Karatau visited me and brought the strange cream. Liga apparently doesn’t know. We had a longer discussion about my role during the trial and whether I would be called in. The testimony recording will take at least an hour, and Karatau thinks that I can plead a health exemption. The Kohjenya have all of the relevant information, le said, with the exception of my journals.
Suka has what le needs to have for safekeeping. I mean, Liga and I agreed to write them as we did so they looked like Maðzi-inspired things that I merely shared with lim so le could have the writings legally — so we could cover for ourselves at court — and we may not even need them. I mean, I bared my soul in ways that — it’s not that I keep things private, which would be wrong, but there are things that only close friends, family, and oath-friends should even see.
I plan to move these Maðzi-style journal entries into a clothing trunk with a false base and keep constant watch over it. No one outside of my family should see these writings, at least for now or until I die. If they won’t serve a court purpose, what use would the rest of the world have — except to see this ugly underside? Let them have that propaganda. The spin that is in the media is good enough for them. They deserve closure. The Fadehin died. We can at least give them that.
So. Anyway. I told Karatau that I am comfortable giving a testimony, and I said — I asked if I was in danger.
Le made eye contact with my wall screen’s video camera. Regent Thassañi has told me enough to know why. There is a ghost network written in two dead languages, Marmaḥa layered on Eamaru. Marmaḥa is the one that linguists are trying to reconstruct. Eamaru is something I am afraid to search on. There must be a network flag on the term. Regent Thassañi says that Eamaru was the language spoken after Maðz was colonized, during the spacefaring period right before Impermanence is set. I had no idea that Impermanence was that old. Impermanence is a culture in decline. If Impermanence is that old, how long have people been going into space? How long have cultures been rising and falling?
Almost no one can program in Eamaru and Marmaḥa. Now that the Karatha know that I will become important, they know who I am. There are enough Karatha to have programmers. Regent Thassañi doesn’t know which tesekhaira and collectives actively understand either language. Anyone born after Eamaru was spoken would have a significant disadvantage. There are also, apparently, secret underground schools of mortal children who are taught this language.
Karatau must know Eamaru, and so must Liga. They must know Marmaḥa. If they don’t, the entire surveillance infrastructure could be taken from them in a heartbeat.
My old smart paper needs to have its network connection disabled so it doesn’t dump everything from the early entries into the digital nets waiting for it. (Admittedly, everything could already have been scraped.) While I can — and must — go back and delete the things I don’t want anyone to see, nothing can ever truly be deleted. That is why those smart pages must go in that trunk. My new status has put me under constant threat of discovery. It’s paranoid, but I’ve even been tilting traditional paper away from cameras to avoid detection. Thank Gods I realized that my writing would be read before I said too much.
So, when I asked that question about the testimony — to go back to that:
Karatau said, “From the testimony? No. You have made people angry for your involvement overall. Daybreak, yes, and the Karatha. They seeded most of the grassroots conservative movement in the first years after the Occupation ended.”
“Are they watching us now?”
“I don’t know.” Karatau smiled and turned towards me. “You can put tape over your cameras, but the audio is another matter. There are encrypted systems that one can have. There are ways to overwhelm the network so it doesn’t notice you for a few minutes or hours. Deo has the protocols. So does Tenes. So do I. They’re not foolproof, but they do work.”
“Why would anyone want the conservative movements to succeed? The spaceports and interplanetary commerce would help all of the Gardens. That’s what they want.” I looked at the video camera, not at lim.
Karatau clicked ler tongue. “Atara. Maðz. Laseå-Ameisa. These are the hubs, and Laseå-Ameisa does not like the way Atara or Maðz prefer to manage themselves. It could—” Le cleared ler throat, and ler eyes unfocused.
I counted to seventeen in my head.
“Cultural contact is so interesting, you know. It’s not wise to put one over the other,” le said. “I know that that answer doesn’t satisfy you. How is your wound? I can apply the cream. There’s no use overextending yourself.”
“Have you thought about that friendship ritual with someone in the Kohjenya yet? When?”
I sighed and leaned back onto the bed. My chest hurt during the exhalation. “I should do a friendship ritual with Liga very soon, in defiance of the doctors’ orders to rest. Shouldn’t I?”
Le smiled and rolled up ler sleeves. “Yes, I think so.”
“What do you want me to do? Sit up or lie down?” I twisted and turned as best I could, and truth be told, I don’t have enough command over my injuries to dress myself yet. Anything that requires two hands is too hard. “I will be an adviser, and I am already friends with ler daughter. Suka and Liga must be close. It would be a great honor for the Kohjenya to know an adviser that well.”
Karatau helped me out of my clothing and dressings just enough to apply the paste. Le started at my shoulder. When the cream touched my skin, it sent a cooling sensation down my arm, but the cold almost burned. “Restricted use. It comes from one of the Karatha-controlled factories in Īpa.” Le cleared ler throat, moved down to undress the next wound, and continued speaking. “It would be an honor to have favor from someone who will be so esteemed. Liga will say yes.”
“Thank you. The Karatha rebuilt the factory? I thought that most of them were destroyed.” I winced when le touched my chest, but attempted to relax.
The shrapnel injuries really, truly hurt, and I don’t know when the pain will end. I might have nerve damage, which will require more surgeries. If the Karatha hate me, will they send a surgeon who cannot do ler job?
“Correct, it was bombed by the Taritit. This is a stockpile. I think that the Taritit murdered the Karatha who knew how to make it. The reverse-engineered one doesn’t have the same properties as the original.”
“Surely it’s in a supercomputer bank.”
“That would mean that the Karatha are deliberately holding back a healing technology.” Karatau laughed nervously and glanced at the video camera. “I’m certain that you don’t mean that?”
For my descendants, if you ever encounter this situation: When someone code-switches to vague statements and you do not think too much of it — if le is a member of a collective — that silence before the change means that something has happened. I didn’t notice it today because I am an idiot. Karatau probably stopped speaking plainly because someone alerted lim that we were being watched, and le couldn’t exactly say it aloud.
Regent Thassañi can mentor me, but le must run a country. Karatau corrected me today because I am not yet good at this. I need to become good at this if I have any hope of success. I need to stop being nineteen. I’m way too young for this.
Of course I said, “I don’t mean it that way. I meant that I don’t believe that they would do it, so the data must have been corrupted. We will all learn how again someday.”
“Do you know how to ride a daraiga?”
“No, and I couldn’t, not with this leg — not for months.”
“When you heal, I would like to take you out for a ride. It would be very refreshing for you to be among nature and farmland.” Le laughed. “It’s good to get out of the city sometimes.”
I think I know what le means. In the countryside, especially if we go into agricultural fields, there is nothing to mount cameras on. No one can watch us. Here in the city, programmers can mine hacked video feeds for faces. Anyone who knows a secret override language can definitely do the same thing on a much larger scale.
Good Tsemanok beside me, is this what I must become? Someone who eschews the city to avoid being hounded by the Karatha for a secret mandate that they would hate? I am not prepared for this.
Gods, I wish that things could move fast, and the way we must do things is so, so slow!