LIES, INC. -- CHAPTER SIX
Against Rachmael ben Applebaum's tiny flapple the great hull of his one asset of economic value -- and that attached through the courts -- bumped in the darkness, and at once automatic mechanisms came into operation. A hatch whined open; inner locks shut and then retired as air passed into vacuum and replaced it, and, on his console, a green light lit. A good one.
He could safely pass from his meager rented flapple into the Omphalos, as it hung in powerless orbit around Mars at .003 astronomical units.
Directly he had crossed through the lock-series -- without use of a pressure suit or oxygen gear -- Al Dosker said to him, eyeing him and with laser pistol in hand, "I thought it might be a simulacrum, supplied by THL. But the EEG and EKG machines say you're not." He held out his hand; and Rachmael shook. "So you're making the trip anyhow, without the deep-sleep components. And you think, after eighteen years, you'll be sane? I wouldn't be." His dark" sharp- cut face was filled with compassion. "Can't you induce some fray to come along? One other person, and what a difference, especially if she's --"
"And quarrel," Rachmael said, "and wind up with one corpse. I'm taking an enormous edu-tape library; by the time I reach Fomalhaut I'll be speaking Attic Greek, Latin, Russian, Italian -- I'll be reading alchemical texts from the Middle Ages and Chinese classics in the original from the sixth century." He smiled, but it was an empty, frozen smile; he was not fooling Dosker, who knew what it was like to try an inter-system run without deep-sleep. Because Dosker had made the three-year trip to Proxima. And, on the journey back, had insisted, from his experience, on deep-sleep.
"What gets me," Rachmael said, "is that THL has gotten to the black market. That they're even able to dry up illegal supplies of minned parts." But -- the chance had been missed in the restaurant; the components had been within reach, five thousand poscreds' worth. And -- that was that.
"You know," Dosker said slowly, "that one of Lies, Incorporated's experienced field reps is crossing, using a regular Telpor terminal, like the average fella. So we may be contacting the Omphalos within the next week; you may be able to turn back; we may save you the eighteen years going, and, or have you forgotten, the eighteen years returning?"
"I'm not sure," Rachmael said, "if I make it I'll come back." He was not fooling himself; after the trip to Fomalhaut he might be physically unable to start back -- whatever conditions obtained at Whale's Mouth he might stay there because he had to. The body had its limits. So did the mind.
Anyhow they now had more to go on. Not only the failure of the old time capsule ever to reach the Sol system -- and conveniently forgotten by the media -- but the Vidphone Corporation of Wes- Dem's absolute refusal, under direct, legal request by Matson Glazer-Holliday, to reactivate its Prince Albert B-y satellite orbiting Fomalhaut. This one fact alone, Rachmael reflected, should have frightened the rational citizen. But --
The people did not know. The media had not reported it.
Matson, however, had leaked the info to the small, militant, anti emigration org, the Friends of a United People. Mostly they were old-fashioned, elderly and fearful, whose distrust of emigration by means of Telpor was based on neurotic reasons. But -- they did print pamphlets. And Vidphone Corp's refusal had duly been noted immediately in one of their Terra-wide broad-sheets.
But how many persons had seen it -- that Rachmael did not know. He had the intuition, however, that very few people had. And -- emigration continued.
As Matson said, the footprints leading into the predator's lair continued to increase in number. And still none led out.
Dosker said, "All right, I am now officially, formally surrendering the Omphalos back to you. She appears to check out through every system, so you should have nothing to fear." His dark eyes glinted. "I tell you what, ben Applebaum. During your eighteen years of null-deep-sleep you can amuse yourself as I've been, during the last week." He reached to a table, picked up a leather- backed book. "You can," he said quietly, "keep a diary."
"Of a mind," Dosker said, "deteriorating. It'll be of psychiatric interest." Now he did not seem to be joking.
"So even you," Rachmael said, "consider me --"
"Without deep-sleep equipment to drop your metabolism you're making a terrible mistake to go. So maybe the diary won't be a transcript of human deterioration; maybe that's already taken place."
Wordlessly, Rachmael watched the dark, lithe man step through the lock, disappear, out of the Omphalos and into the tiny rented flapple.
The lock clanged shut. A red light flicked on above it and he was alone, here in this, his giant passenger liner, as he would be for eighteen years and maybe, he thought, maybe Dosker is right.
But still he intended to make the trip.
