The Eleventh Gate – Snippet 17
A grandmother was not supposed to favor one of her grandchildren over the others. Certainly she was not supposed to dislike one. That was the conventional wisdom.
Conventional wisdom was so often wrong.
Rachel Landry’s favorite was, and always had been, Caitlin. Caity was the brightest, the most sensible, the sanest. From early childhood she’d shared Rachel’s interest in science, bringing her grandmother bugs to identify, drawings of star patterns, questions about why water ran only downhill. She’d taken a degree in biology although, like Rachel herself, Caitlin had been coopted by necessity into administering Freedom Enterprises vast holdings. Now she ran Galt University. Family concerns always came first.
Annelise, the oldest and Rachel’s heir, was also sane and sensible, although without Caitlin’s imagination. Annelise made an excellent administrator.
Celia, the second oldest, had left Galt right after university and never returned. She’d married a mining engineer and now ran the corporation’s mining operations on New Hell. Rachel should be grateful for that, since New Hell was hot, dusty, and unpleasant, and few people wanted to stay there permanently. Celia and her husband Roger Liu did. Sometimes Rachel felt guilty that she didn’t really miss Celia, who’s always been stand-offish and judgmental. A prig, really.
That left Tara and Jane.
Jane Landry stood in her grandmother’s office, alternately pounding her fist on the desk and pumping it into the air. The most beautiful of Rachel’s granddaughters resembled at this moment a mal-programmed bot with rabies, a disease that had unfortunately traveled with colonists from old Earth. “We got it!” She shouted, too loudly. “We fucking took the Prometheus gate and shit all over Sloan Peregoy’s ugly face!”
“That fucker’s days are numbered!” Pound pound pump pound. “The K-beam did it! I did it! You remember that you didn’t want to risk developing it on…c’mon, Gran, look a little happy about this! It’s a fucking victory! Don’t you understand what taking that gate means? Peregoys can’t get from Polyglot to Prometheus to use Prometheus as an easy jumping-off point to the new gate! They’ll have to –“
“Don’t patronize me,” Rachel said coldly. “I know what the Prometheus gate can be used for.”
Jane was immune to coldness. “Then look happier! And the K-beam, that you opposed, isn’t the only new weapon we’re developing on Rand! We –“
“Jane, stop. I’m happy about the victory. You were right and I was wrong. That doesn’t mean I’m happy about going to war. War is — never mind, we’ve been over this before. The Prometheus battle was over days ago, and it’s not why I called you here. What about Tara?”
“Oh. Her.” None of the sisters approved of Tara, but Jane’s dislike, like all her negative emotions, was malevolent. But when Rachel’s private intelligence network had been unable to locate Tara on Polyglot, Rachel had been forced to turn to Jane’s military intel.
“Jane, did you find Tara?”
“Yes. Cowering in her ship in space.”
Rachel held on to her temper. “Cowering? Why?
“I don’t know.”
“Well, is she on her way here?”
“Yes. I had her captured and –“
“She didn’t want to come.”
Rachel moved toward her granddaughter. “Jane, if you hurt her in any way –“
“Nobody hurt her. My troops wrestled her onto transport. She’ll be here next week and you can coddle the precious, bungling infant all you want.”
“Good. Thank you.” Rachel would get no more useful information from Jane. “What I wanted to talk to you about is –“
The door burst open and three of Jane’s soldiers charged in. “Ma’am, the building has been breached. Come with us to the flyer on the roof.”
Breached? Rachel said, “Window, clear!” It de-opaqued and Rachel nearly gasped. Protestors swarmed over the fence, hundreds of them — thousands? How was this possible?
Jane said, “The alarms?”
“Remotely disabled, we don’t know how. Come now.”
Jane said, “No. Drive them off. Fire at will.”
“No!” Rachel whirled from the window. “Hold your fire! Those are our people!”
“Those are criminals attacking private property!” Jane said, much angrier at her mother than at the mob. “And I’m in charge of defense!”
