Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

Raising Caine: Chapter Seven

       Last updated: Friday, July 24, 2015 20:48 EDT



Far orbit; Sigma Draconis Two

    Davros Tval Herelkeom, senior of the five Autarchs who had made themselves available, acknowledged Tlerek’s contact: “Your signal is clear, Srin Shethkador. Your House sends its compliments and anticipates a report of success.” Which was a strange greeting in that this affirming welcome should have come from Tlerek’s great-uncle once removed, the Tval Kromn Shethkador, who was present in the group. On the other hand, if these walking fossils are strongly split among themselves at the moment, it might be deemed an unacceptable entreé to House-domination if both Shethkador voices become preeminent in this counsel.

    Tlerek sought a tone of response that was at once direct, assertive, and tinged by the annoyance he felt over the resolution of the war upon Earth. “Regrettably, I must disappoint the anticipations of both my House and the Autarchs. The Aboriginals stayed their vengeance against the Arat Kur home world, largely because they discovered my identity as homo imperiens.”

    A long pause, and then a contentious, angry query from Beren Tval Jerapthere. “You have failed?” Beren’s inquiry bordered on effrontery.

    “I did not fail, but I report failure. Do you wish my report on the conclusion of the war?”

    Beren became peremptory. “Yes, at once.”

    “I am pleased to comply. The fleets of the so-called Consolidated Terran Republic successfully misled the Arat Kur and Hkh’Rkh into believing that their initial attack upon Barnard’s Star was a genuine surprise which decimated their formations. This was a ruse. The human fleets reappeared after the invaders divided their forces and were committed deep within the gravity well of Home, or, as the Aboriginals call it, Earth. Aided by a Dornaani computer virus introduced through a joint Custodian-Aboriginal clandestine operation, the forces of our proxies were neutralized or eliminated, with many of their hulls falling into the hands of the ‘Terrans.’”

    Davros Tval Herelkeom resumed control, somewhat archly,of the contact. “Current disposition of enemy forces?”

    “I am unsure, but the most technologically advanced of the Aboriginal fleets are currently here in far orbit about the Arat Kur Homenest, which has surrendered to them.”

    “They surrendered?”

    “Yes. You may recall my prediction that I would lose the ability to mislead each side into believing that the other was obdurate in their hostility if the Aboriginals discerned my true speciate identity. Which they did.”

    Ruurun Tval Tharexere, oldest of the Autarchs and of his unity-obsessed House, entered his observations into the contact. “This is most unwelcome news.”

    “With all respect, Autarch, the course of events followed my misgivings as players follow a script. The Aboriginals detected the forensically inconclusive waste-emissions from the false environmental suit and that, in conjunction with the military and diplomatic peculiarities of the conduct of the conflict, led one of them to hypothesize my true species.”

    Beren’s resentment and rage were palpable through the contact: he had been the architect of many of the stratagems that had gone awry. “You would blame our plans, our technicians, for your own failures? Failures against Aboriginals?”

    “Instruct me, Autarch: how were these my failures? Did I not point out the risks in the suit’s design and the underlying xenobiological conceits? And did I not predict that the Aboriginals had an excellent chance of defeating the Arat Kur?”

    “Yes, but their defeat was an acceptable outcome if it created an opportunity to entice the Aboriginals into wholesale genocide. The ostracization they would have faced for that act would surely have pushed them in our direction, and so, under our dominion.”

    “And I warned, did I not, that the plan’s signal weakness was that I had to be physically present in order to obliquely encourage that genocide?”

    “Yes, but—”

    “By your leave, Autarch, my House will wish to inspect the transcripts of this exchange, and I humbly request that I may finish without interruption.”

    Beren’s almost shuddering response indicated barely suppressed fury. “You—your request is…granted.”

    “My thanks, Autarch. I warned, did I not, that being physically present amongst the Aboriginals would give them the time and opportunity to conduct detailed analysis of the suit and its components, even if only by external sensing?”

    “I cannot, at this time, find mention of—”

    “I asserted this on the third day of tactical planning, Autarch. Please consult the transcripts. It was one of my first objections.”

    Beren paused.“Ah—yes, now I recall.”

    “It is happy indeed, Autarch Tval Jerapthere, that your memory now compasses this instance. To conclude, I felt it likely that the Aboriginals would—through inspiration, thoroughness, or serendipity—discover that the environment suit was a deception. They did, and the outcome was as I predicted: they are now aware of our identity. Furthermore, they have shared it with one Arat Kur of the Ee’ar caste, who will no doubt share it with select members of his own, as well as the Hur, caste. There was also a Custodian present, so the Dornaani discord occasioned by their contending conjectures about our identity are now at an end, and so too is the concomitant drain on the surveillance and intelligence assets they have long dedicated to the matter. Furthermore, the Aboriginals now have full access to Arat Kur technology.”

    Ulsor Tval Vasarkas’ declarative was shaded to suggest that the Autarch would brook no dispute on the matter. “That latter risk was deemed acceptable.”

    “By the Autarchs, perhaps,” Shethkador replied carefully. “However, you may recall that I opined differently. The observable phenomenon of post-war rebuilding on Earth, in the face of the unresolved exosapient threat, was already arising when the Aboriginal fleet departed for its strike against Sigma Draconis. We may be sure that even now Earth is reverse-engineering key naval technologies: pseudo-singularity capacitors, navigation systems, field-effect generators, spinal-mounted X-ray lasers, high-yield pulse fusion thrusters, anti-matter production and retention systems. They will be manufacturing them within two years. In five years’ time, these technologies will be commonplace in the Aboriginal formations. In ten years’ time, they will be ubiquitous.”

