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Day Two Hundred and Twenty-one: The Inevitable Monster

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

Man, vacations really aren’t good for my ability to stick to a deadline. So much napping to do…

Anyway, today I’d like to look at the third Evil Corporation on my list – Barbeau Pharmaceuticals. Now give me some credit here: they really are going to ruin the world for the rest of us. At least that’s if all the time travelers are correct. Let’s see what we know about this company and its founder, Paul Barbeau:

33: Monsters

  • Time travelers have been trying to kill Paul Barbeau since he was born. Before he was born, in fact.
  • Barbeau Pharmaceuticals will produce “a neurocybernetic viral analogue that would safely cure nearly all forms of human disease.”
  • Paul Barbeau injected himself with the first batch.
  • The company has a blue logo.

45: Sleeper

  • Paul was a high school freshman at ten years old.
  • He developed a new printable circuitry as a science project.

65: Amanuensis

  • Cerbecorp is looking at a cooperative agreement with Barbeau Pharmaceuticals.

116: Paul Barbeau (interview)

  • The nanotech virus the company is developing will be a cure for nearly all disease. However, it will eventually network and create a human “hive mind,” eliminating individuality almost entirely.
  • The company will go to any lengths to protect Paul Barbeau and ensure that the future comes to pass.
  • The original complex will be raided in 2066.

Huh. I really thought there would be more.

It kind of resonates with Cyberdine Systems from the Terminator movies, and brings up the great question of whether or not we can really change our future. Paul Barbeau’s analysis of his rather unique problem leads him to believe that the future cannot be stopped – his company will create the panacea, which will go on to pretty much eliminate humanity as an individualistic species. He cites as evidence for this that he hasn’t been killed, despite the repeated attempts by time travelers to get rid of him:

Miss, most people who are targeted for assassination are indeed assassinated. It may take a few tries, but the killers only have to be successful once. The target has to be successful – or lucky – all the time. And there is no one so lucky that they can survive near-constant attempts for their entire life, as I have.

Do you understand what this means?

I cannot be killed, miss.

They cannot succeed. All of these bodyguards are really just here to make the odds as small as possible, but I could go wandering through the poorest part of the city wearing a tuxedo made of thousand dollar bills, and I would not die. I could be surrounded by murderous time travelers all day, and they would not kill me.

No matter what happens, I must survive to create the virus. The killers are themselves the evidence of that. If I gave up, they would have no reason to kill me, and thus would never have started their mad crusade. But still they come, which means that I must succeed. It is a thing that is beyond my control.

At least so far, he seems to be right. I haven’t come up with a reason why he shouldn’t be right, but I do know that I’ve created a fanatic, and they’re always fun. The only thing that will convince Barbeau that his destiny is not inevitable is his own death, at which point he will be beyond caring. So in many ways, Paul Barbeau could be a wonderful antagonist for someone to work against in the future.

About the company itself, I know this much: it’s a very well-regarded pharmaceutical company, famous for its innovative and pioneering research. They make enough money that their motto as far as things like regulations is that it’s “better to ask forgiveness than permission,” and so far it’s paid off for them. The company has not gone public, and is directed almost entirely by Paul Barbeau, who is considered a genius in both the scientific and medical fields. The company has branched out a little into other consumer goods, but maintains its focus on medicines. It donates a sizable amount of its product to developing countries, garnering it an excellent reputation in international politics, which gives it more leeway in performing research and getting into countries where other companies might be barred.

Barbeau himself, however, is something of a recluse. While there are many rumors as to where he lives – a private island, an underground desert base, a complex built into a mountain in the Canadian Rockies – his location has never been confirmed. He communicates daily with the directors of his company, and seems to possess an intricate knowledge of what they’re doing at any given time. This has led to suspicions that he has a network of “reporters” in his company, or at least a very advanced electronic data-gathering program.

Barbeau is not evil, really. Not in the conventional sense, anyway. He really does want to help people, and his company has a remarkable record of doing so. If you didn’t know what was going to happen in the future, you would say that Barbeau Pharmaceuticals was the model of a good company trying to do good work. But Paul truly, truly believes that he will end mankind as we know it, and rather than try to stop what is coming, he’s decided to embrace that.

Of course, ending mankind as we know it isn’t really a laudable goal, so I’ll have to create someone to fight against him, to try and see to it that the horrible future he’s working on never actually happens. To do that, I’ll have to make someone who is (potentially) as strong and as driven as he is.

