Coffee Break Read – Warehouse Meeting

From Iconoclast: Mistrust and Treason, a Fortune’s Fools by E.M. Swift-Hook. You can listen to this on YouTube.

He’d never met Avilon Revid in person before, the man who was viewed with awe by most of the youngsters back then and with a wary respect by the High Council. Revid was the man who made miracles. The man who had brought the Coalition to its knees in some parts of the galaxy and had liberated entire planets from corporate domination. Meeting him was the kind of event that stuck in your mind.
Torbalen’s first thought had been how little like a figure of legend he really was in the flesh. There was nothing exceptional in the man’s appearance. His face was familiar to anyone who watched the newscasts. He was something over average height, but not dramatically so, with straight brown hair and unremarkable features. Revid hadn’t been alone, he was speaking with a slightly shorter man, sharp-faced, dark eyed, and dark haired, who was watching Torbalen approach them with suspicion. Then Revid had stopped talking to the man beside him and turned to look directly at Torbalen, revealing the incredible brilliance of his eyes, an almost luminous green.
“It seems I have a lot to thank you for,” Revid said, making a quick gesture to the contents of the warehouse.
Torbalen gave a small nod of acknowledgement.
“Just doing my job — the job I should be doing, not the one where they drown me in administration first.”
The other man had spoken then. He was holding one of the weapons and seemed to be admiring it.
“This,” he said, “is good kit. Quality.”
“And that is high praise, coming from an elite mercenary,” Revid added.
The dark haired man grinned. So he would be the mercenary commander Revid had insisted on taking on for the military side of this strike. There had been disquiet in the High Council around that, with plenty of objections. The concept of including someone who wasn’t personally committed to their ideals had made a number of the Councillors extremely agitated. Revid’s famously pithy reply had been that he considered they were being selfish to allow only members of The Legacy the chance to die for the cause. Torbalen had been one of those supporting Revid, even though he had refused to offer any other details about the mercenary, except when pressed, said he was known as ‘Jaz’.
“It should be quality,” Torbalen told them, unable to resist a small boast. “It came from the military. It was part of a shipment being made to resupply an offensive.”
“You stole from the Marines?” The one called Jaz sounded both impressed and disbelieving.
“You would be amazed how easy it is sometimes. Those who live by bureaucracy find themselves willing to surrender anything if presented with an appropriate looking form.”
That had made the dark haired man laugh.
“You don’t need those, brother,” he said, gesturing to the crates. “You only need a few more men like him.” He had nodded towards Torbalen. “Then the whole fucking Coalition would sign itself over to your Legacy.”
Even Revid had smiled, ironically, at that.
“If only it could be that simple.”
He’d sounded as if he meant it and perhaps he had. Perhaps he hadn’t been one of the typical ‘death or glory’ merchants who formed the majority in the ranks he led. Torbalen had met too many of them, most little more than children, all young people full of hate and hurt and anger, wanting to strike back and not caring if they died in the process. Not surprising when they believed all they had to live for had been crushed out of existence by the blind and remorseless advance of the Coalition. People like his own son.
Maybe something of that showed on Torbalen’s face. Perhaps there wasn’t quite enough of the uncritical adulation Revid was used to, because he frowned slightly when Torbalen didn’t respond. The dark haired man had used the silence, nodding a brief farewell and moving off quickly, to check the various crates and packs, leaving the two of them alone.
“You have my personal thanks, for what that is worth,” Revid told him. “When this is done you’ll have the gratitude of an entire Sector of free people too. I could never have set this up without your being willing to work with me outside the lines. This will be your victory as much as mine.”
Torbalen felt flattered as he assumed was intended. He’d also felt awkward in the moment, not sure what he should say. None of the usual platitudes seemed to fit. It was nothing? That would have been a huge untruth, getting this shipment together had taken him days with no sleep. You’re welcome? That made it sound like a small, formal favour had been delivered and would have diminished both the scale of his own achievement and the praise he was being offered for it. So he said what was on his mind:
“I just hope it’s enough.”
Revid had nodded, there was a shift in the intense green gaze as if he was reassessing something. Then he’d stepped forward and gripped Torbalen’s arm briefly.
“We need to be moving. But when I get back I’d like the chance to talk with you some more, if you are willing?”
For a moment, Torbalen understood the magic hold this man had on others. The sudden rush of tight emotion he experienced almost choked him back from replying and when he did, it was only with the trite, stock phrases of polite convention that came easily to mind.
“I’d be happy to. Let me know when you are back around. Hope to see you soon.”
Afterwards, he felt embarrassed that he’d spoken that way, but in truth, he was glad he’d managed to find any words at all. At least he hadn’t stood there, mouth slack and starry-eyed. He had also been furious with himself. He never thought he might be someone to be affected by celebrity or wowed by charisma. Mercifully, Revid had either not noticed or perhaps was simply so used to such reactions in the people he spoke to, he didn’t consider it worthy of note or response. He’d simply released Torbalen’s arm and stepped away with a brief nod, freeing Car to take his leave and leaving Revid and his people to free the Varn Sector.
Except that was not how it had worked out.

E.M. Swift-Hook.

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