There’s a bigger story in this but I’m tired and have little time to write. This is, at least, the outline and the beginning. I have a few variations on the basic theme so maybe I’ll sketch them next. There’s nothing at all new in this one; it’s a well-worn theme, but I hope the end surprises you.
“Every hour lost to slow-downs is costing us hundreds of thousands,” Metters said, looking with grim dissatisfaction and a sort of unspoken accusation.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Terence replied. “The maps aren’t nearly as accurate as we’d like and the topography can be pretty hostile.
The Company had paid millions; some said as close as a billion, to the corrupt, the greedy, and the opportunistic, who were eager to give away what was not theirs to give, if they could profit from it. ‘Indigenous personnel’ were put on the payroll to smooth the waters, but they were indigenous to an area that was far from the one being raped and pillaged.
The jungle sometimes roared, sometimes groaned, and often whimpered. Every kilometre cleared brought in a sideline profit of nearly a million dollars, and every kilometre cleared lost its memory of a million years of natural evolution. Small villages that had lain peacefully for centuries vanished, their food sources, natural medicines, and history lost to ‘progress’. Those villagers who had had contact with ‘civilisation’ for some time did what they could to protest, locally and through the invader’s United Nations.
“They come uninvited. They do not even consider that they must be invited. They take without asking, they destroy without mercy, they enslave without cause. They call this ‘progress’ and they say we must not stand in the way of it, but it is not progress to us. Not all movement is forward.
“Where are we to go? If we came to your home and smashed it, if we ran huge trucks over the cemeteries where your people rest, if we destroyed your food and polluted your water and killed your animals would you call us progressive? We ask ourselves: “Who are the real uncivilised people?” We see you. You, however, do not see us. You recognise us as part of your species but not part of your kind, and so because you have judged us as less than you, you treat us as if we are backward and inconsequential. Everything you do has consequences to us.”
In the end, it didn’t help. It never does. Invaders invade, and they invoke all sorts of lofty reasons and high moralistic argument. No one believes them, but no one stops them, because that’s the price of progress.
The heavy machines frequently bogged down and the lighter ones broke, but still they came. Terence had a good thing going. Apart from the very generous hazard pay he received, there was the contraband mahogany and other exotic timbers he stole out of the forests with the help of his ‘indigenous personnel’. The startling and unique animals he trapped found ready markets. By the time he reached the Company’s final destination he’d be a rich man and ready for the next job on another shore, where he’d become even richer. The real darling of his mini-empire, however, was his shelf company, ‘Monkey Business’. Through it, he siphoned profits and bounced them around the world through every tax shelter creative accountants and slick lawyers could find. If he thought about the misery his ventures created he didn’t let them worry him. Better them than him.
I’ll be dead soon enough. He sold my children into slavery and he put my wife with ferocious animals that cornered her and tore her apart. He said she deserved it, because she attacked him when he trapped our children. And me? I don’t know what his plans for me are, and I don’t care. He will never have my agreement. All he will have is my dead body.