The big thing is this: when I write this story, Paul will have to be the protagonist. He’s the one with the goal, after all, which is what a protagonist is, and the person trying to stop him must naturally be the antagonist. So: a story with a villain protagonist. Always fun…

Day Two Hundred and Eight: Raven of Industry

December 15, 2011 2 comments

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

Okay, why don’t we do another Evil Corporation today (yes, I know – it’s a tautology, but what can you do?). Munin Scientific is a company that specializes in computer components, with a focus on memory. They make storage media, hard drives, RAM, all kinds of things that make your computer work, and they’re constantly pushing the limits of materials and technique. Having said all that, let’s see what the stories say about them:

46: The Big Day

  • It has a very intense corporate culture. In the thoughts of Peter Wach, “Nobody got anywhere in Munin Scientific on forty hours a week. Nobody.”
  • Wach is doing work on carbon pico-crystal arrays.
  • The company issues employees with time-sensitive USB drives. “The drives had to be accessed at least once every twenty-four hours, to ensure security. If they weren’t, then the LED would turn red and the drive would erase itself the next time it was plugged into a computer.”
  • Pete works with Ewan Conwell
  • The Board Room is on the thirtieth floor of the headquarters.
  • The board room has a custom-designed table: “A long table, shiny and black, stretched down the middle of the brightness and made Pete a little dizzy. Embossed in the center of the table, shining under layers of lacquer, was the Munin Scientific logo.”
  • The chief technology officer is Terence Dorshimer.
  • The vice-president in charge of research is Harris Brummitt.
  • The CEO is Ulysses Grodin, “probably one of the most well-known and well-loved CEOs in the country.”
  • Brummit may be from the Southern United States.
  • The security guards carry tasers.
  • Wach is suspected of stealing data from Conwell.

65: Amanuensis

  • Cerbecorp once tried to buy out Munin Scientific. They failed.

98: Back in the Saddle

  • A man named Brant Laidler was murdered on his way to merger talks with Munin.

127: Last-Ditch

  • Wach’s life was destroyed after the events of The Big Day. He lost his job, his home, and his marriage.
  • Munin has Wach’s prototype. It’s locked in a secure locker at Munin Headquarters, in basement vaults designed by Cerbecorp.It’s said to be impenetrable to anything less than a commando team.

So yeah, all in all it looks like Munin isn’t a nice company, but then we know so very little about it. We know that one of their employees designed a fantastic new storage medium, and he got thrown out on his ass for it. Why would they do this? That, sir-and-or-madam, is a damn fine question.

The company is named, of course, after one of the ravens of Odin, father of the Norse gods. Odin was famous for many things, not the least of which was having two ravens that gathered information for him. They were Huginn and Muninn, AKA “Thought” and “Memory”. Why did I choose Munin? Well, after I had used Cerberus for one company, I thought it would be interesting to use another mythological animal. After some thinking and web-surfing, I came up with Munin, which pretty much defined what Munin Scientific focused on – memory.

You might also have noticed that the CEO’s surname is Grodin, which contains the name of the raven-god. Not a coincidence, I assure you. It would also not surprise you, I think, to learn that Ulysses Grodin thinks of himself in god-like terms, at least as a CEO. He is enamored with the life of the AllFather, and has managed to fit his own personal narrative into that mythology.

Granted, it only fits well from his point of view. Odin’s sacrifice of his eye for wisdom, for example, is Grodin’s favorite allegory. The mistakes that he made when he was young were, as he thinks of it, the same as the sacrifice of Odin. The god, I’m sure would disagree.

That said, Grodin has built up an excellent company, mainly by being astute enough to hire the best people. When he started Munin, the focus on memory and storage was no accident. He saw the digitization of media on the horizon and knew that there would have to be a way to keep it safe. The floppy disks of times gone by weren’t going to be enough, so Grodin turned the technical knowledge he had, teamed up with Brummitt and Borshimer, and built their company. Now you have to work to find a computer that doesn’t have Munin Scientific technology in it somewhere.

Of course, it must be remembered that there were two ravens on Odin’s shoulders. So what about Huginn? Well, that ties into the project that Wach was on and why he got axed from it. It speaks to Grodin’s need for godhood. If it works, it’ll change the world, and you’ll know about it as soon as I do.

Story Ideas:

  • The Huginn Project

Day One Hundred and Ninety-eight: The Guardian Corporation

December 5, 2011 6 comments

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

At one point, pretty early on in my project, I decided that I needed an Evil Corporation.

Full disclosure: in my brain, that’s almost a tautology. I realize that corporations are important to the modern economy, and that without them our lives would be vastly reduced in both the physical objects we have and the access and comfort those things give us. So you will not see me saying that we have to get rid of them all, or that the only thing they’ve brought us is pain and suffering.

The problem I have with corporations is that with that potential to change the world for the better comes the potential to change it for the worse as well. Since corporate entities generally have more resources and reach than individuals, they have more power. And with great power, as someone once said [1], comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, there is really no good mechanism to hold corporate entities responsible for what they do. For the biggest – and most powerful – governmental fines and lawsuits are a slap on the wrist. A $15 million court settlement is nothing at all when your company is pulling in billions of dollars. They have access to lawmakers and policymakers, they own entire landscapes of media, and are, for all intents and purposes, largely unaccountable for their actions.

