The Eleventh Gate – Snippet 02
Gordon made a face. “Libertarians — they don’t agree on how to act, and with everybody doing their own thing, you’re never sure that one Landry’s thing won’t derail another Landry’s thing. I don’t want to be derailed or delayed by endless discussion because everybody is equal.”
“They do have a military organization.” Although Sloan always wondered how Landry men and women, raised with doctrines of individuality and self-reliance as their supreme values, could become soldiers who had to take orders. But somehow they did, despite the fact that their independent businesses often ignored their home planet’s best interests if it would make individual corporations more money.
Gordon said, “Yes, they have a military. But you have totalitarian control of Peregoy resources.”
“That isn’t accurate. I am a CEO, not a dictator.”
“Is there any difference when the corporation is the state?”
Sloan scowled but wasn’t about to digress into a discussion of political philosophy. Another gate…
There had always been only ten gates. Physicists said they were a natural phenomenon, inexplicably stable children of the unstable quantum flux. No one understood the gates’ origins, not even after a hundred fifty years of trying. The gates were inexplicable, permanent, and immovable, not unlike the enmity between Landrys and Peregoys. Both families had been among the first to escape the dying Earth, and both had claimed planets connected by the newly-discovered gates orbiting Earth’s Moon. Both had defended their claims. In a bewildering new environment, facing unknown challenges, family was all the settlers had had, and they had built civilizations on it.
Polyglot, however, had been discovered by an eccentric without family, multi-billionaire Patrick Fenton. He had opened the planet to everyone who could somehow arrive there, resulting in a patchwork of remnants of Terran nations. That was possible only because of all the Eight Worlds, Polyglot possessed the most land mass, the best climate, the most resources. Fortunately, each city-state was too small and uncohesive to mount any sort of challenge to the Peregoys. Branching off from Polyglot, Kezia Landry had managed to claim three worlds. Samuel Peregoy, Sloan’s great-great-grandfather, claimed three more.
As space expansion continued, it was discovered that each
new gate led to a different planet, hundreds of light years apart but all —
except for Prometheus — habitable by humans.
The other seven were in the Goldilocks zone, each with breathable
atmosphere and gravity close to Terra’s, and no one understood that,
either. The odds were infinitesimally
small. Religions, theories, and
demagogues had sprung up around this habitability, especially during the years
of discovery. The map of the Eight
Worlds became to every schoolchild everywhere as familiar as his own family’s
allegiances: the Landry Libertarian Alliance of Galt, Rand, and New Hell. The Peregoy worlds, all named for the lost
nation Samuel Peregoy had hoped to recreate:
THE EIGHT WORLDS
Sloan was not interested in where the gates came from or why they orbited only habitable worlds. All that was as abstract and pointless as Earth’s ancient history. What mattered was the fact of the gates’ existence, not their cause. What mattered was Peregoy Corporation’s obligations to its citizens.
What resources or opportunities might lie behind an eleventh gate?
“Have you proof of this gate, Mr. Gordon?”
“I have. Spectrum readings and other scientific evidence.”
Sloan said to his implant, “Sophia, I want three physicists from the university here immediately.”
She said, “I already have them waiting.”
Sloan moved toward a conference room, saying over his shoulder, “This way, Mr. Gordon.” Gordon followed him.
SueLin would have to wait. Let her pout. She never wanted anything substantial, anyway. Another gate…
As Sloan passed the dead wolves, their dusty, glassy, yellow eyes gleamed at him in the overhead light.
David Gordon blinked at the size and opulence of the conference room. Well, what did he expect — this was Sloan Peregoy. Certainly no Landry had ever seen this gorgeous room with its curved walls softly programmed in shifting pastels — although if it hadn’t been for Tara Landry, David wouldn’t be here, either.
Not that the Peregoys would ever know that.
He’d been half afraid that somehow Sloan or his daughter would discover what he and Tara were up to. Weren’t the Peregoys famous for their spy network? David must have passed initial vetting, but what about truth drugs or even torture? He’d heard stories…
Apparently the stories weren’t true. Landry disinformation, maybe. Nobody seemed eager to drug or torture him. He and Tara might — could it happen? — actually get away with this desperate, necessary deception.
That would be worth the personal risk. David would be a hero, a man who had single-handedly (well, almost) united worlds, maybe even averting a war. And, not incidentally, for the first time in his ramshackle life, he would be rich.
He sat down at the conference table, polished karthwood with inset holoscreens, and watched the scientists file in.