Come The Revolution – Snippet 11
“Shit!” e-Bomaan shouted the English expletive in surprise and anger, which just goes to show he wasn’t as much of a traditionalist as Gaant. None of the other five races could swear like Humans, but Varoki weren’t above borrowing on occasion. This time I was inclined to agree with the sentiment. I started to reach instinctively for the gauss pistol under my jacket but stopped, because there wasn’t one there today.
This must have been the surprise Gaant bragged about earlier. For all these people to make it back to the conference room, they had to have gotten past the entrance security and then through the whole office complex. Since there was no sign of violence, and none of the crowd seemed worked up, somebody let them in — a fair number of somebodies, come to think of it, including Munies at the security station. Gaant had people in the Munies as well as the counseling house? This was a pretty elaborate operation, more than I’d credited him with.
I did a quick scan of the room — no way out. I felt sweat tickle my sides under my armpits. I only saw one possible refuge if things turned ugly, and it wasn’t much.
“Ah-Quan, corner to your left, get ready,” I said softly in Szawa, the Zaschaan trade language. Ah-Quan would understand but I was betting nobody else in the room would. I put my hands on The’On‘s shoulders.
“If you want to trade away their heritage, you will not do so in darkness,” Gaant said to the men at the table, his voice rising in volume and taking on a more dramatic tone. This was probably his motivational speaker voice. He gestured toward the quite crowd filling the room. “Conduct your dirty business with these people as witnesses, if you have the courage. Let them see the color of your souls!”
I think Gaant had a plan as to what came next. He must have. But no plan survives contact with stupidity, and there was plenty of that going around. One of the Varoki at the back table, one of the staffers, jumped to his feet and pulled a neuro-wand from his under his jacket. So much for no weapons on neutral ground, huh?
“Put that away you moron!” I shouted. As everyone turned to look at him, the guy hit Gaant with the wand. Gaant didn’t make a sound except for a sharp hiss of inhaled breath. His whole body spasmed as every nerve in it fired at once and then he seemed to fall in slow motion, the crowd gaping, someone at the table reaching out too late to catch him, until his head clipped the hard stone edge of the table and made a sound like a melon hitting pavement. He continued falling to the floor and then didn’t move.
My knees went weak. For what seemed like a very long time but could only have been a second or two nobody moved, nobody said anything. I didn’t breath. I guess I feared — we all feared — the slightest act might break the spell and bring what came next. Then a collective gasp escaped from those at the head of the crowd as they surged forward and some knelt at Gaant’s side. Some screamed, some shouted questions from behind, others shouted back.
The Guide is dead!
They killed the Guide!
“The corner! Move!” I screamed to ah-Quan.
More people surged through the doorway, jostling those in front. Some of those kneeling by Gaant got pushed over and cried out as the mob stepped on them, but a couple big guys managed to lift Gaant’s limp body up and over their heads, and soon the crowd passed it back, hand to hand, out of the room, his dripping blood anointing them.
Ah-Quan reached forward and grabbed Gaisanaa-la by the shoulders of her suit, snatching her up and over the back of her chair by sheer brute strength, and then he plowed through the crowd starting to fill the space to our left. I didn’t get The’On up nearly as quickly and by the time we started after ah-Quan the crowd had closed in.
A female Varoki from the crowd lunged at the staffer with the neuro-wand and he hit her with it, then started trying to drive the crowd back with it, wanding everyone in the front rank, even though they couldn’t get away through the press of bodies behind them. Screams of pain and fear and rage. Bodies twitching and falling limp to the floor to be trampled by those behind. Then a growing rumbling chorus of hatred and pent-up rage as the crowd became a mob and then an avalanche under which the staffer with the wand just vanished.
E-Bomaan and the other Varoki across the table from us were all on their feet and pressed back against the stone surface by the pressure of the mob, now tearing and striking at them. The table tipped over on its side and then onto its top and both members of the mob and their targets tumbled over it, the wave of flesh behind them surging over them.
I back-pedaled frantically, pulling The’On with me, but came up against the smooth, hard composite resin surface of the big window overlooking the river.
The’On started to drop down to the floor but I pulled him up.
“Stand up!” I shouted above the howl of the mob. I turned him so his right shoulder was against the window. “Cover your head! Shoulder against the window, not your chest or back. Otherwise you’ll suffocate!”
I saw the panic in his eyes fighting to take control but he nodded. I tried to partially cover him with my own body, my right shoulder under his left armpit, both our arms covering our heads, and then the mob hit us. Someone’s fist caught me a good one on the back of my skull that left me seeing flashes of light for a few seconds, but as the mob pressed on from behind the ones in front lost the ability to do anything but try to stay upright. The pressure grew and in just a few seconds the Varoki pressing against us went from enraged enemies to terrified fellow victims.
A shrill cry of agony sounded to my immediate left and I turned my head. I was face-to-face with e-Bomaan, his chest flat against the window, eyes bulging as the air was forced from his lungs by the inexorable pressure of the mob. His eyes made contact with mine, filled not only with pain and fear, but shock bordering on disbelief. A few seconds ago he had been one of the richest and most powerful men in the Cottohazz, and now here he was, losing the fight for life. How had this happened? How was it even possible?
Another surge from behind, even stronger than before, hit us. e-Bomaan’s ribcage collapsed against the thick unyielding composite surface of the window, the bones popping and breaking one by one, and his last exhaled groan turned into bloody foam. I turned away, spitting his blood out, and then the surge caught me. For a moment it didn’t take my breath because of my position. Then my right shoulder came out of the socket and I screamed in pain as the mass of the crowd flattened me against the window.
With a loud, sharp crack the composite resin of the window finally gave way and I was instantly weightless, surrounded by other screaming, flailing bodies tumbling through the air.