Darkship Revenge – Snippet 11

And The Rock Cried Out

Eris cried all the way on the way down.  I kicked the broom into as shallow a descent as I could, but I had the vague and possibly wrong idea that babies’ eardrums were more sensitive than adults’, and I assumed the pressure changes bothered her.

We glided over blue ocean, tinged gold here and there by the setting sun.  Above us, the air-to-space sped up on its final journey.

Eris cried.

She was still crying – it is entirely possible that babies crying are the most underestimated force in the universe – when we approached the ocean I changed my flight path, adjusting from memory to fly at that one peculiar height that was rarely tracked.  Too high for the normal every day flyers, but not so high that I impinged on the path of intercontinental or inter-island traffic.  It was the level at which broomers lived.  Other than the occasional peacekeeper broomer or flyer looking for broomers, and that only when broomers had been particularly troublesome.

There were neither broomers nor peacekeepers.  In fact, there was no one around.

I let my memory play back what I’d seen while coming down through the atmosphere, and while getting ready for the broom, and oriented myself.  If I was right, Liberte Seacity would be … North.  About an hour.

Long before I’d flown the full hour, I was tired of listening to Eris cry, and felt like I’d been flying for years or perhaps centuries.  My back ached and I couldn’t move it, couldn’t make myself comfortable with Eris and the broom both strapped to me.

It felt oddly more vulnerable and desolate to have Eris with me than to be alone.  I was responsible for her, so it wasn’t simply a matter of looking after myself.  And part of me hated being responsible for her, and having the extra burden of making sure she was well, and the other part of me despised myself for thinking it.

When we got near Liberte, even from the air, I could tell something was wrong.  In fact, it was as much of a shock as I’d sustained when first seeing my native city of Syracuse from the air last time I’d returned to Earth.

Liberte – unlike Syracuse – had always been a beautiful seacity.  Part of it came from its being the ruling city of the empire ruled by Good Man St. Cyr who, for the last ten years or so had been my friend, Simon.  His domains included Liberte, sure, but the real work horse of his fortune was the seacity of Shangri-La, known mostly for its production of mind-altering – and in many jurisdictions illegal – drugs and the algae farms that surrounded it, which fed half a continent, if one were to believe the reports put out by St. Cyr.  Of course, I didn’t believe the reports.  It’s something one learns when growing up in an oligarchy.  Never believe the official reports.  But I still knew the St. Cyrs had commanded impressive wealth for a long time, and that very little of it was produced in Liberte.

This left the city where administrators and bureaucrats lived a beautiful place, resembling a dimatough wedding cake, climbing layer on manicured layer till it achieved the pinnacle, where Simon’s palace stood, itself like a wedding cake, all glistening white dimatough, layer on layer, to the turret on the top, where the ballroom had been located.

It had been one of the most beautiful seacities to look at from the air.

Had been.

Half the palace looked ruined – blackened and burned — as did many of the other levels of the seacity.   Even from the air I could see entire streets where once-airy mansions had been torched.

There were signs of rebuilding, as I got nearer the palace: Scaffolds and heavy machinery, some of it obviously dimatough extruders, stood close enough to the palace that it was obvious that they were repairing some of the damage.  But who was repairing the damage?  Who was in control?

The same events that had propelled me out of Earth and into Kit’s native Eden, and that had caused a quasi revolution in Eden, had made it so that there was a revolution or the start of one on Earth.

Now, Earth, unlike Eden, was a vast place, with more than three billion inhabitants – how much more was a matter of great debate, because, as I’ve said before, the Earth was divided not only into the domain of fifty Good Men, but into countless principalities, governorships and satrapies under them.  And none of the absolute rulers or their absolute underlings trusted each other’s numbers.  So estimates of the numbers of humanity on Earth ranged from ten billion to three billion, and there was no consensus.

But even at three billion, there was no way a single revolution, even one propelled and masterminded by the Usaian cult which seemed to be everywhere, could by itself span the globe.  However, it was enough that it had started chaos in the areas I was most familiar with.  My own native city, Syracuse Seacity, had been destroyed by a bomb and the last time I’d been on Earth, war ranged across all of Syracuse’s continental dependencies, and Olympus Seacity’s also.

That it had extended to Liberte was not a surprise.  Simon, though not an Usaian, had aligned himself with them.  And the Good Men still in control of most of the Seacities and territories on Earth would attack him as well as the rest.

But the question was – who had won?  Who was in control of the island?

If it was the party of the Good Men, my landing there and making myself known might at best get me killed, or, more likely and worse, get me captured and made into that “Mother of the Race” thing they had planned for me.

I listened to Eris’ now hoarse cry and decided I wasn’t absolutely sure I was ready to be the mother of one child, much less of a race.  This was absolutely not happening.

So, instead of landing near the top, where the palace was; instead of trying to make contact with Simon and asking for his help in finding Kit, I circled the island and came in on the North side, the lowest level.

The way the seacities were built, level on level, the level above cut off most of the light and air to the lower on.  Perhaps because of that, the lower levels tended to be far cheaper than the top levels, and the areas where the supports for the top level anchored often were dark and difficult to get to, which made them ideal for a criminal or at least shadowy element.

Now most levels of Liberte housed at worst minor bureaucrats and an educated middle class.  But there still needed to be a place for the servants and gardeners, the cooks and cleaners catering to the rest of the island.  Shangri-La was too far away for a daily commute for those who had neither a flyer nor a broom.  And I’ve yet to see a place, on Earth or not, who doesn’t have an area where a shadow economy can flourish.  In Liberte that was only the lowest level of the seacity.

I landed there, in a secluded place I knew from visits with my broomer’s lair.  My appearance attracted a few looks, even after I pulled off the oxygen mask and stowed it and removed my Eden-made helmet from Eris’ head and folded it into my pocket.  Possibly because my suit was more expensive than normally seen in these parts, but also – likely – because it was unusual to see a broomer carrying two brooms on her back and an infant on her front.

The minute I removed the helmet from Eris, she had stopped screaming and fallen asleep.  This told me she really didn’t like her head confined, but there was something more.  From the whiff emanating from her we’d need to find a place to change her too.  Materials too.  I wasn’t used to this being a mother thing.  I had completely forgotten to pack diapering material.