Come The Revolution – Snippet 03

Chapter Two

I knelt next to Tweezaa as the Varoki medtech finished applying the spray-on bandage to her right forearm. She still had that eyes-too-wide look that said she was in shock, but she was coming out of it. The medtech moved on to have a second look at Kamal. I put my hand on the smoothness of her head and she leaned into me, my arms around her.

“We’re okay, Princess,” I said. “We’re going to be fine.”

“Don’t call me that anymore,” she said softly. “I don’t want to be a princess.”

I looked over at Marr on the other side of her, saw her eyes fill with tears too. She still held her hands folded protectively over her belly. The medtech had done a couple scans, though, and everything looked good. We’d have our own doctor — a Human doctor — check her out as soon as we got back to our apartment in Praha-Riz, the arcology south of Katammu-Arc.

Hong stood guard over us, his RAG-19 pointed at the hangar bay’s ceiling but still ready. He turned to me. “Munie officer coming over. Iris sent him here so must be looking for a bigshot.”

That would be me. I gently untangled myself from Tweezaa’s arms and stood up to face him. The Varoki police lieutenant didn’t look angry. He looked sheepish, although he probably had never heard of a sheep.

He started and ended with an apology. In between he told me what little they knew.

His detail had been pulled away by fake orders on the same communication band as sent us the wave-off, obviously part of an orchestrated assassination attempt aimed at Tweezaa and Marrissa. That cleared the way for the shooters, who were disguised as maintenance workers. They’d hidden the missile launcher in the very workstation we’d taken over behind. The Munies knew all that from the surveillance video of the hangar and from what remains they’d recovered so far, and by recovered he meant scraped off the foamstone floor. It seems we’d landed on the missile team and then slid a ways.

How’s that for poetic justice?

He also filled me in on the ramped-up security plans for us and transportation arrangements to get us safely back to Praha-Riz Arcology.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in Sakkatto City, Mr. Naradnyo. Please be sure the heiress knows we will do everything in our power to find any other miscreants involved in this.” He shook his head, his expression a mixture of shame and astonishment, his large ears folded back defensively against his skull. “A missile fired at an aeroshuttle in the city! I would not believe it were the evidence not in front of me. What is the world coming to?”

He left to supervise the arrest and interrogation of the demonstrators. A cop’s instincts, when uncertain or confused, are usually to arrest everyone in sight. He figured they must have been part of the plan, but I couldn’t see how. Why stage a demonstration and maybe keep the Munies here when you wanted them to go someplace else? Not the way I’d have run the operation, but I couldn’t see a good reason to argue with him.

Iris Tenryu joined me as soon as the cop was gone. Iris was my number two guy, although she obviously wasn’t a guy. She was a couple years younger than me, early thirties, very fit, and cute in a lean and scratchy kind of way. She’d been an undercover detective for Keishicho-koanbu, the Tokyo Police Security Bureau, before getting into the VIP bodyguard field. I’d been lucky to find her. We’d mostly built the team together.

“How bad?” I asked.

She looked over at the crumpled shuttle where Varoki med techs worked on our injured team mates and two maintenance workers carried a body from the hatch to lay it in line with three others.

“Pretty bad, Boss,” she said. “Ramirez, Swanson, Mfengi, and that Varoki kid bought it.”

“Jutaant,” I said. “His name was Tita Jutaant.”

“I know,” she said softly. “Cartwright and Gladys Bonderovski got evacuated to a med center here, probably pull through but going to need serious surgery and rehab. Everyone else is banged up, one way or another, but they’ll live. You, me, and Hong are the only ones really a hundred percent operational. We got a ride home?”

“Yeah, the Munies set it up — not that I got a lot of faith in them right now, so gather up the RAG-19s and all the extra ammo. I want you and Hong armed to the teeth.”

Since we were bound for a lavish state reception, and would be going through banks of metal detectors, only the three members of the perimeter team had been armed and they were all down. The rest of us just carried neuro wands — painful but non-lethal.

“You want the third RAG yourself?” she asked.

I looked around the hangar bay, choked with Varoki; emergency workers, Varoki Munies, and the Varoki demonstrators, their anger having given way to fear and sullen resentment. We were a human cork bobbing in a Varoki sea — a smaller cork than we had been an hour ago. In two years I’d never lost an agent. Now four of us gone, just like that!

“Bring the extra RAG along,” I said. “Hopefully I won’t need it.”

“Look,” she said and nodded toward the crowd of demonstrators. “What’s that asshole doing here?”

I followed her gaze and saw a tall Varoki — tall even by their standards, which was saying something. He was expensively dressed, probably for the same reception we’d been heading for. He walked the police line, talking to the detainees on the other side, working the crowd as if he were a politician.