“And I’m the CEO. Jane, order your captains to hold their fire or I will.”
Jane and Rachel locked gazes. So much was in that gaze, personal and political and ideological. Rachel owned Freedom Enterprises until she passed it on to Annelise. She could remove Jane from power. It wouldn’t be easy, but with Annelise and Caitlin on her side, Rachel could do it, and both she and Jane knew it.
Jane said over her implant, “Captain Voskitch, hold all fire unless fired upon. Report situation now!”
A deep male voice filled the air. “Situation controlled, ma’am. The rebels got only as far as the lobby. We have their spokesperson and they are laying down arms.”
Rachel looked back at the window. The rush over the fence had slowed, and people milled around the courtyard; orders must have been passed to them from their leaders. It seemed that she could feel, taste, their disappointment and anger.
She said to Jane, wordlessly restoring her to command, “Please have the spokesperson brought up here.”
Jane gave the order, along with a string of others. Her granddaughter had always been able to think quickly. Intelligent, fearless, innovative, and, Rachel now saw, dangerous to everything Freedom Enterprises stood for. Libertarianism reluctantly needed both police and an army, human nature being what it was, but the freedom and individual responsibility embraced by all citizens were supposed to keep police use to a minimum. Until recently, they had.
Without saying good-bye, Jane strode from Rachel’s office. Two of her soldiers remained. Rachel watched the protestors, although she couldn’t hear what they said. The window, she remembered, had been replaced a year ago, at Jane’s insistence, with a polymer strong enough to withstand gunfire. Her stomach churned.
When two soldiers brought in the “rebel” spokesperson, he was a surprise. Younger than Rachel expected, he had the smooth, almost pore less skin and large, glowing blue eyes of expensive genemods, yet he wore an exaggerated version of the old, patched rags of the very poor. An affectation. Effective with his followers?
“Let him go,” Rachel said to the soldiers, who obeyed immediately. The boy stared at Rachel, as fearless as Jane.
Was it that the young hadn’t yet learned enough to fear?
“I’m Rachel Landry.”
“I know who you are.”
“Fine. Who are you?”
Rachel half expected no answer, or perhaps a sneer, but he said, “My name is Ian Glazer. I’m the regional spokesperson for the United Citizens for Responsible Government.”
There was an actual organization, with “regions” and a name that cleverly echoed Libertarian principles. And “Glazer” — it rang a faint bell. Then Rachel remembered.
“You’re Jeff Blaine and Susan Glazer’s son.”
“Yes. But they have nothing to do with the UCRS.”
Obviously. Blaine & Glazer was a successful, very rich manufacturing family on Rand. That explained Ian’s genemod looks. Rachel said, “What are you doing on Galt?.”
“I came with the plague refugees from Rand. I speak for them and for the underclass on Galt. Rachel, we demand justice. The rich have so much and the poor, including the refugees, are becoming much poorer.”
“So make yourself — or, rather, themselves — richer. Get jobs. Start a business. Farm or ranch on unclaimed land. Show some initiative instead of expecting hand-outs. That’s how everything else on Freedom Enterprise worlds got built.”
“And it only worked while there was still available arable land, and expanding businesses, and no plague. Now there are none of those things, and the refugees from Rand spent whatever money they had to get off planet so they wouldn’t see their children die — can you blame them? Free-wheeling Libertarianism worked once on the Landry worlds. It doesn’t anymore because resources aren’t infinitely expandable, and because it’s fundamentally unjust — to people, to their circumstances, to the environment. Have you seen what mining and fracking have done to New Hell?”
Rachel had not. She received reports from Celia but had not been to New Hell, or even Rand, in maybe thirty years.
Ian Glazer wasn’t done. “In another decade, New Hell will be unlivable. It doesn’t have that much land mass, you know, and most of it is being destroyed. How is that ‘taking individual responsibility’ in the grand old Libertarian fashion? No regulations mean maximum exploitation!”
