Chapter 22
3 Sp'mo' (Tuesday)

1

Darius crawled out of his tent around Second Two the next morning, and found the others all sitting around a campfire. After taking care of some personal business, he joined them.

Tom said brusquely, "Well, our glorious leader finally graces us with his presence. Must be nice having your own little tent, while the rest of us sleep cooped up in the same wagon we spend the whole day in while traveling."

"Tiejo sleep outside in bivy sack!" Tiejo exclaimed in his usual merry way.

Darius looked at Tom and said, "Well, I seem to recall mentioning, when we were restocking in Shipsister, that we should see about getting ourselves tents or sleeping bags, or whatever things we might each want if we should have to spend a few nights away from civilization. We had such things, enough for all of us, before the Band's wagon was stolen back in Tonad. It's not my fault if I'm the only one who replaced his lost tent. Even Tiejo seems to be better prepared than you, Tom. But it seems everyone else chose to just stay in the wagon."

"Feh," grumbled Tom, "it just seems like if everyone had a tent, it'd take up too much room in the wagon. There's not unlimited space in there, you know. ...Still, I don't think I can take many more nights of such close quarters, even if it is, mercifully, reasonably well ventilated. Maybe I will pick up a tent, when we get to Triscot."

"Anyway," replied Darius, "if it bothers you so much, I suppose I could lend you the use of my tent, and I could sleep in the wagon. Or under the stars. There don't seem to be an undue amount of bugs nor any dangerous animals about, so a blanket and pillow should suffice."

"Well... that's nice of you. Thanks. Um... so then, what would you like to drink, this morning?"

Darius yawned and stretched his arms before replying, "I could really go for a cup of chai."

"We've got coffee," said Tom, with just a hint of a devilish grin on his lips, and a bit more than a hint of it in his eyes.

Darius sighed and said, "That'll do." And as he took a sip from the cup Tom handed him, he couldn't help but think, not for the first time on this adventure, that the jack-of-all-trades made the best coffee he'd ever tasted. He idly wondered if one of Tom's many masters had been a barista. The thought made him smile, and as he was often embarrassed by the thought of people seeing him smile, he hid it behind his cup.

And so, after about a dozen centhours passed in relative silence, Tiejo spoke up, in quizzical mode now, rather than merry. "Um... Tiejo wonderings, why not we have been seeing other travelers on road? Should not there be others? Merchants and such, goings between villages?"

Darius said, "We wanted to avoid people, so we haven't actually been on any road, though I know it can be hard to tell the difference. The roads between villages- aside from the Tonadian Way, between First Village and Tonad- tend to be little more than beaten paths, unlike the roads within villages. And since the terrain between Tanq and Triscot is pretty clear to begin with..." he shrugged, saying no more. Tiejo nodded, and went back to sipping at his coffee.

After breakfast, Darius packed his tent back in the wagon. No one felt in a great hurry to get moving again, though they couldn't tarry too long. Darius said he felt like taking a short walk, and maybe he'd see if there were some berries or anything he might collect, that they all could snack on later in the day. Ginger decided to join him, so they each grabbed a pail, and headed in the direction of some bushes in the distance.

When they reached them, Darius said, "Awesome. I thought these looked like they could be rainbowberry bushes. I love rainbowberries. Especially the blue ones..."

As the two of them collected berries of every color, Ginger said, "You know, I have a spirit friend who says on Earth, raspberries don't usually show up until late Su'mo' or early Su'yet. Since rainbowberries are essentially the same thing, it never ceases to amaze me that they come out eas early as Sp'mo'. Or, um... what are the corresponding months called on Earth? I know Sp'yet is May and Su'gin is June, but I forget the rest, including the ones I was just talking about."

"I dunno," said Darius, "but I think it's kind of weird that our months are named for seasons, when the majority of villages on the Land are in a climate zone that doesn't really experience seasons in the same extremes that they would be farther north or south of the Equator. Seasons are slightly more extreme in my home village, of course, and must be much more extreme in the Northern Alliance. Which we'll definitely notice once we get there. After all, that is where we're ultimately heading, to find Tiejo's master. Before we leave Triscot, we should stock up on clothes that are appropriate for this time of year in a northern climate."

