Creative Commons License Public Domain SciFi Writer




Down from the mountain Armeagh strolled. Pausing and staring back up the mountain she smiled at the curtain of clouds , they were trying to follow her. It was that sort of day. Up there amidst the engulfing emptiness she had left her troubles, and revitalised she knew what faced her. This she would meet with great resolve, a resolve borne out of the knowledge that what she suffered was immaterial compared to the depths the majority inhabited. Her thoughts flowed into her village, her family proud of their spirit and their poverty - proud that they did not need the riches of far-off glitter. Her father's tradition rang through her brain remembering the strikes, the strength they brought to the village as the latest Angellaran labour-saving, or rather labour-reducing, invention threatened the stability of the village. Recalling last remembered words of her grandfather "They don't need to increase the level of production, they just need a steady flow but the miners must have a struggle. If the Angellarans don't provide the windmills for the dreamers to tilt at, the wind will blow against Angellara." This brought a volley of abuse during the strike but at other times when the repetitions of his old age needed to replay the insight it was ignored given glancing, or perhaps quizzical, acceptance. Still she remembered those times with joy yet there had seemed huge gaps; she had left to fill them. Tripping over a stone angered her, even walking required concentration. Childhood stupidity had twisted her knee and left her with permanent ligament trouble varying in pain but an ever-present reminder of necessary awareness. Tripping brought her back to the present day and she focussed on her return to the struggle, her idling on slopes and by streams having calmed her mind and given context to the steps she was about to take. She would meet with Gearagh; for the first time she would meet with a legend.

The screen drew Davison's attention to the following items:-

1) Financial *

2) Off-world

3) Domestic

Inadvertently keying in 3 briefly he noted three dead in incidents in the last week. No *, therefore nothing to be worried about there; it was stable. Exaggeratedly he took a demonstrably precise aim for the 1 on the keyboard. Only one item with a * on this next menu, he read the report cross-indexed 2.8.

"Several Andustan rebels had chained themselves to the entrance to the Angellaran embassy on Aldabarna 4 (where?, he thought). An interview with a spokesperson said "Some Andustans preferred bombing the embassy, we don't want terrorism we want a peaceful settlement but," and his warning had the usual sincerity "we won't be able to control our people for long" ....... The report continued with the usual casualties and then gave a brief description of the Andustan situation and what reasons they thought they had for self-determination. Nothing critical here, he thought. He keyed in his password to access the * briefing. A military report, this could be interesting.

Briefing:- The Federation Executive agreed unanimously in its Security Council to send a Peace-Keeping force to Aldabarna 4. The Andustans claimed that Fed boundaries had deprived them of ancient religious sites, and that these sites were being destroyed by the Bandarans who were the majority members of the Aldabarnan Assembly. The other members of the Assembly allowed the use of these sites but in a restrictive fashion. The Andustans basically have disagreements with both.

History:- When the Federation first arrived fifty years ago, it noticed geological signs of metracite as is often associated with ancient "religions". Early attempts at negotiation had failed due to a great deal of indifference on the part of any of the three peoples to develop mining contracts. As usual we developed a taxation system based on Federation services and infrastructure but we found that the three peoples cooperated to provide these taxes. At no stage were we able to develop mining facilities so we then brought in a vast colony of Arvenis to act as agents for the Federation as well as mine the metracite. At our instigation the Arvenis soon began to make demands for a homeland on Aldabarna so the Federation allocated them land in the North which also happened to include some of these ancient religious sites. Initially the Andustans fought hard for their lands and there were many casualties, and we were very concerned about threats to the mines. But we increased our Peace-Keeping force until a stable situation was reached. The second generation of Arvenis then became culturally and politically integrated with the Andustans, Bandarans and the Carastrians, and they now work in unison with them in the Aldabarnan assembly.

Current Situation:- Mining is now reduced to a minimum, and we received an unfounded report that the protesting Andustans were in fact off-worlders recruited by Special Angellaran agents.

Conclusion:- Although mining is reducing, the need for a Peace-Keeping force is at a minimum, and the force has requested orders concerning their continued presence on Aldabarna 4.

Further Information:- DAVISON, PERSON ONLY. He was worried, PERSON ONLY meant respond and respond quickly. Stepping out of his office he moved towards the translift becoming agitated when he saw the sign flashing above. Approaching the translift he began cursing the Kirrams as he was able to read the sign. "Translift not in operation due to bomb warning. We apologise for any inconvenience". He wanted to turn back but PERSON ONLY had imperative written all over it. Reaching street level he fairly quickly hailed a cab; there's some justice, he mused to himself. As he reached the off-world office he began to collect himself. On occasions he had met Swift socially but this would be the first time they would meet professionally. Even socially he knew Swift to make discrete, obtuse references - cutting the air with his feigned superiority, and although it was also Davison's trade he hated the game; mind you, it was sometimes difficult to hide when he didn't understand. As expected when he arrived the meeting had started. It was not strictly formal so lateness did not matter but he apologised with proper sincerity to express recognition of the full import. Looking around he noted the military amongst the expected officials, and as he glanced circumspectly at the different individuals present he received the usual curt acknowledgements even from Francis whose family had stayed at the weekend.

The meeting had already developed a serious tone. One of the military was pontificating. "Whether there is a military crisis or not on ...," he paused and checked his notepad on the portascreen "Aldabarna 4, we have to recognise that these tiny off-world governments cannot defy the Federation. They are so ungrateful," he grumbled angrily, his raised tone clearly expressing his deep exasperation. "We provide, at minimal rates, transport for their exports through our Trade Escort giving them automatic protection, and without Federation benefits they would not be able to develop an economic infrastructure. And what about the Peace-Keeping Force? Without it there would be a bloodbath!"

"There doesn't appear to be a bloodbath now," countered Swift wryly.

"There is the domino effect," interjected Davison allying himself with the military - fruitfully, he hoped. Noting the military's admiring glance in his direction, he suppressed the amusement his manipulation had given him. Carefully analysing his actions was Swift, he thought cautiously.

The military turned on Swift. "The Federation relies on a consistent approach, we cannot have anarchists or terrorists dictating when and how they support contracts freely entered into with the Federation. If we don't maintain the integrity of the Federation then the very fabric of our civilisation could crack."

"I understand what you are saying," answered Swift, "but this could be a military engagement we cannot win. The traders of Arvenis 5 have always been our strongest allies yet, on Aldabarna, even they have now turned against the Federation. There are factors here that we know little of."

As Swift turned for support the military rolled on into the trap. "There are no factors that can withstand a proper tactical approach. Our superior weaponry makes it clear to all these dissident off-worlders that they cannot renege on Federation agreements properly entered into."

Again Swift plaintively looked around the table, and noted that the military had his day. "It seems that your arguments are conclusive," he deferred, "but for the record I would like to note my concern. I will draft a resolution for the Security Council, and present the case for a more active military involvement on Aldabarna."

As they were leaving the room Swift called back Davison. "I asked you to attend as I think the situation is very serious." They both sat down again. "I am pleased that the military have taken ownership of this situation," continued Swift as they both smiled at the innuendo, "but I see it as being protracted," he warned "I think we have part of the Kirramura scenario repeating itself. It would cost more to ensure that Aldabarna keeps to its contract than any profits we could possibly make; in the end they will have to be granted some form of autonomy but to what extent? I sometimes wonder whether metracite affects the psyche of these peoples, and that's what makes them so difficult to deal with?"

He paused pointedly. There was more to come, Davison knew, they had said nothing that was shattering, and the pregnant silence continued to make Davison uneasy as it was intended to. Swift changed tack completely.

"How are the family?" Even though Davison was experienced in these diversionary ploys this innocent question sent shivers down Davison's spine. He was aware of the rumours about a possible separation, and he knew Swift knew.

"Janice and I are considering taking a trip together but not for a while yet," Davison tried to defend his personal security. "Steve and Claire have two more years at the Academy, and we had hoped, as parents do," they both smiled at the half truth "being there would break the knot. But that has not been the case, we find that they are still very close. Especially Janice is finding this time difficult."

It sounded good, thought Davison. Did Swift know enough?

"I'm sorry Janice is not happy, I suppose all parents find the double bind difficult to break. But I do know the Academy are used to dealing with these sorts of problems, it is their job." said Swift consolingly.

"How's your mother?" asked Davison hoping to deflect. Swift was single, he thought he was gay; this would have to put Swift on the defensive - at least partially. Or so he hoped.

Swift's face visibly changed. "You know she was unsteady on her feet. Well she tripped," he paused "Even with their regeneration techniques they are not sure how much movement she will retain, or even if the regeneration will take."

The emotion generated ended the cat-and-mouse game, and with perfect self-control Swift simply said, "I need you to go to Aldabarna." Davison's facade drop. "I know you are probably not keen," he paused to watch Davison control the anger his understatement would produce "but I need someone with your experience out there."

"You yourself described the scenario as possibly Kirramuran but why would that warrant me going out there, especially at my age." Davison had given up any form of pretence and diplomacy, he didn't want to go.

"Well historically we have handled Kirramura extremely badly," began Swift. "Being the nearest off-world our policy, at that time, was not very sophisticated. It is clearly documented that we simply went to Kirramura, discovered the metracite and, although we used the usual mechanisms of taxes, credit traps and glamour to attract the few to create the top echelons, mainly we took a bludgeoning approach. Now resistance seems to be part of the Kirramuran culture and whatever deals we give them we cannot prevent outbreaks of violence and terrorism."

Although this sounded plausible, thought Davison, he knew he was only being given the MInistry line. He snapped his mind back to the issue at hand, how was he to prevent a trip to Aldabarna?

"If we had taken a more accommodating position," continued Swift "perhaps the Kirramuran situation would not be as it is. And this is why I want you on Aldabarna. I do not want a resistance culture out there because it is too far away. Finance dictates that we cannot afford to maintain a military presence there indefinitely, so we need to establish an elite sympathetic to the Federation whether they are Arvenis, Andustans, Bandarans or Carastrians. How unusual it is that we were unable to develop an alliance with any of the Andustans, Bandarans or the Carastrians, let alone to find that some Arvenis are also then taking up the armed struggle, as they call it."

Both paused, and Davison knew that he was on his way to Aldabarna.

"Integrated", that's what they call people like him in the service, it was impossible for him to leave - and live. Janice, she would not come to Aldabarna but then she was unlikely to go down the bar with him at the moment. Resignedly he smiled to himself, at least he would be very well paid.

At the end of the pause they both knew he was going but Davison still held doubts, he was seriously questioning Swift's judgement. After all although these off-worlders always claimed their situation was unique, always the service had found a pattern. And this meant there had always been a way for the service to deal with these midges. Arguing with Swift about whether he went or not was acceptable but he had to be careful how he questioned the boss's judgement.

"Have you more information that we have not discussed yet?" Leaning forward Swift gestured towards Davison's portascreen. Their eyes met as Davison placed it on the table, and Swift attached the interface remarking as a precaution "If you do not create a password this information will be lost." Swift continued to watch Davison as he protected the file, and they both stood up as Davison left quietly for the translift.

Having been forced to go to Aldabarna he now found the idea quite appealing, he was in a rut. The rut triggered a flashback so when they reached the street Davison declined Swift's cab ..... and ignored Swift's puzzled glance. With a mild rebuke on his lips Swift shrugged his shoulders, perverse reactions usually occurred away from the office and some had been quite extreme; a walk in a trance was mild, if perhaps a bit dangerous.

Davison's deliberations took him to Kirramura with Janice. Soon after they met, they had taken one of their youthful rambles back to Nature. At that time love and youth were finding in them mild rebellion. And if they were to be anywhere discussing rebellion it was Kirramura; it was in the air there, especially beneath the mountains. Staying in a small guest house, and having partaken the prerequisite stodge for breakfast they set off from Leanagh to the valley beyond. Having arrived at noon the day before, they had worn out the immediate aesthetic impact and this morning they were growing together immersed in a world of trees and timelessness, of pastures broken only by grazing and unobtrusive fences and of silence filled only with birds harmonising - or so it seemed on vacation.

Their conversation drifted to post-academy dreams and professions, his administration suiting his ambitions in government and her ideals still wrapped up in scientific discovery and medical advancement. His memory had lost the words but ideals, direction and their unfolding in the world harmonised as they walked up the slopes of the Leanan Reeks. When they reached the summit the silence consummated that harmony, and it had remained a pillar of their love.

Now he realised that even that pillar had crumbled, reference to Leanagh used to bring them together in earlier partings but now simply drove a knife further into the back of their disillusionment with themselves and their life. Swift was the final blow not to be fought. The deliberations turned to Steve and Claire, as an afterthought as usual. He remembered good family times, closeness, and listened to himself often justifying his work as being for the family. Now that sounded as hollow as the ideals of Leanagh. Sitting by a stream he recalled "Chauvinism is a prerequisite division within the Federation." Looking across at Janice the smile of agreement was enough.

She continued in the same vain "Awareness courses in the Academy, included for political expediency, only voice the insincerity of the system, and provide greater marginalisation of women if the structures clearly evidence disdain." She paused and turned pointedly to him, and with her heart pouring out through her smile she said "at least it won't happen with us." A crow flew past squawking, and they looked up to thank it for its agreement. The squawk reverberated in his mind and brought him back to a realisation that the children were not tying him down, and perhaps never had except through his own sense of inculcated duty. He went home to explain knowing tears awaited but not sincerity; he made a mental note to contact Swift early to discuss when.

For Armeagh industrialisation on the outskirts of Gailleagh marked the return from Leanagh to the real struggle. Gearagh would speak tonight, it would not be the first time she heard him but afterwards a few would gather in what she saw as a revolutionary council. Perhaps she exaggerated ...... but only a little smiling ironically to herself. In the hall there were many faces she knew - old and new, and given by one of the backroom workers came an introduction from the platform. Awe sounded through every syllable along with the crystallised political simplicity of the young. Much applause greeted the announcement as they all stood to cheer Gearagh, and then it slowly subsided as they waited to hear. From the back there was shouting, the words, although screamed intently were not clear, but their meaning was. Armeagh heard "a grieving relative" as a guess behind her, that seemed reasonable, she thought. Moving towards the platform the woman was immediately surrounded by several strategically-placed hardened campaigners; quickly the grief was ushered out.

"There are victims on both sides," Gearagh spoke quietly but with poise and presence, the audience was quiet, but expectant and a little afraid, tension feeding their political fervour and desire to listen. "But" he continued "we all belong to the same class". The audience were now eating out of the palm of his hands, class solidarity always won over the liberals and intellectuals.

Gearagh's speech was the usual pattern. Beginning with a colonial analysis which she knew he moved on to the current situation, but still she listened intently - his incisiveness would give her pointers. Drawing on recent incidents to support his party's analysis he cleared away the haze cast over events by media reports, and finally moved to a description of future strategies - trade unionism, community activities, broad education, none of which was lost on her despite the number of times she had heard it. His voice was rising and she noted his knuckles were whitening as his fist began to clench. His final shout of "Free Kirramura" was echoed throughout the hall as they all stood and raised clenched right fists. Several times the rallying call was repeated, and then they all started clapping and cheering.

After waiting a decent while out of respect, Gearagh left with modesty and integrity intact to the pre-arranged meeting, smiling and speaking gently to those nearest as he left the hall. After a decent interval Armeagh also left, and went to thedesignated room. Eight people were there, and although she felt conspiratorial and privileged they seemed to treat the situation in a perfunctory fashion. Around was much jovial conversation, pleasantries were exchanged - it could have been a tea party except that most would not have attended such an event unless for the cause. She tried to fit in. Some of the old hands spoke to her about her origins what she was doing there but she noticed they soon walked away. She became disturbed by the attitude of one or two of them when she overheard the words "youth" and "hot air" interspersed with affirmations of long-term commitment and "burn-out". Feeling like moving in and confronting them she held back out of respect for Gearagh.

To one side she heard raised voices and moved nearer just as they were interrupted by Padrasi who said "If the arguing is starting let's get down to the real business." As one they moved to the other room where around the table were a set of cartridges labelled with the date, time and venue of the meeting. Each person then removed their portascreen from their cases, and plugged in the cartridge. Padrasi noted that Armeagh did not have a screen and immediately took a box from a cupboard in the corner of the room, and passed it to her. With embarrassment Armeagh murmured her thanks but there seemed no reprimand; there was an unwritten acceptance that if she'd been invited there must have been a reason however inexperienced she was.

Padrasi began by asking if they accepted her as chair; there were murmured acknowledgements. Minutes and matters arising all flew over her head but she noted the quiet assured way they all dealt with business - at times even humour. The main item for discussion was a paper, that anachronism was still used, entitled "Future Strategies for Kirra Feira - a Focus on the Angellaran Left"; she noticed final draft on the agenda.

She started reading it to herself:- In recent years our Movement has focussed on the independence struggle in Kirramura itself. Whilst the KF recognised that independence cannot be won simply by a strong mobilisation in our homeland, at that time it was believed that the Movement was too weak both here and in Angellara to achieve any form of struggle. Whilst maintaining an outward show of metropolitan involvement it was decided that the divisions in the Angellaran movement had been so carefully cemented by the establishment that there was no real hope of their Movement being any help.

The KF developed a strategy which became known as the Consolidation Plan, and it had two key approaches:-

1) Increased mobilisation on Kirramura

2) Analysis of the Angellaran Left

The Commissions set up by the KF Executive have produced reports on both these areas, and they are stored as files "Mobilisation" and "Analysis". Based on these reports we conclude that our Kirramuran mobilisation has been a success. Cells have been developed in all key geographical areas throughout Kirramura but more importantly members have accepted the discipline of working their way up into career positions of import whilst maintaining a low profile politically. With the ensuing domination of the political scene by ill-conceived plans and campaigns by the ultra-left being counter-balanced by the career exploitation of our Movement leaders, there is clear evidence of a strong ground swell of opinion waiting for a serious revolutionary movement. If our members continue not to involve themselves in such campaigning but focus their attention only on developing positions of power in the system then we can strike. We must improve our strategy of recruitment, there is some evidence that potential Feirists are organising within these extreme groups and giving then too much credibility, and by the time they have tasted power they are lost to our waiting game - this is especially true of the young. More vigilance on recruitment is required.

But we recognise that we cannot strike whilst the Angellaran Movement is so clearly manipulated and decimated. It is time that our analysis becomes action. To this extent it is time to develop cells within Angellara itself, we must get involved in their particular parties with only one strategy to be pushed - Unity. The KF Executive recognises the level of discipline required but we must help the Angellarans organise until their Movement becomes powerful. Remember the issue is Unity not Kirramura. The Angellaran people are too wealthy to be concerned by "moral" issues of the welfare of another planet even though it is as closely linked as Kirramura. Through uniting all the Angellaran Left then we can tone down their popularly-unacceptable sloganising, and working through community strategies unite them into a threat against the Angellaran Federation. Whilst they are dealing with their own Movement we will be in a position here on Kirramura to use our mobilisation to achieve independence, or at the very least increase concessions to our members in power. KIRRAMURA FEIRA! KIRRA FEIRA! FEIRA CON GENAROS!

Armeagh felt blasted with anger. The people she most respected in the Movement were assessed as "ill-conceived campaigners", the people she learnt her politics from were manipulated as dupes by this arrogant KF. Why didn't she walk out? Through her emotional haze her anger turned to puzzlement at the reason she had been asked to attend the meeting. Controlling herself she waited patiently whilst these traitors to the Movement continued their clandestine manipulations; this polite tea party beginning, she now thought, suited these class collaborationists.

When finally Padrasi called the meeting to a close and collected in the cartridges and the loaned portascreen, Armeagh rose to quickly leave. As she moved to the door she was intercepted by Gearagh who began small talk with her. Smiling politely she described her meeting with Vailano a few months ago at the Academy Students' union lecture. Then Gearagh recounted his own acquaintance with Vai, and Armeagh almost yawned. This was becoming a huge strain and her frustrated anger was bottling up inside her. To the point Gearagh asked her how she felt about the meeting. Replying politely she described how interesting it was to meet people who had fought so long in the struggle.

Noticing how Gearagh was warming to her, she was sickened to think that Gearagh was now using his political reputation to move towards horizontal politics. Although this made her even more agitated all it did to him was increase his implacable smile.

Making excuses she moved towards the door again but he appeared to physically block her. This chauvinism was the final straw and she snapped at him "Male chauvinism is the hallmark of the class collaborationist." He smiled and agreed with her. "So why do you do it?" she asked bluntly.

If he is going to pretend innocence then she would be direct and if necessary insulting. Gearagh realised his intended derision would blunt his real objective so he quietly apologised. By the look on her face that would not be enough; he cursed his failing. "Before you go, sister," his form of address softened her slightly, "Have you not wondered why you are here?"

"Most definitely," she answered with fire "being an active member of the Movement I find it difficult being in a meeting of class collaborationists whatever their repute."

Her anger boiled as he laughed, and she moved to the door again. "Sister, you have shown good discipline throughout tonight's meeting I would be grateful if you could extend me one further courtesy," he looked quizzically at her "I'm sorry that is not meant to be patronising, many members of your party would have exploded and stormed out..."

"The correct position," she muttered quietly.

" stayed, listened and studied the papers," he continued ignoring her interruption "I would welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you in detail."

He saw her nod begrudgingly. "I strongly disagree with your position," she added forcefully.

Acknowledging her candour he noted more her integrity. Excusing himself he went into the other room and she overheard him arrange to meet the other Feirists in an hour. Despite their political disagreement she felt honoured that he was giving her so much time. They went upstairs where they entered a small room. Motioning to the videmood he said "It is not a very advanced model but it is better than desks and portascreens. Please choose a selection." She keyed in relaxed business and country inn. He admired her choice, Vailano was right we should recruit this sister.

"You have read the paper?" he paused as she nodded "and you thought it a revisionist cop-out." Revisionist was not a word she used but it was certainly apt. "Did you get a chance to see the two reports?"

"Of course not," she answered curtly.

He handed a cartridge to her. "Do you know what I am doing by giving you this cartridge?"

"I understand that you are breaking normal codes of secrecy," she said hesitantly.

"More than that, much more than that," he continued in a deep serious tone "Whether you agree with us or not, these plans and reports have been executed over the last 15 years in varying degrees of intensity. If this cartridge were to fall into the wrong hands that work would be wasted. Will you promise me one thing?"

"What is that?" she was now warming to him. "You cannot copy this, but" he paused for moment "will you promise to read it on your own?"

"I agree," she said no more.

He looked again at her, integrity was definitely not one of her failings; he was confident. "I have only one more matter to raise with you. Do you remember Vailano? he asked, and as an aside "we were discussing him earlier. It is he who recommended we talk to you."

He saw a barrier rising in her, she was alert to the recruitment pitch. "He told us that you are taking a job in Lorteuds in the Federation Service," he paused "You know what's coming," he smiled "we want you to work for us as part of our strategy of Unity in Angellara. You already have links with extreme left groups there, and we would like you to work for us. This is long-term work but it will help free Kirramura. As well, if you are not too outspoken you could perhaps achieve a position in the Service and that will be helpful; to know when off-world insurrections are stretching the resources of the Service would be invaluable in the timing of our own tactical strikes."

Bemused she stared at him intently then looked away in contemplation. Soon again came the look of bemusement, she then turned towards him and her look of complete disapproval made him squirm. He nodded not with anger or rejection but with an understanding, and pointing to the cartridge he said no more. She was so like him in earlier times, he thought.

As she walked out of the door political doubts were in her mind, why? Despite their inauspicious start he had left his mark on her, she would at least read the reports - as she would read any other. Perhaps not though, as that final respectful image flashed in her mind. Two days later she arrived at Lorteuds terminal. As she moved to the customs checks Davison left the immunisation lounge, and went towards his terminal link with the liner for Aldabarna 4.



Cartagio was languishing in jail. It was her first time but she was not worried, or so she told herself. In fact languishing was far from the truth, languishing was what she wanted to be, that was what she would like to tell the sisters. But her inbuilt upbringing taught her to obey the law, not to get in trouble with the Federation troops, the Federation Defence Regiment - DReggies by name and nature. But her parents would be shocked after all they had spent on her education, they wanted a career for her in the Federation, even to the extent of promotion to Angellara. Career and the system was at an end for her, she thought, didn't she have a right to be out there demonstrating against the debt? All her life her parents had complained about debt, seen it as a stigma, yet she now realised debt was an intrinsic part of the Federation system. How was it done, mortgages, student loans, car loans, loan schemes for food, clothes ... everything? But she was trapped in it as well. By the time she had graduated from the Federation Institute she was in debt as a student as well as having dragged her parents into further debt by her continual adolescent whining about the latest government-sponsored fashion extravaganza.

A wave of guilt washed into her brain bringing with it the words of her grandfather "This youth culture is destroying our society; children used to respect age, even if it was wrong. Now all the young do is criticise and demand money, but what are these criticisms - naive simplifications, brash outpourings of the latest superhero wrapped up in a make-believe world of ideals, romance and chauvinism. Image, that is all young people are, and where is their substance? They don't get any substance until they are 30 and by then it is usually too late because they are trapped in debt and procreation."

She began to see he was right. An old friend of his would then say "The ego is the great slayer of the real," and the two would then nod and groan agreement. It was clear that both insights had a wealth of meaning buried in them but a spark initially only lights one fire. Why had she never seen the debt-trap when she was younger? More she wondered why was this trap not the talk of the bars and the cafes, why was she not taught it at the Academy? But then so much of life was not part of education, and the older she got the more she realised it was not meant to be. Real education is an awakening but sleepiness is the order of the day for the Federation on Aldabarna. Perhaps she had no right to demand that Aldabarna wake from its slumber. But she didn't focus too much on that thought, the ultimate dilemma for all political and right thinkers through the ages.

Soon the guards came and woke her from her musing. Taken from her cell she was booked out and advised that she would be called before a Federation Justice soon. Looking sheepishly at her parents who had come to collect her, she was glad at the same time and she left thankful her ordeal was no worse; she needn't have worried given her family connections. Unnoticed by Cartagio other demonstrators remained in their cells.

Whilst in the city urban contact was producing violent upheaval, in the country the land was having her say. For Hermetio the land spoke to him in a strange way. Having been brought up on the land as his parents before him, his life, and theirs, was a struggle against debt but, throughout their financial problems, the land held them, it drew them, its attraction casting a spell of which they were not consciously aware. Their religious ceremonies talked of respect for the land personifying her wonder, power and roots but that had passed over him because attendance was compulsory. Towards the end of the day he was in the fields dragging out the last ounce of work before the sun withdrew its rays. Whilst he collected the herds his mind was turning to food but perchance his eyes were drawn to the far-off unworked metracite mine, and as he glanced over he noticed tracks amidst the oat fields. Cursing the lack of consideration he generalised and condemned the wastage of the city, didn't they know it was his livelihood? Did they care?

Gathering his gun and calling over Ka-ren he followed the selfish tracks to frighten the wastrels. Mentally building anger at these nameless culprits, he was soon lost in his trek lost in his mind creation when suddenly Ka-ren started to whine. He looked towards her as the whining disturbed his reverie. What was the matter? She continued to whine. As he moved towards her she ran off. Calling to her, he just heard the whimpering continuing a little way off, why hadn't she run back to him?. Running towards the sound, he found Ka-ren at the edge of a mine, prostrate on the ground, her head buried beneath her forelegs, and her eyes open staring up at him with a look of deep puzzlement.

He moved to hit her and then laughed as she struggled to back off still maintaining the awkward supplicant pose. Why are we here, he asked her? Relieved at his laughter the chine had nosed towards the entrance. Following, Hermetio thought he heard a cry from within so tentatively he crossed the threshold; unwillingly the chine followed. Far off he saw a light, in the direction of the cry he thought. Swiftly he went towards it and suddenly the mine opened out into a small cave, and on the far edge there was a bright metracite vein, one of the largest there ever was he thought anecdotally. He moved across the cave with almost reverential awe, always he'd had strange feelings towards the metracite - their ceremonies always used the metal as ornament, but his awe was not worshipful like some of the old with their minds closing in.

