War World X Takeover(5)
Author:John F. Carr

    “But…I have been taught that violence is dis-harmonious.”

    Brodski pulled up the argument he’d used with Harmonies before. “Lad, when you come to think of it, striking a drum with a stick to make a beat is violent. Plucking a string on a guitar is violent. Nobody asks the skin or the string if they want to be treated that way, but what is produced can be music or discord depending on how it’s done. Just in case you’re wondering, that’s called Zen, and is part of a way of defending yourself.”

    “…I’d like to learn more.”

    “Well lad, I’m willing to teach if you’re willing to learn. You can write your message for Leo and leave it here. It won’t get read unless by him, but he won’t be back for a couple of days. You can write can’t you?”

    The look on the child’s face told it all.

    “Well, I can teach that, too. Flora, bring me a writing pad, some milk and a beer.” Looking over the kid, he added, “And a meat sandwich for my student. What’s your name, youngster?”


    “Well, I guess first we teach you to write your name.”

    Van Damm was still smarting from the dressing-down Max Cole had handed out in his private cabin aboard the Kennicott Harbinger, but at least Van was staying on Haven and getting a chance to recover some of his professional pride. With 2.5 kilos of assorted gold coins (the Golden Rand and English Guinea were still the small change of the espionage business), out-system trade units (plastic with embedded holograms), and paper CoDo money in various denominations, it would be possible to set up the kind of network Cole had ordered him to. Using DeCastro’s connections wouldn’t hurt, and would speed the process.

    The question was, did he want to do it?

    Seeing the virtues of one’s victims: this is how agents get turned, or go native.

    As he headed for his temporary cabin in officers’ country he noticed a career corporal he’d played chess with on the way out, and the man didn’t look all that happy.

    “What’s new, Heinrick?” he asked.

    “Moving out, Mr. Van Damm. Planet-side. Down to that hellhole til God knows when. The Powers That Be have decided to lighten the ship by jettisoning half the ship’s guard in forty-eight hours. We go right after the Kennicott stuff drops for Kenny-Camp. You taking passage back to Earth?”

    “No,” said Van Damm, an idea dawning. “I have part interest in a business in Docktown: one that you might like. A bar run by a friend of mine…an ex-Fleet Gunny named Brodski. Ever hear of him?”

    “You mean Hot-Wire Brodski?! We hid him all the way out here! I served with him in Belize and the Sudan, in the old 2nd Division. You say he’s got a bar down there?”

    “Bar and grill, probably the best food and booze on the planet. Drop in and see us when you hit dirt.”

    “Sure will, Mr. Van Damm! Say, did he ever tell you about the time in Belize, when the Guat’s were kickin’ up, and him and me was on this hill….”

    Forty-eight hours to wait for the next shuttle, Van Damm considered. Oh well, I can listen to a combat story or two till then, seeing as I’m to ride down with the troops.

    “I hereby bring this meeting of the Fraternal order of Hibernians and Caledonians to order,” Himself in his green coat announced with three bangs of his fist on a piece of plank. “So all of yahs, shut up.”

    The motley crowd obligingly shut up.

    “First order of business will be a committee of constitution, since we have no committee, with the exceptions of Black Jim who’s takin’ notes and meself who’s the best man of yous all. And we have no constitution so we have no laws as of yet. But since yous here you all seem to think that some sort of law is in order: I appoint the scholarly Robert of the heathen land of Milwaukee as head, and Peter Flowers of Arizona as his Deputy, since he has the best fists of the bunch of all of yah. They can pick the rest.

    “I appoint as medical board two others that Doc Schaffer picks, and I want all of yah to go to him wit any hurts that yah got. He’s got a good survival rate.

    “Some of yahs don’t understand what we’s about here at Hell’s-A-Comin’, so I’ll explain it to yahs. We help each other…even if yah wasn’t lucky enough to come from Ireland, Or Scotland, or Wales. Yah’s miners, and we’s the older of all miners’ union  s. We help each other out when we’s outside and on surface, yah understand? If ya got food, ya don’t let a brother go hungry. Ya help him in a fight. Ya protect his claim when he asks ya, and he’ll do the same for yahs.

    “All of ya’s Brothers now…so as ya line up at the beer, look at each other’s faces so ya’ll know each odder. And with the tappin’ of the keg I call the meeting adjourned.”

    And he hit the plank once more.

    As the others were turning toward the bar, an older miner came limping up to him. “Hey, Irish,” he almost whispered. “A word in private, if you please?”

    Himself studied the older man for a moment, heart thudding as he recognized him. At last, this was the man he’d waited so long to see. He looked left and right, then strolled out of the dugout and into the windswept street. The old miner followed.

    “This should be far enough t’avoid unwelcome ears—Mr. Bronstein,” he said quietly.

    Bronstein winced, but then smiled. “You’ve done your homework,” he admitted.

    “What’s left o’ the union  s on Earth ain’t fools,” Himself grinned. “We’ve taken a page from you Wobblies, and learned ta study well—an’ keep good records.”

    “Knowledge isn’t exactly power,” Bronstein admitted, “But it’s way the hell out in front of raw ignorance.”

    “It ain’t power, but it damn-well is survival. That’s the mistake your First union   made.”

    “We had knowledge,” Bronstein growled. “It wasn’t enough. Why do you think you can do better?”

    “First union   had only the one cave-complex,” Himself said carefully. “We’ve got several already, and we’re workin’ at diggin’ more. We’ve spread further up and down the river, and we’re makin’ settlements a good ways inland from it. We’ve already got connections with the farmers, and we make more—and we also help ’em by digging, uh, storm cellars for the lot of ’em, if ya know what I mean.”

    “It’ll take you a lot of work to connect them.”

    “So we take our time. First union  , well, ya jumped too fast: didn’t get enough bolt-holes an’ supplies before ya made yer move.”

    “Hell, we thought we had to make our move before Kenny-Co brought in the next load of transportees for scabs. We didn’t think the company could hold out for much more than two hundred days.” Bronstein laughed bitterly. “We also thought, miners being rare then, that we were too valuable to shoot. Honest mistake.”

    “Well, we gotta big population down here now.” Himself glanced up and down the dirt street, just making sure. “Aye, and we got no illusions about what the companies will do if we challenge ’em straight out. Nah, we don’t just strike; we use a different tactic.”

    “Such as?”

    “First, we don’t call ourselves a union  . Nobody mentions the Industrial Workers o’ the Worlds, nobody quotes the old sayings, and nobody gives any hints the Kenny-Co ears might pick up. By the way, how did ya get alive out o’ that cave?”

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