Saturday, September 22, 2018

Chapter 10

“What do you mean it’s a pipe dream?” Jane hissed.

Soon shielded his face. “Look, I’ll do my best. I just never really planned on getting off-world.”

“That would have been nice to know up front,” Bhutto said.

“Every part of my plan is still there, and I told both of you the entire situation. It’s not my fault if you can’t put the pieces together.”

“What do you mean?” Jane asked.

“Look, my shuttle is out of commission, as tends to happen when you get shot out of the sky. In order to get off the moon, I have to contact my guy in the Corp. Do you see the problem here?”

Suddenly Jane realized. “How do we contact him without the net?”

“We can’t,” he replied.

Jane nearly stepped on his feet, her bared teeth inches from his face. “You son of a pig. You’ve stranded us here.”

“I hate to admit it,” Bhutto replied calmly, “but he’s right. We had all the information, and we didn’t put it together.”

“I assumed he had a way of contacting his contact! What good would it do us to have a man in the corporation who agrees to let us leave if we can’t get him to let us leave?”

Bhutto shook her head. “First rule in this part of the world is this, Red: assume nothing. What I don’t get is why you wouldn’t want to leave. You said you were here for your son. It seems like you'd have some way to rescue him once we got here.”

Yeager smiled. “You’ve broken your own rule, hon.’ My son died a long time ago, before I ever planned this expedition. Before it was even a spark in a synapse.”

“Then why are you here? Why did you join our ghost ship hunt?”

“I came here for my son. For the monster that brutally tortured and murdered him. I plan to return him the favor.”

Just another two-faced Odinian. “You expect us to help you find this man?” She asked.

“No,” he responded coldly. “I want to do that on my own.”

He was never going to leave the moon, even if he were able. He wanted to die here.

“Yeager, if we can find some way to make contact with your corporate connection, will you make the call so that we can leave?”

“If you can find a way to contact him, I will gladly vouch for you. You funded my vendetta, after all.”

“The Collective did,” Jane corrected. She hoped it would not be in vain.

“Yeager, do you even know where the guy is? He could be dead already.”

“He could be, but I don’t think so.”

“Maybe if you gave us some description?”

“Like I said, I’d like to find him on my own.”

Jane looked to Bhutto. She responded with a raised eyebrow. Yeager never had any qualms about accepting her help before. There was something he was not telling her.

Whatever it was, she did not have time to coax it out of him.

“Fine then. Would you mind helping us, though?”

“Tell me what you need.”

“What we need,” Jane said, “is a revolution.”

“She might just be crazier than you,” Bhutto said.

“So something easy, I see.”

“We’ve already convinced the miners to stop work. We just need to get the farmers on board.”

He shook his head. “Okay, how did you convince the miners?”

“She promised that they would all go to paradise after they died,” Bhutto said. Jane could not tell if Bhutto’s contempt were directed towards her, the miners, or the idea in general.

“Well, I can assure you that will not work here.”

Yeager gestured to the slaves laboring in the fields, the scars on their backs and sides from shock batons, a cross-stitch of welts, digging, reaping, manually pollinating the crops. She could see why they might not have the same attitude as the miners. While they suffered, they were stronger and better fed. She guessed that the majority of them stole surplus crops when the overseers weren’t looking. They were almost subsidiary bosses in that respect, living off the labor of the miners.

“That’s fine. Is there anybody here that is a respected leader?” She asked. “Someone who will see reason? Someone who can get the serfs on our side.”

“You need to remember that I just got here,” he said. “These guys aren’t all cuddly. I keep my head low. The guards don’t give a damn what we do to one another here, just as long as we produce our quota. They have us elect slave bosses to make sure. Anyone slacking gets hazed, and not in friendly pranks. If we miss quota, they take it out of our rations and worse. The slave bosses are what you would call risk averse. They hear about it whenever the bosses come down on them.”

“What would they do if they found a group from the mining camp hiding away down here?” Bhutto asked.

“They’d report you right away. No one sticks their neck out for anyone else here, not unless you are best friends. Maybe not even then.”

“Well,” Jane said. “Let’s become best friends.”

Jane ignored Bhutto’s derisive snort and followed Yeager to the nearest irrigation hose. Jane had declared that they should not smell like feces when introducing themselves to the slave bosses. The reclaimed water did not smell a whole lot better, but it was a start. After she had washed the stench from her skin and rinsed it from her hair, they strode out in the open. Jane was tired of slinking around, and Bhutto agreed with her. They walked into a large gap in the fields that had become a main walkway. The various farmers stopped their work to turn and stare at the three as they walked past. Some even dropped their instruments, slack jawed at the arrival of the newcomers.

The boss stepped out onto the dirt pathway without even having to search for him. It seemed that the word had been given. He was flanked by two other slaves, tall and thin. While most of them wore tattered shirts, the boss went shirtless, the scars from previous beatings written like a storybook on his UV-darkened skin. His long hair fell into his eyes, and his beard had not been trimmed for at least a month. This one walked with an arrogant swagger that Jane found irritating.

“The new guy comes bearing women,” he laughed. “I should call the boss men on you, but you have piqued my curiosity. So tell me, since the Warden is almost assuredly looking for his wenches, why shouldn’t I call his men right now?”

“Because then you wouldn’t hear our proposal,” Jane said.

“Are you asking to marry me?” the boss said. “Because I don’t think it’d last, darlin’”

She met him with a silent glare.

The boss's grin did not crack. “Name's Jordan. Why don’t you come into my office?” He motioned to one of the shoddy mud huts. The only purpose it looked to serve was to block out the artificial light, and perhaps provide some privacy. She walked through the mud-molded doorway. Soon and Bhutto followed after crammed into the musty chamber that consisted of little more than a floor and a mattress. Once Jordan stepped in, his two buddies stood watch outside.

