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.They're responsible for the murder of two reporters, Smithback and Kidd, and the kidnapping of Smithback's wife.What's the city doing? Nothing.Absolutely nothing! It's up to us to act.So we're going in tonight at six pm.We're going to end this thing.Now!"Plock was sweating, his voice was high and his physical presence unimpressive, and yet he possessed the charisma of true belief, of passion and genuine courage.Esteban was impressed."The detailed plan of the demonstration is on your sheets.Guard them carefully—it would be disastrous if one fell into the hands of the police.Go home, start calling, start e–mailing, start organizing! This is a tight schedule.We gather at six.We move at six thirty." He looked around."Any questions?"No one had questions.Esteban cleared his throat, raised his finger."Yes, Alexander?""I'm a little confused.You're planning to actually march on the Ville?""That's right.We're stopping this: here and now."Esteban nodded thoughtfully."It doesn't say what you plan to do when you get there.""We're going to break into that compound and we're going to liberate those animals.And we're going to drive out those squatters.It's all covered in the plan." "I see.It's of course true that they are killing—torturing—animals in cold blood.They've probably been doing it for years.But consider: they're likely to be armed.We already know they've murdered at least three people.""If they choose violence, we'll respond in kind.""You plan to go armed?"Plock folded his arms."I will say this: no one will be discouraged from acting in self–defense—with whatever means they may have brought with them.""In other words," said Esteban, "you're recommending that people come armed.""I'm not recommending anything, Alexander.I am merely stating a fact: violence is certainly a possibility—and everyone has the right of self–defense.""I see.And the police? How will you handle them?" "That's why we're gathering at different points and moving in from multiple directions, like an octopus.They'll be overwhelmed before they even know what's going on.Thousands of us, moving en masse through those woods—how are they going to stop us? They can't set up barricades or block our route.They don't have vehicular access except down a single road, and that'll be wall–to–wall with marchers."Esteban shifted uncomfortably."Now, don't get me wrong—I'm against the Ville, you've known that from the start.They're despicable, inhuman.I mean, look at this poor luckless Fearing.Brainwashed into murder, and then shot in the head—probably by the Ville—while trying to crawl back to the very sadists who made him a zombii in the first place.If they can do this kind of thing to Fearing, they can do it to anyone.But if you move in like this, in such an uncontrolled fashion, people might be hurt.Even killed.Have you considered that?""People havealready been killed.Not to mention animals—hundreds, perhaps even thousands of them, their throats cut in the most horrific ways.No, sir: we're ending this.Tonight.""I'm not sure I'm ready," said Esteban."This is a pretty radical move." "Alexander, we were happy to have you join our organization.We are glad that you've taken a strong interest in our work.We were happy to elect you a member of the board.Your financial generosity is much appreciated, as is your high visibility.But personally, I strongly believe there comes a time when a man or a woman must make a stand.Talk is no longer sufficient.That time isnow.""Once you break into the Ville," said Esteban, "and liberate the animals—what then?""Just what I said.We'll drive the animal murderers out.Where they go is their business.""And then?""And then we burn the place, so they can't return." At this, Esteban slowly shook his head."With thousands of people milling outside and inside the Ville, and no access by firefighters, any fire you start may cause dozens of deaths.That place is a firetrap.You'll be killing your own, perhaps, as well as them."An uncomfortable silence."I would strongly urge against fire.Just the opposite—I would assign fire control to selected protesters, to guardagainst that possibility.What if the inhabitants are like those nutcases in Waco and set fire to the place themselves, while you're all inside?"Another pause."Thank you, Alexander," said Plock."I must admit you've made a good point.I retract what I said about fire.We'll tear the place down with our bare hands.The goal is to render it uninhabitable."Murmurs of agreement.Esteban frowned, then shook his head."I still can't support this.I'm a well–known figure with a reputation to uphold.I'm sorry, I just can't be associated with an attack like this." A shifting of chairs and a faint hiss."That is of course your right, Alexander," said Plock, his voice cool."And I must say I'm not entirely surprised, given the way you dashed cold water on our last encounter with the Ville.Anyone else wish to join Mr.Esteban in bailing out?"Esteban looked around.Nobody else moved.He could read the disrespect, even scorn, in their eyes.He stood up and walked out.Chapter 54As the morningsun streamed in the windows, D'Agosta sat behind his desk, fingers on his computer keyboard, staring at the screen before him.He had been in this position, motionless, for perhaps ten minutes.There were a million things to be done and yet he felt something akin to paralysis.It was as if he were in the eye of a hurricane: all around was frantic activity, but here at the very epicenter of the howling storm there was nothing.Suddenly the door to his office opened.He turned to see Laura Hayward step quickly in.He immediately rose to his feet."Laura," he said.She closed the door behind her, stepped up to the desk.Seeing the icy look on her face, D'Agosta felt his stomach do an uncomfortable flip–flop."Vinnie, sometimes you can be a selfish bastard," she said in a low voice.He swallowed."What is it?""What is it? I've had my promotion snatched away from me at the last moment.And it's your fault." For a moment he looked at her with incomprehension.Then he remembered the conversation he'd had in the corridor of Digital Veracity; the implied threat of the software developer."Kline," he said, slumping against the desk."You're damn right, Kline."D'Agosta looked at her for a moment.Then he lowered his eyes."What did he do?""He donated five million to the Dyson Fund.On the condition that I be passed over for the task force.""He can't do that.It's bribery.It's against the law.""Oh, please.You know how this town works."D'Agosta sighed.He knew what he should feel—righteous indignation, even rage—but all he felt, suddenly, was weary."Rocker's no fool," Hayward said bitterly."He knows they'd crucify him if he turned down a donation like that—especially for a political hot potato like the Dyson Fund.And I'm the one who gets the shaft." "Laura… I'm so sorry.You're the last person I wanted to see get victimized by this.But I was only doing my job.What was I supposed to do—give this joker Kline a pass? He's a person of interest.He threatened Smithback.""What you were supposed to do was act professional.Ever since Smithback's murder, you've been out of control.I heard about that ham–fisted search warrant of yours, how you rubbed Kline's nose in it.You knew the man had a short fuse and you provoked him anyway.And to get revenge, he lashed out at me.""It's true—I was trying to provoke him, trigger a false move.He's the kind of guy who can't stand to lose face.If I'd known he'd take it out on you I would never have done it." He hung his head, massaging his temples with his fingers."What can I say?""That job meant more to me thananything." Her words hung in the air.D'Agosta looked up slowly, met her glance.There was a low rap on his office window.D'Agosta looked over to see a desk sergeant standing in the doorway."Excuse me, sir," he said [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]