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Authors: Gardner Dozois

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BOOK: Galactic Empires
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“Who was erased by his colleagues. And I will find them,” Paula growled out. “In order to do that, I need to comprehend the psychology behind all of this. So tell me, help mitigate Dimitros Fiech’s sentence: Why exactly do you want Isolation? What can you possibly achieve here that requires this drastic severance from the Commonwealth?”

“That’s a very long list, Investigator. Starting with removing the contamination of a morally bankrupt, decadent society.”

“At the cost of medical benefits? Your industrial capability is going to be reduced drastically.”

“Not as much as your propaganda insists. We shall live here peacefully and progress in our own way, a way not dictated by the Dynasties or the Senate. Many people are attracted to such a notion. Millions, actually. Do you really begrudge us such liberty?“

“No. I just don’t see what ideology can’t be pursued within the umbrella of the Commonwealth. It is not as oppressive as your party claims, as
you
are well aware. A great many reduced-technology communities flourish on Commonwealth worlds. What you have engineered here is radical. I’m trying to understand its rationale.”

Svein Moalem sat back in his chair and gave Paula a thoughtful stare, very much the politician trying to convert another wavering voter. “You of all people struggle to understand? Forgive me, but that is hard to believe.”

“Why?”

“You were created and birthed on Huxley’s Haven, the most reviled planet in the Commonwealth. How the illiberal classes hated its founding. A world with everyone genetically predisposed to their job, a society in which everybody has a secure place. It is living proof that alternatives can work. Surely that’s a concept to be welcomed and admired?”

“Its functionality is admirable. However, even I don’t approve of its static nature. Those humans can no longer evolve.”

“Yet they live perfectly happy lives.”

“Yes,” Paula said. “Within the parameters established by the Human Structure Foundation.”

“You would want Huxley’s Haven broken up and abandoned?” He sounded very surprised.

“Certainly not. Its citizens have a right to their existence. It is pure imperialist arrogance for outsiders to propose alteration.”

“You see, Investigator, you make my argument for me! That is your answer. The right to self-determination is a human fundamental. Such a thing is not possible while under the financial hegemony of the Dynasties and Grand Families.”

“Everything comes down to money in the end,” Paula offered.

“Quite.”

“I still can’t believe some abstract ideology is enough for Fiech to sacrifice himself.”

“Hardly abstract.” Moalem waved at the city outside. “His wish has become our reality.”

Paula pursed her lips, following his gesture. “I hope it’s worth it.”

“It is.”

She stood and gave him a small bow. “Thank you for your time, Prime Minister.”

“You’re welcome, Investigator. In fact, I’d like to offer you a place here with us. Our police forces will need a substantial reorganization after the cutoff. Who better to manage that? You are celebrated and respected on every world in the Commonwealth. Your honesty and devotion to justice have broken the hatred and prejudice barrier. In a way, you are what we aspire to be.”

“That’s very flattering, but the answer is no.”

“Why not? Indulge me, please. I am curious. You left Huxley’s Haven, the only one of millions ever to do so. You found the Commonwealth more attractive. Why not us?”

“I didn’t leave,” Paula said, feeling her shoulder muscles tense up. “I was stolen from my birthing clinic. The political activists who took me wanted to make a point in their campaign to ‘liberate’ Huxley’s Haven. Consequently, I was brought up in the Commonwealth. I chose to stay.”

“You found it more desirable than the most secure civilization ever established?”

“I was created to be a police officer; it is what I am. There is more crime in the Commonwealth than on Huxley’s Haven, and it is the culture I was brought up in. It was logical for me to stay. Here I would never lack for challenges.”

“So the activists were right then? The manufactured people of Huxley’s Haven would be able to settle in the Intersolar Commonwealth?”

They could physically settle. Intellectually, I doubt they would be able to integrate. Myself and other police officers are a very small minority of the population. The exceptions. I understand that after my ‘batch,’ the Foundation changed the psychoneural profiling. Huxley’s Haven police officers are no longer as liberal as me“-she licked her lips in amusement-”a notion that discomforts the Commonwealth even more. Can you imagine a less forgiving version of me, Prime Minister?“

“That’s a tough one, I admit.” Finally he stood, a faint smile on his lips. “Good day, Investigator.”