At three o'clock a.m. Matson Glazer-Holliday was awakened by one of his staff of automatic villa servants. "Your lord, a message from a Mr. Bergen Phillips. From Newcolonizedland. Just received. And you asked --"
"Yes." Matson sat up, spilling the covers from Freya, who slept on; he grabbed his robe, slippers. "Let's have it."
The message, typed out by routine printers of the Vidphone Corp, read:
BOUGHT MY FIRST ORANGE TREE. LOOKS LIKE A BIG CROP. COME ON JOIN MOLLY AND ME.
Now Freya stirred, sat up; her spidersilk nightgown, one strap of it, slipped from her bare, pale shoulder. "What is it?" she murmured.
"The first encoded note from B.P.," Matson said; he absently tap-tapped the folded message against his knee, pondering.
She sat up fully, reached for her pack of Bering cigarillos. "What does he report, Mat?"
Matson said, "The message is version six."
"That -- things are exactly as depicted." She was wide-awake, now; she sat lighting her cigarillo, watching him intently.
"Yes. But -- THL psychologists, waiting on the far side, could have nabbed the field rep. Washed his brain, gotten everything and then sent this; so it meant nothing. Only a transmission of one of the odd-numbered codes -- indicating in various degrees that conditions at Whale's Mouth were not as depicted -- would have been worth anything. Because of course THL psychologists would have no motive to fake those."
"So," Freya said, "you know nothing."
"But maybe he can activate the Prince Albert B-y sat." One week; it would not be long, and the Omphalos could easily be contacted by then. And, since its solo pilot did not lie in deep-sleep, he could be informed.
However, if after a week --
"If no data came from the sat," Matson said thoughtfully, "it still proves nothing. Because then Bergen will transmit message n, meaning that the sat has proved inoperative. They will do all that, too, if they have him. So still nothing!" He paced about the bedroom, then took the burning cigarillo from the girl in the rumpled bed, inhaled from it violently, until it heated up and scorched his fingers. "I," he said, "will not live out eighteen years." I will never live to know the truth about Whale's Mouth, he realized. That time-period; it was just too long to wait.
"You'll be seventy-nine," Freya said practically. "So you'll still be alive. But a jerry with artiforgs for natural organs."
But -- I'm just not that patient, Matson realized. A newborn baby grows virtually to adulthood in that time!
Freya retrieved the cigarillo, winced at its temperature. "Well, possibly you can send over --"
"I'm going over," Matson said.
Staring at him, after a moment she said, "Oh god. God."
"I won't be alone. I'll have a 'family.' At every outlet of Trails of Hoffman a Lies, Incorporated commando team --" He possessed two thousand of them, many veterans of the war; they would pass over at the same moment as he, would link up at Whale's Mouth. And, in their "personal" gear, they would convey enough detection, relay, recording and monitoring equipment to reestablish the private police agency. "So you're in charge here on Terra," he told Freya. "Until I get back." Which would be thirty-six years from now, he thought acidly. When I'm ninety-seven years old ... no, that's right: we can obtain deep-sleep mechanisms at Whale's Mouth because I remember them taking it across; that's one reason why it's so short of supply, here. Originally it was thought that if colonization didn't work they could vacate -- roanoke, they called it -- they could roanoke back to the Sol system in deep-sleep by ship ... from giant liners manufactured at Whale's Mouth from prefab sections passed across by Dr. von Einem's Telpor teleportation gates.
"A coup, Freya said, then. "In fact -- a coup d'etat."
Startled, he said, "What? God no; I never --"
"If you take two thousand top reps," Freya said, "Lies, Incorporated won't exist here; it'll be a shade. But over there -- it'll be formidable. And the UN has no army at Whale's Mouth, Matson. You're aware of that, at least on an unconscious level. Who could oppose you? Let's see. The President of Newcolonizedland, Omar Jones, is up for reelection in two years; you' d possibly want to wait --"
"At the first call from Whale's Mouth," Matson said harshly, "Omar Jones could have UN troops trotting through every Telpor instrument in the world. And their tactical weapons with them, everything up to cephalotropic missiles." And he hated -- and feared -- those.
"If a call came from Whale's Mouth. But once you're on the other side, you could handle that. You could be sure no such emergency announcement was sent out. Isn't that what we've been discussing all this time? Isn't this really why you bought Rachmael's idea -- your knowledge that all communication from the other side can be -- managed?" She waited, smoking, watching him with a feminine vigil of intensity and acuity.
Presently he said tightly, "Yes. We could do that. They may have THL psychologists armed and ready for individuals. But not for two thousand trained police. We'd have control in half an hour -- probably. Unless, unknown to us, Horst Bertold has been sending troops across." And, he pondered, why should he? All they face -- up to now -- is bewildered citizens, expatriates who want jobs, homes, new roots ... in a world they can't leave.
