Tonight's the night of Will's big shindig. I received an invitation that read:
Dear Mr. Lane Cooper,
You are officially invited to a party at Will's mansion on Saturday the 14th of July 2045. The theme for the party is Bastille Day. Please come dressed wearing a costume appropriately reflecting seventeenth century France.
Did I tell you Will has this thing about French kings? Every year he puts on a "Versailles" party, a huge costume gig. I managed to put together my finest Louis XVI robe and drove up past the front gates to the mansion.
White wigs everywhere. This was an infohip happening. The scene was 17th century France, but the conversations were strictly modern times. Naturally, as chief of Investor Relations I get to sit at the same table as Will and his ten most productive investors. This was to be no ordinary dinner. On the menu was a recipe dating back from Roman times, at least that's what the cook told me.
By nine o'clock we were all seated. We were in the executive dining room while the rest of the guests were seated in the ballroom. The small talk was annoyingly more mundane than I was accustomed to: numbers, numbers, numbers.
Finally my boredom was interrupted by the arrival of the chef with her assistants, all naked from the top up. Politeness kept me from observing the details too closely. The assistants constructed a tent over our heads effectively sealing us off from our waists up. We were inside a vapor tent constructed from one of the latest "smart fabrics." All that means is that they're laced with so many hormones you forget whether you've got an outti or an inni after sitting under one for too long. Supposed to allow us to savor the tastes and smell of the upcoming dish to the utmost degree possible. The assistants lit candles in front of each of us, which reminded me of playing with a flashlight under the covers as a child. Above us our shadows shimmered on the ceiling of the tent. One by one the assistants would pop up along side each of us inside the tent bringing us glasses of wine. I could smell the aroma of the wine unlike any other time I could remember. Unfortunately, the smell of Will's cologne was also amplified, and so I would lean more and more to my left as I tried to enjoy my wine in olfactory silence.
The wine was strong and so were our spirits. A chorus broke out spontaneously among three, then four of the Investors. The alcohol brought out the redness in their cheeks, which was further enhanced by their surrounding white wigs. Suddenly, one by one the assistants appeared under our tent. To my right, one of the naked assistants popped up again holding a silver tray.
"The main course," she said as she opened the cover displaying a platter of tiny birds. Will's eyes widened.
"Ahh, here it is. The recipe of all recipes," he said as he gazed longingly at the plate. "This, my dear friends, is a dish that has taken four long weeks to prepare. Each of the sparrows you see before you was fed nothing but a diet of the highest quality imported grains available. One might say my usage of the word `fed' is a bit of an understatement. In order to make sure each bird's liver could develop itself to its maximum potential, each bird was, shall we say, encouraged to eat, and to eat, and to eat," he paused as the rest of the investors shared his laughter." After each bird made a positive pig of himself, he was persuaded to down an after dinner drink--cognac--to be precise. Well, you know how these sparrows just can't control their drinking. Once you get them started, well you know. It was a spectacle. Imagine ten cognacs an hour! Eventually, the poor things drank themselves into a tither. Next thing you know their tender little tissues were completely marinated from the inside out. Too bad for them. Their bad luck has shined favorable on us. Let me show you how it's done."
Will then proceeded to lift up one of the featherless birds by the beak, dipped it briefly in a cup of sauce and dropped the entire bird--wings, feet, and all--into his mouth. The entire table stared in awesome silence as he slowly rolled the bird in his mouth for what seemed an entire minute. He gradually sucked, chewed, and swallowed the marinated juices of the bird made so tender from the alcohol I never even heard one bone crack.
"Gentlemen, rarely in your lives will you have the opportunity to enjoy such a gastronomic delight. I invite you to begin." I tried to hide my disgust as Will began to devour one bird after another on his plate. I had never eaten genuine animal flesh before. Didn't much care for synthetics either. I paused and looked over at the man next to me. Didn't seem to bother him. He was holding one of the birds up by the feet and dangling it over the chasm of his hungry mouth. In it fell. He smiled and winked at me as he chewed the damn thing. I knew I couldn't hold out much longer. It became all too clear to me I just couldn't do it. I picked up one bird with both hands and pretended to let it slip into my mouth as I pushed it into my open sleeve. I continued my charade of chewing and smiling at the others as I let it fall from my sleeve onto the floor. I had to shake my sleeve so the bird wouldn't fall right next to my chair incriminating me as someone too damn cowardly to eat a little bird. Would not go down too well for the chief of Investor Relations to be called a vego.
