LIES, INC. -- CHAPTER SIXTEEN
In his ship near the orbit of Pluto, Al Dosker received, routinely, the message transmitted from Freya Holm at Whale's Mouth to the New New York office of Lies, Incorporated.
FORGOT TO PACK MY IRISH LINEN HANDKERCHIEFS. PLEASE TRANSMIT VIA TELPOR. FREYA.
He walked to the rear of the ship, leisurely, because at this distance from the sun everything seemed entropic, slowed down; it was as if, out here, there was a slower beat of the sidereal clock.
Opening the code box he ran his finger down the Fs. Then found the key. He then took the message and fed it directly into the computer which held the spools that comprised the contents of the box.
Out came a paper ribbon with typed words. He read them.
MILITARY DICTATORSHIP. BARRACKS LIFE ON SPARTAN BAS1S. PREPARATION FOR WAR AGAINST UNKNOWN FOE.
Dosker stood for a moment, then, taking the original encoded message, as handled by Vidphone Corporation, ran it through the computer once again. And, once again, he read the message in clear and once again it said what it had to say -- could not be denied from saying. And there was no doubt, because Matson Glazer-Holliday himself had programmed the computer-box.
This, Dosker thought. Out of fifty possibilities ranging from the Elysium field to -- hell.
Roughly, this lay halfway on the hell side. By a gross count of ten. It ranked about as bad as he had expected.
So, he thought, now we know.
We know ... and we can't validate it.
The scrap of ribbon, the encoded message, was, incredible as it seemed, completely, utterly worthless.
Because, he asked himself, whom do we take it to?
Their own organization, Lies, Incorporated, had been truncated by Mat's action, by the sending of their best men to Whale's Mouth; all which remained was the staff of bureaucrats in New New York -- and himself.
And, of course, Rachmael ben Applebaum out in 'tween space in the Omphalos. Busily learning Attic Greek.
Now, from the New New York office, a second message, encoded, arrived; this, too, he fed to the computer, more quickly, this time. It came out drearily and he read it with futile shame -- shame because he had tried and failed to stop what Matson planned; he felt the moral weight on himself.
WE CANNOT HOLD OUT. VIVISECTION IN PROGRESS.
Can I help you? he wondered, suffering in his impotent rage. Goddamn you, Matson, he thought, you had to do it; you were greedy. And you took two thousand men and Freya Holm with you, to be slaughtered over there where we can't do anything because "we" consist of nothing.
However, he could perform one final act -- his effort, not connected with the effort to save the multitude of Terran citizens who, within the following days, weeks, would be filing through Telpor gates to Whale's Mouth, but to save someone who deserved a reprieve from a self-imposed burden; a burden which these two encoded messages via Telpor and the Vidphone Corp had rendered obsolete.
Taking the risk that a UN monitor might pick up his signal, Al Dosker sent out a u.h.f. beamed radio signal to the Omphalos and Rachmael ben Applebaum.
When he raised the Omphalos, now at hyper-see velocity and beyond the Sol system, Dosker asked brutally, "How's the odes of Pindar coming?"
"Just simple fables so far," Rachmael's voice came distantly, mixed with the background of static, of inter-system interference as the signal-gathering cone aboard Dosker's ship rotated, tried to gather the weak, far-distant impulse. "But you weren't supposed to contact me," Rachmael said, "unless --"
"Unless," Dosker said, "this happened. We have, at Lies, Incorporated, an encoding method that can't be broken. Because the data are not in what's transmitted. Listen carefully, Rachmael." And, amplified by his ship's transmitter, his words -- he hoped -- were reaching the Omphalos, a segment of his equipment recorded his words and broadcast them several times: a multiplication of the signal to counter, on a statistical basis, the high background; by utilizing the principle of repetition he expected to get his message through to Rachmael. "You know the joke about the prison inmate," Dosker said, "who stands up and yells, 'Three.' And everyone laughs."
"Yes," Rachmael said alertly. "Because 'three' refers to an entire multi-part joke. Which all the inmates know; they've been confined together so long."
"By that method," Dosker said, "our transmission from Whale's Mouth operated today. We have a binary computer as the decoder. Originally, we started out by flipping a coin for each letter of the alphabet. Tails made it zero or gate-shut; heads means one or gate-open. It's either zero or one; that's the binary computer's modus operandi. Then we invented fifty message-units which describe possible conditions on the other side; the messages were constructed in such a way that each consisted of a unique sequence of ones and zeros. I --" His voice came out ragged, hoarse. "I have just now received a message, which when reduced to the elements of the binary system consists of a sequence reading: 11101001100111 0101100000100110101001110000100111110100000111. There is nothing intrinsic in this binary sequence that can be decoded, because it simply acts as one of the fifty unique signals known to our box -- here on my ship -- and it trips one particular tape. But its length -- it gives a spurious impression to cryptographers of an intrinsic message."
