Come The Revolution – Snippet 33

Chapter Twenty

“People of Bakaa and the entire Cottohazz: I am Captain Arkerro Prayzaat, acting commandant of the Sakkatto Municipal Police. I am communicating from a secret and secure police facility. To the best of my knowledge I am the highest ranking police official who has not been taken into custody or executed by the Army mutineers who violently seized control of the government two days ago.”

Prayzaat sat behind a desk backed by a smart wall which was programmed to show a detailed map of the city. We’d put a bunch of arcane and important-looking symbols on it: geometric shapes in different colors and with a four-digit number below each of them. They were randomly placed and didn’t actually mean anything. Hopefully a bunch of Army intelligence officers would spend a few sleepless nights trying to decode them, rather than working on something important.

“The mutineers have told the Cottohazz they have restored order in Sakkatto City,” Prayzaat continued. “There is no order in the city. Aside from a few small areas in some of the arcologies there is only violence and anarchy.

“Hundreds of police officers have been executed by the mutineers and almost all of the survivors of the force have been arrested and are being held at secret locations. Their so-called crime was to use force to protect the lives of non-uBakai citizens of the Cottohazz against rampaging mobs. I call on the mutineers to disclose the location and identity of all police in their custody and release them to neutral parties immediately.

“Sakkatto City has been denuded of police and plunged into chaos. The citizen associations of Sakkatto must step into the breach and establish order in their own neighborhoods. To that end, and under my authority as commandant of the Sakkatto Municipal Police, I hereby officially deputize all members of the citizen associations whose names follow this address, and I empower them not only to take all steps necessary to protect the lives and property of their people, but also to resist the illegal gang of thugs who have overthrown our rightful government.

“We face a daunting task, but I call upon all loyal citizens of the Commonwealth of Bakaa to band together and forget whatever differences divided us before. What we fight for now is nothing less than the rule of law. I also call upon the Cottohazz itself to recall the pluralistic principles upon which it is based and to aid us in our struggle. This military coup cannot succeed unless the Cottohazz so allows it. If you will not stand against this shameful act, what will you stand for?”

“That’s a wrap,” the video tech said after two or three seconds of silence. The seven others of us in the room, who stood outside the arc of the holovid recorder, started moving and talking again. The list of community groups, which we’d culled from the comm lists of Katranjiev’s office, included a lot of Varoki groups as well as some of the ethnic community associations. It would scroll on the vid after Prayzaat finished, probably over a frozen ghosted image of him at his desk. That was up to the editor. The citizen groups were listed alphabetically so the Sookagrad Citizen’s League was well down the list, nice and inconspicuous — but it was still official.

As calls to arms go, I thought it was okay but nothing special: a bit wordy and long-winded, but that’s what a lot of the Varoki are like. I figured it was more important that the speech sound sincere than eloquent, and it did. Those were Prayzaat’s words, and he meant them.

The three members of the troika — Katranjiev, Zdravkova, and Stal — clustered around Prayzaat to shake his hand and work out our next move. I slipped out the door and headed toward the clinic, my temporary headquarters. I figured I was going to have to move somewhere else soon, probably into one of the ammo fabrication sites. The clinic was starting to get busy, and things were only going to get crazier there. I already felt like my admin folks were in the way.

I blinked as I came out the basement freight door into the darkness of the empty street, irregularly lit by distant fires and an occasional aerial flare. I heard a lot more small arms fire now, all over the city, but not much near us for the moment. From far off in the distance came the muffled thud of an explosion. So much for the Army restoring order.

In the last twenty-four hours the Varoki gangs had tested our perimeter in three places, tried to bluff or bully their way past the barricades, but so far the fighters had stood their ground and driven them off with a lot of noise but not many casualties. At some point soon that was all going to change, one way or another, and then we’d see.

Someone walked down the narrow street a dozen yards ahead of me, a woman, keeping close by the buildings to her right. People were already learning to stay out of the center of the street, where stray rounds were more likely to fall. Rain earlier had left the pavement wet and shining in the occasional flicker of light, but the clouds were clearing I thought. Maybe we’d have some sunshine tomorrow. I wondered what the weather was like at The’On’s place over in uKootrin territory. I wondered if they’d gotten rain, if Marr would feel sunshine on her face tomorrow. I wondered what she was thinking.

