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Authors: Richard K. Morgan

Market Forces

BOOK: Market Forces
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M
ARKET
F
ORCES
is dedicated, with love, to my earliest fan,
my sister Caroline—because she’s waited long enough
It’s also dedicated to all those, globally, whose lives have been
wrecked or snuffed out by the Great Neoliberal Dream
and Slash-and-Burn Globalization.

If (I asked) the commercial banks, the official creditors,
the Bank, the IMF, the TNCs, the money managers and
the global elites were happy, who were we to complain?

Susan George
The Lugano Report

Acknowledgments

Market Forces
has had a long and varied evolution, from nasty idea to short story to screenplay to the novel you now hold in your hands. Along the way, it (and its author) has incurred a few debts. In chronological order, then, so near as I can recall:

Thanks to Simon Edkins for the original thought-provoking sneer
they think they live in a jungle, don’t they
and to Gavin Burgess for sharing his knowledge of some of the more feral business training procedures out there. Thanks to Sarah Lane for seeing the potential in a moth-eaten unpublished short story, for pushing me into building a screenplay around it, and for all the unflagging enthusiasm and hard work she poured into the project along the way—great movie producers are made of this, or should be. Thanks also to Alan Young for substantial anecdotal inspiration over the years, and for reading the raw product with an economics consultant’s beady eye. Thanks, as always, to my agent Carolyn Whitaker and my editor Simon Spanton for excellence in the field of making me pay attention to detail. Thanks to everyone on the Gollancz team for making the fifth floor a great place to hang out. And finally, most of all, thanks to my recently acquired wife, Virginia Cottinelli, for her patience in sharing with me the contents of a master’s program in development at the University of Glasgow, the getting of which was already costing her more grief than any paying student should have to put up with.

         

A list of books that proved inspirational during the writing of
Market Forces
is appended at the end of the novel, should the reader be interested. They are too many to list or talk about here, but they are too important not to mention at all. On a lighter note,
Market Forces
also owes a rather obvious debt of inspiration to the groundbreaking movies
Mad Max
and
Rollerball,
both of which made a massive impact on me at an age when legally I shouldn’t have been watching either.

Checkout.

The shiny black plastic swipes through.

Nothing.

The machine fails in its habitual insectile chittering and the screen blinks, as if outraged at what it has been fed. The checkout girl looks up at the woman who has handed her the card and smiles a little too widely. It’s a smile that contains as much genuine emotion as there is fruit juice in a carton of Five Fruit D-Lish.

“Are you sure you want to use this card?”

Up to her arms in bagged groceries, the woman sets down the two-year-old she has been propping against the checkout flange and looks back to where her husband is still unloading the last of the brightly colored cans and packages from the cart.

“Martin?”

“Yeah, what?” Voice irritable with the household task they’ve just completed.

“The card doesn’t . . .”

“Doesn’t what?” He meets her eyes and reads the distress there, then switches to the checkout girl. His voice comes out tight. “Run it again, please. Must have glitched.”

The girl shrugs and swipes the card a second time. The screen flickers with the same disdain.

TRANSACTION DENIED.

The girl takes the card and hands it back to the woman. A small pocket of quiet expands around the action, bubbling out past the conveyor belt to the boy at the next checkout unit and to the three customers waiting behind Martin. In a few more seconds it will dissolve into the slither of whispering.

“Would you like to try another card?”

“This is ridiculous,” snaps Martin. “That account had funds as of the first of the month. I’ve just been paid.”

“I can run the card a third time,” the girl offers with studied indifference.

“No.” The woman’s knuckles have gone white around the small piece of black plastic. “Martin, try the Intex.”

“Helen, there’s money in that acc—”

“Some problem,” asks the man behind him, tapping his own plastic significantly against the pile of groceries he has assembled so close to the next customer divider that it’s in danger of tumbling over into Martin’s space.

Martin’s mouth shuts like a trap.

“No problem.”

He hands over the blue-flecked Intex card and watches at least as intently as the people behind him while the checkout girl swipes it.

The machine chews it over for a couple of moments,

And spits it out.

The girl hands it back and shakes her head. Her smooth plastic politeness is beginning to degrade.

“Card’s blocked,” she says dismissively. “Terminal audit.”

“What?”

“Terminal audit. I’m going to have to ask you to put those purchases back on the far side of the counter and leave the store.”

“Run the card again.”

The girl sighs. “I don’t have to run the card again, sir. I have all the information I need right here. Your rating is invalidated.”

“Martin.” Helen presses forward at his side. “Leave it, we’ll come back when it’s cleared u—”

“No, goddamn it.” Martin shrugs her off and leans over the counter into the checkout girl’s face. “There is money in that account. Now swipe the card again.”

“Better do as she says,” says the pushy customer behind him.

Martin swings on him, tensed. “This got something to do with you?”

“I
am
waiting.”

“Well, wait some fucking more.” He snaps his fingers in the man’s face, dismissing him, and the pushy customer flinches back. Martin turns back to the checkout girl. “Now, you—”

The prod hits him in the side like a rude elbow. A heartbeat later the charge shocks him off the counter and into a seemingly immense clear space. He hits the floor, smelling burned fabric.

He hears Helen shriek. Sees confusedly from floor level. Boots in front of him and a voice that sounds like tearing cardboard at a great height.

“I think you’d better leave the store, sir.”

The security guard hauls him to his feet and props him against the counter again. A big man, swelling at the waist but watchful and hard around the eyes. He’s been doing this for a long time, probably cut his teeth on cordoned-zone clubs before he got this gig. He’s shocked men before, and Martin is out of office clothes at four thirty on a Wednesday afternoon, casual in faded jeans and a well-worn crew-necked pullover that doesn’t show what it was once worth. The security guard thinks he has the measure of this one. He doesn’t know, can’t know.

Martin comes off the counter.

The palm heel strike smashes the guard’s nose flat. The knee goes in at groin level. As the guard falls, Martin drives into the base of his skull with one clenched fist.

The guard hits the ground a deadweight.

“Stand where you are!”

Martin reels around and comes face-to-face with the guard’s smaller female partner just as she clears a pistol from her holster. Still scrambled from the cattle prod, he lurches the wrong way, toward her, and the guard blows his brains out all over his wife and son and the checkout and the checkout girl and all the shiny packaged items on the belt that they can no longer afford.

BOOK: Market Forces
12.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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