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The Eleventh Gate: Chapter Twenty

       Last updated: Monday, April 27, 2020 07:45 EDT

 


 

POLYGLOT

        Sloan hadn’t intended to stay this long on Polyglot.  But maintaining the alliance between the Council of Nations and Peregoy Corporation took constant negotiating, placating, visiting of endless officials from endless nations, which only proved how much more effective single-family rule was for everybody.  Good thing Sophia was so capable of governing in his absence.  Drones came daily with updates from New California.  He and Sophia were managing.

        He also hadn’t intended such a long search for SueLin.  It was ridiculous.  There was nowhere on the Peregoy worlds where she could go undetected, and she certainly wasn’t on any Landry planet.  So she was either in space or on Polyglot, and Sloan was spending too much time every day recruiting searchers here.

        Nor had he intended the war to go so quiet.  The longer that the Libertarian Alliance waited to counter Sloan’s alliance with Polyglot, the longer they had to build more K-beams, plus whatever Landry weapon had swallowed the Quasar III inside a gate.  Nearly every night, Sloan lay sweating into the darkness over what that could mean.  But he and Sophia were doing all they could for defense of Peregoy gates, planets, fleet, and citizens.

        It wasn’t enough.

        “Two people requesting admission, sir,” the wall said. 

        Sloan frowned.  He was in his rooms at the hotel beside the Council of Nations, in his bathrobe, eating breakfast at a small table beside the window.  Breakfast was Sloan’s planning time; not even his bodyguard was allowed in the room.  Unlike his system at home, this one did not I.D. visitors.  No one should be bothering him until he arrived at his office in a Peregoy Corporation subsidiary.   The screen showed two figures standing in the hall, a tall man and a shorter person of indeterminate gender in a high-collared tunic and large hat.  Anyone without weaponry could enter the lobby of the hotel without scanning and take the elevator to corridors upstairs.  Ridiculous.

        Sloan snapped, “Identities!”

        The short person answered.  “I’m Rachel Landry, Director Peregoy.”

        A twisted joke.  Sloan was about to summon Chavez when she said, “It is me.  And I have your granddaughter SueLin and I want to talk to you about that.  The building has already vetted us for weapons.  It’s important, Sloan.”

        He stiffened at the effrontery of her using his given name, but his mind raced.  It couldn’t be her.  Rachel Landry would have been identified at the stargate or the spaceport — she was a war criminal, a label that until recently hadn’t even existed on the Eight Worlds.  Nor could she “have” SueLin.  Not possible.

        She said, “Your granddaughter was captured on Earth, hiding in the mountain bunker you maintain in what was old California.  The entry code is 650723J.  The bunker, which has now been destroyed, contained copies of the boyhood diaries of your great-great grandfather, Samuel Peregoy.”

        No one could have known that who hadn’t actually been in the bunker.  Sloan fought off a swoop of vertigo, then called Chavez and his back-up in their adjoining apartment.  He said to the images on his wallscreen, “Strip to your underwear or I won’t open the door.”

        They did.  “Rachel’s” body was thin, wrinkled, old. The man was well-built but didn’t seem heavily muscled enough for a bodyguard.  Augments?  Sloan’s men had them, too.  He told the door to open.

        “Thank you,” the woman said.  Her face looked nothing like Rachel Landry’s.  She staggered slightly and the man supported her.  “I must sit down.”

        Sloan nodded toward the sofa.  She sank into it, breathing heavily.  He said to the man, “You sit, too.”  Harder to attack that way.  The man sat.  He was very handsome; was this a Landry grandson-in-law that Sloan hadn’t heard about?  “Who are you?”

        “My name is Philip Anderson.  I’m a citizen of Polyglot.  Rachel doesn’t look like Rachel because in order to travel from Galt unrecognized, she had facial surgery and retinal transplants, giving her a new scan.”

        Damn.  That tech didn’t exist on New California.  If it spread — and such things always did — it was going to seriously complicate security everywhere.  And why was a woman who’d had a heart attack a month ago having repeat surgery?  “Freedom” gone insane.  One’s health mattered.

        He demanded, “Tell me about SueLin.  If in fact you are Rachel Landry and you’re telling me the truth.”

        “You know I am, Sloan.  I’m here about SueLin, yes, but also much more than that.  I have a story to tell you, and I’ve risked my life to come tell it.  Philip is a part of that story.”

        “I’m not interested in Landry stories.”

        “You are in this one.  And in something else: My granddaughters Annelise and Jane control Freedom Enterprises now, since my heart attack.  Jane is building new ships equipped with K-beams, building them as fast as possible.  She’s going to destroy your entire fleet with them, and after that, attack New California.  And you know it.”

        His nightmare, made clear by this detested woman.  But Sloan kept his voice level.  “You expect me to believe that you’re opposed to her doing that?”

        “Fuck it, Sloan, do you think I wanted this war?”

        “You began it.”

