"Look, I said coldly."

“It's beautiful, isn't it?' said a quiet voice beside me at the rail. 
I glanced sideways and saw the priest's wife, still scarfed and robed despite the weather. She was alone. Her face, what I could see of it, tilted up at me out of the tightly drawn circle of the scarf that covered her below the mouth and above the
brow. It was beaded with sweat from the unaccustomed heat but didn't seem unconfident. She had scraped her hair back so that not a trace made it past the cloth. She was very young, probably not long out of her teens. She was also, I realised, several months pregnant. 
I turned away, mouth suddenly tight. 
Focused on the view beyond the deck rail. 
'I've never travelled this far south before,' she went on, when she saw I wasn't going to take her up on her first gambit. 'Have you?' 
'Is it always this hot?' 
I looked at her again, bleakly. 'It isn't hot, you're just inappropriately dressed.' 'Ah.' She placed her gloved
hands on the rail and appeared to examine them. 'You do not approve?' 
I shrugged. 'It's got nothing to do with me. We live in a free world, didn't you know? Leo Mecsek says so.' 
'Mecsek.' She made a small spitting sound. 'He is as corrupt as the rest of them. As all the materialists.' 
'Yeah, but give hem his due. If his daughter ever gets raped, he's unlikely to beat her to death for dishonouring him.' 
She flinched. 
'You are talking about an isolated incident, this is not...' 
'Four.' I held out my fingers, rigid in front of her face. 'I'm talking about four isolated incidents. And that's just this year.' I saw colour rise in her cheeks. She seemed to be looking down at her own slightly protruding belly. 
'The New Revelation is not always most honestly served by those most active in its advocacy,' she murmured. 'Many of us...' 
'Many of you cringe along in compliance, hoping to peel something of worth from the less psychotic directives of your genocidal belief system because you don't have the wit or nerve to build something entirely new. I know.' 
Now she was flushing to the roots of her painstakinly hidden hair. 
'You misjudge me.' She touched the scarf she wore. 'I have chosen this. Chosen it freely. I believe in the Revelation, I have my faith.' 
'Then you're more stupid than you look.' 
An outraged silence. I used it to crank the flurry of rage in my own chest back under control. 
'So I'm stupid? Because I choose modesty in womanhood, I'm stupid. Because I don't display and cheapen myself at every opportunity like that whore Mitzi Harlan and her kind, because....' 
'Look,' I said coldly. 'Why don't you exercise some of that modesty and just shut your womanly little mouth? I really don't care what you think.' 
'See,' she said, voice turned slightly shrill. 'You lust after her like all the others. You give in to her cheap sensual tricks and...' 
'Oh, please. For my money, Mitzi Harlan's a stupid, superficial little trollop, but you know what? At least she lives her life as if it belongs to her. Instead of abasing herself at the feet of any lucky baboon who can grow a beard and some external genitalia.' 
'Are you calling my husband a .......' 
'No.' I swung on her. It seemed I didn't have it cranked down after all. My hands shot out and grasped her by the shoulders. 'No, I'm calling you a gutless betrayer of your sex. I can see your husband's angle, he's a man, he's got everything to gain from this crabshit. But you? You've thrown away centuries of political struggle and scientific advance so you can sit in the dark and mutter your superstitions of unworth to yourself. You'll let your life, the most precious thing you have, be stolen from you hour by hour and day by day als long as you can eke out the existence your males will let you have. And then, when you finally die, and I hope it's soon, sister, I really do, then at the last you'll spite your own potential and shirk the final power we've won for ourselves to come back and try again. You'll do all of this because of your fucking faith, and if that child in your belly is female, then you'll condemn her to the same fucking thing.'

Then there was a hand on my arm. 
'Hey, man.' It was one of the deComs, backed up by the entrepreneur's bodyguard. He looked scared but determined. 'Thats enough. Leave her alone.' 
I looked at his fingers, where they hung on my elbow. I wondered briefly about breaking them, locking out the arm behind them and.... 
A memory flared to life inside me. My father shaking my mother by the shoulders like a belaweed rack that wouldn't come loose of its mooring, scraming abuse and whisky fumes into her face. Seven years old, I'd gone for his arm and tried to tug it away. 
He'd clouted me almost absently that time, across the room and into a corner. Gone back to her. 
I unlocked my hands from the woman's shoulders. Shook off the deCom's grip. Mentally shook myself by the throat. 
'Now back off, man.' 
'Sure,' I said it quietly. 'Like I said, sister. it's a free world. Got nothing to do with me.'
Fragment uit Woken Furies van Richard Morgan

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