*

Two days later, Paula woke up to a call request from Christabel flashing in her virtual vision. She yawned, stretched, and told her maidbot to bring some tea. Then her virtual finger touched Christabel’s green icon.

“You made it back okay,” Christabel said. “I heard it’s getting tough in Baransly. CST asked for a week’s extension before they switch off the wormhole; they’re worried they won’t be able to get everyone out before the cutoff.”

“There’s a lot of people there,” Paula said, remembering the trip back to the CST station, the way her police escort had to force their way to a train for her. “What did the Merioneth government say?”

“No.”

“Figures. Moalem has worked hard to reach this moment. He’s not going to allow anything to stop it now. Especially now.”

“Especially now? Did you get some useful information?”

“Very. He was the alibi memory. Svein Moalem went to Ormal and spent the day living Fiech’s life.”


What
? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“No. I’m not.”

“How do you know that?”

“He fancied a redhead.”

“Come on, talk sense to me.”

“Moalem told me the stewardess on the plane Fiech flew on from Essendyne back to Harwood’s Hill was a redhead. He’s right, too.“ Paula closed her eyes, recalling the memories that didn’t belong to her, the ones she’d read from Fiech’s brain. Seeing wavery images of the attractive woman in her neat blue and green uniform, Celtic-red hair all tied up with leather clips. Trying to smile as she supported his body up the stairs, and, amazingly, still calm when she deposited him in his seat and he made a crude drunken pass.

Paula had interviewed the woman a week later as she retraced the alibi, confirming the memory.

“So?” Christabel asked.

“That detail wasn’t in the memory deposition filed with the court. I just said a stewardess.”

“He could have found out.”

Paula pulled the straps of her slip up properly on her shoulders as the maidbot came in with a large breakfast cup of green Assam tea. “Why would he?”

“Because they’re obviously all part of the same group of Isolationists. He’d want to know everything connected with the case.”

“No, this was a casual detail. I know it was. He was the one on Ormal.”

“Oh bloody hell, so now what?”

“Obviously, he has to be arrested. He was a major part of the crime. If he was as deeply involved in the Free Merioneth Forces as I suspect, he could well expose the others with a memory read.”

“Not going to happen. There’s only two and a half weeks left to Isolation. You’ll never get clearance for that. It would take a small army to go in there and arrest their new prime minister. Actually… how come you didn’t try while you were there? I know you. You cannot stand back.”

“I know. It’s engineered into my nature. But the probability of a successful outcome if I’d tired to arrest him on the spot was zero. They would simply have eliminated me.”

“So natural self-preservation is stronger than the rest of you after all. That’s a relief to know.”

“It was simply a decision based on common sense. I am going to arrange a meeting with Nelson. He may be able to secure me the return ability I need to complete the case.”

“Damn, that’s a long shot.”

“Yes, but what else have I got? The Directorate won’t be able to lift Moalem from Merioneth.”

“I wouldn’t count on the Sheldons doing it either. The political fallout would be too great: Lifting someone from an Isolated world and making them stand trial here all because they assassinated Dynasty members. That won’t look good for the Dynasties, Paula, not politically. Isolation was the end of this, the deal.”

“I know, but Nelson is the best option I’ve got.” She sipped some of the tea. “What were you calling me about?”

“I’ve been digging around where I shouldn’t have, as you asked. I’m not sure how relevant this is now, but the Dynasties know who’s been backing the whole Merioneth independence movement.”

“Who?”

“Now promise you won’t shoot the messenger.”

Paula grinned and took another sip. “I won’t.”

“The Human Structure Foundation.”

The surprise made her start. “Damnit!” She struggled not to let the tea spill onto the bed.

“You okay?”

“Yes, yes.” Beside her, Aidan stirred at the commotion.

“Look, I can maybe make some inquiries at this end, see if my Dynasty will go along with a covert extraction. The Free Merioneth Forces hurt a lot of Halgarths. Heather was not happy about giving them Isolation. We could put together an operation with the Sheldons.”

“That’s more like vengeance,” Paula said quietly. “Not due process.”

