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Shadows

By Richard Elson

"I'm a member of the club. It's a strange club, it has no centre, no library or smoking room. The dress regulations are few, though we tend to dress well. We are the ones who make things happen. We pull rabbits out of hats. And then we sell them. We are the kings and queens of the castle. We pull strings. We pull faces. We talk to the future. And if the future knows what's good for it, it listens."

Shadows was a story by Peter Milligan and Richard Elson published in 2000 AD progs 672 to 681 in 1990. Nina Coltrane is a 'knowledge broker', a member of a syndicate whose financial dealings control the world (think the Illuminati with modems). When she gets too close to something she shouldn't have seen on the internet her identity is erased from the web, making her a non-person forced to go on the run from unknown forces who want her dead. From being a member of the élite she is transformed into a wretched tramp, one of the untermenschen or 'shadows' living in the interstices of glitzy future London far away from the sources of wealth and privilege.

Shadows displays Milligan's customary concern with societal inequalities (Nina is basically De Racine with fewer weapons, or anyone Micky Swift ever stuck two fingers up at), and is also remarkably prescient about the influence the internet would come to have on all our lives. (Nina's ultimate fate is to be trapped inside a computer forever — sound familiar?) Its 'big business is the root of all evil' message is either a dated nineties slogan that appears stale and adolescent in the clear daylight of the twenty-first century, or a timeless truth that the Bible knew but we have sadly forgotten. Either way, it's a cracking read.

"You want to know who the company are? They're the empire. The eye on the pyramid. The First World War. The assassinations of Kennedy and Gorbachev. The South American plague. The nuclear 'accident' in the Persian Gulf. They are the real shadows. They choose to be shadows. They choose not to be seen. And up until they hurt you, you chose not to see them."

Shadows was reprinted in the Quality title Time Killers.