Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

The Eleventh Gate: Chapter Eighteen

       Last updated: Monday, April 20, 2020 08:21 EDT

 


 

GALT

        The nurse bot brought Rachel another blanket and laid it over her.  Its mechanical voice said, “Can I bring you anything else?”

        “No,” Rachel said.  She didn’t like human-shaped bots, not even those manufactured by a Landry subsidiary.  In her penthouse, she permitted only cleaning bots, which were shaped like ottomans with tentacles.  All five granddaughters laughed at this “weird quirk.”  However, no one was laughing now.

        Rachel remembered nothing of her heart attack, the hospital on Polyglot, or the emergency trip back home. Sloan Peregoy had allowed a “compassionate exception” to allow her ship through the Polyglot-Galt gate.  As if that old reprobate were ever capable of compassion.

        She lay in a room at the top of Galt Hospital Center, a cheerful, flower-filled room with yellow curtains open to a lovely view of the mountains.  The room was designed to raise the spirits of patients more capable of cheer than Rachel.  She was supposed to remain quiet and unstressed.  

        Not possible.

        “System on,” she said, and the wallscreen brightened.  Rachel said, “Perform retinal IDâ¦.  Locate and summon Tara Serena Landry.”

        “No,” the wall said.

        No?  “Access Freedom Enterprises data.”

        “No,” the screen repeated, and a human nurse rushed into the room.  “Ms. Landry, you must remain quiet.  Visitors must be approved by Dr. Coleman and all visits monitored.”

        “Fuck that,” Rachel said, and realized she sounded like Tara.  This wasn’t the nurse’s fault.  “I’m sorry.  But I want my granddaughter Tara brought to me — she’s in the mental-disturbances area of this hospital — with whatever attendants are necessary.  My orders override the doctor’s.”

        “I’m afraid not.”

        For a moment, Rachel could not process the words.  Her orders always overrode anyone else’s.  Then she saw how frightened the young nurse looked, and how hard she was trying to hide her fright.  Rachel changed tactics.  “Is my oldest granddaughter, Annelise Landry, on the approved list?”

        “Yes.”

        “Good.  Summon her.”  Calm, sensible Annelise — of course she was on the list.  Caitlin would be, too, and Rachel would see her soon.  Caity always cheered her up.  But it was Annelise who would know what was happening with Freedom Enterprises, with the protests, with the war.  It would have been Annelise who decided who was on Rachel’s visiting list.  Rachel didn’t even ask about Jane.

        When Annelise arrived from headquarters, Rachel smiled, looked serene, and made sure her voice sounded strong.  “Hello, dear heart.”

        “Oh, I’m glad to see you looking so much better, Rachel.”

        “I feel better.  But I need to know what happened on Polyglot, what’s happening now.  Not knowing is causing me more tension than knowledge would.”

        Annelise nodded.  It was how she herself would have felt.  “Sloan Peregoy — do you remember his speech to the Polyglot Council?”

        “Perfectly.”

        “Yes.  Well, it succeeded.  Peregoy Corporation and Polyglot are now in loose alliance, although Polyglot is ‘keeping its neutrality.’  A contradiction, of course, but everyone pretends to accept it.  Such an alliance can’t last.”

        Annelise watched her closely, undoubtedly looking for signs of agitation.  Rachel was careful to show none, although under the extra blanket, she clenched both fists hard.  “Go on.”

        “There’s been a good result, though, of that alliance.  Protests against us here on Galt have almost stopped.  The war has created a lot of new jobs — Jane and Caitlin have seen to that.  Jane is building the fleet, and Caitlin is organizing civil preparedness in case of attack.  The –“

        “Funded how?”

        “By Freedom Enterprises, of course.  We have to.”

        “Yes.  So no more protests at headquarters?”

        “Oh, some, of course.  The would-be parasites still resent us Landrys.  But the protests aren’t like before, and Jane’s deputies areâ¦are doing a good job of quelling them.”

        Rachel, hyper-alert and completely familiar with her granddaughters, said, “What about Jane?  There’s something you’re not telling me.”

        “No, nothing.”

