Come The Revolution – Snippet 10

The’On nodded in acknowledgement but e-Bomaan, the Simki-Traak governor, made a disgusted sound.

“If the secret of the K’Tok and Peezgtaan ecoforms had not been revealed to the Humans,” he said, “we would have no trouble on K’Tok today.”

The’On tilted his head to the side and spread his hands. “Secrets are revealed,” he said. “Wishing it were otherwise accomplishes nothing. Revelation is the destiny of all secrets.”

“Not all secrets,” e-Bomaan said and exchanged a glance with the senior representative from AZ Kagataan, Simki-Traak’s biggest rival. The Kagataan governor narrowed his eyes and his ears tightened, as if in silent reproach. E-Bomaan colored slightly and shut up, leaning back in his chair.

Now that was pretty interesting. Those two trading houses were more powerful than most governments, and they did not play well together. Two years ago they had fought a war by proxy on K’Tok, a war Tweezaa, Marr, The’On and I had been caught in the middle of. AZ Kagataan came out a big loser. But they and Simki-Traak Trans-Stellar apparently still shared a secret, and if the shellacking Kagataan took in the war hadn’t been enough to make them want to spill the beans out of spite, it must be a real corker. Marr was a Simki-Traak governor, at least nominally, but I wondered if even she knew what that was all about.

“Capital formation,” Elaamu Gaant said from the other end of the table, making it sound like a curse. Everyone turned to him. “We formed the Group of Interest, this alliance of uneasy partners, to accomplish a goal of great ideological import, and now we talk of capital formation. What of the principles we share? Do we abandon them because of numbers posted in some money changer’s office?”

A stir ran through the Varoki on his side of the table, surprise turning to irritation, then hostility.

“We appreciate the assistance you provided as the, ah, go-between assembling the Group of Interest, Mister Gaant–” Counselor Rimcaant began, but e-Bomaan cut him off.

“I knew it was a mistake allowing you to attend this meeting, Gaant,” he said. “Everything you planned has collapsed. You failed, do you understand? This is over your head now, and it is time to let those of us who understand what is at stake here make the best of the situation.”

Gaant laughed and stood up from his chair, but not in anger. e-Bomaan had just told him he had no further say in what went on, but Gaant looked to me like a guy who still had an ace up his sleeve.

You have forgotten what is really at stake,” he answered, and then he turned to face me. “Sasha Naradnyo, the Honorable e-Bomaan called you a criminal earlier. All of them think of you that way. Do you have a criminal record?”

I looked at him for a moment, now completely confused as to what this had to do with anything. “Not exactly.”

E-Bomaan laughed, a nasty little bark, but Gaant ignored him. “What does that mean, please?”

“I was arrested for burglary but the charge was expunged when I volunteered for a hitch with the Co-Gozhak.”

“You fought in the Nishtaaka campaign, is that so?” Gaant asked, and when I nodded he went on. “So you have no criminal record, and according to the law itself you have met all your obligations to it. But these gentlemen all still consider you a criminal and I sense you do as well. Why?”

“Well, I guess it has something to do with once having made my living by stealing,” I answered, but Gaant cocked his head slightly to the side and smiled.

“I do not think so. The Honorable e-Bomaan and these others all steal, one way or another.”

I saw a number of Varoki shift in their chairs and ears twitch over that, anger or confusion flashing across their faces and skins.

“What does this have to do with these negotiations?” e-Bomaan demanded. The voice of Simki-Traak Trans-stellar now took on a harder edge.

“Everything,” Gaant answered, and then he turned back to me. “You see, Sasha, these honorables have a philosophy,” he said, gesturing to e-Bomaan and the others along his side of the table, “a philosophy which assures them that they are bound by no standard of conduct except gain, and of course following the strict letter of the law. Morality and ethics are irrelevant, so long as they follow the law.

“Their philosophy also tells them the best thing they can do for everyone on the planet is to devote their resources to removing any legal restraint on their actions, provided they follow the law as they do so. This they do by their support for wattaaks, such as the three you see here today, men who share their philosophy and work to implement it.

“They utilize the reduced restraints to extract more money from their customers, from their workers, and from the Cottohazz itself in the form of subsidies and reduced taxes. Their philosophy tells them the satisfaction of their unbridled greed is the means for everyone in the Cottohazz to prosper, even as they systematically impoverish them.

“Sasha, you are not a criminal because you stole. You are a criminal because you did not have a philosophy.”

“What is the meaning of this, Gaant?” e-Bomaan demanded, rising to his feet. I was wondering the same thing, not that I was complaining “We did not come here to be insulted, or to listen to you flatter this murdering drug dealer.”

“No,” Gaant said, “you came here to reach an arrangement with the murdering drug dealer. In order to safeguard your own profits, you came here to trade away a part of the heritage which belongs to the entire Varokiim.

“For three hundred years you have stolen from the other races, and done so in the name of the Varokiim, and you could have done so for all eternity. Instead you stole so much from the others that they are bled dry, but the treasure must still flow, and so now you steal from the Varokiim themselves. When I was a child there were no slums between the arcs. Now you cannot see the ground for them, and most of the denizens of that place without hope are Varoki, not the other races. That is your legacy! But that stops here. It stops today.”

“What are you blathering. . .?” e-Bomaan started but then faltered. Everyone in the room froze for a moment. Gaant had made a signal to someone, a slight raising of his hand, and suddenly the soft background hum of the local jammer was gone from my ears. I immediately squinted up the access to our local float nexus in Prahaa-Riz and set up a full-feed recording of my audio and visual input, and locked a coded channel. I snapped to it before the bandwidth got swamped once everyone else in the room figured out what was happening. I must have beaten most of them to the draw because I got my channel up and running. From here on everything that I saw and heard would be out there on the float memory, and as far as I knew nobody was good enough to hunt down all those threads and erase them.

Since that was all done with eye movement and pressure, my mind and eyes weren’t on the room. As I looked up Gaant gestured again and the wide double doors to the conference room opened. First the jammers, then the door. Whatever cult Gaant was peddling with himself as a leader, obviously someone at the counseling house was on board.

The crowd we saw earlier in the atrium started shuffling in — hundreds of them, silent but curious. Some craned their necks, taking in the occupants of the room and the rich, elegant simplicity of its fixtures. Most of them watched Gaant the way I imagined people look at their messiah.