When they returned to the wagon, Alecstar said, "Well, the sun is climbing, and I think it's about time to get moving. Have we decided yet whether we're going to continue with striders, or start flying the rest of the way? Darius, how far did you say we'd come when we made camp last night, about 130 miles? A drop in the bucket, less than a tenth the way to Triscot. It makes me nervous, the thought of making such slow progress, and not knowing what's going on, back in the world. I vote we fly."

Everyone else seemed to agree, so they released the striders, piled in the wagon, and took to the sky.

2

There were almost always two people in the wagon's cockpit, especially when in flight. While the pairings could differ from time to time, over the past couple of weeks, Darius had begun to notice certain pairs were more likely to occur than others. Cameron and Emma, who had become best friends soon after she had joined the Band a year ago, liked to pilot together. Alecstar and Tom, the two eldest in the group (though Tom was about nine years Star's senior), and also generally the two quietest (though Tom could talk your ear off if you got him started on one of his old masters, or else anything he was in the mood to complain about) usually took their turns together. Ginger and Tino, of course, because they were a couple. Tiejo did no actual piloting, though he did sometimes join a pilot at random, just for the novelty of it. Darius himself was a wild card, not knowing anyone particularly well as yet, though he was trying to get to know all of his companions as well as he could. Spending time with everyone, whether in a group or one-on-one, was necessary for him to overcome the social anxiety he normally felt around anyone in the world (including close friends and, years ago, family). Still, he usually did less talking than he would have liked. Mental blocks in his head tended to prevent him from being the first to speak, so he often depended on others to start a conversation. Which they didn't always do.

At present, he was sitting in back, and no one had spoken much since taking off that morning. Jasp was alone in the cockpit, at the moment. It occurred to Darius that Jasp, like himself, didn't have a regular partner among the group. As that thought struck him, he decided he should probably take a shift with Jasp, himself. Not that he hadn't done that already, but he'd never really talked much with the spy, except as part of a group. And of course, the pairs he'd thought of a centhour ago weren't permanent fixtures, so probably everyone in the group had taken at least one shift with everyone else, at some point.

Darius sighed. This line of thought was boring him, and seemed to serve no real purpose. Not that his thoughts often served much purpose, in his opinion. It was all so random, pointless, often repetitive. Still, at least he wasn't caught up in thoughts of depression, or self-loathing, or world-loathing, as he often could be. But just as he was feeling a certain relief about not being particularly upset at the moment, he realized maybe he should be upset. That is, he should be thinking about what specifically he felt was wrong with the world, and moreover, just what he intended to do about it.

And so, with that in mind, he gathered up the will to speak, without being spoken to. He opened the partition between the cockpit and the bed of the wagon, so the entire group could take part in the conversation he was about to initiate. "So," he said for all to hear, "I suppose we really all should talk some more about our plans. We started once before, back in Jump Village, but at the time it was just about recruiting people, basically. Clearly, we can't do any more of that for a couple of days, at least. There's really nothing we can do at all, til we get to Triscot, but we might as well spend this time productively, if we can. Which basically just means thinking, and discussing." He looked down for a few moments, unsure what to say next. Finally, he looked up again (without really focusing on anyone), and continued, "As has been pointed out to me at least once, the burden is not mine alone. I'll do my best to come up with ideas, but I'm open to any ideas any of you may have, as well. More than open; very grateful, in fact. I've been trying to think about it, but... I just can't seem to concentrate. It feels like... like writer's block. Hmmm... I wonder if there's such a thing as insurgent's block?" Darius grinned at the thought, though no one else seemed to find it amusing, so he simply shook his head, and returned his face to its customary neutral-bordering-on-melancholy countenance. "Sorry," he said. "Okay, let me think."

He sighed, closed his eyes, and strained to focus on what rebellion might actually entail. "I'm going to try to do some brainstorming, here, so feel free to jump in at any time. We're all in this together, right? Okay. Hmmm. Besides, what else have you got to do, right now? I'm rambling, aren't I? Sorry." He lapsed into silence, and tried harder still to concentrate. After a centhour, he said, "Okay, let's start by taking stock of our assets. Um... seven adventurers, one of whom is a Sorreter, one a spirit-talker, one a jack-of-all-trades. One spy for LandOrder, who may or may not help us. One street rat. One wagon. Whatever small treasure each of us may have stashed somewhere. Official assets frozen. Wanted by InterVil, InterGang, Grand Sorreter Durell, and presumably any number of his personal allies, including those who work within the law and those who operate above or below it. I think I've segued away from assets to liabilities. Damn. Oh, yes, Tiejo's master. We're going to rescue him and... he'll help us. Whoever the hell he is. And... maybe LandOrder will help. And maybe... I dunno. Let me start over. We are at least nominally certain of ourselves. Nine of us. Against... well, the world, basically. Oh my God, what the hell was I thinking? We're all going to be killed."

