Read 03. The Maze in the Mirror Online

Authors: Jack L. Chalker

03. The Maze in the Mirror (44 page)

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The computer had a point there. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more logical it sounded, given how whacko the rest was. There were worlds running at vastly different time rates and their security was under the computer's remote control. Security men had, in fact, made Pandross's empty shell appear to be the victim of an accident or murder on orders from the computer. If there was a place with a fast rate and the capabilities to clone, and then the empty vessel, as it were, were put in connection with the computer, it was possible.

"All right, I'll go along. But who was that at Tarn's?"

"The same one. He was programmed to save you or deliver you to me. He failed. He kept at it, but you were too well shielded and protected until Tarn's. Naturally, since he had my knowledge of Pandross's security bypasses, even Tarn's place wasn't impossible to enter. The programming is limited. I could not rein him in, so as soon as it was clear that he was a loose cannon I put out orders to security personnel to kill him at the first opportunity. They caught him in the inner temple but needed to make it appear a mysterious appearance and killing because to do otherwise would have been to have to explain to Tarn why they didn't take the intruder alive. By moving the murderer to a mysterious third party they protected themselves and also Tarn from the knowledge that he did not totally control his own security force."

It made sense. In fact, in the lopsided, high-tech, the-rules-are-different-here cosmos of G.O.D., Inc., where lives were lost and careers made on the ability to acquire and ship forty tons of dumped computer chips to a world that could use them in exchange for ten tons of Boxcar Willie's Greatest Hits, this wasn't so hard to accept.

"Run a search on aids for the blind in the general computer product network," the master computer suggested. "I pass it along as a hint. I have no records on an operation for optic nerve
damage, but there are many ways to make it easier."

He was surprised at the comment and concern. "Thanks. I'll do that. You know, you may just be developing some humanity after all."

"With your new position and mine we can chat all day and night, but is there anything else you would like to know?"

"Yeah. One thing. Do the hero and heroine have a good crack at living happily ever after now?"

There was a pause, and then the answer, drawn from an analysis of their personalities, positions, and everything else, came on the screen. It was pretty much the answer he figured, and he wasn't sure he wouldn't have it any other way.

"Happiness is a subjective term," the computer replied. "Some people would be happy forever in the positions you now find yourself, but every bit of data I have shows that, while you might find some temporary joy in being an executive and Brandy some temporary peace as mother and lady of the island manor, it will sooner or later pale. Happiness is neither safety nor security, not for either of you.

"For the two of you, true happiness is when the game is afoot, and while the Maltese Falcon is still missing somewhere near Cairo."

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