The Eleventh Gate – Snippet 20
Jane’s soldiers brought Tara to Rachel’s apartment at the Landry compound.
Her apartment occupied the entire top floor of the six-story structure five kilometers from Freedom Enterprises headquarters. The building sat in the middle of the compound, surrounded by flowerbeds, moonthorn trees, and the bright houses of Landry granddaughters, grandchildren, and cousins. Twenty-five years ago the entire walled compound had been rebuilt for the second time, these lavishly curved buildings replacing the more modest stone-and-wood ones that had once displaced the first settlers’ foamcast habitats. Every wall of Rachel’s penthouse was clear plastiglass. When it was de-opaqued, she could see as far to the north as the spaceport; to the south, the Suno Mountains. The compound’s formidable security was practically invisible.
She’d chosen to decorate her apartment without either programmable holograms or Earth antiques, the usual choices. Her walls were hung with paintings and collages created on Galt, mostly seascapes although she had one priceless Garafoli nude. Rugs in warm colors covered the floors; the sofas and tables were all hand-made and exquisite. In one corner of the main room, beside the bar, bloomed a garden of deep red boli flowers. Rachel stood in the middle of the room, fists clenched, waiting for Tara.
The door said, “Three people approaching: Lieutenant Jared R. Jennings, Freedom Enterprises Security; Private James K. Tollers, Freedom Enterprises Security; Tara Kathleen Landry, citizen of Galt.”
“Open,” Rachel said.
Jennings was tall and bony, all whipcord muscle. Tollers was huge, with the look of serious augments. Did Jane think that Tara, who looked like a defiant doll between them, needed such formidable captors? Rachel’s irritation with Jane, a flourishing tree, grew another branch.
“Ma’am, Lieutenant Jennings, sent from –“
“Yes, Lieutenant. Leave her here, and thank you.”
“Ma’am, my instructions from the commander-in-chief are to remain beside Ms. Landry to –“
Commander-in-chief? When had Jane given herself that title? Rachel said, “And I am dismissing you, with my thanks.”
Rachel was CEO. The lieutenant saluted and left, taking Private Tollers with him.
Tara stood with her chin lifted, her whole body taut. She’ll attack before I can, Rachel thought, because when had Tara ever employed any other tactic?
“What the fuck gives you the right to have me arrested and brought here against my will? I’m an adult! You always talk about freedom and individual choice and then you have the gall to –”
“Freedom doesn’t include the choice to start a war. Because it was you, wasn’t it? You had a larger ship, the Caroline, accompany you from Prometheus — I checked the manifests, and I’ve talked to the captain. Your orders were for him to have one scout ready to deploy, an order you never gave. I’ve seen the recording the Peregoy scout sent and the Caroline intercepted. A Landry bomb on the other side of the eleventh gate. Tara, do you understand what you’ve done? How could you? Murder over 300 people, and when you knew — must have known! — how dangerous things already were between us and the Peregoys. A war, Tara! Now thousands more might die, and we’ve –“
“I didn’t mean to!”
All at once, before Rachel’s eyes, her granddaughter crumpled. Rachel had not seen her do that since Tara was eight years old.
“It was an accident! I didn’t mean to!” She sank to her knees, covered her face with her hands, and sobbed.
Rachel was not going to be bought off with histrionics. “An ‘accident’? How do you accidentally booby-trap an orbital you yourself built at a gate that you yourself discovered?”
“Are you going to tell Jane? Will she put me in prison?”
Rachel seized her by the shoulders and hauled her upright. “Answer me! Tara!”
Tara sobbed louder and threw herself into her grandmother’s arms.
A hundred tender memories ignited by her granddaughter’s body against hers: Tara as an infant, winding her tiny fist around Rachel’s finger. A one-year-old, a sweet sleeping weight on Rachel’s shoulder. A three-year-old, wailing, “Gammy! Fix it!” A six-year-old, blindly seeking consolation when her mother died.
Gammy, fix it. Not this time. Gently Rachel disentangled herself. “Tara. Talk to me.”
More sobs. It seemed to Rachel that she heard genuine remorse in those sobs — or did she only want to hear it? Certainly she heard fear. She waited; even the worst crying jag ends eventually.
When it did, Rachel waited, stony.
Tara said, “Can we sit down?”
“No. Tell me what happened.”
“It was an accident.” Now Tara’s brows lowered, defiance replacing fear. “Even if you don’t believe me. But then, you never do.”
“Not true. Tara, what happened?”
“I set the bomb, yes. I discovered the gate and I saw an opportunity to make peace between Peregoys and Landrys. Surprises you, doesn’t it? You’ve always been so ready to think I intend the worst! But I was trying to make peace!”
“By destroying a Peregoy cruiser? Come on, Tara.”
“It’s true! The bomb wasn’t supposed to destroy a cruiser! I discovered the new gate and I knew both us and the Peregoys would want wherever it led. To the new planet beyond the gate. So I went through the gate, and then I returned later with a small orbital and the bomb, and then I got an old friend to go tell Sloan Peregoy about the gate. Then –“
“What old friend?”
“Nobody you know. Knew. Anyway, I hired the Caroline and sent it there and I went there on my ship, the Waterbird. The plan was to wait until the Peregoy ship showed up, and then time it so that two scouts, ours and theirs, went through the gate together, racing to claim the gate. The bomb was timed to go off a certain length of time after the orbital’s sensors registered a ship. Both scouts would be destroyed, and all trace of the bomb.”
