Come The Revolution – Snippet 07
Borro, The’On‘s bodyguard, turned to me in the private autopod the next morning. “Where exactly is the meeting?”
“Chambers of some supposedly neutral counseling house,” I answered. “Good-Soul they’re called, right here in Praha-Riz, Level Four, South Tower. We’ll stop at Marr’s office suite on Level Nineteen to pick up Gaisaana-la.”
“Why would they consider your home archology neutral ground?”
“Well, it’s a pretty big place and we don’t get along with all our neighbors. The wattaak from Red Forest Twenty-one is the lead speaker on the new edict.”
“Ah,” he said and nodded. “And you question whether the counseling house is actually neutral?”
“You know who’s neutral, Borro? Dead people.”
He smiled his agreement and I settled back to clear my mind.
Prahaa-Riz arcology — the Red Forest — housed most of the corporate chambers of AZ Simki-Traak Trans-Stellar and two other large merchant houses, but I’d have chosen it as a home anyway, just based on looks. All of the other arcologies in Sakkatto, regardless of the material or design, looked alien: conceived by alien minds, rendered by alien hands. Prahaa-Riz, on the other hand, looked like an enormous topiary shrubbery, with glass and metallic bits showing here and there from the interior.
The news feed earlier had said the last of the fires from the riots were being extinguished this morning, but from the balcony before we left I saw a lot of smoke still rising from the slums, particularly the Human Quarter south of Katammu-Arc, and this was after rain. The towers of smoke had provided a forbidding backdrop to our upcoming meeting. Borro must have thought the same thing.
“I wonder if the riots have subsided.” he said.
The’On‘s concentration had been on his viewer glasses but now he looked at us and shook his head. “They seem to be spreading.”
Ah-Quan, the fourth passenger in our pod, belched.
Gaisaana-la, Marr’s senior executive assistant, was a tall, middle-aged Varoki female. Despite a first-class education, she was unprepared for the high-level politics and economics of running an interstellar trading empire — or trying to get a hand on the tiller when the rest of management was trying to make Marr and her staff non-functional ornaments. Well, nothing could prepare a Varoki female to deal with a room full of males born to wealth, power, and entitlement, especially since they had also been raised to think of females as not much more than domestic servants. So nothing had prepared Gaisaana-la for this life, but she’d taken to it anyway, somehow. I think some people must just be born to punch above their weight class.
“Executor e-Lotonaa, it is an honor to see you again,” she said to The’On with a slight bow. To be honest, she didn’t look all that happy to see him.
“And I you, Madame Gaisaana-la. I see you are well,” he answered but his smile did not draw one in reply. Instead she turned away to me.
Usually folks liked The’On; he had a way about him. He’s never run for elective office, which I thought was odd since he would have been a natural at it. Instead, most of his jobs had been bureaucratic, rising steadily through the ranks of the Cottohazz Executive Council’s administrative and quasi-diplomatic positions. He was what my late Ukrainian father would have called an aparatnyk. Maybe that’s what Gaisaana-la didn’t like about him.
“Mister Naradnyo,” she said to me as we shook hands and she smiled. “Madame Marfoglia told me you would be along as well. I will feel safer with you here.”
“I’m unarmed,” I said, “so I’m mostly here to spot trouble coming. How’s it been this morning?”
She frowned. “Perhaps a third of the staff did not report for work. Many of them are from other arcologies, and transportation has been problematic. Some are afraid.”
“Afraid to be caught hanging around us when things get ugly?” I asked and she tilted her head to the side.
I turned to ah-Quaan, who had mostly been absorbed by his own viewer glasses, which were linked into a Munie security feed.
“Do we know what’s up with the demonstrations?”
“Riots outside spreading,” he said, “further north, not here. Ground access locked down. Hard for riot spilling over by maglev, air shuttle.”
Yeah, if they really were spontaneous, but ah-Quan continued.
“Municipal constabulary gave access to video feed South Tower Atrium, nearest hub to chambers Good-Soul Counselors. Peaceful demonstrations there yesterday; no demonstration today, but limited information precludes reliable assessment.”
“South Tower Atrium. Is that in the Red Forest Twenty-one Wat District?” I asked.
His eyes lost focus as he concentrated on his viewer for a moment and then he looked me in the eye. “Yes. Is that significant?
“Probably not,” I said, but it was hard to know. Ah-Quan was right: not enough information to make a good guess, and that made me nervous. There was a time when I’d gladly charged into dangerous situations with less data than this, but ever since I died I’d become more cautious. No matter how bad things get, most people never believe deep down inside they’re really going to die. Once it actually happens to you, you know better, and that knowledge changes you.
“Let’s get going. The sooner we’re done and out of here, the better I’ll feel.”
The five of us took a private autopod from the office suite to South Tower Atrium. The’On and Gaisaana-la spent the time going over the agenda and arguing about our negotiating position, which was bizarre. The position was simplicity itself: we were willing to talk and willing to listen, but we weren’t giving a Goddamned inch on Tweezaa’s legal rights. They weren’t ours to bargain away. But The’On and Gaisaana-la were arguing about fine points of language so subtle I couldn’t even tell the difference between them, not that my aGavoosh was anywhere near as polished as theirs. But it wasn’t long before I got the idea Gaisaana-la was just pissed at The’On and arguing on general principle. The’On was getting frustrated as well, and this wasn’t like either of them. Finally I butted in.
“What’s the problem here?”
“I do not know exactly,” The’On answered, exasperation plain in his voice…
Gaisaana-la sat quietly for a few seconds and then looked at me.
“I was not told in advance of the adoption.”
“It was very closely held,” I said. “We did not want to put you in a position where you might have to decide between the telling the truth and protecting our secret.”
She nodded to the side slightly. “I appreciate that. Nevertheless, I have yet to receive any communication concerning the disposition of the office and its staff. It seems logical that Tweezaa e-Traak will live with her adoptive father, presumably in Kootrin, and that Madame Marfoglia will accompany her. One assumes part or all of the staff will either be transferred as well or will be replaced.”
“Well . . . with all that’s happened in the last few days we haven’t given that as much thought as it probably deserves,” I said. “Hopefully this meeting today will help settle things down and then we can figure all the rest of it out as well. I’m sure Marrissa intends you to be part of the transition planning, assuming there is much of a transition. I just don’t know yet.”
She made that small nod to the side again, her face expressionless.
“Are you offended that you were not included in the planning?” The’On asked.
“I am disturbed by the action itself. Tweezaa e-Traak is uBakai. Saying she is now suddenly uKootrin is . . . inauthentic. I understand the legal convenience of the move, but I wish it had been possible to negotiate a solution before the adoption was finalized. But that is meaningless now. We are committed to this course of action and I will support it to the best of my abilities.”
She sat back and stared straight ahead. I knew her well enough to know that if she said she’d give us her best game in there, she would, or at least I thought so. But she was upset, and that unsettled me.
The’On frowned, partly in embarrassment I think. I resisted the temptation to argue with her. It’s true we’d decided to preempt the opposition with the adoption. I didn’t think we did it just to take a victory lap. I thought we’d considered the options very carefully and decided this was really our one good play. I had to admit, though, we’d all felt pretty smug about it. We’d all smiled at the thought of short-circuiting all those carefully-laid plans by the opposition. I didn’t think there was another way, but maybe if we’d thought harder about it we could have come up with one. Maybe, maybe not. In either case it was too late now. The train had left the station.