He said this so deadpan, that Emma couldn't help but laugh. "Darius, we're not. Well, not right away, at least. Trust me, we still have time, and we'll acquire more allies. I'm sure of it. There's a great deal of dissatisfaction, any number of people who would be willing to stand against the Order, if properly inspired."

Tom said, "Not that he's particularly good at inspiring people."

"He's gotten all of us to come this far. Three weeks ago, if you'd told me I'd be involved in something like this... well, I would've asked how many years down the road you were talking about. I wouldn't have dismissed the idea, by any means. Not that it's something I've ever considered, I just mean it wouldn't have sounded implausible, to me. The timing, maybe, but the eventuality... not so much."

"Thanks, Em," said Darius. "I appreciate that. Okay, I need to clear my head, though." He took out his bottle of Happiness, and swallowed a pill. After a centhour, he began to smile, but said nothing. He glanced toward the back of the wagon, where Tiejo was staring out the opening in the cover, as he usually was. "Anything interesting out there, Tiejo?"

"Dragonflies," said Tiejo, absently.

Darius moved to sit beside the street rat, and have a look himself. "Huh," he said. "I never would've thought to see them at such an altitude. Wonder if they've got some actual dragon blood in them?" Tiejo giggled at this, and Darius just continued smiling and staring out the back of the wagon.

But soon, Alecstar spoke up. "Uh... Darius? Weren't you going to, you know, do some planning? Maybe your head's gotten a little too clear?"

"Right," Darius replied, just as absently as Tiejo would have. After a few seconds, however, he repeated much more decisively, "Right." Turning back around, he looked at all those assembled, showing no sign of his usual aversion to eye contact. After a few more seconds, he looked away, biting down on his thumbnail. "Hmmm... I always wanted to avoid the kind of plan the First Order had, during the Coming. But..." he sighed, and added "well, I'm going to think for a bit about their Plan. I'm sure I don't know nearly all the details, but I know some things that they never admitted to, things you won't find in any history book. I expect you all know a few such things, yourselves, whether from firsthand experience, or rumors."

They all nodded, and Darius closed his eyes. "I'm sure I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Even I admit that there's a great deal about the changes the Order made to the world that... well, that's for the better, really. I mean, in the early days of the Coming, or rather in the early days after people outside the Order began to recognize that something big was coming, I was essentially in favor of it all. But dammit, the ends do not justify the means, as I eventually learned. And while I'm sure there are those within the First Order who... weren't directly involved in the Coming, didn't know the full scope of it, and believe in retrospect that all was for the best... I'm sure there are those, such as Grand Sorreter Durell and Arch-bishop Talak, who continue to have a hand in things, in an unofficial capacity, in spite of the law of Separation of Church and State. It's not enough for them to have perfectly legitimate power- including people like Durell Turner and Mallory Secundus, who are not only bishops of Sorret and Monab, but also those villages' duly elected Chief Councillors, which in itself doesn't exactly violate the letter of the law. No, that's not enough for them; they feel they need more power than the law allows. I think... there remains a sort of secret society, holding the real power behind the Second Order. And it is they, first and foremost, who must be exposed and dealt with. They're the real danger. Everything else..." Darius turned his head, closed his eyes, and fell silent for a few moments.

