Trevor watched silently as Kasmir Teufel hurried—it wouldn’t quite do to say that he fled—the office. Filling Kasmir’s place in the government hierarchy would be difficult, but Trevor hadn’t even tried to convince him to stay.
Let the scared ones go, Wu had said, forcing them to work with you will only lead to problems.
So Kasmir would get a generous retirement bonus and a chance to escape.
After a few minutes, Wu escorted in Narges Khoroushi, the head bureaucrat for Arcane Persons and Artifacts.
She walked stiffly, her starburst earrings chiming with each step. Trevor examined the rest of her ensemble. She wore a simple white cap covering her head that contrasted with her dark brown skin and curled black hair. Her pants were dark with intricate floral embroidery climbing half way to the knees. A robed upper garment that fell to mid thigh and mimicked the embroidery around the cuffs. Together, her outfit gave an impression somewhere between an active or relaxed lifestyler. An impression Trevor knew was false. There was nothing ‘relaxed’ about her.
She stopped a few steps from his desk. “Fredrickson.”
Keep the evil ones close to you, had been the second part of Wu’s divination. ‘Evil,’ Trevor thought, was a flexible concept. But Wu said that in this case, it meant those who would cause or force division. Which fit Khoroushi to a T.
“Thanks for coming so promptly. Please, sit, have a snack.”
On cue, Wu returned with a tray of finger foods.
She glared at him. “There is no need for courtesy between us. Say your piece and have done with it.”
“I want you to step down from APA.”
She sniffed. “And if I don’t?”
“Then I can’t put you on the team that is going to be restructuring the World Peace Force.”
Her eyes widened.
Trevor leaned back in his chair and sighed. “You heard about Winehurst?”
She jerked her head.
“He was… typical of our so-called ‘peacekeepers.’ We need a military, with an emphasis on marines and space forces.” She opened her mouth but he rolled over her. “We don’t need a bunch of bullies and jackboots who use chemical weapons on protesters and demonstrations.”
Khoroushi pursed her lips. “You watched my speeches.”
“We were enemies.” He smiled. “I try to know my enemies.”
“We are enemies. And if I’d been more willing to support… harsh measures against your street mobs you might not be sitting in that chair right now.” She leaned in, anger glinting in her eyes. “And you know damn well that not all of your engineered protests were peaceful.”
“You and I both know your colleagues’ personal cowardice is the reason my butt is in this chair. The protests,” he waved out to windows, “helped me build grassroots support to take power without instant chaos or rebellions erupting. All the arrests, and beatings, and chemical attacks did was prove to my supporters that I was right. The World Government was a corrupt oligarchy in service of the elites. And don’t tell me you were democratically elected. When a full third of the world’s population couldn’t vote there was nothing democratic about it.”
“Monsters.” It was quietly stated, without the venom most people would imbue in the word, but no less hateful for that.
“No. People. My people. And one way or another, I am removing you from power over them. But I’d rather smoke the pipe with you than toss you out a window.” He smiled again. “If nothing else the repairs will get expensive after a while.”
“Ha!” She looked at him for the first time with interest. “So you’ll let me fix the problems with the peacekeepers if I buy into your revolution.”
“Not buy in. Just stop fighting me.”
She said nothing for a full two minutes. Trevor waited. Then she sat down across from him. “Tell me how this brainstorm of yours will work. And why you think we need a military at all.”