You Can’t Get Something Good Out of Something Wrong

Excerpt from the novel Rising Storm icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by S.M. Stirling icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

S.M. Stirling's "Rising Storm" book cover. [Formatted]


     Puzzled, Jordan studied the short E-mail. Reading his E-mail was something he did in order to feel at home—which he didn’t in the furnished-apartment anonymity of the place he was living.

Good news! Your extra spicy South American beef jerky is on the way!
Your shipment should arrive one week from today!

The tag wasn’t one he recognized; it definitely wasn’t Dieter’s and he sure as hell hadn’t ordered beef jerky over the Internet. Let alone the spicy South American kind.
     What the hell is this about? he wondered. Could it be a coded message from John or von Rossbach? Actually it kind of sounded like John. Or maybe it was just that he thought it sounded like a seventeen-year-old might if he wanted to send a cryptic message. Admittedly his acquaintance with John was limited, but he hadn’t really seemed the cryptic type.
     Von Rossbach? he wondered. Maybe. Sector types were the kind of people who’d encrypt their grocery list. And Dieter had been the one to come up with the weather-report shtick.
     Whatever. He decided to take the message both ways. First, Jordan typed a message to the return address stating that he would return their package of spicy beef unopened because he hadn’t ordered anything from them. And next I’ll start looking out for a big guy and a teenager in about a week.
     With a final click he sent off the message, then sighed in disappointment. He had hoped to hear from John or Dieter, in their own persons—not disguised as a spicy-beef company. He had good news for them.
     Sarah had been going through her therapy at Pescadero at warp speed. Dr. Ray had, miraculously, transferred her to the Encinas Halfway House, which had a very good reputation. The counselor there, who was none other than Sarah’s former doctor, Silberman himself, had indicated that she might be ready to leave in as little as two months. Legitimately! A state that Sarah had experienced only rarely in the last seventeen years and John perhaps never in his life.
     Jordan shook his head. To think she’d be going home a little less than eighteen months after blowing up Cyberdyne. Who’d have imagined a year and a half ago that I’d think that was a good thing?


     Dieter made another mark on the map of Mexico and looked over at John, who lounged in an overstuffed chair looking thoughtful. A big corkboard had been one of the things he’d installed in his office in the original modernization when he bought the ranch, and it was perfect for holding big maps. These were modern, based on commercial satellite imaging, and extremely accurate.
     “I think that’s about it for Mexico, South, and Central America,” John said. “At least the ones I know about. Mom probably could show you a whole lot more.” He grimaced. “There was a weapons cache down by Ciudad del Este, but Mom promised that to Victor Griego so he wouldn’t rat on us to you.”
     “But he did,” Dieter rumbled, tapping his pen on the map. “So let’s include it. If he doesn’t like it he can always complain to the police.”
     John snorted and gave him the coordinates. “The stuff was mostly junk though. Maybe we should have a second-tier map, for when we’re desperate.” He looked pensive as Dieter nodded and made a notation on the map. “In the U.S. I’m not so sure,” he continued. “I was pretty young then and after a while I… kinda wasn’t interested. Y’know?”
     Dieter looked at his young friend. “You mean when you thought your mother was crazy,” he said.
     “Yeah,” John admitted.
     “We’ll get her out of there, John. And soon, I promise.”
     With a grimace the younger man sat forward. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, Dieter, it’s don’t make promises you might not be able to keep.” He looked up from under his eyebrows. “And we have no reason to believe that it might be possible to do that. This move to minimum security that Jordan told you about? It could easily be a trap.” He shook his head, his lips lifted in a crooked smile. “It’s just the kind of thing they’d do.”
     Von Rossbach waved a big hand dismissively. “They might. But with the number of things that have happened to your mother while in Pescadero’s care, they might just be trying to avoid a lawsuit.”
     “Okay, whatever you say.” John couldn’t hide his doubt, somehow it smelled like a setup to him, but dwelling on it wouldn’t help anything. He changed the subject with a grin. “Do you think Jordan will think to bring some of that beef jerky to Mom?” he asked. “She absolutely loves that stuff.”
     “He might,” Dieter said mildly. It had been hard on John not to be able to do even the ordinary things one did when one was feeling helpless because a loved one was in the hospital—send flowers, or cards. “Jordan’s very bright and it shouldn’t be hard to make the connection.”
     The young man nodded, a little color rising in his face. He clearly didn’t want to be thought sentimental.
     “Anyway,” John said, nodding toward the map, “I can only speak for the condition of the caches we have in Paraguay. We’ve been checking them every year or so to make sure they were okay. Mostly to keep in practice.” He shrugged. “I guess old habits die hard.”
     “Which is why you’re both still alive,” Dieter commented. He rapped the map with his pen. “We’re going to need a lot more than this.”
     John looked him in the eye. “I know,” he said.
     Dieter wondered what that look and that tone of voice meant. He waited a moment for John to speak. Then, impatiently, he said, “And?”
     “And I’m wondering how practical you’re prepared to be about it.”
     Von Rossbach rotated his hands in a bring-it-forth gesture.
     John’s lips thinned for a moment, then he blurted, “Drugs.”
     Dieter threw down his pen and looked away, leaning back in his desk chair. “That’s one of the things I’ve spent most of my life fighting, John.”
     With a shrug John spread his hands. “Not hard drugs; those guys are crazy. I’m talking about marijuana.”
     “They’re all crazy!” Dieter interrupted. “Something about millions of untaxed dollars does that to people. Not to mention that it’s against the law, and it’s wrong.”
     “So how do you think Mom got these caches we’ve been mapping all day? Working in day care? Taking in laundry? Telling fortunes? She’d be the first one to remind you, Dieter, most people are dead. They just don’t know it yet.”
     “You can’t get something good out of something wrong. I know that if I know anything,” von Rossbach said. He was getting angry, and to no purpose. “I don’t want to discuss this anymore.”
     “Fine,” John said, getting up. “If you can come up with a better way, I am more than open to it.” He shook his head. “I’ve never liked the idea either. But it’s the fastest way to do this I can think of and our time is running out.”
     Dieter lifted his hand to stop him and John raised his and shrugged in surrender. “I’m hungry,” he said. “Think I’ll go hit up Marietta for something to eat.”
     Von Rossbach checked his watch. “Good luck,” he said. “Dinner is in a few minutes. You know she won’t let you spoil your appetite.”
     “I don’t think it’s possible to spoil my appetite, at least not with food,” John said. “Mom says I’ve got hollow legs.”
     Dieter sat thinking about what John had said after the boy left him. He picked up the map and looked at the numerous circles denoting arms and food caches. Well, he’d read her record; he’d known Sarah wasn’t a Girl Scout all those years she’d been running with the wild ones. Still…
     Drugs! he thought in disgust. He couldn’t—he wouldn’t get involved with that. Flinging the map onto the desk, he leaned back in his chair, hands clasped behind his neck. Well, if they needed money he was rich. And if Judgment Day was real, and it appears that it is, then my money won’t do me any good afterward. So. He would dedicate his considerable personal fortune to the cause. And he knew a fair number of moneyed eccentrics he could involve, too.
     Meanwhile he would start seeking out arms dealers. Nothing big, at least not at first; he didn’t want to come to the Sector’s attention. Not yet. It would mean a trip to the U.S.
     Maybe we could swing by Pescadero and spring Sarah while we’re there.
     He spent a few pleasant moments imagining her face when she saw him. Then he sighed. No. Given the move to minimum security, there was a good chance she was going to be released anyway in just a few months; it would be pointless to interfere with the process.
     Marietta rang the dinner gong and he got up. I wonder if John managed to weedle any food out of her, he thought.

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