Come The Revolution – Snippet 06

Chapter Four

Three days later, Marr, The’On, and I considered our options given a rapidly changing political landscape. Well, they considered the politics. My concerns were more personal.

“I don’t want you to go,” I said.

“It’s my decision to make,” Marr answered.

She sat on the living room couch and The’On had settled into a formachair beside it. I paced — should have sat beside Marr on the couch, but I was too worked up to sit down, or even stand still.

I looked out the window. Grey skies overhead and whitecaps on the Wanu River down below. To the north the stark, metallic pyramid of Katammu-Arc looked alien and forbidding, like gunmetal in the overcast, slick and shining from rain squalls which had already scuttled off to the east. Good thing the meeting tomorrow was right here in Praha-Riz archeology, just down about two hundred and twenty levels and over to the south.

Our announcement of the adoption three days ago caught Gaant and his allies by surprise. The news feeders didn’t even pay much attention until about a half-dozen prominent uBakai wattaaks started screeching as if we’d stolen the crown jewels. First they claimed it was illegal, then that it was thwarting the will of the uBakai people, then that it was a naked power grab by the uKootrin, The’On’s home government. And they’d had a lot of nasty things to say about us.

There were choreographed demonstrations but then things went off-script, turned violent, more than I think anyone expected. There were even a couple full-blown riots, which were nearly unheard-of. Usually Varoki followed the rules pretty well — a habit I figured came from having written most of the rules in their own favor. But now that the factions lined up against Tweezaa’s inheritance — mostly the other heirs in her family and the Simki-Traak upper management, along with some anti-Humanist cranks like Elaamu Gaant — had accidently unleashed this storm of anger and violence, and it looked as if it might slip out of their control, they wanted to sit down with us and talk. Now they wanted to talk.

“Sure it’s your decision whether or not to go,” I said to Marr, “but I’m responsible for security. Any professional security chief worth his salt would resign before he went along with this. It’s insane. You know I’m not going to walk away, now or ever. So you want to go over the cliff? I’ll be right there with you all the way. But I don’t have to lie to you and say it’s the best idea you’ve ever had.”

She looked at me hard for a moment but there was thoughtfulness behind the look as well. “You believe this meeting is a set-up?”

“Could be. Even if not, it’s a hell of an opportunity for anyone pissed off about the adoption. There were demonstrations in all seven of the arcologies and riots in parts of the Sakkatto slums. Bad riots, Marr–people killed over an adoption. That was yesterday and they haven’t even got the damned fires out yet.

“That’s why we have to meet with them,” she said.

“Yeah, I get it, sort of. Sit down with the sponsors of the edict, see if we can work something out to avoid further violence. Except we know we’re not going to work anything out.”

She sighed impatiently. “No, probably not, but we cannot leave ourselves open to the charge we were unwilling to at least try.”

“Okay, but it is criminally irresponsible to put you and The’On, both of Tweezaa’s guardians, in the same room on neutral turf without a platoon of Mike Marines in powered armor with you, along with a couple gunsleds for top cover and extraction. Not to mention you’re pregnant with our son, which means it’s not the same deal as when we were cutting our way through the jungle two years ago on K’Tok.”

“The Munies have guaranteed the security of the meeting,” she said.

“Guaranteed it with what?”

She looked blankly at me.

“Come on, you’re the economist, Marr. A guarantee is backed by something — replacement of product if it fails due to design defect, double your money back, free trip to Zamboanga — something. Otherwise, ‘guarantee’ is just another empty word bureaucrats use. No offense, The’On.”

He shook his head but didn’t speak, which was smart. This was not a fight he needed to take sides in.

It was Marr’s turn to look out the window. “If it is that dangerous, how do I ask someone else to take my place?”

“Why send anyone?” I said. “If they want to talk, we can talk by holo-conference. There’s no need to put meat in a room.”

“Ah, but there is,” The’On said, “and I think you know it, Sasha. If we are in the same room, our embedded commlinks can all be jammed locally, which means no virtual record of the meeting can be made through our sensory feeds. It is the only way to speak in private.”

“If they’re ashamed of what they’re going to say, the hell with them,” I said, but I knew he was right. Record what a politician’s saying and he starts speaking for posterity. You want to cut a deal for today, you need to do it in the dark. I shrugged.

“Okay, face-to-face it is. But not both of you. Marr, if you aren’t both there, it won’t be as dangerous for whoever you send in your place, or for The’On. Not as inviting a target. Besides, I’ll go along.”

Her eyes snapped back to mine. “You? Why? Gapa has Borro for security and if I send someone from the Sakkatto office they can bring a security specialist with them.”

The’On is Tweezaa’s adoptive father. I’m not going to let him go in harm’s way and not be there to do whatever I can. If something happens to him, and both you and I sit it out, Tweezaa will never forgive us.”

To be honest, I wasn’t sure she would anyway. She’d hardly spoken to us since the adoption. But letting The’On walk alone into hell and not come back would cap it. Not to mention I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about myself afterwards.

Marr’s eyes softened and after a moment she nodded. “I’ll have Gaisaana-la attend. She assembled all of the briefing files anyway. She knows who we’re dealing with and as much of the legal background as she needs to.” She raised her hand to me and I sat down on the couch next to her. She touched my cheek with her finger tips. “Please be careful,” she said.

“I am happy to see you both in agreement again,” The’On said. “But . . . where is Zamboanga?”

I shrugged. “Some place where the monkeys have no tails.”