Beamo’s Gold part 34
Beamo parlays with a Highster former friend.
I rose in the early afternoon when the two-woman security team set off a buzzer at our cave room door. The orange uniforms escorted me to an elevator deep inside the mountain. I got on alone and it jerked upward. When the door opened there was the Highster I knew well. Bushy auburn haired with his back to me, he was at a big desk writing in some notebook.
“Hiya, Awyer,” I said.
“The DNA of the sawbirds shows they are descended from what they called in the USA Age a lammergeier or bearded vulture,” Awyer spoke with his back still to me. This was the answer to the question I had left him with five years ago. “The California condor became extinct over a thousand years ago at the end of the USA Age because bullet-riddled corpses lead poisoned them. The lammergeiers got over here from Asia a few years later and took over the niche. They got bigger and then gigantic through natural, quantum evolution–feeding on all the new, genetically modified megafauna–just like the golden eagles and wolves did.”
“I’ve got a new question,” I said then held out my parrot people feather.
In front of Awyers’ desk there was a port glass window that looked out onto a cloud shrouded mountain peak. Awyer glanced over at the feather. The oil-slick-bearded man slowly turned his gaze to the window. He peered out the thick, round glass. I was getting the idea that he wasn’t glad to see me. “It’s from a genetically modified group of escapists from the island chain formerly known as New Zealand. Combination of mostly human and kea parrot DNA. Dezret farmers shot some they claimed were raiding their crops three years ago.”
I let the feather go and it side slipped through the air down to the granite floor. Awyer turned half around and bid me to have a seat on a bench before his desk. When I had met him five years ago, he had been a yellow uniform–what the highsters call a geek, one of their tech-priest dudes who keep their electricky systems going. Now he was wearing the slate grey uniform of a high-ranking politico.
“The world has changed,” he stated. I noticed then he had a gold nose ring which meant he was married.
“Why would the escapist Highster nation care?” I replied. “You taught me that eleven hundred years ago the Thirty-Nine gee-moed their offspring to go vertical, up the sides of mountains to get out of the mayhem. Just repeat with a higher mountain chain.”
“Our Thirty-Nine Silicon Valley, rock-climbing progenitors from defunct USA didn’t have to deal with what I do. The new correlation of forces this year has changed everything.” He nodded, gave me a little of the young man who five years ago shared my exuberance about finding out what expanding knowledge had to offer. History, science, tech, governance, exploration, all of it had been like drug that kept us up at night talking about possibilities. But in front of me now in micro-slip time he shifted to a straight-backed bureaucrat. “Inquiry is disruptive and always has been. Social cohesion is what is primary.”
I reached inside my leather coat and slid out my Bowie from its hidden sheath. The dark grey blade made his eyes wide for a split-second then he squinted, nettled at what he wanted to think was just my barbarian guff.
“Your point?” He leaned back, probably remembering handling this same knife I smuggled in five years ago. Illegal in his society for a male to handle a deadly weapon, I knew then it had a profound effect on him, but profundities don’t have much staying power.
“Its point is the point,” I said, smiling like a salesman. “This is a tool that lets me inquiry into anything I chose to.”
He got up and paced the floor on all fours. Then he stood and spoke with a stern voice: “The world has changed. Your backwards, independent counties in the interior of this continent will soon fall to who you arrogantly refer to as Mutant Angels. The social ranking system the Divine Angel Empire adapted from New Sing will soon govern all seven million people living here. Your blood-soaked, disorganized resistance is meaningless.”
“Why take us up at all, if that’s the case?” I let the question hang out in the air for a minute. “If you meant to offer us up to the skull faces, we wouldn’t be talking. You want something.”
“What you want?” He shot back. “The politically bizarre combination of players in your party lays it out. Everyone knows where you’re headed. The gold is there, everybody knows it’s there. No site robbers have ever come back from that desolate place, but if you did manage to take possession it will cause world-wide social disruption like hasn’t been seen since the end of the USA Age.”
I sheathed my Bowie and gave an innocent shrug. “When I was out here five years ago, I didn’t even mention that old Lost Fort Knox legend. Why would I bother leading VIPs on a hard ride out to the Waste Land for that boondoggle?”
“You found out something,” Awyer smirked then went back to his desk. He shifted gears, completely at ease, spreading phony praise like cane sugar frosting. “You have skills we don’t have. There is an entity that exists at the base of the volcano fifty-six miles from here. Our Prime Council wants this entity liquidated.”
“Entity?” I shook my head.
“You would probably call it a sorcerer or shape-shifter. Yes, they exist. There were elites back in the old USA Age who transformed themselves into non-DNA life forms….”
“The radical Transhuman Movement,” I said. “That Ancient must be pestering your nation in some major fashion for you to be putting aside your commitment to not-fatal solutions.”
His eyes flashed at my dig at his supreme cultural value. “This entity has been aggressively delving further and further into unacceptable behaviors that threaten the social cohesion of the eighty thousand strong Highster nation. What we’ve built up from a tiny colony of escapists into the most socially equal, advanced society on this continent must be protected against disruptive ideas at all cost.”
“If I agree to a hit job, I have two stipulations,” I said and waited for his response.
He looked me straight eye to eye. It would be a mistake to say he acted weak. Probably three times stronger than me in the arms, Awyer was tough as any man I ever met. The powers there let him interview me five years ago. They wanted to glean as much intel from a Zarkie that a male bonding would allow, so they let us become friends.
“State your proposal,” he finally said.
“I want to be taught about computers, is the first quirement.” I caught that he looked a tiny bit puzzled. “The second is I want access to the outfits belonging to the goon riders in our party.”
“That would be a violation of our Hospitality Code,” Awyer said. His chin went up and he got stiff-lipped.
I resisted saying back that so was threatening to offer us up to the Mutant Angels. Instead I smiled and said, “You want this done?”
He nodded his head. “It has to be done. There are Highster followers with it. Several of our males have deserted to follow the entity. They have participated in anti-social, morbid acts and are no longer under our Code or protection.” He scrunched his mouth for a spilt second. One of these traitor males was close to him. I knew he had a younger brother. “You will get a specially designed bladed weapon to liquidate the entity from Amoze, the head of our security services. If you survive you are welcome to keep the weapon but don’t divulge where you got it.”
“I go now?”
“Yes, your escort is on the way. Once you are issued the weapon you will be taken to the Peak Zipline.” That was it. No goodbye, break a leg, fair well, more like don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.