Night View, from Imago: Deuce in the Hand (c.1994)

 

"Night View" is one of many sequences in the Multiverse stories where the medium of comm-screen transmissions reacts to the viewing public, and vice versa. Gavas Xacommer represents what we think of the stereotypical "talking head" on the tube, down to the plastic smile. 

GNS is Galactic News Services, constantly in a bitter rivalry with the Almeda-based, fellow Federation chan Galax News, which has just broken major news stories on the despotic Blue Spire. From out of the rubble of that debacle for the Major Bad of this part of the series, lesser gangs have sprung up, such as Syano's Jaguar Knot. This sequence shows part of the effects of the Soika-Knot Street War in Kerav City.

 

A view of night-time Kerav City.

A sweeping pan across the twinkling galaxy of streetlights, the clusters suddenly swirling up into the flowing logo of GNS. Music swells, a jazzy little number by Jayco and the Inkheads entitled, I'm Your Little Night-Bug. Then, with a burst like a sun-flare, part of the logo breaks away to form another message: Night View, with Gavas Xacommer.

"Good evening," said the well-tailored, plastically-skinned talking head, grinning at just the right cues, "and welcome to another night with Night View. It isn't: normally the case that we start the programme with a lead story about our own GNS' hometown: beautiful, scenic Kerav City."

"Who's this frakker think he's kidding?" asked one watcher, snorting and flicking a finger to a nubile bimbette. She came forward with a bowl of crunchos, swaying in all the right places. "Last time Kerav City was 'beautiful and scenic', jarker," Croesus addressed the screen, "was when the sewage systems backed up and cleared the place for a week! Now, that was beautiful!" He chortled. "Specially for those with the gas-masks."

There was a muffled explosion, somewhere above him, and a shower of dust rained onto the bowl of crunchos.  Croesus stared, swore, swiped it out of the woman's hands, and bellowed for a replacement, at the same time muttering,  "Damn Soika! That was close!"

"But," the head on the screen continued, "it also isn't often, in this enlightened day and age, to experience a return to barbarism as this fair town has seen in the last two weeks. To the despair of the Mayor and his councillors, and showing the impotency of the Metro-Sec local enforcement officers," and now Gavas Xacommer flashed a mega-smile that (according to latest. market research reports) was guaranteed to make women aged between 8 and 88 fall into an eye-lash blinking swoon, "Kerav City is in the grip of an on-going street-war between two gangs. A war to which there does not seem to be an end."

"Okay, okay, you jarkers. Where's Slotter C? I left Slotter C right here, when I went off to get my torkeeg. An'now the frakker's gone. Who's the April Fool who wants to get a head-start on using the firm's dental plan, hah?"

The rest of the staff in GNS' Transmit Room 67 all looked worriedly at each other, then one gulped and said vith a brave but quavering voice, "Uh, boss? We think you left Slotter C under there," and he shakily pointed, in the glare of the bull-necked man's one-eyed gaze (one eye scrunched closed, as was his habit), at a discarded packet of Uncle Joe's Gut-Burning Chili Crackers. Where a drop of the sauce had dripped out of the specially treated tray, and commenced burning a hole through the work bench, nex:t to the control consoles.

Lorizander Qaster Korvinin, known and feared by those who worked under and over him as LQ, breathed out levelly  shifted the trashy and sighed. There was the Slotter C, the pre-recording that geek Xacommer was going to need any time .... now ...

"Jeez!" he yelled, tossing the recording to one of his underlings. "Get this thing rolling, else cred-cheeks out there's going to be flapping his jaws in dead air! Hell, last time he was left with that kinda freedom, he started crooning tracks off his latest audex album. Something like 20 Golden Hits to Commit Euthanasia By. Move, move, move!"  LQ rose up, and surprised the bet-takers by moving swiftly to the door. "Me, I'm goin' up to see Big Man again. Damned if I'll work in a pigsty like this place! Where" s the goddamned cleansrs? It's in my contract!"

Xacommer had been grinning inanely into the monitors, feeling a trickle of sweat slither down his neck. Damn, he thought. Where was the tape? Those bozos in Transmit again ... Swear they were trying to ruin his career! No professionalism, he sniffed silently. None at all.

Then his broadcast manager was windmilling arms frantically, and Xacommer realised the tape was on air. And so was his stupidly silent, inanely grinning face. He coughed, thumped his chest dramatically, and continued.

Behind him was coverage from the night before. The puiblic watching this night saw, at first, a scene just like the background to the opening credits. Until, with a force that apparently had the hover-cam recording it suddenly start doing the middle acts of Swan Lake just to stay airborne, a whole block of buildings erupted into flame and shooting projectiles that fireworked into the dark sky.

Then, there was footage taken by a vid-opper obviously running along with a major lung condition after a pack of masked, dark-clothed figures, one of which turned, spotted the opper, and levelled a qrell in his direction.

"Hey  you! Get the frak outta here, man!" a voice yelled off camera.

