War World X Takeover(8)
Author:John F. Carr


    Castell blinked. “I am very much aware of it,” he said grimly, “And I confess that I have not found a Harmonious way to prevent this theft.”

    “Ultimately, you can’t.” Brodski leaned closer. “What the government wants, the government gets—so long as the only real opposition is a small bunch of folks insisting on their rights. It takes really massive numbers, all of them armed with some kind of real power, to make a government change course—which is what elections used to be about. You don’t have that kind of numbers, or anything like that kind of power.”

    “Have you nothing better to tell me?” Castell asked.

    “Yes. You can slow down the takeover. Slow it down while you gain the power to hold off the worst of their control. Are you interested?”

    Castell rattled his fingers on the desk. “I do not see a Harmonious way of gaining or using the power you describe,” he said slowly. “Can you enlighten me on this subject?”

    Brodski smiled. “First, you must extend a Harmonious unity to all the people on Haven. In other words, make everybody your allies—everybody who isn’t a CoDo agent or corporate manager. Are you willing to do that?”

    “Everybody?” Castell blinked. “Amoral settlers, and sin-loving miners, and…and….”

    “Everybody,” Brodski said firmly. “Give up your isolation or give up your world. Those are the choices you have.”

    Castell thought for a long moment, his face crumpling as if it were aging suddenly. Finally he said: “Tell me how you think this unity can be accomplished.”

    “First,” said Brodski, holding up one finger, “Get involved in the economy of Docktown. Trade directly with the settlers, the miners, and everyone else who isn’t a company man. Encourage trade: barter, or local trade-standard or any kind of money you can lay your hands on.

    “Second, don’t antagonize the Marines in any way; that means not leaning on the bars, bordellos or anything else they find amusing. Just smile and ignore them.

    “Third, send out more beadles and deacons to throw the real troublemakers out of town. I can help you identify those, and so can other friends of mine. Warn the settlers not to take them in. If they can’t reach Hell’s-A-Comin’ let them make boats and move out onto the river.

    “Fourth, make some well-disguised escape tunnels. There’s always the possibility that you’ll need them. Mark paths not only to your own outlying farms but to settlers’ farms as well, and make sure to keep the good will of those settlers.

    “Fifth—”

    Charles Castell listened attentively, but his face grew bleaker and older with every word.

    Wilgar listened even more intently, eyes wide in fascination.





    Kennicott Camp One, or Kenny-Camp as it was more commonly called, had a company dock, a company office-building, company sheds, company housing and a company store, and everything else was a jerrybuilt slum. The open-pit hafnium mine lay a quarter-mile back from the river, a shameless eyesore with the machines always busy in it: diggers, belts and pumps constantly serviced by the indentured “wage-slaves.” Beside it lay the huge artificial mountain of the mine-tailings, being worked by ragged free miners. Beyond it, in the bare hills above the forest, were the numerous man-made caves of the shimmer stone prospectors.

    Van Damm frowned at the scene as Makhno made the Celia fast at the dock, then turned to DeCastro. “I hope you can make a living from company scrip,” he said. “It is plain that there is little else here but barter.”

    “I will happily deal in whatever my customers can pay,” said DeCastro with a smile, as he watched his personnel pull the barge close to the dock. “Besides, the minerals which the company machines cast off can include surprising riches. Do you see that rather shabby assayer’s office there?” He pointed. “I have it on good authority that respectable amounts of gold, silver and copper have come through its doors.”

    “To say nothing of crude iron,” Van Damm murmured, fixing the location firmly in his memory.

    “They have their own smelter,” added Makhno, giving Van Damm a significant glance. “We’ll be dropping in there, soon.”

    “Please, senores, assist my companions to unload the barge while I go to seek suitable lodgings for my enterprise.” DeCastro hauled himself up onto the dock, automatically patting the filled holster on his hip and cast a calculating look around the near buildings.

    “I’ll come with you,” said Van Damm, climbing up on the dock beside him. “This does not look like a town where it is safe for a man to walk alone.”

    “Very well,” shrugged DeCastro, looking away.

    Makhno, watching as the two of them strolled down the dock, judged that Vanny was safe on his own, then turned his attention to unloading the raft and barge. DeCastro’s hirelings, he noted—even the women—worked as if they were used to it. By the time Van Damm and DeCastro returned, dragging a handcart, everything was unloaded on the dock and the personnel of the former Golden Parrot were sitting on the assorted crates passing a canteen around.

    “Found a good spot, did you?” asked Makhno, eyeing the handcart.

    “Most excellent.” DeCastro snapped his fingers at his hirelings, who got up and began loading the crates on the handcart. “These hills are honeycombed with man-made caves, and I’ve obtained a small one for an excellent price.”

    “For free, to be exact.” Van Damm smiled briefly. “Nobody was using it. The place seems to have a bad reputation.”

    “We shall change that.” DeCastro smiled. “Come, mi compadres: let us load and move quickly. Chaco, you stay here and wait with the second load. Inez, bring the ladies and personal gear. Move! Move!”

    It took half an hour for the personnel of the Golden Parrot to fill the handcart and move out. Chaco sat on a crate in the barge and pulled out the canteen again. Assorted passersby glanced at the barge, glanced at Makhno on the raft, and kept walking.

    “I see that the people here know you,” Van Damm commented. “Tell me, where and how do you exchange Jane’s goods for metals? That assayer’s office was careful to deal only in mineral goods, not…ah, Euph-leaf.”

    “For that, we go a little further downstream, to Hell’s-a-Comin’, inhabited mostly by shimmer stone miners.” Makhno automatically glanced around for anyone listening. “We go to a dugout called The Irish Bar, and ask for Himself.”

    “Who?”

    “Irish Himself. His bar is the local food shop and watering hole, but the serious business is conducted in his storeroom. That’s the local pawnshop, barter-house and bank. It’s also the information center. We do the exchange there.”

    “I see. And this is unknown to the Company?”

    “Totally. If anyone from Kenny-Camp asks why we go on down river, we say we’re making deliveries to prospectors, that’s all.” Makhno looked around again. “Vanny, this cave that DeCastro picked: is it dug into a ridge that comes down to the river? And is it really close to the riverbank?”

    “Yes. Why?”

    Makhno heaved a profound sigh. “Traitors’ Cave,” he said. “The bastard is setting up shop in Traitors’ Cave, and I wish him joy of it.”

    “I take it this has something to do with that first miners’ strike, the one that was broken up by the CoDo Marines, yes?”

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