Beginning of the End

The public isn’t stupid, but it’s incredibly difficult to get a quick decision from so diverse and large a group; too many opinions, too little time. However, as people talked among themselves and fingers were pointed at discrepancies between the words given out and the facts as they were presented, there arose a demand for more information about the RTM programme and an insistence on guarantees of safety.
This increased attention had an immediate effect on those who’d sought to use the RTMs for their own ends, forcing them to react more quickly and advance their plans with less care than they wanted.
It didn’t take long for the real intentions to show. In a few months the Behemoths appeared openly, covered with slogans and bunting that declared they were the conquering heroes of beleaguered populations. Many, many dozens of them took up strategic positions on every continent, and began to exert a controlling interest in the so-called solution-making processes, self-promoting activities that quickly put paid to the hope that they were there to be of any help.
By late 2063, the official line, stretched to breaking point, snapped and the cover on the covert plans for the RTMs was blown away. There was no way to hide the fact that every one of the machines looked menacingly aggressive. They were unsuited for air pollution control, as they created vast amounts of foul air every time they were fired up, and on that issue alone, the gloves came off quite suddenly.
Everyone talked at once, loudly and publicly, demanding that answers be given as to why there were so many of those brutes scattered around the world. Now that the heat was up, it didn’t matter that Jake, Louis and many others had been going on about the subject non-stop for years, they were expected to do what it took to bring the whole nasty business to an end!
TAN started to run hourly stories and interviews, mostly about the crisis of confidence in governments and their agencies worldwide, and they gleefully pointed to a level of anarchy among the people that hadn’t been seen, some said, for centuries.
People asked: How was it that companies with only private stock-holders to satisfy could make such extensive plans on the public’s behalf, somehow bypassing or ignoring legally elected governments? If this sort of thing was allowed to go on, what then was the point of a democratic vote? What was democracy? Who was actually in charge if overwhelming events like the strategic placement of RTMs could go on unhindered?
An unholy rammy got going all over the world that politicians at all levels were forced to sit up and pay attention to, and if they were thinking at all, to assess which side in the developing dispute they should consider coming down on. Questions were asked everywhere, formally and informally, in parliaments, on TAN, by well-known personalities and ordinary men and women hurriedly ushered into news studios to speak their piece. They had dozens of guests on their shows declaring for both sides, and TAN again allowed the watching public to register their own opinions through a daily electronic poll.
The issue splintered instantly, and showed all likelihood of devolving into a mess of ill-considered words and insupportable opinions that would raise tempers and make enemies, but not settle the issue at hand. This maelstrom of reaction was something that neither Jake nor his opponents, Charlton included, wanted to see happen, but by this time the momentum and the eye of the storm had shifted to somewhere else and the original opponents were forced to tag along or get left as spectators.
For the proponents the only place to hide was in offence, and without warning the RTM owners changed their stance. They vigorously stirred the pot of discontent, began to challenge the positions taken by nations and individuals, stating that they’d been given information which directly implicated the above-mentioned as the prime movers in causing the problems everyone was suffering through, and suggesting, in every way that they could, that the culprits should be rooted out and punished as quickly as possible.
It was a weak line of argument, completely laughable if it hadn’t been so very serious, but to complicate matters even further, the promoters of dissent subtly injected the need for an immediate and responsive defence technology, one that would put paid to the problem-makers but which wouldn’t beggar national budgets. Our machines, they said over and over again with great innocence, can be hired for a very reasonable fee.

taken from B’Hemoth: prequel to the Gatherers Trilogy


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