The Eleventh Gate – Snippet 24

“Dr. Coleman, I want to see my youngest granddaughter, Tara.  She’s in the mental-disturbance ward of this hospital.”

He folded his lips into such a thin line that they seemed to disappear.  Finally he said, “All right.  Tara Landry is recovering well.  She can be brought her for a short visit, under supervision, if you promise not to get up again.”

A contract.  “All right.”

Tara was not exactly “recovering well;” she was obviously on serious medication.  She was escorted in, sat in a chair beside her grandmother’s bed, and smiled gently.  Her nurse, who might have also been her guard, withdrew to the window and tactfully studied the distant mountains as if trying to move them.

“Hi, Gran.  How are you?”

“I’m –“

“I’m doing much better, and my nurse is nice.”  Tara began a long, irrelevant story about the nurse and a breakfast tray of pancakes.  Rachel saw that whatever Tara was on made her talkative.  So not a sedative but some other, newer influencer of brain chemistry.  How distractible and uninhibited did it make Tara, who had always been interested in anything discreditable about her sisters?  How much could Rachel learn?

Rachel had thought long about exposing Tara’s monstrous act of setting the bomb at the eleventh gate.  Galt had no courts as such; each settlement administered justice as it saw fit.  In the capital, Freedom Enterprises’ security division caught, tried, and imprisoned wrong-doers, empowered by the corporation that owned the city.  Those who didn’t like that were free to move elsewhere.  Rachel and Annelise could pardon anyone they chose.

Tara had committed murder.

On the other hand, everyone who’d died at the eleventh gate had arrived there on a Peregoy warship, and killing enemies in wartime wasn’t murder — was it?  Also, Tara was clearly mentally ill, and had been for a long time.  Was she responsible for her actions?  Or was Rachel, who had not seen in time how unbalanced Tara had become, really the one responsible?

In the end, Rachel had chosen to say nothing about Tara’s bomb.  That might not be an ethical decision — Caitlin would certainly think it was not — but Rachel determined to spend her resources on stopping this war, not on providing Sloan Peregoy with more propaganda to carry it on.

“Tara,” she said when the pancake story finally ended, “Annelise was just in to see me.”

Tara made a face.

“She told me that Savron is getting married.  But she wouldn’t tell me about –“

“I’ll never marry.  Philip didn’t come.  I waited and waited at Adarsh, but he didn’t come.”

“No.  About Jane –“

“He’ll never come.  He doesn’t want me.  He wants that stupid mysticism of his, when he touched the stars five years ago.  Or something.  He can’t even explain it properly!  Why would you want some fucking thing that happened five years ago instead of a real life?  And now I don’t even know where Philip is!”

Tara was getting agitated.  Her guard turned from the window.  Rachel, who knew that Philip Anderson was in the city at the Institute of Brain Research, reached for Tara’s hand.  “I’m so sorry, dear heart.  But don’t get upset now or you’ll have to leave.”

Tara ignored this.  She gripped Rachel’s hand and leaned forward.  “That fucking mysticism.  Five years ago.  It was Fourmonth 16, and that’s tomorrow again, and I don’t know where he is.”

“I’m sure he’s all right.”

“Really?” Tara said, her gaze suddenly much steadier.  “Will you find him for me?”

So Tara was not as disconnected as she seemed.  Had Rachel just been played?  As she hesitated, Tara tossed her hand back.

“You won’t, will you?  You won’t find him.  Jane can find a Peregoy on old Earth, and you can’t even find Philip on Polyglot!”

“Jane found a — which Peregoy?”

Tara’s face creased with cunning.  “If I tell you, will you promise to find Philip?”

“Yes.”  Rachel sacrificed Philip.  Besides, she hadn’t said when she would find him.  “But you have to tell me everything about Jane.  And how do you know it?”

“People talk.  I hear them.  Sometimes they don’t know I’m there, listening.  I creep around, and as long as I’m good, they let me.  I get to the Link.  And I can hack real good.”

What kind of security went on in the mental-disturbance ward?  Although all at once Tara didn’t actually look all that disturbed, except for her obsession about Philip.  Certainly Tara didn’t look dangerous to herself or anybody else.  And this was Galt, where personal freedom was all.

Tara started to rave about Philip, his handsomeness and intelligence and general godliness.  Rachel interrupted with a bargaining technique she’d used with all her grandchildren when they’d been younger.  “Tell me three things, just three, that I don’t know about Jane, in return for my promise to find Philip.”

“All right.”  Tara thought, evidently wrenching her thoughts away from Philip.  “First, she’s investigating what happened at Prometheus gate.”

“You mean that her K-beam let us seize the gate?”  That was old news.

“No, what happened ten days ago.  Everybody is talking about it.  The gate all of sudden closed for over eight hours.  Just wouldn’t let ships through.  Then it opened.”

Rachel blurted, “That isn’t possible.”

Tara shrugged.  “Everybody says it happened.  My nurse –“

“All right.”  Rachel didn’t want a return to the pancake story.  “That’s one thing.  Now tell me about the Peregoy that Jane found on Earth.”

 Tara grinned maliciously; she was still Tara.  She glanced at her guard and then lowered her voice — yet another indication that Tara was not as disconnected from reality as she pretended.  “Well, Jane didn’t exactly find her.  Not yet.  But she knows that SueLin Peregoy is on Earth.”

Rachel, not able to help herself, gasped.  “How do you know?”

“Can’t tell you.  It’s secret.”

Was it true?  Why would SueLin Peregoy, about whom Rachel knew very little except that she was Sloan Peregoy’s granddaughter and the eventual heir to Peregoy Corporation, be on Earth?  Tara must have made this up.  Could Rachel trust anything Tara said?

“And the third thing,” Tara said, “is that Jane and Annelise don’t want you to be CEO anymore.  They don’t think you can do it since your heart attack.  I know because I’m still on the family encrypted channel — remember?  You put me on so I’d get interested in Freedom Enterprise’s stupid business dealings.  Well, I’m not.  But I listen sometimes because my doctor thinks it will get me involved with the family.  She doesn’t know what I actually hear.  That’s how I learned about SueLin Peregoy, too.  She was leading protests against her grandfather, maybe trying to seize power.  That’s what Jane thinks.”

Rachel’s heart began thumping wildly.  She tried to make herself relax.  Biosensors alerted the staff and the nurse strode into the room.  “That’s enough, Ms. Landry.  Your grandmother needs to rest and you need to leave.”

Tara didn’t argue.  She rose, put her finger to her lips, and whispered, “Remember — you promised to find him for me.”

The nurse summoned Dr. Coleman, who prescribed something in a syringe.  Rachel submitted. She needed her body calm as her mind raced.

SueLin Peregoy on Earth.

Annelise and Jane believed that Rachel was no longer capable as CEO.

Regret pierced Rachel.  She’d missed her chance to remove Jane from power, and now it was too late.  Rachel was a helpless old woman in a hospital bed.

No.  You’ll get well.  Think about something else besides yourself.  Think bigger.

The Prometheus gate had somehow closed for over eight hours.  Was that another new weapon of Jane’s that she’d been testing at the far edge of the frontier?  Rachel had been a physicist, still read the latest research when she had time.  No, it wasn’t possible that some new weapon could manipulate the totally unknown physics of the gates.  So whatever had happened a tenday ago, it hadn’t been that.

Just before the sedative took her, Rachel had another thought.

The Quasar III, disappearing into a gate and never emerging.

A gate “closing” ten days ago.

Fourmonth 16, almost five years past.  She remembered Fourmonth 16.

No, not possible.

“I need access to…” she began, just before the drug took her.