        “I don’t believe you, Annelise.”  She kept her tone reasonable, but dread slid through her.  Jane, with her new uniform and her new title of Commander-in-Chief and war fever burning in her eyes⦠

        “Oh, another thing you’ll want to know: Celia’s son Savron is getting married to a mining engineer, that young manâ¦What was his name?  Oh–Dennis.  Unfortunately, the wedding will be on New Hell and with the new travel restrictions of the war –“

        “Annelise.  What about Jane?”

        “Aren’t you interested in your great-grandson’s wedding?”

        “Yes, but not now.  Jane.  What is she doing?  What aren’t you telling me?”

        “Nothing.  You’re getting agitated, Rachel.  Rest now.  I’ll look in on you tomorrow.”

        “No.  Now.  What about Jane?  Tell me — I’m still CEO!”

        Annelise stood at the foot of the bed and looked steadily at her grandmother.  Rachel saw the thing it was easy to forget about Annelise: under the calm face and gentle voice was the same unyielding stubbornness as Jane, as Tara, as Rachel herself.  Tara and Jane were all sharp spikes; Annelise was a smooth wall.  The only way to breach that wall was through appeals to logic and tradition.

        Annelise said, “While you’re incapacitated, I’m acting CEO.  It’s in the corporate by-laws.  Rest, Rachel.”  She glided from the room.

        “Come back here, Annelise!  Come back here now and listen to –“

        The nurse rushed in.  “Calm yourself, Ms. Landry!  Your heart!  No, you can’t get up, you –“

        “I am getting up!  And I’m going to fight you and everyone else, I’m going to throw things, I’m going to fire all of you if I don’t see my granddaughter Jane right now!”

        Dr. Coleman was summoned.  Rachel, with a superhuman effort, quieted herself.  With a combination of threats, ersatz calm, and authority, she bargained with him, all the while feeling sorry for the poor man, but not sorry enough.

        The doctor gave her access to Freedom Enterprises data, under supervision.

        Rachel learned that Jane was off-planet, having gone through the Galt-Earth gate and then, instead of going directly on to Rand through the Earth-Rand gate, had gone down to the Terran surface.  Earth?  Why would Jane, in the midst of war preparations, go to that ruined and barely livable planet?  All Earth could offer were bands of strange, radiation-poisoned people who refused to leave humanity’s first home, surviving at practically a subsistence level.

        Rachel said sweetly to the nurse, “I’d like to see my granddaughter Caitlin.  I’m sure she’s on the visiting list.  And she’s right here, at the university.”

        “I’ll see what Dr. Coleman says.”

        He said that Rachel needed to rest first, but that Caitlin could come in the evening.  Rachel stamped down a sharp reply and obediently closed her eyes.  To her own surprise, she did sleep, and woke feeling refreshed by both her nap and the sight of Caitlin sitting quietly beside Rachel’s bedside, reading on a tablet.

        “Caity.”

        “You’re awake.  How are you, Gran?”

        “Better now that you’re here.”

        Caitlin smiled.  Rachel appreciated the sweetness of Caitlin’s smile, but not as much as her sense of balance.  Balance was in short supply among the Landrys.  

        Rachel got right to the point.  “What is Jane doing on Earth?”

        Caitlin’s brows shot up.  “I didn’t know Jane had gone to Earth.”

        Another door closed. 

        “She has.  You really don’t know anything?”

        “I would tell you if I did.”

        True.  Rachel said, “Then tell me about the civil preparedness program that Annelise said you’re in charge of.”

        Caitlin did, concluding with, “But don’t give me too much credit, Gran.  I’ve mostly farmed the prep out to committees, who are doing the job well”. She took a deep breath.  “I’ve been spending time at the refugee camp.  The one closest to the university.”

        “Why?”

        “Conditions there are deplorable.  Theyâ¦no, don’t look like that.  I’m not going to argue Libertarian principles with you, not again.  Your doctor said to keep my visit short and — his exact words — ‘non-threatening.’  I don’t know what he thought I would threaten you with.”

        “A knife.”

        “An axe.”

        “A torpedo.”

        “More likely,” Caitlin said shrewdly, “a balance sheet.  The ultimate weapon.”

