Our extraction teams had done well. The pharma-corporations had fallen, as had the pharma-hospitals. Their CEOs were now our prisoners as were their boards. Our brig was beginning to fill nicely.
The only thing that had bothered me was the fact that each board was ten members shy of being full. That meant ten were out of town. Somewhere. But they no longer held industry meetings. All pharma-corporations were rivals. They were enemies. They did not share findings from research or higher education any more.
Hell. Half the time, they were trying to make war on each other. That was where some of their ‘test’ subjects came from. And the corporation hospitals were sort of like concentration camps where prisoners were kept and tested on mercilessly, some even to the point of death. Vivisection had become commonplace after a two thousand year ban. Human life meant nothing to these greedy monsters.
Suddenly, the light went on. I knew where the missing board members were. They were in the smaller towns, touring their outlying facilities! Damn! I-we-had forgotten all about them!
Suddenly, I knew that this war was going to drag out a while. No longer was it a simple couple of months. It was bound to last a year…or more. We had to act fast.
Sure, we had cut all communication. But we had no idea whether these board members were going to wait for orders from HQ, or whether they were going to march home to find what was wrong when they no longer received communications from their bosses. I was betting on the latter. They had small armies in the towns they could somewhat rely on.
If those armies were to link together, we would be in for a long war. We could not afford a long drawn out conflict. At least, nothing longer than a year or two. And we could not afford widespread devastation either.
We had to make this quick and as painless as possible. We also had to figure out a way to join up with our other allies. And we had to figure it all out when we hit the final targets. And I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
Craig noticed something was bothering me. “Sir?”
I looked up. “We have forgotten to plan on one key item.”
Frank and Simi had appeared beside me from out of nowhere. Simi looked concerned. “What is that, Dan?”
I looked at her. “We forgot about the small towns. Their outposts, if you will. I know they aren’t as numerous as they had been before the Fall, but there are still enough for a small army to cause a large enough counter resistance to drag this thing out for a couple of years. And we will be forced to take each one out in the open.”
Simi smiled. “Not necessarily.”
I looked at her, surprised. “What do you mean?”
She looked me in the eye. “Do we have maps? I mean ones that show the closest and the approximate distance? If so, we can dig the outreaching tunnels toward them. the corporate outposts should have access tunnels beneath them, even if they are only for maintenance.”
I smiled. “You’re a genius! And once we hit the first, we can link to the rest that way! Brilliant!”
Simi nodded. “I will get right on it.”
I watched her leave, followed by Frank. I turned back to Craig. “Radio the rest and let them know to do the same.”
He nodded and left. I headed for the commons. I had to begin the rehabilitation of this city. I stepped out onto the catwalk and all eyes turned to me. “Are there any among you who were once teachers?”
A few grizzled arms raised, as did a few not-so-old arms. One of the elderly women stood. “Sir, we were the first to be rounded up and imprisoned.”
I nodded. “Yes, I know. They knew that true wealth was knowledge, not their money. If the children were to be educated, it threatened their power because educated people challenge everything.”
She looked up at me. “Why did you ask for teachers?”
I smiled. “Because we are going to rebuild and reopen the schools. Our children are going to have a future better than this. Better than what we now have.”
She looked perplexed. “But we have no text books. No desks. No supplies.”
I nodded. “I know. But I do. I have books they can learn from. I saved as many old texts that I could. Math. English. Science. Geography. Sociology. Many before the test craze of the early 21st century. I was lucky enough to be able to find sets that still had the teacher’s answer books with them, and enough books to serve every city…for now.”
A cheer rippled through the commons that rattled the rafters. It made me so proud that they were ready to rebuild. I held up my hand. “I will also search for the needed supplies. Paper. Pencils. Pens. Whatever you need.”
The cheering grew louder. I was now more than a leader. I was their hero. Their savior.
I exited the commons and headed for Craig’s com-room. I would contact those in the nearby cities. Maybe they knew of stockpiles of those supplies. I stepped into the com-room.
Craig smiled. “Something I can do, Sir?”
I looked at him. he had not even turned his head to see who came in. I was perplexed. “Y-yes. But first, how’d you know it was me?”
He chuckled. “You visit me the most. Besides. I have also learned to determine your approach by the whir of your cybernetic leg.”
I began laughing. “I had plum forgotten that my leg made any sound. I guess when you live with it long enough, you stop hearing it.”
He simply smiled. “What did you need, Sir?”
I grinned. “I need you to call to our closest allies and see if any of them have run across stockpiles of what could be considered school supplies. Maybe one of them have secretly saved as much of those things as possible.”
He looked over at me. “Gonna reopen schools, eh? And the Federal mandate?”
I looked him in the eye. “The Federal mandate be damned.”