        “No.  The war is an accident by a mentally disturbed person who thought they were facilitating a joint Landry-Peregoy attack on aliens on the new planet, which you must know by now has a city there.  You — “

        “What person?”  David Gordon, who had sold Sloan on the “investment opportunity” in the first place?

        “It doesn’t matter.  You learned about the alien city before we took the Polyglot-Prometheus gate, didn’t you?”

        He had, but didn’t know that she possessed that information.  What else did she know?  He said, skepticism frosting his voice, “Who is this mentally disturbed person who allegedly started the war?”

        Rachel ignored his question and continued, though it was clear the effort cost her.  “Sloan, what kind of civilization do we have where one deranged person can ignite an interplanetary war?  He isn’t Gavrilo Princip or Helen of Troy or, for God’s sake!”

        Sloan didn’t know who either of those people was.  Luis Martinez would have known.

        The man, Philip Anderson, said, “Rachel, do you want another pill?”

        “No.  Sloan, listen to me.  Hear me.  We’re well on the way to duplicating all the political mistakes of old Earth, with the same catastrophic results.  But we have a chance to stop it now.”

        “Oh?  And how might that happen?”  Polite sarcasm and patent disbelief.  Always a good tactic: belittle the enemy. 

        “But we could.  Here and now.  The two of us.”

        “No.”  Such a simple word to change the destiny of the Peregoy worlds — and for the better.  Sloan would be such a better steward of Galt than the Libertarian Landrys, who did nothing — nothing! — for their own people.  And even if he didn’t gain Galt, he was not going to be tricked into giving Rachel Landry and her dangerous granddaughter Jane a chance to gain, or destroy, New California.

        He added, “I’m more interested in SueLin than in any Landry scheme to ‘end the war.'”

        “They’re⦠related.”  She was gasping for breath now.  “Philip⦠will tell you.”

        He did, a long fantastic tale of coincidental dates, delusional ability to control gates, mystic nonsense.  And Rachel believed all this.  So the bomb planter wasn’t the only one was mentally disturbed; had it been another Landry?  There must be bad genes in the family. 

        When Anderson finished his ridiculous fandango, Sloan merely shook his head.

        Rachel, who’d swallowed a pill, looked stronger now.  She said, “So here’s my offer.  You send Philip on a Peregoy ship to the new planet.  That’s all you have to do.  In return, I’ll bring SueLin to Polyglot and give her to you.”

        “But you are no longer CEO of Freedom Enterprises.  You just said so.  You don’t have any power.”

        “Doesn’t matter.  My granddaughters didn’t capture SueLin.  I did, with private resources they don’t know about, and no one else knows where I’m holding her.  You have nothing to lose, Sloan.”

        This was true.  He would get SueLin back to deal with in his own way, without creating a martyr to her subversive cause.  Rachel Landry couldn’t know about the disturbing reports Sophia was sending of conscription refusal among the spoiled younger generation who wanted government care without having to actually defend it.  Sloan would get back his rebellious granddaughter so he could properly and publicly disinherit her in favor of Luis Martinez.  Meanwhile, this half-cracked, would-be mystic would change nothing at the eleventh gate.  Sitting there in his underwear, feeding pills to a feeble old woman, Anderson looked more pathetic than anything else.  And the whole fandango would buy Sloan time to deal with the Landry fleet and its new weapons.  Also to move critical financial operations to Polyglot.  Jane Landry wouldn’t dare attack neutral Polyglot.

        He said, “Before I agree, you will give me the technology for changing retinal patterns, along with SueLin.”

        Philip said, with too much dismay to ever be even a passable negotiator, “But if you get her first, you could just refuse to take me to the new gate.  Double-cross us.”

        Sloan ignored him, the ignorant puppy.  “Ms. Landry?”

        “I’m going to trust you, Sloan, and give you SueLin first.  Not, however, the retinal transplant tech.  That’s not on the table.  But I’m going to inform the Polyglot Council of Nations about the deal we’re striking, and request that they monitor it.  I don’t think you’d like it known to Polyglot businesses that you don’t honor contracts.”

        The puppy could learn from her, even if she was feeble and maybe dying.  Sloan said, “Then we have a deal.  Mr. Anderson, you leave tonight from Polyglot.  Although it will take a fairly long time, since you’ll have to go the long way around, through gates to New California, then New Yosemite, then New Utah, then the long space trip to the new gate — in all, over three months.  Freedom Enterprises controls the much quicker Prometheus gate.”

        “Yes,” Rachel said, “and I can’t get a Peregoy ship safe passage through it.  But a Polyglot ship can use the gate.  You have an alliance here, Sloan.  Put it to use.  Get Philip on a Polyglot ship to Prometheus and I’ll guarantee safe passage for a three-person scout through the Prometheus gate and then on to the new gate.  Do it before my granddaughter Jane gets around to taking that gate away from you, too.

        “To all our peril.”


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