“You’re running out of options.”

“I know. I need to make a few more inquiries about this. I’ll get back to you.”

Aidan blinked round, lifting his head off the pillow. “Something wrong?”

“No.” She ran her hand through his disheveled hair. “Early start, that’s all. Something unexpected came up. I’ve got to take a trip.”

“Where to now? Other side of the Commonwealth again?”

“The Caribbean, actually.”

*

The nearest city on the trans-Earth loop was New York. When she arrived at the Newark station, Paula took a cab over to JFK and flew a Directorate hypersonic parallel to the East Coast, then on south to Grenada. The Human Structure Foundation campus occupied a broad stretch of rugged land behind a series of curving beaches whose pale sand was just visible in the low moonlight. A circular white-glass tower formed the center, silhouetted by liquid bifluron tubes embedded in the structure. The long sodium-orange web of streets radiating out from the base revealed the surrounding village of elaborate bungalows. Foundation members didn’t reside in any of the island’s ordinary towns; in the last century, few ventured out beyond the heavily guarded perimeter strip. It was a micronation of genetic ideologues, despised by just about everyone, yet continuing to operate under Senate-imposed research restrictions, restrictions that had grown ever stronger since the establishment of Huxley’s Haven.

Paula was familiar enough with the setup, though she’d never actually visited before. The notion of walking around the place that conceived her-intellectually and physically-was an experience she simply didn’t want.

Her plane landed on a circular pad by the tower. Long ply-plastic petals unrolled from the edges to form a protective shell over her little craft. An astonishingly attractive woman named Ophelia escorted her up to Dr. Friland’s office on the top floor of the tower. On the way through the atrium lobby, people stopped and stared at Paula. It was three o’clock in the morning local time; the tower should have been deserted. She was used to attention, but this was akin to religious respect. Some looked like they wanted to bow as she walked past. The effect was un-nerving-and she wasn’t used to that feeling at all.

“You’re the living proof that the concepts for which we stand have been successful,” Ophelia murmured as they walked into the elevator. “There have been many sacrifices down the decades, so please excuse their wonder.”

Paula sucked in her cheeks, unable to meet any of the ardent stares as the elevator doors slid shut.

According to his file, Justin Friland was born toward the end of the twentieth century. Meeting him in the flesh, Paula couldn’t tell, and she normally prided herself in spotting the telltale mannerisms of the truly old. He didn’t have any. His effusive good nature matched his handsome adolescent appearance perfectly. Like the Foundation members down in the lobby, he gave Paula an incredulous smile as she came into his office.

“Director, I appreciate you seeing me,” Paula said. “Especially at this time of night.”

“Not at all. This is an absolute honor,” he said, shaking her hand too vigorously and beaming a wide smile.

“Thank you,” Paula said gently, and removed her hand from his grip.

“I spent twenty-five years on Huxley’s Haven, helping to establish the birthing centers,” Justin Friland said. “And seeing you here is”-he spread his arms out-“astonishing. We never thought one of you could adapt to life offworld.”

“One of
me
?” Paula arched an eyebrow.

“Sorry, sorry! It’s just—we took so much shit over the Haven. Even fifty years ago, the perimeter here was surrounded by protesters. However, the days of the ten-thousand-strong mob have long gone. We still do have a hard core camped to the side of our main entrance. They’re not…
pleasant
people. My thoughts are still in war mode. My fault.”

“1 see.”

“Please, sit down.” He hurried over to a wide couch. “What can I do for you?”

“I need information.”

“Whatever I can provide.” He was nodding enthusiastically as Paula sat beside him.

“There is a rumor that the Foundation financed Merioneth’s Isolation.”

“Not us,” Friland said emphatically. He brushed some floppy chestnut hair from his forehead. “However, the Foundation has undergone considerable schism during the last quarter century. I now lead what you’d probably call a Conservative faction.”

“What of the other factions?”

He sighed. “The person you want to talk to is Svein Moalem.”

Paula gave Friland a surprised look. “He’s a Foundation member?”

“An ex-colleague, yes. Now the leader of the New Immortals.”

BOOK: Galactic Empires
6.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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