Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Suggestion To Pro-Freedom Rally Attendees

     The following comes from Poul Anderson’s novel Operation Chaos. In the quoted scene, the CEO of a company is pleading with the leader of a disruption to disperse the crowd:

     "I see. I didn't expect anything else," Barney said. "But I wanted to put the situation in plain language before witnesses. Now I'm going to warn you."
     Those who heard whispered to the rest, a hissing from mouth to mouth. I saw tension mount anew.
     "If you employ violence upon those who came simply to remonstrate," Marmiadon declared, "they will either have the law upon you, or see final proof that the law is a creature of the vested interests . . . which I tell you in turn are the creatures of Satan."
     "Oh, no, no," Barney answered. "We're mild sorts, whether you believe it or not. But you are trespassing. You have interfered with our work to the point where we're delayed and shorthanded. We must carry on as best we can, trying to meet our contractual obligations. We're about to run an experiment. You could be endangered. Please clear the grounds for your own safety."
     Marmiadon grew rigid. "If you think you can get away with a deadly spell—"
     "Nothing like. I'll tell you precisely what we have in mind. We're thinking about a new method of transporting liquid freight. Before going further, we have to run a safety check on it. If the system fails, unprotected persons could be hurt." Barney raised his volume, though we knew some of the police officers would have owls' ears tuned in. "I order you, I warn you, I beg you to stop trespassing, and get off company properly. You have half an hour."


     "Ready?" Barney asked. In the restless pale glow, I saw sweat gleam on his face. If this failed, he'd be responsible for unforeseeable consequences.
     I checked the connections. "Yeah, nothing's come loose. But let me first have a look around."
     I joined Ginny at the parapet. Beneath us roiled the mob, faces and placards turned upward to hate us. They had spied the floating containers and knew a climax was at hand. Behind his altar, Initiate Marmiadon worked at what I took to be reinforcement of his defensive field. Unknown phrases drifted to me: "...Heliphomar Mabon Saruth Gefutha Enunnas Sacinos..." above the sullen mumble of our besiegers.
     The elflight flickered brighter. The air seethed and crackled with energies. I caught a thunderstorm whiff of ozone.
     My darling wore a slight, wistful smile. "How Svartalf would love this," she said.
     Barney lumbered to our side. "Might as well start," he said. "I'll give them one last chance." He shouted the same warning as before. Yells drowned him out. Rocks and offal flew against our walls. "Okay," he growled. "Let 'er rip!"
     I went back to the generator and started the motor, leaving the circuits open. It stuttered and shivered. The vile fumes made me glad we'd escaped depending on internal combustion engines. I've seen automobiles, as they were called, built around 1900, shortly before the first broomstick flights. Believe me, museums are where they belong a chamber of horrors, to be exact.
     Ginny's clear call snapped my attention back. She'd directed the canisters into position. I could no longer see them, for they floated ten feet over the heads of the crowd, evenly spaced. She made a chopping gesture with her wand. I threw the main switch.
     No, we didn't use spells to clear Nornwell's property. We used the absence of spells. The surge of current through the coils on the generator threw out enough magnetism to cancel every charm, ours and theirs alike, within a hundred yard radius.
     We'd stowed whatever gear might be damaged in safe conductive-shell rooms. We'd repeatedly cautioned the mob that we were about to experiment with the transportation of possibly dangerous liquids. No law required us to add that these liquids were in super-pressurized cans which were bound to explode and spray their contents the moment that the wall-strengthening force was annulled.
     We'd actually exaggerated the an attempt to avoid any slightest harm to trespassers. Nothing vicious was in those containers. Whatever might be slightly toxic was present in concentrations too small to matter, although a normal sense of smell would give ample warning regardless. Just a harmless mixture of materials like butyl mercaptan, butyric acid, methanethiol, skatole, cadaverine, putrescine...well, yes, the organic binder did have penetrative properties; if you got a few drops on your skin, the odor wouldn't disappear for a week or two...
     The screams reached me first. I had a moment to gloat. Then the stench arrived. I'd forgotten to don my gas mask, and even when I'm human my nose is quite sensitive. The slight whiff I got sent me gasping and retching backward across the roof. It was skunk, it was spoiled butter, it was used asparagus, it was corruption and doom and the wheels of juggernaut lubricated with Limburger cheese, it was beyond imagining. I barely got my protection on in time.
     "Poor dear. Poor Steve." Ginny held me close.
     "Are they gone?" I sputtered.
     "Yes. Along with the policemen and, if we don't get busy, half this postal district."
     I relaxed. The uncertain point in our plan had been whether the opposition would break or would come through our now undefended doors in search of our lives. After my experience I didn't see how the latter would have been possible. Our chemists had built better than they knew.
     We need hardly expect a return visit, I thought in rising glee. If you suffer arrest or a broken head for the Cause, you're a hero who inspires others. But if you merely acquire for a while a condition your best friends won't tell you about because they can't come within earshot of you-hasn't the Cause taken a setback?

     The mix detailed above might be a bit expensive to procure, but a cheap yet effective substitute exists. (Thank you, Texan!) Food for thought, Gentle Readers!

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