The Eleventh Gate – Snippet 23
The nurse bot brought Rachel another blanket and laid it over her. Its mechanical voice said, “Can I bring you anything else?”
“No,” Rachel said. She didn’t like human-shaped bots, not even those manufactured by a Landry subsidiary. In her penthouse, she permitted only cleaning bots, which were shaped like ottomans with tentacles. All five granddaughters laughed at this “weird quirk.” However, no one was laughing now.
Rachel remembered nothing of her heart attack, the hospital on Polyglot, or the emergency trip back home. Sloan Peregoy had allowed a “compassionate exception” to allow her ship through the Polyglot-Galt gate. As if that old reprobate were ever capable of compassion.
She lay in a room at the top of Galt Hospital Center, a cheerful, flower-filled room with yellow curtains open to a lovely view of the mountains. The room was designed to raise the spirits of patients more capable of cheer than Rachel. She was supposed to remain quiet and unstressed.
“System on,” she said, and the wallscreen brightened. Rachel said, “Perform retinal ID…. Locate and summon Tara Serena Landry.”
“No,” the wall said.
No? “Access Freedom Enterprises data.”
“No,” the screen repeated, and a human nurse rushed into the room. “Ms. Landry, you must remain quiet. Visitors must be approved by Dr. Coleman and all visits monitored.”
“Fuck that,” Rachel said, and realized she sounded like Tara. This wasn’t the nurse’s fault. “I’m sorry. But I want my granddaughter Tara brought to me — she’s in the mental-disturbances area of this hospital — with whatever attendants are necessary. My orders override the doctor’s.”
“I’m afraid not.”
For a moment, Rachel could not process the words. Her orders always overrode anyone else’s. Then she saw how frightened the young nurse looked, and how hard she was trying to hide her fright. Rachel changed tactics. “Is my oldest granddaughter, Annelise Landry, on the approved list?”
“Good. Summon her.” Calm, sensible Annelise — of course she was on the list. Caitlin would be, too, and Rachel would see her soon. Caity always cheered her up. But it was Annelise who would know what was happening with Freedom Enterprises, with the protests, with the war. It would have been Annelise who decided who was on Rachel’s visiting list. Rachel didn’t even ask about Jane.
When Annelise arrived from headquarters, Rachel smiled, looked serene, and made sure her voice sounded strong. “Hello, dear heart.”
“Oh, I’m glad to see you looking so much better, Rachel.”
“I feel better. But I need to know what happened on Polyglot, what’s happening now. Not knowing is causing me more tension than knowledge would.”
Annelise nodded. It was how she herself would have felt. “Sloan Peregoy — do you remember his speech to the Polyglot Council?”
“Yes. Well, it succeeded. Peregoy Corporation and Polyglot are now in loose alliance, although Polyglot is ‘keeping its neutrality.’ A contradiction, of course, but everyone pretends to accept it. Such an alliance can’t last.”
Annelise watched her closely, undoubtedly looking for signs of agitation. Rachel was careful to show none, although under the extra blanket, she clenched both fists hard. “Go on.”
“There’s been a good result, though, of that alliance. Protests against us here on Galt have almost stopped. The war has created a lot of new jobs — Jane and Caitlin have seen to that. Jane is building the fleet, and Caitlin is organizing civil preparedness in case of attack. The –“
“By Freedom Enterprises, of course. We have to.”
“Yes. So no more protests at headquarters?”
“Oh, some, of course. The would-be parasites still resent us Landrys. But the protests aren’t like before, and Jane’s deputies are…are doing a good job of quelling them.”
Rachel, hyper-alert and completely familiar with her granddaughters, said, “What about Jane? There’s something you’re not telling me.”
“I don’t believe you, Annelise.” She kept her tone reasonable, but dread slid through her. Jane, with her new uniform and her new title of Commander-in-Chief and war fever burning in her eyes…
“Oh, another thing you’ll want to know: Celia’s son Savron is getting married to a mining engineer, that young man…What was his name? Oh–Dennis. Unfortunately, the wedding will be on New Hell and with the new travel restrictions of the war –“
“Annelise. What about Jane?”