Once in front of the vein his pace slowed dramatically and pushing out his hand slowly he tried to touch it. A tingling sensation shot through his fingers and gradually the tingle moved up his arm until when he finally touched the vein a warm glow spread throughout his body. As the feeling spread suddenly a bright light reached out to his forehead. It was inside his head and tried to chase the tingling. Catching it the warm glow led to great satisfaction, a wonder, awe, joy other words sprang in his mind afterwards but now he was just experiencing the serene exhilaration and he was very happy. And when Ka-ren came over to him he knelt down to the chine as if in slow motion and gently touched her forehead. Yelping with excitement she sat down contentedly, all traces of anxiety having melted away from her faithful mind.

The two waited there, sat in homage?, in front of this slab of bright-veined rock. His mind was allowed to return to thoughts of the mundane and the two rose and walked in a daze out of the mine. As they emerged they realised it was getting dark and by automaton returned home. As his mother chastised him he smiled benignly at her, but she could see no reason to continue, he was a good lad really. The next day Hermetio renewed his work with extra vigour, he took pride in every detail, rather than finishing the job quickly he measured every movement, meticulous precision and attention to minutiae governed his whole approach. No more the sloppiness of the punk. He also took more pleasure in faithful Ka-ren. More contented today, she still protected the crops chasing off the flying critters but without the need to snarl. She accepted her duty, a strange thought.

Near lunch time he paused, they were again near the metracite mine. Going in, they sat near the vein, and peacefully ate their pack. Such a pleasant place this spot, he thought, it's a disgrace the way the Angellarans try to denude it, to take the metracite from its home. A bit poetic for you, he thought, and renewed his peaceful lunch, the food seemed really tasty today. Examining it, he noticed nothing different, but he must tell his mother. Soon returning to their chores, they passed the afternoon amicably. Seeming to finish early they took a long way round, it was a double check but much more pleasant. From that day on lunch at the metracite mine became regular as his output increased - and his enjoyment of it.

Then he met Cartagio. He woke up feeling special or was it a special day? In the field he watched the chine chase off a critter - she never tried to catch them now; after all it wasn't food instinct any more. The crops were doing particularly well this year even though the weather was not unusually helpful. Pausing to admire the swoops of the critters, he looked up at the sky , it seemed so deep, making him feel small or humble or both. The rich blue extended forever as a critter graced him with a gentle swoop across his view. The "w" reversed across his skyline with no apparent effort or movement - almost magical he thought. Even the streaky clouds pointed the path across.

A disturbance interrupted his measured observation. From the corner of the field the insects seemed to buzz around furiously, twigs cracked and through a hedge crashed this young woman. She looked dishevelled but quaintly attractive. He and the chine went over to that corner of the field. He smiled genially "Are you all right?"

"No I'm lost," she snarled angrily "I started on this path, suddenly it became a fence, and I was forced to come through this hedge." She stopped after she blurted all this out and looked around "Oh I'm sorry this field is sown, I didn't mean to.."

He laughed "Don't worry, Ka-ren and I will show you the way. Where are you going?"

She looked at this punk, he looked at this city interloper, both were totally bemused at the depth of their contact. Together they walked back to the tourist heath, it was not far. As they went Carta began to talk about her life - what it was, her recent studies in geo-engineering, her double-edged rejection of her upbringing and even her short stay in jail - that she had mentioned to no-one. Even though this was a world Herem had traditionally rejected, he listened intently - not only to what was said but also the way she said it. Most people say more than just words, it's simply the skill of interpreting the meaning; sadly people don't usually have the time to bother.

It was when she mentioned geo-engineering and her deep-rooted suspicion of the interrelationship between geological properties and human characteristics that he decided to take her to the mine. Why was beyond him - he had mentioned it to no-one else, why to a city interloper? As they approached the mine she felt a glow within her, and she translated it into attraction for Herem and gently moved her hand around his waist. He responded likewise and they moved into the cave. As they reached the vein it seemed to shine even brighter, and they, spontaneously perhaps, simultaneously touched the vein. Again she transmuted the feeling, and turned and brushed her lips on Herem's cheek. He smiled contentedly staring at her and then at the chine seeing Ka-Ren nuzzling up to Carta's legs. It was time for work so she arranged to meet him again the next day. As they parted, he kissed her passionately full on the lips, feeling his life was coming together.

Arriving home some time later she found her aunt and uncle there. This pleased her, she felt she could talk to him; he reciprocated but she never understood why. Immediately she went over and greeted Davison and his wife, and noticed how he was showing his age. "You have been to the country Cartie?" he asked kindly.

"Yes," she answered effusively "I have had a most wonderful day. It is days like this you are really glad to be alive." She turned and looked impishly at Davison "You even forget why there are demonstrations."

There was a brief silence, Davison shrugged and said laughingly "What demonstrations?" They all sat down to eat as Cartie's mum switched off the videcomm's report of the massacre in the South.

Simpadio followed his guide unwillingly, he was frightened of what he would find. For months now he had been reporting on these troubles, and despite having been chosen for Federation support his contact with these people had fostered a great deal of sympathy for their struggle. Apart from the hardship he had discovered in Carpagua an unforgettable spirit, a camaraderie, a unity of peoples only talked of in philosophy and policies designed to be cosmetic. Attitudes to mixed race marriage had always been his guide; only in moments of blind anger did race create a rift through love but outside being seen together often brought out the disapproving glances whether envy-inspired or not. Here the dominant characteristic of the attitude was compassion with indifference to race being clearly noticeable even to an outsider like himself. Although Jerestrio, his guide, was Arvenis his wife was Andustan, yet even their clear physical differences mattered little - this surprised him having seen Arvenis racism on other Federation colonies.

Jeres was taking them to the non-existent mass grave, Simpadio had resisted this part of his assignment for months, "These are supposed to be dead terrorists according to your reports," he'd been told. When he had been negotiating with the resistance weeks ago, Simpadio had shown his reports to Jeres to gain access to the grave.

"If the reports are true," Jeres continued "there will only be Andustans here." Simpadio had to agree, he nodded acquiescently. They walked on in silence, Jeres preferred it and Simpadio initially wanting to talk found the pace Jeres walked at was a good conversation stopper. Walking through the woods Simpadio followed Jeres' pointing finger. He saw a large mound of earth out of place, and as he walked up to it he felt an eerie silence broken only by the continuous buzzing of frenzied flies. The area was barren around, nature had not yet reclaimed it even though there appeared no fresh signs of activity. He had been given clear anatomy lessons which he had listened to inattentively; they must be exaggerating their preparation there was no grave anyway, he rationalised. Bandaran noses were much more angular and therefore had higher more forthright bridges, the Andustan nose was flatter. The supposed triangular faces of the Carastrians were skeletally shown by the higher cheek bones, and this was contrasted by the wide jaws of the Arvenis. They had forced his attention by showing him pictures of skulls clearly denoting all these features; he would only be confused by mixed race progeny. As they neared the mound he began to see a grave angled behind it. His stomach became taut. As he approached the sight of bones gnawed at him. Thinking the grave was only shallow he stepped to the edge only to find its depth knocked him aside. Knowing he should feel like retching he just stood there shocked. After a moment his professionalism took over, and he started his videcomm machine. No symmetry, he thought clinically, they were simply thrown in. Although up North they denied its existence, he realised that here in Carpagua province the Federation kept this grave open as a warning. Jeres knelt down and pointed first to an Andustan body, and then to each of the other races in turn. Careful to keep Jeres' features out of shot Simpadio angled his lens so that the racial features of the bodies clearly contrasted. Although he knew the arguments would still be rationalised, if this footage went live it would make the contortions of reason extremely nubile. Automatically his professionalism double-checked but his heart was rushing away he was now getting a physical reaction. Jeres watched him impassively, after all these were his people the Federation had murdered, and, despite the words he used, Simpadio's job was to paint the sympathetic face of a Federation that cares for peoples not profits. For different reasons their return walk was equally silent, guilt, shock, disbelief and sorrow all completely numbed Simpadio's mind and he was unable to function beyond walking. Jeres appeared to be unmoved, he felt angrily, why wasn't he more sympathetic to his plight? If he'd had energy he might have complained.

Eventually, it seemed ages, Simpadio was returned to his hotel where he collapsed on his bed and slept a deep disturbed sleep. Images of the grave came to haunt him as his eyes moved from one corpse to another giving him a snapshot of their death. A young boy, Carlito, had drunk excessively in the family bar. Fawning favour with the police a distant neighbour had reported comments. Arrested under a drug pretext in jail smart remarks and pride had cost his life. A young farmer had returned late from the fields to see a jeep parked near his house. Rushing in he saw two dreggies one was holding down his wife whilst the other was forcing her legs apart and thrusting. As he rushed forward to defend her violation a third Dreggie fired a bullet disdainfully into his head. His final image was the rapist pushing the body violently down as he withdrew, and the murderer undoing his uniform. A Bandaran nurse came out of the hospital, she was to meet two sisters from the North at the Transtrip. On their return a jeep stopped the three women and they were questioned for papers. When they stepped out they realised that these were not Dreggies but it was too late, the rape was already under way. A final glimpse was of folded uniforms in the back of the jeep before the nurse thankfully blacked out.

It was then that Simpadio awoke. Fighting back the fear and tremors his journalism came to the front. Here was a story if he could only prove this image, if this dream was only real? He resolved to contact Jeres, he jotted down a note but catching the time and fatigue gnawing at him again he turned slowly and drifted back to sleep.

The next morning he awoke and finding the note stopped his mind from running away from the task. Jeres was not easy to find but his earlier contact had been set up in a bar. Arriving there he found a corner, ordered a drink, set the music and waited. No words were necessary, not wanting him to stay they would eventually bring Jeres. It was a long wait.

Jeres turned up "What do you want?"

"I believe the two Bandaran sisters are at the grave," he announced in an expectant tone, willing Jeres to hug him with camaraderie.

"And if they were?" he asked imperviously.

"One of the sisters is Sanavio, Sanavio's family includes Davison, the Federation envoy here on Aldabarna." he noticed a flicker when he said this.

"But they were nowhere near Carpagua, they came far to the East of here," Jeres countered suspiciously.

"I know, but if you help me and," he paused hoping to use climax but still only got an impassive stare "if I can prove it was her the envoy will respond - they always do when it is their own."

"She is Bandaran, why will he care?" said Jeres dismissively but he held his hand up haltingly, stopping Simpadio in his verbal tracks. "If you can prove it the Movement will benefit. How do you know it was her?"

"I cannot reveal my source," he said shakily. Jeres glared at him and Simpadio tried to fix that glare but failed. Beginning to quiver slightly, he hoped he was controlling his anxiety enough. Jeres saw the fear but if he refused and this lackey was able to help them, if it was a trap what could happen? Arrested for sedition that would be a lesser charge when they found out who he was. If he was careful then it would only be he sprung in the trap, and that risk was acceptable. "Tell me what you want," he answered laconically.

"Tomorrow I want you to take me to the grave again," he asked waveringly.

"Agreed," he eyed him suspiciously "Is that all?"

"Yes," he smiled, not wishing to push his luck. If he was proved right he would look for more.

"Be here tomorrow from 8.30," he pointed at the chair and smiled "Wait!"

. Rushing back to the hotel he plugged in the portascreen and telecommed the desk. Desk contacted. Which option? He keyed in Profile - Sanavio, and proceeded to read the background on her disappearance. From his professional stance, although the article read well and had a little substance clearly no-one really knew anything about what had actually happened. Searching medical records, he noted her normality and obtained a hardcopy of her dental records. His copy, a good piece on the graveyard, was enough to keep his editor satisfied but not for long. Unable to do more he slept, he was ready for 8.30. One of the reasons he had taken this assignment was that his cousin was part of Federation Finance in Carpagua, and he had always raved about the town. Now that Simpadio had earned his credits he would call on him to find out why.

They met at Casa Riente. As he walked in he could hear his cousin fawning "the place to be" comment in front of the owner. Simpadio was introduced as a celebrity, his broadcasts were known for their sympathies. It seemed shallow. Genuinely they seemed pleased to meet him but it had no significance. It was so unimportant, he knew, but why the show? The Media, perhaps? Contacts? Maybe the cosmetic charades had grown under their skins and become inseparable. Dinner conversation took its usual course. Initial togetherness and good humour began to be replaced by drink-induced pronouncements that barely veiled the racism endemic in Federation exploitation. Enduring this tiresome display of ignorance Simpadio and his cousin were able to take their leave politely. gain his cousin had a place to go - a place of local colour, it was described. Simpadio had visions of the corner of the bar he was to meet Jeres tomorrow - 8.30; he looked at his watch to remind himself. But Simpadio's vision was far from his cousin's image of local colour. Journalists had spent hours in these homes from home, these places were designed to rip off the more adventurous - at least that's how they described themselves. All was carefully stage-managed - enough of the local ambience whilst providing these Northerners with sufficient safety, the staff had that touch of the exotic yet were all trained in the tugging of the forelock. In all the bar was pleasant enough, he thought, but nothing special. Gradually he lost himself in the drink, and was soon caught in all the trappings, his money flowed and it was late before he noted the time. Breaking all entanglements he rushed back to the hotel, hoping to be a little fresh in the morning.

Awakening at the required time he staggered to the rendezvous at 8.30. Once there he slumped into the corner chair awaiting Jeres. When Jeres walked in he seemed to have been waiting all morning - it was ten. "Recovered," he seemed to laugh and snarl the word at the same time. Simpadio started to ask but Jeres had purposefully strode out the door; he followed wimpishly. Immersed in a haze all through the journey, Simpadio was only awoken by the stench of death. As the smell assailed his nostrils his professionalism geared into action. Now alert he tuned his senses to the task. But what task? He couldn't tell Jeres they were here because of his vision; nor could he tell anyone he worked with. What use were the dental records among so many bodies, he couldn't do a search for teeth? Nor would the assassins be likely to leave the Nun's habits as a convenient signpost. Simpadio was becoming more and more desperate especially as he saw Jeres' nervous pacing and his knife-edge response to the slightest rustling of leaves nearby. Through his daze Simpadio was drawn by a series of prayer beads scattered amongst the carcasses; it was a morbid chain of beads that were leading him to a corner of this eerie graveyard. Dragged almost against his will he reached a pile of bodies which he examined automatically. By this time he was not surprised to find the dental match, it was beyond his control. Making sure the body's origin could be placed he started the videcomm and with the mellowing startled Jeres he returned with the body to Carpagua.



Davison had now made a home on Aldabarna 4. Deep-rooted resentments had fashioned his mind to the extent they were eating into his soul, but bureaucratic civility kept control. Why was he questioning himself this late in his life? His niece had been arrested but youth often had vagaries. Then there was that distant-related sister - or was she a nun, a nurse - why was he concerned about this? Without the Federation these planets would be much worse off. He repeated this Federation maxim again and again but it didn't ring true, mind you it never had. Again he couldn't understand why it was bothering him.

What was he doing it for? Position, status, money and power, he had no doubts. Yet he had; he couldn't understand. Was he depressed - about what? The state of the nation? He laughed to himself. His family were in general happy, well-fed, successful - and alive and comfortable. Loneliness was sometimes a problem but he always found things to do; his office prevented loneliness turning into deep depression, too much was riding on it. Trying to concentrate he found his mind wandering. His age, perhaps? But he thought not.

Pushing his concentration he felt inside a deep blackness fill his mind. Persevering the cloud became oppressive. Leaving it alone he soon drifted off asleep - he had been sleeping a great deal lately; they allowed him that at his age especially as they could then wrestle for the controls. Did he really care? No, though he had to put on a show at times. Awaking with a severe headache, the black cloud had turned to pain pressing down above his eyes. Pressing, pressing, pressing. He prayed for sleep but it wouldn't come, it always had before. He tried lying down but he felt completely restless uncontrolled tossing trying to leave his head immobile. Melting away the pain was a waste, breathing was an effort as a queasy stomach added further diversion. Lying still, gradually sleep descended with the words "Metracite will remove the Federation from Aldabarna" imprinting on his fading consciousness.

Next morning he was still weak. Tiredness reaching into his bones wearied him into lethargy. Working was out of the question even though that didn't worry him too much. Let the jackals eat at his power, there was no one person strong enough to be a danger to him or the Federation. Sitting weakly in his chair, he drifted off to sleep. The imprinted words drifted across his sleeping consciousness "Metracite will remove the Federation from Aldabarna." An image of Cartagio and a farmer in this vast cave making love. No they weren't, they were in Carpagua pointing at bodies. Turning round they hurled rocks at him shouting "It's not you we want to hit." As one of the rocks struck him on the side it turned to a laser and began removing his heart. A voice shouted "This belongs to Aldabarna". Expecting to see his wife he turned round but instead he was in a cave staring at the wall. He called out for his heart back but the wall grew a mouth and cried "You never had one". And the wall began sucking deeper at him, saying "I will only take what is not yours". Visions of home and family collapsing around him flowed into his mind as he felt his legs and arms wasting away.

"Stop!" he shouted to no avail. He kept shouting but his voice was getting fainter and fainter and fainter .... and he awoke in a deep cold sweat. Just lying there he became more and more frightened, more frightened than he had ever been. He was as a young man without youthful fortune and with all his security removed yet no soul or young vigour to survive with; tears would not come as he felt himself shrivel up inside.

Next day he forced himself into work but only as shadow performed his duties. He checked his screen:-





Endlessly the screen scrolled so he searched for priority action. Perfunctorily he handled all but the four above leaving the worst till after coffee. Start with the media, he thought, he could usually handle them easily. "A report about dead Nuns from Simpadio" - why was that marked as Needing Response? Then he remembered that stupid Sanavio asking him for official support for her pointless mission of mercy. Check the letter, he reminded himself, in a personal capacity, good, that had been sound. No recriminations there! What had happened to her? Oh God, of all things her body had been found by Simpadio. He viewed the videcomm report. Good, he smiled to himself, the reporter's responses were clearly emotional. Noting a few of the comments, he knew he could attack Simpadio for a loss of "professionalism". Issuing an official statement of outrage at indiscriminate terrorist attacks and a personal statement expressing his sorrow focussing on his public display of attending the funeral, he sent a personal donation to Sanavio's order, and a letter to the Federation's development agency to increase funding of this order with the usual strings - no future embarrassment, he hoped. Finally he contacted Jefrar at the media company reminding her about Federation franchises and the need to keep all reporting unbiased. He suggested that Simpadio had allowed emotion to take over from rational judgement - surprising in view of his previously correct positions. Perhaps Simpadio was overworked and needed a rest, one person should not tarnish the reputation of the media industry. Accepting the requisite invitation for dinner he smiled and ended the conversation.

Next the Debt demonstrations; he read the warnings, clearly this was one of those mass-based campaigns which was taking off. Sending a memo to the security forces to contact him, he made a personal note to contact Cartagio at best to warn her off or simply learn more - how organised were they?

Tired now, he thought wearily, all this was not as easy as it had been in the past. He did not want to read the Urgent memo from Federation Trade especially as his head was developing pain. As he leant back in his chair the blackness descended again - it had never happened at work before. Again he tried to focus on the Trade memo, it was urgent and he'd already delayed, but the pain descended fast becoming unbearable. Simply he sat there unable now even to go home, totally debilitated. Gratefully sleep came, and he awoke some two hours later with a residue pressuring above his eyes; he was just able to cope with that. His body told him to go home but he must deal with the Trade memo.

With the last of his professionalism he controlled himself, and screened the memo. Immediately taking a hardcopy, he deleted the screen reference, and then he checked the signature, Armeagh, he should have known from the reference. She seemed to have made a Swift rise in the service - he smiled at his old pun, a smile quickly shrouded over with anger and resentment as memory broke in.

Our Ref:- FTO/1/897a

To Consul Davison, Aldabarna 4,

Consul Colleague,

It is with much concern that we hear of the increased levels of violence on Aldabarna. Whilst maintaining our fullest confidence in the conduct of your Consulate we would welcome a further analysis of the situation and will grant our utmost cooperation for any future strategies you might choose to adopt. Sadly our own requirements might affect your analysis and strategy. Recently diplomatic disagreements have arisen on Kirramura, and these have required a reduction in metracite quotas there. Due to increased demands (reference FTO/Sc/745d) our urgency is to increase metracite imports to Angellara, and we therefore are contacting you on Aldabarna as well as other EXISTING metracite producers. We would welcome a feasibility report on the increased export of metracite from Aldabarna. Our office thanks you for your continuing good work, and wish your family well.

ARMEAGH Chief Executive Officer

To receive this memo at this time was all that he needed; he felt his head begin to pulsate. Being used to Federation Bureau-speak he had already understood the basis of the memo, but he backtracked for a detailed check on what was required of him. The increased violence was a pretext in case of snooping but they want a change of policy to be enforced by an increase in Peace-Keeping forces (utmost cooperation), and that change of policy must involve the export of metracite as they were the only off-world not mining metracite (EXISTING), and more metracite was needed to fuel the new space-hoppers referred to in the Science officer's memo. Feasibility meant WHEN!!! & SOON!!! His reply was short and courteous as required.

Our Ref:-A4C/1/897/1d

Your Ref:- FTO/1/897a

To CEO Armeagh,

We welcome your concern over the increased violence which, in part, is due to our response to FTO/Sc/745d. With due regard for your urgent request we will process our new mining strategy which is at present in the planning stage. We have no doubts that this will require your utmost cooperation, and ask that you accord sufficient resource to this task. In due course we will provide the requested feasibility report with required urgency. We welcome your continued confidence and wish your family well.

DAVISON Consul Aldabarna 4

Aldabarna, he thought fondly, had now been committed to a metracite quota which could only be provided with loss of life. But he had no choice. it was so pleasantly done, a short memo and thousands/millions die. Seeking refuge he rushed home, it was more than a headache that required him to rest; almost guilt?!


Three years on yet she could remember her last conversation with Davison as if it was yesterday. "Cartagio," he asked, she noted the formality, "We," meaning the Federation, "have not taken sufficient notice of the peoples of Aldabarna." Ignore this, she thought - she was not going to be swayed by what she wanted to hear, he was probably on one of his patronising wind-ups. "People demonstrating on the street," he continued undeterred, "in such large numbers must be acknowledged, the Federation is democratic, isn't it?" He said that as if he was expecting her to agree; so puzzled she simply smiled. "We must deal with this debt crisis yet," he said turning now to his own solace, "we must provide the metracite quota. How would the people want me to deal with the debt?" he asked her apparently sincerely.

"Ideally cancel the debt especially to the Andustans; you know the Andustan government, now democratically elected, are still paying back the debt from the loan the Federation gave their dictator, Marcuso. Why should the people be paying taxes to pay a debt that was squandered on one person's greed and vanity?" He smiled at her idealism.

"But if you cannot cancel the debt, at least you can lower the interest rate." she continued hoping against hope. "At the moment, because of the interest rate the Andustans are paying back more than they can earn by the sale of their domestic product. They are in a spiral of debt which they cannot escape."

"Suppose we reduced the interest rate and froze debt payments for a year," he continued to her great astonishment, "do you think they will begin mining the metracite?"

She looked at him disbelievingly but his tired face had the look of sincerity. By that time he had fallen into slumber, her nod of agreement, she thought sadly, was wasted. That was the last time she had met him, a few days later he had died. Now she thought he had been serious because soon after the Dreggies had arrived from Angellara and they quickly enslaved the Carastrians as mineworkers. Not even a pretence of humanity, however vicious Federation policies had been under the consulship of her uncle at least it was polite and civil. There was a modicum of civilisation in their actions, but, she thought again, the result was the same so was it better for any except the Federation and its lackeys? She was very concerned about the reports coming from Carpagua. Yet again she studied videcomm pictures showing Dreggies squaring up to striking miners. The commentaries spoke of exorbitant wage rises demanded by the Carastrian mineworkers but she knew the truth about union-bashing having been on the periphery of a dispute at her own works and seeing how one-sided fair negotiations can be.

Carefully examining the footage she could see that a dominant proportion of the strikers were Andustans, Arvenis and even some Bandarans apart from the Carastrian miners themselves. Catching a shot of one of the Dreggies tearing away a placard, she could read that it was not concerning pay alone but the workers were decrying the number of deaths there had been in the mines. This tallied with stories she had been hearing from her own colleagues, whose union had slender links with workers there. The strikes were concerning deaths and poor Health & Safety standards. Viewing the employment practises as murder her colleagues had even demonstrated themselves. However when she heard the amount of money the Federation put into those mining operations she had some sympathy, her own works would never receive that amount. Aldabarna, the old she-devil, was playing the tricks she was famous for, quoting her uncle to herself.



The revolutionary air hung heavy with import; conspiracy, anger and injustice were mixing its ingredients into a Molotov cocktail that they hoped would rock the foundations of Aldabarna and even the Federation itself. Comrades had come from far and wide, many recognising the importance of the events on Aldabarna hoping beyond hope that this was a catalyst for events on a grander scale. Opening with introductions, names cascaded on the winds whistling charisma and power with their very mention yet faces not recognised by many; sadly that was the way these great people were forced to live.

"Gearagh of Kirra Feira," Gearagh began, announcing his party first time of speaking, "we see this opportunity as a key stage in history. Undoubtedly the Federation are feeling the pinch. They have accepted quotas on Kirramura which have left them short and have compensated by this heavy-handed militarism on Aldabarna, as usual using distance as an excuse for oppression. But it is clear from all reports that our Aldabarnan comrades are fighting back, that the authorities are unable to control the mineworkers and force the quotas they want. It appears that the situation is solid, that all the groups will support these workers and if pushed the Federation could be forced out. If my analysis is correct," he looked around for signs of agreement, but although there were slight almost indiscernible nods - he would expect little more from these activists "then there are two courses of action. Firstly we must ensure that the people of Aldabarna are not isolated economically, we must provide for their families, but we must accede only to their requests. Too often in the past movements have risen and fallen because of outside agents making idealistic demands and making their philosophy a rod for the backs of the people in struggle. The people of Aldabarna must lead their own struggle. What we must do is to try to provide the external circumstances which will bring it success. And this leads me to the second part of my proposed strategy. We must increase the pressure on the Federation by putting pressure on the metracite production whether it is on the smallest outpost of Columbine or the more concentrated mining such as Kirramura. We must make this a class mobilisation unheralded in these times. Or we don't bother. This cannot be half-hearted, there must be a commitment, a commitment from all sectors, all other campaigning must be dropped. Ongoing struggles must take a back seat our limited energies cannot be diverted into sustaining small organisations, continuing pet campaigns which we see as important but no-one else seems to," he smiled wryly as did a number present. "We in Kirra Feira have backed off on campaigning, we have recognised that the only success will come from solid foundations. Our strategy has been to build. Smaller organisations have kept the pot boiling with minor skirmishes which have kept the Federation busy but we ourselves have remained dormant."

Pausing for breath he looked round to gauge his impact - he was undecided "We feel that this is the time to become active to support our sisters and brothers here on Aldabarna but we will only do this if we are convinced that we are not alone. This is not verbal warmongering, or simple revolutionary rhetoric. Although we feel it would be a missed opportunity we would rather do nothing than start a campaign which is piecemeal." It was clear that the KF plan had met with some measure of success, but how much? How sincere was the commitment?

"Santario from People's Liberation of Columbine," began a gentle whisper on Gearagh's left "Gearagh mentioned our small quota so I will take that as a little opportunity to speak. Our struggle is never-ending, we are poor and what little planetary wealth is there is appropriated by the ruling Genavio dynasty. Our movement is weak in number and strong in potential, but a distant struggle on Aldabarna is not one which will fire our people. How can they be asked to destroy a quota which is their only livelihood whilst their own families are dying. Sadly I offer little hope, We must continue our struggle in our way, it is up to the major players like yourselves," she stared pointedly at Gearagh "to cause the Federation problems as well as the class in Angellara." She looked around hopefully "Have the class on Angellara managed to stop watching their vids to notice their comrades dying here in DeepFed?"

