Melissa Scott’s 2020 Storm Warning is a tie-in novel for the American animated web series Gen:Lock .
Following the Great Union of the Fourth Turning Republics AKA the Union AKA Team Evil’s attack on New York, the Polity AKA the Good Guys, the Good Guys have been hard pressed to hold the line at the 88th Meridian. The core of the resistance is the Gen:LOCK program, which allows pilots to briefly imprint their minds into Holons, advanced mechas. Only a small fraction of the population is capable of taking advantage of Gen:LOCK technology, thus the job of keeping the free world free falls on a small number of people, not all of whom are the sort of people governments would ordinarily trust.
Seventeen-year-old Cammie MacCloud, for example, is a former criminal.
Cammie’s glorious hacker career was cut short when she got caught. The Scottish authorities graciously permitted her to provide them with her computer skills as she worked off her debt to society. She was seconded to De Soto Base when she proved suitable for Holon service. Since this career change meant moving from police work to combat service, it’s not entirely clear this was to Cammie’s benefit.
As a hurricane sweeps towards De Soto, Cammie and her fellow mecha pilots are dispatched to escort a would-be informant and his fellow refugees in their flight from Union Territory. Union frowns on defectors, thus the heavily armed Strider mechs bearing down on the fleeing refugees. Cammie’s unit manages to intercept in time to save most of the refugees but unfortunately, the informant Jake Foxe is killed, leaving his brother Liam and girlfriend Aris Webb to mourn him.
The survivors take shelter at De Soto to wait out the storm. As the hurricane isolates De Soto, Cammie begins to notice false notes. What if Jake and the refugees were merely bait to get a Union operative into the Polity base? If the Holons could be sabotaged, Union could destroy them.
While the physical evidence is suggestive, it’s not conclusive. Cammie has other skills she could use to expose the hypothetical spy. Hacking without official permission is both dangerous and just the thing to convince her superiors she is still a criminal. Nevertheless, time is running out.
Time for resolute action!
It’s not at all clear whether the 88th parallel border extends into Canada. If so, most Canadians are under the Union boot. I am as horrified as you are. Digging around online turned up this map,
Not only is Eastern Canada in trouble but things look very bad for our Snowbirds. Florida is underwater…
Why serve Team Evil? Because Union has nanotechnology they can use to kill people who have outlived their usefulness. The Polity doesn’t seem very good at taking prisoners, but that may not matter; Union is diligent about silencing superfluous agents.
Readers might expect a combat-oriented story, what with the war and the mechas. Despite the skirmish at the beginning, Storm Warning is really an espionage story with an added dash of isolated country estate mystery. Perhaps there’s a spy within De Soto Base! Perhaps Cammie is just paranoid1. Or maybe the Union is about to neutralize a significant Polity asset!
This is also a variant of a ticking time bomb scenario, in that Cammie is compelled to take unsanctioned actions because she’s working under a time limit. No doubt somewhere out there, there’s a story in which it turns out rule-breaking in the name of expediency is the wrong choice, but this isn’t one of them.
I have not seen the series for which this is a tie-in product. Not having familiarized myself with the source material may have been an error2. Perhaps the series would have provided context to flesh out the setting. As it is, the Union is a pretty two-dimensional antagonist, conquering the world while claiming to be under attack by nefarious enemies. The spy story is reasonably well handled. While the Union doesn’t seem especially great at espionage, it’s not as if there weren’t authoritarian regimes that turned out to be shockingly bad at subterfuge.
1: Although an example of a story of this sort where there wasn’t at least one mole (embedded traitor, not furry mammal) does not come to mind.
2: Why, yes, I am thinking about that recent Locus-related furor. That said, I don’t think it’s necessarily unreasonable to read prose tie-in products without having seen the source material.