Luckily the routine was broken up by the arrival of the dessert. Will ordered the removal of the tent as the assistants brought in a huge pie and set it before us on the table. She reached over and cut open the pie which immediately erupted as a flock of blackbirds flew out of the open crust. Will broke into laughter as did the rest of the table. I, for one, was worried we were going to have to catch the birds and eat them as well, but luckily that was not the case. Will had everyone get up and walk out to the balcony where we were able to watch a spectacular fire works display taking place on the grounds.
"Everyone, I would like to say a few words to mark this momentous occasion. As you know, as you know all too well, this age of ours has been plagued with a newly developed form of vermin: the data pirate. Piracy is the only thing standing in the way between us and that which is truly ours in this world.
You know as well as I do that when the employment act of 2010 was enacted, we guaranteed every poor, starving, war torn citizen a job. Prior to 2010, less than half the people in the Nationstates were earning honest livings. Congress was crying for job reform. The President was crying for job reform. Where were all the corporations at the time? Were they doing their part to get people working again? Not on your life! Downsizing, that's what they were doing. They weren't stupid. They were buckling down for the economic winter that only they were smart enough to see ahead.
Well, when the economic ice age did come, who proved to be the one company still going strong? Well, let me tell you. It was Macrohard. Don't let anybody fool you. We put the thaw into the economic ice age. We were the ones who rescued the government. We were the ones who lent the government the 50 billion credits it needed to fight off the Singaporean invasion. We were the ones who paid off the 75 trillion national debt. Yes, let me say that again--75 trillion. On top of all that we offered full-time employment to any citizen who asked for it.
What did we ask in return? Copyrights. We got the whole damn Library of Congress. And we bought it fair and square. And we kept our side of the bargain. Hell, we gave everybody a job. But did the government keep their side of the deal? Hell, no! They said they'd crack down on the pirates, but they couldn't even control their own people. Well, you all know what happened. After we started offering our entry level security people twice the level of pay as a government police officer, we pretty much took matters of security into our own hands. Which is--dammit--where it belongs.
You can see from this graph," As he spoke a voice-activated screen appeared on the wall behind him, "The number of incidents of infocrime started to dramatically drop off when we took over. When we introduced guillotines as a deterrent--the smartest decision I ever made-we all saw the stats shoot down, down, down. But we still have a long way to go, and that's why tonight I'm kicking off a new national campaign.
The Law of the Market has always guided our policy-making decisions. The invisible hand of the market has always been swift in correcting those who dare to err from its rules. The law of the Market is as natural as the law of gravity; it is unbending, ruthless, relentless in its quest for justice. I have always felt Horatio himself was at my side whispering in my ear. Keeping me informed as to the magic ways of this incredible force, guiding me in my every decision, keeping me from making any fatal errors. Yes," he yelled as he pounded the table before him, "Yes, I respect the law. This gracious, beautiful law standing before any mere codification by human beings. This is more than any human law. The law of Market guides us from the moment we are born to the moment we perish. It pushes us to do that which adds value to life, and punishes us when we fail in that duty. It is the ultimate correctional force, stronger than any one of us. It deserves our respect. Indeed, it demands our respect.
And yet, as you all know, there are those who continually ignore the law; there are even those who knowingly violate its rules, risking its wrath. It is precisely those individuals whom I wish to discuss tonight."
While Will continued rambling on about the latest threat from information pirates, I began to feel my eyes drooping from fatigue. I glanced about the room, my eyes moving from one small constellation of the infohip to another. In the back of the room I saw a huge ice sculpture in the shape of a fist. Eight-feet high: a solid clenched fist of ice.
My stupor was jolted by the sound of clapping. Will's speech was over. The sound of fireworks exploded into the air causing me to duck under the table out of habit from my minesweeping days. As I looked up, I could see the reflections of the red bursts in the sky dancing about in the giant fist of ice.
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