Author Topic: Part 6: Enter the Government  (Read 6046 times)

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Offline Daen

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Part 6: Enter the Government
« on: May 31, 2022, 12:42:15 AM »
A day or so passed with grove Praska in tense anticipation. The investigation into Ter's former dwelling presented nothing of note, not that Moss was surprised. Ter worked on a state level, not a local one. He was probably trained not to leave any trace behind.

The watch similarly reported no incidents, despite its complete circling of the grove including Moss himself. In addition to the oscilli of the treqars on the periphery of the grove, a bunch of qars had also been reassigned as sentries. The nearby stream hadn't been poisoned, thankfully, based on taste-testing by the qars. Solba's aqueducts hadn't been tampered with either. If this had been an attack, it was over and done with.

The gas had dissipated from Jora's chambers, and several qars had reported what they found inside. All her personal qars were dead, yes. The gas had been painful, but at least it was fast-acting. Only the eggs remained, as they hadn't needed to breathe. They'd be hatching in a few days, and Tressa had agreed to move them to her own hollow to keep them safe until then. Hopefully Jora would be able to arrange for another queen to be delivered to them. Some groves were wealthy enough to have two or three, but every grove needed at least one. Daplan and a few others continued to loan their qars to Jora in the meantime. Qars could be instructed to follow the instructions of others, but that communication never went as smoothly as the treqars they'd grown up with.

Before long the watch reported visitors incoming. A group of qars were inbound from the north, carrying some kind of package. It was small, needing only a dozen or so to carry it. There had been some concern through the network that it might be trouble, but Jora assured them otherwise. "The interroot came back up for just a moment this morning. I was told to expect them."

That meant the Chancellor or her staff were behind this visit. Moss hoped they might be bringing news. He still hadn't heard back from Noq, and the Union News Service had been just as silent as the interroot itself. Usually they just sent out a weekly update of national news. The last update had been to confirm that the treqar ambassadors were now fully welcomed to the Union.

Strangely, the outsider qars didn't stop in the grove itself, much less at Jora. They continued their march south, outbound towards… Moss! They came to a stop right in front of him! He watched with concern and amazement as they unwrapped the package and connected it to the network in front of him. It was a radio.

Incredible! He'd never thought he'd get the chance to see one for himself. It was just as complicated as the designs he'd studied.

With Jora's qars out of commission, his father had stepped in as her oscilli and limbs. He had a dozen of his own qars escorting their visitors in a rough enclosure formation. Clearly he thought it looked military, but to Moss it just looked ridiculous.

Connected to the radio was a small electrical generator. Moss found it almost as fascinating at the radio itself. He'd read about how treqar scientists had discovered electricity by accident. When they'd been mining lodestone in the east, their qars had been using wiring to communicate. The found that the motion of those wires created sparks which they eventually learned to harness! That had been shared with multiple groves as a sort of curiosity. Years later, grove Chaepa had used it to build and power the first radios.

Both the generator and the radio clicked on. There was a burst of noise from it—converted enzymatic exchanges from wherever the other radio was. The enzyme connection to the network activated, and a voice flooded through Moss's mind. It was male, rough, and commanding.

"Citizen belhiera'torkalm'oss. I am Sergeant ken'hroahen'vol of Chancellery Security. Under the authority of the Office of the Chancellor, your residence and person are subject to a search." The black-armored qars moved forward as one, approaching Moss' outer roots.

They were still networked with the rest of the grove, and Moss heard an outcry from multiple treqars, including his father. "You have no right to search my son's premises. He hasn't done anything wrong!"

Noq had been right! Hurriedly, before the outsider qars could reach his roots, Moss did a mental inventory. All his earlier prototypes were obsolete now, but his newer ones were his alone. Grace and her squad were still in the grove on watch duty, but Prudence was out in the fields. He quickly sent orders out to her and the others. She'd always been diligent and obedient; she'd do as she was told.

"I'm afraid I must agree, Sergeant," Jora put in through the network. "There are no grounds for this action under Union law. As Grovekeeper of Praska, I order you to stand down. Your qars will stay where they are."

They didn't stay where they were. "Article forty-eight, subsection twelve of the Union Charter allows for the suspension of local law in situations of national emergency," the Sergeant said darkly. "If you have an objection, feel free to lodge a complaint with the Office of the Chancellor. Through the interroot," he added pointedly, twisting the knife a little.

His father was sending out waves of uncertainty, but Moss quickly gave him a negative signal. "It's all right, father. Let them look around." Between him and his father, their qars outnumbered the intruders at least four to one. But the intruders were all armored, and most certainly battle-tested. Moss didn't like his odds if a fight broke out. It was best to cooperate, since there wasn't anything to find anymore.

As the military qars started a deep and invasive search, the Sergeant questioned Moss directly. "Citizen belhiera'torkalm'oss, how exactly do you know citizen bohra'tnoqla'veris of grove Ursun?"

"Call me Moss, please," he said, trying to buy a little time and shame the Sergeant if he could. So this was about Noq after all. "What makes you think I know anyone by that name at all?"

The radio transmitted a blast of rage, quickly tamped down. "That was your one lie, citizen. If you lie to me again, I'll start crushing your qars one by one. Now I'll ask again. How exactly do you know him?"

