Chapter 22: Pride of the Pack
A day of relaxation was not enough for Rick. He briefly wondered how he had managed to get an urban community, UN peacekeepers, and an oil company all collaborating with each other. While the others had responsibilities to tend to in the aftermath of the battle, Rick sat with Martin at a table in Cicero's Pizza.
"So, last I've heard from Wang, they're mopping up what's left of Grant's syndicate. They're going to be holding new elections soon, and Anne's going to be running," Rick said.
"I know who I'll be voting for, but I may be biased," Martin joked. "How about Ulfur?"
"There was no oil spill, but public opinion's turned away from oil. Ulfur's said he'll be paying for a full conversion of the country to solar, and every citizen will get a regular income from it."
"Well, he's got a controlling share now, so he can do as he likes. He's also paying off the interim government to support Anne's policies," Martin said. "Ah, in the two thousand years since the fall of the Roman republic, amazing how little politics has changed."
"Speaking of Rome, I can't help but think you helped suggest the name. I recall you mentioning you were friends with the owner."
"Guilty as charged," Martin said. "Although I wonder what his reaction to our world would be."
Rick stood up in his seat and rapt gently on a nearby wall. The sound echoed for a second, but it lent credence to another theory of his. "This seems like a good place for the manuscript."
"About that. What do you think we should do with it?" Martin asked. "I originally thought of tossing in the ocean, but that seems like such a big waste."
"Yeah, but I have an idea. We could release it with maybe a few details omitted or slightly changed, like the rituals, as an example of Francesco Montoya's insanity."
"Heh. I like it."
"But there's some things that've been bothering me," Rick said, his voice rapidly taking on a somber tone. "I can't help but think about my family, and how my brother Ed is doing. How am I going to explain turning up in a foreign country after what happened in the US?"
"Well, what about traveling on a new passport and see what they have to say about it?"
"That's an idea, but I'm worried about someone else."
"Tomas? You shouldn't be. I'm sure he's doing fine. Once he hears Grant's dead, I'm sure he'll want to check it out."
"I just want to thank him for everything," Rick said.
"He's a good man at heart, even if violent. Like the rest of us."
"Yeah, but I think I might need help soon," Rick said, unfolding a piece of paper from his pocket. "Wang sent over some of Grant's notes they recovered from a hideout. Apparently, he had collaborators."
"If they're as bad as Grant was, I'm wondering if we be worried about them."
Rick briefly skimmed down the list. One last name in particular jumped out at him, "Risona," but he ignored it.
"For now, Rick, in this country, you're among friends."
Rick nodded in agreement. No longer a lone wolf, he had established his own pack and territory. It was his duty to defend it, and he had no doubt there would be challengers. Such was the law of the jungle.