Come The Revolution – Snippet 16
“No chance. They only managed to get me back because I expired about twenty meters from a starship cold sleep capsule. They deoxygenated and froze me before morbidity set it. Once you start to rot, I guess that’s it. ”
“That is comforting,” he said, leaning all the way back in his chair and folding his hands in his lap. “Please understand I do not share the distaste for Humans many Varoki seem to feel these days. All loyal members of the Cottohazz are of equal value to me. But given Human propensity for . . . creative forms of interaction with law and government, there are already more than enough of you to keep me busy.”
“Just think of us as job security,” I said.
Ten minutes ago I’d never have considered saying anything as flippant as that to the head of the Provost Corps. A lot had changed in ten minutes. Was he my pal? No way. Did I think he was any less dangerous? No, maybe even more so. But I knew that whatever drove him, it wasn’t personal insecurity. He wasn’t the sort of guy to take a joke personally. I wasn’t sure he took anything personally.
“You should know,” he said, “that the Sakkatto municipal police have issued a material witness summons for you, which will mean your cross-border travel privileges have been suspended.”
Shit! I was stuck. Marr was going to go crazy.
“Are you sure?” I said. “I just talked to them a couple hours ago.”
He tilted his head to the side, the Varoki equivalent of a shrug.
“So, are you turning me over to them?” I asked.
“No. The CSJ tries not to interfere in the internal affairs of member polities, so we have no interest in detaining you. Until they are finished with you, however, I do not think you will be able to rejoin your party in Kootrin, and the inquiry into this affair may go on for some time.”
“But they’ll probably be waiting for me outside,” I said.
“Possibly. But the public safety situation has deteriorated further in the past hour and I suspect the police have more pressing calls on their manpower. Shortly before this meeting we intercepted an order for all investigative personnel to report for riot control duty. I also understand that over seven hundred such material witness summons were issued at first, and more are expected soon. They may consider you of particular interest and assign a higher priority to locating you, but that suggests a capacity for nuance which I have never known the Sakkatto police to display.”
E-Loyolaan rose to his feet and e-Tomai jumped up as well.
“I have other work, Mister Naradnyo, but it was very informative to finally meet and speak with you. Carry on, Captain.”
But there wasn’t much left to carry on about. E-Tomai went on for a while, but it was all pretty routine stuff and soon I was on my way out, wondering what the hell had just happened. What did they get from me of value? Nothing I could see. Why had they even wanted to talk to me if they didn’t have any tough questions to ask?
An answer came to me, although it seemed highly improbable: that the commandant of the CSJ wanted to sit down and talk to me face to face, to size me up. Why I would even show up on that guy’s radar was a different question, and that led to other questions about where his radar was pointed and why.
Then another thought came to me: that the interview wasn’t about me at all. Maybe it was really about The’On. My friend was a roving ambassador or executive, depending on what was needed when and where, part of the Cottohazz Corps of Counselors. From the way he talked in unguarded moments, his outfit locked horns with the CSJ over policy fairly frequently. Maybe this was e-Loyolaan’s way of trying to open a back door to someone in the opposition.
And maybe it wasn’t just one thing. Maybe e-Loyolaan had more than one ball in the air at the same time. He struck me as someone who usually did.
At the main entrance of the CSJ complex I looked around outside and didn’t see anyone waiting to snag me. I did see five uniformed Munies packing assault rifles race by at a dead run, people scrambling to get out of their way. I needed to find a cash station and load up, so I could move quickly and stay off the grid if I had to. Cash made that easier. But first I needed to comm. Marr.
“How’s The’On?” I asked as soon as she opened the connection.
He’s conscious and responsive. The doctor says he should recover completely. Where are you?
“The CSJ lobby. They cut me loose but I wanted to call as soon as I got past their jammers.”
When will you be able to get here?
“Yeah, there’s a problem with that.”
She was silent for a moment and if electromagnetic radiation can get cold, it would have.
What do you mean, a problem?
“Municipal cops have lifted my cross-border privileges.”
They said they were done with you!
“Well, now it looks as if they’re done being done with me.”
We should have waited for you.
“No, you –”
We should have waited! Damn you, Sasha, you knew this was going to happen!
I hadn’t known, but for the moment arguing was pointless. I could tell her I was going to do everything I could to find a way to duck the border crossing guards, but saying that over an open channel was an invitation to a conspiracy charge for both of us. Once she calmed down maybe she’d figure that out.
If you get killed, I will never forgive you. Do you understand me?
She broke the connection and so I commed Iris Tenryu.
Hey, Boss, I was wondering when you were going to shake loose.
“I’m not loose. Munies need some testimony or something. What’s the setup like there?”
It’ll hold for a couple days, until the bad guys think through where we are and what to do about it. Then we’ll probably have to get creative. Local cops and military are cooperating. None of them can find their asses with both hands, but they mean well. I’m trying to get the rest of our people across the border. We’re going to bunker up at The’On’s estate and wait for this shit storm to blow itself out.
I had no idea where Iris got her mouth — maybe too many Hong Kong gangster holovids dubbed into English. Marr said she talked just like me, but I don’t think Marr had a very discriminating ear in matters of the criminal argot. That’s actually what Marr called it, “the criminal argot,” which was unfair to Iris, who to the best of my knowledge never broke the law, at least before she came to work for us.
“Okay,” I said. “You’re in the driver’s seat. Try to stay low, but if they find you, make ’em sorry they did.”
I’ll make ’em cry, Boss.
I powered my commlink all the way down to where it couldn’t be tracked and I started to work through whether or not to go underground.
I leaned against a wall, temporarily dizzy and weak in the knees. The sun blasting through the windows at a flat angle made it late afternoon. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, I’d fallen three or four stories into a river where I’d almost drowned, my right arm was crippled, and I was pumped full of pain killers. My leg muscles told me they’d given up their last reserves of energy and from here on out I was on my own. I needed to get a room in a hostel, get something to eat, rest. Otherwise I’d be in no shape to do anything. I looked up at the big rotating CSJ starburst symbol with its three letters in the center:
Knowledge, Resolve, Obedience.
Not Justice, I noticed.
Or Truth, for that matter.