"I don't know. Maybe... Monogwrangle was right." Once again, he looked at Emma. "I know you don't want to hear me talk like that. I'm sure none of you do. But I'm not talking about... my being worthless, per se. I mean, rather, my inability to fit into the modern world. As I talked with you and Cameron about, the other day." Turning to the others, he continued, "Maybe I have no reason to hate the Second Order, to topple the government or return the world to what it once was. I'm sure most of the people in the government have good intentions, and have no knowledge of either the illegal actions that constituted part of the Plan that led to the establishment of the world government, nor of the illegal actions that continue within the government to this day. Maybe I'm just being entirely selfish, wishing to bend the world to whatever state is most comfortable for me, without regard to what's best for everyone else. I don't know. Hell, maybe I just want revenge for the decimation of my clan. Either way, I need to rethink my goals and my motivations. Maybe a rebellion isn't really what the world needs. But it bloody well needs something. And by God, we're going to figure out what that something is... and we're going to do it."

Tom said, "I stand corrected. That was rather inspirational, after all. You know, after a fashion. A vague fashion. But you still haven't actually suggested anything in the way of a plan, you know."

Darius grinned. "Right you are. Sorry. I got sidetracked. But as I was saying, Monogwrangle was right. I mean, we did lie to him; we are planning a rebellion... or perhaps were, until just a centhour ago. Either way, the Second Order is justified in viewing us as dangerous criminals. There's nothing sinister about their trying to prevent insurgency, even if some of the people they employ to do so happen to be personally odious. And for that matter, given that Monogwrangle was right about our intentions, he has every right to feel the way he does about us." Again grinning (something he was amazed to find didn't embarrass him while under the influence of Happiness), he added, "But he didn't have to be so mean about it, especially considering he couldn't possibly have any proof of our intentions, only suspicions." Just then, something occurred to Darius which interrupted his train of thought. "Though, come to think of it, how did Monogwrangle make the leap from wondering about our involvement with gangs to accusing us of plotting rebellion?"

Cameron replied, "Maybe it's because I'm with you. It's not unreasonable for them to suspect the ex-Sorreters have spent the past nine years making plans to renew the war against the Order. And if they believe me to be an ex-Sorreter, then they have reason enough to suspect anyone I'm with could be party to such plans."

"Now don't start all that again," said Darius. "I told you-"

"Excuse me," interjected Jasp, "but you asked a question. It's only reasonable for us to try to come up with answers. And Cameron may be right. On the other hand, it could just as easily be because of your involvement with LandOrder, even if that wasn't planned. I'm sure your intentions aren't common knowledge within the gang, but there are those of us who know about the rebellion, and I don't doubt that people like Durell maintain spies within both LandOrder and InterGang, from whom he could have learned of that plan. And if you look at everyone in this group... a case could easily be made that any one of us would be interested in rebelling against the Order, just as Monogwrangle said. So it could well be that the only reason he didn't have a warrant for our arrest is that even if Durell already knew what we're up to, he couldn't reveal the source of his knowledge, as that would risk his implicating himself in illegal practices."

Darius nodded. "Okay. Fine, so I'll set that question aside, and just assume that it makes sense for them to suspect, or even know it, even if they don't have proof, at this point. Anyway, that was just... me getting sidetracked, again. What I was saying before that was... well, actually I'm not quite sure what I was getting at." He sighed. "Maybe we should just give up on the whole idea of doing anything, and accept the world as it is. Take the bad with the good. There's no way life is ever going to be perfect, regardless of how the world is set up."

Tom said, "Well, so much for being inspirational."

"No, he's right," said Ginger, much to everyone's surprise. "Not about giving up, but he's right to question his actions and his motivations. And he's right to say the Second Order isn't inherently a bad thing. Remember, my father founded the Protestant Movement, and even he sometimes worried that he and his allies might be doing the wrong thing, by opposing the Coming of the Order. And I'm sure some of those who implemented the Plan must have questioned whether they were doing the right thing. This harks to the Book of Brist, the second book of the O'Gas, in which God explained the reason that introducing religion to the Land was counted as our world's Fall. The fact is, God loves all his people, everyone in the Universe, equally, and it pains him to see any of them in conflict with one another. It is even more painful when that conflict is caused by both sides believing that what they are doing is God's will. It also has to do with the nature of the punishment he exacted for our Fall: that is, tweaking our species' psychology to increase our potential for loneliness and a feeling of isolation. In fact, my understanding is that the whole reason Bishop Kizin came up with the Plan in the first place was to bring everyone in the world closer together, and therefore closer to God. The Protestants not only believed the methods employed in pursuit of this goal were unacceptable, they also believed the ultimate goal, once achieved, would have incalculable effects, both good and bad. They were certain that the changes in the world would produce some forms of suffering, at least for some people. But they had no way of knowing whether the balance of changes would be more good or more bad. Nor did they believe it was acceptable to take that risk, to allow the new world order to make life better for some and worse for others."

