And back to Luna, Artemis City to be precise.
Revolution is always an amateur’s game. No revolution which was planned by professionals, using all the latest tools and texts and guidance, has ever succeeded.
And boy oh boy were these guys amateurs!
Fortunately, they were also smart and lucky.
Of course, it helps when the government you’re trying to topple is distracted by events both internal and external.
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“There’s a bunch of muttering in the tunnels,” said Sharon. “This latest debacle has really got people unhappy. Lots of connections to the dead sailors.”
“That fits with what my sources have said. Apparently the new Minister, Taylor, managed to push through a hold on any more attacks, so he’s flying high with his people now, almost as much as Crozier was.”
Caitlin put in her information. “And I heard the Primus is going to use this to try to grab more power in the Union, though I’m still waiting for confirmation.”
The four conspirators were meeting in the open for once. Artemis City had a number of open grass- and plant-covered areas which served a dual purpose. Their primary purpose was to provide additional O2 production and CO2 scrubbing, but they also were used by the citizens for gatherings and recreation. It had been Nour’s suggestion to utilize one for a meeting. She had recounted tales of frustration from her days in MinSec, as the foliage and elevated humidity defeated most remote sensors. “The only way we could actually confirm anything happening in there was doing an old-fashioned, in-person sweep. And that’s only if we had a target. Random sweeps? Purely pro forma.”
So here they were, walking along as if none of them had a care.
Autumn admitted, at least to herself, she simply needed to get out from behind four walls for a while. She had lacked the sorts of connections the others had outside the organization-that-was. She couldn’t show her face in Simon Jester, or she’d find herself back in the Rehabilitation Center, if she were lucky.
“Nour,” she said now. “Have you gotten that list from your old friend yet?”
One of Nour’s ex-colleagues, and a potential fellow traveler, was supposed to provide her with the master list of agents, turncoats, and known members within the Simon Jester movement. Once they had it, they could start carefully recruiting the more trustworthy ones, as well as ones who hadn’t yet been identified.
“Not yet, though he said it would be this semi-lunar.”
“Ugh! Now is the right time to start bringing people in, but we have to have people we can trust!”
“What about one of the other warrens? Hong Kong Luna? Tycho Under?” suggested Sharon. “It’s a basic military principle: strike where your enemy is weak. Well, Tycho Under is about as far removed from Artemis City as you’re going to get, both physically and in terms of attitude. HKL has more in common with the Miner’s Guild than Artemis. Why not start there?”
“How do we get there?” said Autumn.
“There are tubes to HKL every fifteen minutes,” said Caitlin.
“No good,” Autumn argued. “Too much of a bottleneck.”
“There’s never anyone there to stop people,” Caitlin countered. “We could slip right past them.”
“No, Autumn’s right,” said Nour. “We always maintained a close watch on all transport out of the City, mostly through remotes. There’s always a couple people assigned to undercover work.”
“Then we have to think around the usual methods,” insisted Sharon. “Come on! We got out of the Center, right? We can get out of the City!”
“Nour,” Autumn said. “You told me something the other day. A family got picked up by MinSec?”
“Oh, them. Yes, one of the families in Simon Jester. Their daughter was the Minister who got disappeared and they were picked up on suspicion. They got released last week, even got an official apology.”
“I know the family! Well, know of them,” amended Autumn. “The mother works in a restaurant, right?”
“She was part of the route that I arranged for two of our decoys. If anyone can get us out of the City, she can, or she’ll know how.”
“No good, Autumn,” disagreed Nour. “Now they’ve been pulled in, MinSec is going to be watching them even more carefully.”
“But they were pulled in because of Crozier, and I know they didn’t have anything to do with her!”
“Doesn’t matter; SOP is to keep an eye on all known subversives.”
“Under Pitt, right?”
“Right.” Nour waved her hands. “I know what you’re going to say, Autumn. Just because Pitt’s gone doesn’t mean anything’s changed. It’s more likely that nothing’s changed, because nothing ever does.”
