi personally, as a lover and as a friend, but when she started talking politics, she invariably made comments that made him uncomfortable.
Politics often put her into a bad mood, and he saw no point in debating with her. At times like this, his lover needed to be left alone.
He wished Kupi would watch her tongue. It could get her into a lot of trouble – and by association, him, too.
Animals are not lower life forms than humans.
They are in fact superior to us.
Count the ways.
—From The Little Green Book, by Chairman Rahma
The man crouched low as he peered over a snow bank at the bleak white landscape, sloping up to the ridgeline. A cold gray fog was beginning to settle over the mountain, though some patches of sunlight remained. Moments earlier, he’d seen movement at a higher elevation by the body of a freshly-killed ibex, a blur of motion. Now, nothing. Looking in that direction through binoculars, the gray-bearded man didn’t even see prints where the cat had been in the snow, feeding on its prey. The creature seemed to float over the surface, moving entirely in another realm.
There were countless legends about the magical powers of snow leopards, but legends were one thing and reality quite another. Because of the animals’ reclusive, solitary nature, attacks on humans were rare. Even so, the man’s heart beat rapidly. These rare animals were powerful and fast — and if this one decided to turn on him at any moment instead of avoiding him, he might not have a chance. So far the creature was keeping its distance, while remaining close enough to watch over the bloody body of the horned ibex, preventing other predators from taking it away.
With a start the man remembered he was in EVR — enhanced virtual reality — and wasn’t actually on that faraway slope, except as a three-dimensional, projected avatar. Such magnificent technology, and so realistic that if persons really in that remote mountain region saw his projection they would think he was actually there, too. In addition, if his avatar was near anyone there, he could see them, hear them, and speak to them, and they could do the same with him. Animals could see and hear avatars as well, and had even been known to go after them, though they usually relied on scent, and that was one thing the Chairman’s EVR-figure did not have. Now he re-immersed himself onto the snowy mountain — a speck on the white snowfield watching the predator and its ibex.
A snow leopard was not able to consume a kill of this size in one feeding. For that reason it often lingered nearby for days, going back repeatedly and eating from the carcass, while watching warily in all directions.
It was the Achilles heel of their species, a weakness that a hunter could use to advantage – and he’d seen evidence of hunters in the area. But Chairman Rahma Popal was not like other human beings around there. Snow leopards were an endangered species, with only a small number of them known to exist on Earth. He needed to capture this one alive, which he could do even in EVR, with the aid of two men and a woman collaborating with him on the ground — GSA operatives who had taken great physical risks to slip into the enemy state of Panasia, far across the globe from the GSA. Rahma had sent operatives into enemy territory before on such ventures, as well as on spying missions, and he’d gone there as an avatar, too – aided by clever technology that the SciOs had surreptitiously inserted into one of the Panasian satellites, secretly compromising the orbiter so that some of their transmissions were put to GSA use.
The three of them were arrayed on the slope near him, in their sealed survival suits. For these brave citizens, this special assignment was much more dangerous than any threat from bad weather or from a predatory animal. Because of the hostile nature of the Panasian government and their cavalier attitude toward animal protection, the rescue squad had to get in and out as quickly as possible.
Anger filled the Chairman now. The Panasians — ruling over Asia, Australia, and most of the Pacific islands — allowed their people to hunt and kill these beautiful animals for organs and other body parts, using them for traditional medicine, talismans, and trophies. How could anyone be so ignorant and short-sighted? What did they intend to do when there were no more snow leopards left to harvest?
Eco-criminals on a huge scale, the Panasian government did not care a whit about the welfare of endangered species, and their polluting industries were the worst in the world, no matter the propaganda they issued to the contrary. The Eurikans weren’t much better, ruling over the continents of Europe and Africa. They just put on a better public persona, posturing and acting as if they were environmentalists, when in fact they were not. To a large extent the Eurikan leaders were blue-blooded aristocrats, tracing their roots to noble lineages and old money, and taking political and economic steps to protect their own interests.
Breathing hard in the simulated atmosphere of his EVR survival suit, the Chairman glanced at a holo-screen that hovered in the air by him, showing a satellite zoom of the snow leopard. It was a barely discernible mound of fur perhaps a couple of hundred meters above him on the slope, a tight ball of gold, black, and white. He saw the other team members, and himself, on the satellite image as well, and knew that the cat could close the distance to the nearest operative in a matter of seconds.
Since the fall of the Corporates, there had been increasing tensions between the Panasians and the Green States. The two governments had been sponsoring terrorist attacks against one another, using surrogates that could not be traced easily to either side. Rahma knew he had a technological advantage over his enemies – his alliance with the SciOs. But it was a tenuous advantage, because of the secrets that the arrogant SciO leader Arch Ondex and his cronies kept to themselves. The Chairman sometimes suspected – but could not prove – that Ondex was playing both sides. And yet, no matter how much he disliked the patrician man, he didn’t want to believe that could possibly be true.
Rahma scanned his instruments. The outside air temperature was dropping quickly as the fog continued to settle. Visibility was worsening, and his people would need to get off the mountain sooner than anticipated.
The avatar stepped onto an air-platform near him and powered it up, a virtual-reality craft. A control bar rose in front of him, and he gripped it in simulation. The three other team members did the same for real, on separate craft.
