It was all coming together, finally. For months we’d had the idea – okay, I’d had the idea, satisfied with my honesty now? – to replace Newling as the Primus. The problem was who to replace her with?
I’d asked Davie, and the best she came up with was Kreitzer Newling. Let me tell you something about Kreitzer: the only reason he was Minister was because of his family connections. He couldn’t care less about power and politics; he simply wanted to play with the newest toys and think about ways to improve them.
The next Primus?
He wouldn’t last a week.
It wasn’t until we learned of the nascent rebellion being fomented by Autumn Newling that we had an opportunity, and this communique was our first concrete step towards supporting them.
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“Alyssa, have you seen the Chief?” Alyssa was sitting at the large, round table in the center of the compartment.
“No, Director Montana.”
“Once again, my name is Cris.”
Cris couldn’t help but grin. Jordan was doing this just to mess with her and they both knew it.
“Here I am, Cris,” said Stone, popping out of the space she’d taken as her office. Their little ad-hoc Artemis Regime Change group had gotten cubic from Kyran. It was a set of a half-dozen offices arrayed around a large, central room which they used for their conferences. Stone had one, as did Jordan, Cris, Jim, and Nicole.
The sixth was reserved for Mac, though she spent most of her time in her own suite in another section of Njord. Truth be told, Cris didn’t spend much time in her office either. She was still busy running OutLook, though she was aboard Njord the majority of the time. She still visited Earthside about every fortnight, and her primary offices, like Mac’s, were in another section of the habitat.
“We got a message I think you ought to hear,” said Cris.
“And you couldn’t send it on the network?”
“Nope. It’s hardcopy. An actual hand-written message, passed one agent to the next, all the way from Artemis City.”
“Yes. Mac already got her hands on it and is running it through every database we have, but I wanted to get it up here as soon as I could. Who else is around? I only want to go over this once if possible.”
“Nicole is around, and ye saw Alyssa. Jim and Huff are still helping the crew from the Roosa settle.”
“Damn. Jim would be helpful. Cassie, too. Diana.”
“Yes, Director Montana?”
“Oh, now, don’t you start!”
“Start what, Director Montana?”
Cris gave up as gracefully as she could.
“Can you find Jim and Cassie, ask them to get down here? Immediately is good.”
“Yes, Director. I will encourage their compliance.”
In the few minutes it took for the two to arrive Cristina gathered the rest of the group in the central space.
“Hello, Director,” Jim said formally as they entered.
“Hi Cris,” said Cassie. “Why’d you drag us down here?”
She sent a command, and a hologram of the permaplast appeared over the middle of the table, rotating slowly. “We just received this from Artemis City.”
My name isn’t important, the note read.
I am organizing to restore a government which will benefit all the citizens of Artemis, not just a few Families, a government that will seek peace, not a needless and costly war. Power should not be at the whim of a single person who can destroy a life because she’s annoyed with them.
I have gathered a core of motivated and trained professionals who are equally dissatisfied with the current conditions. But we need help. The previous organization is compromised, our contacts unreliable, our resources unavailable. We cannot do this alone. Any support that you can provide will bring us that much closer to a more peaceful future.
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“That’s it? What a load of bollocks. And what’s the rubbish at the end?”
“What do you mean, Chief?”
“’A core of motivated and trained professionals’? I’ll bet it’s two lads having a lark, nothing more. Probably not even on Luna, just somewhere in between. Maybe even within the Federation. Stupid bloody joke, if you ask me.”
“Maybe not,” said Jim.
“And what makes you the genius in the room?”
“It’s the phrase, ‘Destroy a life because she’s annoyed with them.’ I remember hearing that, or something pretty close to it, while I was in the PRC.”
Cassie was nodding. “Yeah! That’s what Autumn said about why she was in there, because she annoyed her cousin!”
“The Primus,” added Jim.
Stone snorted. “Yeah, yeah, we get that, but who else might know that? If you two know, I’ll bet that anyone else in that dammed jail knew it too, and if MinSec wanted to create some disinformation it would be pretty simple to gin up.”
“Diana, analysis?” said Cris.
“The document in question is on writing material which is chemically identical to samples of products produced and used in Artemis. Additionally, the ink with which the message is written has been oxidizing for between two and three weeks. The phrasing is consistent with the writing I have found produced by Autumn Newling.”
“And the gibberish at the end?”
“It is a hexadecimal translation of the words, ‘Contact through Mistress Karolina May 13 code Bastille Day.’ Mistress Karolina is –”
“Mom!” said Nicole, tears suddenly streaming down her face. “She’s alive!”
Awkward looks circled the table. As far as anyone knew, Nicole hadn’t gotten close to anyone aboard Njord in the months since her arrival. With a sigh of exasperation and a shake of her head to everyone else, Cassie walked over to Nicole and sat next to her, wrapping an arm protectively around her, touching her head to Nicole’s, and talking softly to her.
“Significance of those dates? Other than the fact that it gives us less than four days to send a reply? Anyone?”
“Bastille Day. Isn’t that some sort of holiday?”
“The official date of the celebration of the French Revolution, centered around the storming of the Bastille in 1789. The Bastille held political prisoners,” Diana provided.
“And what about the other date? May 13?”
“Analyzing. Formation of Royal Flying Corps in Great Britain, 1912. Surrender of German and Italian forces in Africa, 1943. French settlers riot against French army in Algeria, 1958. Landing of first terraforming package of Mars, 2053.”
“Check pop culture references,” said Cris. “If this message was meant for Kendra, then it probably ties into that.”
“May 13, 2075. In the novel, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein, this is the date of the first violent action in the revolution that led to the Luna Free State. Subject of the novel is the course of said revolution from the perspective of a participant.”
“That has to be it! Diana, I think we all need a copy of that book. But for now we have to plan. How do we want to respond to this offer, this request?”