Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 03

Not that it had done any good. And not that either of the LLL’s members had won reelection after the news crew went home. President MacMinn hadn’t even pretended to count the votes in the next general election, and that was the point at which Megan MacLean had listened to Tammas MacPhee, the LLL’s vice chairman and MacFadzean. She’d maintained her party’s open organization, its get-out-the-vote and lobbying campaigns, but she’d also let MacFadzean organize the Liberation League’s thoroughly illegal provisional armed wing.

It had probably been a mistake, she thought now, yet she still couldn’t see what other option she might have had. Not with the Unified Public Safety Force turning more and more brutal — and worrying less and less about maintaining even a pretense of due process — under Secretary of Security MacQuarie. Except, of course, to have given up the effort completely, and she simply hadn’t been able to do that.

And now this. Seven years of effort, of pouring her heart and soul into the liberation of her star system, and it ended this way, in death and disaster. It wasn’t even —

She looked up again as the door opened and MacFadzean walked back into what passed for their command post.

“I got a runner off to Tad,” she said, and her lips twitched in a mirthless smile. “Somehow I didn’t think I should be using the com, under the circumstances.”

“Probably not a bad idea,” MacLean agreed with what might have been the ghost of an answering smile. If that was what it was, it vanished quickly. “It was bad enough with just the Uppies tapping the coms. With the damned Sollies up there listening in…”

Her voice trailed off, and MacFadzean nodded. She understood the harsh, jagged edge of hate which had crept into MacLean’s voice only too well. They had Frinkelo Osborne, the Office of Frontier Security’s advisor to MacMinn’s Prosperity Party, to thank for the for Solarian League Navy starships in orbit around the planet of Halkirk. Officially, Osborne was only a trade attaché in the Solarian legation in Elgin, the Loomis System’s capital. Trade attachés made wonderful covers for OFS operatives assigned to “assist and advise” independent Verge star systems when their transstellar masters felt they stood in need of a little outside support. And if an “attaché” required a certain degree of assistance from the SLN, he could usually be confident of getting it.

We could’ve taken MacCrimmon and MacQuarie on our own, MacFadzean thought bitterly. We could have. Another few months, a few more arms shipments from Partisan and his people, and we’d have had a fighting chance to kick the LPP straight to Hell. Hell, we might have pulled it off even now, if not for the damned Sollies! But how in God’s name are people with pulsers and grenade launchers supposed to hold off orbital bombardments? If I’d only been able to get word to Partisan –!

But she hadn’t. They hadn’t been supposed to move for a minimum of at least another four months. Partisan had been supposed to be back in Loomis to lock down the final arrangements — the ones she hadn’t yet discussed even with MacLean — and there hadn’t been any way to get a message out when the balloon went up so unexpectedly.

She glanced across the room again, wondering if she should have told MacLean about those arrangements with Partisan. She’d thought about it more than once, but secrecy and security had been all important. Besides, MacLean wasn’t really a revolutionary at heart; she was a reformer. She’d never been able to throw herself as fully into the notion of armed resistance as MacFadzean had, and the thought of relying so heavily on someone from out-system, of crafting operations plans which depended on armed assistance from a foreign star nation, would have been a hard sell.

Be honest with yourself, Erin. You were afraid she’d tell you to shut the conduit down, weren’t you? That the notion of trusting anybody from outside Loomis, was too risky. That they were too likely to have an agenda of their own, one that didn’t include our best interests. You told yourself she’d change her mind if you could prevent a finished plan that covered all the contingencies you could think of, but inside you always knew she still would have hated the entire thought. And you weren’t quite ready to go ahead and commit to Partisan without her okay, were you? Well, maybe she would’ve been right…but it wouldn’t have made any difference in the way things’ve finally worked out, now would it?

She looked up at the command post’s shadowed ceiling, her eyes bitter with hate for the starships which had rained down death and ruination all across her homeworld, and wished with all her exhausted heart that she had been able to get a messenger to Partisan.