The four of them rose into the air on triangular wedges of technology. A slight wind from the valley floor below buffeted the craft, but the units compensated and sped smoothly toward the snow leopard. From his remote position of safety the Chairman watched the altimeter reading on his control bar. Over 4,300 meters now, more than 14,000 feet. He felt the simulated oxygen level increase inside his suit.
The animal held its ground for several seconds, then bolted away upslope. This time the Chairman saw the tracks it made in the snow, confirming that the creature was not anything supernatural. Quickly, the cat moved out of deep snow onto rocky surfaces, leaping great distances from one ledge to the next, rising ever upward in elevation, heading for a jagged line of ice caves.
The pursuers had anticipated this; the satellite report had told them the path the snow leopard would probably take, toward one of those icy habitats where it lived. But they needed to divert the animal, keeping it from reaching the safety of an area that might be honeycombed with escape routes.
Pressing a lever on the control bar to accelerate, Rahma Popal caused the platform to surge past the animal. He then turned in the air and headed back toward the snow leopard, diverting the cat and causing it to take a lateral course along a ridgeline, with the two male team members flying close behind. They were too close, and the Chairman signaled for them to fall back a little. They needed to be careful. The leopard appeared to be panicking, and he didn’t want to kill it.
He motioned for the female operative, Agent Trumbull, to come alongside his craft. At his further command, she touched a button on a transmitter, firing a shaft of emerald light at the snow leopard, a lasso-beam that slowed it down. For a moment the animal became the color of the light, a running, struggling blur. Trumbull fired a ray of bright red light now, a powerful sedative. The leopard went limp, only a short distance from the edge of a precipice, where it might have gone off.
Accompanied by his team, the Chairman hovered over the leopard, a few meters above it. He watched as Trumbull unsnapped the transmitter from the handlebar and made it a hand-held unit. Then, leaning down and using the electronic lasso to lift the animal into a cradle that tightened on contact, she made it snug against the undercarriage of the air-platform. A screen on his own control bar showed Rahma the vital signs of the sedated animal, a male. The readings were good, but he did not breath a sigh of relief yet. He still needed to get the large cat out of the country.
Now Rahma fell in behind the others, flying downslope, speeding toward a wooded area where a stealth transport craft awaited them. Presently, when the rescued animal was loaded aboard, along with the passengers and equipment, the Chairman switched off the EVR transmission and found himself back in the welcome, green reality of his own game reserve in the Rocky Mountain Territory.
He slipped out of his survival suit, tossed it to one of his many administrative assistants, a robot who stood nearby, anticipating his master’s “return.” Zeebik stood as tall as a man, with a flat screen-face that bore the image of a stern human officer with narrow little eyes and dark, overhanging brows, a countenance Rahma had chosen from historical military archives. The image was locked in place; once the selection was made, he could not alter it.
“Holo-net report just came in,” Zeebik said, in a resonant voice the Chairman had also chosen from historical records. “The Black Shirts recycled 427 eco-criminals this morning — polluters, tree cutters, animal poachers — the usual.” The robot was referring to black-uniformed anarchists by a common term they liked to use in describing themselves, harking back to the legendary days of the revolution when the violent Black Shirts were an important part of the victory. Following the defeat of the Corporates, these anarchists were formally organized into an army division known as the Revolutionary Guard — front-line defenders of the revolution.
For a couple of minutes, Rahma scanned little holo images of the executions, death sentences that were primarily carried out by anarchists with Splitter rifles, turning the victims into macabre heaps of goo. Two of the criminals received a special brand of punishment, befitting the severity of their crimes. A husband and wife, they had been trusted members of the government who had forsaken their vows and turned over state secrets to The Panasians. (Even that was considered an “eco-crime” under one definition, because it threatened the Green States of America.) He watched as black-uniformed anarchists strapped them to posts in the middle of a beautiful, flower-covered field, and then opened wounds on their bodies, so that they bled profusely. They writhed and tried to shout, but their mouths were gagged.
Moments later, the pair were swarmed by powerful carrion birds — vultures, owls, and eagles that had been trained for this purpose. A vulture ripped the gag loose from the female, and Rahma heard her high-pitched screams of terror. Sharp talons and beaks gouged out her eyes, and she slumped at the post, bleeding from the orifices. Beside her, the traitorous husband’s face was already gone, a bloody pulp of torn flesh, and soon hers was as well. The birds kept attacking, tearing at flesh and feeding, finally leaving the ripped-apart bodies and flying off, their bellies full.
The Chairman rubbed his gray beard, nodded somberly. He had ordered the mass executions before going on the EVR-rescue mission, and the decision had made his heart heavy. But it had been necessary, one of many he’d made — for the sake of the planet, he could not afford to be lenient. He hated having to kill people, but it was either that or allow them to kill the planet, which he could not allow.
His gaze lingered on the gory scene, and he reminded himself of what his followers often said about him, that he was a good and kind man. However, no matter the justification he didn’t feel that way at the moment.
Sadly, he switched off the viewer.
YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY THE ECOLOGICAL EPIC OCEAN, BY BRIAN HERBERT AND JAN HERBERT from WordFire Press, in print and in all eBook formats.