They laughed with a cynicism developed over years of struggle and reality.

"Gearagh," Hengaree started, she was directly opposite Santario, "Sorry, Hengaree of the UPC on Kamdren ....... the United Peoples' Congress. You are the only people with access to sufficient metracite to trouble the Federation except maybe Aldabarna. Our miniscule stocks cannot hurt them. You are looking for too much too quick to assume that a group of individuals, albeit representatives, can mobilise at the drop of a hat. These are not matters for prescription nor ideals, you must take the decision for yourselves as you are the only ones with sufficient power. Perhaps there are too many on Kirramura watching their vids?" she paused poignantly, clearly holding the floor, watching Gearagh staring upwards breathing deeply. "We will support the Aldabarnans in whatever they want. If they ask us to disrupt our quotas, I will say we will try but our people have their own families, their own needs and their own platform. But it will be their decision, it cannot be a decision of this cell however desirous we might think it. If your quota disruption were to have an impact then my people will take advantage but ...? Easy routes are only for the theoretical and the democratically lazy, " she condemned finally.

Gearagh saw a concurrence around the room, and left the matter; he knew his class on Kirramura had lost their edge watching the vids, had Kirra Feira? The meeting moved to issues of solidarity, all of which were important and forthcoming but in themselves were only means of alleviating the Aldabarnan suffering not solving - a word of theory?? he mused.


Cartagio and Hermetio were more and more compromised. Each day they saw the carnage unleashed on their people by the dreggies yet their softness left them isolated. But what could they do? Place their bodies in the mass graves? Take up arms they were unsuited to use against Dreggies whose indoctrination and pharmaceutical conditioning left them as formidable adversaries whose doubts had been washed out of their minds? Left with comforting each other iwth their frustration they were drawn to their cave. Ever since their awakening to the source of the metracite it had become a guide, thought Cartagio, a sense of centring and clarity engulfed them as they stared at the veins watching the patterns outside and in. It became clear that they owed a debt, a debt to the metracite? It seemed like that but no, it was a debt to the life of which the metracite was the core - the life of Aldabarna. How did they pay that debt? A small question, she laughed to herself, but the recognition was something that would never leave her, would provide her direction?



Gearagh returned to Kirramura dismayed and full of doubt. Convinced that the KF strategy of consolidation was correct for the time on Kirramura he realised that they had slipped into a DeepFed syndrome "Out of sight, out of mind". With the nearness of the colonial power they had clearly focussed on the relationship with them in their own struggle, his meeting on Aldabarna had opened that up to question. The links within the Federation were not of distance, and the power the Kirramurans had failed to exercise had important distant implications. Had they become too myopic on Kirramura, in Kirra Feira? Yet at the same time to open up the channels of Kirra Feira and exploit the consolidation painstakingly carried out in recent times simply to expiate his guilt would be a vainglorious attitude of ego, a Galahad manoeuvre. Apart from his own doubts he had concerns about raising the question with the Exec. Controlling the restless spirits, the revolutionary fervour, had been an important part of the strategy but by the very nature of this self-imposed repression there was clearly the opposite need for action, physical confrontation.

Raising this issue now might give vent to that need in a manner not conducive to long term success. Not conducive to long-term success, he laughed at himself, he even thought in political niceties. What was clear however was that he could not sit on this issue. Apart from the fact that the Exec was eagerly awaiting a report from the Columbine conference, the very basis on which he and Kirra Feira stood for did not allow him to stew, democratic accountability was not rhetoric except in the hands of the Federation.

However he did take time out. A long conference, a great distance travelled clearly wore out the spirit - a strange concept for someone with his political convictions but a word which was increasingly taking on a meaning. His home lay deep in the hills; the country gave him peace, it gave him roots when the demands of people, the movement drew the very essence of his centre. As he walked, leaving the last of the village dwellings behind, his mind was still swimming with the machinations, fervour and strength of the conference. He began to watch the thoughts swimming around, darting here and there uncontrolled, until it began to make him angry. Calming down he realised that it was too stressful, he must take time and make space or errors will creep in. Slowly he began to focus his attention on the walking, gradually his mental torrent gave way. And Kirramura took over. In all this time of travel to DeepFed, yet there was still at home this strength of Nature clarifying and recharging. The nearer the summit the path began to disappear as if frightened by the bleakness. But that bleakness was its magic and its sense of proportion. Although he had been here many times each time there was some newness which made him feel like a discoverer. Coming here he found his place in the order of things. Ofttimes people saw him as their leader and placed in him great awe. Although the strength of KF was depersonalising through democracy at the same time figureheads were publicly helpful. Errors did slip in but the Exec kept him disciplined though it was rarely required; he usually kept his own discipline.

Up here arrogance could never entrap the sensitive. The wind blew it away, the crows warned you about it, the distant peaks threatened you against it. The grandeur belittled the ego but in a way that told him to get on with the real business and not this negative self-inflation. As he strolled he felt a release. As his mind wandered back to Columbine he tripped - a reminder to refocus. Should he stop and reflect? No he continued and let the vista suck him in further as each step took its cleansing pace. Pausing he lay down and looked around. When he later returned he demolished a hefty meal and slept thoroughly before the long and difficult meeting with the Exec at Gailleagh.

Padrasi moved across the room and they gave each other a warm comradely hug; it could have been more one evening but thankfully not, they both agreed afterwards, Gearagh had been called away. Their friendship did not have to extend to sex, it was certainly not physical love, but, put away these reminiscences, it probably wouldn't have mattered.

"You have much to say to us?" she asked expectantly.

"Yes but not all good," he warned her immediately. They sat down and slotted their cartridges into the portascreen, and he began his report almost immediately as it was the first item after the minutes. "I feel we have had our knuckles rapped," he began with a mixture of melodrama and personal contrition. "We, in the KF, have such a strong history that when we went to these comrades on Columbine we thought they would admire our strategy and discipline and accept the plan we put forward." He looked around and noted the quizzical looks which hid the dismay at the forthcoming rejection.

"Far from it," he stated forthrightly "our plan was politely rejected as being idealistic and not practical for the living situation of our DeepFed comrades." He could see their anger so he began again. "Of course none of this was explicitly said but we have to recognise this analysis in perhaps a less melodramatic form." And he began to explain in detail the more diplomatic expressions of the criticisms he had received at Columbine. As the details began to clear away the cobwebs Gearagh realised that there was a deep-rooted complacency in KF, a sense of past achievements ruling present policy. He looked around at the ages of the comrades present, and he suddenly saw why. The Exec was too old. It had set a strong path to discipline and long-term strategy for KF but it had remained static as a body. As a result its thinking had become stultified and was not progressing with the age. He could almost hear the reference to the old texts, the descriptions of earlier struggles, the memories of past success guiding the present - instead of the dialectic of now. Definitely the KF Exec was too old and complacent but how do you tell the old that they are too old? "If the policies are correct what matters the age?" he could hear almost unanimously. He laughed and had to apologise to the meeting for his daydream.

How was he to introduce the age dynamic to the Exec in a way that would not cause ructions? "It sounds to me that these youngsters in DeepFed do not fully understand the metropolitan role because of their distance from Angellara," intoned Okifa as if to endorse Gearagh's hypothesis immediately. As Gearagh was about to correct him Okifa held up his hand "I accept that these comrades might be long and experienced within their own struggle, and therefore old, but," he paused for effect and his breath "they do not have the history and analysis that KF trains all its members on. Our age is more than one lifetime, it is our history." Many murmurings of assent to this including Gearagh.

"But we cannot expect them to support our strategy just because we have more experience or generations of history," interjected Gearagh "we would never accept as a party action based on faith. Analysis and a recognition that a strategy is correct at the time, that would be our judgement even if the strategy was proposed by a young upstart." v "Unlikely ..... an upstart," agreed Okifa grudgingly.

"The analysis of the conference was clear," Gearagh continued "you have the resources use them, they told us. If that works we will combine and put a further squeeze on. Until then even though Unity is strength we must look to survival and support for the warring comrades on Aldabarna."

"I would like us to consider a proposal," began Gearagh cautiously "and I would like us to take a very considered decision over this. I propose that even though it might well be unsuccessful, and, even though it might destroy all our consolidation and cementing work on the Angellaran Left, that we mobilise as much as we can with a view to a full offensive. This means calling in all our 'sleepers', moles ... whatever, otherwise we will be remembered for being the old men who consolidated but who forgot what they were consolidating for."

What was the matter with him, he was definitely more cautious than this. Deliberately antagonising them was not likely to bring success. And he got what he deserved for the rest of the meeting, a barrage of barely-concealed invective and rationalised rebuttals of a hair-brained scheme. However the issue would be discussed again in a cooler light.

As he emerged he arranged to see Padrasi later ... after he'd recovered. His head was swimming. From all sides, except Padrasi he reflected, the comments had come but his experience enabled him to cope; but this fog was something else. Inside he was beginning to unfold. For years he had carefully disciplined himself - out of necessity. As secretary of the KF he was expected to maintain a correct image/position, and he had fulfilled that role adequately. But now he didn't care. Unhinging him had been the age factor but more than this was creating the turmoil but he couldn't look at it carefully enough to decide. All he recognised was a need to talk with someone, clear his mind.

As he came to this realisation he had reached his rendezvous with Padrasi. Coincidence? As she motioned him to a chair she was watching him intently. She knew the tight edge he walked with the KF image dominating his soul. This was proper, to put personality before the struggle was simply selfish. But she knew it didn't always rest easily on his shoulders. She had felt something before the Exec meeting but his amateurish proposal had shocked her. Now waiting for an explanation she was not sure she would get one.

"I feel confused, Paddi," he began pathetically. "I didn't plan the proposal, it just came out but I'm not sure it's wrong even though every rational analytical bone tells me it is. I am confused about KF strategy, about the DeepFed conference but I am absolutely certain that we should use everything in our power to develop a campaign of disruption at every level." She looked at him and was about to.....

"I can't explain why!" he stumbled out.

"Sounds a convincing argument to me," she ventured with a smile.

He looked at her angrily and then they both laughed. "It is funny," he said "but I'm going to act on it, one way or another."

At this she looked serious. "We cannot have a split," she said "the KF Exec would split without your unifying the past and the future."

He looked at her with surprise, she had noticed the age as well. "Well let me walk away," he declared "these fossils are not now a force, they have not moved with the time. I believe that they have restricted the movement because of their entrenchment in past victories and ancient campaigns."

"But you yourself put the strategy forward," she asked puzzled.

"And it was the correct strategy at the time," he answered quickly "but we were not simultaneously examining the structure of our own organisation, we were not examining ourselves. Our strategy cannot now work because there are not the people on the Exec prepared to allow it to work. I cannot expect them to accept my current proposal but even if a more practical theatre were to unfold they would find a reason not to take it. Their age has made them frightened of action, caution rules where valour is required." He waited a moment and then said "I ask you to take my resignation to the Exec, I'm sure they will then drop the proposal."

"Will you drop it?" she asked; the question did not need an answer. They sat together in silence, they had been through a great deal together even before KF.

When they departed Gearagh headed for his hills, his metracite hills.



Armeagh reached home to find Uncle Geard was there. She quivered. For a long time she had been wanting the call to action, did she still have the verve, strength and commitment to fulfil the cause? But Gearagh turning up suddenly was not what she wanted, security were ever watchful even though she knew she was not under suspicion she had checked the security computer thoroughly - her only dangers were the stabs in the back of colleagues which she could handle, she hoped. "Uncle Geard, such a nice surprise," she began, "how long have you been over?"

"I came to see my most influential cousin, our most influential Kirramuran daughter," he beamed paternally. We can't talk here, he thought.

"Have you been round the house and garden?" she asked, and he followed as she gave a tour of a very impressive house.

A strange anomaly here, he thought. Her subterfuge has been so successful, she has all the trappings of the other side; does it make her the other side because she has the trappings? Yet she couldn't do without them, people would suspect, after all she was Chief Executive Officer of Off-World Trade - she required the proper image.

Moving into the garden she began to talk. "I am not happy that you have arrived here without the correct precautions."

"I am not KF any more," he answered.

"Have our agents caused a split?" she asked surprised, that was one of her briefs she would break cover for.

"No," he assured her "I have split and I come to you for help in a personal capacity." Gearagh explained what happened at the Columbine conference, and explained his decision to leave KF. "I remember that first conversation with a hot-headed youth," they laughed "Call that hot-head back. I have no analysis to back this but it is time to act and I want your help."

"I'm not promising but how do you want my help?" she answered.

The hot-head is still alive, KF strategy has not killed her; there was some hope. "Before I start I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not representing the KF," he reiterated out of conviction and guilt to his prior comrades. "If you feel that they must sanction your action, say now and I won't continue. I won't compromise you and I won't compromise KF. But if you listen you listen and respond personally without recourse to any higher or collective authority."

He looked at her as she still hesitated "Democratic, eh?"

One thing stuck in his mind about their first meeting, he had been impressed by her integrity; even though his integrity quotient was not at its highest he felt secure she would not endanger him with KF or the Federation. Continuing yet ill at ease, at the same time he felt secure that this conversation could be hypothetical. "At the Columbine conference KF were asked to influence the metracite quotas as a means of supporting the Aldabarnan struggle. For various reasons, which I cannot discuss without giving the Exec the opportunity to respond, KF rejected the conference or at least I assume they have - I resigned before they could decide but their first reaction left me in no doubt. As an aside," he turned confidentially to Armie "my resignation was only in part based on their decision."

"Why did you resign?" she asked logically.

"I'd prefer not to say," he said hesitatingly.

"I suspect you will have to," she continued speculatively yet with insight "if you intend asking me to perform some action which will affect my position in the KF organisation as well as possibly expose my cover in the Off-World Trade department then I am going to have to be thoroughly convinced as to your motivations. Bear in mind," she said as if drawing him aside "if it was anyone else I would immediately have contacted the KF."

He looked closely at her, she was deadly serious but of course she would be; she was an extremely important cog in the KF war machine. "Let me continue and then you check what credentials you want, I am an open book." Being candid sounded so stupid, but then so many things in the movement were. They were carried out because they had to be, expediency and democracy are not easy bed-mates, let alone accountability as a fast track to success. "Well as I said we were asked to affect the metracite quotas at this conference, and I intend to do this. My plans are not absolutely clear but sensible or not - hot-headed," he laughed but alone "I shall disrupt the quotas. And I shall continue to do so. I feel we have gone beyond the theoretical or the consolidation or the building or whatever stage we have been at recently. Action, action not necessarily founded on the best strategies, action is the answer."

"Years ago you argued against those who took such action," she countered "you said that pointless action was only carried out by the selfish as a form of personal aggrandisement. A vainglorious form of heroics more consistent with system war propaganda than with sound political evaluation. You also said that extreme action must only be taken very very carefully and with much deliberation, or the consequences are more likely to be alienation of the sympathetic rather than the achievement of the aims of the struggle, whatever they be."

I remember all these arguments, he thought, noting the effect that one series of conversations must have had on her that she can recount so clearly his positions. "All I can say is that what I propose goes totally against that advice and I would understand your rejection of my approach - I can't call it a strategy," he reflected out loud "no serious planning and evaluation has gone into it. In fact the more I listen to myself the less convincing I must sound. I have a screw loose?"

"Carry on," she said laconically.

"I want your help in disrupting the quotas."

"How?" she asked.

"I'm not sure!"

She laughed in his face. "This is ludicrous," she shouted at him "how can you possibly behave like this, Gearagh? Resigning from the party is one thing but rejecting discipline and common sense like this is something totally different."

"I know how I sound but I must start this. I just don't care, that part of me has remained behind with the Exec," he looked almost fanatical.

She examined him from top to toe, the nearest she'd seen was religious cultists. They always had a glazed look but behind the eyes always seemed empty Although clear, his eyes were full, cognisant but of what, she thought to herself? "You must rest after your journey," she sought an escape "we will talk later."

"You cannot dissuade me," he pontificated at her, she looked at him and thought no. Where had he got this strength? She needed more information, she needed to understand what had happened.

Having given Gearagh a commitment she couldn't go back on that; she couldn't talk to anyone. But she could look at Federation information. Whilst he was resting she returned to her office. She must lay false trails, the security computer set a high priority on unusual behaviour and her returning was unusual without a formal request especially at the time of her visitor. Just by turning up he had jeopardised her whole cover, even though the Federation already knew he was an uncle; she had served a long apprenticeship because of that. The Off-World Trade department were at the moment deep in the deadlocked Quotas and Tariffs talks. These QAT talks should have finished a long while but one or two DeepFed interests seemed to be forcing a confrontation with the Federation. Everyone knew that they could only lose out, and if the Federation had to be heavy-handed it would not only be their Quotas and Tariffs which would suffer but other measures would be exacted more deviously. However the Federation had decided to be placatory and usurp the talks for publicity purposes, recognising that at the resolution of the talks they wanted to slacken their grip and reduce military presence, and the only way this could be achieved was through QAT cooperation. With the situation on Aldabarna requiring a strong presence to ensure the metracite quotas she had been advised not to get stretched too far by the Forces ministry.

Being concerned about QAT could only be seen as positive by the security so she logged on and keyed in QAT UPDATE. The computer responded Talks continue to be deadlocked despite the generous Federation position. As usual the metracite quotas are the main issue but Kamdren are creating difficulties over their cafe quota. She typed in Further Information Armeagh only; the computer guffed out

"We are beginning to be concerned at the delays in QAT, we feel that there is a strategy other than our own but we cannot determine it. With regards to the metracite there are two important players, Kirramura and Aldabarna 4. With the current terrorist activity on Aldabarna their quotas must of necessity fall but they were unusually low for the size and potential anyway. Kirramura seem willing to increase their output but they are arguing about their tariffs, unusually they are arguing money. Kamdren's involvement is unusually high profile, it is suspected that they are financing the terrorism on Aldabarna. Note that although they are arguing heavily for the cafe quotas that is not their primary importance; their keynote is the germplasm and the Federation laboratories in their capital, Karende'."

This last entry surprised Armeagh, with such a key food resource being brought under threat by Kamdren's increased diplomatic pressure, why hadn't she been advised of the situation? She keyed in Kamdren update Armeagh Only; computer reported:-

" Kamdren stable, key player in QAT talks. Investigation under way - no priority at present."

She keyed in Memo to Kamdren investigation, report written and in person - tomorrow afternoon. She keyed in Kamdren sponsorship terrorism Aldabarna, Armeagh only:-

" Recent meeting of dissidents on Columbine to support terrorists on Aldabarna. UPC Kamdren present, no details as yet available."

She keyed in UPC Kamdren details Armeagh. UPC Kamdren - small organisation, typical political group in DeepFed at present focussing on support for Aldabarna. She was confused. On the one hand the report stated that Kamdren was sponsoring the terrorism and then it said that the UPC, small organisation, were the sponsors. Such an inconsistency smacked of internal politics, she smelt it. Something was brewing DeepFed and she was being kept in the dark about it, supposedly to be embarrassed publicly for some smart climber to ease their way in. Luckily she had caught it but, as she left, is this maybe what Gearagh knows? Have Kamdren in DeepFed developed a vanguard that will sweep the Federation?

As she reached home what she had found out concerning Kamdren had begun to seethe in her a mistrust of Gearagh. Here he was coming to Lorteuds expecting her to break cover and break KF ranks yet he was telling her so little. Acting civilly she controlled herself, he seemed to have just awakened. He mentioned hunger so they moved to the kitchen where together they prepared food which few in Angellara had the privilege to eat - both cost and expertise prohibited this.

As they finished and moved to the garden she asked, "Has the sleep cleared your mind, can you be more clear, concrete?" He smiled and shrugged his shoulders, the puppy grin far from endeared him at this moment.

She controlled her anger. "Can you decide when your commitment changed? On Columbine?" she prompted.

"I certainly found that conference disturbing," he puzzled out loud "but like you do at conferences it is not really the conferences themselves that change you, it is the assimilation process afterwards that counts. There was so much information to gather especially when there was a clear air of disapproval towards KF."

"What did you do then?" she asked patiently.

"Returning home to Conyamur, I spent some time in the hills sorting through the conference. Meeting with the Exec, soon after I resigned and decided that I must carry out the DeepFed request. And then I thought of you, and came here," he recounted simply. "Oh!" he added "I had a long talk with Paddi, sorry Padrasi, before I decided to resign." He paused, "That's all."

For all his knowledge and experience she began to suspect a naivety. From what she had learnt at the office she began to think that the conference was not simply about Aldabarna but about the KF, had the KF still got their finger on the pulse? Were they stagnant? In the end the only comments they would make were the overt criticisms made about the KF masterplan. None of this seemed to have registered with Gearagh unless he was really playing her for a fool.

She looked at his eyes, that same openness was not deceiving her; there were not plots within plots there. "What did the Kamdren delegate say?" she asked.

"Hengaree, not much," he paused as he tried to recollect "she was critical of our plan. Oh yes," a spark of memory flashed "I seem to remember she accused Kirramura of comfortable vid-watching."

She decided to take the plunge, Gearagh did not know. "I think you were at a very important conference but not about Aldabarna, I think that you were invited to decide whether KF could be part of a vanguard movement starting in DeepFed. And I think they got their answer because you, Gearagh," she looked closely at him "supposedly the pulse of KF had no idea what was going on .... even people within my department have got a whiff of what is happening but they are not sure." She turned pointedly at him "You should have known but you didn't." She now was really angry and began pacing. "I have been a real fool to trust the KF and you. When I was young I had strong forceful ideals but you persuaded me to control them and infiltrate. But what did you do meanwhile? It appears nothing, you don't even know what is happening in DeepFed struggles, where is your education? Is it all relearning your history? Or do you only study those worlds who see KF as vanguard, aggrandisement in the movement - political elitism and nepotism of creed?

"All the time before your eyes a revolutionary situation is developing and you don't notice it. And at the end of it all you stumble into the correct action through some forlorn misguidedness whose only validity is your strength of feeling because you cannot rationalise it.

"How much time," she repeated with exasperation, "have I wasted waiting for you dinosaurs to become extinct?"

Gearagh looked at her dumbstruck but he was still not sure of the signs. Could he have been so blind? All the time that he had been arrogantly criticising the Exec for its age, he himself had become complacent and had been failing to keep a proper analysis and perspective on the situation. He thought of "Out of sight, out of mind". Yes, he had been guilty of that too. "I see now some of the limitations of my perspective," he began hesitantly, trying to grasp with each word what was happening inside, "whilst I have been critical of the Exec I have not turned the analysis on myself nor particularly on their strategy. But I don't think I could have been expected to tell from what I heard on Columbine that there was a DeepFed vanguard building."

"Perhaps not," she agreed "but KF intelligence was so abysmally out-of-date you weren't able to pick up the hints or inflections."

He looked at her sheepishly, and nodded. As a thought crossed his mind, "how do you know all this?" he asked.

"As I said the Federation are even beginning to suspect it," she reiterated. "it is difficult to judge because there is the usual Federation manipulations happening but it seems to be revolving around Kamdren and Aldabarna."

"Yes, food and metracite," he acknowledged.

"I hope to know more tomorrow," she continued "I should be given a report but my actions seem clear. If," she paused for emphasis "this vanguard is building DeepFed then we must contribute, and we should try to get KF to use its forces." She suddenly turned to him "you seem to have stumbled blindly on the truth", and then turned away cackling loudly as she walked back into the house. His eyes followed whilst his ears were aghast at the assault. But then a smile started to creep up the corner of his mouth, it didn't matter how you get there it's being there that counts.

The next morning she left him sleeping and went to the office. Careful today, she thought as she felt a tingle of excitement all over. She was now in a situation where she might contribute to the one thing that mattered to her - a means of turning back the injustices of the fat cat Angellarans. But with that very excitement she could lose all that she had worked for, especially as her "Angellaran self" was under threat. Concentrate on your role, Armie, think carefully, who can be behind this? No, that was not clear. Who would have discovered the details? It could be the section working on QAT, it could be the Kamdren investigation team or the person they were reporting to. Too many options, this afternoon's report should help.

When she sat down at the office she looked at her diary; she noted she had completed that and more last night. Strange - the computer had not updated, why? These inconsistencies were becoming very worrying, perhaps she was being eased out. But the computer was not the usual way to attack. If the devious mind cannot outguess their games then innocence was a useful gambit. She keyed in Computer Report, and she began:-

" Last night I came in to see how the QAT talks were progressing, and checked certain files. In the diary this morning I have been asked to check two of these files again. Please investigate why last night's access was not recorded, or if recorded why they have been included in this morning's diary." Copy to security.

As she finished a message appeared on the screen Report on Investigation of Kamdren's Increasing Role in Federation Diplomacy: the continuing concern for the seed labs. Armeagh Access Only. There was an additional message.

" To the Chief Executive Officer, Armeagh,

I am very pleased to hear at last that someone is beginning to take a concern over Kamdren's blatant flouting of Federation policy. I have no doubts that they are attempting to use the control of the seed banks to extract higher tariffs and greater representation within the Federation. Your diary confirms that I can see you at 2.00pm, is that early enough?

Assistant to Chief Officer, Food Executive, Varino

This letter made her greatly pleased to say the least. His biopic confirmed her suspicions. Firstly Varino was not senior and did not really understand the stakes; he saw only short-term profits. Secondly the person he had reported to had not passed the information to her, even though Varino had stressed it as important. She could trace her adversary. But most important of all, there was no mention by Varino of the seriousness to Angellara of the situation on Kamdren - the importance to the people of the Federation. Yes, she foresaw a number of opportunities. She put her head inside the report as preparation for grilling this Varino.

At 1.00 pm she began watching the time, she was bursting with anticipation. Control yourself, allowing your emotions to run away like this will alert the suspicions of even a low-ranking Executive Assistant. She reread the report over the next hour - it filled her time, but that in itself only served to increase her anticipation. All the signs of vanguard activity were hidden in its text.

At 2.00 pm a message appeared on her screen that Varino was outside the office. She insisted he wait, not her normal practise although common amongst her arrogant peers. This time she needed it to gain composure; it was hard, more than 20 years of disciplined repression were now swirling around inside her mind waiting to find expression in action that was so desperately wanted - and needed.

She breathed deeply and asked Varino to enter. As he came in she began her usual assessment, freshly educated, single-minded careerist - strong Angellaran mould. His dress, fashion in general, all pointed to the type of intelligentsia who got succoured early by their education system, got caught in the trappings of success and consumerism, and only exhibit their individuality through pointless eccentricity, mild intoxication, repeated mild nervous disorders or disease - and of course the annual holiday. She felt very safe here. A bell clanged in her brain! Be wary, if Gearagh had been complacent so can you, Armie. But Varino was someone who would welcome being tactfully used. A soft approach, she smiled to herself, and then turned it on towards Varino.

"Please sit down. A drink?" she offered, and noticing his hesitation "I shall have one as well."

He visibly mellowed and murmured thanks. "Executive Assistant Varino, I have been studying your report with great interest this morning," and she paused to sip her drink "I too share the concern expressed in your message." She leaned gently towards him "Would you be kind enough to give me the essential points as you see them, and" visibly trying to ease him into her professional web "please feel free, in the strictest confidence, to mention opinions or incidents that reinforced your views but understandably as a professional you feel you couldn't submit as a report."

"My report is complete, Chief Executive," he replied defensively "I have not left out any details."

