Come The Revolution – Snippet 23
“Mister Naradnyo, you should not have taken the chance of coming here. It is too dangerous!”
I flopped down in the chair across from Gaisaana-la and took off the viewer glasses I’d been wearing. I hadn’t seen her since ah-Quan hustled her off just as everything had started going to hell and The’On and I flew out a window. She didn’t look injured.
“I was already in the arc so it was just a couple express elevators and then a ten minute autopod ride. I wanted to see you but I’m half-surprised to find you here at the office. Any other staff show up today?”
“A few. I sent them home at mid-day. Your arm is injured. I was afraid you and Executor e-Lotonaa were killed until I saw the vid of you in the water.”
“We’ve survived worse. Listen, I need you to get out one of the travel cover IDs we set up for you and book passage for us to Kootrin. We’re getting out of here and we’ll take ah-Quan if I can arrange it. I think Borro is still in the city as well but when I ping him his commlink doesn’t respond.”
“Why did you not comm me to see if I was here before coming?” she asked.
“I’d have contacted you if I didn’t catch you here, but the less we use the air the better.”
She nodded in understanding. She was executive service, not protection detail, but everyone associated with Tweezaa and Marrissa had to be somewhat savvy about security.
“Mister ah-Quan is in Med South, the same as the others injured from the first riot. I have visited him and he is in grave condition. The medtechs are confident he will recover but the next two days are critical. He cannot be moved now.”
“He’s that bad? What happened?”
Her face colored and her ears folded back as she remembered. “He picked me up, pushed through the crowd, put me in the corner of the room, and then covered me with his own body. At first the mob tried to beat him to death, then it pushed against him. He wedged his shoulders against the two walls and he continued talking to me until he lost consciousness although I could not understand him. Perhaps he was trying to keep me from fear, or perhaps keep himself from it. Perhaps he was praying. He spoke in a Zaschaan language.”
“Szawa?” I asked.
“No, a native language, spoken with both mouths at the same time. It was very beautiful.” She looked away for a moment, maybe remembering that voice.
“He suffered multiple traumatic joint compressions, two spinal fractures, and internal organ damage. He cannot be moved. I will not go either.”
“You? Look, I know you feel a debt to ah-Quan, but you can’t help him by staying here. You’re Marr’s executive assistant and she’s going to need you.”
“The Municipal Police have issued a material witness summons for me and frozen my travel privileges.”
“Right, same as me. That’s why you need the travel cover. If CSJ were manning the checkpoints it might not fly, but with the Munies we’ll be fine. Trust me, I just passed through four checkpoints getting here.”
I held up the viewer glasses with my left hand.
“These have built-in UV lights that throw off the biometrics of automatic facial recognition scans — not enough to raise a red flag, just enough to throw my eye and nose dimensions out of the program recognition window for my face. If they want a closer scan, my retinas match my travel cover, and you’d need a medtech to tell they’re skin contacts. They ran us a small fortune but they work against what the Munies have. You’ve got the same gear available with your travel cover.”
She looked into my eyes and shook her head slightly. “It does not matter. I will not violate the law.”
I sat back in the chair and looked at her. “The law? Have you looked out a window lately? There’s no law out there anymore, just fire and rage and blood, and it’s lapping at the foundations of the archologies. Have you seen the vid of the outside of Prahaa-Riz burning? That may just be a sample of what’s coming.”
She dipped her head to the side, and her ears slowly opened up, her skin coloring in a soft hue.
“Mister Naradnyo, you were born on the uZmatanki colony world of Peezgtaan, of Human parents who had renounced their Ukrainian citizenship. As I understand the law at that time, you were technically a stateless person until Peezgtaan received its independence, about ten years ago. This is correct?”
“Yeah. So what?”
“Believe me, I mean no offense. In the time I have known you I have gained great respect for you. My point, however, is that for most of your life — I think for all of your life really — you have been a man without a country. I do not sense that you understand how this sets you apart from so many of the rest of us.
“I am uCotto’uBakaa” she continued, her voice firmer, “a citizen of the Commonwealth of Bakaa. It is my country, Mister Naradnyo, it is my home, and it is in desperate peril. I do not know that there is anything I can do to wake it from this terrible nightmare, but I cannot abandon it.”
I didn’t try to talk Gaisaana-la out of her decision. It would have been a waste of time for both of us, and we had a lot to do. She didn’t think I understood what she was wrestling with, but in a funny way I did. I might not have a real good handle on nationalism, but I understood abandonment.
I also now understood her ambivalence about the adoption, and I felt small about questioning her loyalty the previous day, even if just to myself. One thing she had plenty of was loyalty, although it must have gotten pretty complicated for her, sorting her loyalties out and remaining true to all of them.
