The meeting between Big Tate and Khef went astonishingly well, as far as Yaryl could tell.
The two men talked in private, for a while, and when Yaryl was called back in the room they were laughing like old friends.
"Where did you find this guy?" Tate said. "I've been waiting for an offer this good for some time."
"Oh?" Yaryl said. "What is it?"
"We have the sort of services our friend Tate provides in the Mega-City." Khef said.
"Whores and such." Tate added. "And a little drink, didnt you say?"
"Thats right." Khef said. "And what I proposed, is an idea that comes straight from the leader himself, the monetization of such services."
"I'm a business man, such as it is." Tate said. "And the prospect of expanding my business on a large scale is damned appealing. Would anyone care for a drink." He winked at Yaryl. "Ive got more of that good thousand year old bourbon, if your interested."
The men all drank, and Big Tate leaned back in his chair and sighed noisely. "Now the thing that gets me." He said. "Is when you use all these objects- the explosives and such, there will be an immediate backlash by the Guard on my part."
"It might not be immediate. They would have no evidence."
"It dont matter. They wont be looking over for a orgy of evidence. They'll know something went boom, or someone got shot, so's they'll be looking for me. And in this Colony, they're arent a great many places to hide. This here's sort of an open secret. I dont cause no trouble so they'll let me stay open for business."
"What exactly are we talking about here?" Yaryl asked.
"The felling of your government." Khef said.
"And governments tend to enjoy staying about, and protecting themselves. Least from what Ive read, and my limited experiences." Tate said. "So if I'm to be blamed, I need to skedaddle. I've got a fallback position in the piles. I'll lay out, until things die down."
"And thats where we come in." Khef said, pointing at Yaryl. "Our objective is to make sure the why of it is placed loosely. To spread fear and doubt. Most importantly, to make the people doubt the ability of the government to provide any sort of protection."
Back at Yaryl's quarters, as Khef and his men worked on the explosives, Yaryl asked, "What happens afterwards?"
"We've already discussed this." Khef said, dismissively.
"But I mean, long term." Yaryl said. "You defeat this Colony. Fine. What next? What happens to any of us?"
Khef smiled. "For your answer." He said. "Unbutton your shirt, and place your hand on the black mark on your heart. And you will have it."
Yaryl did as he was told.
And just like that, he was transported into the presence of the leader.
He was the same towering masked giant from the holding cell, only know clad in a grey and black uniform. He looked capable of any sort of murder and violence. They were on a platform, and down below legions of Black Century raiders were cheering and screaming.
"Do you know what they are, Yaryl Rogers?" The leader pointed.
Yaryl thought he might piss himself. "No sir." He stammered. "I d-dont."
"They are a means to an end. Every great empire has such a means. The Romans had their legions. The Nazis had their Stormtroopers. The Americans had their Marines. Every empire. Do you know what an empire is?"
"I th-think I do, sir."
"An empire is a working method of civilization. Notice I said working. If man were good, no such thing would be needed. But man is cruel and wrong. He has destroyed this Earth, rotted away all manner of life, and nearly killed everything. Man must be guided by a firm hand, clenched in a fist." The emperor made that gesture. "For every Cicero, there was a Ceaser. Every James Cameron had a George W. Bush. It was written across history, great thought and philosophy only comes about in an environment safe enough to cradle it, and that safety comes from the strong arms of an empire."
The leader reached over, to touch Yaryls shoulder. "Do not think yourself a traitor. The colony was doomed from beginning. It was simply a colony, after all, and not a true model of society. Rather think yourself a friend to civilization. If we do not usher in another golden age, it will at least be another age, another chapter in the book of man. And when you've faced extinction, that is truly saying something."
When Yaryl came back to himself, tears were streaming down his face.
"Did you hear what you needed?" Khef asked. "Then good. Let us begin in earnest."
Witington was teaching her class, when the first explosion went off.
She was in the library. Some of her students had nagged about that, having class in the library instead of out on the green, under the trees, but she had insisted. She wanted to do more than teach from assigned texts today, she wanted each child to pick out a book and read it. Books were key in her mind, to unlocking the riches of society long ago, and Before. Only later when things were over with, did the sickly feeling come that making this decision had saved all their lives, and hers as well.
