The Eleventh Gate – Snippet 11

“Martyrs to the cause.”  His lip curled.

“What do you mean?”

The man looked at him more closely.  “You’re not from Galt.”

“No.  Polyglot.”

“Not a good time to be a tourist, with war just declared.”

“I’m not a — what did you mean, ‘martyrs’?”

“These are all refugees from Rand.  They came here expecting the unearned hand-outs they couldn’t get there, and since we don’t support parasites who won’t work, they try to manipulate public opinion with these public suicides.  That little stunt was being carefully filmed, you can be sure of that, and the film will be used as propaganda.  Which will backfire, of course.”

“But if they want jobs –“

“They don’t, no matter what they say publicly.  What they want is for those of us who do work to support them.  That won’t happen.”  He went back to his tablet.

Philip hated him too much to say aloud what he was thinking: War will create more jobs.  It always did, throughout history.  He looked at the man’s clean-shaven face, smug even in repose, and felt slightly sick.  If Rachel hadn’t, even in the midst of crisis, remembered Philip, he might have been in the same position as those refugees, and just as subject to the supercilious cruelty of people like this.

Whose basic ideas of total self-reliance Rachel presumably shared, promoted, ruled by.

By the time the train stopped at the university, Philip was in an internal rage of social indignation, fear, and hunger.  If it were possible, he would leave Galt immediately and forget this stupid idea of brain implants.  Since a brand-new war ban on unnecessary travel made it impossible, he found a dining hall, ate, and went to look for Dr. Hampden.

“That way,” a hurrying student said, pointing.  “Can’t miss it.”

“Oh, you have wrong directions,” another said fifteen minutes later.  “You go through that building there…wait, I’ll walk you there.”

Oddly, this calmed him down.  These students might be heartless Libertarians, but they behaved like all other students he’d known, and had been himself: willing to help, courteous to a stranger.  And the campus was beautiful, shaded by Galt’s native trees like giant ferns, bright with beds of genemod flowers, glowing in late afternoon light from the sun.  It glinted off the plastiglass windows, turned the foamcast walls to mellow gold, suffused the warm air with the spicy scents of flowers.  Still, he was aware that only those who could afford the fees attended university.  Hired security forces kept out those who could not. 

Tara Landry had turned her back on all this beauty and protection to go to Zuhause University on Polyglot, a much more diverse and raucous college.  Philip wasn’t surprised.

The Institute for Brain Research was a building of stone, not foamcast, with simple arches forming a colonnade on all four sides.  People sat on railings or stone benches, talking earnestly.  He found Dr. Hampden’s office on the ground floor and knocked.  The door said, “Just a moment, please.”  When it opened, Philip was looking at a woman only a few years older than himself.  “Yes?” she said. 

Brown eyes, rather dull brown hair tied back, dressed in dark pants and a green tunic, she was in no way remarkable.  Neither pretty nor plain, short nor tall, skinny nor fat.  Yet Philip felt he would have noticed her anywhere: her confident carriage, alert expression, intelligent eyes.  This was someone who knew who she was and what she wanted to do, but was not going to trample others to get it.  She was the antithesis of the man on the train.  She was the un-Tara.  Nothing in her manner suggested either impatience or the kind of female reaction Philip usually got to his spectacular genemod looks.

“Yes?” she repeated. 

He’d been standing there like a fool.  “I’m looking for Dr. Hampden.  Rachel Landry sent me.”

If that impressed her, she didn’t show it.  “I’m Dr. Hampden.”

Philip had regained poise.  “My name is Philip Anderson.  I have a message for you from Ms. Landry.”

He handed her the chip and she listened to it.  Someone within called, “Julie?”

“Just a moment, Cy.”  She turned her gaze on Philip.  “You’ve volunteered to be a deep-brain implant subject?  Why?”

“That’s not an easy question to answer.”

“We’re most certainly not going forward without an answer.  Which will be followed by a battery of physical, mental and psychological tests.  This lab is not a whimsical hobby of Rachel Landry’s, nor of university president Caitlin Landry.  Neither one makes scientific decisions for me, and I need to protect the validity of my research and its methods.”

“I understand,” Philip said.  He’d touched a nerve.  But if a favorable decision rested with Julie Hampden, then he would convince her that he was healthy, sane, and possessed of a convincing reason to undergo an experimental messing with his one and only brain.

Yeah, right.

“Dr. Hampden,” he began, “may I ask how familiar you are with –“

“Julie,” a man said, crowding into the doorway, “this can’t wait.  Post-op called.  Subject Six had an epileptic fit.”

“All right.  Yes.  Mr. Anderson, sit down over there and wait.  It might be a long wait, unless you’d rather come back tomorrow.”

“I’ll wait,” Philip said.  Silently, he completed his own question: –with Varennes’s theory of the intersection of quantum entanglement and the collective unconscious?

 She would never accept him as a research subject.  And if she did, would he too end up in a post-op epileptic fit?  On this Libertarian planet, where each person was allowed to make decisions about his or her life and there existed no governmental controls, just how experimental was experimental science allowed to be with human subjects?

Who was crazier, him or her?


Two weeks later, Philip lay on a gurneybot, waiting to be taken into the operating room.  His shaved head was covered by a thin helmet he couldn’t see and his hands were strapped down to prevent him from touching the helmet.  The room was too cold.  The gurney was too hard.  He felt like a trussed, decorated, chilled chicken readied for sacrifice to some mechanical god.  There was no other place on the Eight Worlds that he would rather be. 

Julie Hampden, swathed in sterile garb, suddenly loomed over him.  All he could see of her were two brown eyes, but his heart leapt.  He said, “I didn’t think you’d be here.”

“Me neither.  Your surgeon gave way only because I got permission from Caitlin Landry herself.”