"You can't do this!" His father protested, but again Moss warned him off. The last thing either of them needed was to pick a fight with a Union official.

"Uh, guys?" Tressa's voice filtered through the network. "We've got more incoming. A lot more."

Through the visual link, Moss could count… several thousand more qars at least. They were black-shelled like the ones currently searching his hollow, and all other cavities in his bark, but unarmored for the most part. And more were coming. Were they planning on searching the whole grove??

"All right," Moss said hurriedly. "Noq and I are pen pals. I've been getting letters from him since I was a seedling. Happy now?"

"And what did you discuss in this correspondence?" The Sergeant went on implacably.

"All sorts of things. Life, joy, love. All the good stuff."

"Did he ever talk about his work as an inventor?"

"Of course. That's how we got started. I want to be an accomplished and recognized innovator like him." Moss sent a burst of apology to his father. He'd never had any political aspirations, and it probably stung his old man a bit to hear that. Though it couldn't have been very surprising, not after all this time.

"Did bohra'tnoqla'veris ever share any of his designs with you?"

Moss was careful to send out just the right amount of negative. "He commented on my work from time to time, but never shared any of his own. I only know his work from what was made publicly available." That was true enough. Talking about his designs wasn't the same as sharing them.

If he was frustrated that he hadn't caught Moss in a lie, the Sergeant wasn't showing it. "I'm told you spent a great deal of time with the trejun Ambassador over the past few weeks. In a private network, no less. What were you talking about exactly?"

Told by whom? The only people who might know that were here in grove Praska! "Mostly we talked about Trejuna," Moss said, trying to ignore his discomfort. The searchers were now poking at his root system. The one which he used to feed his qars, and the most sensitive one. "Their customs, history, inventions. He's a scientist too, where he comes from."

"And you had no idea he was violent or malicious in any way?"

"None," Moss said honestly. In retrospect there were some signs, but he simply hadn't seen them.

Down below, the searchers were finally finishing up with their fruitless quest and returning to the surface. The ones out in the field were also done with their search, but Prudence and her crew had been given ample time to do their task first. "We intercepted a shipment on the way here," the Sergeant went on, his tone just a little too casual. "It was unmarked, but filled with refined metals. The same kind that bohra'tnoqla'veris' designs are made from. I don't suppose you know anything about that?"

Somehow Moss had been hoping the shipment would have been delayed, but they had gotten it after all. Now it was truth time. "He sent it to me," Moss admitted reluctantly.

"Moss!" His father exclaimed, and he felt a rush of shame. Not for requesting the shipment, but for letting his father down. Despite their massive differences, he did care what his father thought of him.

The searchers were returning, with the broken remains of his most recent wooden prototypes. "I assume you were planning on using the metal to make more of your little inventions. If you have nothing to hide as you claim, then why did you destroy your devices the moment we started a search?"

"Because I'm not stupid!" Moss exclaimed. If he was going to do this with the whole grove as an audience, then he wasn't going to play the villain, or the victim. "Because lucky for me, Noq is a paranoid son of a birch! He's always afraid some opportunistic jerk is going to steal his work, so he keeps all his designs memorized. He only ever puts them into a document when he's good and ready to publish it. I followed his example, and it was a good thing I did. Otherwise some overbearing, pompous, powerhungry psycho would be able to take whatever he wanted and get away with it!"

The network was dead quiet. Even his father didn't seem to have anything to say. The Sergeant was practically gushing anger, but the radio crackled again, and he paused. It seemed he was getting private instructions from whoever was on the other end.

The Sergeant was about to speak again, but Moss wasn't having any of that. "Look, the only reason you have to even be talking to me is if you couldn't get what you wanted from Noq! Fine. I'll share all of my designs with you, but first I want to know what's going on. You can search me, bully me, and terrorize me all you want, but you'll never get my cooperation unless you give me a little of yours first. Tell me what's going on! Why did the Ambassador attack us? Why is the interroot down?"

"I'm not authorized to share that information," the Sergeant said stubbornly.

"Then I want to talk to someone who is. Whichever pompous, powerhungry psycho is higher up then you," Moss responded just as flatly, more to the radio than to the Sergeant. Whoever was listening in had to know more than this moron.

The radio crackled again, and the Sergeant actually sent out a wave of shock for an instant. "Understood."

He focused on the network again. "I've been ordered to create a private network. Just you, me, and my superior."

"Plus my Grovekeeper," Moss added immediately, and then thought of another. "And my father. He's her limbs and oscilli right now because of the attack. If there's secret information revealed, they can both be trusted to keep it in-bark." The Sergeant hesitated again, so Moss directed the next bit at the radio directly. "That's non-negotiable."

He didn't like the idea of being outnumbered, but there was another reason Moss wanted them to be in on the conversation. They both had his best interests at heart, and each had some legal experience. He wouldn't put it past Sergeant Sourplum here and his mystery superior to try something illegal to force him to cooperate. As much as Moss valued the peace that the Continental Union had created, that didn't give them the right to abuse their own citizens.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2022, 01:33:53 AM by Daen »