"I understand what you're saying, and I respect it," she continued ingratiatingly "I am not in anyway trying to intimate that you have not acted with full professionalism at all times. But I'll give you an example of what I mean." She chose a particularly disarming reminiscence to further ensnare him. "When I first joined the service I found it very difficult. You see," she smiled engagingly as if giving out a confidence, or at least she knew Varino would think so, "my uncle Gearagh, back on Kirramura, has at one time spoken on platforms against the Federation." She smiled knowingly, she visibly saw suspicion being replaced by a deep warmth towards her. "Many times I felt angry for being passed over by promotion boards, clearly I was performing a good job but an understandable suspicion existed in the service. Was I engaged in a subterfuge? The incident which broke that spiral occurred when I was speaking with my immediate superior. There was a DeepFed situation, I don't even remember where, and the reports we received had a ring of inconsistency. I told my superior about my suspicions, and he laughed at me. I still felt I was right but it was difficult to explain. Over the next two or three months working on my own I contacted one of our agents on this planet, I remember Perdanfeen, and I asked to be sent a detailed report on the situation. Reading that report there was a particular subversive whose name kept cropping up - he seemed no more than the usual trouble-maker - the sort I had grown up with," she whispered in confidence, or so Varino thought, "he had been recently arrested so I interviewed him through sub-space vid. Very difficult to judge people's nuances in this way but I had my suspicions and I was using this to aid verification. Initially he said little but I was able gradually to get limited information by letting him feel he was getting more from me. The result was that he mentioned the importance of a particular historical figure whose anniversary was being celebrated. Even through sub-space vid I realised that this celebration was not simply for entertainment and that he was not merely a rabble-rouser. I contacted our agent again and advised him of my suspicions. He again investigated and felt there was nothing but youthful hot air, this rabble-rouser had aristocratic connections. I was stuck. Although I was sure that this was not a major uprising I did feel that the effect would be more than an inconvenience to the Federation but I was unable to take it further because our system was blocked on Perdanfeen. I went to my superior and explained again my concerns, this time with the evidence I had gained which was not substantial but which I felt was strong but circumstantial, if you like. My superior contacted the agent who explained his position and my superior took his advice - understandable really the agent was on the spot. I simply filed my report in the usual way but three months later there was a major explosion in the small metracite mines and production was severely limited over the next three months. In hindsight the Federation could have saved millions."

She didn't mention the favours called in by the KF. "The computer did not miss my report," she continued "and notice was taken higher up. From that moment on I noticed a change in attitude, people around were listening to what I said, and then the promotion came."

"I'm sorry." she said "I do seem to have rambled." She saw a vigorous negative. "The point I am making is this, not all the evidence can be rationally justified simply because it is based on intuition and experience. You might think because you are relatively new that you have no experience but you were on Kamdren, you visited the seed banks, you will have sensed the atmosphere there. Having visited some of the entertainment places, whatever they have there, you will have picked up the occasional whisper. The officials you met, you will have judged their sincerity. All of these things will have influenced your report because they will have framed your viewpoint but they cannot be written down because the rationality of the system cannot accept it. An erroneous intuition can easily be misused by colleagues looking for promotion, so we play safe. Between you and I now, I don't want you to play safe. I want to hear your feelings, suspicions, intuitions or whatever, so that I can feel and understand the background to your report. And I promise, it goes no further. Anyway," she smiled "you haven't got a choice if I use my position, Executive Assistant would be all that you could aspire too." She laughed to make it clear she was joking but of course the threat from someone so powerful would have registered at least subconsciously.

Varino began his account hesitantly. She had forced a report from him that he had not planned; he was not used to analysing his intuitions and feelings. Severely feeling his disadvantage he had to try, she had made that a clear instruction. "Soon after the latest round of the QAT talks had started Kinangio asked me to investigate the Kamdren delegate who was at that time Jerandine. One of the Federation's delegation had felt that Jerandine had been particularly non-cooperative and wanted to know whether she had subversive connections. Our agency on Kamdren gave her a clean bill of health, and I felt suspicious about this." He looked at her anxiously, after all he was being very critical of senior service Executives.

She smiled "What were your suspicions based on?"

"If this Jerandine was not cooperating," he continued "and yet our agency and the Kamdren government felt she was sound then that raised questions about the loyalty of the agency and the Kamdren government. Or at least a vague concern," he hurriedly said to cover his accusations.

"Good, Varino," she congratulated him "that's the approach I like. You let your instinct start you off. Please carry on."

"We are the Food Executive, and so bearing in mind the importance of both the QAT talks and the need for stable control of the seed banks I took my investigation to Kamdren. When I first met the agency there everything seemed very pleasant. They took me to their clubs, they showed me round the seed banks, I was even introduced to some highly-ranked Kamdren officials. But I was worried about two things. Why were the agents being so kind to me, I had heard that Executives from Angellara are seen as interfering and are often given only superficial courtesy? And why the high-ranking Kamdrens?"

He paused and took a drink. "I felt no nearer any sort of answer and yet my suspicions rather than being assuaged had been further aroused by their generous approach. Seed banks had always concerned me because they are so prone to terrorist activity, yet the security by the Kamdren government was again superficial. When I asked the Federation agency why they were not concerned they said that they had been, but periodic tests had always proven their measures to be adequate. I couldn't dispute this because it was only a feeling; but I was concerned.

"With the permission of the Kamdren authorities I went to their agronomy and food science courses but I found little in what they were saying. Again this confused me. I am an office worker, not a field worker; I should have learnt a great deal from these experts. Was I paranoid? Was I looking for conspiracies that didn't exist? I even thought at one stage that I was creating the problem in order to gain promotion, and at other times I was thinking that I was creating the problem to explain my use of Federation money to investigate this.

"It was only a slight thing that triggered me off. I enjoy walking, and I was out in their mountains and I found much of the area seemed relatively cultivated. Back on Angellara the land is grazing or regular crops, even though there are many beautiful scenes there are certain agricultural similarities. I examined some of the plants and their fruits were different. They were not what I was used to, they had a more pristine, vital taste; it was kind of a more concentrated taste. I realise I'm not explaining it well but .. " he began mumbling on and she interrupted him "Please carry on, you are making sense after all we are dealing with intuitions here. True?" she smiled encouragingly.

"In the Food executive one thing we learn about is the importance of these seed banks and the way that many industries are interrelated with food - pesticides, transportation, seed sales, product marketing and taxation; we call it the food infrastructure. What is clearly not part of that infrastructure is the wholesale growing of independent crops. The government gains no money from these crops unless they are sold through government agencies, furthermore it breaks down the financial infrastructure if people are not contributing through the general taxation of the market-place."

"Please explain this in more detail to me," she asked for clarification "you seem to be making assumptions that I am not absolutely clear on."

"Perhaps if I explain the history of these seed banks these matters will become clearer. The Federation began as multinational trading companies based here on Angellara," he looked up at her glaring at him, he shivered "I apologise for being so simplistic but it is the easiest way for me to explain. I do not intend any insult."

Her stare softened and she waved him to continue. "Angellara had used up all her natural resource, people were eating worse and worse food as the seed structures were breaking down due to excessive genetic manipulation."

She looked puzzled, and he answered her unspoken question "Even here on Angellara food history was not as it is portrayed. Crops only grew in certain parts of the world and the foods were not transferable so they could not be grown in other parts. There would be vast distribution costs making it unprofitable so they tried altering the foods. They developed new food strains which could be grown throughout Angellara but they paid a price for this. These foods could only be grown with vast expense on pesticides, they were highly water intensive and also far less nutritious. Gradually this process was turned into a highly developed art in which seeds were controlled in seed banks owned by the multinationals (which had since developed), the pesticides were produced by the multinationals, and they controlled the distribution of the foods. And they ensured the demand by advertising. All round this produced a more stable economy.

"But there were problems to this. The genetically-altered seeds were not themselves stable, and could not reproduce. They were reliant on the original strains which only grew in certain parts of Angellara. But soon these stocks began to run out as there was a natural mutation. This has never been clearly explained historically but it was as if Angellara herself became unbalanced owing to the unnatural use of extreme amounts of pesticide, and the lands then not being able to support the original varieties because of developed soil deficiencies. These food multinationals tried to produce genetic alternatives to these original varieties but they produced some very unusual side effects which were simply put down to mutations due to overpopulation - but as you now see that was only part of the explanation." He noticed her nod.

"So at the same time as the multinationals poured their massive resource into developing Off-World travel to find metracite, much more surreptitiously they were actually searching for new genetic material on which to base the control of the food production.

"Many different foodstuffs were found but when many years later the Federation - by this time the multinationals had united - colonised Kamdren they found a vast source of natural genetic material. The foodstuffs on Kamdren lent themselves to genetic combination in such a way that the food structure was much more highly focussed because they contain the gene, candarsyl. Candarsyl is very stable in the first generation but can never be a second generation seed, this meant that the sale of seeds was guaranteed for Kamdren and the Federation.."

He could see she didn't completely follow that. "Suffice it to say that on Kamdren the seeds are unique.

"The Food Executive recognises the importance of the overall food infrastructure so that when I saw all these different varieties that I did not recognise I assumed that these must be the natural varieties, and it seemed they were not under Federation control."

"I now begin to see your concerns," interrupted Armeagh "You think that some of the people on Kamdren are growing these varieties and not contributing taxes as well as not purchasing through the Federation."

"That's what I thought at first," Varino continued "but then that doesn't really explain my original concerns. Peasants, however few or many, running an alternative economy is not a major problem to the Federation, they can easily be tracked down, that has happened on other worlds and their foodstuffs had been appropriated and used by the Federation. But on Kamdren they didn't seem worried when I raised this. They put these plants down to wild varieties which were not required by the seed banks. How could I argue?

"What seemed to be happening was that the agents on Kamdren and the government were working together to gain control of the seed banks from the Federation; they would then control a vast proportion of the food provision throughout the Federation."

"Hasn't the Food Executive been short-sighted in allowing all the seed control to be focussed on one planet, Kamdren?" asked Armeagh puzzled at such an obvious stupidity.

"But so few people actually know that it is so concentrated on Kamdren. Very few people know about candarsyl because it cannot be isolated from the seeds as it decomposes on its own. It only exists in seed combination, and those seed combinations can only be created on Kamdren. The Food Executive have set up various seed centres throughout the Federation but really these seed centres are glorified distribution points. The Food Executive employ highly-educated scientists there but they work on the analysis of candarsyl and its possible synthesis, as far as the Food Executive is concerned their main purpose is to look after the seeds before their distribution.

"When I returned to Angellara I sought all references to candarsyl on Kamdren, and there weren't any. I therefore thought very carefully about my report and did not mention it. However I did mention my concern about the extraordinarily large amount of the "alternative economy" which I thought the Federation should deal with - but the agents there haven't.

"However I still hadn't resolved my original task - to explain the delegate Jerandine's conduct. With so many inconsistencies what should I do? It then struck me that I was trying to explain her conduct by one particular frame of reference and that was her working with the Federation but if she was working for the Kamdren government then they had to be pushing her button and they also had to be pushing the agency's button. It seems far-fetched but the only conclusion I can come to is that all are working together to take control of the Food Executive on Kamdren and effectively take over the whole of food distribution there. At some stage I expect their delegate who is now Camperdine, a much more amenable person - far less demanding, to come and say to the QAT talks that the tariffs and quotas need radical alteration with the profits moving into the hands of the Kamdren government - and our agents who have sold out to greed."

"Thanks very much for your frankness, Varino," she said after a short silence "what you have just told me confirmed my worst thoughts after reading your report. What you have said could be a complete misinterpretation," she saw his face drop and smiled "but I don't think so. Even if it is, worst money has been spent by the Federation than checking this out. I want you to return to Kamdren as technical adviser of a special delegation, I shall appoint someone more experienced as leader of the delegation," she watched him control his disappointment well.

"Varino," she leaned forward speaking quietly but firmly "you have only worked with us for a short while, and you do not understand the system fully or I would have known about your report before now." She milked his embarrassment "clearly someone has prevented this report from reaching the due attention of senior staff, and because you are inexperienced you didn't find a backdoor way of being heard. This is a criticism but it is meant positively, and I don't hold it against you. I shall be watching the results of this delegation very closely particularly your own progress, I shall make sure that the leader knows that I favour you as technical adviser. Thanks very much for such an informative report, and you will hear soon when the delegation will leave but it will not be very long."

She shook his hand warmly and as he left she felt a sadness; if she was right she had probably sent him to his death - simply because he worked well and had that bit more initiative than the majority of the Angellaran clones who worked with her.

Now to Kinangio, Varino's immediate superior. Clearly he also was too junior to have taken the initiative to suppress this report from her. If she worked back up the structure who did she come to? Huridio. Well if he was after her position she could control that especially now she knew but she still had her doubts. Huridio was not a long term threat, he was much older than her anyway but he could be used by someone younger who might look to elevate Huridio to the position of Chief Executive and then use him as a puppet, and that person would be ..... As the thought came to her she looked at Huridio's staffing, and noted Patrendo. No doubt where her problem lay, and that was who would lead the delegation to Kamdren.

Within a few days they had left Angellara, she felt more secure, and further she felt that with planting Liandro on board she knew that the delegation could only help her real purpose.



Days later when she had completely refortified her position she decided to deal with Gearagh. Her respect for him was now tainted and she found it difficult assessing him. When talking to him was she talking to the man she respected, or was she talking to the blind fool who had been exposed to the birth of the most important movement in their lives and it had completely washed over him?

"Gearagh, we must pull out all the stops," when she was ready she had called him aside "we must start to work here and on Kirramura to help what's happening in DeepFed."

"But in KF there is little happening," he said despondently "I cannot see any hope there."

"No wonder they are doing nothing if you are supposed to be their most active and contemporary thinker," she rebuked him. "There must be the remains of the fighting spirit which built the reputation and strength of their Movement, we must rekindle that flame."

"I hope we can," he murmured.

"You must see this more positively because your work cannot be here on Angellara. All the time you are here you are potentially a security leak. At work I am forced to double check everything I do in case there might be a perceived alteration of my routine whilst you are staying here. This must end soon, if I am going to do my real work I don't need that feeling of continuous circumspection."

"But you do have an activating role here." She was in full flow now "You must target carefully KF agents here, only those you can trust and who at the same time have the vision to deal with this DeepFed vanguard."

Beginning to feel her strength of purpose he realised that she was right, he must work where his knowledge was greatest, not within Angellaran security confines. "I will work on those agents I feel can be developed," he conceded.

"We must provide them with something to unite behind especially as you have forced a KF split," she proposed,waving away his argument. "We don't want the action to be too significant whilst you are here. That will only highlight your presence."

"Perhaps if we set up a major action soon after I have gone, and then the contacts I will make will realise that we are building for a significant offensive," he suggested.

"Yes, but I think we need something to spark them off especially as many are quite rightly suspicious," she turned to him "you don't inspire the confidence you once did. It's strange, how much was your strength based on the KF structure and how much was your own personal power?"

"I am beginning to resent these continuous attacks, we are supposed to be working together," he responded indignantly.

"Perhaps I should tone it down in order to get the work done," she compromised "but you must be more analytical, your conduct has been weak, and even if we are able to establish a strong network where is our credibility with the DeepFed Movement after your recent conduct? But," she paused "that is the last I will say on this."

"Thanks," he muttered. "We must consider what this inspiring action should be. I feel we must work on the Food Executive for two reasons. Firstly the more pressure they are put under the more the comrades on Kamdren will have a chance to establish control. Secondly by directing the action against the Food we are showing Kamdren and DeepFed that we have finally understood what is happening."

"Yes, but we don't want to draw too much attention to certain parts of the Food ministry because they might have plans which spurious action on our part would interfere with." she warned "We must make it diversionary, clearly unconnected with the seeds yet at the same time disruptive enough to attract comrades' interests."

"Let us concentrate on their profits. These wheeler-dealers working on the Food Exchange have something coming to them. Their arrogance, especially on holiday, really makes you angry," he said with venom "they expect to insult you simply because they are paying money, and the poverty they have created in your country forces you to accept it in part."

"If we target the Food Exchange," he continued "we have to be careful not to expose ourselves. If we destroy the computer without touching whatever backup systems they have, it will be a public stunt that will have limited impact. The publicity is what we need to interest our agents."

"But that will not give them confidence because it is meaningless," she countered.

"But if we have already set a virus in the backup system so that when they install the backup the real damage is done, that will certainly give people confidence," he assured her "but at the same time there will be minimal publicity on that because real damage will have been done ..

"How can we install the virus so that the effect is delayed long enough for you to have left?" she asked.

"I don't know but one of our contacts is a computer expert; if anyone can work out how it is to be done then she can." he announced confidently.

"If you then contact this computer person," she suggested summarily "then we will know whether this plan is a starter. If she agrees we will progress it. You can then use its success as a platform for the rest of your contacts. But," she warned "keep your contacts personal until we decide who is going to work with us then we can decide on a contact structure. I don't want anyone to know that I am really working for the movement."

He bit his lip whilst taking these orders, automatically he would do all this. He resented her commands but he didn't argue, his recent track record spoke for itself; he accepted it did not instill confidence. Recognising that he was probably under supervision meant that arranging contacts was not an easy matter but KF were experienced enough to have made provisions. Contacts cannot be personally traced, meeting points were public and supposedly accidental. His first call was an ecology group, as an aside he would be interested in seeing how the Angellaran movement was progressing - he hoped KF emphasis and strategy had provided some zeal and some movement to unity.

Contacting their central office he found that this group, "One Angellara", were having a meeting on "Mining and the Angellaran countryside." Really what they meant was mining in the countryside near where their wheeler-dealers lived, the countryside Kirramura's expropriated wealth now owned. In KF they often commented about the self-interest of movements on Angellara. Whilst their industry exploited DeepFed their trade unions argued for increased wages, whilst their industry had laid waste parts of Angellara and was laying waste new planets as they discovered them, ecology groups discussed local regions - mainly because it was only for these local self-interest causes that the fatcats will part with their donations. Really he blamed the trade unions, their leaders and many of the grass roots workers knew the DeepFed situation but they allowed the subs of the rest to dominate their policy - but that's the nature of mass-based organisations without political education.

Attending the meeting he saw a mixture of people present, that was a good sign. Young rabble-rousers, letting off steam before they finally found their slot in the Federation, had previously been the typical Angellaran political meeting; their exuberant inexperience often being the reason for splits in the movement. Still fresh out of an education system which highlighted academic precision and theoretical dogma rather than practical reality, these youngsters approached politics in the same way. As a result rather than focussing on the Federation and its crimes against peoples all over the Galaxy, they focused on theoretical differences about their approach to the struggle, their approach to the revolution or their approach to organising. In consequence groups split and there was little chance of a meaningful united movement. Often there were hundreds of separate little groups being kept run by one or two very good people but in reality they were making no contribution to the struggle because all their energy went into the procreation of their own particular organisation.

When he arrived he couldn't see her, and this annoyed him, but then to his surprise when the talk started he noted she was chairperson. The talk continued much as he expected except that the audience did not contain the rabble-rousers and their annoying futile interruptions. What the speaker described was sound, damage to the environment by the mining industry even how such damage had always gone hand-in-hand with industrial change and that historically the only time it was different was when the mining had found new pastures to rape. Very sound, he thought, but again not too much of a surprise it had usually been his experience that speakers had a good background but were often compromised by the movements they worked in. At the questions he expected to hear the usual party lines disguised very thinly as questions. But none of it; questions were relevant and directed specifically to the speaker and contained none of the egotism speeches from the floor usually contained. A very good sign, he thought.

Had Qarendio seen him? Standing up he put his question to the speaker "Whilst it is important to fight on our doorstep is it perhaps more important to consider struggles in DeepFed where mining has caused a war on Aldabarna and mining still devastates many off-worlds?"

"A very good question," the speaker began, sincerely thought Gearagh "We have to recognise where our wealth and comfort comes from. It is evidently clear that profits made from the developing of mines and natural resources here on Angellara would in no way provide us here," and at this point her arm made a sweep of all in the audience "with the standard of living we are accustomed to. In my view we must balance our campaigning between what we can actually achieve on a local level with an awareness campaign about DeepFed issues. One hope I always have is that those who are attracted by local causes sometimes learn through reading and education about the real situation throughout the Federation, and with that perspective they are able to then influence others in the same way."

The speaker continued with the next question, and Gearagh sat down impressed with the answer, he had also noted murmurs of agreement while she had given the answer. A positive sign, he thought, could he make use of it? Careful, don't get too excited, these Angellarans are experts in the use of the word but most never make the important link to action however minimal. Words are never enough, he thought, remember that when you are succoured by sweet sounds.

At the end of the meeting he hung around whilst personal questions were asked, noticing that Qarendio occasionally glanced over. Soon people moved away and she announced that they would all go to a nearby club to relax, as he knew he was intended to, Gearagh clearly heard the name Only a few were going so he couldn't mingle, he made his own way there. Soon after the group arrived, and sat together in the corner in one of the atmosbooths. Gearagh remained away from them in a position where Qarendio could easily talk to him, and later on she walked past and gave him a note giving him the time and a place to meet. Not much longer after that Gearagh left and returned to Armeagh's.

Having, the next morning, explained the progress so far, Gearagh left to Qarendio's appointed place. Take care, he thought, he knew that if they had sufficient interest, no tricks or subterfuge would be enough; he felt reasonably secure - the appointment was a tourist spot. When Qarendio arrived they both waited, watching, checking, who else was around, who else might be waiting for them to make a move? Waiting for Gearagh's signal they started a spontaneous chat-up. After a while they moved away and started walking in the grounds.

"We are beginning to mobilise for a big offensive." Gearagh began watching her excitement "we shall be targeting the Food ministry to support work that is happening in DeepFed. But," he paused significantly "I am not now working with KF, this action is not sponsored by them." He watched her reaction, and saw that she was very wary.

"I think I'd better leave," Qarendio said "I have not spent years undercover working within these stupid liberal Angellaran organisations simply to blow it all away for some renegade scheme that hasn't got the backing of the movement."

"Don't you want to know why I split?" he asked.

"No." she answered emphatically "A split is a split. If the KF was divided I might want to hear but not a single egotist breaking away."

"Very true." he said "Everything you say I have to support logically but this situation has its own logic which I want you to hear. When I've explained it if you don't agree then you must decide what to do. I would hope you don't contact the KF Exec but that would be the disciplined action.

"For me it started when I went to a conference on Columbine ostensibly about the war on Aldabarna." he recounted. Explaining the details of the conference he saw that she had some sympathy. When he mentioned their polite condemnation of the KF plan and the KF attitude he could see he had struck a chord. "Why did you smile at that?" he asked.

"Although I can see the value of waiting and consolidating I keep asking myself "waiting for what?", and from Kirramura there are no answers not even a whiff of a response." she replied "I have sometimes felt duped by the strategy although I recognise that as a matter of confidence in KF combined with an immature desire for action at whatever price. When the conference describes them as vid-watchers I feel a certain empathy. But," she turned forcefully to him "this does not mean I am convinced by you either. Telling me what I want to hear doesn't mean that I am going to be seduced by your revolutionary ideals."

"Of course not," he agreed "but hear me out. What I am asking you to do would allow you to still remain with the KF but that you will have carried out this one task which will seriously disrupt the Federation. And that ultimately must be our objective."

"You know it's not as simple as that," she argued correctly "KF might have plans to start campaigning and your action might precipitate a response from the Federation security which would jeopardise the KF action."

"Of course," he submitted "but I can assure you there are no such plans. For me I see my actions as a return to the Movement not a split from KF. The KF Exec have gone to sleep, they would not support the DeepFed action because they are too old to be running a revolutionary movement." He realised he had said too much, "I am sorry Qarendio, I did not mean to denigrate comrades without their being in a position to respond; that is poor discipline. However my indiscrete words perhaps give you more of an idea as to the reason for my maverick approach."

"What do you propose that I do?" she asked.

"Before I say this I want a commitment from you," he paused "if I discuss the plan with you even if you chose not to join us I want a promise that the details go no further. And you know what the KF have done in the past to support their security."

She nodded her agreement, "I promise only not to discuss your plan, if I am not convinced I shall definitely report you to the KF."

"I agree with that," he said, and then he described the plan in detail particularly her part in it.

"Because of my position in operations staff I will have no problem in introducing a virus into the backup system," she confirmed "I can design this to be activated on a certain date. Although I am not in agreement with what you stand for, what you are doing cannot in the long term damage the movement. Further there has been a dearth of activity here and on Kirramura, this might spark some action.

"But that is all I'm doing until the Exec asks me to do more," she advised him forcefully "your actions must lead to building an active movement with KF support before I can commit myself further. No matter how much credibility you have, Gearagh, the organisation is the strength, is the mass movement not individuals like yourself. At the next meeting of "One Angellara" make the date known to me and your virus will be in place. At the beginning of each month the backup system is cleared and started again so you must time your operation to account for that, the whole system is completely wiped so no virus could be transferred. Do you understand?"

"Yes, completely," he acknowledged.

"I do not want to meet you again, Gearagh, unless I say," she stated finally "security will be on to you soon, and I think you are carrying death on your back. If you return I shall immediately contact KF and advise them that you are misusing your trust by raising KF contacts for your personal purposes." Turning sharply she walked purposefully away. Gearagh was equally confident that she would plant the virus as he was that she would contact the KF if he broke her conditions. Qarendio was a good and valuable comrade, he hoped she would work with the group he and Armeagh were founding on Angellara.

When he returned to Armeagh he told her the news that the plan could go ahead. Sitting down they arranged the dates, at the same time setting targets for Gearagh to recruit. Over the next few weeks Gearagh made initial bridges. Telling those that were interested to wait until there was a public action that they would recognise, he gave them all a place to leave a message if they were prepared to be activated after the planned action. Now it was time to use some of Armeagh's intelligence work. Whilst not being personally active for obvious reasons, she had kept an eye on the movement on Angellara. Some groups were prepared to use violence to further their political aims - she had been asked to watch them by KF in order to ensure that they were not too divisive. Although they did not like it she and Gearagh decided that at this stage they would use these people to plant the bomb. However both realised such people were unstable because they lacked the discipline of being members of a mass movement organisation - they laughed at their own irony, criticising others for an individualist approach that' they were adopting. At the same time those organisations are always closely monitored by the security forces for the very reasons that Gearagh and Armeagh wanted to use them. But what was key in involving these people was security, they could reveal Gearagh's identity because he would return and remain on Kirramura. But the real dilemma concerned Armeagh, they could not reveal her name yet it was her knowledge that was going to gain them access to the Food Exchange. how would they deal with this?

Gearagh knew his credentials would impress these people and at the same time they would fully accept that a bunch of oldies was stifling the movement. Once they were informed of the plan - or at least their part, they would likely jump at it. Knowing the way their organisation would be infiltrated by Federation security, he would only be able to deal safely with one person but how would they choose that one person? Over the years Armeagh had privately built up dossiers on such people and groups. They looked for two criteria, longevity and breadth. It is unlikely that a member of the forces would stay a long time on these operations, as they termed it, because they would have their own careers to develop and infiltrating small anti-establishment violent groups was not a high priority for such development. Secondly breadth of interest was a good guide, a member of the forces would not have the time and interest to be involved in the wider movement dominated by liberals and intellectuals. A thorough analysis of Armeagh's dossiers came up with Hemginio. who had been active for 15 - 20 years, always working within small organisations primarily but lately having crossed over into trade union work as well. If Hemginio could be the contact within his organisation then they had found the person to work with. Adopting the current fashion of the alternative culture, combined with a disguise which he hoped only the sharpest eye would detect, Gearagh moved into one of the old houses that had been allowed to go to ruin by the system. The Federation allowed these places to continue to exist as it gave them a good place to gain their own intelligence. Although this was not the place Hemginio lived Gearagh knew that friends of his were there.

Within a few days their paths had crossed at a party being held by a mutual acquaintance. A mixture of people were present. Academy drop-outs who would spend a couple of years on the alternative scene and then return to the womb for a leg-up into a Federation position. Working-class heroes who rather than fighting the infiltration by the Federation within their own class organisations chose to mix alternatively for sexual favours and an inverted snobbery. The drug scene .... Retiring from social anthropology he sought out Hemginio. Listening, Gearagh began to ingratiate himself by supporting Hemginio's arguments yet at the same time taking a sufficiently different position so as not to appear sycophantic. After a while most others had moved off, some stayed and were simply listening as different positions moving through the gamut of current analysis were expounded. As the evening moved to an end Gearagh asked him home to continue their discussions. On their way back Gearagh broached the subject of destroying the Food Exchange computer.

