The leader nodded at the other two, who then strode in and stood flanking Rafi. "You're under arrest for felony water theft, for owning an illegal water barrel, and for operating an unlicensed growery."
Eshana tore her attention away from the chase for a moment. "Those water laws only serve the company that owns the lake," she said. "They're unconstitutional."
"The law's the law," he said flatly.
Rafi flashed to what his sister's temper might unleash on them both, made a snap decision, and bought her some time by distracting the police with idle chatter while they cuffed him. Meanwhile, she re-engaged with the sniper, firing continuously until her drone was out of ammo, and the charge in its power cells went flat. As the scene in the vid frame whipped around, he caught a glimpse of Ferd's Indy-cam plunging into the lake, followed closely by the sniper she was targeting. Seconds later, the captured drone plummeted towards the lake, and then the vid flashed to black.
* * *
Eshana disengaged from the faux reality that had been layered over her senses by the so-called "unsafe' game controller. She slipped it off as she rose to face the police, and stood there, silently fuming against the enforced helplessness of the situation.
It had been her discovery of a banned book about Miranda rights that originally led to her joining the Hacker Collective, rights that had long since been abolished under pressure from the very same corporate-government treaty that forced the US and Canada to cede ownership of the Great Lakes to a faceless transnational in some kind of debt-for-resources scam. If you kept your head down and didn't make trouble, you could live a relatively untrammeled life. But it was hardly a free one, and now that Rafi had been busted, it could never be a safe one.
After the police frogmarched him out to their military-style assault truck, they returned with sledges and crowbars, and proceeded to destroy the hydroponic herb garden in the back bedroom, and then to rip out every bit of the irrigation system that Rafi had so carefully hidden in the attic over it.
She wanted to kill them. She wanted to rip out their throats and then make them scream for mercy. But more than that, she wanted to skewer their masters and roast them over a volcanic vent. It was all she could do to restrain herself until they had satisfied themselves and finally left her home.
Rafi would be okay for the moment. She knew that. He'd prepared for his eventual "day in court' by knowing the intricacies of the laws he was flouting. And that let her focus on how she was going to retaliate. Because now, it wasn't just about them, it wasn't just about two people ensnared in a web of disingenuous laws that prized profits over people. The truth about who was responsible for not just allowing, but encouraging changes to the world's climate in the service of unalloyed greed, which she and the Hacker Collective had helped Alphon Quince announce to the world, meant that she, and those like her, who were responsible for making the oligarchy's tech function smoothly, could no longer sit idly by. By their acquiescence, they were enabling it to continue. And that had to stop.
But first she needed a plan. She needed a target. And she needed to make sure that what they did would not be misunderstood. It had to be clear. It had to be focused. And it had to flow naturally from what the Collective had helped Quince to set in motion. In short, it meant she needed Ferd.
"Crap, Ferd!" she said, reaching for the tricked-up phone she used for Collective business. It didn't take long for her to get him on the secure line, and then to round up the crew that had organized the group's truncated effort to rescue the workers at the Cold Comfort Resort.
"While Eshana and I were keeping the sniper drones busy," he told the others, "Alphon gave the press that stayed around an earful, more than I think he would have said if they hadn't shot Phoebe Butler to try to isolate him."
"With the Indy-cam out of action," she asked, "how did they get the story out?"
"That's where things got interesting," another voice on the conference replied. "Simon J, here. Anyway, two of those reporters used sketchy uplinks to vid what happened next. And people -- just regular folks who support our cause -- started to jump on it. They passed word of what Quince had said, especially the bit about how the cretins in Basel figured it was more profitable to worsen the climate disaster than to let national governments try to fix it. In fact, when he brought up their heist of the Great Lakes--."
"Wait, what?" she interrupted.