Cameron nodded. "My sister, who worked closely with Grand Sorreter Drag during the Coming, said the same thing. So I agree, it is perfectly natural for you to question your actions, Darius. It's a good thing."

"But I don't get it," said Tom. "If both sides wanted to do God's will, and God is in the habit of occasionally making personal appearances, why didn't he just show up and tell everyone in no uncertain terms whether he was for or against the Coming?"

"Because," said Ginger, "if he did that any time anyone ever had a question about anything in life, especially big things like that, it would be tantamount to revoking free will. Of course, people would still be free to go against his will, but on the Land, probably more than any planet in Creation, it would be virtually unthinkable to knowingly do such a thing. And if a person felt to the core of their being that... well, that what they believed was right... Note I say 'felt', not 'knew', because the point I'm making is if they felt one thing, and knew the exact opposite was true, but still couldn't help feeling what they felt... they probably would go insane. And even if they didn't, they'd probably find life unbearable, and kill themselves."

"I know the feeling," said Darius. "Even without something as substantial as God Telling Me I'm Wrong, there are things in life I'm pretty sure I'm wrong about, but can't help feeling the opposite, anyway. It can hurt like hell. Honestly, I'm surprised it hasn't driven me to alcoholism. Though I wouldn't be surprised if it drives me to Happiness addiction, somewhere down the line."

"Of course," said Emma, "there are plenty of things in the O'Gas which do clearly tell us God's will. Such as the Book of Julia, in which he said that, while it was contrary to his original design and plan for the Universe, not something that had ever occurred to him, homosexuality was nevertheless natural and acceptable. Not a sin."

Ginger replied, "Well, that's true. There are things he tells us, which may be specifically to avoid needless suffering and conflict. But mostly those are things that shouldn't have a dramatic influence on the historical development of the world as a whole, nor which would have any fundamental influence on our individual characters. As for Julianism specifically, it's important to note that one's sexual orientation has nothing to do with one's overall personality. Therefore, knowing it's not a sin will only free people to make life choices which they might otherwise have denied themselves, thus going against who they really are. So in essence, leaving that question unresolved would have been a greater an impediment to free will than answering it was. To be sure, it's not like God was encouraging Julianism, he was just making it clear that it's not forbidden. I think... as bizarre a concept as this may be, making that clear on the Land was also partly a desire on his part to atone for having made it unclear on Earth. Or worse, having specifically said that it was a sin. By Julia's time, he had apparently changed his mind; but long before then, he had ceased having open communication with the people of Earth. So, it was too late to change what he'd originally said, on that world."

"How could an omniscient being change his mind about anything?" asked Tom.

"Well, he said in a number of books throughout the O'Gas, starting with the Book of Connor and Brigid, that he was imperfect, and promised to expound on that someday. For now, it remains unclear how that's possible, given that he's supposed to be omnipotent and omniscient. But apparently, his imperfection made it possible for him to make mistakes. And yet, he also said he hadn't always been imperfect, so he has a tendency to assume he's always right, and it can take awhile for him to realize he was wrong about something. For example, it's natural for him to take great pride in the seemingly infinite variation and detail of all that he had designed and created. It therefore surprised and troubled him when new developments occurred that fell outside the parameters of his design. When one of Julia's parishioners came to her in confusion over the attraction she felt to other women, Julia herself became confused, and called upon God to answer the woman's questions. God then appeared, and explained that when homosexuality first occurred on Earth- having never occurred on any worlds he created prior to Earth- his first thought was that people must have chosen to go against nature. The nature he had taken such pride in creating. But looking into their hearts and minds, he saw that it wasn't a choice, which was hard for him to understand. He still didn't like it, and felt that if people wanted to honor him, they should fight these feelings, and stick to the laws of nature. However, quite some time later, when it turned out that homosexuality wasn't going away, but had truly become a part of nature, he took a closer look at the inner workings of the brains and bodies of such people, to figure out what had... gone wrong. To his surprise, he found that nothing had gone wrong; rather, he traced the development back to a subtle detail of his original design for sexuality. It had taken many generations for that detail to evolve into a proper genetic trait, and even then, it was more complicated than just genetics. It involved other factors that he hadn't anticipated interacting with these new genes, which is understandable considering he hadn't intended for this minor detail to evolve in the direction it had. He illustrated his point by saying that anticipating the development of homosexuality would have been like foreseeing a recipe for fairy cake without even knowing that people would someday learn to make milk into butter. Then he said, 'But I probably shouldn't have used the word "fairy" in my explanation. Could you strike that bit and use the word "cupcakes" instead? Or even just "cake"?' I have no idea what that meant, nor why Julia transcribed the whole conversation instead of doing as he asked, though I believe there are versions of the O'Gas in which the publishers choose not to include the full text. But I'm pretty sure he was just making some cryptic joke. Anyway, the upshot of all this is that, rather than flouting his intentions as Creator, the unexpected development actually increased the diversity and complexity of his creation, which he ultimately decided reflected favorably on his own skill in designing the human race. So he would subsequently include that detail in other races- including the humans of the Land- knowing full well what it would lead to."

