Come The Revolution – Snippet 18
While I wasn’t sure that covering all your bets was the mark of courageous journalism, I had to admit she’d summed it up pretty well. Still, she seemed more excited by the prospect of all that crushing guilt than in a less dramatic outcome. It would make a better story, I guess.
There was some feed of Gaant’s speech about the über-rich being über-greedy — lots of people hailing him as a genius, although for my money it didn’t take a towering intellect to state the obvious. Rich people like money? Wow! What an idea!
Besides, I wasn’t sure he was right about this whole mess being about greed, at least on a personal level. I thought it was more about inertia. The plot to strip Tweezaa of her inheritance now, the systematic fleecing of the rest of the Cottohazz for the last hundred years — that’s just what everyone at the top does. It’s not about money in any tangible sense. They do it because that’s what they always do — that’s what they’ve been trained to do. That’s what’s expected. If they don’t do it, their friends will look at them funny and stop taking their calls.
Years earlier I’d made the mistake of thinking the Varoki were united in a single-minded quest to screw the living hell out of Humans. Getting caught in the middle of a shooting war between two Varoki nations put that idea to rest, but I still didn’t think the differences went any deeper than this nation against that one, this mercantile house against that one. Wrong again, Sasha. There were fault lines in this society which went all the way down, and now I felt as if I was watching them widen before my eyes, like the cracks in an ice shelf just before ten thousand tons of white stuff calve off and thunder down into the ocean. Where was this going to end? I had no idea.
Something bothered me, though — something other than the possible descent into chaos and anarchy of the strongest and most economically important Varoki nation, or even the effect of that descent on my chances of getting away. There was something odd about the vid feed of Gaant’s speech.
I watched it again. It was clearly made by someone sitting at the opposition staff table, given the angle. You could see several of the big-shots at the main table and across from them Gaisaana-la and behind her the looming massif of ah-Quaan. I played it all the way through and then again, and again. It was just as I remembered it, so what was bothering me?
I played it again, and it was still the same, right up to that little gesture Gaant made at the end, that signal.
The signal that told his accomplice to drop the jammers.
Right. He finished his speech, he gave the signal, and the jammers quit, so everyone could start recording the meeting. So how the hell could there be a recording of his speech, which was before the jammers went down?
Interesting as that question was, my problem still came down to getting the hell out of there, and I still wasn’t sure how to accomplish that. Assuming things were temporarily calm, I could try to make it to the apartment in Prahaa-Riz. The fires at the archeology had been external and there was probably a lot of stuff busted up inside as well, but our apartment was in rich folks country, and the Munies seemed to be protecting that sort of landscape. I had firearms stashed there as well as additional cash, a forged ID, and the access controls to my emergency re-transmission sites seeded around the city — highly illegal here in Bakaa, but put in place just for a situation like this, an emergency getaway. The retransmission sites let me use my embedded commlink while making it nearly impossible to locate. It wasn’t foolproof, but it would give me enough head start to get out of Dodge. But I had to get there to activate it.
The question was how could I get from Katammu-Arc to Prahaa-Riz? With security high, if I took the maglev train or an air shuttle I’d have to do an ID scan and with the summons out there no telling what would happen next. Or I could walk. It was only two kilometers, after all, but it was two kilometers through slums which yesterday had exploded with riots, a lot of them directed at Humans. Maybe the rage was temporarily reduced to a low simmer, but I figured the survival time down there of one lone unarmed Human with his right arm in a sling and his pockets bulging with cash could probably be measured in minutes, and that assumed nobody recognized me as that horrible Naradnyo guy everyone on the feed was talking about. I wouldn’t have minded having a good skin mask right about then, instead of just a big floppy black hat.
The more I thought about it, the more turning myself in to the Munies seemed like my smartest move. After all, they didn’t have an arrest warrant out on me, just a material witness summons. According to the vid feed, the Munies were taking special care to protect the enclaves of the other five intelligent races, like us Humans. The fewer off-worlders that got hurt, the less likely the Cottohazz was to get involved in Bakaa’s internal troubles, provided all the financial machinery started ticking over again within a day or two. If things got much worse they would probably evacuate the aliens, which if I was included would get my job done for me.
Things could go wrong with that move for sure, but there weren’t any perfect choices. I had to play the odds, and, unsettling as I found that fact, the Munies looked like the frontrunners. My only real reluctance was in surrendering my freedom of action. I was used to calling the shots on my own, but right now I didn’t see many shots to call.
Someone rapped on the door. I checked the time and it was getting close to checkout. It might be management wondering if I’d cleared out yet, but you never knew. I crossed to the door as quietly as I could and heard a low conversation outside.
“Who is it?” I asked, standing well to the side in case the answer was a burst of smarthead flechettes through the cheap composite door.
“Are Municipal Police. Would like speak Sasha Naradnyo.”
Son of a gun! Talk about coincidences. I took a quick look through the peep lens and saw a Munie badge held up by way of confirmation. The English was heavy with the Slavic accent, common to the Sakkatto north side Human slums, but it made sense they’d send some local Human Munies to collect me. I opened the door.
“You know, I was just thinking –” I started, when two Humans in civilian clothes and packing gauss pistols pushed me back into the room.
“Hands up,” one of them said.
My stomach tightened in fear and I raised my left hand. I tried to move the right one a little, but nodded to the sling.
One of them handed his pistol to the other and then patted me down, very thoroughly. He dumped the contents of my pockets — mostly cash — on the sleeping palette then backed away.
“Let me guess,” I said. “You guys aren’t really Munies, are you?”
“Shut up, traitor,” the guy holding the guns said.