Come The Revolution – Snippet 27

Chapter Seventeen

“So what you think of two idiots brought you in?” Stal said as we sat in his office an hour after my acquittal. I sipped scotch, my second one. The first one went down in one gulp, but I was feeling steadier now.

Stal sat behind his desk, leaning forward in his chair but relaxed. He smoked a cigar, a damned fine one imported all the way from Earth. I know because it was from the pocket humidor they’d taken from me when I was arrested. The cigars had been a birthday gift from Marr. They were more extravagant than I’d have sprung for, mostly because of the shipping, but maybe that’s what gifts are for.

He was shorter than I’d expected and thinner, not all that physically imposing. But I’d known small, wiry guys before you wouldn’t want to cross, and he was one of those. You could see it in his eyes, grey and deep-set, guarded, calculating. Someone had broken his nose for him once and it hadn’t quite healed straight. His hair might have been brown not long ago but it was sandy grey now, even though I figured him to only be in his early forties. He wore it long, almost to his shoulders, and had a long droopy mustache to match. He had laugh lines at the corner of his eyes and that was usually a good sign. Occasionally it was very, very bad, but usually good.

“Bela’s rough around the edges but basically smart and energetic,” I answered. “Pablo’s stupid and lazy. Both of those are useful combinations, in my experience.”

He looked at me like I was crazy. “You like stupid and lazy?”

“Sure. You give them a few simple things to do, enough to keep them busy, and you never have to worry about them getting into trouble. They’re reliable — no surprises.”

He thought about that and his eyebrows clicked up a notch.

“Okay. So Bela make good captain someday?”

I shook my head. “Smart and energetic isn’t a good combination for a captain. He’ll be a good tactical guy for you, an idea man, but you don’t want him calling the shots. You want someone smart and lazy in charge.”

He leaned back in his chair, clearly intrigued. “This is management philosophy?”

“The personnel end of it, yeah. Smart and lazy guys are always looking for the easiest way to do stuff, which means most efficient and least dangerous. They’re the ones you need to rein in the idea guys. They’re also a lot better at delegating.”

“Huh,” he said and frowned in thought. “Okay, so . . . smart and lazy are leaders, smart and energetic are idea guys, stupid and lazy make reliable followers. Leaves stupid and energetic, da? Where they fit in?”

“Oh, they don’t,” I said. “They’re the ones who will screw things up, every single time. I think that’s mostly what’s wrong with politics and organized religion — like moths to a flame. You need to keep them out of your organization, and if any get in, find a way to deal with them.”

Deal with?” he said, and he studied me for a couple seconds. “I heard Sasha Naradnyo dealt with over forty guys,”

“Well, that’s an exaggeration.”

Stal’s desk beeped and he looked down, for the moment absorbed by the surface set to viewer mode. Despite the army jamming his desk was still live, so it must be hooked to a hard fiber network of some kind. That was an obvious precaution for a hood, since it made it harder for someone — like possibly the police — to do a data capture. I’d done the same back in the old days on Peezgtaan. It also had advantages in an emergency like this, when the wireless links were all down or jammed.

I looked around. His office wasn’t what I expected either. I’d never seen a hood with a “love-me” wall before, but he had a whole bunch of group pictures and certificates of appreciation virtually displayed on the smart wall behind him. The smart wall to my left was set to mimic a picture window, while the other two simply showed a pale pastel wallpaper pattern. All the furniture was expensive-looking flexi-units with reprogrammable configurations and surfaces depending on what you felt like that week. Right now it was British Regency. The arms on my chair even felt like wood. Very nice.

Stal tapped a string of entries and keyed two live buttons on his desk. He lifted his eyes to me and took a drag on his cigar.

“Can shoot with arm in sling?” he asked

I knew that question would come, sooner or later, and I found myself thankful for my injury. I was twenty-two-and-zero, and I was comfortable staying at that score.

“Not if you expect me to hit anything,” I answered. “I’m not much of a south paw.”

He leaned back in his chair and gave me an appraising look. “So what good for is Sasha Naradnyo? Aside from maybe feeding to Varoki so kill us later instead of sooner?”

I thought that over for a few seconds. Yeah, what was I good for? Things were probably going to turn pretty bad once the mobs out there got organized and started coming after Humans on a methodical basis, and with Gaant behind them, that was almost a certainty. What would these people need, other than rock-steady gunmen?

“Logistics,” I answered. “You’re going to be under siege here. You know the sort of operation I ran back on Peezgtaan and I also funded a clinic there, handled a lot of its management behind the scenes. In the Army I worked for a while in my cohort’s quartermaster shop, learned the four B’s of keeping an outfit going: beans, bullets, batteries, and bandages. Unless you already have someone really good to coordinate supply procurement and distribution, you need me for that.”

“Citizen’s Troika already has guards on two food warehouses in district. What else to do?”

I thought for a moment. They were right: first priority would be just feeding everyone. Since the native life forms on Hazz’Akatu were based on a whole different protein chain than Humans could metabolize, eating almost anything grown locally would kill us, which made foraging pointless. Everything we ate had to be grown hydroponically from imported organic stock.

“Distribution warehouses usually only have a few days of food,” I said, “maybe a week’s worth, to supply the different food stores in a district, and that’s just for your baseline population. If you manage to hold out, you’re going to get Human refugees swelling the count, people who don’t live in a ghetto but realize how unhealthy it’s going to get for Humans out there. We need to inventory everything, and it still needs to be guarded, but we need to disperse it some, not concentrate it. Too much chance of one lucky hit taking out half our food.

“But that won’t be enough to last long, so we need to find any hydroponic tanks in the district and secure them, make sure they’re growing as much protein as we can manage. I don’t know what flavoring they’ll have, if any, but we can live on plain algae and tofu if we have to.

“There won’t be near enough packaged water and sooner or later they’ll think to cut off the water mains. We need to set up some reservoirs and draw as much off now as we can.”

Stal nodded, eyes on mine, and took another drag on his cigar. I stopped and thought some more, worked out what they’d burn through fastest once the shooting started. I began ticking things off on the fingers of my left hand.

“Drugs and medical supplies: we need a complete inventory, and if one of the local med centers has a drug fabricator — and a good supply of raw organics — we could sure use it. If so, we got to get it to a secure location as soon as possible.