The opper replied, through wheezes, ''I'm from GNS' Night View. We're covering the "

Seemingly from nowhere,  the opper was suddenly surrounded by half-a-dozen masked figures, all brandishing qrells and other paraphernalia of urban war. "You say,  GNS?" one asked."Like, we'll be on the screens, man?"

In the next moments,the figures all clustered together, and raised their weapons to the sky, yelling in chorus, "Lord Pheros Rules" as they fired.

Then one stepped up to the stunned opper with an assured stagger, asking, "That come out all right, man., or do ya want another take?"

Frazz gave Dagger a light slap across the top of his head, "Mr.Showbiz. 'Do ya want another take? Jeez, you goin'inta the vid biz now, huh, Dagger?"

Frazz and Dagger stood in a darkened street in downtown, watching one of the giant public screens. They'd stopped their patrol just long enough to catch tonight's edition of Night View, knowing they'd be on it. In a way.Trouble was, they'd been masked the day the GNS guy caught up with them, along with Twist, Kick, Blade and Breaker.

Dagger shushed him. "'Wait. Wait. Here's the good part. They talk to Master Kadana."

There was some sporadic qrell fire. Dagger whirled, let off some blasts of his own, and heard bodies tumble to the street. "Hey!" he yelled, "When I say 'shush',  freakers, I mean shush!"

Frazz applauded softly. "Well done. One up for noise control, brother Dagger."

The face of Bharu Kadana came onto the screens all across Kerav City. The interviewer was clearly intimidated by (a) the guy's height and build; (b) the qrell, knife bandolier and selected magna-plosers draped across his back, chest and waist, and; (c) the fact that Kadana was scowling and looking like the ol' demon Baal out for a tour of the cooler reaches of Hell. The background was some part of the warehouse district that looked like the demo crews had been through it with the rockeaters at full drive.

"What is the truth behind the rumours of this this street-war between you and the ... the ..." and then the interviewer faltered. There was a rustling sound, as if he was frantically looking up notes.

Kadana leaned forward, smiling thinly. "I believe, sir, the name you are looking for is the Jaguar Knot. Run by a certain piece of bile named Syano." He moved back, crossing his arms over his chest. "And the rumours are perfectly true, sir. The war will continue until we have cleansed Kerav City of every piece of the Knot we find."

"The guy is a hunk," Frexa murmered, eyes glued to the screen in the living room of the Nicholakran Estate, out in the Grove. For a change, she wasn't working tonight, nor had she been working for the last number of nights, since the destruction of the Poralla Street apartments. No, right now she could lounge back, feet crossed at her ankles, watching a holog screen in Sartaya's place. Like Kiqandra beside her and Antigro who hovered in a doorway, glowering at the face on the screen. All courtesy of Antollicus, who also said he'd meet every cred of their anticipated income lost while they lived in the Grove and didn't work. Just so they could no longer be at risk during the war.

"The guy," Antigro said with a disdain-filled and very unladylike snort, "is a preening peacock. Look at him. Engaging in open mayhem, and bragging about it like it was some kind of sport!"

Frexa shrugged. "So, he's virtually Atilla the Hun. I'd still discuss my own special discount rates with him, any time!"

"He doesn't really like war," Kiqandra said then, thoughtfully tapping her checks "Says so in his natal chart, Mars only just gets a look in on the Virgo section. Really, he's a philosopher, a teacher. A lover of people."

Frexa chuckled at something she suddenly remembered, leaned over and whispered into Kiqandra's ear, who also giggled, covering her mouth girlishly. Antigro frowned.

"What is it, Frexa?"

Frexa, trying to control her mirth, hiccupped and said,. "Oh, nothing much. Just something I thought of. When Kandi mentioned he loved people. I reckon he's got the hots for one person in particular," and her eyes slanted across at Antigro's dour expression.

There was a silence, then Antigro growled, "Poppycock. The only thing that thug goes to bed with is his damned qrell!" and with a swirl of silks she left the room.

There was another silence, then Frexa said to Kiqandra, "Anything in them charts o' yours 'bout compatability? 'Tween two people we just happen t' know ...?"

Xacommer's face came on screen again. Obviously, his nervous sweat had been taken care of by make-up, but his toupee was slightly askew. He remedied that by a practised swipe disguised as a cool hair pat-down, combined with another dynamite grin-wink gesture.

Comm-links ran hot with calls from fainting women again. Prescriptive advice was dispensed.

"We're speaking now with Commander Latorce of the incorporated Kerav City Metro-sec enforcement authority. Good evening, Commander Latorce," and Xacommer turned in his seat towards his guest.

Commander Latorce looked just like some unsuspecting little forest creature caught in the sight-light of a hunter's blaster. His eyes remained as round saucers, despite the urgent signals from the broadcast manager, Xacommer's hinting coughs and grunts, and someone yelling from off screen, "Talk, you frakker! Talk!"

"Uh ..." he finally said.

