Welcome to the opening chapter of Utopian Frontiers — http://www.utopianfrontiers.com
A throng of people filtered into a wide central plaza and gathered in a knot outside the locked front gates of a huge grey and white building, where a forklift truck was parked. Within minutes, the crowd filled the space, fed by other streets, until the swollen gathering reeked of some unspoken intent, pulling in more people from the sidewalks like a whirlpool. Tension built in the air and drifted like the vapour of baked bread into the surrounding buildings, summoning people to their windows. Two streets back, the faint sound of a barking dog set the percussion to the unfolding scene, adding an incidental but dramatic edge.
Two men watched the scene with interest from inside a black car. They knew what was about to happen, and were not surprised to see an individual at the head of the group, a bald man in his mid thirties, being raised above the crowd on a wooden platform attached to the forklift. The older of the two men pulled a device from his pocket and inserted a journal entry: 12:31 p.m., video footage, Vendiez. March 3, 2009. He released a clip on the side of the device, and attached it to the wing mirror while linking a cord to the dashboard. The appliance raised itself vertically above the crowd on a telescopic, retractable pole, and a clear image of the front of the crowd filled the inside face of the windshield. After a few automatic adjustments, the image of the short, bald man dressed in a velvet suit and tie could be clearly seen inside the car. “Are you sure that’s him? He looks different,” said the younger man.
The sharp tone and crackle of a portable PA system came through concealed amplifiers, and the crowd quietened.
“The pillars of this striking façade,” began a voice in Spanish as the image of the man inside the black car turned to point directly at the imposing columns behind him, “are the teeth that have bitten to the marrow of our economy. Investment banks like this one, and many others around the world, have brought the global economy to its knees by gambling our money away on an enormous Ponzi scheme the likes of which we can never imagine. Men in this bank, and other institutions like it, have accumulated hundreds of millions of pesos of ill gotten gains selling stocks with our money—money they never owned, and had no right to speculate on. And after two decades of this filth, the system has come crashing down, doubling the national debt and throwing countless millions of working people around the world into unemployment and poverty.”
His voice rose several octaves on the last two words, causing the dog to bark even louder.
“We stand here today, outside this bank, as patrons of this land and citizens of this world, and we demand restitution. We demand justice for all those people who are suffering while the fat cats lick cream off their whiskers. We demand these bankers pay back their bonuses into the economy. And we demand action NOW!”
The crowd erupted into a roar, drowning out the dog and the approaching sirens of police vans and the diesel engines of large media vehicles. By this point, the area outside the bank was at full capacity, and more people poured in at the back, unfurling the tail of the crowd down the long boulevard. Printed canvas banners were lofted above heads, and the brightly coloured t-shirts of several universities could be seen in block groups. The two men in the car knew that this had been planned for months, but had no idea that he would attract such a crowd. It was a testament to Vendiez that he could do such a thing.
One of the media trucks nosed into view, and a reporter emerged in the corner of the image on the windshield.
“This is Katie Kemp reporting for CNN in Caracas, Argentina. I’m standing outside the Buenid Investment Bank in the city central plaza, which is the scene of a burgeoning protest led by Gerard Vendiez, a Ph.D candidate in informatics at the University of Caracas. We’ve just arrived on the scene where what looks to be
close to a hundred and fifty thousand people are petitioning the directors of the investment bank to return their bonuses and assist in the economic recovery of Argentina’s failing economy. This is a scene we have witnessed in major cities across the world over the last year, on every continent.”
She broke off the report and looked skyward. Rain clouds filled the open skies above and threatened to unleash their load. But the crowd continued to surge regardless, flowing down the boulevard like a flood, facing off against an ever silent bank. From some- where inside the midpoint of the crowd, a flare went off, closely followed by a firework launched from a first floor window directly at a police car. The crowd was too big to manage, and the police were becoming agitated. This was all the excuse they needed to storm in from both sides of the midsection and disburse the crowd. Whoever had unwittingly fired that flare had turned the tide of the event. Vendiez continued his monologue, but the front rows were more distracted by what was happening behind them, and he was lowered to the ground and disappeared down an alleyway leading into a cobbled side street.
The black car turned into the same street. “Where’s he going?” asked the younger man.
“El Faro. It’s a coffee house, a meeting place for people like Vendiez. The police won’t go in there. It’s better if you follow him on foot, Paulo. Don’t lose him. He’ll lead you there. I’ll be parked out front when you arrive.”
Paulo exited the car and caught up to within fifty metres of Vendiez, making sure to keep a distance. After a while, Vendiez stopped by a fountain to light a cigarette, and looked around before entering an eating house with some cast iron chairs and tables outside. Above the doors was a brown marquee with ‘El Faro,’ written in faded white letters. Paulo could see the black car parked up ahead in front of a newspaper stand, and saw Tomas crossing the far side of the street towards him.
“Well done,” Tomas said. “Let’s go and say hello.”
They entered into a dark, smoky room which opened out into some side compartments along either wall. In the far corner booth was Vendiez and two other men.
“Just act casual,” instructed Tomas. “We don’t want to draw any attention to ourselves. Most of the people in here are radicals.”
They walked to the far end as if they were looking for an empty table, and subtly stopped next to Vendiez’s booth.
“Mr. Vendiez? My name is Tomas Krayle, and this is my associate Paulo Dupell. Please excuse our intrusion.”
Vendiez was hunched over the table in heated discussion with the other men. He turned to face the men standing there.
“What do you want?” he said in English.
We were watching your rousing speech outside the bank. I assure you, we wish you no harm,” said Tomas. “We merely wish to speak with you in private, if we may?”
“I see,” replied Vendiez. “Well, you may as well sit down and tell me what you want. These are my friends Miguel and Osvaldo. Whatever you wish to say to me, you can say to them.”
“Very well,” said Tomas, and they sat down inside the booth. “Mr. Dupell and I are representatives from an international
research initiative. You’ve probably never heard of us because we’re not a public or a private entity—but we are, in essence, a combination of both of these things. Our research facility is within the confines of a national park. We’re a transglobal operation. You have amassed quite a following, Mr. Vendiez.”
“I have no interest in fame, notoriety, or anything close to it.” “We know,” said Tomas. “That’s one of the reasons we’re interested in talking to you.”
“Well, you’re talking to me. So what do you want?”
“We are interested in having you come work with us. We have a facility in Buenos Aires, and my associates are extremely interested in meeting you.”
“And why would I want to do that Mr. Krayle?” said Vendiez, laughing to his friends.
Tomas waited patiently for the laughter to subside.
“Because we are trying to do the same thing as you are.”
For information about Utopian Frontiers, the book, the organization or the music, visit http://www.utopianfrontiers.com. To learn more about the book and to get your copy, visit http://www.amazon.com/Utopian-Frontiers-Story-Drew-Tapley/dp/1927005124/.