"As an occasional writer, myself," said Darius with a grin, "I can tell you that it's always fun to find that I'm better than I thought I was. I'm sure that's true for any artist, or perhaps for anyone at all, regardless of the nature of their talent."

"I'm sure that's true," said Ginger with a smile of her own. "Anyway, the situation I've been explaining doesn't just apply to the subject of Julianism, but to any number of other natural developments, as well as ideas sentient beings on any world may have come up with, throughout the millennia, which may have seemed contrary to God's original intentions in designing the Universe. The greater and more diverse we are, the greater his own glory."

Darius said, "This is all very interesting, but now perhaps we can get back to the matter of planning whatever it is we're planning. And I am feeling reassured that we're right to be planning something. Hopefully none of us will ever stop questioning our motives or our actions, but I do feel that, as different as I may think myself from most people, however I- however we all decide to change the world, it will be closer to what it should be than it is now, for a greater number of people. In fact, just thinking about both sides of the Coming having questioned what they were doing, combined with the fact that, as I've already said, there are things I like and things I dislike about both the old world and the new, if we end up creating a world that falls somewhere in the middle, it's almost certain to be better than either state. Although perhaps that makes 'Chaos' the wrong word for our group. But it's too late to worry about that now; changing names at this point would be a little too chaotic, even for me. Ironically, if we're going to try to be less about chaos, the least chaotic thing would be to keep calling ourselves 'The Chaos'.

"Now, where were we? Oh yes." He turned to Jasp and asked, "So, spies in the gangs, eh? But I wonder just how much information Durell could feel safe in passing on from them to the police?"

"It's hard to say. As I indicated, not enough to get a warrant, but still... his contacts need not be limited to the gangs. I'm sure he has people in the government as well as InterVil working for him, secretly. And they could have their own, more legitimate circle of spies. So, if Durell passed on information he'd received from his people in InterGang to someone like Monogwrangle, the latter could conceivably claim the information had come from police spies in the gang. However, the need to maintain such spies' cover would provide him only so much leeway in not specifically naming his sources. For something as important as rebellion, of course he'd have to reveal them. And if his spies had passed on no such information, that could present a problem. Not one that couldn't be overcome, but still, best not to take any unnecessary chances."

"I take it that means, in spite of what Monogwrangle told us, InterVil itself probably isn't looking at us as rebels. Well, that's the best news I've heard in awhile."

"True, but it doesn't change the fact that the idea is out there. And it would only take a little while for Monogwrangle, or any of Durell's other contacts, to work out a way of making us seem guilty without our even having to do anything. It might be as simple as getting in touch with a legitimate spy and convincing him to claim the information originated with him, rather than Durell. It could just be a matter of time for everyone to coordinate their stories, and establish some plausibility. At that point, InterVil very well may start treating us as rebels. And if that happens, there won't be a whole lot lawyers can do for us, no matter how good they are."

"Great. Way to give me a mellow and then harsh it, man."

"Sorry, that's just the path conversations take, sometimes. How's that pill treating you, by the way?"

Darius shot him a wry, sidelong glance. "Can't complain. At least LandOrder's good for something."

"Oy!"

