The following is a work of fiction. Here is the Table of Contents, which is updated as new chapters are written.
The Duke of Oil is the third in a series of sci-fi novels of the type known as
alternate history. What’s different is that this series takes place in
our time, with characters familiar in your real life.
The first book in the series, The Chinese Century, was written late 2004. Its table of contents is here. The second, The American Diaspora, was written in 2005. The table of contents for that book is here.
A synopsis of the series is here.
I had just gotten back from Port Nolloth and was a little depressed. Despite the new panels’ increased efficiency, their output was not high enough to deliver rocket fuel at anything near the current price. They were extraordinarily useful, but their electricity was still better-used locally, with hydrogen produced in small quantities for back-up power.
This was something I was more used to, and something I could do from my home. I put on some bush tea, squeezed a kumquat over the cup and, turning on my monitor, set to work.
Since America’s exit from the country Iraq had regained its place as a relative backwater. This meant there weren’t thousands of news hits to sift through, and it quickly became apparent that there was nothing out on any wires about Erik Prince.
So I tried some blogs. Since the Americans’ departure a few refugees had begun trickling back in, like Riverbend, a young woman whose blog was now called Baghdad Building. I read through the previous month’s posts, finding only a brief mention of an incident in a place called Ismaniyeh.
It was a story not unlike thousands of others during the war, people lined up against a wall and shot dead. I looked up Ismaniyeh, found it to be in a Shiite-controlled area, and thought to myself it must be Sunni, or intra-clan rivalries.
I tried a search on Ismaniyeh generally and found very little. But what I did find piqued my interest. Most of the conflict had passed this town by. Sunni attacks in the general area had practically stopped, as there were far better pickings in Baghdad itself, Iraqis choosing the “soft partition” route in which they retained a national identity but practiced a form of apartheid among themselves. A out of date web site concerning the town mentioned an office for a U.S. military contractor, Blackwater USA. That’s how it was listed anyway.
I wondered if it was still there.
Still, the incident didn’t fit any normal pattern. I saved some pages and set it aside. With nothing else to do I decided to look up Blackwater, starting with its CEO.
Thus I entered the search term Erik-Prince. I learned he ran a company called Blackwater (no surprise there), originally based in the U.S. but now located in Dubai, alongside Halliburton, the oil company former Vice President Cheney once ran. I ran an image check on Google and found a youngish man with a surprisingly military haircut, a burr on the sides, short on top, and hard, piercing eyes that appeared frightening even from inside a tuxedo.
Where was that picture taken? The 2006 American Victory meeting in Washington, where Bush Administration acolytes prepared to steal the Congressional elections as they’d stolen the Presidency twice before. I sighed softly and moved on.
I learned all I could about Prince. I learned his background in right-wing causes, about his father Edgar, developer of the lighted vanity mirror. I noted that his sister was married to the head of Amway, and that the father had co-founded the Family Research Council with current Secretary of Education Gary Bauer.
This guy was plugged-in. Why would he want to move to Dubai? Why would he want his company there? It made no sense to me.
I began looking into this company, Blackwater Dubai. Blackwater Dubai was the successor to Blackwater USA, which had taken billions in government contracts in Iraq until the conflict became simply unaffordable, due to the sudden collapse of the dollar in late 2004. But there was no legal reason to move, was there?
I began looking into Dubai, and found what I considered a good answer. Dubai had no income tax. None. Zero. Zip. So it made economic sense for both Halliburton and Blackwater to move there, especially since there remained so much potential violence in the area, and thus potential for lucrative contracts.
On a lark I entered Dick-Cheney Erik-Prince into the Google search box. Then I tried images. Down at the bottom of the page was a fairly small, 150×120 pixel shot of the two men standing together. Cheney was harder to recognize. He looked younger, more vital, than I remembered. He was smiling, which gave him the appearance of a crocodile.
I clicked through to the source of the picture, a small item in Arab News concerning the Blackwater move to Dubai, which it mentioned was where the Cheneys were now living. I knew that. I knew all about the Cheney’s Dubai Central Market, which was taking great hunks of market share away from Virgin Maverick’s operation upstairs. That’s why Branson was getting out of it.
I wrote a brief report, including the links, and sent the paragraph to Branson’s private e-mail account. Thinking I’d wasted my time, and seeing how my teacup was empty, I thought about waking Jenni for some eggs and idly turned on the TV.
To see the image of Erik Prince. In chains. Doing a perp walk.