Come The Revolution – Snippet 01
Come The Revolution
By Frank Chadwick
There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.
-William Cosmo Monkhouse
I killed twenty-two people by the time I died. Hadn’t killed any since. Some claimed that was due to a lack of opportunity, but I wasn’t so sure.
I was only dead for a couple weeks, and I spent almost all of that cryogenically frozen, so some folks treated the whole thing as just another complicated medical procedure, but I didn’t. Dead is dead, and take it from me, it’s not for the faint of heart.
After resuscitation there were months of rehab, physical and psychological, but in the two years since my life had gotten back to “normal” — whatever that meant — my existence had been sufficiently non-violent to satisfy a Buddhist monk. That’s exactly what I’d wanted and I wasn’t complaining. The problem was, as I looked out the shuttle window at the sprawling night-lit landscape of Sakkatto City, the beating heart of the political and commercial Varoki engines that drove the Cottohazz — the Stellar Commonwealth — I had the growing feeling my peaceful interlude was nearing an end. A storm was gathering, had probably been gathering since before I was born, but now it was close. I could sense it, like smelling rain just before it starts to fall.
My parents named me Aleksandr Sergeyevich Naradnyo, but friends called me Sasha.
Our executive shuttle flew lazy ovals for ten minutes while municipal traffic control figured out which approach pattern they wanted us on. The Wanu River beneath us shone like a silver ribbon in the reflected light of Hazz’Akatu’s largest moon.
I’d seen big cities on Earth but Sakkatto was different, dominated by seven enormous arcologies, each of which housed from half a million to over a million people. As we circled the city, the massive, towering structures already glowed from interior lights, washing out the last dull red traces of sunset. Each arcology was unique, built at different times over the last three hundred or so years. Styles changed, material technology changed, but the Varoki desire to live in those giant anthills never did.
Not all of them could afford to, though. Several kilometers separated each of the arcologies from its neighbors. Slums filled the spaces in between, a jumble of lower buildings and twisting streets, at this altitude looking like piled-up refuse that had just blown against the base of the arcs and then settled there. High speed maglev train lines fifty or so meters above the rooftops of the slums linked the arcologies. All of the big cities I’d seen on Hazz’Akatu, the Varoki home world, were pretty much like this.
“Tee-Traak One to Traffic Con, acknowledged,” the shuttle pilot said into his comlink, “Inbound for Katammu-Arc on corridor Seven Niner North.” He turned in his seat and held up two fingers, visible through the open door to the cockpit, and I nodded. Two minutes to the executive landing pad of the Katammu Arcology, an enormous five-sided metal and glass pyramid almost three kilometers across at the base and two kilometers tall.
“Perimeter team up,” I said to my own embedded commlink on the security detail channel.
Our three security people closest to the exit hatch, the three in tactical gear and heavy body armor, checked their Mark 19 RAGs — which stood for Rifle, Assault, Gauss — one last time and then slung them and drew their neuro pistols, non-lethal stun weapons. They’d stay behind with the shuttle once we disembarked and were sure the landing bay was secure. The other six security folks would accompany us to the reception at the uBakai Ministry of Knowledge. I wasn’t expecting high-firepower trouble, but it always paid to be prepared. I closed my eyes and leaned back against the seat cushion. What was I expecting?
Nut jobs. Angry demonstrators. Lone wolf with a death wish. Sniper. Those were all in the realm of possibility. They’d never exactly happened to us here on Hazz’Akatu, but they sometimes happened to other “high profiles.” The fact that a ten-year-old Varoki girl and my pregnant Human wife were “high profiles” who might need this sort of security was proof enough to any sane person that this world had worms in its head.
But that wasn’t exactly news.
Marrissa must have sensed my thoughts. Her hand touched mine and I opened my eyes and smiled at her.
“Hey,” I said.
She squeezed my hand. “Everything will be fine.”
“I know. Just doing what I’m paid for — worrying.”
That’s part of what the chief of security for the two highest profile targets in the whole Cottohazz got paid for, but not all of it.
I never take anything for granted, but tonight I figured the biggest threats were political, not violent. We were always prepared to deal with direct violence, but so far never had to. The political stuff was unrelenting, though, like mold, like rust. But politics was Marrissa’s department, not mine. I reached over and rested my hand on the swell of her belly, felt our future son kick, then kick again.
Sitting on the other side of Marr, Tweezaa leaned forward and looked at me, her face serious, thoughtful. Then she leaned back in her seat.
Tweezaa had just turned ten the week before, which made her about thirteen in Earth years. She’d shot up so fast the last two years she nearly reached my shoulder. When we first met I carried her on my hip with one arm.
Externally, Varoki are a lot like Humans: upright bipeds with a head on top holding a brain and the same sensory organs we have. Their sloping foreheads and lack of a protruding nose, their hairless iridescent skin, the large leaf-like ears, and those long slender fingers, made Humans take one look and think lizard, even though Varoki have far less genetically in common with terrestrial lizards than we Humans do.
Tweezaa was dark of skin but still richly iridescent, and when the light hit her just right she seemed to glow. Even when she was a little Varoki girl, she’d had an unselfconscious dignity that had me calling her The Dark Princess within a week of meeting her. I still thought of her that way.
Tweezaa e-Traak was heir to probably the biggest fortune in Varoki history, and Marrissa was her legal guardian, actually sat on the board of governors of AZ Simki-Traak Trans-Stellar, the corporate crown jewel of the e-Traak family empire. She was the only Human ever to have done so, and the only female. The idea of females having that much power in male-dominated Varoki society, and in Marrissa’s case a Human female, pissed off millions of Varoki in more ways than I could count.
That was one reason I was such a tight-ass about security, that and the fact Marr and Tweezaa were the only family I had still alive.
The shuttle lifted its nose and decelerated, pushing us forward against our seat restraints, but we didn’t level to land. I keyed my embedded commlink and pinged the shuttle pilot.
“What’s up, Kamal?”
“We’ve got a temporary hold, Sasha, some kind of disturbance at the VIP landing bay.”
“Okay,” I answered and looked around the cabin: perimeter team still up at the main hatch, six other bodyguards in formal wear still strapped in, all but one of the team Human, everyone waiting for something to happen.
Something wasn’t right about this
“Kamal, how long does Traffic Con expect us to just hover out here?”
“Um, the flag-off wasn’t from Traffic Con. It was on a Munie tactical band.”