Tales of a nightwatchman

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Re: Tales of a nightwatchman

Postby Praetonia » Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:49 am

*** 11 ***

At noon we had the Merchant Venturers' Club under siege, with several surrounding buildings occupied. We had repulsed a breakout attempt and inflicted some casualties. In turn, three of our attacks had been repulsed with heavy losses. We were in no state to launch another. We, in turn, were under siege by the squatters, who had not yet developed sufficient class consciousness. The squatters were militarily ineffective, but difficult to bypass without our vehicles, which had been destroyed by the Estates' Navy. That was the military situation, as best as I could gather from the Chinese Whispers of our foot couriers and the reports of the handful of working radios. More importantly, the social situation was that Pariti was being desperately dissuaded by two of his advisers from parading up and down the resort walls to lecture the squatters on the benefits of Syndicalism and the evils of their capitalist and alien oppressors in the Estates'. In this man was our only hope, because it was sure - to me at least - that the Estates-General would kill us all, and not care what losses it had to take to avoid accepting a negotiated surrender, and absolutely our only hope was to surrender to someone, anyone, else, or run away before their regulars got here, and the squatters rather ruled the last one out.

If I may be permitted a rare political digression, I would have pointed out to him that the craters and ruined buildings scattered throughout the squats showed they had tried that once before and not much liked the results. I would also have pointed out that they probably did not understand what Syndicalism was, nor Orthodoxy, nor any of the other Providentialist grape varietals whose intoxicating produce the Sens couldn't help sipping, drinking, and then gulping down with frightening lack of restraint. I would have pointed out that they probably embraced Syndicalism the first time because it was a way to grab something that was their neighbour's, first of all, and because it appeared to be winning, second of all. And that now, with the bombing and everything else, they had clearly decided that we were doomed, that they would not grab anything, and that they would soon be punished by a victorious force whose power they could scarcely comprehend let alone resist. And so they had decided to throw their lot in with maximum enthusiasm behind that force and not us: in fear of punishment, in hope of reward.

Pariti would not have any of it. He lived in an alien world in which people acted only on moral impulses, and everyone agreed that his moral impulses were correct. The squatters would throw themselves at the Merchant Venturers' Club in the thousands and die in the thousands because they would take control of - what, exactly? - that gave the resort its wealth, which they would then piously decline to spend except on public improvements. The Estates-General, meanwhile, basically agreed that his cause was right, and only followed its present course because of inertia. If they captured him, they would be forced to give him a nominal punishment. But they certainly wouldn't kill him and they certainly wouldn't hurt his men, who were entirely innocent, just followers of a clearly good and just leader. This was the gist of his argument with his adjutants, at any rate, in which I declined to take any part, instead running mock-busily from one lieutenant to the next, asking for information and suggesting nonsensical courses of action.

At about two, I was led outside by a rough-looking sergeant and brought face-to-face with the second-in-command, a kind-faced Sikh fellow who had been rather better than most at talking down Pariti. There was steel in his voice though and I was inclined to answer him honestly when he asked, quite simply, "What do you think I should do?"

"I think you should let him walk out on the wall and get killed. Then you will be in command and you should decide."

His face hardly changed, but I could see the glint of a tear in the corner of his eye.

"I can't do that," he said. "Truly. I cannot."

"Then you know it is the right thing to do," I said flatly.

"I cannot do it. You don't understand - what he was to us. What he was, once."

"Before her? He is gone."

"What else?" He looked away for just a second, and wiped away the tear.

"You could ask the Merchant Venturers' Club for terms. If they are not too bad, you could tell him that they want to surrender. Whatever they offer, you can present it as their surrender. If it is not too bad."

"If it's not too bad?" He didn't quite sigh. "How bad is bad?"

At that moment, it started to snow. Another loud crack, and I could see that it wasn't snow. It was paper. I grabbed a piece as it fluttered by.


that after 15th JANUARY 2013 any person engaged in the Cause of the SYNDICALIST ENEMY

is not a "Protected Combatant" in the sense of the ORYONTIC DECLARATION

and will be treated summarily.