"And your tape --" Rachmael said, "that was tripped --"
"I'll paraphrase," Dosker said. "The operational word is -- Sparta." He was silent then.
"A garrison state?" Rachmael's voice came.
"They didn't say. A second message came, but it added relatively little. Except that it came through in clear and it told us that they can't hold out. They're being decimated by the military, over there."
"And you're sure this is authentic data?" Rachmael asked.
"Only Freya Holm, Matson and I," Dosker said, "have the decode boxes into which the messages can be fed as a binary tripping-sequence. It came from Freya, evidently; anyhow she signed the first." He added, "They didn't even try to sign the second one."
"Well," Rachmael said, "then I will turn back. There's no point to my trip, now."
"That's up to you to decide." He waited, wondering what Rachmael ben Applebaum's decision would be; but, he thought, as you say, it really doesn't matter, because the real tragedy is twenty- four light-years away, and not the destruct, the taking-out, of Lie's, Incorporated's two thousand best people, but -- the forty million who've gone before. And the eighty million or more who will follow, since, though we have this knowledge on this side of the teleport gates, there's no means by which we can communicate it over the mass info media to the population --
He was thinking that when the UN pursuit ships, three of them like black sliding fish, closed noiselessly in on him, reached a.-to-a. missile range; their missiles fired, and Dosker's Lies, Incorporated ship was cut into fragments.
Stunned, passive, he floated in his self-contained suit with its own air, heat, water, transmitter, waste-disposal deposit box, squeeze-tubes of food ... he drifted on and on, seemingly for eternity, thinking about vague and even happy things, about a planet of green forests and of women and the tinkling noise of get-togethers, and yet knowing dully that he could live only a short time like this, and wondering, too, if the UN had gotten the Omphalos as they had gotten him; obviously their vigilant switchboard of monitors had picked up his radio carrier-wave, but whether they had picked up Rachmael's too, which operated on another band ... god, he thought, I hope not; I hope it's just me.
He was still hoping when the UN pursuit ship moved up beside him, sent out a robot-like construct which fished at him until it had with great care grappled him without puncturing his suit. Amazed, he thought, Why don't they just dig a little hole in the suit-fabric, let out the air and heat, let me float here and meanwhile die?
It bewildered him. And now a hatch of the UN pursuit ship was opening; he was reeled in, like an enmeshed quarry; the hatch slammed shut and he felt the artificial gravity which prevailed within the expensive, ultra-modern vessel; he lay prone and then, wearily, got to his feet, stood.
Facing him, a uniformed UN senior officer, armed, said, "Take off your suit. Your emergency suit. Understand?" He spoke with a heavy accent; Dosker saw, by his armband, that he was from the Nordic League.
Piece by piece, Dosker shed his emergency suit.
"You Goths," Dosker said, "seem to be running things." At the UN, anyhow. He wondered about Whale's Mouth.
The UN officer, still pointing the laser pistol at him, said, "Sit down. We are returning to Terra. Nach Terra; versteh'n?" Behind him a second UN employee, not armed, sat at the control console; the ship was on a high-velocity course directed toward the third planet and Dosker guessed that only an hour's travel lay ahead. "The Secretary General," the UN officer said, "has asked to speak to you personally. Meanwhile, compose yourself and wait. Would you like a magazine to read? We have UN Back-peop Assist. Or an entertain-spool to watch?"
"No," Dosker said, and sat staring straight ahead, blindly.
The UN officer said, "We tracked the Omphalos by her carrier-wave transmission, also. As we did your ship."
"Good bit," Dosker said sardonically.
"However, due to the distance involved, it will take several days to reach her."
Dosker said. "But you will, though."
"That is a certainty," the UN officer said, with his heavy Swedish accent, nodding. He had no doubts. Nor did Dosker.
The only issue was the time-factor. As the officer said, some few days; no more.
He stared ahead, sat, waited, as the high-velocity UN pursuit ship hurried toward Terra, New New York and Horst Bertold.
At the UN Headquarters in New New York he was given a thorough physical examination; the doctors and nurses attached one testing apparatus after another, checked their readings, located no grafted-in subdermal devices.
"You survived your ordeal amazingly well," the doctor in charge informed him, at last, as he was given his clothing and allowed once more to dress.
"And now what?" Dosker asked.
"The Secretary General is ready to see you," the doctor said briefly, marking his chart; he nodded his head toward a door.
Having dressed, Dosker walked step by step to the door, opened it.
"Please hurry it up," Horst Bertold said.
Shutting the door after him Dosker said, "Why?"