        Rachel laughed, which hurt but was worth it.

        They bantered more; Caitlin was the only one who understood Rachel’s jokes.  Rachel cheered up but didn’t lose sight of her main objective.  When Caitlin left, Rachel had her summon the doctor on duty.  Rachel had risked her life with her earlier tantrum, or so they said, and she wasn’t going to waste that until she found out what she wanted to know.

 



 

        “Dr. Coleman, I want to see my youngest granddaughter, Tara.  She’s in the mental-disturbance ward of this hospital.”

        He folded his lips into such a thin line that they seemed to disappear.  Finally he said, “All right.  Tara Landry is recovering well.  She can be brought her for a short visit, under supervision, if you promise not to get up again.”

        A contract.  “All right.”

        Tara was not exactly “recovering well;” she was obviously on serious medication.  She was escorted in, sat in a chair beside her grandmother’s bed, and smiled gently.  Her nurse, who might have also been her guard, withdrew to the window and tactfully studied the distant mountains as if trying to move them.

        “Hi, Gran.  How are you?”

        “I’m –“

        “I’m doing much better, and my nurse is nice.”  Tara began a long, irrelevant story about the nurse and a breakfast tray of pancakes.  Rachel saw that whatever Tara was on made her talkative.  So not a sedative but some other, newer influencer of brain chemistry.  How distractible and uninhibited did it make Tara, who had always been interested in anything discreditable about her sisters?  How much could Rachel learn?

        Rachel had thought long about exposing Tara’s monstrous act of setting the bomb at the eleventh gate.  Galt had no courts as such; each settlement administered justice as it saw fit.  In the capital, Freedom Enterprises’ security division caught, tried, and imprisoned wrong-doers, empowered by the corporation that owned the city.  Those who didn’t like that were free to move elsewhere.  Rachel and Annelise could pardon anyone they chose.

        Tara had committed murder.

        On the other hand, everyone who’d died at the eleventh gate had arrived there on a Peregoy warship, and killing enemies in wartime wasn’t murder — was it?  Also, Tara was clearly mentally ill, and had been for a long time.  Was she responsible for her actions?  Or was Rachel, who had not seen in time how unbalanced Tara had become, really the one responsible?

        In the end, Rachel had chosen to say nothing about Tara’s bomb.  That might not be an ethical decision — Caitlin would certainly think it was not — but Rachel determined to spend her resources on stopping this war, not on providing Sloan Peregoy with more propaganda to carry it on.

        “Tara,” she said when the pancake story finally ended, “Annelise was just in to see me.”

        Tara made a face.

        “She told me that Savron is getting married.  But she wouldn’t tell me about –“

        “I’ll never marry.  Philip didn’t come.  I waited and waited at Adarsh, but he didn’t come.”

        “No.  About Jane –“

        “He’ll never come.  He doesn’t want me.  He wants that stupid mysticism of his, when he touched the stars five years ago.  Or something.  He can’t even explain it properly!  Why would you want some fucking thing that happened five years ago instead of a real life?  And now I don’t even know where Philip is!”

        Tara was getting agitated.  Her guard turned from the window.  Rachel, who knew that Philip Anderson was in the city at the Institute of Brain Research, reached for Tara’s hand.  “I’m so sorry, dear heart.  But don’t get upset now or you’ll have to leave.”

        Tara ignored this.  She gripped Rachel’s hand and leaned forward.  “That fucking mysticism.  Five years ago.  It was Fourmonth 16, and that’s tomorrow again, and I don’t know where he is.”

        “I’m sure he’s all right.”

        “Really?” Tara said, her gaze suddenly much steadier.  “Will you find him for me?”

        So Tara was not as disconnected as she seemed.  Had Rachel just been played?  As she hesitated, Tara tossed her hand back.

        “You won’t, will you?  You won’t find him.  Jane can find a Peregoy on old Earth, and you can’t even find Philip on Polyglot!”

        “Jane found a — which Peregoy?”

        Tara’s face creased with cunning.  “If I tell you, will you promise to find Philip?”