"It's bad."
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
<leis2> (using mollusks)

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Re: Tales of a nightwatchman

Postby Praetonia » Tue Sep 03, 2019 3:58 am

*** 12 ***

We all love a good disaster story. Isn't that why we slow down for car crashes, watch the crime reports on the news, and turn out for public hangings? But when you're there in the middle of it, it's a different story. In the first place, you don't really notice it's a disaster. For sure, we were surrounded by ten thousand screaming Dharmans, being bombed with impunity by the world's most powerful navy, all the while waiting to meet a professional army of proven efficiency and ruthlessness as noses were thumbed at us by beer-bellied capitalists with Coronation Crescent revolvers and whatever else they had stocked in the basement of the Merchant Venturers'. But in the meantime, we were still an army. A weaker one that our opponents, maybe, but our opponents ain't here yet. You must understand that there is little feeling like it, though the men coming to kill you are just a few thousand yards away, in this street, on this actual spot where you are actually standing, you are god. Why else do you think men sign up? There really is nothing quite like it.

That's one thing, but another is that the threat of death focuses the mind tremendously. Every fibre of muscle, every wrinkle of brain is dedicated to that one task: survive. My Sikh friend took the leaflet and his eyes widened. He knew, of course. In some sense, he knew. But he was deeper in the group than me and in the most emotional, the realest, sense, he did not know. I just stared at him and thought it: They are not saying this because they are weak. They are not saying this because they are losing. They are saying this because they won a long time ago. They are saying this because we are doomed. There was no Hood. There was no possibility of victory. There was no hope. His voice croaked. "We will go to the Merchant Venturers'. We will ask them. We will ask them to surrender."

It was easier said than done, but he found a way, rolling up to the corner with a loud speaker mounted on a truck. He offered to open negotiations for their surrender. I sighed. The man still didn't have a clue. But, to my amazement, the club responded - and accepted. Whatever drove them to that, I had no idea. And so we walked out, Comrade Singh and I, and another fellow whom I did not know, and met their delegation in the ruined square. And it was one man - a man I knew - and suddenly everything became clear: Trevelyan.

He hesitated for the barest moment when he saw me. I guessed it was one of the few times in his life. But I saw it. In that moment, all his calculations changed, and his whole plan was flipped on its head. I saw it. He had prepared some speech, but he did not speak.

"We are willing to offer you terms," Comrade Singh said at last.

"And we'd like to hear 'em," Trevelyan said, studiously ignoring me as he kept eye contact with Comrade Singh.

"First, we will occupy all buildings in this town. We offer guarantees for your personal safety. We do not offer guarantees for your property."

"Well," said Trevelyan, careful to look at Singh alone, "that's a potential problem.

"Because the capitalists here don't think you can take their property, in this building at least. So it doesn't seem fair that we just give it to you. D'ye see what they mean?"

He smiled, like the amiable fool he certainly wasn't.

"We command the town and will soon control the whole of it. They should make an agreement now before we impose one," Singh continued. Inwardly I sighed. But outwardly, I puffed up my chest as though the whole thing were inspiring. We were going to win! That is what I imagined.

Trevelyan sighed. "I wish I could agree," he continued.

"But I can't alone. I know what's going on. But they don't, d'ye see? They think they're going to win. Providence alone knows how, but they do. Would ye come inside, and explain to them? Maybe they'd be persuaded."

His eyes flickered in my direction for the slightest moment. And I tried to grab Singh by the arm, but he drew away, taken in by this pious nonsense.

"I will address your men," he said, "if you give us hostages for my security."

Which he was only too pleased to do, leading out two pale youths, supposedly the sons of major capitalists in this area, in exchange for which he demanded two Syndicalist officers. He pointed to Singh and me. I tried to resist, but Singh looked at me with eyes of steel. Caught between two enemies, I followed him into the Club.
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
<leis2> (using mollusks)

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