Seated at his large antique oak desk, the UN Secretary General glanced up; he was a heavy man, red-haired, with a pinched, elongated nose and almost colorless small lips. His features were small but his shoulders, his arms and his ribcage, bulged, as if from countless steam baths and from handball; his legs, his feet, showed the tonus of great childhood walking trips and miles of bike riding; this was an outdoor man, confined by his job to a desk, but longing for open spaces which did not now exist. A thoroughly healthy man, physically speaking, Dosker thought. Strange, he thought, and, in spite of himself, received a good impression.
"We picked up your radio communication with the Omphalos," Bertold said, his English perfect -- in fact overly perfect; it had a tape-like quality, and probably it had been so learned. The impression here was not so good. "Thereby as you know we located both ships. We also understand that you are now the ranking executive of Lies, Incorporated, Miss Holm and Mr. Glazer-Holliday having crossed via Telpor -- under cover names, of course -- to Whale's Mouth."
Dosker shrugged, said nothing, imparted no free information; waited.
"However --" Horst Bertold tapped his pen against the top document on his desk, frowned. "This is a transcript, verbatim, of the interchange between you and the fanatic, Rachmael ben Applebaum. You initiated the radio exchange; you raised the Omphalos." Bertold glanced up and his blue, light eyes were sharp. "We have put our cryptographers on the sequence in code which you transmitted ... the same which you previously received from the Vidphone Corp. Intrinsically it means nothing. But in the wreckage of your ship we located your decoding computer, the intact box with its fifty tapes. We therefore matched the transmission and recorded binary sequence to the proper tape. And it was as you informed ben Applebaum."
"Did that surprise you?"
"Of course not," Bertold said swiftly. "Why should you deceive your own client? And at the risk -- a risk which should not have been taken, as it so turned out -- of revealing the location of your own vessel? Anyhow --" Bertold's voice sank to an introspective murmur. "We still were not satisfied. We therefore checked over our monitoring --"
"They're being wiped out, over there," Dosker said. "The two thousand field reps and Mat and Freya." His voice was toneless; he told this because he knew they would get it by a 'wash anyhow -- they could get anything that was there, any memory, any motives, plans, projects; after all, his own organization, far smaller than the UN, could do so -- had done so, over many years, and to many persons, by means of psychiatrists and their techniques.
Bertold said, "Trails of Hoffman Limited and Theodoric Ferry entirely control Newcolonizedland. The UN has no staff at Whale's Mouth. All we know is what we have received, as a courtesy, in aud and vid form. The info signals through the Telpors, over these years of colonization; our original monitoring satellites have been inoperative ever since THL auspical jurisdiction began."
There was silence and then Dosker said incredulously, "Then this is as much news to you as it is to --"
"We believed the fifteen years of aud and vid tapes; we saw no reason to check for ourselves. THL had volunteered to underwrite the colonization economically; they picked up the tab and we gave them the franchise because they owned the Telpor patent and equipment. Dr. von Einem's patents are possessed exclusively by THL; he had the legal right to so arrange that. And this --" Bertold picked up the top document from his desk, showed it to Dosker; it was a typed transcript, in its entirety, of his own conversation by radio with Rachmael. "This," Horst Bertold said, "is the result."
Dosker said, "Tell me what it means." Because, he thought, I don't know. I saw the original messages when they arrived; I understand the literal meaning of the words. But that's all.
The UN Secretary General said, "Out of the forty million colonists Ferry has conscripted an army and provided it with modern, sophisticated weapons. There is no 'non-humanoid race,' no non- Terran culture to encounter. Had there been our unmanned monitors would have detected them; by now we've touched every star system in our galaxy." He stared at Dosker. "It's us," he said. "The UN. That's what Theodoric Ferry is proposing to engage. When enough colonists have gone across. Then the up-to-then 'one-way' aspect of the teleportation equipment will suddenly reveal that the so-called Theorem One was false."
"Here?" Dosker said, then. "They'll reenter through their own Telpor outlets?"
"And take us on," Bertold said. "But not now. At this point they're not quite large enough." To himself he said." At least so we estimate; we studied samples of groups who had emigrated; he can't have more than one million men actually under arms. But weapons -- they may have u.s.h.: ultra sophisticated hardware; after all, they've got von Einem working for them."
Dosker said. "Where is von Einem? At Whale's Mouth?"
"We put a tail on him instantly." Bertold's fingers convulsed, crushed the document. "And proved already -- ganz genug! -- that we were correct. Von Einem has been all these years passing back and forth between Terra and Whale's Mouth; he has always used -- they have always -- operated the Telpor instruments for two-way travel -- so it's vertfied, Dosker. Verified!" He stared at Dosker.