“Okay, tell me what you are offering.”

“We want to take down the Warden.”

“Everyone has to have dreams, I suppose. Not really encouraging me to cooperate, considering the Warden ensures my cushy position right here.” Once again, Jane could not tell if he were serious.

“You would give up a chance to escape for this?” she asked.

He chuckled to himself. “I remember when I first got here, too. They all think they can topple things if only they can change the minds of the poor stupid proles. Tell me, what is so special about you?”

Jane started. She did not think there was anything special about her. Did she?

“Do you think that we never thought about taking on the Warden? Do you think that we just need to have the seed planted in their mind, and only then would we finally overthrow our oppressors?”

Jane's lips tightened.

“You have been here for all of a week. None of you have seen the failed rebellions, the bodies piled up. None of you have truly witnessed what the Warden is capable of.”

Jane had seen plenty of him. She had seen the men he chose to have under him. She had seen the torture and the murder firsthand, had likely experienced more than this man had.

“And I know enough about you to doubt your motives. No one comes here in a group, not after being sentenced by the SecCorp juries. You came here on purpose. All of you. Now why the hell would someone want to do that?”

Jane glanced at Bhutto, then at Yeager.

“We came here to get a man by the name of D’Arcangelo. He has information about the inner workings on the Starship Leviathan, which we wish to recover.”

“Jesus, Red!” Bhutto cried.

Jordan raised an eyebrow. “That is quite a story to conjure out of thin air. You want to salvage the legendary genship, half a trillion worth of anti inside. And someone here has the key to finding it? I assume that you know where he is?”

“He’s the Warden’s torturer,” Jane replied. “And I would call him a piece of the puzzle, not the key.”

“I don’t think it would be too difficult to get an appointment with him if you wanted one bad enough.”

“No, it wouldn’t.” Far too easy.

“I am guessing you have a way off this moon.”

“If we can break the net silence around this place,” Bhutto replied.

“And you know a way to do that?”

“No,” Soon finally admitted after facing the crossfire of cold stares from Bhutto and Jane.

The boss let out a guffaw. “Well, shit. You got yourself in one big shit sandwich, don’t you? Look, I’ll make you a deal. You find a way to break through the net barrier, and I’ll make sure you get your revolution.”

“But we need to get out of here if we are to contact our ride,” Jane said. “We need to put the Warden on his heels if we are going to do that. Thus, overthrow the Warden.”

“Or give us some leverage at least,” Bhutto added. “All you have to do is nothing. Just tell the farmers to stop working. They can’t kill all of you. They need you.”

“That’s probably true. But who do you think would be the first one they sic their shock sticks on? Yours truly." He struck his chest for emphasis. "I don’t give a god damn about overthrowing the Warden, anyway.”

“What if you could become Warden?” Jane asked. “Have all of his wealth, his power, his women all of it?”

“Shit, girl, I just want you to take me with you. You get me off this place, and I will get you your revolution.”

“But aren’t you just settling for less than what you had before?” she asked.

“I see no reason to be greedy…”

Of course he did. He was a corporate-worlder.

“Do you doubt the farmers would even follow your lead if things came to that?”

“Everyone wants the Warden and his thugs gone,” he snapped. “It’s easy to convince them that he needs to go. The hard part is convincing them to take the risks.”

“Then what are you afraid of?”

“Getting killed.”

Jane smiled. “Because your life currently is full of meaning and fulfillment.”

“It’s all I’ve got.”

“But you could have so much more. With your leadership skills, you could have this place running towards something. If you could forge an industry, maybe you could even get the Corporates to lift their blacklist. But first you have to act. Taking charge of this place is risky, but anything worth doing is.”

Jordan sighed. “Look, your proposal is interesting. But I am done discussing what-ifs. If you can get a transport out of here safely, I will make sure something happens. Until then, you kids are on your own. Now get out of here before I decide it’s in my best interest to report you.”

Jane wanted to argue, but decided against it. She would let him stew for a while. So she left.

As soon as they got out of the slave boss hut, Bhutto was on her case again. “Red, do you have any clue what you are doing?”

“I am trying to get us off this moon and closer to the Leviathan. We’ve been wasting time dealing with this idiotic social structure.”

“Wasting time? Jesus, Red. We are stuck here. We’ve been winding up the mob, and when the clock runs down, there will be an explosion.”

“That is the point.”

“I want to get out of here. I want to find the tanker. I want to get paid, not start a revolution.”

“This place is in dire need of one.”

“Maybe so, but if your plan works, you and I won’t be around for it. And you have already set things up for disaster, trying to make that guy the new Warden? You think the miners will be okay with that?”

“That man is not going to be the new Warden. I doubt he’ll survive the fighting.”

Bhutto stopped and stared at her. “So you’re going to stoke the fire and let the house burn down”

“The prison,” Jane corrected. “Do you have a better plan?”

“Not really. He rejected your crazy offer, and we have no way of connecting with Yeager’s guy to get us out of here. But it seems like for all our efforts we’re just going to end up with a bunch of dead Catechists, and not much more.”

“Maybe,” Jane admitted. “But I’ve got Jordan’s ear. We just have to push him a little.”

“And how do we do that?”

“We make it not worth it to him to side with the Warden. We make it so he needs the Warden gone.”

“And how do we do that?” Bhutto parroted.

“We pit the Warden against him. Once he is blamed for the striking miners, they’ll get rid of him for sure.” She turned to Yeager. “Do you think you can get your friend Zeke to cooperate?”

“I don’t think he will mind, especially if I tell him the version that makes it God’s Will.”

“Good,” Jane said. “We are going to getting off this rock, and get back on mission. That is all that matters.”

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