I hadn’t had a lot of hope of getting ah-Quan out even before I found out his condition, because we didn’t have an elaborate travel cover, or spook gear to back it up, for him. Before this all blew up he was another security guy, one of a couple dozen. Now things were different, but not in a way that was going to do him much good, at least not right away. I wanted to see him, though, say something to him before I went. Med South was not that far below our executive offices so I took another elevator down and watched the crowds of people through the clear composite wall looking out on the wide South Tower atrium shaft. I’d been just a few levels lower in the atrium yesterday morning.
Was that all it was? Just a little over a day?
The meeting had been on Ten of Eight-Month Waning–the tenth day of the second (waning) half of the eighth month in the Varoki calendar. They named their days and months with even less imagination than most of their enterprises. It was no wonder Humans were starting to do well in the arts — the competition wasn’t all that tough. I blinked up my personal calendar to be sure I hadn’t lost a day somewhere. Nope. Today was Eleven of Eight-Month Waning.
I left the elevator and walked down the broad corridor toward the main entrance to Med South but slowed as I saw a half-dozen Varoki in military uniforms out front, arguing with a couple Munies. There was a time I would have viewed this as an opportunity to slip past all of them while they were distracted, but I have learned from experience that a more likely outcome is for both Varoki parties to find common ground in working their frustrations out on the Human.
I felt as much as heard the repetitive thudding bass of a mechnod band and altered course, following the sound to a narrower passage. I stopped and glanced at the soldiers and cops, still arguing, and I decided I should kill ten or twenty minutes to give them a chance to sort things out and go about their business.
I followed the passage which led to a cul-de-sac surrounded by a half-dozen shop fronts. Two of them were shuttered and looked like they’d been closed for a while, and none of the others looked very prosperous, but the music escaped from an opened door leading to a dark room lit only by flickering colored lights. The sign above the door in both aGavush and aBakaa read “Koozaan’s Beverage Store.” Under it a sign in those languages as well as English read “Human’s Welcome!”
I resisted the effort to correct the punctuation, wrapped my left hand around the neuro wand I carried folded up in my trouser pocket, and went in.
Varoki bars aren’t like Human bars. For one thing, there’s no actual bar, just tables and chairs and a doorway to the back room. Two Varoki in suits sat at one table, already drinking some pastel pink stuff and arguing. I grabbed a table close to the door and punched up the drink options on the smart surface. They had what claimed to be scotch, a label I’d never heard of: Klan MacKlacklahaan, which claimed to be “the finest blended single malt scotch on Hazz’Akatu.”
Despite some doubts about the existential possibility of a blended single malt scotch, I ordered one over ice. I paid with the fund card associated with my travel cover, just to establish my identity and head off questions. This was the sort of situation where cash would have attracted unwanted attention. I added a nice tip in advance and pretty soon a middle-aged Varoki male server brought the drink, set it down politely, and then returned to the rear of the shop. No small talk but no challenging looks either.
I took a sip and was surprised that it actually resembled scotch after all, and not even the worst I’d ever had. Of course, given what drink fabricators could turn out, there wasn’t a lot of percentage in selling rotgut, which would come out of the same fabricator and cost almost as much to make.
Although I preferred jazz, the repetitive pounding of the mechnod music was strangely relaxing. Instead of distracting me, it cleared my mind. I stirred my scotch with the plastic straw and wondered what the hell I was doing here. Talk to ah-Quan before I got out of town, sure. But why?
I couldn’t take ah-Quan with me to Kootrin, so what was the point? He wasn’t counting on a visit and it would just endanger both of us. I could send him flowers.
So why was I hanging around in a bar watching the ice in my scotch melt? Why wasn’t I already on a shuttle for Kootrin? I was stalling. I was killing time, coming up with excuses not to get on that shuttle. I couldn’t figure out why, but it had to stop, right now. Get up, book the shuttle, and get the hell out of this mess.
I left most of my drink on the table and walked down the arched passage to the main corridor. When I got there I saw more military types at the main entrance than before. The Munies were gone and a couple high-ranking Varoki officers in the dress grays of the uBakai astro-naval service walked into the hospital like they were in a hurry. Whatever was going on in there, it was more heat than I needed, so I reluctantly turned and headed back to the elevator.
Why reluctantly? That didn’t make any more sense than me being here in the first place. I’d already decided to skip a visit to ah-Quan, so why had all that extra security suddenly made going in more attractive? Was it the little kid in me, curious about what all the activity was about? Or the adolescent pushing back against all those authority figures telling me what I could and couldn’t do? Or the danger junkie, hungry for an adrenaline high? Maybe.
But just maybe it was the loner, looking for any excuse to put off going back to all the responsibilities I’d accumulated over the last two years. Responsibilities I’d never had before.