I didn’t sleep that night, or the next night, Katy wound down from the incident amazingly well. She is more durable than I am, when I finally fell asleep I realized that Boudicca’s spirit? Consciousness? was no longer with me. I was not having dreams of a benevolent being watching over me and I really missed it. Her being there for me after the conflict with the Martians had probably been the only thing that kept me from becoming despondent.
Oddly there was no punishment forthcoming for the incident, though this was mainly because this was one of several recent incidents where various countries had ran afoul of each other. One day after our incident the French flagship Richelieu was fired upon by the Egyptians while it was doing surveillance over Alexandria. I can’t help but feel that the English didn’t make a stink because that would have required explaining what we were looking at in that area in the first place.
In the US the republican and democratic parties vowed to fight some of the new regulations in congress. However while this tactic was unfolding several states governors vowed utter noncompliance, to the point where ten states out west, in the south and oddly the state of Rhode Island declared that they were no longer going to do anything that the federal government mandated.
The next couple of weeks for us was mired in debates as to what we were going to do next. Some of our employees wanted to fight, others wanted to flee. While we continued our work our minds were abruptly made up for us.
One of the states that vowed noncompliance was the state of Oregon, as people debated what matter of resistance they would take five electrical ships surrounded their Capitol city, Salem. Without a demand for surrender they discharged their weapons into the city.
Thousands were killed, most were instantly disintegrated, others survived with horrifying injuries. It became clear how the federal government intended to enforce their new diktats. As the reality of the new power structure became apparent more and more people decided to resist.
Within a week of the destruction of Salem thirty three states declared that they were going to not only going to refuse to comply with the new federal power grab and that they were going to actively resist any federal forces in their area. When the state government of Maryland joined this call Harding came in to work that day and announced that the president had gone mad and we were going to deal with this mess once and for all.
We deployed the Knapp along with a dozen Heron fighters to Washington, without any hesitation we launched a high speed attack on the 2 ships patrolling over the Capitol, they never saw us coming. With that the Herons took up a rotating guard position high above the White House while I brought the Knapp in for a landing, right in front of the rose garden. I kept the ships main weapons pointed at the building while a dozen men with advanced weapons rushed the building.
There were no shots, no screams, Harding just came out of the building proudly waving a white handkerchief.
By the time I got into the building they had Edison tightly bound, he was glaring in all directions. Harding stated, “mr president you are under arrest, you are charged with high treason.”
Edison shouted, “fuck all of you and the horses you rode in on! This isn’t my fault. It’s all the work of those asshole Rockefeller’s and Rothschild’s, the big bankers and industrialists. They were the ones who passed all these stupid laws and taxes, they are the ones you want. I told them people wouldn’t stand for all this all at once but they didn’t care.”
Tesla chuckled and looked down at him, with a great big smile on his face he pinched his cheeks as one would do to a child and stated. “Well former boss that’s probably true, but for now you are all we have. So how about you explain to us who you think is responsible for all this mess?”
A recording device was set up and we commenced an interrogation of the president. After a short while some federal Marshall’s showed up and stated that they were going to take custody of the president. Shortly after that the master at arms of the senate and the chief bailiff of the Supreme Court showed up as well. This was a very confusing scene as the federals all tried to assert authority and arrest the president, and us. We were not going to allow ourselves to be arrested. For now we had the advantage of overwhelming firepower. We handed Edison over to the man from the senate, then we packed up and left.
Over the course of the next week the presidents trial unfolded, true to his word he rolled over and provided information that led to the conviction or exile of hundreds of villainous characters. Note that I said exile, many of the bankers in question fled the country immediately after the arrest of Edison.
As all this happened we at I.E.C. were busy with other things, the affairs of politics on earth seemed so petty and pointless to us now after everything we had seen. Becky wanted to go back home, she felt as though she would not be welcome here on earth anymore. She was going to take a Heron strait back to her home, given that she was a robot she didn’t need to be concerned with things like an insufficient supply of food and water. Or being stuck sitting in the same chair for 2 months. I tried to illustrate to her that before she left she should make a public statement to the League of Nations that had been formed to combat extraterrestrial threats.
She summed up her feelings on that body with, “your league was formed to deal with the madness of the Martian emperor. Now that he is gone what do you have left? Just a bunch of squabbling bureaucrats and a pile of war debt.”
Before she left, while she was packing up her things I stopped her and asked her something. “There is something that has been bothering me, you talk about so much of our society being a colossal joke, or a cruel joke, why? I for one am not laughing.”
She stopped folding her clothes, and told me to sit down.
“Since you live on a resource rich planet where you can move around at your leisure your society is different than ours. You have total freedom of your bodies, but heavy restrictions of your minds. We have the opposite, if anyone had tried the kind of mind control on one of us they would have been strangled on their sleep. You people don’t even acknowledge the layers and layers of control. It’s like all of you are trapped, playing a game and the overwhelming bulk of you aren’t even past the first three stages of a game with fifty levels. What you don’t realize is that you don’t have to play these silly little games.
