The Making of Villains

I’ve not been good at villain creation.  I’ve known many of them in my life, but I haven’t ever made one.  I guess my storytelling child author just assumed people are good or bad.  But in reality people are all different shades, moving in and out of these shadows, transforming, deforming, blossoming and withering.  What is in the makeup of an antagonist?  These are things my growing muse muses about.  This year’s Nanowrimo effort contains what I think of as my best effort so far at a “bad guy” who is not bad just because…just because black and white exists.

And now, because there is this little kid inside of me that has to tell everyone about anything that I do to gain attention for inspiration:  Here is a little excerpt of Baxter Hickman.

Earth was a hell hole, Baxter thought.  He thought this every time he was on his way to work.  Eighteen billion people on the planet and he was just one of the worker drones. Just one of the eighteen-billion insects carving out a little hole in the planet for himself, fixing up the cave-ins, fending off the invaders, and scavenging for food.  One big giant anthill of industrial might.  And some day one of the pest control gods would come by and roll a bug bomb down the entrance.

Most times Baxter envisioned this as some kind of natural disaster.  Sometimes manmade, and sometimes he envisioned himself with the finger on the button.  But this was just another day working for the hive. And if he so chose, it could go on for centuries. Medical technology had prolonged human life into a theoretical realm in the thousands of years.  The Earth was filling up all its empty spaces, and the Everlasting Life church had firm control of the government to make certain that everyone had a chance to live a very very long time.

At first it had seemed that the golden age of humanity had come at last.  Hyperspace drive had been cracked, extra solar planets discovered, war abolished, peace and tranquillity mandated, hunger, sickness, and old age banished. But there was just one very large problem.  How do you migrate eighteen billion people?  That had never been solved.  In fact, the population was growing faster than they could ship people out.  Not only that, but a system had developed where the upperclass had more of a chance to get a better life out among the stars than an ordinary joe.

And that’s why Earth was a hellhole, in Baxter’s opinion.  It was overcrowded, neglected, and becoming a rundown high tech ghetto.  Humans had spread out over the sea bottoms, across the deserts, the tundra, the ice fields of Antarctica.  There was just nothing left.  And the planet was feeling the strain.  The strain of eighteen billion breastfed humans suckling it.  Someday, Baxter thought, it would shake them off, just like an annoyed mother sow that he’d once watched on a video show talking about farms.

But for now, Baxter Hickman had to become employee number 360452.  He exited the self drive car he was riding in and entered the building.  Eighty percent of what he did could be done remotely, but there was something empowering about having the people working under you be there in person.  Something that control freaks got off on.  That was his personal belief on why he had to show up everyday to punch buttons.  Because this here was 2143, and people didn’t do manual labor anymore.  No, it was all done by computers and machines.  But someone had to keep those machines running, keep those computers working—feed the beast.

He approached the security turnstile and paused.  The computer scanned his body in three dimensions; recognized his face; weighed him; sonar’d through his clothing, his backpack, his shoes; sniffed his breath,  and body odor; spectral analyzed the sweat on his skin; measured his temperature with an infrared laser; and somehow wasn’t quite satisfied with all of that. It called out a greeting so that it could bait him into analyzing his voice.

“Good morning Baxter. How was your dinner with George last night?”

Fuck you, seemed to be an appropriate response to Baxter at this moment, but there really was no point.  The thing was not a person.  Was just a cog in a very much larger machine and just operating as it had been designed to.  He felt no actual malice toward it, only despised the system that had put it into place.

“It was fine.  Thanks.” He responded almost as automatically and machine-like as the computer.

“You may proceed.  Have a nice day.”

“You too.”  Baxter didn’t really know why he’d said that.  The security computer wasn’t going to have a nice day.  Was not going to have a nice anything.  It was just going to operate and pester everyone that entered the building that day.  It was just something you said when someone said that to you. It was just something you automatically did, and people had become as robotic and automated as the machines that they lived with.

But on another level, Baxter was angry about the fact that the entire system knew everything about what he was doing.  Sure, there were privacy laws protecting the citizens of Earth, but that only worked if you never went out in public.  Never did anything at all. Once you came out in the open you were under scrutiny, and not because anyone was particularly worried about what you were doing.  No it was just because it was so damn easy with all the big-data flying around the planet to know or infer what anyone was up to. So, the offhand comment that the security computer threw at him about his dinner with George the night before was innocuous, yet telling.  The security computer was just using information that it knew about Baxter to simulate humanness, to create integration points, to be user friendly, but the reality was that there was no privacy in any real way.  Not with microphones and cameras, databases, and market tracking.  The system knew every purchase he made, every move he made, every breath he took. And what it couldn’t see directly, it could certainly extrapolate statistically by comparing his behavior to his previous behavior, and the behavior of the billions of other human beings on the planet.