"Dopilio," began Hemginio benignly "there is little point in planting a bomb at an establishment whose backup procedures accounted for such superficial attempts at sabotage."

"So what should be done?" asked Gearagh innocently.

"For any meaningful sabotage," advised Hemginio patiently "there would need to be a concerted plan to ensure that the backup could also be disabled, and that would involve high-level infiltration - beyond the levels of political involvement you and I have."

"I agree completely with the need for a concerted plan," concurred Gearagh "one organisation which would have that level of infiltration would be the KF." He saw Hemginio nod. "If I told you my name was Gearagh, would you be more interested?"

He saw Hemginio's eyes light up, and then caution sweep across his visage. "Gearagh of the KF would not waste time with the likes of me, his organisation would be steeped with experienced saboteurs."

"The organisation could easily cope with this," said Gearagh "but have you heard of them claiming responsibility for activity lately?"

"No I haven't," he agreed "I have only heard the Federation giving them the credit."

"That is because they haven't," Gearagh began to confide in Hemginio "KF have developed a policy of consolidation which has meant that they don't do anything, they have got old and are not a patch on their previous record. That's why I have split from them."

"So why are you targeting the Food Exchange?" asked Hemginio, and Gearagh explained what had happened on Columbine.

When he'd finished he could see he had hooked Hemginio. "Will your organisation help us?" asked Gearagh.

"I should think so, tell me exactly what you want and how our part fits in?" answered Hemginio.

"I want you to talk to your people and persuade them that they should attack the Food Exchange." He continued to describe the plot "Tell them that you have made contact with someone who can gain you sufficient access to plant the bomb but that in order for that person to continue to be useful they will need to remain in the background so that is why your organisation has been asked to participate." He cautioned Hemginio "My involvement must also remain a secret, and secondly you must not divulge anything concerning the backup."

"You haven't told me anything," said Hemginio somewhat hurt.

"And I don't intend to say any more," he continued curtly "Security is a high priority, that I learnt thoroughly with KF. Be especially careful of those you consider friends or those who ask perceptive questions; prefer to be seen as stupid rather than answer them. And if they persist find some way to drop them. If you're not sure contact me by leaving a message here for Dopilio but on no account try to meet me personally. Do you accept these conditions?"

"Yes," Hemginio said quite happily "but there are certain areas that I have concern about. There are the details of access which I need to have clear, and secondly there is the matter of personnel."

"I intend keeping the access and date to myself until it is necessary," stated Gearagh uncompromisingly "personnel is your problem. You must decide who it is to trust. But," he focussed an intense stare on Hemginio "beware of the two situations I mentioned. The plan itself I leave to you for the moment, your comrades must develop the strategy that most suits them so long as we have clear instructions as to access, precise details. Our part of the plan must not have any elements of doubt, how you and your comrades work is your business. If it fails, it will fail because of your organisation if your details are precise. One final comment, Hemginio. I believe there is a lot riding on this so if you have ever felt the need to do something meaningful, this is it."

They parted and Hemginio left to contact Saagarn. At Saagarn's place they discussed the outline of the plan, and between them they decided on a team of three - the third being Kipdang. The following night they met at Kipdang's place ostensibly to discuss direct action against a forces base. Kipdang had also invited Coninho, a close friend, who had previous experience of direct action. A major part of the evening was spent discussing their blockade, and as their plans were completed Coninho and Kipdang made obvious moves to the bedroom. Looking at each other Hemginio and Saagarn decided to leave, they hadn't realised that a relationship had started - they couldn't trust Kipdang not to discuss an operation with a partner. As they left they decided they would recruit Araden and the next night they met her at her place under the pretext of furthering the direct action, only this time there were no additional problems.

Saagarn began "The direct action we are concerned with is slightly more important than the attempted blockade of the Force base at Alderpon. We intend to blow up the Food Exchange." Araden looked aghast, not realising the company she was keeping, but after the initial surprise she slowed her pulse and accepted the situation. "We only need the three of us, and it will work like this," continued Hemginio "The bomb we will use will be electronic by nature. Energy created by the computer will cause it to destroy itself. Explosives cannot be used as they will be detected by security, equally the device we are going to use can also be detected once it is functioning because it gives off its own isotonic radiation. Therefore we must take this isobomb in in separate parts. Once in I will recombine the circuits to provide the device we need, it will take me a number of hours to do this and that is going to be the difficulty. I will arrange to get this isobomb, and we will then have to keep our separate components until the predefined time. For security reasons we must keep apart, and we must not discuss what we are doing with anyone. At a later stage I shall arrange precise delivery times and drop-off points and contact each person individually. Do we agree?" Both Saagarn and Araden nodded, and they split up.

"What do you think Saagarn, is she safe?" asked Hemginio.

"I think so," said the unsure Saagarn "I don't think she fully grasped the meaning of what we are doing. She might bottle." They dismissed their doubts, if she didn't do it then it didn't happen, they couldn't go back on their decision. On his way home Hemginio left a message for Gearagh, and on his way in he met Coninho leaving his place. "More meetings, Hemginio?" she asked jovially.

"Yes," he answered pleasantly "I will become a Federation executive soon." Laughing, she left, and Hemginio went up to his room.

The next evening he went to Dopilio's place as pre-arranged. "Here is what I have planned. Three separate parcels will be left at the Food Exchange at different times during the day, and in the evening I will want to work approximately three hours to make the isobomb. One problem with these isobombs is that once they have been fused as a unit, they become detectable. This will mean that I will become vulnerable at the very moment I complete the isobomb." He paused and told Gearagh bluntly "I am not going on a suicide mission, the arrangements at your end are precise but perhaps it's too much to provide?"

"I don't think so," said Gearagh with a confidence that surprised Hemginio. Some powerful contact, Hemginio thought.

When Gearagh met Armeagh later that night the plan was near completion and they felt both ecstatic and anxious. "I don't see a problem with these arrangements," said Armeagh after due consideration "As it's nearing the end of the month tell Qarendio to set the virus from the beginning of next month." Gearagh checked their calendar, One Angellara had a meeting in two days time. "The administration offices are only used sparingly of the evening, I will arrange for a pass for one evening for Hemginio. Can he provide me with a photo, geneset, iriset and fingerprints?"

She thought for a while. "Hemginio's escape is more difficult, the only way I can see that he can do that is if he uses the translift but there is a problem with that. The lift can only be used with his pass, and this will mean that security will have a clear identification ... and the iriset cannot be forged. Is he on record?"

"Not that I know of," said Gearagh "they don't bother for the minor misdemeanours he's been involved in. But who knows what their agents have recorded?"

"Put this to him, and see what response you get," she finished and they went off to sleep. Hemginio had accepted the risks, and Gearagh had passed the message to Qarendio at the One Angellara meeting so the plan was almost ready for action. Settling for the twelfth of the month, on the eleventh Hemginio met with Dopilio to finalise arrangements.

"The office you will be working in is that of Executive assistant, Halmate." Gearagh started to explain the final details of the plan, "Halmate has gone on holiday so his work is being covered by relief staff, over that same period audits have been arranged, therefore security will not be too concerned as to parcels addressed to strange names. Those auditors are faceless people, they are never popular, and your cover is one of them. Your pass, here, allows access from top priority." Hemginio noted the identifying characteristics of Huridio, and if they were genuine he knew the power of his accomplices. Pointing to the name Hemginio asked if they were genuine.

"They have to be, Hemginio," snapped Gearagh, "temporary staff are not going to gain access, security is too tight."

Gearagh thought to himself, tight, remembering the long drawn out procedure Armeagh, even in her position, had to go to to get the credentials - whilst at the same time protecting herself. She had used her password priority to access Varino's code - as he was presently on service off-world, needing a reason to use his code she pretended that she was following up on the QAT talks and was looking for any further relevant information, a plausible reason in view of previous correspondence. From this she was able to access the Food Executive computer without it being traced to herself; she used a pusher program which allowed her to "push" her enquiry onto another terminal. Looking for a staff admin holiday she decided on the name, Halmate. She then looked under audit, the practice being that for at least one week the auditors worked alone, not with the department officials concerned. Having determined which auditors were due to be working at the Food Exchange she now had to try to arrange for Hemginio to be given a pass as one of them. The Food Exchange was part of Huridio's brief so she knew that he would be responsible for authenticating their passes. For a long time they had worked together and as part of her climbing and circumspection in the Federation service, she had made a habit of collecting computer passwords, and she had Huridio's. "Pushing" her terminal access she determined the memo number which was requesting the auditors together with their names. She then "pushed" onto Huridio's terminal, adding the name of Smintio, the name Hemginio would use. Next she had to get Hemginio's identifying characteristics into the system. To do this she created a false memo that would only appear on Huridio's screen, to the effect that one set of documents had not been included and were to be sent over in security packet FE/131456-2. This was the weak link as this memo could not be cross-referenced, but the access to security packets was very limited and therefore were very rarely questioned - of course this in itself was a slight risk but to trace it to the top? Now remained retrieving Hemginio's pass; this was the most difficult. Accessing Huridio's screen each night she was able to find the day the pass had been sent over, and which security packet it was contained in. What she needed to do was to intercept the packet containing the four passes and replace it with three ie not including Hemginio's. Security was the problem so security had to be the answer - a security check. That evening, and for the next day, she called for a check throughout her administration centre. Of course whilst checking the security this meant that all processes were delayed, one was the transfer of packets. Logging in packets was one procedure that some officers were slack on ie registering of packets had to be fastidiously recorded by the security computer. It was an area that often didn't match up so when there was a security check, it was this area that the security officers tried to catch up first. Armeagh knew exactly where the parcel would be. At lunchtime the day they were carrying out the security check she rushed down with a packet that she wanted transferred, and an empty packet with the same security number Huridio had used. How to make the switch? With her bringing the packet down as a person of importance and with the panic created by the security check full procedures would not be in operation. As expected the packets to be processed were out being logged into the computer, and she spotted the one she was after. Asking the security officer to personally ensure that her packet received priority, for a brief moment there was no-one on the station while the officer put the packet higher in the queue for the translift. She was able to quickly enter Huridio's password and transfer the passes from Huridio's packet to the packet she had made out - except for Hemginio's pass. To her great relief that passed without incident so the major part of her hands-on involvement had finished. Now she had to get the pass out of the building. All passes had to be checked each time anyone left or entered the building, and the security check would register anyone carrying more than one pass. However in two days time there was an off-world conference being held at the Pardienne office where she would have to speak. At such conferences it was the practise to transfer "eyes only documents" in special security-proof pouches as there had previously been a leak due to weakness in security in branch offices - security screenings had been infiltrated to such an extent that screenings had been recorded and sensitive items read;such top security conferences were now only held at Lorteuds. Having worked at Pardienne for a while she knew the security there, she would be able to leave the building with her case containing the pouch. On the day of the security conference she had put the pass in the pouch, taken it to Pardienne via the translift, taken it out of the Pardienne office and left the pass in a mailbox with the keyword "Hemgear" on it. Only Gearagh knew the word and he collected the pass two days later. Now what remained was to provide a legitimate reason for Hemginio to be working on the night of the twelfth. This was easier than some of the other facets of the plan. Firstly she put pressure on the auditing department at Lorteuds to try to minimalise the amount of contact with on-site staff, they had found that there was too much collusion, or more favourably perhaps efforts to resolve what the problem was led to people solving them there and then. Some saw that as positive but others recognised that that resolving of the problem ought to have occurred through planning. Having ensured there was pressure to facilitate the audit, she checked, pushing through Varino's terminal and his password, that someone from the auditor's department was working on the night of the twelfth. During the day she then pushed a memo through from Huridio's terminal that auditor, Smintio, was working that night. This memo was a loose end but it would cast suspicion towards Huridio even more - considering he ratified the security pass, hopefully that suspicion would not pass to Armeagh.

"Gearagh, make sure you tell Hemginio and his people that they have to waylay auditor Gramhar that night," she had said finally after explaining all her deviousness. Having thought the story through Gearagh realised that he had to go and meet Hemginio to tell him about the extra part, that of waylaying Gramhar. Giving him Gramhar's address, he advised him that they check the movements of Gramhar the night before to ensure that it would be possible.

"Also the parcels must be delivered to Smintio, office 317 in the Admin block of the Off-World ministry," informed Gearagh "I suggest that you mail him some accounts listings but not from locally," his hand motioned a circular sweep, the meaning obvious.

"Your method of escape has been worked out as well," Gearagh continued "but you will have to time this accurately. As soon as the computer detects the isotonic radiation it will carry out a number of checks to see if it is one of the usual excesses associated with isotonics in general - metracite in this form is known to act unstably. This check is very quick but it will allow you a couple of seconds to leave via the translift. The final connection will have to be made in such a way that you can immediately leave. Do you understand?" He saw Hemginio nod.

"How does this all sound to you, Hemginio?" asked Gearagh finally.

"I can't see any problems with the plan, but," warned Hemginio "practice is always different."

"Agreed, but the more detailed the plan, the more meticulous the preparations, then the less likely the differences in practice are to have an effect." He continued, "The major aspects should work."

As he left they bumped into Coninho, Hemginio smiled and said hallo "Strange we keep meeting like this," said Hemginio; Coninho smiled.

Gearagh stared at Hemginio's puzzled expression, "Anything wrong?" he asked.

"Not really, it's probably coincidence." answered Hemginio "it's just that I hardly know her yet on two occasions when I have been planning this, she has been near. And she was present when we were going to use Kipdang." He explained to Gearagh as much detail as possible.

"If in doubt get rid of the problem," said Gearagh "arrange for her to be at another meeting, invite her and Kipdang somewhere. Anything! If you leave her alone it could be your undoing. What harm is done if she is inconvenienced and you were wrong?" Hemginio nodded and Gearagh walked off; within two hours he was on a flight back to Kirramura.

On the morning of the twelfth Saagarn went to the Food Exchange and delivered the first parcel, in the afternoon Araden also delivered another parcel addressed to Smintio in office 317; on the way they had both posted accounts listing from different parts of Lorteuds. In the evening they told Araden to wait outside Gramhar's dwelling, Saagarn arrived and confirmed that Gramhar had arrived back from the office. Saagarn then entered the building and waited near the translift, and he waited and he waited. At 7.00pm Hemginio would have entered the Food Exchange yet Gramhar was still at home. Saagarn called in Araden, and they positioned themselves inside the building near the translift moving each time anyone saw them.

"We have to stay here," Saagarn said to the obviously worried Araden "if he were to go to the office before 10.00pm then the plan is blown." They waited out their vigil, boredom being their only problem, what was Gramhar's?

At 7.00pm in the hired uniform of the Federation auditing group Hemginio entered the Food Exchange. "I have had some listings sent to me," he told the security officer at the entrance " where will they be?"

"In room 317 auditor Smintio - where you will be working," the officer told him "along with two parcels that were delivered today."

"Good, I have had problems with the isotometer rom and the communications interface," he pointed to the circuitry in his case "and I am going to have to test them tonight before I do my work."

"Should I arrange for an engineer?" asked Security helpfully.

"Not yet," answered Smintio "hopefully not at all." They both laughed.

As he walked off to the lift to 317 Hemginio smirked to himself, he enjoyed bullshit especially to plods; it was a way of easing his nerves and often got him in trouble but with computers bullshit was easy. Once he got up to 317 he found the two parcels, and the listings addressed to him; he put the listings in his case. 7.20, he looked at his watch, should be time to finish by 10.00 pm - the time agreed with Saagarn. He emptied the contents of the parcels onto the desk and placed his lump of circuitry there as well. Dismantling each component carefully he separated the volatile metracite components that would combine to form the isotonics. Firstly using casing which had been brought inside his bag - often used as security linings, he began to attach the circuitry into position as he had practised many times before especially when younger. Once the circuitry was in place he took a break, the next part had to be extremely accurate. He looked at the time, 8.30, he was ahead. He got a drink as he would be expected to, and double-checking that accounting was being practised in the office from the plod's eye view. Back to work. Isotonics basically used the instability of the metracite, and by applying an electronic current it was easy to destabilise the metal. Once destabilised its decay was regular and easily controlled, its major advantage was paradoxically its stability under these conditions. All storage mediums waste away however slowly, as a result electronic circuitry had had to be replaced - rarely but sufficiently inconveniently for such a high-powered business as computing. Once isotonics were discovered, and that they were both able to power the computer and act as a memory store they soon took over - as with many inventions they found this whilst working on the use of metracite for the space-drives.

What he was going to do was to produce a minute space-drive through isotonic radiation of opposite polarity, and thus cause the explosion. Again he began working on it, this final part being most delicate. Concentrating so much sweat dripped down, but this was not a worry; office noises were however making him jump. 8.45, 9.00, 9.15 time was passing he wasn't ahead now. His hand slipped as he tried to fit in one of the components, he stopped. A break. He rubbed his head. 9.30. Now to the final tricky parts. Could he move to the translift yet? No! he still had too much to do. He fitted the next two chips, now he only had to fit the metracite, set its polarity and the isobomb would work. Double-checking his work, he didn't want a careless error.

Damn, a component was loose. He cursed, it could have nullified the radiation field. Yes, it all checked out now; he applied the current that activated the metracite - it was not isotonic until the field he had set up in the isobomb was applied to it. He moved to the translift. Here he needed a bit of luck; no-one had used the translift on this floor all night, he hoped that would continue. He moved into the lift setting coordinates. The computer was asking for his pass. He bent down straddling the entrance to the translift and slotted the activated metracite into the isotonic field; his meter checked that there was negative isotonic flow. Great. He jumped up quickly and pushed in his security pass. The sign "cleared" appeared on the screen and immediately he was lifted to his destination, not far from Gramhar's dwellings.

Inside the Food Exchange the positive isotonic flow at the core of the Food Exchange computer detected the negative radiation set up by Hemginio's isobomb. The result was an immediate uniting of the two radiations as if in hyperspace, and the intervening offices and the computer were crushed in the reaction. The result appeared as an explosion that left devastation on the first three floors. The shaft of light caused by the radiation flow created a hole. Around this shaft the floors gave way and the hole widened, destabilising the walls which fell in. It was the light and the walls falling in that gave it the view of an explosion. Alarms started to go off, and an electronic cordon immediately surrounded the Exchange. The operations staff and the few that were working late rushed out to the edge of the cordon. They were met quickly and transported away to be questioned, as slowly the lower three floors of the Food Exchange collapsed on one side of the building. More and more of the building on that side began to disintegrate but it slowed down as slabs dropped off at a decreasing rate. Finally the design stabilised, and the Food Exchange stood like the top part of a fleury F.

Meanwhile Hemginio met with Saagarn and Araden. They were ecstatic but didn't say much. "We cannot return to our places, they weren't permanent anyway." They laughed, Araden least of all. "I am going to Pardienne, come with me," said Hemginio "Saagarn is going to Galsburio, you could go with him, or elsewhere?" She drifted off to Pardienne, events carrying her like a seed on a gusty day.

The next day Armeagh was put under tremendous pressure by security forces demanding restrictions on all personnel, she was happy not to resist. Coninho had contacted her security office to say that Hemginio, Saagarn, Araden and Dopilio were no longer at their places, they would eventually catch up with the first three to prove what? - although that was not always their concern in situations of terrorism.

Smiling when he heard the news of the bombing, Gearagh stared longingly over the hills of Conyamur as if being called.

And on Kamdren they were thanking providence for the explosion, although one or two questioned whether it was more than coincidence that it was the Food Exchange.

Life previously considered non-existent in its grand way altered form to develop and add its thrust.



"We must not take too much heart from the explosion in the Food Exchange," said Jerandine "there will have been suitable backup procedures. However lug-headed the Federation appears, in terms of their own definitions they apply their intelligence quite deviously and ruthlessly. We must never forget that they often use a stupid and human face to hide the evils of their dictatorship and exploitation."

"What you are suggesting is to ignore what happened?" asked Hengaree, somewhat puzzled.

"No, you misunderstand me," said Jerandine impatiently "just don't make assumptions, don't assume they have lost their data; until we know to the contrary assume they have not had a setback. In fact if we have heard about this then it probably means they feel confident they can regain their losses.

"However we can use the event for mobilising here on Kamdren. Most people tacitly support us but they are not active. This is not good; unless the people are participating, we cannot win. Passive acceptance is the mode of operation of dictatorship, disenfranchisement of the spirit."

"That's true," agreed Hengaree "if they hear that the Federation are vulnerable they are likely to feel more bold out in DeepFed."

"Not only here on Kamdren," said Altapace. They all then thought of the struggle on Aldabarna which was worsening in intensity, so many deaths. "Yes, we have said we will give them support," continued Altapace "but what have we done? Some money, limited arms, but nothing really tangible."

"We cannot take on the Dreggies," said Hengaree matter-of-factly.

"No but we can attack their seed supplies, an army marches on its stomach," countered Altapace.

"That means we will be showing our hand," advised Jerandine conservatively.

"We must do something," said Altapace, and Hengaree nodded. They turned to Jerandine who finally agreed. They would present it to the Council.

"Meanwhile the mobilising," reminded Hengaree, "how do we approach that?"

"We have to be careful of two things," warned Jerandine. "Firstly the Federation based here are supportive. Although not ideologically behind what we are trying to do, they are completely with us even if their motives are sour. We do not want these "Fed locals" to become the butt of Kamdren's anger. Secondly this delegation is a problem. We were advised that Varino was not satisfied the last time he came but this Patrendo is much sharper"

"Could we not direct the peoples' anger against the delegation?" suggested Hengaree.

"A demonstration that turned violent?" suggested Altapace. They agreed and began their work.

The Federation allowed demonstrations as an escape valve, yet at the same time they used them as a gauge. Was the movement strong enough? Need they be worried? If they were strong, involving the people not simply activists, then they engineered violence; easily done when many on demonstrations were looking for any excuse anyway. The movement itself never has any choice, demonstrations are needed to build up mass support - it is the only way to involve the people. Then it's a matter of social conditions whether anything happens; and however objective those conditions are supposed to be, it can never be judged.

On Kamdren history had taken an unusual turn. Rather than the usual variety of puppets ensconced in the various ruling parties, the aristocratic parties of Kamdren had lost their identity. Over the generations their allegiance to Kamdren and its people had changed from the benevolent, patronising type easily manipulable by the Federation. Instead their allegiance had taken on the true mantle of democratic accountability, and rather than the sham democracies often set up by newly patronised members of the Federation they set up a democracy by and through the people. Recognising the external problems in publicly proclaiming this, they had to all outward appearances maintained the aristocratic outlook the Federation expected. What did they care - Kamdren was the source planet for seeds - and candarsyl? The people of Kamdren only provided the labour which kept these seeds coming, so there were no problems on Kamdren according to the Federation. Until Varino arrived. And now there was the delegation. The people resented the Federation presence on Kamdren, the increasing democratic involvement, as well as expanding the intelligent faculties of the people through use in positions of real power, also brought an awareness of the inequalities and injustices. But they did not go off half-cocked, in general they recognised the need for common sense, why wouldn't they? Only the Federation maintains myths about benevolent control and potential bloodbaths, who chooses to die? But it was good to release the energy constructively, and the delegation provided the most suitable situation recently offered; killing two birds with one stone. When the knowledge of the destruction of the Food Exchange spread the people were ecstatic, they felt free; they knew the extent to which a machine light years away ran their lives and their spirits soared.

At the same time, unfortunately for the delegation, they were holding a media event to explain their purpose; they still believed they could control by divide and rule, and were threatening Kamdren with increased prices as a result of reduced taxation revenue as a consequence of the alternative food culture. When the people present heard these divisive tactics they laughed with derision, but when the people began massing outside the media hall rejoicing at the explosion the derision gained confidence and turned into anger. Outside the people heard the angry voices and began to pile into the hall. Liandro, trained in recognising the signs, immediately left the hall, at worst illness could be an excuse but she wasn't sure there would be anyone to give her excuse to. Now the voices were getting louder, more and more people wanted to have their say so the volume increased.

On the platform the delegation were looking around. Patrendo kept trying to calm everyone, asking that he could speak to answer accusations. Although his sharpness had allowed him to climb the ladder on Angellara at the same time it had produced arrogance. As he stood up, there grew a consensus to let him answer.

"People of Kamdren, we in the Federation always have your interests in our hearts. Before we arrived you had no off-world trade, now it provides most of your jobs and most of your public expenditure." Shouts came from the floor. "Public Expenditure to build your space transports!" came from one corner, echoed three rows in front by "Public expenditure to indoctrinate your workforce". Near the entrance a woman from the demonstration screamed "Public expenditure to pay your tariffs." Several shouted "we don't need off-world trade." And then a chorus started "We feed ourselves, you need us." And finally in unison the audience shouted "Federation out! Federation out!"

After five minutes the slogans died down, but unbeknown to the delegation the platform exits had been blocked. As the gathering quietened again, Patrendo tried sincerity, "The Federation does have your interest at heart, you must realise the advances we have made. Primitive agriculture is not the answer."

The word "primitive" was tactless, and several people ran up to the platform shouting "primitive, are we?". At this Varino got frightened, he got up and ran to an exit. It was blocked. As Patrendo saw this, he turned to the audience shouting at them to go back. On the edge of the platform the people were shouting, just standing there, shouting. But they would not go back. Patrendo kept calling at them but they would not move. All the time people were coming in off the streets, shouting, sloganising, the hall was full to the brim. Continuing to shout they began to push forward. There developed a knock-on effect and gradually those on the stage were pushed forward. Already frightening, the crowd now appeared menacing, and Patrendo pulled his gun but it was too late. The crowd had been taken over, even if they wanted to they couldn't move back. As they pushed relentlessly forward, Patrendo fired one shot, two, three, before he and the others of the delegation were crushed by the mob. Two dead Kamdrens and one injured, the four from the Angellaran delegation crushed under the weight of Kamdren democracy. And the people's anger had been directed against the delegation.

The existing Federation agents and Liandro had immediately fled to the council offices. Not surprisingly the mob had next moved there to continue their expunging of the off-world expropriators. Soon flames were spurting out but no more dead. After much shouting and wandering around night came and the demonstration split to parties, lust, sex - even romance, and tales of the night the delegation died.

The council however could not sleep, they had to find a way of presenting normality to the Federation. Was Liandro their problem; the agents they knew were safe, the delegation would have disrupted their comfortable Kamdren lifestyle. After much discussion they prepared a public statement to be sent across Kamdren airways. "Following the uprising which saw the death of the delegation from the food ministry, we have the problem of trying to maintain a diplomatic front with the Federation. We cannot fight the Dreggies here on Kamdren, we don't have the armed might. Federation agents have worked with us in maintaining the desired diplomatic appearance, and they have agreed to continue to do so - they would lose their Kamdren lifestyle and much more if they were now to describe what has been happening on Kamdren, thus denouncing previous false reports.

"They will support the Kamdren council, they have no choice. Their report will state that a fire started at the Federation offices following a party to celebrate the success of their media event. "We, in the council, recognise that this story would not be believed without an investigation if all the delegation had died, but one person escaped. This person is a member of KF, the people's movement of Kirramura, and she will support our official version and will stay on in Kamdren to complete the work of the delegation. "Strength to the people of Kamdren"

At the end of the media release there was the usual rider that anyone wishing to comment on the position taken by the council can have the usual redress through their community council and their usual representatives. The delegation was no longer a threat, the people of Kamdren had been mobilised and were even more supportive of their Council, the Federation now had a new agent on Kamdren who would also link with the movement on Kirramura, and the council had agreed that they would ensure that the seed cultures designated for the Dreggie barracks would decompose within one year - the candarsyl legacy. All in all, the plotters had connived well, and they had a year to decide how they would counter the Dreggie accusations - if accusations were all that flew at them.



