He glanced around the crowd, and realized that many of them were engaged in heated conversation. "Rumors? Sorry. I haven't checked the news. What rumors?"
She took a breath to steady herself before speaking. "That transit's been shuttered in advance of a declaration of martial law."
"Martial--? Why? Who?"
"The rumor is that it's being ordered by the new Director of Financial Interests. You know, the guy who was railroaded through after the secretaries of treasury and commerce were killed in the terror attack at that resort in Greenland."
Victor shook his head. "All I know is that there's some kind of crisis at the Daley Transshipment Center. I got a call from the administrator. He said my boss is gone, and the control systems have been compromised. But even so, that shouldn't have anything to do with the trains. Well, it doesn't look I'd be getting a ride this way any time soon, so I might as well call a cab. Thanks."
Things weren't much calmer at the Port office. Half the crew was missing, and the rest looked frantic. Instead of reporting to his station, he went directly to Administrator Fletcher's office.
"Good," Fletcher said as he entered, "you're here. Now maybe we can get things back under control."
"You told me the system's been compromised," Victor said, not bothering to take the visitor's chair. "What else do you know?"
Fletcher gave him a scornful look. "I'm an administrator, not a tech-head, Schandrul. That's what you're here to figure out."
"Sure, but has anyone taken credit for it? I've heard rumors that--."
"I don't want speculation. Get me the facts, and get this place back under control! We're hemorrhaging money here."
"At once, sir." He was about to turn around, when he caught himself and asked meekly, "If you don't mind, sir, could you please tell me what happened to Natalie? And where are all the others?"
Fletcher frowned and looked away for a moment. Then he gestured for Victor to shut the door and sit down. "It's like this," he said. "The Hacker Collective took credit for shutting us down. They said it was because they didn't like the politics of the owners."
"The owners? What does the collective think the Basel banking consortium has to do with running the port? It's just another asset in their portfolio."
"Exactly. But once they made it political, people started taking sides. Some of them even refused to follow orders. Naturally, we had to show them the door. It's bad enough that we've lost control of our equipment without having to fight our own employees to get things running again."
Victor's jaw dropped. "Natalie, sir? Are you telling me that my manager sided with those creeps?"