    Davros’ contact was unconcerned. “Let them do so. The economic impact of such rebuilding will cripple them.”

    “On the contrary, Autarch. It will strengthen the Aboriginals by providing jobs in their market-driven economy and will make them both bolder and more canny opponents.”

    Beren pushed back to the fore of the contact, and his shading was as reptile-cool as it was hostile. “Are you saying our plans were folly?”

    Time to redirect the exchange. “I would not risk my geneline by suggesting that the Autarchs could be so profoundly and singularly mistaken. Let us say that we are all still paying for the error of the rogue elements of House Perekmeres.”

    Beren’s contact was as calm as his animus was clear. “It is always convenient to blame the dead, Srin Shethkador.”

    “Perhaps, but it is never right—nor wise—to blame the Autarchs, Autarch. And is there any denying that House Perekmeres’ unapproved attempt to cripple Earth with an asteroid strike triggered this cascade of disastrous sequelae? Instead of eliminating the Aboriginals as a threat and resetting their cultural paradigms, the so-called Doomsday Rock alerted them to exosapience and interstellar travel and, thereby, accelerated the problem. Were not the lately failed war plans—hasty, forced, inelegant—simply the ineluctable offspring of the Perekmeres’s defiance of the Houses and the Autarchs?”

    If Ulsor Tval Vasarkas’ comment had a subtext, Shethkador could not discern it: “You sound as if you would purge the Perekmeres’ again, if it were possible.”

    “I laud the thoroughness of their Extirpation, even down to the fetuses in the EndoWombs. I would have gladly assisted, had I been asked.”

    This time, Ulsor’s contact trod a line between assertion and irony. “Your reputation for dutiful service remains impeccable, Srin Shethkador.”

    “I would best serve the core values of the Creche worlds if my perspicacity enjoyed equal confidence among the Autarchs.”

    Ulsor’s response was quick and sharp. “Is this insolence, Srin Shethkador?”

    “This is simple fact, esteemed Autarch. Did I not fear this outcome? Did I not predict its disastrous progress?”

    “You did. So how do we know that you have not had a hand in creating that failure to enhance your reputation for foresightfulness?”

    “Let us assume, as your hypothesis must, that I have lost all loyalty to the Ktoran Sphere. Even so, the scheme you suggest would still be folly for me and my geneline. There is more glory to be had, more fame to be acquired, more improvement of my gene-rating to be enjoyed in acquiring victory, than there is in having been sadly correct in my foresight. Will I be draped in the enemy’s skins because I predicted this failure? No. But I might very well have worn that mantle of the flayed remains of our foes had I been able to send word that Earth would soon come under our power. No, esteemed Autarch: though I may be proven right by these events, it is no victory for me.”

    Tlerek could almost see Ulsor’s nod across the dozens of light years. “Well said. And better still, it is as you say.”

    Shethkador could feel the strength borrowed from the expended Catalysite’s protoplasm beginning to wane rapidly, like a star tucking behind the terminator line of a swiftly rotating world. And not a moment too soon: these walking corpses would remonstrate and share their dubious wisdom for hours, given the chance…

    Kromn Tval Shethkador’s contact reached out across the light years briefly but sharply. “Your signal fades, Tlerek Srin Shethkador. You proceed with our trust in your judgment.”

    There was a pulse of approval from Ruurun, followed shortly thereafter by Ulsor’s clipped, “Your perspicacity does not go unappreciated, young Shethkador.” But the emphasis upon “young,” and the absence of praise for other characteristics, was not lost on Tlerek.

    He resolved to dominate what was left of the contact with pointless pleasantries, so that none of the Autarchs could utter any last-second directives that might restrict his actions. “I am gratified to represent the Ktoran Sphere in this place, and to attend to the voices of the Autarchs. I shall make further report as I determine whether it is best to reposition Ferocious Monolith so that it seems to have commenced its homeward journey as instructed by the Custodians, or to fabricate a pretext to remain and gather further data.”

    Tlerek Srin Shethkador waited for a response. There was none—and his sense of the universe as a vast membrane comprised of touch-sensitive cells was gone. In its place was the narrow reality contained within the scope of his senses and an annoying sense of diminishment.

    Shethkador was up off the cushions as soon as he became aware of the first tinge of melancholia: down that path lay overuse of, even addiction to, the artificial surges of the Reifying power enabled by the Catalysites. Of course, the Catalysites themselves were not the enemy: they were utterly insensate. The foe was the Symbiot itself, seducing with the temporarily actualized promise of fabulous power—power which came at the cost of one’s self. Which was why the Ktoran reflex for dominion was all-important, not merely because it fueled the will to control all other species and planets, but to maintain control over oneself. Resolving not to rub at the painful welt on his index finger, where the caustic fluids of the Catalysite had surged greedily into his bloodstream, Shethkador exited the Sensorium.

    Olsirkos was there. Two guards were present also, but hanging well back, out of earshot. “Fearsome Srin,” Olsirkos began, “if you should wish to first take some repose in the—”

    “I have need of information, not rest. It is also necessary that I make an appearance on the bridge. Attend me.” Because, as the ancient axiom has it, “one cannot assert one’s dominion in one’s absence.”

    Without checking to see if Olsirkos was at his heels—for it was the ’vah’s life if he was not—Tlerek Srin Shethkador made swiftly for the bridge.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image