~Chapter Twenty One- Amassing Power~
“That bluff you pulled about the explosives in the car was risky.”
“It was the best I could come up with on such short notice.”
“Glad it worked, it got you inside the Equality Zone. No one wants the Equality Zone now. ”
“Ugh, that name drives me crazy. The people who would’ve lived there would be treated as lesser, not equal.”
“Nirivo helped, didn’t he?”
“Yeah, I was hoping the royal family would be with Santoro himself. I don’t know if I would’ve found them without Nirivo. And what makes you so sure that Nirivo is a man?”
After the incident at the ruins of the old Equality Zone, the government cancelled all plans to renew it. They tried to hide Miro’s involvement, but our spies in the military leaked the information. Now everyone knows we killed Santoro’s and fought the Rhiveran Liberation Army. They know we aren’t terrorists and won’t condone violence against civilians.
After what the RLA pulled, we couldn’t allow them to continue operating. Their main hideout is in the Northeastern region of Tolesta, at its Peninsula. Our spies discovered it months ago.
In a decisive movement, we gathered our forces around the area and launched an attack on their hideout. Our numbers and the surprise of our assault were far too much for them to handle. They surrendered without much of a fight. With Santoro dead, their resolve had waivered.
We allowed the RLA members to join our ranks who swore off their old methods. We took all of their bases for Miro’s revolution. The military might’ve whittled the Rhiveran Liberation Army down over the years, but Miro finished them off.
Between the RLA members who joined us and our new supporters, our forces nearly doubled across the country. The prospect of being able to challenge the military directly seems like it might be coming true.
Our greater numbers brought new challenges. The military has become privy to our use of the underground tunnels around Rhivera and they were hunting for them. They discovered one of our larger cells in Desi and managed to capture many of them. Our cell structure was setup so that even in the event of capture, no one would know where all of our hideouts are located. Despite that, Miro’s revolution was more powerful than ever.
Melissa’s dad Raul was promoted to General after Lena’s life was taken by Population Control. “We have to be ready for when we come to blows with my dad.” Melissa points out.
“Your dad isn’t as much of a tactician as Lena or the other Generals. He’ll be easy to beat.”
“That’s not what I mean.” Melissa responds, “We either have to make peace with him or capture him.”
“We will,” I say flatly.
“I wouldn’t underestimate him either. That’s the mistake our enemies keep making with us.” Melissa remarks.
She’s right, I might be growing overconfident.
Miro’s forces in Illesto receive an invitation from Antonio Montoya. He wants to meet Miro at one of his facilities and provide support to our movement. I don the guise of Miro and meet my forces there.
“It’s a trap,” I tell Commander Cecil, “If we show, I’m sure the military will ambush us.”
“Should we ignore his offer then?” Cecil asks. She was a relatively new commander who assisted our efforts in the north.
I think for a moment. The facility my father is offering us to come to is an arms manufacturing facility. If we could take some of their weapons, it’ll bolster our strength in Illesto.
“No. You’ll take our soldiers and take position to the east at the nearest exit point, the one near the border of Illesto. I don’t anticipate there will be too many soldiers there. It shouldn’t be difficult to overpower them. When they try to spring their trap, we’ll spring ours. If it looks like their numbers are too great, we won’t go in.” I order. “After we’ve defeated them, we’ll take what weapons we can from their facility and retreat to the exit point.”
Cecil nods, “I’ll make arrangements.”
“We aren’t to harm Antonio Montoya or anyone else at the facility. Only the soldiers. I’ll meet with Montoya myself.”
Cecil turns to me, “Are you sure that’s a good idea, Miro?”
“It’ll be fine.”
That evening, I take a vehicle to my stepfather’s facility with a few of my soldiers escorting me. It’s dusk, and the facility seems to have shutdown for the day. Antonio’s message asked for us to come to the back entrance to be let in at this time. The facility has a small smattering of trees to the northeast of it, undoubtedly where the military is lying in wait. The size of the woods is too small to have any substantial numbers there. They’re probably hoping that only a few of Miro’s followers would come here and could be easily arrested.
“Be ready for my command,” I speak into my radio.
“Yes sir.” Cecil answers.
We drive around to the back of the building, forklifts, supply crates, and pallets of supplies are scattered around the area, leading up to a shutter door.
The shutter door in the back of the building opens up as our vehicle stops near it. I flourish my black cloak as I step out of our vehicle, concealing the pistol at my belt. My soldiers follow behind, and we see a few staff members waiting inside.
Antonio stands in a black business suit in front of the staff. He begins to walk toward us; his arms open as if to accept us inside.
“Miro! I didn’t expect you to come here! It’s good to meet the legend himself.” Antonio bellows, and he extends his hand to meet mine. He’s certainly putting on a show.
“The pleasure’s all mine,” I lie. I keep my hands within my cloak, not bothering to meet his handshake, “Where are those supplies you mentioned?”
Antonio withdraws his hand, looking disappointed and he leads us inside. “Right this way.”
The inside of the building is a network of steel and metal. Various machines all designed to build various weaponry, components of military grade tanks are disassembled on the work floor.
Decades ago, the Montoya family supplied the Veran Rebellion with weapons, giving them the influence and power they hold today.
Antonio guides us to a back room with supply crates, and a large mass covered with a tarp.
“I want you to know, I’ve supported your movement for quite some time,” Antonio says with enthusiasm that he must be feigning.
“Is that so?” I roll my eyes from inside my helmet. He’s certainly doing a lot to convince me this is genuine. I’m sure at any moment the military will try to ambush us; at which point my forces will move in.