“Aren’t you interested in your great-grandson’s wedding?”
“Yes, but not now. Jane. What is she doing? What aren’t you telling me?”
“Nothing. You’re getting agitated, Rachel. Rest now. I’ll look in on you tomorrow.”
“No. Now. What about Jane? Tell me — I’m still CEO!”
Annelise stood at the foot of the bed and looked steadily at her grandmother. Rachel saw the thing it was easy to forget about Annelise: under the calm face and gentle voice was the same unyielding stubbornness as Jane, as Tara, as Rachel herself. Tara and Jane were all sharp spikes; Annelise was a smooth wall. The only way to breach that wall was through appeals to logic and tradition.
Annelise said, “While you’re incapacitated, I’m acting CEO. It’s in the corporate by-laws. Rest, Rachel.” She glided from the room.
“Come back here, Annelise! Come back here now and listen to –“
The nurse rushed in. “Calm yourself, Ms. Landry! Your heart! No, you can’t get up, you –“
“I am getting up! And I’m going to fight you and everyone else, I’m going to throw things, I’m going to fire all of you if I don’t see my granddaughter Jane right now!”
Dr. Coleman was summoned. Rachel, with a superhuman effort, quieted herself. With a combination of threats, ersatz calm, and authority, she bargained with him, all the while feeling sorry for the poor man, but not sorry enough.
The doctor gave her access to Freedom Enterprises data, under supervision.
Rachel learned that Jane was off-planet, having gone through the Galt-Earth gate and then, instead of going directly on to Rand through the Earth-Rand gate, had gone down to the Terran surface. Earth? Why would Jane, in the midst of war preparations, go to that ruined and barely livable planet? All Earth could offer were bands of strange, radiation-poisoned people who refused to leave humanity’s first home, surviving at practically a subsistence level.
Rachel said sweetly to the nurse, “I’d like to see my granddaughter Caitlin. I’m sure she’s on the visiting list. And she’s right here, at the university.”
“I’ll see what Dr. Coleman says.”
He said that Rachel needed to rest first, but that Caitlin could come in the evening. Rachel stamped down a sharp reply and obediently closed her eyes. To her own surprise, she did sleep, and woke feeling refreshed by both her nap and the sight of Caitlin sitting quietly beside Rachel’s bedside, reading on a tablet.
“You’re awake. How are you, Gran?”
“Better now that you’re here.”
Caitlin smiled. Rachel appreciated the sweetness of Caitlin’s smile, but not as much as her sense of balance. Balance was in short supply among the Landrys.
Rachel got right to the point. “What is Jane doing on Earth?”
Caitlin’s brows shot up. “I didn’t know Jane had gone to Earth.”
Another door closed.
“She has. You really don’t know anything?”
“I would tell you if I did.”
True. Rachel said, “Then tell me about the civil preparedness program that Annelise said you’re in charge of.”
Caitlin did, concluding with, “But don’t give me too much credit, Gran. I’ve mostly farmed the prep out to committees, who are doing the job well”. She took a deep breath. “I’ve been spending time at the refugee camp. The one closest to the university.”
“Conditions there are deplorable. They…no, don’t look like that. I’m not going to argue Libertarian principles with you, not again. Your doctor said to keep my visit short and — his exact words — ‘non-threatening.’ I don’t know what he thought I would threaten you with.”
“More likely,” Caitlin said shrewdly, “a balance sheet. The ultimate weapon.”
Rachel laughed, which hurt but was worth it.
They bantered more; Caitlin was the only one who understood Rachel’s jokes. Rachel cheered up but didn’t lose sight of her main objective. When Caitlin left, Rachel had her summon the doctor on duty. Rachel had risked her life with her earlier tantrum, or so they said, and she wasn’t going to waste that until she found out what she wanted to know.