Images relating to scenes in Psyclone, with the passages from the novel as captions. (Click on the images for a larger view)
He watched as the clouds coalesced and formed a huge slowly spinning spiral. The vortex swelled as the storm moved with a slow serpentine certainty. Dan tapped some more keys and opened another window showing the weather system in primary coloured patterns.
‘Radar animation. Watch around the nine o’clock position next to the tornado.’
Four straight blobs like the shortened tines of a fork appeared briefly and then were gone.
‘Now watch the tornado’s trajectory.’
Instead of continuing along its path the vortex moved away almost at right angles and seemed to speed up. Dan tracked forward.
‘And again, this time at twelve o’clock.’
Again the blobs appeared momentarily and again the tornado changed direction.
‘He stood by a Hummer with ‘one weekend a month my ass!’ scrawled on cardboard in the windscreen, and looked out across the scrubby desert plain.’
The convoy pulled over at a checkpoint. The comet tail of dust overtook them like a visual echo. Leon climbed out wearily and looked around. The sun was at its height and intense white light bounced from every surface. A wedge of concrete bunkers and buildings flanked the road. Leading from it the inevitable halted queue of buses, cars, and taxis. Small barefoot boys ran up and down the line selling drinks and pastries. Everything shimmered in the heat. Two Bramham tanks sat either side of the point, watching the traffic. Soldiers stalked around the zone. Compared to the natives the troops looked like a different species of animal. Their height and girth wrapped in desert fatigues and body armour gave a sense of impenetrableness. The Empire’s Imperial Storm Troopers.
The head of the march curved around the corner onto the long approach to the square. Dan felt a wave of uncertainty from the front at the same moment the chant faltered. Turning the corner himself, he saw the reason. At the far end of the road, stretching its width, the statues of the square rising behind it, was a steel barrier. Ranked behind it, filling one side of the street, waited double rows of riot vans.
Shapes appearing on the horizon pulled him from his reverie. The Boyswith Mound base was a five hundred and sixty acre blot on the landscape. The moor looked afflicted with a weird skin disease; a localised eruption of boils on the site of an infection. Radomes, huge white balls, grouped around the site with HFDF aerial collections and arrays of satellite dishes, surrounding blocks that housed the innards of the machine, including the two thousand staff that lived and worked in social and diplomatic isolation; beyond the reach of investigation or legislation, and answerable to no one but their transatlantic handlers.
It was the biggest spy base in the world, one of several hubs in a vast network of hundreds of nexus that stretched around the planet and out into space. Designed and coordinated by the US National Security Agency, one of five major players in the global surveillance business, along with Britain’s GCHQ, New Zealand’s GCSB, Canada’s CSE, and Australia’s DSD. Lesser players included Germany, Denmark, Norway, Turkey, Japan, and China.
A multi-armed beast conceived long ago and spawned during WWII, the largest and most important form of wartime intelligence, signals intelligence. Once the European war theatre bowl ran dry it had turned its jaws on the communist states. Forty years of goaded paranoia fattened its tentacles and stretched them further and deeper before that trough too dried up. So, casting around its influence, it widened its scope again and became a reassuring weapon in the War on Terror.
One disturbing thing about that was that where once war had been defined as conflict between nations, now, with no Berlin or Tokyo to liberate and no possible victory, it had become a sustained, open-ended and never-ending form of ‘business as usual’. And healthy business it was too, making year on year growth and profit, continually developing its market and widening operations into all economic, corporate, and individual areas. Allegedly protecting the world from organised crime, terrorists, drug traffickers and arms dealers, the reality behind the sound-bite bullshit was that the justifications were running the show.
Public Directive notices spaced at intervals along both walls kept catching his eye and annoying him again. He didn’t want reminding that their watchful eyes were watching him. CCTV cameras everywhere were bad enough without eyes looming at him from posters all over town.
Of all the signs, the Watch and Report directives bothered him the most. It wasn’t enough that in Britain they were under more CCTV surveillance than anywhere else in the world, every individual was recruited to ‘do their bit’ as well. Legitimised and fed, the authoritarian personality had free rein to exercise its bigotry and prejudice. Self-righteous zealots, supported by a broad and ambiguous list of ‘suspicious behaviour’, kept the Squad well supplied with hapless suspects whose looks or actions ‘weren’t quite right’. The Public Directive policy bred mistrust between people and encouraged conformity to a vague and manipulable set of social rules that governed appearance and behaviour.
The voice came from loudspeakers positioned on a pole beneath the cameras.
Minutes later roof doors opened up slowly and a shape rose out of the van. It looked like a large satellite-receiving dish except the dish was square. It was pointing at them. ‘Oh shit,’ said Jared slowly. He’d seen images of the device in a State weapons module. The Active Denial System. Produced a focused beam of millimetre wave energy that travelled at the speed of light and penetrated the skin, causing unbearable pain, neurological dysfunction and organ damage. Classed as a ‘less-than-lethal’ weapon it had applications from the battlefield to the street…
‘Admittedly not as spectacular as the lifter, but it’s applications and implications are far more wide-reaching. This is the Motionless Electromagnetic Generator, originally designed by Colonel Thomas Bearden and associates at Magnetic Energy Limited. This little beauty kicks out around three kilowatts, pollution-free, cost-free, potentially indefinitely given that there are no moving parts, and no limit to the energy itself. And if I want more power, I just connect another.’
The front of the station was cordoned off. A policeman let him under the line, watched over by another in a flak jacket holding a semi-automatic carbine across his chest.