Come The Revolution – Snippet 04
The first time I met The Honorable Arigapaa e-Lotonaa, I was in something of a mood — what Marr calls my simmering iconoclasm, which I keep meaning to look up. I’d decided his name was too much of a mouthful, so I’d called him The’On — short for The Honorable–instead, and that’s all I’d called him ever since. Despite that, and the fact he was Varoki, we’d become pals.
The’On was senior staff in the Cottohazz diplomatic service but he was between assignments right then, which was good for us. Five months earlier he’d finished his gig as the Cottohazz Executive Council’s Special Envoy Plenipotentiary for Emergency Abatement on K’Tok. That’s five Varoki months, over six months Earth time. The’On had been called back to K’Tok two months later by some sort of flare up, and that had nearly ruined our plans, but he’d gotten back to us in the nick of time, just like the U.S. cavalry in those old John Ford flat vids.
I waited for him in the Praha-Riz VIP shuttle bay with one security guy. We were too short-handed and busted up to take a proper detail without leaving security at the family complex light, and the family complex was priority one. Since I only took one guy, I wanted to minimize the chances of someone trying something so I took Baka ah-Quan, one of the two Zacks on our security team. Anyone in their right mind found Zacks physically intimidating and sort of repulsive, too.
Zacks, or Zaschaan, the Fifth Race, were as tall as Varoki but a lot bulkier. They were known mostly for their sour dispositions, troll-like ugliness (at least by Human and Varoki aesthetic standards), and unpleasant personal habits, many of which had to do with their two mouths. They ate with the lower mouth and spoke mostly through the upper one, which was a highly adapted blowhole. You know how when you talk to someone and they get all excited, you sometimes end up with a little spittle on you? Same with a Zack, except that’s not spittle.
They were a rung higher on the economic ladder than Humans, but we were gaining fast. Like us, you saw a lot of Zacks in the military and security details. We Humans were also starting to do well in entertainment and the arts — the Zacks, not so much.
We turned away from the blast of air as the VIP shuttle flared for landing, its ducted flans rotated full down and turbines whining. Almost as soon as the hydraulic landing skids settled under the weight of the flier, the hatch opened and The’On climbed down the three folding steps to the pad, ears fanned wide and a broad smile of greeting illuminating his face. He was dressed casually, at least by his standards: a red silk tunic and baggy trousers trimmed in broad black embroidered lace, with two Chinese characters on the left breast. A lot of wealthy Varoki had taken to classical Chinese clothing styles in the last few years but had no idea what the decorative lettering meant. I was pretty sure The’On did. It was not something he would take for granted.
“Sasha, it is good to see you alive.” he said, shaking my hand. The Human form of greeting had gained popularity among Varoki until the traditionalists like Gaant started raising a stink about anything Human. You didn’t see as much of it anymore, but that never stopped The’On.
“I’m fine. It’s good to have you here. Do you know Mr. ah-Quan?”
“Yes, I believe we met last year. May you and your blood prosper.” He didn’t offer his hand. Zacks don’t like to be touched, at least not by non-Zacks. I’d never heard them say so, but I suspected they found us as physically repulsive as we found them. Maybe that’s why they always seemed so cranky.
“Am well,” he answered, the voice from his upper mouth strangely nasal and high-pitched. You always expected a rumbling bass to come out of that massive body.
My eyes flicked back to the hatch. Borro, The’On’s Varoki bodyguard, filled the opening. He turned his head, taking in the immediate area, memorizing everything just in case. Then his eyes found mine and he nodded, a very slight smile on his lips.
“Come on, let’s head to the family complex,” I said. “We’ll help carry your things.”
The’On smiled at that. His profession took him to a lot of residences of the rich and powerful throughout the Cottohazz, but I was pretty sure ours was the only one where he got to carry his own bags. Keeping servants to a minimum was good for security. It wasn’t bad for the soul, either.
I’d reserved a private autopod which would get us to the main atrium facing the family complex up on level 237. It was more secure than the public elevators and let us talk in private on the way there.
“So how are things on K’Tok? Still the lush green paradise I remember?”
He looked at me, his ears cocked unevenly in a way that made me smile. “The autumn was lovely and no one shot at me this time, if that is what you mean. But there is growing unrest in the old colonies ever since last year, when Humans began illegally settling the western continent and the Utaan Archipelago. At least the Varoki settlers have put aside their animosities, united in their common hostility to their new Human neighbors.”
“You can always count on us Humans to bring people together,” I said.
Ah-Quan laughed and then belched. You’d never know the Zacks have a sense of humor just looking at them, but they do — a finely honed appreciation for irony. Borro, sitting in the seat across from him, nodded in agreement.
The main entrance to the family complex was off of the northwest atrium in what was called the Executive Layer, which was basically everything above Level Two Hundred. From the complex’s outer foyer we had to go through an elaborate security routine to get into the inner foyer, and then another different one to get into the main apartment, routines which required not only passwords but also a retinal scan and DNA sample. Tweezaa’s late father, Sarro e-Traak, had built this complex six years earlier with security in mind. If he’d have stayed in it, he’d probably be alive today, Marr would still be a market consultant to the rich and powerful, and I’d be dead — or head of the rackets on Peezgtaan and wishing I was dead.
The inner foyer opened onto the suites for the live-in security teams and, past them, the family apartment. Our apartment was open design built around the living room in the middle with the kitchen and four bedroom suites radiating from it. The suites were Marr’s and mine, Tweezaa’s, and two for guests. Those were empty right now, but we gave The’On one and Borro, his bodyguard, the other. Normally bodyguards bunked with our security folks but Borro was nearly family.
Each suite had a bedroom, bath, office, and den. We’d decorated mostly with soft reddish-tan carpets and furniture, and a lot of bright accent colors. One smart wall in the central living room was set up with Tweezaa’s family pictures, school and sports awards, a prize-winning essay, and a bunch of her drawings. A year ago the drawings had been interesting scrawls. Lately they’d started getting pretty good — still very impressionistic, and with some surreal color choices, but I thought she had an eye for important detail. Of course, I was biased.
“So, did Gaant tell you anything useful about the edict?” The’On asked once the new round of greetings were done and he and I, Marr and Tweezaa settled in around the table in the family kitchen.
“He hinted but he didn’t mention the edict outright, so as far as they know we’re still in the dark,” I said. “We know it will retroactively invalidate any will or trust which transfers control — not ownership, but control — of select family assets to a non-family member.”
He nodded. “Yes. And since Marrissa is Tweezaa’s guardian, and clearly not a family member, the inheritance is forfeit. What a stupid edict! It will also break every charitable trust in Bakaa, don’t they realize that? Or don’t they care? The Wat will be inundated in lawsuits from foundations. Then they will realize their error and try to find a way to exempt everyone from the law but Tweezaa. Imbeciles!”