Now the sneer was evident. And Rachel knew that environmental destruction had always been the weak link in Libertarianism. But what was the alternative — Peregoy dictatorship?
“The environment isn’t the worst of it, no matter what you think,” Ian said, as if reading Rachel’s mind. “The children are. Visit a refugee camp here on Galt. See how starving kids with no medical attention affect your ideology, CEO Landry.”
“Children are the responsibility of those who chose to have them. If you can’t care for them, don’t have them. It’s all about individual choice, Mr. Glazer.”
Ian continued as if Rachel hadn’t spoken. “Here are our demands. First, delivery of food daily to the refugee camps. Second, a Freedom-Corporation-sponsored jobs program. Third –“
“I can’t create jobs that no one needs done. Most businesses are so fully automated that –“
“Which is part of the problem. Create jobs to clean up the environment.”
“Paid for by whom?”
“You have the money!”
“And we’ve earned it by providing actual goods and services. Just like your parents did. If it weren’t for their hard work, you wouldn’t have the education to organize and lead that rabble I saw out there. Let them work, too — there will be war work now. Or join the military and be taken care of that way.”
“No one in the Movement will either join the military or work in a factory making war goods.”
“You will if you get hungry enough.”
“No, we will not.” Ian leaned forward on the balls of his feet, like a fighter. Even though his wrists were tangle-foamed together, both of his guards tensed. “You’ll be surprised by how many of us there are already, and how many there will be. We know that not participating in your war is the best — the only — card we have to play with your ilk, and we’re going to play it no matter what the cost. The future is at stake.”
For a second, Rachel felt a frisson of fear. If the army and the corporate fleet rebelled under this class-traitor upstart…But, no, Ian Glazer was just blustering. More than that — he was counting on Rachel’s own ideology to not lock him up this instant. Libertarianism allowed people to bluster. Jane’s space corps, loyal, had taken the Prometheus gate. And the protestors beyond the window, having failed to breach the building, were dispersing.
She said to Ian, “We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?”
“Sergeant, escort Mr. Glazer out of the building and off Freedom Enterprises grounds.”
Ian said nothing more. Three minutes after he’d left, Jane strode back into the room. Manic exultation and anti-protest bloodlust had both left her face. She looked carved from stone.
“Mother, I have bad news.”
“No, not Tara. Fuck, when will you…never mind. This is war news, and it’s bad. Peregoy ships have taken the Galt-Polyglot gate.”
For a moment, Rachel couldn’t think what Jane meant.
“Did you hear me? The Peregoys attacked our ships at the Polyglot- Galt gate. My fleet didn’t have the K-beam because so far we have only the one prototype that I rushed to Prometheus, and because Polyglot is supposed to be fucking neutral. Sloan Peregoy has violated over a hundred years of interplanetary contract! Now the only way anyone on Galt can reach Polyglot is by going the long way around through the gates around Earth!”
Rachel managed to say, “Have you –“
“Sent more ships to defend the Galt-Terran gate? Of course I have. But this will slow down both my war effort and the economies of both the Libertarian Alliance and Polyglot.”
“Polyglot will protest it. The Council of Nations won’t let Peregoy keep the gate.”
“Polyglot has no real army or navy. They’re too busy preserving dead cultures to act together on anything. We’ll have to take back the Polyglot gate ourselves.”
“Can you –“
“I don’t know. Meeting of my chiefs of staff in ten minutes. Are you coming?”
“Yes. But first, Jane — before the gate was captured, did Tara’s ship pass through to Galt?”
“Fuck it, Mother, at a time like…yes, it got through. She’ll be here tomorrow.” Jane stormed out.
Rachel stood quietly for a long minute. For two, three. Then she said to the wallscreen, “On. Where is Jane Landry meeting with her chiefs of staff?”
“Conference room four.”
“Thank you.” Stupid to thank a building, but Rachel had always done so. She put her hands on either side of her head, over her ears, as if to shut out din that only she could hear. It didn’t help.
She left her office for conference room four.