“Elaamu Gaant,” I said, “my least favorite Varoki after-dinner speaker. Simki-Traak Trans-Stellar loves to book him for their big conferences. Yeah, what the hell is he doing here?”

Gaant saw me, made eye contact, and walked across the hangar floor. Iris left before he got to me.

“Ah, Sasha Naradnyo,” he said by way of greeting. “Why am I not surprised to find you surrounded by death and destruction?”

“What do you want, Gaant?”

“When I heard what happened I came to offer advice and comfort to these people, whom the police are illegally detaining following your unfortunate accident.”

Accident? Only accident was they missed taking all of us out.”

He tilted his head to one side, the Varoki equivalent of a shrug. “It is unfortunate the heiress will be unable to attend the reception. It is in honor of the three hundredth anniversary of the invention of the interstellar jump drive. The fortune you expect her to inherit is, after all, derived largely from that invention and its patents.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I bet it’ll be a swell party. Maybe we’ll catch the next one.”

“Three hundred years!” he said as if he hadn’t heard me. “Three hundred years of star-spanning exploration, commerce, and progress — although your people have only been part of it for, what? Seventy years? Do you know the most remarkable thing about those three hundred years?”

I thought for a moment.

“How little you’ve accomplished?”

His polite façade suddenly slipped and his face twisted in contempt.

“No! It is that we made the incredible mistake of sharing that discovery with five other races, especially with yours. The discovery which allows travel between the stars in the blink of an eye instead of the passage of a lifetime, the discovery which makes interstellar civilization possible, is Varoki. But now the Varoki heiress to that knowledge is being raised and corrupted by an unscrupulous cabal of Humans!”

The iridescent skin of his face flushed orange-pink with rage, his large ears flared wide to the side, and he took a threatening step forward, as if he might take a swing at me, which would have been interesting. But at the moment I had bigger things to attend to. I extended my right arm down and to the side and twisted it so the concealed neuro wand dropped from my jacket sleeve and into my hand. It shot out to full extension with a hiss.

Gaant saw the movement and froze, ears tight back against his head.

“I got scruples coming out my ears, Gaant. I just don’t have many inhibitions.”

Gaant took a step back, eyes narrow and teeth showing. “I am not alone in this enterprise, Sasha Naradnyo. The entire e-Traak family, the governors of Simki-Traak Trans-Stellar, and many legislators in the uBakai Wat all stand with me. This absurd inheritance will never take place, and that is only the first step of many. I have set this thing in motion, my hands are upon it, and you will mourn the day you first saw my face or heard my name.”

“Oh, I’m already there, Gaant. You know, I liked you better when you were just a two-bit huckster, a motivational speaker peddling dreams of greatness to suckers and losers. But you’ve been listening to your own bullshit so long you started believing it. You don’t scare us, so take a hike.”

I lifted the wand a bit to encourage him and he turned and strode away. I’d done him a disservice calling him two-bit; the vidfeeds preaching his brand of Varoki supremacy in the Cottohazz sold in the millions. Marrissa stood up from behind the workbench and I turned to her.

“He doesn’t scare us?” she said.

“Well, maybe a little. You feel good enough to stand?”

“I don’t feel good enough not to. That floor is killing my butt and lower back. The way Gaant talked . . . could he have been behind the attack?”

I thought about it for a moment but then shook my head. “Anything’s possible, but it’s not his style. He’s all wrapped up in his own political schemes. He’s got too much invested in them to risk it all on an attack this messy and dangerous. Besides, if it actually worked he could never take credit for it, and that would drive him crazy.”

“So what do we do now?” she asked.

“We got two people in critical condition and they stay here at the med center in Katammu-Arc. The rest of us head back to Praha-Riz Arcology and we’ll bunker up in our complex there until we know what’s going on. We’re going to be real short-handed in the security detail. The’On’s still joining us tomorrow, right?”

“His shuttle docked at Old Tower Highstation two hours ago. He’ll be here.” She looked over at the wreck. “Is a shuttle safe? What if they have another missile?”

“We’re going by Maglev train. Munies have arranged a closed car with their people on the exits and our folks will be inside with us.”

She looked over at the four bodies on the foamstone landing pad, now covered with dark plastic sheets. “What about them?”

“They ride with us.”

She nodded wordlessly, her lower lip quivering.

“Do me a favor,” I said. “Next time I have to sit through some Simki-Traak banquet with you, make sure that asshole Gaant doesn’t get hired as the keynote speaker, okay?”

She gave me a shaky smile. “I’m not on the program committee.”