“Yes. I want to lend my support, but I’d like to keep our partnership secret. If your revolution ends up losing, I don’t want my livelihood threatened. Do you understand?” Antonio explains.
Why is he putting so much effort into this charade? He could’ve called the military inside by now. I’m sure he’s just buying time. “Understood.”
“I appreciate your understanding.” Antonio has one of his staff members part the lid of one of the supply crates, revealing firearms. He walks towards the large mass covered by a tarp and sweeps it off, revealing a military-grade tank.
“I don’t believe your forces have this sort of firepower yet. I can give you the firearms today, but we’ll have to find a way to get the tank into your hands without alerting the military. I have this and several other units waiting for you.” Antonio explains.
The soldiers accompanying me look at each other in great surprise. If the helmet didn’t conceal my face, they’d see the same look of shock on mine.
...Is he serious?
“I... I wasn’t expecting such a large offering from you, Mr. Montoya.” I say, dumbfounded.
“I’ve never been a man to do things halfway. Once I’ve committed to something, I go all in.” Antonio says grandly. He seems sincere.
“Tell me, why do you support our movement? What do you want in exchange?” I inquire, I’m sure his facade will break if I give him some pressure.
Antonio leans on the tank, “To be honest, I’m doing this for the sake of my son.”
“My stepson Arturo to be exact. His mother was taken by the PCC when he was very young. He has great potential but never really applied himself, and I feel like it’s his way of defying Population Control. I know it’s only a matter of time before the PCC comes for him, and I can’t see him falling in line before that happens.”
He’s never shown to care that much before. “That’s... rather admirable of you. I didn’t know you had a stepson.” I lie. I realize this is a moment to speak plainly with him for the first time. I thoughtlessly ask, “Why was the mother taken by the PCC?”
“She was a lazy and irresponsible woman. She had no business having a child and she knew it.” Antonio says spitefully.
I impulsively clench up my fist. I want to tell him not to speak about my mom like that, but I can’t. I’m Miro right now.
Antonio continues, “I think she realized that and wanted to give him a better life. She was a beautiful woman, and I was a gullible young man. She married into my wealthy family to give him a chance at a better life. I think... she knew when we were wed that Population Control would come for her soon after.”
Could that be true?
“I always thought that you supported Population Control Mr. Montoya,” I mention.
“I still do, in some respect. I think some form of Population Control is necessary, but not as it is now. I still support your movement.”
“There will be no Population Control. I’ll make sure of that.” I proclaim rigidly.
“You’re young, aren’t you Miro?” Antonio asks.
“What makes you say that?”
“That idealistic nature of yours.” Antonio steps away from the tank, “I’ll have my crew load firearms onto your vehicle and I’ll stay in touch with your contact for transportation of your tanks.”
Antonio calls a forklift and has them load the supply crates into the back of our vehicle.
“How will you keep the government from discovering this?” I ask Antonio.
“If they find out some of my guns have gone missing, I can just say that you stole them, can’t I?” Antonio smirks, “Pleasure doing business with you, Miro.”
Antonio extends his hand to me once again and I shake it absent-mindedly. His grip is strong, but he loosens it when he sees I can’t match his strength. I withdraw my hand into my cloak quickly.
With our new supplies, we depart, keeping a close eye to make sure we aren’t followed. We continue on without any further incident. If this was a trap, the military would’ve struck by now.
I respond to an anxious Cecil and tell them that it seems that Montoya actually does support us but that we should be wary in any future dealings with him. Of all people, I never expected him to support us.
I think of my mother as we return to our hideout in Illesto. I remember when I was 4 or 5, mom had just been fired from another job. We were staying in the guest room of a friend of hers. A PCC vehicle came to the house.
Mom hid in the backroom while her friends answered the door, “We’d like to speak with Victoria and her son Arturo. Can we see them?” The PCC officers requested at the door.
Her friend nervously answered, “I’m sorry, they’re not here.”
“Ma’am, it’s against the law to lie to a PCC officer. I’ll ask again, may I speak with them?” The officer asked again.
Hesitantly, her friend answered, “They’re in the back.”
Mom and I stepped out. She held me close to her, almost desperately. I didn’t understand why back then.
There were two men in officer’s uniforms with a professional-looking woman. She knelt down to my level, “Hello Arturo. May I talk to you for a moment?”
I looked up at mom and she reluctantly let me go. The woman took me outside, “Are you happy with your mother, Arturo?” She asked softly.
I remember being hungry at the time. Mom and I never had much money back then, and I would go without food some days. Despite that, I nodded.
Her expression turned serious, “Arturo, would you like a new family? We have great families that would be willing to adopt you if you want to leave your mom!”
I snapped to attention and exasperatedly said, “No, no! I’m staying with my mom.”
The woman frowned and gave a small nod. Soon after, the PCC went on their way. I didn’t know it at the time, but if I had decided to leave my mother, the PCC probably would’ve taken her life soon after. But as long as she was taking care of a child, they wouldn’t touch her. She had a guilty look on her face when I told her they wanted to find me a new home.
When mom first started dating Antonio, she convinced him to let the two of us live with him in the Montoya Estate. After the wedding, she was sweet to me each and every day. She didn’t start working, even with Antonio pressing her to do so, offering her positions in his company. She spent as much time with me as possible and barely paid any mind to Antonio despite being newly weds.
Then Population control took her. Those last weeks she spent with me... she was saying goodbye.