        “Yes.”  Rachel sacrificed Philip.  Besides, she hadn’t said when she would find him.  “But you have to tell me everything about Jane.  And how do you know it?”

        “People talk.  I hear them.  Sometimes they don’t know I’m there, listening.  I creep around, and as long as I’m good, they let me.  I get to the Link.  And I can hack real good.”

        What kind of security went on in the mental-disturbance ward?  Although all at once Tara didn’t actually look all that disturbed, except for her obsession about Philip.  Certainly Tara didn’t look dangerous to herself or anybody else.  And this was Galt, where personal freedom was all.

        Tara started to rave about Philip, his handsomeness and intelligence and general godliness.  Rachel interrupted with a bargaining technique she’d used with all her grandchildren when they’d been younger.  “Tell me three things, just three, that I don’t know about Jane, in return for my promise to find Philip.”

        “All right.”  Tara thought, evidently wrenching her thoughts away from Philip.  “First, she’s investigating what happened at Prometheus gate.”

        “You mean that her K-beam let us seize the gate?”  That was old news.

        “No, what happened ten days ago.  Everybody is talking about it.  The gate all of sudden closed for over eight hours.  Just wouldn’t let ships through.  Then it opened.”

        Rachel blurted, “That isn’t possible.”

        Tara shrugged.  “Everybody says it happened.  My nurse –“

        “All right.”  Rachel didn’t want a return to the pancake story.  “That’s one thing.  Now tell me about the Peregoy that Jane found on Earth.”

         Tara grinned maliciously; she was still Tara.  She glanced at her guard and then lowered her voice — yet another indication that Tara was not as disconnected from reality as she pretended.  “Well, Jane didn’t exactly find her.  Not yet.  But she knows that SueLin Peregoy is on Earth.”

        Rachel, not able to help herself, gasped.  “How do you know?”

        “Can’t tell you.  It’s secret.”

        Was it true?  Why would SueLin Peregoy, about whom Rachel knew very little except that she was Sloan Peregoy’s granddaughter and the eventual heir to Peregoy Corporation, be on Earth?  Tara must have made this up.  Could Rachel trust anything Tara said?

        “And the third thing,” Tara said, “is that Jane and Annelise don’t want you to be CEO anymore.  They don’t think you can do it since your heart attack.  I know because I’m still on the family encrypted channel — remember?  You put me on so I’d get interested in Freedom Enterprise’s stupid business dealings.  Well, I’m not.  But I listen sometimes because my doctor thinks it will get me involved with the family.  She doesn’t know what I actually hear.  That’s how I learned about SueLin Peregoy, too.  She was leading protests against her grandfather, maybe trying to seize power.  That’s what Jane thinks.”

        Rachel’s heart began thumping wildly.  She tried to make herself relax.  Biosensors alerted the staff and the nurse strode into the room.  “That’s enough, Ms. Landry.  Your grandmother needs to rest and you need to leave.”

        Tara didn’t argue.  She rose, put her finger to her lips, and whispered, “Remember — you promised to find him for me.”

        The nurse summoned Dr. Coleman, who prescribed something in a syringe.  Rachel submitted. She needed her body calm as her mind raced.

        SueLin Peregoy on Earth.

        Annelise and Jane believed that Rachel was no longer capable as CEO.

        Regret pierced Rachel.  She’d missed her chance to remove Jane from power, and now it was too late.  Rachel was a helpless old woman in a hospital bed.

        No.  You’ll get well.  Think about something else besides yourself.  Think bigger.

        The Prometheus gate had somehow closed for over eight hours.  Was that another new weapon of Jane’s that she’d been testing at the far edge of the frontier?  Rachel had been a physicist, still read the latest research when she had time.  No, it wasn’t possible that some new weapon could manipulate the totally unknown physics of the gates.  So whatever had happened a tenday ago, it hadn’t been that.

        Just before the sedative took her, Rachel had another thought.

        The Quasar III, disappearing into a gate and never emerging.

        A gate “closing” ten days ago.

        Fourmonth 16, almost five years past.  She remembered Fourmonth 16.

        No, not possible.

        “I need access to⦔ she began, just before the drug took her.


Home Page Index Page

 


 

 



Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image