Come The Revolution – Snippet 30
“I don’t know you,” he said, “but I work for Bogo Katranjiev, head of the Citizen’s League. He told me to get a working LENR generator and bring it back to his office, which is what I’m doing.”
“Can you dismount that thing without screwing it up?”
His face twisted in a sour expression. “For three years I crewed on a deep space C-lighter, engineering department. Then eighteen months I spent grounded here, waiting for another lift ticket. Seven days ago I got one, seven days! I was scheduled to ride the needle to orbit tomorrow, and then all this tsuris breaks loose! Can I dismount an LENR generator? One time I bypassed a burned-out power junction, ran carbon cable by hand to pump a SMESS from a half-gig fusion reactor so we could make jump. You even know what a SMESS is?”
“Then shut up and let me work.” He leaned over and picked up his power wrench.
“You think this is the best use of your time,” I asked, “pulling one little LENR generator to run an office suite?”
“Not my department.”
“Turn around and put your hands up,” I ordered.
He looked like he might argue the point, but when Ivanov took a slow step toward him he laid down the wrench and did as I’d told him.
“You’re gonna be sorry,” he said.
“Hope not,” I answered as I sprayed “LOG” on his back in big bright letters.
“Hey! What the hell?”
“Turn around,” I ordered and I did his front.
He touched it with his fingers, looked at the still-wet streak of paint.
“See, now it is your department,” I said. “You still work for Katranjiev, or rather the Emergency Citizens Troika, but from now on you report to me. I’m Sasha Naradnyo, head of logistics, and you’re now head of the power division. We’re gonna need lots of it. There are solar panels, vehicle skins, LENR generators lying around all over. What do we need to do to get them concentrated, secured, and on a grid?”
He thought for a couple seconds, looked around the street half-filled with nervous people hurrying here and there, trying to make their own preparations. He looked back and opened his mouth but I cut him off.
“Not now. Two hours from now at the clinic. Between now and then recruit whatever technicians you can find. Here’s two spray bottles. Have an outline plan of action by then and a list of what resources you need. No telling what I can actually give you, but it’ll be nice to have a wish list. You got any questions?”
He looked around some more and then nodded to the LENR generator in the van.
“What about that?” he said.
“It’s your call. If you decide that generator needs to be in that office suite, then get somebody else on it. But if I catch you turning a wrench anytime in the next two hours, my friend Ivanov here is going to break both your arms, just so you won’t be distracted from your real job any more. Understand?”
To my surprise, he laughed and nodded.
“By the way, what is a SMESS?” I asked.
“Super-conducting Magnetic Energy Storage System. It’s like a big donut only made from superconducting cables. You know, no resistance, so you put electricity in, it just goes round and round until you need it.”
“Sounds like maybe we could use one of those. Any around here?”
He just laughed.
Fifteen minutes later I stopped back at the dilapidated wood frame and sheet metal building which housed the offices of the Merchants’ and Citizens’ Association and was also becoming the headquarters of the Sookagrad Emergency Citizens’ Troika, which made sense as, of the three groups that made it up, only the Merchants’ and Citizens’ Association was actually legal. I wanted to check in before my department head meeting and see how everyone was dealing with my sudden promotion from Traitorous Running Dog to Chief of Logistics. I wasn’t sure what sort of working relationship I could manage with Katranjiev, or with Dragon Lady for that matter, but it was time I found out.
As Ivanov and I turned the corner on the winding, narrow street a short block from the headquarters, I saw a sight which excited and scared me at the same time: a group of four Varoki Munies, looking a little roughed up but not really injured as far as I could tell. They still had their sidearms but they hadn’t drawn them, and they were under the guard of a half-dozen citizens, assorted firearms raised and pointed.
“Let’s not scare anyone,” I told Ivanov. “We don’t want this to turn ugly. Those four Varoki could be very important to us.”
He looked at me. “You like leatherheads,” he said, in his rumbling bass voice.
“Most of my life I was a criminal, and I spent most of that time ducking the Munies on Peezgtaan. I got no love for them, but times change. These guys could solve some problems for us.”
I tried to find out what was up but the civilian guards didn’t know anything useful. They were just covering the Munies until word came back from inside what to do with them. Three of the Munies were patrol officers, looking scared and way out of their depth. The fourth one was older and wore the rank stars of a police captain. He looked more depressed than scared — maybe resigned to his fate was a better description. None of them really wanted to talk to me, at least not yet.
“Keep an eye on things out here, would you?” I said to Ivanov. “Wouldn’t want anything stupid to happen.”
“Because may be more useful alive than dead,” he said.
That was a very utilitarian way of looking at it, and there was a lot to be said for utilitarianism. But there was something to be said for being on the side of the angels as well, not that it was ever easy to figure out which side that was. I sometimes think that the cause you back has less to do with where the angels roost than how you go about backing it. That said, I also think some causes can stain you so deeply that no quantity of good deeds will ever cleanse your karma. So if you’re looking for simple answers, some universal formula that will get you through life with your soul intact, try looking where the light’s better.
Inside the offices I found Dragon Lady and Katranjiev arguing about what to do with the Munies. They made an interesting physical contrast: Katranjiev tall and skinny, fair-haired and long-faced, the Dragon Lady none of those things.
She was fiftyish — which was older than I’d have thought from her voice — and a little stocky, but she moved as if she was in good shape. She wasn’t beautiful, but I’d call her distinguished-looking. “A handsome woman,” people might have said once upon a time, or would have if it weren’t for her eyes, which were stricken and angry-looking at the same time, as if they had seen too much and now disliked seeing anything at all. Other than being a former legal councilor, the current head of a Humanist resistance cell, and ill-tempered, I didn’t know much about her. I’d at least found out her name: Desislava Bogdanovna Zdravkova, which as names go would have been a mouthful if my own folks hadn’t been Ukrainian. She was second generation Bulgarian like Katranjiev and a lot of the folks in Sookagrad.
Between all those Bulgarians, Nicolai Stal the Russian, and me the Ukrainian, this was starting to look like a reunion of the Slavic diaspora.
Zdravkova and Katranjiev both glared at me when I walked in.
“What do you want, Naradnyo?” Katranjiev demanded. “I only went along with Stal’s idea of giving you a job because I thought it would keep you too busy to cause trouble.”
“Boy, were you wrong.”
“I imagine you’re here to plead for the lives of those four leatherheads,” Zdravkova said.
“As it happens, you’re exactly right, although since the Munies haven’t done anything but get themselves whacked for protecting us Humans, I’m not sure why their lives would need pleading for. But here’s my thing: have either of you given any thought to what’s going to happen to us in the unlikely event that we actually survive all this?”
“What do you mean?” Zdravkova asked.
“That would be a ‘no,'” I said and she scowled even harder at me. “I heard you’re a lawyer, or at least used to be. We’re grabbing everything in the district which isn’t nailed down, confiscating supplies, ripping apart cars, demolishing buildings to close routes of approach, knocking new doors–”
“Actually, you’re doing most of those things,” she said.
“A distinction which will be lost on the authorities. My point is, what will the owners say when it’s all done? Have we got a legal leg to stand on? Or are we just a bunch of vandals and looters?”
“Legally we’re vandals and looters,” she said and shrugged. “If we live, we can worry about explaining it.”
“By then it will be too late. If we want outside help soon enough to make a difference, our legal status could be the deal breaker. But I got an idea. I know it goes against both of your better instincts, but hear me out on this one. Please.
“I think I’ve come up with an interesting angle.”