"And remember this, too," Freya said. She lifted the strap of her nightgown once more, then, covering her faintly freckled shoulder. "The receiving portion of the teleportation rig has to be spacially installed; every one of those over there had to be sent originally by inter-stellar hyper-see ship, and that took years. So you can stop the UN and Bertold just by rendering the receiving stations of the Tel-pors inoperative -- if they suspect."
"And if I can move quickly enough."
"But you," she said calmly, "can. Taking your best men, with their equipment ... unless --" She paused, licked her lip, as if puzzling out a purely academic problem.
Maddened, he said, "Unless what, goddamn it?"
"They may identify your reps as they cross. And you. They may be ready. I can see it now." She laughed merrily. "You pay your poscreds, smile at the nice THL bald-headed, gargoyle-like New Whole Germany technicians who run those Telpors, you stand there while they subject your body to the field of the equipment ... keep standing there innocently, fade away, reappear twenty-four light-years away at Whale's Mouth ... and are lasered dead before you're even fully formed. It takes fifteen minutes. For fifteen minutes, Mat, you would be helpless, half materialized both here and there. And all your field reps. And all their gear."
He glared at her.
"Thus," she said, "goes hubris."
"The Greek word for 'pride.' For trying to rise above the station the gods have allocated you. Maybe the gods don't want you to seize control of Whale's Mouth, Matty darling. Maybe the gods don't want you to overreach yourself."
"Hell," he said, ''as long as I have to go across anyhow --"
"Sure; then why not take control? Push jovial, insipid Omar Jones aside? After all ..." She stubbed out her cigarillo. "You'd be doomed to stay there anyhow; why live the ordinary life with the ordinary hoi polloi? Here, you're strong ... but Horst Bertold and the UN, with Trails of Hoffman as their economic support, are stronger. Over there --" She shrugged, as if made weary by human aspirations -- or human vanity. Over there it was simply a different situation.
No one, he realized, could compete if he managed to move, in one sudden swoop, his entire entourage and weaponry across ... using, ironically, von Einem's own official retail stations themselves. He grinned at that; it amused him to think that THL would personally see to it that he and his veteran reps reached Newcolonizedland.
"And then in 2032," Freya said, "when Rachmael ben Applebaum, probably an unwashed, bearded, mumbling hebephrenic schizophrenic by then, shows up in his great and good ship the Omphalos, he'll discover it's a hell, there, exactly as he anticipated ... but it'll be you who'll be running it. And I'll bet that will surprise him more than a little."
Nettled, he said, "I can't think about it any more. I'm going back to sleep." He removed his robe and slippers, got wearily into the bed, aware of his years; he felt old. Wasn't he too decrepit for something like this? Not getting into bed; lord, he wasn't too old to clamber in beside Freya Holm, not yet, anyhow. But too old for what Freya had proposed -- what she had correctly, possibly even telepathically, ascertained from his unconscious mind. Yes, it was actually true.
He had, from Rachmael's initial vidphone call, at the back levels of his cognition-processes, pondered this, from the very beginning.
And this was his reason for assisting -- or rather trying to assist -- the morose, creditor-balloon- hounded Rachmael ben Applebaum.
He thought, according to published info there is a home army, so-called, at Whale's Mouth, of three hundred volunteer citizens. For use as a sort of national guard in case of a riot. Three hundred! And none of them professionals, with experience. It was a pastoral land, the ads explained. A G. of E. lacking a snake; since there was a super-abundance of everything for everyone, what was an army needed for? What have-not existed to envy what have? And what reason to try, by force, to seize his holdings?
I'll tell you, Matson Glazer-Holliday thought. The have-nots are here on this side. Myself and those who work for me; we're gradually, over the years, being ground down and overpowered by the true titans, by the UN and THL and --
The haves are across twenty-four light-years in the Fomalhaut system, at its ninth planet.
Mr. ben Applebaum, he thought to himself as he lay supine, drew, from reflex, Freya Holm against him, you will have quite a surprise when you get to Whale's Mouth.
It was a pity that he himself -- and he intuited this with certitude -- would not be alive at that date.
As to why not, however, his near-Psionic intuition told him nothing.
Beside him Freya moaned in her half-sleep, settled close to him, relaxed.
He, however, lay awake, staring into the
nothingness. Deep in a new, hard thought. The like of which he had never