David Louis Edelman
MultiReal
'MultiReal' trade paperback cover

Draft 23: September 30, 2005

I had a sudden brainstorm while sitting in the Beverly Center in Beverly Hills, CA, killing time with my laptop. I decided to contrast Natch’s situation in “MultiReal” with a situation in the background history of the series. I turned to Henry Osterman, inventor of OCHREs, a shady figure whose past has not (yet) been fully explored in the novels. I quickly segued back into the weather bureaucrats scenario, which I was beginning to realize after nine false starts simply wasn’t working. According to the meta properties, this draft was written on September 30, 2005.

*

Henry Osterman was dying. [1]

The legendary engineer arrived in the provincial city of Harper at the paragon of his storied paranoia. His globehopping days as the founder of the OCHRE Corporation were long behind him, and his friendship with Sheldon Surina, the co-founder of bio/logics, had similarly withered. When Osterman’s caravan pulled into Harper, he was rambling and incoherent. History would never entirely settle the debate about what he was doing in this part of the world at this time in the first place.

A passerby did, however, record the words he muttered out the window of the caravan as he caught sight of downtown. “I’d rather spend the night on a dirty barn floor in Shenandoah,” he spat, “then spend a minute in the biggest luxury suite in Harper.”

Nine months later, the man who had nosedived from the pinnacle of the world’s greatest business empire was found frozen to death in the lowest cellar of his Panang estate. He had been missing for nearly six weeks.

Long after the ashes of Henry Osterman were scattered to the four winds, however, his words continued to stir up trouble in Harper and Shenandoah.

Shenandoah’s citizens took Osterman’s statement as a point of pride, even going so far as to nickname it the Barn City. This inflamed the passions of their smaller neighbor to the north, which took to calling Shenandoah the Dirty Barn City. The officials from Harper’s Local Political Representative Association of Civic Groups began to harass Shenandoah’s L-PRACG for petty and nonsensical reasons. The citizen base of both governments generally shared a libertarian streak, so the rivalry tended to emerge in the shallowest places. Tube passage tariffs. Freight charges. Programming cycle precedence. Weather.

The dispute came to a head in the year 359 of the Reawakening, the year of MultiReal, over winter weather.

Warnings trickled in from the Environmental Control Board, moving gradually from the perfunctory to the pleading. Concerned citizens’ groups brought the two sides together to hash out their differences, but even though no violence broke out this time, no decisions were made either. The ECB took the unprecedented step of hiring a political consultant, who immediately firebombed the public viewscreens with images of a shivering waif standing thigh-high in the snow while the buildings of downtown Shenandoah watched dispassionately and the wind’s sinister fingers toyed with her hair. Don’t leave Shenandoah to the mercy of the elements! she wailed. Tell your representatives to file a weather blueprint today.

But still the bureaucrats dug in, entrenched their positions.

The deadline for action was drawing dangerously close, and even the most truculent of local political bosses realized that the ECB would soon be powerless to change the course of meteorological destiny.

On the last day before the deadline for submitting a weather blueprint, grim representatives of Shenandoah and Harper filed into the Cha/Fernandez [2] for one last-ditch effort at diplomacy. Speeches were made, oaths were sworn, backroom bargains struck and restruck.

And finally, two hours before deadline, the representatives of the two governments emerged with an agreement in hand. Shenandoah would accept the blustery December snowstorms; Harper would enjoy a mild winter, but take on the lion’s share of the March rains. The ECB programmers rushed to their workbenches to get the details of the blueprint into the geosynchron bots that would faithfully carry out their orders.

Thus it was that on the morning of December 28, a storm front eased over the Allegheny Mountains and began depositing a generous accumulation of snow on Shenandoah.

Notes

  1. I had finally come around again to using the “x was dying” first line, and I would stick with this decision through to the last draft. [Back]
  2. I don’t remember what “Cha/Fernandez” was supposed to refer to. Way back in the early drafts of Infoquake, I had used CHA as an acronym for the Center for Historic Appreciation (in the Surina compound), but I’m pretty sure I’d abandoned it by this point. [Back]