I’ll stop myself here out of courtesy to you. Long story short [2], I have an innate distrust of corporate entities, which is probably why they’re such good villains. But when Cerbecorp first appeared, I had no idea how far-reaching it would become. Here are the stories that feature or mention Cerbecorp, and what they say about it:

13: Star-Crossed

  • Cerbecorp is a medium-to-large sized company that makes… something. Tod Piskel, an engineer, is working on some kind of power system.
  • Justine Sekigawa is a high-ranking salesperson.
  • The company had a Mandatory Sexual Harassment Seminar at least once.

21: Delay

  • Cerbecorp exists in the far future (at least past the late 22nd century).
  • It employs time travelers to go into the past and secure patents for the company. Specifically to “three of the most popular home utilities in modern history.”
  • It is not very straightforward about the effects of time travel.

33: Monsters

  • Cerbecorp Security Enterprises pilots a personal security program, donating “donated officers, vehicles and body armor” to the family of Paul Barbeau, who were under almost continuous attack.

44/102: The Devil Went Down to Friday’s (Redux)

  • Lou Hoban is a Cerbecorp engineer.

65: Amanuensis

  • Abraham Jordan is the President of the company. He is in a vegetative state, kept hooked up to machines in the bunker he’d built ten floors under the Cerbecorp headquarters building.
  • Cordell McCandlish is Jordan’s only trusted secretary. When his brain was working, Jordan was borderline paranoid.
  • Jordan’s office in built to withstand nearly any kind of attack. He has guards at his door at all times. McCandlish is admitted through DNA analysis – a blood sample is drawn from one of ten spots on his body, chosen randomly at the time he wants to enter the room.
  • Jordan has a son, Than Jordan, who has squandered the trust his father set up for him. He knows his father isn’t really alive, and he may have to be killed to ensure his silence.
  • Cerbecorp specialized in security: “What Cerbecorp offered, better than anyone else, was security. Whether it was physical security, data security, financial security, it didn’t matter. If you had something you needed to keep safe, Cerbecorp was the first place you went to.”
  • Jordan had been risk-averse before meeting McCandlish, taking few chances with the company. With McCandlish’s help, the company grew quickly into a juggernaut.
  • Cerbecorp attempted to buy Munin Scientific.
  • Cerbecorp has built a subterranean research complex in New Mexico.
  • Barbeau Pharmaceuticals is asking for a “cooperative agreement” with Cerbecorp.

73: Ink

  • Cerbecorp worked with Albeth and Halding to develop nano-particle tattoo ink for unique employee IDs.

127: Last-Ditch

  • Cerbecorp worked with Munin Scientific to build a high-security vault in the Munin headquarters. It’s said to be impenetrable to anything less than a commando team.

187: Up, Up, and Away

  • Cerbecorp Tower is located in a major American city. Probably the headquarters.

We have a pretty good picture of the company at this point – it’s a company that focuses on security, and it’s very good at what it does. Not surprising for a company named for the guardian of the gates of Hades – Cerebus.

The company is, like all companies, fundamentally amoral – it doesn’t care about doing the “right” thing, but only doing what is in its interest. It’s always trying to make advances in security and stay ahead of thieves and hackers and terrorists and the like. It hires creative people to come up with new ideas, which has led to things like the encodable nano-particle ink that it provides to Albeth and Halding for their employee ID system. The events in Delay suggest that the company will change its focus somewhat in the long-term future, mucking about with time travel in order to secure patents for itself.

At some point, though, Cerbecorp will have to stop being just the Evil Company lurking in the background. There are stories to be told here, I’m sure.

For example, the founding of the company. Amanuensis hints at a rather shaky beginning, with Abraham Jordan torn between his desire to run a company and his paranoia in dealing with other people. How, then, did McCandlish gain his trust and help him turn Cerbecorp into a giant?

His son is clearly an entitled little brat, whom McCandlish is ready to have killed by now. How did Than Jordan turn out the way he did, and will he be able to survive the machinations of his father’s right hand man? For that matter, what would happen if he did reveal to the world that one of its largest corporations has had a vegetable as the President for years now?

What are they building in New Mexico, and why?

Does Cerbecorp have any rivals? If so, who are they and what are they doing? If not, why not? Where are they buried?

How on earth do they get into time travel, and how does that jive with the apocalyptic future that Barbeau Pharmaceuticals is going to one day unleash?

So many questions that need answering. I also have to figure out where their headquarters are. I want to say they’re in Corsair City, but I can’t be sure yet…

Anyway, I expect that Cerbecorp will come in handy more and more often as I figure out what it does and what it’s capable of.

Anyone want to design a logo for it? I have an idea, but haven’t made a nice clean design yet.

——-

[1] I’m sure it’s in the Bible somewhere.
[2] Too late.