"Anyway, back to Durell. The fact is, he's one of only two people on the Land who are exempt from the law of Separation of Church and State. Hell, I'm surprised he agreed to the thing, in the first place."

"That," said Ginger, "was certainly not his idea. It had always been a part of the original Plan, as conceived by Bishop Kizin. From what I heard, Durell did all he could to put a stop to the idea, but once Kizin mentioned it to the public, Durell was hardly in a position to speak out against it."

"Ah, well that makes sense. Anyway, what I was getting at was, if Durell and probably any number of other people, whether in the First Order or the Second Order, take upon themselves more power than the law allows, perhaps what the world really needs is better watchmonogs. Heh, funny, that expression, considering..." He shook his head and continued, "What was I saying? Yes. Um, so I'm sure the good people in the government would be happy to have our help rooting out the bad, even if we're not actually authorized to do anything of the sort. But speaking of the good in government, I actually think it's important to remember the pains that were taken to ensure no one person or group would ever get too much power, at least not legally. After all, that's why there are three branches. There's a system of checks and balances. But even so... it occurs to me that with just one government ruling the entire world, even starting from the best of intentions, what's to stop the whole system from becoming corrupt? Perhaps the world would be better off with more than one country. If there were two or more, they could provide an external balance to keep one another in check."

"So you want to start a new country?" asked Tom. "Maybe inspire others to do the same? I don't know, it sounds more complicated than rebellion. I suppose we'd have to found entirely new villages, presumably without the help of those that are currently established. In fact, they might be just as likely to try to stop us from doing that as from trying to overthrow the government. Seems like we'd do just as well to take our chances with rebellion."

"Well," said Darius, "maybe we wouldn't need to found new villages or start a war, though certainly we'd need to prepare for a war, because as you say, either way they'd try to stop us."

"So what are you proposing, then?"

"Maybe we can spread the idea of... I mean, we could try to get even one or two villages to, um..." he trailed off, trying to think of a word.

"Secede?" suggested Emma.

Darius thought about this new subword, for a moment, then nodded. "Exactly. Secede. Start a new country by breaking up the old one, rather than taking it over entirely. And more importantly, by using the very democratic system established by the Coming, rather than by force. Way easier than my original idea. Gosh, I love irony."

"So I've noticed," said Tom.

Just then, another thought struck Darius, and he grinned. "You know, since Day One, people on the Land have been enamored of Earth. And Earth has lots of countries, even if at this point in time they're all united under one government. If we want to emulate them, maybe the people of the Land should establish more than one country, before a single world government."

"Too late," said Tom.

"Okay, fine, yes. I mean before a lasting world government, are you happy?"

"Almost never. But I'll allow it."

"Thank you kindly. Anyway, I think this 'multiple countries' idea should appeal to most Landians, in theory."

"You know," Emma pointed out, "technically, the Isle of Freedom might be considered the first country outside of... you know, the dominion of Men."

Tom took this as a challenge to his assertion, and replied, "How many villages does it include?"

"Well, just Woodstockade."

"A country must have more than one village, surely."

"But it was separate from the rest of the world."

"But every village was separate from one another, until the Second Order was established, that's the whole point. And as soon as it was established, Woodstockade became a part of it."

"But... your human villages were all separate together, ours was truly alone. Truly separate."

"If-"

"And don't say 'if you say so'."

Tom shrugged and said, "Whatever." Turning back to Darius, he said, "Anyway, even if secession might not be quite as hard as overthrowing the government by force, that doesn't mean it'll be easy. As we've both agreed, they will try to stop us. And as you said earlier, it's just us against the world."

"True," said Darius. "But you know what, though? The more I think about it, all the necessary elements were there during the Coming. There was opposition to the Plan. The whole Protestant Movement, which had plenty of Sorreters on its side, and they raised their own armies and navies, and everything. The Coming ended a mere eight years ago. Not nearly enough time for memories to fade. All we need do is resurrect a dormant spirit in enough people, people who already fought the very same fight we're planning. Or, as we've established, their fight was harder than this new one would be. So, we just go back to our original plan of talking to people, gathering allies, and sooner or later... we'll be ready. All we'd have to do is propose a referendum, and let people vote on it. It's not like there's anything illegal about that."

"As long as you don't forget to prepare for war. If the vote doesn't go our way, no problem, but if it does... it's hard to imagine someone like Demos Royal just accepting it."