Cartagio and Hermetio still looked on with guilt from their northern ivory towers but restrictions were spreading. Much of the produce from Hermetio's farm had been commandeered by The Dreggies - some vague explanation about Kamdren seed failures. Cartagio continued to press for change but gradually tolerance for liberal values closed in on her as the war tightened its grip. What had started as repression of the mine workers and religious disagreements had worsened. Already the large number of dreggies on Aldabarna had been increased as the Federation had found it harder and harder to maintain the flow of metracite. What was worse for them was that even the Dreggies were falling in with the Aldabarnans - but only those on the more distant outposts.

Herem and Carta continued to talk about moving South and joining the freedom fighters but they lacked the final push. It occurred one evening. Having spent much of the day in the fields, Carta found that she was forced to work more and more with Herem as the Dreggies were insisting on taking a large proportion of his produce. Both had been upset because the casualty figures they had heard the previous night were the largest so far, now even her whole family were talking of global war, "Over some damn metal," screamed Carta inside.

They had both come in from the fields, later than ever, and what now passed for the family meal was out on the table. The family were discussing the war effort, and the word "traitor" was being bandied around. On the news they were talking of a priest who was looking after his Andustan flock. As he was talking his arm panned around in an arc and the camera followed. "Look at these people," he was saying, pointing at emaciated figures with swollen bellies and flies buzzing around searching for the victims' last ounce of life, "these people are not revolutionaries, they only want enough food to survive. Only a few years ago they were our neighbours."

"They were trouble then," murmured Carta's father.

She glared at him but concentrated on the report.

"Have these people been in the fighting?" asked Simpadio.

"Some might have taken up arms," answered the priest.

"As a man of God isn't it your duty not to take sides? By supporting some who have taken arms are you not desecrating your solemn oath?" continued Simpadio.

"My concerns are with the people," answered the priest "politics is all around us, before the war, during and after. I remain constant, I care for all people. And I don't start my questioning simply because a journalist is trying to mark me down as a socialist priest and therefore seeking my testimony," and again the priest arced around, this time without the camera "dismissed".

"These priests should stay in their churches," her father continued unpleasantly "perhaps if they weren't encouraging the people to "rise up on the third day" there might not be all the trouble. What do priests know of the world, all they know is their cloth, cloisters, and an institution which makes of them permanent beggars."

Carta would not argue with her father, it was his home, but at the same time coming home to listen to this bigotry offended her very soul. She had told him in a lighter moment, "I know it's your home, you have worked for it, and you have worked hard to bring me up. I respect that. But some of your views make me very angry, they make me want to scream out sometimes even get violent. I ask you for the sake of peace, can you please tone down some of your comments when I am here?"

As he looked at her you could see the emotion swell in his eyes, genuine love - as far as he knew, and he held her close and promised to try, but the next day he threw out a comment "how can you expect these triangle-headed Carastrians to live in normal rooms?"

And she gave up, tolerance was the only avenue left but she knew it built resentment, resentment that meant she stayed away more and more, either with Hermetio in their cave or with her friends in the capital. But trying to resolve this was not possible; young people show too little respect, she thought, but the old don't help either. As soon as the food was finished, and courtesy allowed, she stormed out of the house breathing a huge exasperated sigh as she went through the door; Hermetio followed recognising the symptoms.

"Let's walk," he suggested quietly and put his arm round to comfort her. "You can't stay in his home, and I don't feel like working all hours of the day to feed dreggies who are killing our comrades in the South." Looking at her there was no need for an answer, perhaps she had stayed on because he was feeding his family.

Walking they reached their cave for the last time in a long while. As usual they were mesmerised as their eyes focused on the veins but it had changed subtly - it appeared almost tinged with red. They both felt it and their eyes filled with emotion, they were crying for the spilling of blood as well. But this vein seemed not crying for spilt blood it was as if it was a vengeful tinge - a sign of more to come? They left the metracite filled with resolve but afraid of what they had seen. A deep anger was trying to express itself and they were frightened of that expression. Not bothering to return home, they went to the city and vidded their parents to explain they were not coming back for a while, they had more meaningful work. When asked they couldn't say what! The last that was said "Be careful".

The capital was no place to be either, specific Federation buildings had been targeted - although there was some devastation in domestic dwellings. From her youthful self-discovery Carta had kept some contacts and as she had grown so some of them had become more meaningful. When she met Geocerio, he simply said "At last!".

She smiled and introduced Herem. "The war effort is not going well." he said despondently. "In the South more and more miners are being killed, and more people are being conscripted into what they call the "Aldabarnan Mining Corps". In order to extract the metracite they are having to go deeper and deeper, and as a result there are more accidents, more conscriptions, greater depths ... The cycle goes on. There is one break in the cycle," his eyes began to shine a little "in the outer districts the dreggies are joining the miners. Even with their drug conditioning they are saying it's unfair, and are fighting back. Gradually these con-dreggies are becoming a more formidable force and are coming out of these outlying districts, and they are even turning on their former comrades."

"But in the capital," he continued, halting her question "the Peace movement is very weak. It is helped by people coming in from these outlying districts but we never get real access to most Aldabarnan citizens. Either accepting what is on their vids, or too conditioned subconsciously by self-interest to open their minds, they do not see what is really happening in their name. Continually we are being arrested. Their strategy seems to be to pick up our leaders, but all that happens is they arrest one person and another takes their place.

"Demonstrations have been banned, they were getting too big and unmanageable even for their tactics. At the start we couldn't control those who wanted violence here in the capital. But once they realised that they were not getting support from us - in fact the opposite, our comrades would step in and fight them before they could get at the Federation police - they decided they would keep their tactics to their own space and support us in part. Of course they tried all the conversion numbers but our people have a great deal of sense, and even though they are from broad backgrounds their solidarity was strong.

"Now we are reduced to leaflets explaining what is really happening." continued Geocerio "but we find that people are engaging us in conversation whilst they call in the police. They definitely are not listening to us."

"Don't give up the struggle, Geo," encouraged Herem "in the end, even with the excessive lies put forward as wartime propaganda, enough people will come to the truth."

"You have more faith than I have," said Geo "people still talk of previous wars as being character building, they don't allow themselves the luxury of questioning the rationale. But that does not mean I am giving up, I don't have the choice."

They laughed all had their own version of inner compulsion that controlled this work. "Come with us now," said Geo, as he was going out the door "we are going to meet Aleco. Coming from the outlying districts, Carenso province, he is going to talk about what was happening there, and why he stopped being a dreggie."

Both Carta and Herem's heart missed a beat at this last phrase. A dreggie! Fierce anger as they thought of these dreaded ranks, what they had done in the name of the Federation to comrades everywhere did not bear thinking about. The meeting was closed, it had to be under war security restrictions.

After general discussion Geo called people to order, Carandro isn't coming, he thought, maybe she's been picked up again - Andustans were having a hard time in the capital whether they supported peace or not. "I want to introduce Lieutenant Aleco of the Aldabarnan Defence Regiment."

From the first Carta had noticed him, this man had such an air of peace about him, she'd definitely thought he wasn't Aleco; she had been wondering where their speaker was. "I have come here to talk about defending peace on Aldabarna," he started with a smile, they laughed at his irony. "When I was sent out to join the forces here on Aldabarna I was given a briefing paper, I remember one particular piece. Aldabarna has always been a difficult place for the Federation. When we first arrived people welcomed the opportunity to trade their metracite and some other metals found here on Aldabarna, but when they started trading their demands were so harsh it was difficult to reach agreement. After much negotiation they accepted the QAT agreement but ever since then there has been one problem or another. Firstly the miners did not reach the agreement, and no amount of diplomatic effort could be applied to ensure they would comply. In fact the miners would not adhere to the QAT quotas at all. Following this the Federation planted the Arvenis to ensure full production but even their rate slipped back till the quota became the same. Gradually it has led to this confrontation that the miners have sought through their continual failure to reach targets, and an often violent failure to fulfil trade agreements reached by their government."

"All of this seemed quite standard to me," continued Aleco "our job on many planets had concerned the continuation of QAT agreements. But when we arrived we found a unique situation. Well, all situations have their unique characteristics but Aldabarna seemed to have a character all its own. The miners, Arvenis, Bandarans, Carastrians and Andustans were all prepared to do the mining but would not fulfil the quotas. 'Your quotas were set off-world, they cannot possibly be met here in Carenso,' they would say. When we asked why they simply said there wasn't enough metracite. When we looked at how much there was, they said 'Aldabarna needs that, we can mine the surplus for trade.'"

"We didn't understand that then," admitted Aleco openly "so we just carried out our task as we always had. We went down the mines with the workers and when they finished what they called the quota they stopped, and no amount of coercion, even imprisonment, would increase their output"

"You will realise that only a certain amount of metracite is ready to be mined," they said enigmatically "and that is all we can do. When you learn this you will release our comrades."

Aleco continued "This made us very angry as soldiers, we hated being condescended to, but still no matter what we did we couldn't increase their output.

"Then their spokesperson came to talk to us. He called me down the mine and started to explain the mining operation. 'Here is the metracite vein that we normally work on. Notice this dusky grey hue, this is what we bring out for you, it is ready. Each day we bring out roughly the same amount but today there seems less. Sorry but we are not able to bring out the usual amount."

"At that he simply turned around and carried on working. When he had finished on the dusky area he stopped, and started to return to the surface. I stood in his way, he stopped, so I told him to carry on mining. He refused, simply saying 'it's not ready'. With the butt of my rifle I then struck him in the mouth." Aleco looked around "I know what you must think," he said apologetically "but it was my job, it was what I was trained to do."

Continuing his story Aleco described how the miner stood up blood dripping from the corner of his mouth. "You try it," the miner said angrily.

"'What do you mean?' I asked confused.

"'You try getting some more metracite from this vein,' he repeated, coughing and spluttering, handing Aleco the cutting tool he said with anger and frustration in his face, "You try it, see what happens." Taking the pick I struck the vein and jumped back as the jarring shook my whole body. I was not able to remove any of the vein."

"I don't understand, you seemed to mine this vein effortlessly," I said looking at him with astonishment. "'Our quota's finished,' he said 'no matter how often you hit me,' and he spat a glob of blood into the corner of the pit.

"'But I have read of other mines increasing their output,' I told the miner. "He looked aghast 'How? Using what? What is the Federation doing to our planet?'

"It was only then I began to understand the uniqueness of Aldabarna, and once I did then I knew that what I was doing was wrong. These people were not fighting the Federation, this was simply a people prepared to do their job recognising its limitations; we were making demands beyond what they could possibly provide. We don't understand, simply because on a piece of paper signed at a conference usually on Angellara, rarely in DeepFed, a quota is predetermined, does not mean that quota can be achieved. On Aldabarna it can never be reached without causing untold harm.

"I then went to these other mines and checked out what they were doing," began Aleco again after his disparaging wander into Federation politics "I saw them using high-powered lasers burning hard and long into the veins. The quota had increased but it was slow and hard work to produce very little output. Not like the easy production I had seen. In there the heat was tremendous and the miners were being treated like slaves. One of them was shot by a soldier for failing to follow an order. And the soldier said 'Take that as a warning to you all.'

"When I saw that," said Aleco abjectly "I knew that I couldn't introduce measures like that at Carenso, anyway I didn't have enough soldiers to carry it out for such a small province. When I received the orders to increase my production I showed the miners, they told me it was impossible. When I referred it back I was told to use all reasonable force possible. I had seen what they meant by reasonable force, and I couldn't do it. That was when I resigned my commission, to use their phrase.

"A few of us got together, and went to talk to our squad based at other provinces on Aldabarna. The larger mines nearer the more populated centres are the ones which have increased production, probably because there is a greater population to do the mining and risk the accidents and soldiers' shots. These soldiers were not receptive, their bonuses had been drastically increased.

"When we returned to our own outposts we were attacked; it was such a surprise, I suppose they were trying to warn other soldiers who were thinking of resigning and villagers who were working with them," he said ponderously. "They came to the village we were staying in and they began to burn it. Houses were systematically destroyed one by one, there was no warning and I am not sure whether the people were still inside or not. It was a disgrace. Luckily the house I was staying in was the last in the village, for some reason I woke up just as the laser shot torched the first house. Ready to collect my unit together I rushed outside only to see all the houses being destroyed; I just ran."

Pausing as the emotion built to a lump in his throat, he calmed himself but still a tremor in his voice came through as he continued "I definitely have not seen any of my unit since, and I can't be sure but I haven't seen any of the villagers either. It was then I decided to come here to the capital to tell my story."

At this he was obviously shaken and he sat down. Silence filled the room, a silence charged with the dynamic of these earth-shattering revelations. No-one spoke or could even consider speaking. After a respectable while Geo suggested a break for refreshment to be followed by questions and discussion of strategy. Gradually the refreshments overcame the atmosphere and the desire for conversation and discussion soon returned home to the activists. These discussions began to get quite warm so Geo thought this a suitable moment to use their energies.

Calling them to order he began his thanks. "Aleco has given us a very moving account of events in Carenso, and we would like to thank him for sharing that with us." There was a pause for meaningful applause. "However neither Aleco nor ourselves came here just to hear stories, what we must do is try to use what we have learnt constructively. However before we discuss this," he diverted "it has to be recognised that Aleco's identity and the contents of what we have heard must not be divulged unless cleared through Aleco or this committee. As soon as we publicise anything to do with what we have heard the Federation are going to be desperate to silence the source. Careless or immature words will cost Aleco his life." He looked around at their agreement, and he finally added "I'd rather state the obvious then there are no doubts."

Herem started the ball rolling. "The people who most need to hear this are the dreggies," he paused "sorry, the soldiers in other outlying provinces where they are also isolated. If they have heard that the Federation has turned on their own people they will feel very insecure and likely to support the workers on Aldabarna."

"I agree that is important but then if the Aldabarnan people here in the north hear about these outrages they too will be angry," suggested one of their company. At this, they all felt deep frustration at living amongst people who apparently don't care, whose inaction was a demonstration of complicit acceptance. A verbal torrent of controlled abuse at the naivety of the speaker broke out, and as usual the discussion rambled as first one then the other felt their opinion was important. After a while, because of the urgency of the discussion, an action plan took shape which involved all the suggestions with different degrees of priority. At least Aleco seemed to go away happy - for the moment?

Herem and Carta returned to stay with Geo. After Aleco they both felt numb, and that numbness was fed by the guilt they felt at having taken so long to make a complete commitment. Simply Geo said "There are always people you meet who surprise you with their knowledge, level of commitment or both." Later that night they were discussing Aleco's tale.

"We have always felt metracite was an important key," Carta said thoughtfully "ever since we found our shrine. Here it's as if it is actually joining in the struggle; it will not allow Federation exploitation." Near the capital they heard a huge explosion, and many thought the war was coming to the capital. It was but not in the way they thought.



Gearagh returned home feeling a sense of accomplishment perhaps for the first time in his life. Staring out over his beloved Conyamur thoughts of meaning, action, and struggle flew through his head. Now he had a deep feeling, part-filled with sadness, that he was on a roller-coaster of destruction. What had he and Armeagh started? Death, perhaps not yet, financial loss - the Federation can afford it. But it will only be regained in tariffs. Decreased efficiency through the lack of the computer, who will benefit? Only those Angellaran parasites who will try to cash in quicker with the lack of overall Federation control. Will the people, the class gain? It's hard to say; the theoretical answer is clear, to increase the pressure on the Federation means to increase the squeeze on the class which will force them to fight back. Have they the right to force that confrontation? Maybe that was why KF were going stagnant, maybe they recognised their trap and were only going through the motions to assuage their guilt and history. But then you turn round and look at the exploitation war on Aldabarna, you look at the poverty that exists on many DeepFed colonies, and you should fight. It was all so much easier in youth and from textbooks. He needed to clear his mind of doubts? Or just clear it for action?

Conyamur, Conyamur, he thought, here there are no doubts, action is only one foot in front of the other. Staring around he was dazzled by the beauty but beauty as what? The beauty of the green, rolling hills, the clear blue skies, the melodies of the birds, the gentle silence, what does this beauty mean? God, he laughed, where am I going with this? No, cynic, .... I'm going with it. Beauty, is it the shape, the green, the curves, trees, juxtapositions, even lack of people? Impossible, it can't be any of these for they were not always beautiful? Was it combination? NO, it was not just external. A strange thought, he tried to grab onto it. Internal as well, what? Are they always beautiful? When he is out here "cooking up the next stab at Angellara"? No he's not open to it then. Openness implies a channel, a way, between the internal and external, the beauty channel opens a way. What else does that way open? Order? Truth? Learning? Wisdom? To Nature they are all the same, in the struggle he was only an open channel, unless he allowed the Angellaran traps to get in the way - the cobwebs of comfort and stagnation.

By a rock he sat down. Metracite, he was surprised the Angellarans didn't call the planet metracitia, metracitopolis, metracitemine, that was all they thought of it except for those who overcame the propaganda, and dared to risk touristing through the five-headed barbaric, violent, drugged Kirrams. This rock was a key player in the struggle, history will analyse the struggle more in terms of the ore than the people. That in itself is a terrible sadness, a total lack of beauty. Yet the rock had its beauty when you study it. Picking up a piece that was lying no more than six feet away, he cracked it open to study and contemplate as he had done many times before. No two patterns were ever the same despite what you read in the geology texts. He stared at the purple dashed with blemishes that seemed frozen inside, the prismatic structure hewed by Nature. Thinking of pictures of the cores of the isodrives, although basically the same, the whole of the drive was moulded around the shape of the metracite they used, despite its power the Federation was controlled by a rock. The image appealed to his irony although the image sadly lacked any substance, as lacking in substance as the dreams and reverie of the people throughout the known universe forced into labour that besieged their souls for the profits of the Federation.

His mind drifted from spirit to struggle and back again, doing that too much lately, he thought wistfully. But is the connection the channel as well? Only when the channels have been closed in too many places is change forced to be struggle, where Nature's laws have not only been broken but bent completely out of shape by the waywardness of its creatures? And of course Nature cannot allow that, it must survive in whatever form it can with or without its current creatures. But it gave birth to these creatures, it does not want to lose its children unless they are too wayward and try to damage their parent. Nature will help those who want to help Nature but how do you recognise the ways? Recognising coincidence is pleasing. Knowing when to recognise it and when to use it is Nature's gift, that is the gift of the channel. Where was all this coming from, and he looked at the rock? And roared with laughter.

Enough, to work he thought. Paddi was the only one of the Exec who would still give him an ear. What her reactions would be, however, was something totally different. And, of course, the Exec might not be the answer. Unexpectedly he arrived at her doorstep, it was not unusual for him to just turn up but since their last meeting she thought she would not see him again, certainly not so quickly. After the greetings and pleasantries she asked "Have you settled down now?"

"I think not," he said and continued "I am unlikely to be settled again. But I do not feel angry, spontaneous or frivolous as I could perhaps have been described the last time we met. I have been busy," he admitted finally.

"Busy?" she asked, worried.

"The Food Exchange," he said laconically.

"But why? What does it achieve?" she asked with frustration "Did you put out the backup?"

"Yes we did," he answered the last first "and as to achievement it can only be a start, we hope. The Columbine conference opened my eyes to the traps we have fallen into here in KF, it is time we broke out of our traps and responded to their call."

"I wasn't sure what you meant by that," she said remembering their last conversation and his resignation.

"How could you? I didn't then," he told her "but I know that I must do all that I can to support the action in DeepFed. Will you help? I want you to be a part of this, and not to be swept aside as history takes over the destiny of the anachronistic KF."

"If you are right," she added "a big if, you must not ignore the KF because the people don't. Kirrams are a conservative people, a people of history, a people who respect their resistance, and equally a people who respect the traditions of KF. Surely your tactics have not been swallowed up so much by your anger that you have forgotten the nature of your own people."

For the second time recently, the first on Columbine, Gearagh had been guilty of poor misjudgement, and had been quite clearly put in his place. "Obviously you are correct," he said "working with KF is important but not if they are a restriction. Perhaps you will work inside for me until they recognise I'm right?" he asked bluntly.

"How can I do that?" she answered "I don't know you're right."

Staring at her, he realised he'd assumed she would fall in with him and had not put enough effort in preparing the ground before putting her on the spot. "You will think about it?"

"I have been thinking about it ever since you left," she answered quickly "I accept KF has fossilised, and there is time for a change. But so drastic a change? Having said that the Exec meets tonight to discuss amongst others, the Food Exchange and a report from our agent Liandro who was posted to Kamdren. Perhaps," she paused in reflection "events are going to take over."

Gearagh felt hapless; had he resigned too quickly, had he misjudged the situation here on Kirramura so much that he was not now any use to the very cause he hoped to espouse? He remembered back to tactical talks he had given, and felt ashamed at his own ineptitude. But he knew he was inside forces beyond his control. Was he being crazy? It was probably not a question his mind alone could answer.

When Paddi turned up to the Exec meeting she felt great trepidation; she knew too little and too much. Was Gearagh a problem for KF security? Probably not, they were famed for security, and it was a deserved reputation - even amongst fossils, she laughed to herself. The preliminaries over, the first main item was the report from Liandro on Kamdren. The report began "Having been sent to Kamdren by the Federation to ensure their interests, I found myself in the middle of a political situation that totally surprised me, and, by all accounts, will surprise KF." The report continued to recount what happened to the Angellaran delegation, the manipulation of the Dreggies' seeds, and the terrific potential for Federation impact. His report concluded "I have been accepted here by the Kamdren people on the basis that I add credibility to the Angellaran agents, and that I also have good links with KF. But their feelings are that the KF are out of touch, and that they are so preoccupied with their near neighbours that they have lost the wider DeepFed perspective. This they confirmed when they met delegate Gearagh at the Columbine conference."

When they all had had time to study the rest of the report and deliberate, Padrasi, chairing the Exec, tentatively suggested "This report does give some level of acceptability to Gearagh's plan for action."

"Undoubtedly," said Okifa "but I still feel strongly that we need more information. What factors have led to the situation on Kamdren? Do they intend taking up a revolutionary position? Or are they going to maintain their favoured position just for the Kamdrens?"

"Gearagh would say 'just like we have'," she ventured, then she held up her hand "Not my view," she added smiling but she felt a little curious about Okifa, very conservative - too much?

"The report, and the situation on Kamdren, makes the next item a bit interesting," said Cahvale. "In the first report we are told that comrades control the seed distribution vital to Federation food, and in the next item we have the destruction of the Food Exchange. What connections do we know of?"

She looked around, and found no responses. She then ventured "Gearagh has not completely flipped and totalled the Food Exchange?"

They all laughed, a comrade with Gearagh's discipline would not be so foolhardy no matter what temporary aberration he was going through. "That begs the point," said Padrasi deliberately "Kamdren is the first situation where there is potential for attack, and they see KF as a spent force."

Okifa responded strongly "We don't need to prove ourselves to DeepFed novices." Murmurs of approval met the comment, and again a bell rang in Paddi's head - too neat, almost manipulative? Gradually the meeting reached a tentative impasse. They would contact Kamdren, express solidarity and ask for a suggested course of action. Recognising how weak this was Padrasi was more concerned about Okifa so she didn't attempt to steer the Exec as yet. Okifa had always been a strong traditionalist but he had earned his spurs. She had read about the time when many years ago - she was still a teenager, there had been a difficult split in KF. Following a general lull in relations with Angellara and the Federation, suddenly Dreggies were sent in at certain key mining areas under the pretext that the recent trade union action had broken Federation law. In KF they obviously recognised that the Federation had decided that KF were weak, that the Kirramuran people would not respond to a limited incursion. And they were right. As a result the mining had increased, the quota had been raised, with little Kirram response.

In fact the response was even more positive for the Federation. Sioda, a new recruit to the Exec, had been arguing for an armed response, and the Exec had forcefully turned him down judging the conditions not right. Immediately Sioda went round calling on KF contacts to take up arms under a separate organisation. Becoming a loose cannon, he began a campaign of violence that had not recently been thought of. Gathering around him all the other loose cannons who would destroy anything in the name of revolution, they targeted military, finance, infrastructure, and even had a go at the Federation on Angellara. This was a problem for two reasons. Firstly the Federation would not put up with this and they would start to increase force on Kirramura, and since the people were not ready they would blame the KF for the incursions on personal liberty. But secondly there were so many accidents. Because of the inexperience of these mavericks bombs blew up the army but worse the bombs began to blow up Kirrams on a regular basis. Murmurings were growing and the only people gaining were the Federation.

So Okifa took out Sioda and the two senior comrades who had left the KF ranks with him in one neat precise operation. No warning, no staggered attacks, the whole of the splintered army staff taken out with one well-timed device. KF announced that they had planted the device and that it was a warning to splinter groups not to sully the reputation of an organisation whose sole target was the Federation and who did not carry out attacks on Kirramurans however accidental. The renegades were left without leadership, and also a clear message to the Kirram people that this latest outburst of violence was not to be supported, and it soon disappeared. The operation was solely down to Okifa and that had given him a reputation within KF ever since.

Paddi felt awkward about doubting someone who was so respected but she had to; she called Gearagh and got him to meet her outside the meeting afterwards. Keeping Okifa talking was no problem, he was easy prey for being asked advice. When Okifa left Paddi motioned to Gearagh to follow her whilst she followed her prey. After a suitable time Gearagh came up to her and asked what she wanted. She told him to follow Okifa. Gearagh looked at her in astonishment but did as he was told. If she was right Okifa would have a contact, he couldn't keep communication devices at home; KF did not allow it - too much of a security risk. The report on Kamdren would be important to the Federation especially as they were being duped. Also the report might implicate someone important in the Federation as KF, and if Okifa got that information out that would be disastrous. Only two members of the Exec ever knew the names of operatives on Angellara, and the two that happened to know of Armeagh were Paddi and Gearagh; fortunately she hadn't changed that since he left. They kept walking for a long while. Paddi would follow one stretch and as Okifa changed direction Gearagh would come in and follow at a distance. It usually worked. Okifa was taking in a park, or what passed for a park here in the city. A good place for a contact, she thought, and looking around a nice night for a stroll as well after a long meeting, something has to be done to allow sleep after arduous and often argumentative agendas.

As they rounded the next corner there was a man waiting; Paddi's heart sank, she was still hoping she was wrong. Okifa went up to the man and they began talking. Sneaking up within earshot Paddi heard an introduction which gradually turned to the Food Exchange. She feared the worst. Then the stranger mentioned Gearagh's name, the Federation were worried about him were they? And finally when Okifa mentioned Liandro's name Paddi was sure. She took out her gun and fired one shot into the back of the stranger, and then making herself known to Okifa she moved out from behind her secreteing bush. Gesturing Okifa away from the stranger towards where she knew Gearagh was hiding, she went over to the stranger and fired a second time into his skull. No way back now, she thought as she checked the pulse. At all times she kept her eye on Okifa but she didn't expect him to make a move yet - not while she was on edge, adrenalin-tuned; Okifa would know her reactions were still sharp, he would try to wait her out and then take his opportunity.

"We'll continue walking through the park," she said as much for Gearagh's ears as Okifa's. He moved forward and as he moved past her she pushed him to the ground and removed his weapon. After they had moved a safe distance she simply asked "Why?"

"I have spent years in KF, and the more the years pass the more futile the struggle seems," he blurted out quite willingly. "About three years ago I was at home celebrating with my wife, Caralie, and friends of the family, and I got drunk. I had known this friend nearly twenty-five years and we had done so many things together. Anyway in a drunken stupor I stupidly told him of my disillusions about armed struggle. I must have said too much because a short while later I was visited by Federation agents. From information that Jimro had given them, they had followed me and were convinced that I was involved with KF. They threatened me, I should work for them or they would kill Caralie. I agreed to do this especially as I didn't care any more, I thought that I could stop some of the violence by telling them of selective events."

"Yes but you weren't selective, tonight. How many people on Kamdren would have died if your message had got through?" she asked him bitterly.

"It's just hard to draw the line," he said forlornly. "Are you going to kill me now?"

"Tell me why I shouldn't," she snapped at him.

"No reason, Caralie and I can't be happy now," he answered dejectedly. Paddi then took aim.

