“You say the right words…” The man who appeared to be the leader of the dissidents regarded them with narrowed eyes. “We believe in the power of communication and cooperation, too. So I’ll tell you what we’re doing here: we have – we had a device that could be installed onto a regular internet router. The device receives and transmits by the samiz network. But it also has the potential to grab and transmit to us any information going through the router it’s connected to. It hasn’t been tested yet.”
“That could be a lot of valuable intel,” Chess gasped. He was suddenly reminded of the device that had been seized from dissidents -- the one that he had carried through the woods to the big military base -- and he was instantly certain that it had been for a similar function. “But it has to be physically installed onto their equipment,” he said slowly.
“Yeah,” the man growled. “Two of our men went to the base yesterday – and never came back.”
Chess frowned, momentarily forgetting his fear. “None of your people would be able to sneak into a military base like that. It could only be someone who --” He glanced thoughtfully at Ileana, and watched her eyes widen as she seemed to realize what he was thinking. He watched her shake her head.
Chess glanced pointedly behind him at their armed guards. “It’s this or Razor,” he said.
Ileana stared at him for a long time, and then she lifted her chin and faced the men. “So, you’ve heard of Chess, the thief, who can break into anywhere and disappear at will? Let’s talk about a deal.”
The leader frowned darkly at Ileana. “So you’re proposing that we just let your friend here --” He gestured toward Chess. “-- just walk out of here, so he can either get help and weapons to attack us or…oh, I don’t know…” he continued, jerking his shoulders into a sarcastic shrug, “…go straight to the army base, like you promise he will, and bring them down on us.” He glanced around at his companions. “We are desperate here, it’s true. But we have not yet lost our minds.”
Chess opened his mouth to protest, but Ileana spoke first. “We’re outsiders, just like you are. We have no reason at all to trust the army. Chess picked up a military uniform in his travels -- he’s a thief,” she explained mildly. “Why would military personnel be traveling with us? Do we look like we’re from the military -- or the government?” Chuckling to herself, she looked pointedly at Sariel.
“I don’t know what you are,” the man growled. “The stories we’ve heard out here… we could be making a deal with actual devils. Are you really dissidents? Why does this gang want you so badly?”
Ileana ignored the question. “None of us has a whole lot of options here. You want to find out what happened to your men. We want to be left alone to continue on our way. But we all believe in the same causes: free communication and information, and the right to live in peace instead of terror.” She leaned forward earnestly. “Right now, dissidents are separate groups, working in isolation. You’re all just specters haunting this country, barely even making problems for the government. But you know you could accomplish so much more by joining together, via samiz, and attracting others, even swaying civ public opinion. To do that, though, you’re going to have to trust strangers. Let us work together.”
The man stared at her for a moment, and then he got up and walked away, motioning to some of the other men to join him. Chess still felt the presence of the men with rifles pointed at his back.
The men stood just far enough away so that they could not be clearly overheard. One of the men, in particular, was talking in a fervent manner, punctuating his speech with frequent gestures toward Chess and the others. Once, Chess could swear that he heard the man say the words, “Ton Ton Macoute.” After a few minutes, the group broke up and came back to the fire pit.
“Okay,” the leader announced flatly. “You talk like dissidents, whatever you are. We have been here, undecided about what to do, and unwilling to leave our missing brothers. And then you show up, like magic, offering help. But we don’t trust you,” he concluded with a growl. “So here’s what we’re going to do: he’ll go, alone. The rest of you will stay here, under guard, to make sure he comes back. And…” he scowled at Chess, “if anything happens – if we get attacked…,” he looked meaningfully over Chess’s head at the men with guns, “your friends here will die immediately.”
Continued next page...
Cordelia: I personally don’t think it’s possible to come up with a crazier plan.
Oz: We attack the mayor with hummus.
Cordelia: I stand corrected.
Oz: Just keeping things in perspective.
- Graduation Day Part 2, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 3 Finale
Despite the peaceful aims of revolutionaries like Gandhi, for the most part, our world is one that is brought about by and maintained by violence. To preserve freedom for our country, and to try to uphold or restore the fragile peace of the rest of the world, we sacrifice our young people again and again. And if we do not sacrifice their lives, we certainly sacrifice their psyches.
Much earlier in my blogs, I referred to a Time Magazine article which proposed that people who tended toward depression also tended to view the world in a more realistic way. If this is true, then what about people who have seen truly horrible stuff, such as in war situations?
Over the past few years, Time Magazine has published articles on the alarming number of suicides among recent war veterans. Likely, the causes of this problem are multiple, but one cause has to be the violence that is witnessed during fighting.
In The World Until Yesterday, Jared Diamond explores the idea that in many primitive societies, where small-scale fighting among rival villages was frequent, children were taught to kill. Also, they were encouraged to feel and speak hatred and aggression toward enemy tribes. For them, one assumes, killing a human in battle is expected, not traumatic -- but this is not so for our society.
Men in traditional societies grow up from childhood encouraged to kill, or at least knowing how to kill, but most modern state citizens grow up taught constantly that killing is bad, until after age 18 they suddenly enlist or are inducted into the army, given a gun, and ordered to aim at an enemy and shoot him.
- The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond
Knowing that war and violence underwrites our stable, safe and free society, one wonders how we can talk about peace with any authority at all.
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