At least she knew I was alive. Once Greenwald spliced into the uBakai national data pipe, I’d been able to flash a single message to The’On’s residence there: “I am alive. Sasha.” No indication of where I was, of course, and no way for them to comm back — too dangerous to everyone else here if anyone figured out where I was in Sakkatto City.

I leaned against the street corner and yawned. I hadn’t slept in about two days, near as I could remember, but I’d gone a lot longer than that without sleep before. Of course, I’d been younger then, and the last two days I’d been on my feet almost the whole time. Too much standing around on foamstone pavement was starting to get to me in the joints, especially my knees. I ought to get a little rest, but first I had to get the ammo distribution points reorganized.

Ivanov had placed them where his ammo carriers could get to them, but too far from the perimeter. He was doing fine with fabrication so I let him concentrate on that and I took over ammo distribution myself until I could find some eager beaver to delegate it to. I’d half-figured I’d have to step in there anyway so it wasn’t a big surprise. Better to get it squared away now than try to shift everything around when the fighting got heavy.

And I needed to get the soup kitchen better organized, with some volunteers to haul hot chow up close to the fighting line. And we still didn’t have enough dormitory space for the Sookagrad folks who’d been displaced, let alone for the Human refugees we’d been getting, a trickle at first but more in the last twelve hours.

And I had to convince the perimeter fighters to get a lot more serious about recovering and taking care of the spent magazines from their weapons. Almost every weapon we had was a gauss rifle or pistol of one sort or another. The gauss in their name meant they magnetically accelerated a composite metallic flechette faster than the speed of sound, but they needed electricity to do it. The batteries that provided the juice for the system were embedded in the magazines. We could fabricate all the flechettes in the world but if we didn’t have magazines to load them into, and recharge with power, we were out of business.

Where to start?

Ammunition distribution. Right. Make the pitch to the perimeter fighters about magazine recovery when I go around with word on the new ammo points. They’d like not having to go as far to get it, so they’d be more disposed to help us on the other thing. I stretched my left arm over my head, twisted from side to side to loosen up my back, and headed on to the clinic. Maybe Doc Mahajan could give me a shot or something for the joint pain.

I heard small arms fire in the distance. I’d gotten used to it lately, but suddenly I realized this sounded like a lot more than usual. The fog of my fatigue cleared and I started trotting. By the time I got to the clinic a couple sets of stretcher bearers were moving through the big double doorway to the trauma receiving station and Moshe Greenwald was yelling at a crowd of guys. trying to get them to do something.

“What’s going on?” I said as soon as I got to them. Moshe turned and his face showed relief.

“Boss! Boy, am I glad to see you! Big push at the southwest barricade. Don’t know what’s happening except our guys took some casualties and they need ammo and reinforcements.”

I looked at the half-dozen guys he had together. “You guys ammo haulers?”

“Yeah, but Zhang here is the runner for barricade four. We got our own guys to haul for, if they get in trouble.”

“If the mob breaks through the southwest, we’re all going to have a really bad night. Everyone grab one sack of magazines and follow me. Moshe, you stay here. Alert whoever’s running the perimeter — I think it’s Zdravkova. She might not be back at headquarters yet. We were at that studio you rigged up. But find her and get some reinforcements to barricade four. Then get a work party together and get ready to push ammo wherever it’s needed. These guys are now the first echelon reinforcements,” I said, pointing to the ammo party. I could see the whites of Moshe’s eyes in the flickering flare light. He was excited, keyed up, but his head was still screwed on straight.

“Got it, Boss. Good luck!” Then he was gone, running toward the HQ buildings.

“Saddle up, folks,” I said to the other six. “You’re all about to become heroes. Do what I tell you and you’ll stay live heroes.”

“How do we know which bags are which caliber?” the one called Zhang asked. “We need forty-four-thirty pistol, forty-five-forty carbine, and some forty-five-fifty RAG.”

“Just grab a bag and haul ass,” I answered. I did exactly that and hoped like hell they’d follow me.