Xacommer's smile was now pained. His agent was going to get a call straight after the broadcast, he vowed.  Even if he was in the middle of delicate negotiations. Xacommer wanted out of this jarking contract, and he wanted out now. Amateurs!

"Commander Latorce," he plugged on smoothly, "I'm sure the viewers," and that word was emphasised with something like a snarl, as if to remind Latorce just what was matching him perform with all the animation of a Tannerostra rep mid-session, "would like to know one thing: just what is Metro-Sec going to do about this war?"

Latorce blinked. He cleared his throat. "What war?"

Xacommer sighed. "The street-war between the Jaguar Knot gang and the Pheros Soika gang."

"Oh," Latorce paused. "It is the policy of Metro-Sec that ..."

"Yes?"

"No war exists. It isn't happening. Everything is as it should be in our good city."

Jeez, Xacommer groaned to himself. The jarker's on chemicals.

"Did we help with that slugbody's election?" J. P. Candannel grumbled, thrusting a chubby finger in the direction of the tastefully framed, oval-shaped vid screen supported by a pair of rearing rams and crested by an eagle with neck out-stretched and turned slightly to the left, wings at full length. One talon holding something that no one was quite sure of, including J.P.

His personal secretary nodded glumly. "I'm afraid so, sir. It came in as part of our 'Support the local community' package."

"This freakhole hasn't got a community anymore, Trats! Just a series of wild animal packs running loose without a goddamned ranger!" His blunt fingers tapped the viewing control in front of him. "We find that twit who signed the land deal yet? Jeez, we'd have been in Cuvier by now, if it hadn't been for that guy!"

"Sir, that was over five years ago."

"So?" J.P scowled. "Justice has no time limits, Trats. I want that guy hung, drawn and quartered, then fed to the sharks off Miami Beach!" He huffed. "Failing that, feed him to the accountants. Show no mercy." He reclined back, watching Latorce perform a perfect impression of a ventriloquist's dummy without the pre-requisite hand up his backside.  J.P. smiled coldly. That could always be arranged ...

This kind of shambles never happened to Galax News. Damn their hides. Galax's Number One called him up the other day, crowing about the scoop they'd got on GNS over that Calderone thing. Starship wreckage all over the place, mud and egg all over Phareg Velsicar's face and rep, whispers of conspiracy, secret threats, gangland shenanigans. Those Almedan twats were painting the entire jarking galaxy with their damned insipid logo, and what was GNS doing? Spending time on a damn local law enforcement issue, interviewing retards in uniform, and employing pretty boys who looked like they'd missed their chance at the Krisodel pleasure house."

I only need one thing, now, to cap off this disaster of a night, J.P. thought. Then the dear opened unceremoniously, and a man strode in.

Frak, J. P. thought sourly. There is no god.

"J. P.," L.Q. said with a thunderous boom of a voice, "you an'  me's gotta discuss contracts, pal. Like, right now."

J.P. rose, hands spread flat on the surface in front of him. "L.Q., there's a programme on. One which your team is supposed to be wetnursing. Did you take a wrong turning somewhere, or are you on a course for occupational suicide?"

"Quit slamming the syllables, J.P. I'm up here to ask where the cleanin' personnel are. Like it says in the contract. The room down there's like a good day at the Flats!"

J.P. glared at him, then said to Trats, "That will be all, Trats. I wish to speak to this junk-brained moron alone."

Trats hesitated, then shrugged and left.

"Sit down, L.Q.," J.P. offered, sitting himself. L.Q. took the offer, and planted his feet up on the console, watching the big screen.

"Nice set up you have here, J.P. The missus didn't need a new fur for a whole month, huh?"

"L.Q.," J.P. asked now, "what do you suggest we do with Night View?"

"Dump the dronoid, J.P. Xacommer is dullsville."

"He's very popular with our female audience."

"They'll find some other fantasy. Pop a droid in the seat, glue some plastex to it, programme in a few smiles, voila! Instant sex-symbol. The psychexes'll never know the difference!"

"Okay," and J.P. nodded. Then, his eyes hardened to diamonds. "What about this memo I've received from Supplies? Two vid-cams missing? Reports that Varchoyan was seen skulking around that area?"

L.Q. looked across at him, one hand supporting his jaw, folds of skin worked up around his fingers at his temple. He bore a startling similarity, now, to a basset hound. "Clerical error," he said briefly.

"Clerical error."

"Yeah. Must be that same bozo you've been chasin' all this time 'ccause he wrote 'Kerav City' down 'stead o' 'Cuvier'. Damn careless little fitcher, that. You oughta come down on the slimebucket like a ton o' re-runs in the wet season."

"Hmm. Maybe that's it. Thank you, L.Q., for clearing that up."

"Anytime, J.P."

"Oh, and, L.Q.?" J.P.'s voice stopped L.Q. at the door. "If I find hard concrete proof that you are involved in any of this," and he waved the memos in the air.

"Yeah, yeah, it's snacktime in Financial. Have a good night, J.P., and lay off the cheese, man," and L.Q. left.