In A Smoke Filled Room, In the Belly of a Great Machine…
Who can say for certain how long the two talked, exchanging visages and waxing poetic over all matters of state and capital as their coals burnt down and their glasses ran dry. He was slow to respond initially, withdrawn and reserved. You had to be to be a man like Aksesu, a corporate existential crisis in the form of a grizzled visionary. A single slip up, a crack in his defense or loose lips over spilled drinks and the mere suggestion of workers organizing was enough to have his corporate citizenship revoked. He was right to be cautious, and he’d need that for what Niina had planned for him. Even if he didn’t know it yet he’d be the perfect monster to keep to keep the ojaabun, the ruling-class, awake at night.
The conversation was long and meandering at first, half answers and half-truths exchanged on both sides. Nothing more than any other casual dissenter might respectfully grumble over between shifts; the nature of the war, defense production quotas, the indifference they faced from the foreman over their ever increasing workload while still keeping policy or action at arms length. He was good at playing the game for a baseliner, just like his profile suggested. She’d singled him out for that reason, carefully selected after weeks of pouring over open source intelligence out of a pool of candidates like a mad god choosing their emissary. It was just a matter of wearing those defenses down to find the flag-waving radical underneath, twisting the knife to turn their quiet anger into revolutionary furor.
Markuu yn vaito. Call and answer. A duet between two actors, an art that’s been around since the Caldari first discovered honorifics. Niina swirled her drink, blowing a smoke ring up into the rafters. Enough foreplay. Time for the kick off.
“Well,” she exhaled solemnly, “There’s always Union Day.”
He recoiled. Pain. Anger. Drawn blood. An opening.
“Ah. Oh yeah. No, sorry I forgot. Our people still handle that a bit differently. Workers Union Day was always eroding within the state over the years. I remember before, growing up in Lonetrek all the festivals and parades we had for everyone. That… Kinda changed with Heth from what I can tell, and it hasn’t been the same since. Kills me seeing the ■■■■ the CEP puts out for it now, reducing a celebration of labor in the State to displays of corporate control. Trade agreements, military exercises, enforcing “service and sacrifice” to Mother Megacorp even in the face of their flagrant incompetence. ■■■■ how many titans did they pull in for their parades? For what? Photo ops? Merchandising? All that that military might, must not have been profitable for Mother Megacorp to actually put them to use, what do they care if a few border systems fall so long as the major trade routes stay open I guess. Not for us though, not for anyone below the corporate ladder. You, kirjuun, you get to die for the State under our dipshit officers. Or work until the State kills you so you can roll out another fancy parade fleet. It’s all horseshit.”
Silence. Anger. More cracks. More blood in the water.
"All that buildup, and where did it get us? How many guns rolled off the assembly line or out of the dockyards that you were told were to fight the war that were just turned planetside on your fellow workers for daring to, what, not be thankful for their suffering? How many sacrifices are we supposed to make? How much of ourselves are we supposed to give, how labor and life and capital bled out of us? I can remember the way they sold us on the state. Corporations weren’t… Vertical entities, they were organic communities, guilds, practically clans. Every work a member a key stakeholder, in their own way. Thats what the sold us. Then we ■■■■■■ it all up.
“See now, I thought about that a lot. For a while I was convinced that it was Heth, it had to be. Say what you will about the Provists, they understood the importance of mobilizing the people and popular will. Then Prime happened. We all woke up from the nightmare, stumbled out of bed, took a good look at our ■■■■■■ up face in the mirror and we overcorrected. The will of the people? Patriotism? Those were all Provist policies. We had to liberalize. The economy, our culture, our place in New Eden all needed to be modernized beyond even before our trist with fascism. Neoliberalism, new and improved!”
She shook her hands for dramatic effect, rolling her eyes in performance.
“See though. I think maybe I’ve figured it out. I had my suspicions before, but seeing what happened in Skarkon with the Republic Security Services and all the same parallels with the Provists now I’m certain. This is all cyclical. It’s happened before, and its happening now. Why do you think the megacorps are centralizing all that power and cracking down on dissent? Because this is all planned. The State and PKI see the curve of the universe and they’ve planned what happens next. Fascism has never been an answer to the failures of capitalism; it’s capitalism in decay.”