“Doesn’t it? Aren’t your contacts telling you about the disruption that this Jones has caused?”
“So? Isn’t that suggestive? At the very least, things are chaotic and maybe a little sloppy?”
“I suppose. They might all be playing good soldier while Jones tries to root out the supposed corruption.”
“And…?” Autumn could see Nour was nearly to the conclusion she’d already reached.
“And that means, if they let the family go, then they really let them go.”
“Suddenly, I feel hungry. Let’s go find some food.”
The restaurant was busy, so they had to wait for a table, which was annoying. On the other hand, lots of conversations meant it would be much more difficult for any measures to pick up their voices, whether that was a recording device, a microphone, or an undercover MinSec operative. They stood and chatted, doing their best to appear as simply four women out for lunch, until they were finally seated.
“I don’t like being out in the corridor,” said Caitlin. “I’m used to quiet conferences.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Sharon said, leaning back. She’d gotten one of the two chairs facing the street. “Good lines of sight. We can see if anyone looks like they’re paying particular attention to us.”
Autumn, who had grabbed the other street-facing chair, nodded.
“Incoming,” said Nour, looking up and smiling towards the interior. Their server was on the way out.
“Hi, what would you ladies like?”
They went through the motions of ordering before Autumn said, “Is Mistress Karolina in today?”
The server answered flatly, “Yes, she’s here,” before turning away.
“A little bit defensive, don’t you think?” Caitlin commented.
“Well, if her boss just came back to work after going missing for two lunars, I’d be protective too,” said Nour. “I’ll wager that most of the staff here know what she does, what she’s involved with.”
“I’m betting she gets curious about who asked for her and comes out to see. That’s why I asked after her.”
Conversation flagged then, each consumed by their own thoughts, until the food arrived. It wasn’t the server, though, but an older woman carrying the plates. She quickly set them down, giving each woman a thorough look.
“Need else?” she said, with a Martian accent.
“Washroom?” asked Autumn.
“Follow,” and she moved away. She led Autumn into the back of the restaurant, past the kitchen, to an unmarked room.
“How’s Nicole?” Autumn said. It was the only passphrase she knew, and she hoped that it still worked.
“Busy as always,” replied the woman with a hitch.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Mistress.”
“Pajaloosta. Thank you.”
“I knew your daughter. She was one of the good ones.”
No words this time, just a nod.
“Mistress, we need your help.”
“My help? Always my help! Who help me, when MinSec take away my Nicole? Who help me, when MinSec take away family? Who help me, when MinSec torture us for lunars? Nobody! Why I help you?”
“Because that’s what you do, Mistress.”
“No more! You need help? Put out ad. Ask stranger. Not ask me, anymore!” She made to yank the door open, but Autumn held it closed.
“No! Damn you, Karolina, all I want is your contact!”
“What make you think I give to you, if I do not give to MinSec?”
“Because I want to get rid of the people who did this to you, did this to Nicole!”
The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them, and she realized with a shock that it was the first time she’d expressed it to anyone outside her three co-conspirators. It was enough to stop Karolina for the moment.
“Truth. And all I need, really, is how to contact the people off Luna that you’ve worked with. Give me that, and I walk out of here, out of your life, and never bother you again.”
“Give you contact, I can, but no good will it do you. They not know you, they not trust you, no matter if you know codes.” She shook her head. “I set up meeting. You go eat, been back here too long. Will come tell.”
Autumn, surprised by the sudden change but happy to go with it, nodded her thanks and returned to her seat out front.
“Everything go okay?” asked Sharon.
“Surprisingly well,” Autumn answered. Then she turned her attention to the food. She was pleasantly surprised to find it was actually quite good.
Karolina appeared again at the end of the meal, this time accompanied by the server who started to clear the table.
“Thank you,” she said, handing two pieces of permaplast to Autumn. “Can pay server.”
Autumn nodded and Karolina left. Glancing briefly at one sheet, she tucked it into a pocket.
“Okay, who had the Moonrise?” she said. “Caitlin? That you? It’s ten credits…”