Title: Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Nine
It was amazing to Garrett how much authority was conferred by numbers. Population, mineral resources, planetary wealth, personal investments: it was a web that even a supercomputer had a hard time tracing, some lines thickly tethered together, others so thin they were barely visible, but still vital at the same time. Numerical superiority in the Senate meant the difference between representation and willful ignorance, face time and brushoffs, dedication and criminalization. There were a few outliers whose policies were driven more on principle than profit, but they were few and far between. For not the first time, Garrett considered the merits of complete and total anarchy.
“That wouldn’t get you anywhere, darlin’.”
“It would make me feel better,” he snapped at his hallucination of Jonah. “I could do it with what I’ve collected already. I could burn the entire Federation establishment to the ground, ruin every leading political figure in the eyes of their own constituents, cut off the head of the snake.”
“Too many people rely on Federation programs for their lives. A disruption like that would mean an awful lot of people are going to die.”
“Maybe they deserve to as well, for being so fucking gullible.”
“Garrett.” He didn’t look as the hallucination leaned in, warm breath feathering across his cheek. “You’re tired, and you’re stressed, and you’re sick. I know you don’t mean that.”
“I suppose not.” Although the more he thought about it, the less sure he was.
“Besides, that would make you into just another dictator. You want that burden on your shoulders?”
Garrett closed his eyes. “No. I want to go home and lie down on my bed with you and forget about everything else.”
“And you will, darlin’. Soon. I promise. We’ve just gotta get this situation in hand first.” Jonah leaned back. “What’s next on your list?”
“I’ve got the shipyard numbers from Liang. Looots of interesting and completely illegal activity going on there. I’ve got the latest figures from Berengaria on her family holdings, and the computer is working on the relationships between those and other members of the Senate.” He glanced at the glowing red icon in the far right corner of his implant’s visual screen. “The battle is still being fought above Pandora. The last I checked—” two minutes ago “—our forces were holding steady.”
“Good. And now?”
“Now?” Garrett tilted his head back and stretched his arms above his head. He hadn’t been enjoying much of life lately, but he was pretty fucking sure he was going to enjoy this next part. “Now I give my grandmother the opportunity to recuse herself from the shitstorm that’s about to occur. Because she might be a dried-up, embittered, single-focus excuse for a human being, but she and I both care about family.”
“Very gracious of you, darlin’.”
“I agree.” Garrett relaxed and stared pensively at the ceiling for a moment. “She doesn’t really deserve the consideration, but Miles would be disappointed if I didn’t make the attempt.”
“Why do you dislike her so much?”
“Because Dame Mildred Caractacus is a flimsy paper mask of a person who would rather pretend that everything is perfect than put the work into fixing what’s wrong. She adored my mother because she raised my father’s ‘profile,’ but that changed after my mom’s suicide. I’ve been tainted by association ever since, and so have you and Cody.” He snorted. “Not that she’s ever even bothered to talk to Cody, because of his ‘obvious flaws.’”
“A lot like his other grandma,” Jonah said pensively. Garrett glanced at him.
“You’re pretty insightful for a hallucination.”
“Now you’re just complimenting yourself.”
Garrett shrugged. “Maybe. Doesn’t matter. I’ll give it a try and we’ll go from there.” He sent out the signal that should end with a direct call to his grandmother’s personal line, and waited for her to pick up. And waited. And waited…he was just about done with waiting by the time she finally responded.
“Garrett.” Her perfect, twenty-five-year old face appeared in the screen. Mildred Caractacus was not the sort of person to enter her old age without a fight to the death: in this case, the death of her dignity. She had the form of a young woman, but the mannerisms and movements of someone well beyond her second century. It was a nauseating dichotomy. “What do you want?”
“I can’t just call to check in?”
“You never have before, so I don’t see why you’d begin bothering with basic courtesies now.”
“Good point,” he agreed. “You’re right, I don’t really care how you’re doing.”
Mildred arched an eyebrow. Garrett imagined he could hear her muscles creak. “The feeling is decidedly mutual. Why are you calling, then?”
“Because I want to offer you the opportunity of a lifetime.”
She chuckled. “You sound like a bad investment scheme. I can’t imagine there’s any sort of financial advice you could give me that’s worth listening to, and if what you want is my money, well. Perhaps this will teach you to regret cutting ties with your family so completely.” She reached out to end the connection.
“I’m going to ruin the economy.”
Mildred paused. “What?”
“Or at least vast swaths of it,” Garrett continued. “Everything that President Alexander has personally invested in, certainly. I’m going to ruin it. I’m going to break it down into its component parts and get it reduced, reassessed, and reassigned. I’m going to do this within the next forty-eight hours.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Exactly what I’m saying.” He leaned forward and made sure their gazes connected. “I’m going to take down President Alexander in the ways that will hurt him most. I’m going to ruin his reputation as a leader, a politician, and a businessman. I’m going to destroy every positive facet of his public personality until it’s completely broken, and everyone can see him for the stinking, shriveled piece of offal that he is. I’m going to obliterate every trace of his influence and make him into the most hated man in the Federation, and once that’s done, I’m probably going to get him killed.” Garrett shrugged. “I might even give him the opportunity for a trial first, but that all depends on what happens at Pandora.” No Jonah and Cody, all bets are off. Fuck having a trial, he won’t even have a grave.
“Pandora? What…what does that backwater have to do with anything?”
“It has everything to do with it,” Garrett said gently. “As you’d know, if you ever bothered to come out of your chrysalis and talk to your son.”
“You can’t do this.” She sounded more confident now. “You can’t do any of this. You don’t have the means or the influence. You’re not the Senator, not the Governor—nothing like your father. You can’t—”
“It’s a terribly bad idea to tell me what I can and can’t do,” Garrett advised her. “It makes me angry in ways I’ve got very little voluntary control over right now. This is a courtesy call, Millie, nothing more. I suggest you divest our family’s holdings from big Federation institutions as fast as you can, because they might not be around much longer.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You realize I could take this threat to the president himself?”
“Why would he listen to you? He knows who I am, and he doesn’t think I can do it either. He would laugh in your face, call you too credulous, maybe call you a threat yourself.” Garrett shrugged. “Do what you want, but I’m going to act soon. It’s up to you whether you want to be bankrupted or not. But Miles and I, and our families? We’ll be fine.” He had seen to that years ago.
The red light in the corner of his vision started flashing. “I have to go.”
“Wait! We’re not done here, Garrett. I need more details—I need more information about this!”
“I don’t have time to give you any more.” He cut the connection and opened the icon. It took less than a second to realize why it had started pinging him.
“Oh.” Garrett stared at the ship indicators numbly. “Oh, no, please. Oh no, nononono…”
“What is it?” Jonah asked.
“It’s…” He couldn’t say anything, though. He could only watch in helpless thrall as the worst thing he could imagine happened right before his eyes.