The shockwave ruptured one of the walls, and shoved her out of her chair. She was laying on the ground for more than a few minutes, trying to reconcile the bell ringing in her head. She could see the children crying but not hear them. Kela was not crying, she was twitching slightly and lying on her side. There was fresh blood on her head. Witington said "Kela." That is, her lips moved but no sound seemed to come out. She tried to remember what to do about a head injury. Not to move the victim. Check if their breathing. She put a finger underneath Kela's nose, and slowly, she felt the bit of warm air come out.
When she staggered out of the library, to the main chamber under the dome she saw what the attack had done. The green was burning. The trees and grass were on fire. At least one person was on fire with them, swaying back and forth, arms in the air. Where were the emergency systems? At last they cut on, and billowing foam shot out of automated nozzles, battling the flames.
Her hearing was just coming back when the second explosion went off, and the third. One seemed to come from above, inside the dome, the other nearby outside. She saw Colonial Guardsmen scrambling nearby. Was this it, then? Were they under attack? Were the raiders just outside, waiting to kill them all, and rape/eat their corpses? She had never really put together a plan, for that eventuality, and the shudder of fear moved through her visibly, until her bowels gave way, staining the front of her dress.
That night was a hard one.
They found out one of the flaws in their Colony. There was no real place for a mass casualty event. The clinic took in the injured, and the sick houses took in the ill and dying. But the victims of the five explosions did not fall into either of those categories. There were amputations. There were burns. There were people with shrapnel peppering their bodies, or foreign objects piercing their skin. With her self-taught medical training, Witington did what work she could as a nurse. She tried to hide back the tears, when she saw the bodies. They piled up the bodies in the morgue, on tables covered with sheets, but they soon ran out of tables, and laid the dead on the floor. Then they ran out of sheets. She managed to fall asleep in a side closet of the clinic, and was woken by Berks shaking her shoulder.
"I know its asking a lot." He said. "But the Council needs to convene."
"Your right." She stood up. "We should of done it earlier."
Berks gave her a hug, suddenly, and the sudden affection sent shudders through Witington. "I was afraid I lost you." He said. "Us old fuddies need to stick together."
"I'm fine." She said. "Really, I am. I was with the children, in the library."
Berks face went slack. "Oh God." He said. "How..."
"Kela was knocked unconscious. The rest of them should be okay."
"I saw the bodies." Berks said. "And I saw that there were some of them, the little ones. I didnt know what to think."
They killed children, Witington thought. They killed children and people enjoying what may be the last piece of green on Earth. She started to shake again, not with fear this time, but anger.
"Lets go." She said.
All four of them were there, Witington, Berks, Yaryl Rogers and General Veers. "Lets begin." Berks said, "by stating the facts. General Veers?"
"At ten-twenty-three AM today." Veers said, "There was a series of five explosions in five seperate locations throughout this Colony. Fifty-seven people were killed and over two hundred were injured."
There was a moment of silence, as this information sinked in.
"The Colonial Guard has been fully mobilized." Veers said. "A perimeter has been set up around high value areas. Access to the dome has been restricted to emergency personnel only. The targets of the explosion are as follows: An open-air marketplace, the biodiversity area, the produce storage area, a technical area with prototype equipment, and a holding facility inside the Guard military compound."
Witington ticked over the list, and her fears grew. "In english." Veers said, "They hit the market, the fresh food, the trees inside the dome, the Droid, and our prisoner."
"Where is the Droid right now?"
"We have recovered his body." Veers said. "That is, one of his body. It is unresponsive."
"That doesnt mean his dead." Berks said. "Or off-line, or whatnot. The last time I spoke with Markus, he told me he had overridden the programming of the dome to supplement his own."
"Regardless." Veers said. The body is unresponsive."
"What about the food?" Witington asked.
"The produce was utterly destroyed." Veers said. "However, the embryonic storage area was unharmed."
"So the attackers were smart." Yaryl said. "They didnt want to destroy all the food- or at least not our ability to get food. They just wanted to take out what we had."
"The marketplace was were the heaviest casualties were inflicted." Veers said. Due to the highest concentration of citizens. As for the attack on the Guard itself, the raider prisoner was killed." Veers paused. "And several plasma weapons are unacounted for."
"Theres no doubt in my mind, then." Berks said. "It was them. We are at war."
Veers slammed his fist down. "We have been sloppy!" He exploded. "We allowed too many refugees in, too fast. Now innocent people are dead."
"It does appear that way." Yaryl said. "I move that we formally sequester all recent citizens until we resolve this issue."
"Now just a minute!" Witington said. "Your going to blame innocent people for this? Simply because they havent been here as long as the rest of us?"