Come The Revolution – Snippet 17

Chapter Eleven

I woke up in an unfamiliar room and it took a few minutes of shuffling around all the scrambled memories of the previous day before I got them into a sequence that made sense. I was in a cheap hostel in Katammu-Arc. It was charging four times the going rate because of all the displaced people from Prahaa-Riz looking for a place to flop. I at least blended in with the other Human refugees, especially with my recent injury, rumpled and dirty clothes, and floppy black fisherman cap. I paid cash and when the clerk started ragging me about taking carryout fried tofu up to my room, I shut him up with another twenty cottos. Cash is eloquent, more so than me.

I’d gone to my drug-dulled and exhaustion-driven sleep with Marr’s words replaying in my head: If you get killed, I will never forgive you.

It sounded like the sort of fake-angry threat people make as a token of love — if you die I’ll kill you. It sounded like that, but it wasn’t. She meant it.

Marrissa was an only child. Her parents both died when she was about seven, leaving her to be raised by polite but unloving relatives. She had never forgiven her parents for abandoning her like that. I know. My parents and my only sister died when I was eight, left me to grow up on my own in the nightmare slums of Crack City on Peezgtaan, and I guess I’d never really forgiven them either. They should have taken more care, been more mindful that their lives weren’t just theirs any more. I wondered if Tweezaa, who had lost both of her parents, would ever forgive them.

The point is, there is a certain type of abandonment for which death is an insufficient excuse. Marr, Tweezaa, and I all knew that, and that common knowledge bound us together in ways powerful enough to transcend blood and even species, but it didn’t give any of us a free pass, especially not me.

So I had to get out of Sakkatto City, somehow, and get back to Marr and Tweezaa. The question was, how? I thought that over as I showered and made breakfast out of the cold left-over tofu. I had some cash, I’d gotten a good sleep, and physically I felt a lot better aside from the banged-up arm. Those were about the only assets I could muster, aside from wit, pluck, and boyish charm.

I was in Katammu-Arc, which was in some ways the epicenter of Varoki-dom. It was the largest arcology in Sakkatto City, and held the municipal offices as well as most of the governmental ministries of the Commonwealth of Bakaa. The other six arcologies of the city spread around Katammu-Arc forming the points of a very irregular hexagon, the arcs linked by maglev rails high above the sprawling slums below.

That really wasn’t my concern at the moment, though. My target was the uKootrin border, six hundred kilometers to the north. That sounded like an impossibly long distance at the moment, though, since I wasn’t even sure how to get out of Katammu-Arc.

My best hope was that a good night’s sleep had done everyone else as much good as it had me, that people would wake this morning as if emerging from a bad drunk, shudder at the hangover and at the half-remembered folly of the previous night, and then prepare to go about their business as usual.

I still didn’t want to activate my commlink so I used the room viewer to access the public float feed. A note from the management apologized for the smart wall being down for maintenance and offered a hand-held viewer as a substitute. I noticed it was attached to the desk with an anti-theft cable, the sure mark of a high-class joint.

The first image I hit on the news feed stunned me: Prahaa-Riz arcology was burning. The structure itself wasn’t flammable, but someone had torched all that beautiful greenery which covered it. It made me want to cry. Prahaa-Riz was more than a cool-looking arcology; it was home, and not just because we had one of our residences there. Human and Varoki aesthetics were different, and Prahaa-Riz was designed by a Human architectural firm thirty years ago. There was just something Human about its look and feel. Maybe that’s why they were burning it.

I scanned feed lines, the avalanche of images looking less like news than some nightmare scenario from a bad disaster holovid: Munies in riot gear storming Prahaa-Riz, shops in the lower levels of the archologies looted, buildings burning in the slums, and bodies — bodies everywhere. Thugs from one political faction vandalizing political offices of its rivals, Varoki mobs killing Humans, Munies firing on other Varokis — other Varokis! I never thought I’d live to see the day Sakkatto City Munies would defend Human slums against a Varoki mob, and do it with live ammo. The entire city had gone mad overnight.

I tried to make sense of the flood of information, all of it distorted through the lens of the panic or rage or political agenda of the freelance feed heads interpreting it all. Everyone called them feed heads because usually all you saw was their head down in a corner of the vid feed, telling you what you were looking at and what it meant. Most of them were Varoki but there were a few other races and even a fair number of Humans.

One thing I knew for sure: until all this bullshit settled down, it would be pretty hard to just slip unobtrusively out of the city. When Varoki mobs filled the streets, a Human like me couldn’t exactly blend in.

There was a strain of news feed blaming yours truly for the riot, and that made my chances of slipping away in all the confusion even harder, what with my picture spread all over the feed. They actually had an interesting sliver of evidence: the vid of me yelling at the staffer who drew the neuro-wand, saying, “Put that away, you moron!”

How could Sasha Naradnyo be the only person in the meeting to notice someone drawing a concealed weapon unless he knew of the weapon already?

Would anyone give orders in such a commanding and confident manner to a stranger — or was it to someone in his secret employ?

I’ll tell you something, I always know when someone’s bullshitting me: they don’t tell me what they think, they just ask these leading questions and hope my imagination fills in the blanks the way they want. I figure my imagination’s not there to do other folks’ work for them, but not everyone sees it that way.

To be fair, there were some skeptics out there, most of them Human but a few Varoki as well. One of the Human feed heads got my attention, maybe because of her intensity, maybe because of her dark good looks, assuming you like your women hard-eyed and tight-lipped. I’m generally open to the idea, but in this case she reminded me too much of me.

There is no real evidence that Sasha Naradnyo was the architect of this riot, and strong reason to believe it was simply a falling out between the mercantile interests of the eVarokiim, and the Varokist anti-Humanist followers of Elaamu Gaant. But nothing is certain, and if it should turn out that Naradnyo had a hand in this, he bears the crushing burden of guilt for all the Human lives already lost in these riots, and many more to come.