Chapter 42 The calm before the storm

“You have been quiet this morning Celeste.” “Yes, Ben and sorry. I'm worried and nervous. Things have gone as planned so far and that's what concerns me. My tendency is to over plan, and in this case, it likely won't work. The best I can do is to arrange things so the battle runs on automatic with just a few simple goals and tactics.” “What do you have in mind,” Ben said. “At the end of the day the security forces and Elders have to be rounded up and all restrained. The more stunners the women have, the easier and safer this will be for them. The more surprise and faster things happen the better.” “Can we look at where all the stunners are now Celeste?” asked Ben.

The vid turned on and filled with a sea of stunner white dots and the four green crowd stunner ones. “Can you project where you think they will all be when we start?” Most of the white dots shifted to the thirty-two barracks buildings leaving a sprinkling of them scattered around the city and a few in the Cathedral. “All four of the crowd stunners are in the Security Forces Headquarters. Getting our hands on those would make it much easier to deal with the barracks,” said Ben.

“What do you think of this idea Ben? We send Lora's ten teams out early first and have them collect all the stunners from the troopers on patrol in the city. They start from the outskirts and work their way towards the square. They then use those stunners to quietly take control of the Security Forces headquarters building and collect the crowd stunners. At that time we have six groups converge on the barracks with the crowd stunners, and we split off some with stunners to guard the armory. I don't want any slug throwers in the mix if we can manage it. We have two additional groups now equipped with stunners take and hold the Cathedral complex and the Elder's mansions. The remainder of Lora's group stays the square and holds it. I think I want one team on the outside of the walls where there may be an underground exit point. That leaves one group available to fill in any holes.”

“What do we do with the prisoners?” asked Ben. “Initially we leave them hogtied where they are with hands tied behind their back and feet bound together. The ones in the barracks can also be tied to their beds or anything else that is handy. Later we can pick them up with tractors and transport them to the main hall of the Cathedral. I can't think of a better use for this ugly symbol of oppression,” said Celeste with a smirk. “Let's talk to the women now. They are all together in the warehouse.”

“Hi, Lora. Could you ask everybody to put their earpieces in? Ben and I want to talk with all of you.” “We are ready for you Celeste,” said Lora. “Good morning women. From now on wear your earpieces all the time. I'll warn you of any troopers and help steer you away from them. If you look at your bags carefully, you will find a pouch inside that will hold your tablets. Don't forget to bring them with you in the morning. The most important job you have today is to make sure everybody knows where to be in the morning. After tomorrow history will proudly call you the ten who changed your world for the better. So finish up and get to bed early. I need all of you to be well rested and ready to be your most fearsome in the morning. Be at the warehouse well before first light. I'm proud of all of you.”

Wincing the Marshal rolls over onto his side in the morning on the hard floor. Slowly getting up he makes a token effort to dust himself off and thinks, “I'm really hungry.” As heads off for the square a single tractor pulling an Elder's carriage jerkily passes him belching a choking cloud of black smoke. Approaching the square his nose wrinkles at the smell in disgust as he steps around a fetid brown puddle. He spots among the closed stalls the baker's, and it's open. Walking up he eyes the young women with surprise. “My da is sick and he needs the coins. I will be open as long as there is something to sell. What do you want?” “Four sweet rolls please.” She hands him a paper-wrapped package, and he tries to hand her coins. She steps back. “Look around you at all the sick people. I won't won't touch any coins. Drop them into the bowl and take your change. I'll boil the lot later.” Dropping some coins in he looks closely the bowl and quickly decides not to get any change. The young woman grins. “See I told you so.”

Seating himself on a bench the Marshal slowly eats a roll and studies the square. More Tractors are stalled. The public vid is showing the same scene he saw yesterday. It must be playing a loop he realizes. The normally crowded square has fewer people, and most look ill. He sees a trooper waiting in a long line at the public jakes. He suddenly steps out of the line and butts in at the front. A man loudly complains and the trooper stuns him. He then kicks open the door to the jakes, reaches in and violently hauls the seated man out onto the pavement and stuns him as well. Glaring at the gathering group he steps in and closes the door.  Someone picks up a rock and throws it at the door. Others snatch up rocks and follow his lead. “It's time to leave,” he thinks as he stands up and wraps up the remaining rolls. “Tomorrow must be the day, I just don't know what it will bring.”

“How about we eat outside tonight and have an early night Ben,” said Celeste. “We have a busy day tomorrow.” “Sounds good to me as long as my food isn't going to be crawling around on the plate,” said Ben. “I'll make sure it isn't moving for you, Ben.” “Sounds like there is a loophole in that phrase Celeste.” “Maybe, but trust me.” Ben smiled gently at Celeste, “I always trust you.”