As Tez and Ileana faced one another on the road, Chess listened to the blood pounding in his ears, and waited for his crucial alteration to Ileana’s plan to have the desired effect: turning Tez back.
And then, Sariel startled everyone by quietly announcing, “Another approaches.”
The low sound of distant vehicles quickly grew to a roar, and three large trucks appeared, spraying dirt and chunks of gravel as they surrounded Tez’s two smaller vehicles. Inside the three larger trucks, Chess could see men pointing weapons toward Tez’s men. And, while the largest truck was still skidding to a halt, a figure leaped to the ground.
“It’s Razor,” Ileana said flatly.
Chess gazed in horror at the massive specter of Razor, the monster from his darkest nightmares, made real once more and stomping slowly in their direction.
“Hey, Tez,” Razor called. “Problem with your little toy trucks? Or were you waiting for me?”
Holding his breath, Chess watched Tez eye his one-time boss, and then turn his gaze to Razor’s trucks filled with armed men, most of whom Chess had never seen before.
Razor, though, seemed focused on Tez, and did not even appear to notice the little group standing in the road just a short distance beyond his former friend. “Rumor is that you’re off to find some wizards,” Razor laughed, moving closer to Tez. “You wanna ask them for some brains or -- oh no, wait: you want them to give you a weapon to take over the world!”
Chess felt Ileana grip his hand more tightly and he drew in his breath, expecting at any moment that she would give the signal that would end the entire thing. The two men were oblivious, having no idea of what awaited them just moments from now.
But Ileana did not give the signal.
“What would you know about that?” Tez growled, taking a few steps toward Razor. “What would you know about having any kind of real power? You can’t even handle your own business.”
Chess glanced at Ileana. Her face was bloodless and still. Her hand was frozen in the air, and she was staring at Razor. And, just for a moment, Chess wondered if she had called him, herself.
“Ileana?” he whispered. But she did not move.
“My mistake,” Razor shouted, “was trusting you with any part of my business.”
“Ha -- which business?” Tez cried. “You’re a drug lord -- or a weapons dealer -- or a dissident...” Now only about two meters away from Razor, Tez waved his hands around emphatically. “Man, you got so many things going on, you’re just not paying attention!” And, with a quick movement, Tez pulled out a gun and pointed it at Razor’s head. But Razor did not flinch. And Ileana’s cry of alarm was drowned out by a sudden barrage of weapons fire, all aimed at one of Tez’s trucks.
As Chess watched, stunned and deafened by the storm of noise, voices cried out and sparks flew across metal. Tez’s men, in the back of the truck, tried to return fire but were rapidly overwhelmed. Flames went up as something exploded, and Chess saw two men dive out the doors of the front cab.
Chess let out his breath in a gasp. And he could not help reliving every scene of devastation that he had witnessed: the village burning, the people in flames. What Razor had just orchestrated was less than the total destruction that they had planned, but it was terrible enough. Chess felt Ileana let go of his hand and turned to watch her as, wide-eyed and shaking, she took a step backward.
When he looked at the truck again, the flames had been reduced to clouds of black smoke. He figured that Razor’s men, fearful of their own proximity to the fire, must have extinguished it.
During the distraction of the gunfire, Razor had knocked the gun from a stunned Tez’s hand.
“You see? When I have good men to back me up, I don’t need to micromanage everything.” Razor appeared to smirk. “I can delegate.” Then his expression grew serious. “Tez, you were my number one man: the one I thought I could rely on. I never understood what happened, that night you left, but I can’t forget all that you’ve done for me.” He sighed visibly and dramatically. “So, just this once… I’m gonna let you take that one truck in the back, there... and turn around and leave.”
“Ileana?” Chess hissed again, his voice cracking. This was their last chance.
Continued next page...
warriors are busy fighting one another... and in this neighbourhood heroes are scarce
- The Hobbitt by JRR Tolkien
It’s almost impossible, of course, to discuss a political system without discussing the structure of the society that embraces that system. I guess that’s why experts in the field seem to refer to the idea as a “sociopolitical” system. For instance, democracy conjures images of every citizen having a voice in the government, which could be either wonderfully harmonious or stalled in chaos. Communism, for me, brings up an almost cartoonish image of everyone working together, everyone dressed alike, and everyone feeling equally important - or unimportant - to the success of their country. But “sociopolitical” is only half of the equation. In our increasingly globalized world, the more important system of a country, and the chief indicator of its success, seems to be economic.
Communism is an economic as well as a political system because, by its definition, there is no private ownership of property. The government, then, must own and control all businesses. Chess’s world of civ, on the other hand, definitely falls into the economic category of capitalism. In fact, his entire society seems to be built on an economic system, with the political system being far less important. Superficially, civ is a democracy where all citizens have the right to participate in government. However, the possession and successful deployment of capital is the only route to prosperity in civ. In fact, success at capitalist pursuits is really the only way citizens are allowed to remain in civ at all. How can the citizens of civ exercise any real political power, then, when they are using all their energy just to keep their lives stable? The situation is almost the “corporate feudalism” that is the possible dystopian future envisioned by the scientists of Gaviotas. But is that the natural next step in a capitalist society? Or are there other avenues to the future?
Woman (TJ): I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
Dennis (MP): You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship. A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
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