"Yes, yes, I already-" Darius suddenly yawned before concluding, "already said that. Anyway, I've done more planning today than I have in all the years I had the whole rebellion idea in the back of my head, and I think that's enough for now. I'm going to take a nap. Wake me when it's my turn to pilot."

He stretched out as best he could, laid his head and hands on a pillow, and closed his eyes. Everyone else decided it would be best to be quiet so as not to disturb their leader. Or perhaps they simply preferred to return to their own thoughts, whatever they might be. All but Tiejo, who murmured, "Dragon's blood, in dragonflies. Hmmm... should to be meeting some real dragonses, we should, yes...."

Darius lay there for an hour or so, unable to sleep. In fact, he'd known he'd be unable to sleep, and wasn't really thinking of taking a nap, as he'd said. He simply felt the need to do some quiet thinking, trying to come up with a clearer picture of how to proceed, once they reached Triscot. At this point the only thing he really knew was that after stopping in his home village, they'd have to move on to Near Port, to rescue Tiejo's master. Of course, Near Port was about 5100 miles from Triscot; about 1100 miles farther than the whole trip from Plist to Tanq had been, and only 350 miles shorter than the trip from Plist to Triscot. He supposed they could cover fifty-one hundred miles in two and a half or three days, if they took no breaks for the night, which was feasible, since they piloted in shifts anyway. (Though of course, he thought, they'd still have to make occasional rest stops of a different nature.) Still, he wasn't happy about the time it would take. Especially since they had no way of knowing, at present, how things would go for them once they actually reached Triscot. They might be lucky to have a chance to leave the village, at all.

When he'd first met Tiejo and agreed to help him, it hadn't really occurred to him to be concerned about how long it would take to get to Near Port. He couldn't have predicted how quickly events would progress. LandOrder taking an interest in them as they had, it was just so random! And their interest making InterGang interested, and that leading to interest from the police, and such official channels leading to Durell Turner, who of course was mostly interested in Cameron as a possible lead on the Protestant Sorreters. But why had LandOrder even taken an interest in the first place? Darius thought back to what Jasp had said, several days ago, when they first met. He suddenly remembered something about an autopilot, and wondered why they hadn't been using that lately. Maybe it was one of the spells that was damaged outside Tanq, yes, that seemed right. One of the gang's spells, which of course couldn't have been fixed at the garage. Still, Darius cursed himself for being so forgetful and generally oblivious. He really needed to concentrate harder on remembering little things like that, but details had always been hard for him. Then he remembered, autopilot wasn't even what he'd been trying to think about. It was what Jasp said about why LandOrder took an interest... their don in Plist, interested because the Band usually worked alone, and Darius usually worked alone.

Usually, Darius thought somewhat bitterly. It's not like I never team up with anyone, nor, I suppose, do they never do so. He sighed. So damned random, an utter coincidence that of all the times I've teamed up, the one time I was finally planning to get my rebellion under way was the one time this damned don whatever-his-name-was happened to take an interest. But I suppose this will teach me... I should either be a complete loner, 100% of the time, or else be more social, more often, so that it's less conspicuous when I do work with anyone. But it's too late now to be a loner, I guess. I'm with the Band now, and Tom, and Tiejo, and Jasp... Well, dammit, if they caused our troubles, thus making time of greater essence than I'd anticipated, perhaps I can at least use them to help us out, in that matter....

He went up front to talk with Jasp, and asked if LandOrder had any faster wagons, or perhaps Sorreters in Triscot who could translocate them all to Near Port. The spy said he'd look into it. Another question Darius had was if LandOrder might be willing to set up a sort of communication network in which all the members of the Chaos might take part, to keep informed of any developments in the various villages, while they were between them, and otherwise out of touch. This, Jasp said, might be more doable than Darius's other ideas. As it was, he was fairly sure he himself would be contacted if the gang learned anything important, and he could pass that information on to Darius and the others. As Darius seemed to have no more questions at the moment, and as his own shift was about over, Jasp left him alone. It had been awhile since Darius had done any solo piloting, so he was a bit nervous; luckily, he was soon joined by Tino. The two of them chatted a bit, about nothing particular, but mostly they each kept to their own thoughts.


chapter 23

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