Notes from a Field-Trip (or, why Lumberjacks and Mercenaries are Similar)

This was just too long so I had to turn it into two posts. Here's the first one.

Got up at 7am. Had been told to wear “pants” (which, let me tell yous, I always do) and shoes. Hadn't brought shoes so ended up in cropped trousers and flipflops. Wandered outside the flat (remember that I had spent a major proportion of the night before had been the “Long Walk Home” and getting lost and calling Emergency). Thankfully, found some other folks headed towards where the bus was going to be and joined them. Realised that, without a posse of people around me, I'd have gotten lost on my way to the bus (and missed Darkliquid. Which, let me tell yous, would have been tragic).

The bus: The bus is fairly full. Ignore the person in the seat next to me by reading a book I discovered at the back of the sofa in the flat/dorm room I'm staying in (I also found four bottles of beer in the fridge). Since it's about a racecar driver apparently losing his nerve (while dressing in black and scoping out other companies' cars), it's a gripping read. Too bad the 2-hour drive is not enough time to allow me to finish it. So far, I'm not sure if Johnny (the driver) has lost his nerve or if he is faking it.

The bus winds its way along a narrow road and, suddenly, a big sign crops up. It has a Pawprint of a big mammal (with target lines drawn around it) and is fairly unmissable. This sign is ubiquitous around the compound.

We arrive at the main building of the facility. It's big, it's glossy and it's located near a lake. The lake has two ship structures on one end and we see some figures (clad in black, obviously) doing various training exercises and running up and down and jumping off ladders.

The Darkliquid bloke (DB from now on) joins the bus: his first words are about how he testified in front of Congress the day before and “popped his cherry in front of Congress.” Gasps are heard on the bus. Later, the participants discuss how this phrase (pretty much his first words) was received.

We get a tour of the facility: the best part was the driving track where apparently one can do things like deliberately skid your car, go up and down ramps, jump off “elevations” and so on. There are other facilities—the bloody place is 7500 acres and growing—target shooting, training dogs, etc. Most of the people training (dressed in black and looking what one may imagine a “private security operator” to look like) are men. The important part of this tour was DB telling us the bunkhouses had satellite TV. I plan to ask about the England-Trinidad match when we get off the bus.

Forget this in the rush to find a workable loo (loos are scarce on Darkliquid territory) and get back in time for DB's presentation. We have been warned (at the beginning of the trip) not to wander off by ourselves. We are shown a video of some Darkliquid operations, set to Van Halen (a song which I should really recognise but don't--it's whiny and very 1980s). It appears Darkliquid is a humanitarian, just, law-abiding, altruistic organisation which helps out “our brave men and women in uniform” worldwide (which is apparently one long word. It's replaced antidisestablishmentarianism as the longest word in the English language). Who knew? I am fairly keen on joining Darkliquid, especially after DB mentions how he has a plan to "save the Darfurians" and how Darkliquid could get involved in "humanitarian operations" since (as we all know) the UN was "Operationally useless". DB should talk to Bono.

During DB's talk, Loud gunshots punctuate the talk—often and get louder towards the end. Imagine us, about 50 folks, sitting in an office with single gunshots and machine gun shots routinely going on in the background.

DB then gets miffed when someone asks about Darkliquid people as “mercenaries” and says that under United Nations laws, Darkliquid folks are not mercenaries but private security operators (or something like that).

But, once he, in the middle of his talk, said “imagine you are a lumberjack” at the “breeching station” and in the “danger zone”, then he lost me. Apparently the tasks of lumberjacks and “private security operators” are similar. Insert your own Monty Python images here with the Darkliquid folks as lumberjacks. It's difficult to take any black-clad blokes seriously when you're imagining them.

DB also talks about how "Mr King" (the Creator of Darkliquid) has just finished building an airship which "can be used to patrol the border and thus free our brave men and women for other important tasks". A participant mentions why not use satellites and, this being a bunch of academics, wonder whether anyone's told Mr. King about the Hindenburg (oh, and about the instability of Helium).

More in Part II of the post.


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