“And how would that –“
“Let me finish! The Waterbird took a comet hit. We arrived there too late. The Samuel Peregoy went through — what kind of idiot captain doesn’t send a scout first? It wasn’t supposed to happen that way! I thought that when both scouts were destroyed, the Peregoys and Landrys would unite against a common enemy. You know: ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ I could bring peace between them and us!”
“Unite against a common enemy? What common enemy? You were willing to kill two pilots for some phantom enemy? And just because a scout from each side was destroyed, that wouldn’t necessarily mean –“
“No, not ‘just’ that. I thought we’d all unite against the enemy because there is one. Or at least, could be one.”
Tara spoke as if the words were wrung out of her. “Whoever is down on the planet. Because when I went through the gate the first time, I saw lights down there. Lights of cities. That’s what happened. Now do you believe me? I was just trying to make peace!”
Rachel moved to a sofa. She had to; her knees were giving way. “Lights?”
“Yes! Send a ship to check, if you don’t believe me! We own the new gate because I went through first, and we own the Prometheus gate because Jane won her stupid battle, but she gets credit and I get shit! It’s not fair!”
Tara began pounding the side of her own head with her fist. More histrionics? No. She picked up a heavy glass sculpture and struck herself. Rachel leapt up, crying, “Security!” A moment later Lieutenant Jennings, who hadn’t left after all, burst into the room. But Rachel had already knocked the sculpture out of Tara’s hand. It hit the rug, bounced, and rolled. Blood gushed from Tara’s head. She started to scream: “Philip! Philip!”
“Call medics,” Rachel gasped. Then, with every bit of will she had, she said, “Wall on. Summon Annelise Landry and Jane Landry here. Code One. Repeat, Code One.”
“Gammy!” Tara screamed. “Fix it! Oh, fix it!”
Rachel couldn’t answer. Her throat had closed too much for speech.
Annelise came immediately. Jane did not. She’d sent a pre-recorded message informing Rachel that Jane had already dispatched ships to the new gate, although if the Peregoys had launched into deep space from Prometheus before the K-beam captured the Prometheus gate for the Landrys, then Peregoy vessels might get there first. There was no way to know until reports came in. In the holo, Jane wore an even more elaborate uniform: green and gold, with epaulets on the shoulders and four stars on the breast.
Tara had been sedated and hospitalized. A psychotic break was the initial diagnosis. At the look on Rachel’s face, Annelise glanced away, down the long corridor of Galt Hospital Center, and then reached for her grandmother’s hand.
Rachel did not tell Annelise what Tara had done at the eleventh gate. Time enough for that later on. She let Annelise lead her to a waiting room, a small space furnished with the kind of conformachairs and “soothing” walls that Rachel despised. She leaned her head against the back of the chair, which tried to morph into a comfortable shape. Fucking chair. There was no comfort here.
War. Because of course Sloan Peregoy would retaliate.
An hour later, when Rachel had been told by the doctors that she could not see Tara, Rachel returned to her office. She’d just poured herself a strong drink when Annelise, who’d supposedly gone home to her family, entered the room, looking deeply troubled. She said, “Gran, I’m afraid I have more bad news. I wanted to give it to you in person.”
“No. From the Polyglot Council of Nations. The Peregoy ships controlling the gate allowed it through.”
“They did?” That didn’t make sense, since surely it was a condemnation of the outrageous Peregoy violation of Polyglot neutrality.
Annelise had already decrypted and listened to the message. She laid the datacube on Rachel’s desk, next to her drink.
Rachel made no move to touch it. “Tell me.”
“It’s signed by all twenty-six city-states on Polyglot. A universal condemnation of whatever weapon we used to destroy the Peregoy cargo ship Quasar III inside the Polyglot-New California gate. They’re demanding that we surrender the weapon and also make reparations to Peregoy Corporation.”
“What? I don’t understand.”
“Nor do I. Has Jane –“
And the K-beam, that you opposed, isn’t the only new weapon we’re developing on Rand! Jane had said that to Rachel. But —
“No,” Annelise said with uncharacteristic violence. “She wouldn’t. Not without telling me she was developing such a thing. Which isn’t even possible! We know nothing about how the gates work, nothing.”
“Send again for Jane.”
“I will, but I don’t think she’ll come. She’s on Rand, at the shipyards, overseeing her new navy.”
“If she’s done this –“
But Rachel didn’t believe it. Annelise was right; the gates were still complete scientific mysteries, and Jane’s scientists couldn’t manipulate one to destroy a vessel inside itself. If anyone, anywhere, had made such a breakthrough in physics, Rachel would have heard about it.
That left only the Peregoys. They might have destroyed their own vessel — after all, why not? Tara had done the same thing, and Sloan might have wanted a controversial act to blame on the Landrys. That must have been what happened.
Rachel, who had not slept well for days, knew she would not sleep at all tonight. War, deception, escalation, betrayal — This was what had destroyed Earth, what the settlers had hoped to escape with their brave new civilizations.
Annelise had been listening to her implant. “Gran,” she said softly, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this at such a time, but protestors have stormed and taken over the foamcast factory at Reardon. They’re demanding to meet with you now.”