May 13, 2003

More plot noodling

Danger: plot discussion. Don't read the extended entry if you don't like spoilers.

I'm reposting this from email just so you guys in the peanut gallery can see what's going on ...

I wrote:

BTW, I have misgivings about the direction of the last chunk of "Unwirer". Having Marcel pull a gun is a really bad move -- over here, if you point a gun at a cop then they treat it as attempted murder and don't stop until they've got you inside facing ten to fifteen years. I'm pretty sure any police department anywhere will react much the same way to someone pointing a gun at one of their own ... I figure Roscoe is going to have to lose the truck and run for the border immediately, especially as I'd expect the cops to have cameras recording everything and to be able to link the truck to him. What were you expecting me to follow that scene with?


No, he knows his home turf well. And he didn't point the gun, the provo did. Which means that the reporter is going to be REALLY suspicious. And it gives us a chance to comeuppanceify Marcel at the end.


ButButBut ... the truck!

Look. Trucks aren't anonymous. Cop cars with cameras on the dash. Data terminals with access to number plate databases. Far as I can tell, the truck is Roscoe's sole valuable posession and now it's the first thing every cop in the area is going to be looking for. Meanwhile, Roscoe has just had clear proof that his flatmate is a raving bull-goose lunatic of the first water, the kind of nutcase who thinks pointing a gun at a cop and yelling "hit the gas!" is a way to get *out* of trouble.

This blew *my* suspension of disblief. Firstly because Marcel as agent provocateur has just taken an incredibly stupid risk (the cops don't know he's a provo, they could shoot him) and secondly because Roscoe (and Sylvie) would need to have Intel 4004's for brains to have *anything* to do with him ever again. He's blown their trust, which is his main reason for staying with them, and to no benefit.

Basically, it's way too steep an escalation. Even squirting pepper spray out the window is too much -- assaulting a cop is serious bad shit and agents provocateur are either undercover cops themselves or aware they'll have to live in the same town later. About the most I can see Roscoe getting away with is panicking and driving off without any lights -- and even then he's fucked up big-time, because he'll have to lose the wheels or they'll track him down.

The only ways I can think of to continue are:

a) Delete the whole business with the gun. Have Marcel panic
Roscoe into driving off, then ditch the car and hitch home,
report the car stolen in the morning, loud recriminations,
seriously bad vibes, etc.

b) Marcel holds the gun to Roscoe's head and tells him to
drive, then turns out to be a deep cover agent for the FCC
who is quite willing to kill Roscoe and Sylvie on the spot
-- he misjudged the incident but basically he was setting R
up for a cop-killing rap and now he's going to stage a
falling-out-among-thieves scene and the cops will find the
bodies later.

(There's a plot exit from (b) where we discover that Sylvie has a live webcam/radio broadcasting from her lapel and everything Marcel says is going out live and being spooled by the WSJ news desk -- Roscoe then gets to talk Marcel down.)

Point is, I can't see any way for the original plot to work if we go this route.

[ Shall I stick this on the blog as another "plot noodling" thread? ]


Fake plates and they ditch the truck. Marcel is trying to set up the reporter to describe unwirers as loonies. He's also trying to bring down the bad FCC guy. And Roscoe's already told him that the local cops are in cahoots with them, so he's trying to convince them that unwirers are bad, too.


> BTW, people who run from the cops also get shot.

Yes. Thing is, though, I was setting it up for Sylvie and Roscoe to simply bluff that they were up there for some privacy -- no running, no shooting, just nookie. And Marcel escallates it out of nowhere ...


The outline has "chase scene" right there. We need some action over and above the unwiring.


Yes, I agree. We need jeopardy. But I don't think we need to turn Roscoe into a hunted fugitive just yet, and Marcel waving a gun around is going to do that. Let me think about this.

Okay, peanut gallery: What do you think happens next? :)

Posted by Charlie Stross at May 13, 2003 10:01 AM

So they're running for it (Roscoe puts the hammer down with Marcel's pistol at his head) and the cops chase 'em. Roscoe and the reporter are convinced Marcel's batty, and are even more convinced when he shoots at the cops. Roscoe tries to talk him into stopping and running, and Marcel threatens Roscoe with the pistol.

So the reporter (who has a crowd control spray she got in France that makes everything it hits super-slipery) hits Marcel with the spray and he can't hold the pistol any longer. They stop the truck and run into a warehouse area, and the cops get Marcel (who can't run because he keeps falling down because of the slippery goop on his shoes and hands).

Posted by: Gary Williams at May 13, 2003 11:14 AM

What if Roscoe and Sylvie claim that Marcel was carjacking them? That gives you a convenient ditch for Marcel to be dumped into that allows Roscoe and Sylvie to escape without too much scrutiny.

Posted by: Tom Bridge at May 13, 2003 11:54 AM

If *Roscoe* sees the gun, he knows he has to get out fast. He - or his accomplice - can't even point a weapon at a police officer without triggering charges that cause borders to open to cops. Sylvie will know this, too.

