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Living the revolution

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Taviri was smiling at Laia, trying to cheer her up, and at that moment she hated him for it. "Like an otter, like a petted house otter!" she cried, rubbing her hands over her head against the growth of hair on her shaved scalp, the strands of hair still too short to curl or even stand up. "The worst kind of domestication, why do we do this to each other, why?"

"'Archism is written on the body, and on the soul, it is only its faint shadow that is written in the law,'" Taviri quoted. "Or so I read in a book once."

"A book you wrote," Laia snapped at him, but she had centered herself enough to enjoy being angry, and they both knew it. "Don't quote your damn books at me, I've heard all your opinions, and edited them besides."

"Not at all girl," he replied, suddenly serious. "Why would I quote my books at you, when I could quote yours?"

Laia was silent with surprise. Taviri walked to the corner of their room in Ettad's house. He had arranged his few precious books by colour, which coded subject in the A-Io academic libraries. He selected one bound in green and handed it to her. It was worn already, done in cheap binding and cheap paper that showed the mark of every hand that touched it. The cover was marked in cheap ink printing, not the shining holographic printing of the mainstream presses. It was marked on the cover with a large Cirle of Life symbol, and underneath in small print "Society Without Government" and "Laia Asieo Odo".

"Don't go walking off with that," Taviri said to her, only half-joking. "Who knows what would happen if it was found on you? I think it might be evidence of a revolutionary mind again." 'Revolutionary mind' was the charge under which Laia had been correctively jailed, this last year and more.

"They'd be stupid then," Laia told him. "They ought to lock it away for preservation. When we're safely dead, and the revolution with us, it will probably be worth a fortune to the collectors, in their fine libraries of revolutionary books, and their fine counter-revolutionary minds. Like you, Taviri, what are all of these?" She pointed at his meagre collection of books, sounding as if she had discovered him with the stacks of the University of A-Io shelved in their room reserved for his personal use.

"Books," he replied. "All of twenty or so. Truly a priest's ransom indeed."

"How many copies of this?" she asked, waving his copy of Society Without Government.

He raised his eyebrows and looked at the one copy she was holding. "How many copies in total?" she asked impatiently.

"Some two or three hundred," Taviri said. "More perhaps now, other presses will be printing it. Of course, we don't ask."

She huffed impatiently. "There are more than two hundred readers," she said. "Which means you shouldn't be keeping this. I can tell you what is in it, every day."

"Perhaps my wife's words were comforting, when I missed her," he said, as if to himself.

"Sentimental," was Laia's firm response.

Taviri smiled as she turned away and tucked his precious copy of Society Without Government into her coat. He had typeset it from her manuscript, spearheaded its editing and publication, and he had read every word of it perhaps fifty times before and since the printing. And now Laia would give it away within the day, and most of his other books within the week and return with others, and she would try and often fail to remember to leave them with him long enough for him to read them too. If he had a library, it meant that Laia was in jail. If he had nothing, they were free together.


The Movement publisher Kieda Ettad measured the revolutionaries in jail terms. "They're taking you seriously, at long last, girl. A respectable stay."

He was older, he had taught at the university before he and his students had left, Taviri Asieo among them, to join the Movement. He and Laia sometimes brought out the worst in each other, a father-knows-best paternalism in him and a corresponding rebellion for the sake of rebellion in her. But she had been in jail for a year, and even when allowed, all the letters in the world between her and her allies meant that she was a year out of date in what mattered: who was angry, and who was doing something about it. And Ettad was the person who could fix that.

"Tell me what I need to know," she asked.

"The north will rise with us at last, we think," he told her. "The influence of the reformers within the unions is waning, especially the women's unions. The cleaners and miners have dropped their Leadership Committee elections now in favour of computer-assigned random appointments, rotating over six months. Which means that they are less likely to concentrate knowledge and therefore power in a small group of leaders."

Laia tried not to show exasperation at being told about something she'd invented. Random committee membership was one of the models for anarchist organising suggested in the pamphlets that had eventually become Society Without Government, and to top it all off, it was a model that Ettad was yet to adopt for the presses. But trying to force him to acknowledge the point would leave the presses unchanged, and her annoyed and none the wiser about the north. That fight would have to wait.

While she reached this conclusion, he was listing names associated with the revolutionaries in the north. "And Boro also," he finished.

"Who?" Laia asked. "Oh I remember, the scientist."

Ettad nodded approvingly. He had a weakness for the academic hierachy, still. Ketel Evad Boro, who had required a regional level exemption renewed yearly to allow a woman to study and work at a university, had done critical work as a water conservationist, one of the central concerns of A-Io's rigorous conservation and renewal program, and had had a prestigous academic appointment before her retirement. Laia knew this, but was more familiar with some of Boro's intemperate speeches to the Regional Assembly in support of her exemption; her sayings had been widely borrowed by the campaign for the women's vote.

"She was a long time in the system," Laia said doubtfully. She had known too many older converts to anarchism, holding tight to the authority of age, and for that matter the shadows of qualifications and appointments.

"Someone will think that about you one day, girl, you wait and see," Ettad told her, laughing. "How are your feet?" Laia's feet had been injured in some fashion in jail in a manner she refused to speak of, and at which they could all guess. "I'm looking forward to you travelling to Bershort someday or other. I knew Boro a little, some twenty years ago, and suffice to say I want the joint works of Odo and Boro, because they will amass me the piles of imaginary tokens with which this publisher consoles himself for giving away books for free."

"I'm fit for travel," Laia reported. "But I'm wondering if I need a new publisher, one who doesn't still dream in takings."

He chuckled at her. "When you find someone else who can make out Asieo's scribbles in the margins, and doesn't ask tokens for it, you publish with him. In the meantime, the post is cut again, for the election, but soon enough we'll have a better idea of whether we can work with Boro."