Dear readers, tonight we interview a man from a dystopian future, where an economic catastrophe has left just a small eilte living in the London Enclave. He’s the brother of the protagonist, and here to tell us about his military career standing against the radical elements.
Excuse me, are you Cost-Centre Lieutenant Lawrence Aldingford?
Yes, how can I help?
My name is Darcy Cruikshank-Chaudhary.
Pleased to meet you!
I work for The Glorious Gazette. Do you have a few minutes to spare? I’m running a series called “Leaders of the Future” and I’d love to interview you.
Well… Yes, all right. Let’s find a seat over in this corner… Maybe even get a waiter… Could we have a couple of coffees please? Do sit down—no thank you, I don’t smoke, but you go right ahead.
This is my first conference. Isn’t it amazing to see that big hall filled with General Wardian uniforms? I haven’t seen that many people since my graduation from Oxford… You don’t seem impressed.
It’s pretty run-of-the-mill for a spring conference. The executive-marshal’s speech was excellent, he’s done a fine job growing market share. The director of personnel on the other hand was just spouting platitudes.
Have you travelled far to be here?
Not as far as some, but a respectable distance. I’m based at the Oban garrison. You’ve never heard of Oban, have you? It’s an obscure but important port on the west coast of Scotland. The Krossingtons own the town and a large area around it called the Mull and Morvern Estate. It’s their main colony in the north, and it’s empty. Even before the Glorious Resolution it was empty—there are no abandonments. The population is actually greater now than it was back in the Public Era.
That must be surreal.
It creates challenges for us in General Wardian. The Oban garrison has 600 square miles of Krossington land to protect, and almost all of it is helpless wilderness. It’s like holding a new-born baby. Fortunately, there is not much surplus flow that far north, just a trickle across the Irish Sea. You would not believe how surplus will throw itself onto the bleak seas on hollowed-out logs and barrels and any other detritus it can lay its hands on. Our patrol barges pick up the lucky stuff. I don’t like to think how much simply vanishes into the Nameless Gone.
That’s a good point, and relevant to what I want to talk to you about. As you’ll know, the radicology has been growing on university campuses in the last few years. We’ve seen a fall in applications for officer training. The executive-marshal has asked me to put together some profiles of our best young officers to show that General Wardian glory trust is a perfectly respectable choice of career.
So why pick me?
Well, you’re very young for such a senior rank.
But I didn’t go to university.
You… Oh, that’s most unusual…
I signed up at seventeen as a probationary basic and worked my way up from the ranks.
Very impressive! To what do you attribute your rapid promotion?
Action. To get on in General Wardian—or any glory trust for that matter—you have got to seek action. You are going to lead men into danger. You have got to be certain of your ability to deal with anything, or you are a fraud in fancy dress. I started my career in a hygiene unit just outside London, near the Great West Drain. We saw combat every week. Calamitous irruptions of surplus flow, gangs of Night Side smugglers, nests of infestation… We dealt with the full gamut of glory action. Extracting nests was probably the most nerve-wracking. I know it’s not said in polite society, but amongst ourselves we have to acknowledge that the surplus is composed of illiterate, spawning savages. Extracting a nest of infestation is much worse than destroying a nest of hornets. Hornets don’t hide spikes up their sleeves.
Is that where you got the scar on your jaw?
No. That was a few years later, hunting bandits in the fens. Most of eastern England is a marsh nowadays, but in the summer it’s still possible to cross the morass using public drains. Oddly enough, they were called public highways back in the Public Era… But even convoys get attacked by bandits, so General Wardian has to provide client solutions. A bandit caught me off-guard with a glass dagger. I lived to fight another day—and he didn’t.
Have you ever served at sea?
Yes, I commanded a 110-ton patrol barge until quite recently. We were based in Oban and patrolled the Irish Sea.
What’s it like living in the north? Isn’t it lonely?
Not in the least. There’s plenty of things to do. One perk of being a senior officer is access to the Krossington’s excellent library. I also love sailing. The locals tell me Oban hasn’t changed much since the Glorious Resolution, except the torrents of tourists with their sheet-metal motor cars are gone, and no one misses them. There isn’t even a wall around the town, as there are no discharges of surplus to the drains.
Actually… Keep that point off the record, it’s client confidential. Between the two of us, the Krossingtons don’t grow crops up there, so there’s no requirement to cull the natives.
I won’t mention it then. What about love life? Is Oban a good place to find a wife?
Well! I’ve just met a lovely young lady called Sarah-Kelly. She’s from London, like me. Glory officers have no trouble finding marriage partners. Everyone knows we get looked after: free housing, schooling for children, medical care, the gold is good and we get a pension. A senior officer like an account-captain, the rank I’m seeking now, is treated virtually like family by our sovereign clients. My own boss boards his children at the Krossington Institute.
There is one question the executive-marshal specifically ordered me to ask—
Go on then.
The radicology claims over and over again that glory troops massacre surplus, especially at sea where there are no witnesses.
Look, our problem is that students come from soft lives. Most of them are born of landed manors and they will return to those manors to sip gin on the verandah watching their natives drag ploughs and cut wheat. The rest are like me, born of scholars who sell their brains. My father is a judge in the Land Court. Why would the son of a judge join a glory trust? Because I have a profound sense of duty—an appreciation of historical context. Seven decades ago, the Public Era collapsed in the most catastrophic social disintegration of all recorded history. Billions vanished into the Nameless Gone. What survived is a baffled, traumatized remainder struggling to survive amid a permanent state of fear. It’s all too easy for trouble-makers like the radicology to stir up resentment. They lie and lie and lie and lie to pile up false hatred. Straight from my lips, there are no glory atrocities. That doesn’t mean we don’t kill anything, because we do, but only if it’s in breach of Naclaski or Frite.
Students won’t know what that means.
Naclaski stands for National Clear Skies Initiative. It’s a regulation to protect air space above private land. Glory trusts are licensed to destroy any breach of Naclaski, be it a flying boat, a carrier pigeon, or a radio transmission, even if the radio is outside private land. That’s why we hit radio radicology when it broadcasts from the public drains. They can whine all they like; the law is the law. As for Frite, that stands for Full Rights of Territorial Exclusion. The glory trusts are entitled to shoot first and forget, but in practice we give infestations a chance to surrender—the problem is they often don’t take it. I think a lot of the problem with student rebellion is they just don’t understand the law.
What are your plans for the next five years?
Attain promotion to account-captain (second class), establish my reputation for strong action, and progress to account-captain (first class) before I’m thirty.
You’re not one to hang about. I think you’re worth following up as an exemplar—would you be interested in touring campuses, perhaps even debating student radicology?
Don’t write this down, but debates are one of the best ways of inserting our spies into the radicology. So, count me in!
Malcolm Wardlaw is fascinated by the impossibilities facing humanity. Too many “can’t happens” lurk in the future for the outcome to be pleasant. The planet is already being ruined, yet middle class affluence has reached hardly more than one tenth of the global population. Governments continue to “trust the market” and “keep growing”… As the adage goes, if something cannot go on, then eventually it will stop… But how nastily?
Malcolm Wardlaw has worked in various parts of the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and the US as a professional engineer. His work has included research into better turbochargers to make racing boats faster and designing whole industrial plants full explosive stuff. In between all that, he has explored dystopian futures inside his head. He lives in Edinburgh, UK.
You can find Lawrence on the pages of A Bloody Arrogant Power.
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