Roscoe floors it, mainly to get the gun away from the cops before they see it. Marcel still wants to escalate, and tries to get into position to take a shot out the window - which would still be very bad. Sylvie wrestles him for the gun, in a speeding out of control vehicle. Sylvie is seriously wounded (although well out of earshot of the cops).

Roscoe needs to ditch Marcel and his gun but fast, and get help for Sylvie, so they can't just go to ground. They make a dash for the border - the cops will be somewhat on the lookout but not armed-gang lookout. Roscoe sneaks Sylvie across the border in *her* car, and gets to unwired socialized medicine land (a point already set up).

Posted by: Chris Smith at May 13, 2003 01:34 PM

...or, to keep the Falls in the picture, Roscoe tracks down an inflatable boat, and uses it to ferry Sylvie across the Niagara above the falls - and he ditches Marcel's gun in the river. Once both the bullet and gun are missing, charges will be hard to put together.

Posted by: Chris Smith at May 13, 2003 01:53 PM

Back the scene up a bit:

R & S have exited the truck, leaving M inside, before S spots the (FCC?) van. S knocks R to the ground and engages in surprise snogging, much to R's shock. Explanation becomes readily obvious. While cops are talking to R & S, M starts the truck and drives off at high speed, fishtailing all the way, and putting R & S in a tough, but not inexcusable, spot.


Posted by: Booklegger at May 13, 2003 05:13 PM

I don't think anything that drastic needs to occur:

* They drive off

* The cops spin out/wipe out

* Roscoe demonstrates his level-headedness by pulling over, ditching the camper-bed and swapping plates

* They now have 48h or so to wrap up the story, during which Marcel is outed and Sylvie uncovers the FCC's provocateur program and has a really juicy story, and Roscoe can flee across the border and thence to France, with Sylvie's help...

Posted by: Cory Doctorow at May 14, 2003 08:01 AM

And Marcel can't rat Sylvie out to the cops for helping Roscoe, because Sylvie has just discredited the shit out of Marcel by outing him

Posted by: Cory Doctorow at May 14, 2003 08:02 AM

> The cops spin out/wipe out

...suspension of disbelief...

In my universe, the average cop is trained to be a better driver than the average civilian. Car chases that result in escapes because the cops "just wiped out" don't seem to happen - the cops will call in a helicopter instead.

Posted by: Chris Smith at May 15, 2003 07:59 AM

Yes, that dinged my disbelief-ometer too. Cops have these high-tech gizmos called "radios" and they have occasionally been known to call for backup, or tell other cops that some bad guys are high-tailing it down a road away from a stop and someone might want to get in their way.

I'm still thinking my way through this ...

Posted by: Charlie Stross at May 15, 2003 10:51 AM

We've already established that they're on top of a rugged hill, with a badly ploughed road. If the cops spin out and get stuck in a ditch, they can call in air support, but this is BUFFALO (and in the dead of winter, no less) -- by the time a chopper is scrambled, Roscoe can already have pulled off the road, switched plates, ditched the camper-shell, etc.

Posted by: Cory Doctorow at May 15, 2003 05:15 PM

Yes, this is Buffalo - where the Erie Country Sheriff's Department maintains two helicopters, flies search and rescue from Lake Erie at least as far north the Falls themselves - and is designated first responder helicopter for both the US and Canadian Coast Guard.

Contrary to expectations, it seems to be a top-notch, highly responsive airborne unit.

Why doesn't Roscoe wipe out driving a camper pickup? Does something make him special?

Posted by: Chris Smith at May 15, 2003 11:52 PM

And third, and fourth, thoughts:

Cory, when you've had a car, have you ever had a spare set of false plates to hand? And would you ditch a $500 hardtop happily?

I'm going to have to commit surgery on the previous section. Subtle surgery, but even if Marcel is waving a gun around it's way too early to have the cops involved.

Posted by: Charlie Stross at May 16, 2003 10:12 AM

Wouldn't it make sense for Roscoe to carry fake plates around? After all, he is operating on the shady side of the law (I assume Cory is not).

Maybe they only shake the police temporarily. Then they show up again when all kinds of climactic stuff is supposed to go down.

Posted by: Mark Gerrits at May 17, 2003 04:02 AM

Charlie, he's got spare plates because he's out breaking the law, and he's going to abandon his campber-bed because he's desperate (getting picked up, even without the gun, would send him up for a long stretch, just 'cause of the illegal gear in the truck).

G'head and cut whatever -- the thing I was trying to set up was a climactic (or pre-climactic) chase-scene wherein the nature of Marcel's character can be derived by Sylvie.

Posted by: Cory Doctorow at May 17, 2003 02:25 PM

Something still bothers me about the "spare plates" thread. Changing from his real plates to fake ones won't solve his problem, and if he changes to fake plates, wouldn't you have to set up that Roscoe installed fake plates before heading out that day? Certainly his every-day plates would be the official ones, or one run light, or speeding stop would send him back to the pokey.

Posted by: Booklegger at May 23, 2003 02:44 PM

Woops... "If he changes to fake plates..." should read "If he changes FROM fake plates..."

Posted by: Booklegger at May 23, 2003 02:46 PM
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