"Wait," shouted Gearagh, he rushed out from where he'd been hiding "we can use him - just one time." "If he passes on one message at worst it will be a source of confusion ..... before he dies," snarled Gearagh at Okifa, demonstrating the stock-in-trade attitude towards informers. "Get him to say that KF are starting a campaign of disruption of metracite quotas in line with the request from the Columbine conference," suggested Gearagh.

"But that might be the truth," said Paddi, puzzled.

"Well then a bombing campaign," his suggestions continued "on Angellara following the model we set at the Food Exchange; that would frighten them."

"No we cannot pre-empt decisions taken by KF," she told him emphatically. Agreeing reluctantly both turned towards Okifa, Paddi fired at his skull and Gearagh through his heart. Checking his pulse they left. It was close to midnight when Paddi reached home but she knew that the Exec had to be recalled. By 1.00 am they had all met - except Gearagh, of course.

She started the meeting bluntly "I was forced tonight to shoot Okifa as an Angellaran agent," and, as the shocked silence gave way to enquiry,she continued to explain her suspicions and what had happened following their meeting that night. "If that news was not enough we need to decide how to respond this very night. Firstly the Angellarans will now be suspicious because they have not received a report. Secondly we need to review our strategy and recent policy decisions, and reevaluate whether Okifa's treachery has affected policy. I mentioned his manipulative conservatism, has that unduly affected our decisions?"

Cahvale began slowly "I have always listened closely to Okifa. Ever since I became a member of the Exec he has befriended me, I always remembered his work on Sioda."

"As do we all," said Paddi supportively "we cannot blame ourselves for listening to him, or for giving him support, he had earned the right to be here perhaps more than any of us - at least then!!" "I must contact our representatives on Angellara, I have 4 comrades who I shared with Okifa," remembered Cahvale "anyone else?" He looked around but no-one else motioned.

"Okifa was particularly against supporting Gearagh following the Columbine conference, and he was very chauvinistic towards the DeepFed novices of Kamdren," continued Paddi tentatively "I feel we should consider those two items again, were we unduly influenced? Was Okifa's negativity part of his reaction to violence? Or was it part of a strategy on the part of the Angellarans to divert us from good targets?"

"It's a shame Gearagh can't still be with us," announced Cahvale "he could perhaps talk more of the situation, both of the conference and his knowledge of Kamdren."

Paddi looked hopeful, and as she glanced round the table she felt there was a warming to Gearagh. Would they welcome him back? She asked to herself. No she asked it out loud. "It is no secret we were personal friends, I am sure we will cross paths at some time, should I invite him back onto the Exec?"

"That's a bit hasty," mentioned Cilave "but his knowledge would be useful now - at this instant."

"There is no point discussing this now, he can't be here," said Cahvale finally. "But he can be," said Paddi "I could arrange for him to be here shortly." First there was anger, she had stretched their code to the limit still associating with him so soon after his resignation. But their immediate anger passed to common sense as they remembered that the reason his name was suggested in the first place was his knowledge. At their instruction Paddi duly contacted him.

Within 15 minutes he was there, having been warned not to mention his involvement with the incident with Okifa. Because of the early hours greetings were dispensed with, and they listened to Gearagh's position after they had given him a report on certain relevant decisions.

"On Kamdren there is no doubt an excellent situation for activity against the Federation," began Gearagh analytically. "Having recently been on Angellara I have been made aware of Federation ignorance about the situation on Kamdren. Also because of the importance of Kamdren to the whole of their food cycle, it is clear that Kamdren could drastically damage the Angellarans. If we were to strike at them through metracite then fuel and food will be totally hit. If that happens then these caring liberals who ravage our countryside with their touristic ignorance will be hard hit, and might recognise that liberalism is a privilege and that labour is a prerequisite for control. They might even start supporting their depleted labour organisations."

"What you're suggesting is that we strike at the metracite mines irrespective of what happens on Kamdren," said Cahvale hesitantly.

"That's it precisely," said Gearagh "if we hit the mines then their metracite will be depleted especially as they are having so many problems due to our comrades out on Aldabarna. They will have no fuel or food for their Dreggies and for their fatcat existence on Angellara."

The discussion was now wide open and Gearagh was asked not to participate as he had no credentials. For more than an hour the ideas were tossed back and forth while Gearagh listened - occasionally he was asked for information but no other contributions. Whilst watching the verbal tennis he became more and more impressed with his erstwhile comrades. Having been so immersed in his own guilt about inactivity he had forgotten why he had been in KF all his life and why he had fought so hard to become its secretary. Here was an organisation of substance, of power; here was no idle discussion of political niceties, this was a discussion of possibly Federation proportions and yet the logic and rationale was presented at the same level as the normal business routine. But he knew a decision meant action. If these people decide it could be glorious or totally catastrophic. Why was he so convinced that now was the right time? There seemed so little evidence.

After two hours they were at an impasse. Paddi was totally in favour of Gearagh's approach, Cahvale against but not strongly, and Cilave was undecided.

"Can I put a question?" asked Gearagh properly, and at the required nods he asked "What harm can this really do? Over the last twenty-five years we have consolidated our position. Although the people will still support us that support must definitely have been tainted by some of the crumbs offered by the Federation. By starting a campaign the people will realise that the struggle hasn't died despite some of the comments heard in the vidcafes and Academy lodgings. We will wake them up. Suppose it goes nowhere at least we will have woken them up. There will be no justified insults from DeepFed that Kirramura has died and gone to vid-heaven. At the worst we will make the Federation uncomfortable, and divert resources to Kirramura their primary metracite store and alleviate the suffering on Aldabarna and perhaps elsewhere. We have a duty to make the bastards suffer for their comfort."

This question? swayed the issue. Within half an hour Cilave was completely convinced and although Cahvale had his doubts he accepted they were mainly founded on traditional caution, and not on the logic of the situation as a whole. The strategy discussed, the tactics would wait for a more decent and a less exhausted hour. Finally Paddi asked if there were any other consequences to Okifa's betrayal, and with no replies they retired.

At the same time an apparent glow hit the mines of Kirramura as the wind started to blow away the cobwebs of the ageing Federation. How would this glow react?



For once the Council was anticipated. Throughout the week the people were asking whether it was the time all of Kamdren had been waiting for. Representatives had had a rough old time, at every opportunity they were pigeonholed to hear one viewpoint or another, but it was all a matter of degree not tactic.

"Reports are coming in from all over DeepFed and even Kirramura that the Federation is beginning to shake," announced Hengaree, given the privilege of being the first speaker at Council. "We will hear from delegates from Aldabarna on the state of the war, and an interesting turn of events with the Dreggie fleet. We will hear from Liandro about the KF on Kirramura, and after that we will decide what to do. I ask the Council to bear this in mind. We have been critical of organisations like KF for resting on their laurels but we on Kamdren have been extremely fortunate. Here we have a Council, a peoples' Council, we must use it for the people. But we must not be chauvinist. It is not the people of Kamdren we are solely concerned about, nor just the people of Deepfed nor even just the people of InnerFed like Kirramura and Carpacia but also the people of Angellara," he paused while they groaned "I know we think of them all as fatcats but they are only the same people as you and me. And they are not all fatcats, would we be any different if we were allowed to taste the occasional cream whilst the armies of the fatcats raped and pillaged? We would like to say not, but history has played stranger tricks. Comrades we must decide, we must act not for ourselves but make a decisive blow against the Federation for all humankind."

I wonder why she was elected, thought Herem sarcastically, whilst tumultuous applause rang around the chamber. Sitting next to Hengaree his nervousness was apparent, he kept trying to stand but Hengaree forced him to sit down. "Let them cheer, it's part of the process; it wouldn't have mattered what I said they wanted to shout, they wanted to show solidarity and commitment, please allow that expression. No doubts must creep in today, and we need the Council to be fully aware of what the people want and how deep that feeling is."

Eventually the noise subsided, and the chair welcomed the delegates from the Aldabarnan Peace Group, Cartagio and Hermetio. As they stood up the chamber broke out into applause again, they were welcomed as heroes. The noise again died down, and Hermetio started nervously. "On behalf of our Peace Group I would like to thank you for this opportunity to report," he coughed trying to clear his throat, "Sorry I am not used to this." Smiling awkwardly, he felt Kamdren warm to his undisguised innocence.

"We both feel guilty at your welcome," he looked at Cartie who nodded and smiled comfortingly "we don't deserve your applause, we are lucky to be still allowed the freedom to move off-planet, those who are in the thick of the struggle are not. On Aldabarna we are not the sufferers, it is the people of the south the Carastrians, Andustans, Bandarans and now some of the Arvenis who are, they are dying under the hands of the Federation. It is they, you should cheer, but," he held up his hand as they started to cheer "cheering is not appropriate to people who are dying in their struggle for equality and justice so I ask you to stand in quiet homage." He was worried, this was the first time he had spoken on such an important occasion and he was asking for them to stand quietly - even though he had been advised to. He expected fidgeting and the occasional whisper; none came, they stood respectfully.

After waiting a while longer he was about to begin when Cartie tugged and gestured for him to wait. And then "Thank you for your respect it was warmly felt. I am here to report to you about the struggle on Aldabarna, most of this is second-hand but we decided on the contents before departure. Using the pretext of trade union problems at the mines and some manipulated religious questions the Federation has recently increased exploitation of our mines but Aldabarna has resisted. Claiming we don't meet quotas, their demands are not practical and cause damage to the veins."

He paused then continued "When the dreggies arrived they came in very heavy-handed, demonstrating trade unionists were killed on the lines. Although there was an outcry this wasn't what really hurt them; it was when their own turned on them. Out in the provinces they tried to exploit the mines, and the Dreggies said no, they would not resort to tactics used by others. There are now bands of Federation soldiers, together with Carastrians, Andustans, Bandarans, and Arvenis wandering over Aldabarna taking on the faithful Dreggies, and causing more and more disruption. The Federation have sent in more troops but it is only intensifying the combat because the more troops they send the more troops join our side. However there is a very dire consequence of this increased conflict, the casualties are becoming extremely high as the level of technology escalates."

"But," he paused significantly "a strange thing has happened to their fleet. Ships, that have been recently overhauled and where new metracite inserted into their isodrives, have been exploding. Apparently the metracite they are mining does not have the same properties, and this causes the explosions. Cartagio has studied this more, let her explain."

The applause for his seating, and her rising, gradually subsided. She began "Recently we were addressed by an ex-Dreggie Aleco. Apologetically he described how in one of the provinces, Carenso, he had been in control of a mine. Initially he had extracted the metracite through the local miners, and then gradually as the Federation increased the quotas the miners started to refuse. He was told that it couldn't be mined. At that time his training was still to the forefront but even his inculcated heavy-handed violence wouldn't budge them. Trying to extract the ore himself he found that some was easily extracted and others it was impossible, by traditional mining techniques, to remove. It was as if the metracite was saying that's enough and no more."

She paused "It does sound strange but it is the only way to describe it, the metracite seemed to have a power of its own. You don't have metracite veins here on Kamdren but I can assure you this is no idle quasi-religious personification - why would miners accept mysticism ??" She left the question unanswered.

"The struggle soon started to escalate as more Dreggies arrived," she continued "Round the terminals we began to notice a series of explosions. Some hoped it was the ships and that the bombers were victorious but no-one could trace the source, no-one claimed responsibility for the attacks. After a while strange tales began to emerge from the ground staff. They were claiming that the metracite was faulty. Since metracite was an ore, a metal, how could it be faulty? Whatever, their machines were not functioning. The ships were arriving here and taking on the new metracite and exploding as soon as they tried to use the isodrive. This meant that the Dreggies were trapped on Aldabarna, and as there was also this factor of the changing allegiance that Hermetio discussed, the Dreggies were becoming totally demoralised. Soon the Federation were having to tell their ships that they should stock up with extra metracite as the ore on Aldabarna was unstable."

She concluded on this point. "Now the Federation are in deep trouble on Aldabarna. The balance of power continually shifts to our side, so the Federation have to send in more troops using ships with heavier loads of metracite. Very costly. and why? There is no benefit to them because there is no useful metracite to be mined but Aldabarna has moved beyond a mining problem. It has become a cause celebre, a battle that the Federation has to win to maintain its credibility; but because of the factors I have mentioned it can't."

She paused for effect allowing the silence to reinforce the import of her conclusion. "Now we want to discuss your target, the food, so I pass you back to the farmer."

Hermetio stood up "It was only recently that I really understood Kamdren's role in our food economy. As a farmer we had simply bought the seeds from our local exchange, however this became more and more a problem as the war dragged on. These seed supplies were being commandeered by the Dreggies because apparently their seeds were producing very little crops, not enough to feed an army. As they commandeered the seeds this meant that the Aldabarnans had less and less food, and what we grew was being sent to the troops. Even in the north, with their patriotic chauvinism there was great resentment. We have since heard that this was a consequence of your Council's actions, and I applaud that." He stood there and first applauded the Council, and then turned to demonstrably applaud the visitors' gallery, the people.

"We ask for your help in two ways. Continue with this tactic of destroying the army food but please allow the people some seeds to grow in the provinces where the Dreggies have no control. And secondly with Angellara itself now being squeezed by the Kirramuran mines, can you not widen your net and start to affect the metropole itself?"

"I take your continued support back to the comrades in struggle on Aldabarna, and we thank you wholeheartedly."

Both Hermetio and Cartagio stood up and applauded, and soon the whole room was alive with cheering and shouting. They looked towards the chair who shrugged and smiled, it was a time of moment.

After a while the chair stood up and asked for quiet as they had another speaker before the debate in Council was fully opened. Although they quietened Hengaree could feel that courtesy was acting as a restraint. The chair stood and introduced Liandro as the representative from KF; everyone clapped but compared to the prior euphoria it was almost insulting.

"I thank you for the cordial greeting," she began, careful to hide the irony except from those who knew her well. "I bring you a report from the KF Exec as to what has been happening on Kirramura, and its effect on Angellara. We also bring a proposal from our Executive which we hope Kamdren will support."

At this she felt she could cut the atmosphere with a knife, it was her intention to build the resentment. She paused noting the fidgeting amongst the Council as well as the gallery. Continuing regardless, she felt sure she would swing it. "We, being KF Exec, begin by analysing our recent contribution to the struggle. Following the Columbine conference where our representative, Gearagh, blissfully exhibited our ignorance of the situation in DeepFed, our Exec has had a complete shake-up. We have recognised that we had become decadent allowing complicity to rule the day. Let us elaborate. Firstly our intelligence was blatantly weak, we had not spent sufficient time examining what our comrades here on Kamdren and elsewhere in Deepfed were doing. Secondly we on the Exec had allowed our historic pride to turn into arrogance and cloud our judgement, and thirdly our people had also got slack, they failed to recognise to what extent they were being bought off by their Angellaran neighbours. Before we start any discussion of our current action we want the people of Kamdren to know our past mistakes, and we also want to publicly thank their delegate, Hengaree, for her tactful but firm reminder of correct thinking.

"KF are still proud of their history but they want the people of Kamdren to know we earned our reputation. By accepting our mistakes and asking the people of Kamdren to accept this recognition, we hope in some way to redress our recent failure."

She then paused for a reaction, she was in trouble if there wasn't one. General shuffling and gentle whispering, the Exec had certainly made them think. Then to her surprise Hengaree came over to her and clasped his arms around her in a meaningful hug. Stepping back, she stood there clapping. The audience followed suit as one group then another stood to applaud. Whilst pleased that the gambit had worked she also felt a real admiration for a peoples' knowledge, the Exec approach had relied on it.

After a while she continued gracefully "Let's be clear comrades, this is a KF statement, and KF have always been the representation of struggle on Kirramura. And I say clearly to you that struggle is alive and kicking, and is in the process of giving the Federation the biggest boot it has ever experienced up its well-upholstered backside." Again they all cheered, the emotional appeal suiting the moment and atmosphere.

"Enough of the rhetoric," she held up her hand denoting gravity "I came here to report. Our ill-discipline actually spurred us into action. Over the last twenty-five years our strategy had been to consolidate, taking the form of infiltration into the echelons of Federation power - as exhibited by my presence on Kamdren. At the same time we asked all our Kirramuran comrades not to take part in certain types of action unless cleared by the Exec - to relieve the Angellaran pressure on our people. What we were left with on Kirramura was a small but significant group of activists who had become stifled and were ready to explode into action.

"At the same time the surrounding conditions in the community were far from supportive for a campaign of violence and action. So we began by education; we appealed to the history of Kirramura and to ask them to compare what was happening on Aldabarna with what their forefathers had experienced at the hands of the Federation. The people began to see their apathy. Having planted the seed through education once our campaign got started more and more of Kirramura flocked to its aid.

"But what was the campaign?" she asked, and smiled as the audience murmured metracite "That's right, metracite; it is our only weapon. All Kirrams know the Federation only tolerates their existence whilst they continue to be the miners of their fuel. When the people heard of the Federation's attitude on Aldabarna towards the miners they decided to support their fellow workers. If the Federation needed a quota then Kirramura would give its own. And they did. Virtually on mass they reduced their quotas, and the mineowners, those Kirrams most in the pockets of Angellaran avarice, were forced to negotiate increased prices - as the yield was lower and the miners were still demanding their wages. The mineowners feared the Federation would send in the dreggies - and they still might, but the Federation agreed the higher prices; they must really be feeling the pinch from the struggle on Aldabarna. At the moment KF are allowing that state of affairs to continue. There are calls to stop all production but we are not going to play all our cards at once. But let us be wary and vigilant, the Federation must be building their forces; their intelligence was as bad as ours and they were caught napping but they won't stand still.

"Our current major strategy has been to use our agents on Angellara itself, the consolidation here paid off. To describe these comrades as eager for action was an understatement. To lie in the bed with the enemy for up to twenty-five years, to work in their offices and to appear to accept their standards and their corrupt practices ate at the very souls of our people; illness and depression were ripe amongst the most spirited. Their day had come.

"For years they had maintained their subterfuge whilst mental revolutions played out in their minds, giving them at least some strength, some straw to clutch. Whatever schemes they had envisaged they were asked to hatch, however dangerous whether cover was blown or not. High profile action on Angellara was the keynote of the plan and that is what our soldiers produced.

"Following the destruction of the Food Exchange - an independent action, many groups attacked seed stores but soon the Federation defended these. Finance is always key to these people, and with finance avarice soon follows. Other groups attempted to destabilise the currencies by destroying the assets that formed the basis, that rarest of metracite stones, diagems. Although this had little success it struck fear in the heart of the fatcats and confidence in their currency fell. This euphemism meant that some of the more powerful fatcats began cashing in their assets for as many of the diagems as they could, as credit, ie money that does not represent a tangible asset, is the cornerstone of the Federation economy Angellara began to feel the strain.

"In fact Angellara is reeling. They are involved in a war on Aldabarna that they cannot win, their space fleet, their vehicles of trade as well as the tanks of their army, are being decimated by the work on Aldabarna, and to some extent by the efforts of the Kirramuran people. Federation economy is being stretched as the fatcats fight amongst themselves to divide the spoils.

"But this turmoil is very temporary, the Federation is not stupid and it has learnt how to defend itself. At the moment the struggle is victorious because we have made a few glamorous victories and because people have been able to break out of chains of discipline - self-imposed or not. It cannot last; the fatcats will restrain each other, the diagems will be regained by fair means or foul, the present euphoria will lead to class errors and their secret police will gradually start to eliminate all our agents and their associates. So apart from a temporary but pleasant illusion of the emergence of justice and equality, we will be back under the yoke and we will have lost any gains made through consolidation.

"We, in KF, don't object to that, we accepted the probable limitations of our action but we had to try to wake up the archetypal justice that is the essence of Kirramura and her people. However we ask that we all now pull out the stops, and this is where we ask for your support. The one class of people who have not supported the struggle has been the class on Angellara. And why? Because they remain well-fed and they still have their pleasant dwellings in vid-indoctrinated ignorance. These people must be made aware of their role in DeepFed, InnerFed and their responsibility for death and destruction throughout the history of the Federation. They must be made to stop expressing their guilt through a drug-induced hedonism that has been willingly allowed to bury their consciences for generations. At the moment their fuel is being hit and this causes problems but they are not starving. Make them starve, see if they have an ounce of humanity left and let's see if they will fight back. We ask you of Kamdren to find some way of affecting the food of the people of Angellara in the same way as your tactics supported the people of Aldabarna. And if you can we on Kirramura will completely end the quotas, and we will see how they react to being squeezed."

At this Liandro finished her report and sat down exhausted but content, she had done what she came to do, to present the final request in a way that had a chance of being accepted.

Then began the actual Council meeting. After thanking the speakers for their reports the chair commenced "Our agenda was quite clear, we would hear our off-world comrades and then we would discuss the main item - Kamdren's Response to Federation Requests for More Seed Cultures. We received this apparently innocuous request soon after our strategy began to impact on the Aldabarnan Dreggies. There does not appear to be a serious imperative in the communication which allowed us to delay a reply diplomatically - but not for much longer. As has been clear today the people of Kamdren want a significant response to say the least, and we of the Council must now decide how to meet their wishes. But although we must have all thought about this, we must recognise that any confrontational response could bring the whole might of the Federation onto Kamdren, and Kamdren could become the war-devestated rock that Aldabarna is changing to."

She began her official role "I note three people have motioned to speak." Writing down the names of the other two she asked Pimmarra to speak first.

"I represent the Kandro district," announced Pimmarra as if they didn't know "and I have been asked to make this position clear by the people of my district. We do not want to be considered as a group of fortunate chauvinists who only consider the interests of Kandro and Kamdren. No we feel devastated to hear of comrades on Aldabarna, Columbine, Kirramura or even those occasionals on Angellara who suffer at the hands of the Federation. We are all comrades in the same struggle against a Federation who treat people as machines to produce their profit and wealth. Confront the enemy," she shouted with full rabble-rousing art "force their slaves on Angellara to be starved into conscience, starve the Dreggies so they cannot fight. If they are forced to garrison Kamdren to ensure their food, we in Kandro will make their stay painful; they will have to waste resources and soldiers dealing with the might of Kandro spirit. In the end if we lose, Kamdren's veiled non-secret of candarsyl control will be in the public domain, our people might be defeated but our resistance will have been strong, and the Federation will be considerably weakened. Take them on is the message of Kandro." Completed, she sat down.

"We thank the representative from Kandro for sparking off the debate in her own inimitable style," began the chair, to a few chuckles from the older members of Council "I am sure that Pimmarra not only speaks for Kandro but also for our many visitors today, and for those we couldn't accommodate left outside. I would like it understood that Council recognises that the people of Kamdren are willing to confront the might of the Federation. But there is no point hurling feathers at the hawks of Hagwan, feathers will not save the livestock. A tactical proposal is now in order."

Turning to Hengaree the chair motioned to her to take the floor, and Hengaree began "It is time that all people stand up to the Federation, and we must now follow Aldabarna's example. Perhaps not all they are doing has been described tonight," he said hesitantly "but they have stood up to the enemy, and who are benefitting in their struggle? The Aldabarnans, no! We are, and with respect Kirramura." he looked tentatively towards Liandro who concurred "The Federation are so busy with them that we are able to enjoy a more pleasant life. We must not fall into the vid-induced drug-manipulated haze characteristic of the class on Angellara - albeit they have had many more years of subtle indoctrination. We must not put our bellies before our hearts, we must not ignore the logic of our opportunity and hide behind words of fear and insecurity. We must confront. I say turn round and refuse their request for more seed cultures, use what we have to support our comrades on Aldabarna and other planets forced into hunger by QAT manipulations and debt assassinations."

"A very clear proposal, Hengaree, thank you," said the chair "Others wish to speak?" Scribbling away she introduced Varnia from Kidendo province.

Standing, Varnia thanked the chair "I don't believe the situation calls for direct confrontation because the Federation enjoys force, it is their stock-in-trade. Over the centuries the Federation has developed a style, a culture of diplomacy, a bureaucratic anonymity to make the letters of a keyboard far more deadly than a single cannon. Grey names behind greyer buildings seclude themselves in electronic currents inside metracite memory delivering their deadly doses. Confronting them will stretch their resources but these resources will soon be replaced by further electronic exploitation yielding hunger and pain.

"It would now be glamorous to take on the hawks but our feathers will soon be blown away. And we will achieve only a temporary but short extension of the glamorous euphoria now experienced by our Kirramuran comrades. It is time to be tactical but drastic, use the knowledge of our experts to fight their technical torturers. What do we know? Seeds. So let's give them seeds. But not the seeds that they want. Where are they going to grow the seeds they ask for? Angellara. Putting the planet on a war footing they will conscript their people to grow the food for themselves and the Dreggies in action. But these seeds should contain Indriasyl."

Hearing the gallery gasp took her back in Kamdren history to when it had been introduced. Kamdren had gone through a stage of conflicting tribes seeking possession of territories - not dissimilar to any other people's history. They'd grown out of it, have Angellara? At this time the scientists had just begun to recognise the vitality of the candarsyl, and its essence being the life of Kamdren. But one group of these supposedly intelligent people went a step further. Rather than a simple recognition of the importance of candarsyl they wanted to tamper with it, why? Anyway they discovered indriasyl, the anti-vitality, if you like. When mixed with the candarsyl it produced a reaction which sucked the nutrients from the Kamdren soil. Feeding on these nutrients a combined genus of candarsyl and indriasyl spread and devastated vast areas of growing land that then became lifeless. The genus was only stopped by the sea but vast territories were laid waste for centuries before Kamdren risked their rebirth.

"Yes, this is drastic, and the people of Angellara will suffer," she continued almost heartlessly "as their fields are laid waste and their livestock feeds will disappear, but as a result we will strangle the Federation at source."

"Just one final comment," concluded Varnia assuredly "we have rejected the use of indriasyl before mainly because of the devastation it would cause throughout the Federation, instead of only targeting our enemy we would threaten all of our species. Previously we could never be sure where our seed cultures were to be grown but now I think we can. Knowing the avarice of the fatcats they will secure themselves first. With the situation being so volatile they will look to feed themselves and leave the rest of the Federation to search out for their own seeds, seeds the Federation knows don't exist because the Federation has always controlled the source. This strategy will be their downfall, let's use their greed, use our knowledge and provide a victory for our comrades on Aldabarna and elsewhere."

"Thank you Varnia, I think," said the chair hesitantly, deeply aware of the implications of Varnia's proposal "is Kamdren to be known as the people that devastated worlds far more than the Federation - if Varnia's evaluation of Angellaran response is not completely accurate? History can provide strange reputations. As a Council we must be very clear on this. Perhaps this will be addressed by the next speaker, Fardio from Kwandri province."

As the meeting went on speaker after speaker veered between Hengaree's confrontation and Varnia's devastation. History had inculcated an archetypal fear of indriasyl, it was in their genes. But so was survival, not only for themselves but also for the rest of the peoples of the Federation. In the end the Council set the following proclamation:-

"At 9.30 Ang time, Liandro will leave with the indriasyl seeds which will be delivered direct to Angellara. The next day ships will also leave for Aldabarna, Kirramura and other Federation planets, they will provide our comrades with candarsyl cultures. Militarily we will begin by sending a small force to Aldabarna, and at a suitable signal from Liandro depending on how successful the application of the indriasyl is, we will launch a fleet to attack the Federation on Aldabarna. For posterity we say that the introduction of indriasyl was not taken lightly, and we call upon the spirit of Kamdren and the spirit of Nature herself throughout the Federation to protect all peoples from possible error - a cataclysmic error."

END PROCLAMATION Council of Kamdren, chair Genchis presiding.



Armeagh called Liandro into her office, present were Huridio and also Kinangio from the Food Executive; Armeagh had summoned him earlier.

"Kinangio has presented here a report of grave concern to us all," began Armeagh sternly "he has described a situation where the seeds you brought back from Kamdren recently have been planted and not produced any yield."

Liandro tried to look puzzled. "Further to this there seems to be a phenomenon which I totally don't understand," continued Armeagh completely perplexed though secretly suspecting far more, so much more that she was having difficulty controlling her excitement, an exhilaration which would be totally out of place in her office and of her station. "It seems that not only are these seeds failing to produce any yield but they are also laying waste the fields that are being planted. Can you explain this?"