She had the pitch memorize by this point.
“It’s all snake oil. Flim-flam men selling us a poison pill. Nationalism is the immune response of state corporatism, flaring up every so often to “purge” it of any threats until the fever to breaks, nationalism’s “defeated”, trade starts to flow, and the gears of Mother Megacorp continue to turn uncaring of the suffering before, during, or after. The Provists were propped up by the megacorporations against other workers movements, directed towards external enemies, outlived its purpose, and was promptly removed from power without any fundamental change or any meaningful justice. We once again face an age where ineffectual Caldari liberalism and the inefficiencies of capitalism threaten to spark a movement from the workers for real change, and if the PKN faction currently in power would have their way that movement would be steered to stoke the fires of nationalism. Someone needs to break the wheel. They’d have us believe our race trumps any class divide. The fact is, the working class and the ruling class have nothing in common.”
More silence. Good. That’s smart. Nothing incriminating. Time to close.
She passed him a datapad in a tritanium hardcase. Shipping manifests of weapons and military equipment accompanied a large appendix of other materials. Propaganda posters and pamphlets for distribution, basic small unit tactics, guides for building improvised weaponry, detailed instructions for disabling armored vehicles. Still more as he kept scrolling. Manifests for thousands of clone tubes, and diagrams for activating reanimation units. Photos of fleshy, cybernetic armor-clad marionnettes in glass tubes like toy soldiers at the ready. Not just that, but bank accounts filled with corporate script. Enough to finance the union for months. Gods, enough to export the moment to other megacorps, and then some.
"Y’know I ■■■■■■■ hated Heth. Ruined my life, indirectly, even if I wouldn’t be here without him in a messed up way. But one thing I’d never admit he got right? Warclones are dangerous. Like… Unreasonably dangerous. One got a bees dick away from killing him and the Provists had no idea it was coming. Capsuleers might command a starship at their fingertips but their power ends at the edge of space. You put a capsuleer on the ground they can’t do ■■■■, and they stick out like a sore thumb. The warclone that shot Heth though? From what he know, he was baselining. Would have no way of telling him apart from another State worker unless you cracked their head open. The don’t even need to be in a body that remotely resembles them. ■■■■, they could be a different gender even. They could be everyone, and anyone. Train operators, steel workers, industrial trainers. Understandable why he wanted them purged.
“Can you ■■■■■■■ believe that these things are all over Jita right now? Some sort of market boom caused it, I’ve heard some dumbasses sparked a speculative buying rush and now you have capsuleers and day traders stocking up on them and exchanging them like corporate stock. Used to be moving around even a bit of warclone equipment would raise eyebrows around here. Now you could move a few thousand warclone blanks across the State and no one would bat an eye. Could you imagine if a few thousand active clones got mixed in with all those dudes? Terrifying. I bet you wouldn’t even be able to pick 'em out going in and out of '4-4 mixed in here and there with other orders. Could end up in any anarchist’s hands, gods and spirits.”
Niina got up from her seat, leaving her datapad with the man with an impish smirk.
“They speak Napanii down on the docks? It’s mostly a trade language for accountants or executives, can’t imagine its replaced regional Caldari down there with the shaatei. Funny thing Napanii kept from the Raata era, used a lot more in boardrooms and navy offices than break rooms and workshops. They had a word, vaajpa. It loosely translates to ‘chaos’ or ‘anarchy’ and disorder. Taken another way, it can also mean freedom. Plenty of linguists have tried to figure that one out, mostly some pseudo-intellectual take on placing the State above ourselves. I dunno though. It’s not necessarily a negative word. Maybe the Raata just understood the nature of revolution, even if they were on the wrong side of it. Think on that, Kitagawa-haan. Anyway, I better get going. Supposedly there’s some sort of Triglavian wormhole that just opened up in New Caldari, triangles have been leaking in. The Navy hasn’t done ■■■■ about it yet, of course, but I guess the CEP Headquarters has basically been blockaided. God forbid anything bad happens, the Big 8 would be in shambles.”
With that Niina closed her tab, leaving the man alone in the club in a cloud of smoke and disco music.