“The worst thing is that most of you aren’t even aware that you are playing these games. People in this country think slavery ended with your ugly little civil war, the evidence suggests no such thing happened. There are millions upon millions of people in this country who are still in indentured servitude of some sort. The way you treat black people, immigrants, even each other is unforgivable, but you don’t do it out of hatred or malice. You do it because of tradition, you do it because everyone else does, and I can no longer tolerate this anymore.”
I felt a scream curdle in my throat, this was a voice inside my head that I had refused to hear for so long. I whispered, “you are, you may have a point, but why don’t you stay and show us how not to play these stupid games?”
She smiled and held my head in her hands, I had a moment of fear I thought she might crush my skull but she stated.
“My freedom includes my freedom from you, I never intended to come here to enlighten you people, I came to understand what you are about and negotiate. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone for long, there is an army of us on our way. Also you shouldn’t worry too much about all the silly games, to see that they exist is to quit them. You see, and you have taken some big steps forward over the past few weeks.”
With that she grabbed a few souvenirs, tossed them in her luggage and we started walking towards the runway. She shook hands with the 20 or so men who were working at the factory that day. As she got into the bird she winked at me and said, “don’t worry, I will have someone bring it back with one of our boxes of new tricks.”
We all stood back and watched her run up her turbines and glide down the runway. Up into a steady climb out into space, one of the workers, I can’t remember who it was asked, “think we will ever see her again?”
I replied, “the bird? Certainly, these people always keep their work, miss Berbecki? no, I think she has developed an allergy to us.”
Harding decided that we had to launch another expedition, this one would go far off into the solar system. Mars was not lined up with Earth so there would not be any stops there, the mission would visit Venus, and by Tesla’s request, Jupiter. I would not be part of this mission, it would be captained by Harding himself who had a terrible itch for seeing the universe.
The Knapp was re-provisioned and some new crew-members were trained to fly the ship. Their departure was done with a minimum of fuss, we fully expected to see them again. Work continued on more large ships and small craft while Tesla continued to come up with evermore brilliant ideas. By now he had designed a series of small, cheap radio receivers based off of Pierce’s Martian transistor technology. These transistors had provided him with the ability to perfect dozens of his more exotic inventions. Graves wanted to sell these to people as part of a grand plan to reeducate the population. Tesla was a bit wary of this, even after all he saw on Eutopos he still believed in the need for involuntary government.
Tesla was a complicated guy, incomparably brilliant, but he was still a slave to his prejudices and neuroses. Browning however decided that he had enough of working with our company, the raid on the White House had been the last straw. He was tired of constant arguments with the bean counters at Winchester and as far as he was concerned the I.E.C. had degenerated to being a pack of godless anarchists with no respect for anything sacred. So he packed up and left for Belgium where he would work for the arms combine Fabrique National. Although I was able to talk him into not revoking our right to use his patents that he developed when we were all working together. Most of the employees were okay with our raid, by now they had been infected by the strain of anarchism. However Browning and a few others decided that this had been a step too far. Our last face to face conversation before he left did not go well, as he packed up his papers he sternly addressed me.
“I understand that the president was out of control, I understand that he probably would have caused a second civil war. But you just smashed down the door and took him out, that’s not right.”
Gabbing for air he coughed out, “sure, you couldn’t respect the man, but you have to respect the office!”
“Why?! You sound like a child!”
“No seriously, why, what respect is there inherently due to the office of the presidency? We certainly respected the property there, we took nothing, we didn’t destroy anything in the building. But what is there that demands that we defer to the whims of the man who happens to occupy that office. Who also happened to be a criminal, a convicted criminal I might add.”
Browning snapped the lock of his briefcase shut and stared at me intensely. “You are playing with fire, as soon as you destroy respect for the law there is nothing to stop everyone from doing whatever they want. You will have rivers of blood running in the streets within a few years.”
I hung my head in shame for a second as he walked away, then I realized. “Hey wait a cotton picking second, we already had blood running in the streets.”
I shouted at him as he walked down the hallway, “what about Salem, John? That could have been Salt Lake City! Where would your love for authority be then?”
He looked back, his iron expression softened for a moment, then he turned and walked out of our lives. I took a moment to contemplate everything I just said and concluded, “I have been spending too much time around anarchists.”
I went over to my workshop, Katy was there going through my papers, she had been out of school ever since the raid. Partly because of my newfound fame, but mainly because the current educational system was in flux due to the current chaos. I looked down at her and stated, “how about we just make this official, would you like to be my apprentice? You already know more about this stuff than any of the new hires.”
She smiled at me and said, “thanks, I won’t let you down.”
I replied, “I know, but don’t think I am going to allow you to be a layabout.”
She laughed and replied, “well that wouldn’t be any fun now, would it?”