"No, Chief Executive Armeagh," answered Liandro courteously "How am I supposed to explain this? I was a delegate on Kamdren, and although I learnt much of seeds and cultures whilst there, it is not my field of expertise. You know that, you sent me there for security reasons."

"Yes I remember that clearly," said Armeagh "were there no matters of security interest on Kamdren?"

"No!" she answered emphatically "Obviously I had great concerns over the fire at the Federation offices. As is the characteristic of people in my profession I was immediately suspicious. But there was a party in full swing, and it was also clear that everyone was intoxicated. The delegation were pleased with the media event, the media were pleased with themselves, and the people from Kamdren seemed happy to join in with the delegation and the other Federation agents. In such circumstances it is not impossible that a fire could start by accident; remember Kamdren is a botanical paradise and they don't only grow seed cultures, they also have some very stimulating herbs they smoke."

"As I said I have no reason to report anything else," continued Liandro "As I reported to you on my return the only unusual circumstance on Kamdren is the level with which they accept the Federation, and although I investigated this as a possible front I found no evidence at all. I concluded then, and I still do now, that Kamdren is a good friend to Angellara."

"The reason I called you in," continued Armeagh "is to try to discover if there were any unusual circumstances surrounding this seed load you brought back. You see," she said, fixing a disconcerting stare on Liandro "there are certain facts I haven't fully explained. Not only are these seeds not producing yields but they are also denuding the land. This is extremely worrying." Armeagh looked at Huridio.

"Our soldiers on Aldabarna have been undergoing certain food problems," started Huridio as requested "the metracite quotas are not being fully met on Kirramura or Aldabarna so the Federation has been experiencing certain difficulties which are beginning to affect the financial markets; there has been a run on the diagems. In order to consolidate the Federation's position, and not to allow these temporary difficulties to persist we decided to concentrate food production here on Angellara. Speed being of the essence we have planted most of our available land with the seeds that you brought in from Kamdren. Are the problems we have had with the first crops going to continue with the others? Are we going to denude all our arable lands?" Liandro avoided the questions she hoped they were rhetorical.

"It seems our calling you to the office has been a total waste of time," continued Armeagh "have you any further advice to us?"

"Not really," answered Liandro, only to venture "have the scientists examined this?"

Armeagh looked to Kinangio. "The scientists have not come up with anything substantial," answered Kinangio "they have examined the land and it appears that they have had all the nutrients sucked out of them; I don't know how they can say that, the nutrients are an integral part of the land - proportions change but for all to disappear? Although the seeds themselves are undergoing analysis they appear similar to other seeds so an expert from one of the DeepFed stations has now been called in."

"Perhaps you should call scientists from Kamdren?" ventured Liandro.

"Definitely not," said Huridio "if they are at fault their scientists would only try to cover their deception."

"Tomorrow morning there is a full executive at which this situation is to be discussed," stated Armeagh importantly "at this meeting I will want full scientific reports as well as a full agricultural survey. I want it clearly established one way or another if the Off-World executive is to be held responsible."

At this they knew they were dismissed so they got up to leave. "Liandro," Armeagh called her back "I must leave for home now but there are one or two issues I need clarifying, will you accompany me so that I can do that?"

"But of course," smiled Liandro cooperatively and pleased to continue their conspiracy. After they had left the Off-World building and exited the translift - clear from possible casual surveillance, they began their excited, stifled conversation.

"They are reeling," said Armeagh, so excited she was almost screaming "and tomorrow's meeting will be the full realisation of their predicament. DeepFed's raw material pincer movement has completely caught the Federation on the hop, they were so cocksure of themselves and their ability to ride out the skirmishes with Kirramura and the war on Aldabarna that they have left the gate open for DeepFed; there are still some who are more concerned with hoarding the diagems than they are about the impending demise of their beloved Federation."

"Are you convinced that the Federation Executive will see it that way?" asked Liandro, lacking the totality of Armie's enthusiasm.

"Maybe, not at the moment," Armie said more cautiously "but given time the message will get home. A dictatorship cannot function without control of food and power, and now the Federation has completely lost both."

"How have they responded to Kirramura's shutdown of the mines?" Liandro was curious.

"They have sent some Dreggies over," said Armie "but they are so confident they believe that the owners on Kirramura will be able to persuade them to reach the quotas. These people are so arrogant, having to work with them day after day, listening to their disparaging remarks, destroys your insides. You want to turn round and scream at them, tell them how crass they are being but one word out of place and that is the end of your career."

"Honesty and integrity might be the motto for the Federation," agreed Liandro "but they are not the virtues of day-to-day practice. Armie, bite back your frustrated anger for a moment, what do you think tomorrow's meeting will decide?"

"I am not clear at all," Armie said "I wish I could be, we might be able to use it. They have a clear dilemma, food or fuel? Dreggies are stretched throughout the Federation, from a small group of agents on Kamdren to heavy garrisons on planets like Columbine, and then recently the all-out war on Aldabarna. Finding more fodder will be difficult. Sure they will recruit or conscript from Angellara but the new intake will not be experienced and becoming a combat-ready Dreggie takes time and conditioning; it is that time that we, in the Movement, have to use. Once they become functioning Dreggies, then Kirramura will be forced back into its more repressive history. It will not only become the Federation fuel supply but the Food Executive will temporarily turn it into their larder. Meanwhile the Federation are going to be in serious difficulty, and now we have to strike."

"You seem to be saying that eventually the Federation will sort themselves out," remarked Liandro despondently "and regain control of the situation."

"Maybe I've worked there for so long," continued Armie with equal despondency "but I don't see why not. Although Aldabarna is a powder keg and Kamdren is about to openly defy the Federation, they are only going to sway the balance in DeepFed. In InnerFed Kirramura are at present the only defiant ones so that once they are controlled there will be a massive clampdown, and that will be the end of a brief but glorious period in the history of resistance to the Federation."

"Have you given the KF Exec your analysis?"asked Liandro.

"Yes, I spoke to Gearagh recently." she replied simply.

"Don't give up!" said Liandro sharply "we must try to find a way of making things more difficult here on Angellara."

"Yes we need an all-out campaign here," agreed Armie perking up slightly "but we don't have sufficient people."

"No but you did use others at the Food Exchange," suggested Liandro helpfully.

"Yes we did," said Armie surprisingly unenthusiastic "but they are so ill-disciplined I am frightened to use them again."

"But what is ill-discipline in a situation like this where we temporarily, at least, have the Federation on their knees?"

"I suppose you're right but what is a plan when you use these people?" continued Armie with her doubts.

"I think you're wrong," said Liandro more forcefully "at a time like this they must be used, it would be a wasted opportunity to say the least. We should put it to the Exec to put into practice."

"Put what into practice?" asked Armie.

"A series of metracite bombs similar to the ones used at the Food Exchange only much larger placed all over Angellara, and once in place put the demands of the KF and all freedom-loving peoples to the Federation," proposed Liandro gaining the enthusiasm of a glimpse of freedom.

"That is drastic," said Armie "and so full of holes. When you give bombs of that sort of power to disciplined comrades you risk a great deal, but to these mavericks it could be disastrous."

"As disastrous as what you were saying before?" replied Liandro not letting go "as disastrous as a short space of glamour, then the return of repression with a firmer foothold, and the complete annihilation of the spirit that is alive on Kirramura and to some extent here on Angellara."

"I know" she said glumly "there is no choice, we must try to persuade the Exec."

From this conversation began the Exec's plan. Their own conservatism matched Armeagh's reservations and they initially said no; but they too were forced into the situation where it was the lesser of two evils either risking bombs with Angellara's loose cannons or accepting the inevitable return of the Angellarans to destroy the people of Kirramura and then spread their destruction to DeepFed. Centuries of anger and repression welled up in a decision that lacked sufficient forethought. Their strategy was that they would try to use the bombs as a bluff. Targeting the main financial centres on Angellara they would recruit bomb crews. Once set up they would set an ultimatum to the Federation. Meanwhile they would try to set up a meaningful dialogue with the Federation, perhaps they would give them sufficient reforms that they would not need to resort to this drastic step. Using metracite stockpiled for emergencies they transported sufficient quantities to the targeted centres - so long as they had a number of bombs in Lorteuds, any number of other cities would suffice. They then sent the following communique to the Federation Exec:-

"We in the Kirra Feira movement recognise that the Angellaran Federation is under severe pressure at the moment. We are prepared to consider the immediate provision of food and fuel for your decimated planet and its people under the following conditions:-

1) Cessation of hostilities on Aldabarna immediately.

2) Removal of security outposts from all Federation planets leaving the military hardware to enable the planets to secure themselves.

3) Import and Export of food, fuel and other produce to be agreed at a round table conference where trade is the only condition.

4) The Federation fleet is to be immediately disbanded, and the various ships to remain on the planets under the control of the governments there.

5) The Federation is to sign an agreement with DeepFed and Innerfed planets accepting planetary sovereignty and self-determination for these planets.

6) To support the terms of this agreement an independent United Planets Task Force is to be set up to ensure all planets abide by agreements reached at the Mindra conference. We propose a meeting on the planet Mindra with a view to discussing these terms our fervent hope is to reach a lasting peace in the galaxy.

A short reply was received from the Federation to say that they will meet with the KF Exec on Mindra - no publicity - as suggested to discuss the proposals put to them.



"We have to go to our deaths," said Gearagh with an impish grin "it is an historic inevitability."

"Don't be so melodramatic," laughed Padrasi "they might be arrogant but not that stupid."

With a quirky smile he gave her a glance of almost disbelief. "Their recent record is one of intelligent analysis and sensible foreplanning," he asked sarcastically.

"Don't answer, this is a pointless discussion. We asked them, we are here."

Cahvale stood and greeted the three from the Federation, and introduced "Three names you can now put faces to, Gearagh, Padrasi and myself Cahvale," he smiled.

One from the Federation stood forward "Armeagh, CEO Off-World Administration, Heranlla for security, and myself, Greansidor, General Secretary of the Federation Exec."

"Please sit down," said Cahvale "we are very pleased that you have agreed to come here to Mindra. We hope that this can be an historic meeting that starts the process of lasting peace in the Federation."

"On behalf of the Federation," said Greansidor with apparent warmth "I would like to echo that statement, we have had peace in the Federation for a long time and we would like to regain that peace at whatever cost."

Gearagh didn't like that tone, very defiant, very upright, very aggressive - definitely not the tone of a Federation representative here to discuss the proposals KF sent.

Ignoring the aggression Cahvale began the discussion "As we have come to discuss the proposals the KF sent perhaps we should start with that." All around the table agreed.

"Proposal 1," he read it out "Cessation of hostilities on Aldabarna 1) Cessation of hostilities on immediately."

Greansidor began "We would like to fully support this, we definitely immediately. want to see the end of fighting on Aldabarna as you would, therefore we would agree with the ending of hostilities on Aldabarna. But how can we discuss this here? The perpetrators of the hostilities are not present. Can I remind you that we sent a peace-keeping force to Aldabarna to control the outbreaks of religious violence and the violence of trade unionists and agitators on the planet? Your implication is that we are in some way hostile there. That is not the case,'

"Would you consider removing the peace-keeping force from Aldabarna?" asked Padrasi, ignoring the pointlessness of the official line.

"If the government of Aldabarna ask us to," he replied.

"But that government consists of a majority of Federation officials," said Gearagh becoming very frustrated.

"They are the officially elected government of Aldabarna, would you ask us to listen to any other body?" said Heranlla mischievously. "You are democrats aren't you? You do believe in elections in KF?" Disgusted, no-one deigned to answer that.

"Let us look at proposal 2, the removal of security outposts," continued Heranlla "I can produce official communiques from all the governments asking us to send peace-keeping forces or to provide outposts. Are you asking that minority groups such as KF be consulted rather than democratically-elected bodies?"

"All the import and export quotas are already agreed through QAT talks," said Armeagh feeling the tone and playing the role of supporting the Federation "that is exactly what you are asking for in proposal 3."

"To carry out proposal 4 would go against all these communiques," said Heranlla holding up the official documents.

"We accept sovereignty and self-determination as can be seen by our support of elected bodies," continued Greansidor "and our peace-keeping force acts as a United Planets Task Force as you propose. So in conclusion we feel that all the conditions of your proposal already exist, and therefore we find the reason for this meeting unclear. However we do very much welcome your offer of food."

Gearagh spluttered and began to get very angry. Paddi held back his arm to indicate quiet and Cahvale said simply "I do not understand your purpose here, surely the three of you have more important business to attend to in the time of crisis of your planet than coming here and presenting us with this line of official old rope. We want a lasting peace not a continuation of your hegemony which has left Kirramura with a history of repression violence and death throughout the time of the Federation. We ask that you talk meaningfully or let's call this to a close."

"We did come here to talk meaningfully," said Heranlla, and at that moment four Federation security officers came in through the door brandishing weapons. "Prison is where traitors like yourselves belong, a prison to await a public trial which will show the people of the Federation we mean business." And without any further discussion the three Kirramurans were taken aboard a Federation vessel waiting to be transported to Angellara.

On the way back Armeagh was petrified of the consequences but her KF orders were that if the Mindra conference were to end in violence then she was immediately to contact the bomb crews to ready their devices. On Kirramura Cilave now the senior member of the KF EXEC also had his orders, he would issue a previously-agreed ultimatum.

Hemginio had returned to the scene of his triumph, the Food exchange in Lorteuds. When the KF had contacted him he was still lying low following the Food isobomb, but with the easing security situation caused by the food scarcities he had recently been able to move around more freely. When contacted by KF, this time officially, he was elated, the more he thought about it the more he realised that he had been in at the start of the revolution, was he going to be in at the end? Or is that birth and death, he smirked to himself?

This time he had been asked to deal with the financial centre, but there was a noticeable difference to last time. No intricate planning, no care to ensure security; this made him feel good. It meant the Federation were on their last legs.

Strangely enough Saagarn had returned to Lorteuds as well, together they would strike, this time the final blow against the Federation; no plans no survival. It did not concern them greatly, their life was built on the hate and destruction of the Federation, a laudable if narrow raison d'etre, thought Saagarn.

Armeagh met with Greansidor and Heranlla to discuss the second KF communique:- "KF regrets the aggressive position taken by the Federation at Mindra but it reiterates its desire for a lasting peace. We still see the only way as being a conference to discuss the proposals we previously sent to you. As a sign of good faith we ask that you release our negotiators and return to the conference table on Mindra.

"Following your previous aggression we, in the KF, have been forced to escalate the conflict on Angellara. It is with deep regret that we have taken the action of planting metracite bombs in major cities on Angellara. We will expect to see a Federation ship leave from Mindra, and that from that ship Gearagh will send a coded message to us by 12.00 Ang time tomorrow. Or these bombs will be detonated.

"We, in the KF, pray that you reconsider your belligerent position and return meaningfully to the negotiating table on Mindra." Cilave of the KF Exec.

"It's almost laughable the extent that these people will go to," said Greansidor derisively "how can they expect us to fall for such a bluff?"

"Is there any doubt, Heranlla," asked Armeagh carefully "that the KF have not got the capability to create such a bombing campaign?"

"Our agent, Okifa, told us," replied Heranlla smugly "that the KF was in its death throes. Neither have they got the membership on Kirramura nor especially have they got sufficient agents here on Angellara, those that were here have had to go underground or return to Kirramura following the discovery of our agent. No, I feel confident that this is only a bluff, and I recommend, Greansidor, that we ignore the communique."

"Or even make an example of organisations making such threats by executing their leaders," gloated Greansidor cockily.

"Won't that make martyrs of them?" asked Armeagh, getting more deeply frustrated at the mindlessness of these idiots. What was she to do? She had to convince them to get to the Mindra table, if not, the devastation will occur. She knew, damn it, she knew! Oh God, they are so stupid! And arrogant! God, the arrogance of power eats away at judgement so totally they don't see the insanity setting in.

Driven by the urgency of winning this argument she continued "There are many indications to show the strength of the forces against us. Firstly there was the destruction of the Food Exchange."

"A lucky blow!" chipped in Heranlla "when security was caught off guard. We are now alerted."

"Then there is the food and land devastation," she persevered "are we sure that is simply a natural disaster?"

"You have read the science reports, Chief Executive Armeagh," Greansidor reminded her "Do you dispute them? Do you know more than you are saying?" he asked, doubts crossing his mind.

"I have read them," she answered "but reports have been wrong before, or they might have been tampered with."

"They are being double-checked," replied Greansidor simply.

"Let's look at the situation another way, then," she tried, with the growing realisation that nothing she was going to say would budge them - unless? "Do you believe that the KF Exec would have sent three of their members to a meeting on Mindra, knowing the dangers and the security risk they were putting themselves in if they didn't have some protection?"

"That makes a lot of sense, Armeagh," said Greansidor carefully, and Armeagh's eyes must have shown hope "except that we had had a tip-off that this was a hoax, a bluff. One of Heranlla's men, Surprio, has been working closely with the KF Exec, and he has reported to us that this whole scheme was a complete fabrication. These KF fools are so desperate for some power after all these years in isolation that they have invented a plan to shoot themselves into a position of prominence on Kirramura and in the Federation. Their tactics are simply a means of taking over the Federation for themselves - despite what they say in their fancy ideals, pretty words and socialist pretensions. No, we are safe in ignoring both communiques unless we can spring a further trap."

Armeagh was flabbergasted, and she was cornered. But she must win, she cannot allow these bombs to be exploded. God knows what damage these KF-inspired mavericks will do to the people of Angellara. She took the plunge, a last desperate fling. "That is a pack of lies. Whoever Surprio is, he is not close to the KF. And I know because I have been working with them ever since I joined the Federation. The bombing of the Food Exchange I set that up, and for a fact Surprio has not got access to the KF Exec or I would have known about it. When I first joined the service you would not promote me because of my uncle Gearagh. You were right. He is not my uncle except my spiritual uncle in the KF, all the times he came over it was a briefing. KF have got bombs planted and for the sake of the lives of all the people of Angellara please release the KF Exec and go to the negotiating table on Mindra, with or without me."

There was a long silence at this outburst while Heranlla and Greansidor digested this revelation. "Definitely without you after that," Greansidor said forthrightly "how can we trust a negotiator who will come out with such a load of rubbish just to win an argument? We have known you for years, we know you can't have worked for the KF - I remember there were some KF agents you captured."

"A put-up job," she whispered "to keep me in with the Federation"

"You're very glib with the answers," said Heranlla "you have been very thoroughly checked, as we all have. Your only failing was the connection with your uncle and those wayward meetings you attended during and shortly after the Academy. But it is often the case that our best people have explored all fields first. One thing does surprise me, however," he paused and looked at her intently "I had not taken you for such a coward, just the threat of a bomb however unlikely and you are reinventing history to prove your case."

"I agree with you Heranlla," said Greansidor "fear must have unhinged her. Call security."

He turned to her patronisingly "we cannot allow you to go home, you know too much but the rest homes for ex-Federation service people are excellent."

"You pompous prat." she screamed at him, as the security officers came through the door. "Your military blindness," she said to Heranlla "and your arrogant stupidity is going to destroy Angellara."

The guards came over to her, and one grabbed her by the neck injecting her with a calming drug. "Those mavericks will des............" her voice trailed off as the final chance for Angellara disappeared into the confines of insanity - or rather criminal injustice for the sane.

It had taken time but Saagarn and Hemginio had got access to a vid, they were watching ..... but not. At 1.00 there would be a message in the Federation newscast, a coded announcement by Chief Executive Armeagh then they would know whether to go or not. Mixed feelings, thought Hemginio, he'd already told Saagarn that he didn't totally trust the KF to negotiate a deal with the Federation. Too often these people have been in the Movement so long that they accept partial victories, he only wanted a system of equality and justice for all the peoples in the Federation - no half measures, no compromise. They had even considered taking part of the metracite for making a bomb of their own later. But there was no point, they would try their own attack later.

Excitement was growing, both were bouncing about, pacing, nerves on end but clearly happy. Their friends had never seen them like this especially over a vid. Laughter covered the nerves, a laughter of conspiracy. At 1.00 they turned to the Fednews demanding quiet, again causing surprise. First one flunky then another announced the latest successes of the Federation, how they were controlling the minor problems with food production, how the metracite quotas discussions on Kirramura had almost reached agreement, how the peace-keeping forces on Aldabarna were managing to regain law and order despite the efforts of the difficult Aldabarnans. And then it was the end. Hemginio sat back in silence. "No message," he said succinctly to Saagarn who simply nodded. They sat and waited, then Hemginio went upstairs to get the transmitter. Leaving their friends they walked to within range of their target and pressed.

In that same half hour all over Angellara bombs were exploding. "This is not enough," said Hemginio "we have done what the KF have asked but I heard that there was some more metracite for sale - diagems were the only price. I mentioned these stones to you yesterday, we can get them in the confusion."

On the streets of Lorteuds was panic. Youths were raiding stores, were in pitch battles with dreggies. Vandals were having a field day as they destroyed one mechanism after another. Service people were fleeing the city recognising the disorder that would exist for a number of days yet. And that left Hemginio an easy opportunity to get the diagems. They were stored in a building on the fringes of their own target. As they arrived there was screaming and shouting, and people fleeing the focus of the blast - or at least from that direction because Hemginio knew that an approximate circle of radius one mile would now be total devastation with limited survivors. The office he wanted was almost deserted, people were screaming praying but definitely not waiting and worrying about their posts. Except for the two who had the same idea as Hemginio about the diagems. When Hemginio and Saagarn reached the secure area they saw these two inside. Taking out his gun and motioning quiet from Saagarn they watched as the inside knowledge made their work easier. As soon as they had reached the gems Hemginio stepped out and fired. Both fell to the ground, and Hemginio fired again at their skulls. He caught one but the other rolled to the side. In the very next moment they were being fired at, and he saw Saagarn stagger back. As he watched he saw blood start to soak into the shirt he was wearing and spread. Saagarn waved him away and Hemginio went to find the bastard who had done this; he can't have got far. He moved to the dead body and kicked it to make sure - no movement. Standing still he heard a slither as a weakened body behind him was being dragged along the corridor. Noting the direction he moved towards the sound careful to maintain some form of cover. But his opposition was injured, he felt safe. Then he saw a foot being dragged round a corner, into an office, he thought. He followed it, and peaking round the corner he saw where it must have gone. Seeing the door was slightly ajar, he kicked it open with his foot and stepped back. The shot fizzed past his ear and embedded in the wall opposite. Glimpsing inside he saw a desk so kicking open the door agin he fired a spray across the room and dived behind the desk; some protection at least. Once there he saw the body crawling through the door into the next office. He fired and heard a scream which he followed. Reaching the body he saw three holes and there was little struggle left in it. He fired at the skull for Saagarn. Quickly returning to the secure area he removed the diagems.

Now to find the trader, Tremorio, and get the metracite. Reaching the dock area he saw Tremorio's lock-up. Burying the diagems under a nearby pile of rubble he went up to Tremorio. "You wanted to trade diagems for a shipment of metracite" asked Hemginio. The trader looked him up and down, and turned away sneering "I only deal in diagems, your sort hasn't got access to them."

Hemginio, disliking this man as much as any Federation agent, produced one stone. Tremorio's eyes lit up, and then his caution got the better of him "This is not enough," he said simply.

"I know," said Hemginio, watching Tremorio as he signalled a partner "but I have more than you could possibly dream of," exaggerated Hemginio. "I would like to see the metracite."

As Tremorio's partner arrived Tremorio told him to bring out the space-hopper. Going aboard Hemginio found his dream in the cargo-hold. Remembering the bomb he had at the Food Exchange he thought with this lot he could devastate every Federation building on Angellara. Returning 15 minutes later Hemginio had the stones "I will take the stones and you can take the metracite from the hopper." This seemed easy, where was the double-cross? He went on board expecting trouble but there were no surprises. Well he would plan one of his own, he needed the hopper. Rather than going to the hold he moved to the control console. Firing up the isodrive he began take-off procedure, Tremorio came up the ramp towards him, too late he realised as Hemginio shot him. Tremorio's partner had put his feet on the ramp as the craft rose off the ground. Screaming he fell back cracking his head on the ground as he was turned a somersault by the force of the take-off. As Tremorio died he clutched the diagems he had gained from the useless Aldabarnan metracite he had traded with his Dreggie contacts.

Hemginio's target was now the fleet. Angellara had been devastated by the KF plan but he didn't want the rich fatcats escaping, he wanted them to face the anger of his people who for centuries had been forced to do their bidding - paid or not. From his knowledge of metracite he knew that if he could trigger an explosion in one of the craft and set up an isofield using the metracite he had on board he could completely destroy all the fleet. Firstly he needed the equipment to set up the initial explosion, that was not a problem he could use the source where he got the Food Exchange bomb, similarly he needed the circuits to set up the isodrive field, he could get them from the same source. Trade part of the metracite for it, he thought.

Landing the hopper amongst a deserted tip on the edge of Lorteuds he returned to find his contact, Gurnae. With the confusion and devastation no time was taken nor questions asked as Hemginio got the parts he wanted. Returning to the hopper it took little more than two hours before his small exploding device and the isofield were ready to be set off. The final part of his plan was ready to put into action, gradually his anger started to build up as the last stages came into view. Saagarn was a good friend but what about all the other good friends the Federation had taken away one way or another. What about all the good people who had died over the centuries whilst the Federation fatcats got wealthier and wealthier. More and more his anger grew as he reached the outskirts of the fleet terminus.

Having only seen pictures and vids of the terminus he was overwhelmed by its size, it seemed to stretch for miles. He saw some rubble right on the edge of the terminus so KF had tried to target here and failed; he would not. Moving the hopper closer in he heard alarm sirens, there was a flashing on his console they were trying to reach him. He didn't want to talk to them. He flew towards the centre, he wanted to be sure. The last he remembered was the light as it stopped flashing on his console. Good, he thought, he would get closer as the missile struck the hopper, and his lights went out forever. As Hemginio had hoped the explosion did trigger his isofield but he misjudged by how much. The unstable Aldabarna metracite reacted to the explosion and set up a positive isocore. But there was a negative source that no-one had known about because it would only react with the Aldabarnan source, and that was Angellara's own negative core, it's own life core of metracite at the centre of the planet. Hemginio's positive load was sucked instantly to Angellara's centre. The gigantic shaft caused by this isotonic hyperspace released the Angellaran core. The enormous outpouring of isotonic flow gushed into the Angellaran atmosphere bursting into flame. The flames spread engulfing all in the path of this primeval flow spurred on and on by the core transmuting into isotonic drive. Finally the devastation ended as, coreless, the planet imploded terminating its pain.



From Kirramura Cilave saw the bright flash in the heaven as he was staring towards Angellara wondering how he could save the others. When the news arrived of the full impact of what he had seen he was struck dumb. Thinking back to Gearagh's comment about whether they had the right to start this, the irony hit him hard. Should he cry for their loss or should he concentrate on the hope for the future without the Federation?

Kamdren's fleet remained grounded as it heard that the Dreggies had agreed to work for peace on Aldabarna. Elsewhere the Dreggies were isolated and were forced to compromise, or be easily picked off without the full protection of the Federation. What were once the Federation planets could now work for their own system; good or bad, it's their choice. They all gave thanks to the end of a dark era. But to who?

Who they should thank was now dissipated throughout what was the Federation. Sentient or not Angellara herself had had enough of devastation, the devastation of its lands, the bombs, and then Hemginio's final triumph. The heart of Angellara, metracite, had decided as had Aldabarna's heart. Aldabarna had made her views clear throughout but it took Angellara's death to be listened to. And in the end it was in combination that they were given complete attention. Much of Angellara's energy went to Aldabarna but it was also owed elsewhere but she didn't mind; the life went on.

Of course not all of Nature sends its warnings with such a clear imperative, minds and ears need to be open.

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