Through Fire – Snippet 08

Limiting Factor

“Not particularly experienced,” he said, as I came out of the fresher and asked about his experience with undercover work.

He too had got dressed in the same sort of cheap-but-gaudy attire, in his case an aping of the tight pants with broad-shouldered jackets that Simon’s circle wore — also made of plastic-like fabric in an unlikely sky blue color. I noted that his gaze barely flicked over me, more as if verifying I’d done the job properly than with any prospective interest, no matter how remote. I wasn’t used to indifference. Not that I minded it.

“It’s just that I have some idea how to survive underground,” he said. He shrugged again. “The Good Man Simon St. Cyr picked me out of death row. Insurrection. Activities against the state.” He must have seen the expression on my face, as I was thinking these were strange qualifications to become the main chief of security to the Good Man. He grinned, a surprisingly attractive expression that made him look ten years younger, almost boyish. “Well, you see, his father had just become incapacitated and Simon — St. Cyr was replacing his father’s security force with his own, so that, well… so we’d be loyal to him.”

“And he was, of course, involved in rebellion himself, one of the sans culottes.”

Alexis nodded. I got the impression that there was something more he wanted to say, but when he spoke again, what he said was, “I got us broomer suits,” he said. “Used. Cheap. Pray we don’t have to use them.”

“Why?” Broomer suits were the padded leather clothes one had to wear when riding the antigrav wands that were forbidden in most places on Earth, but which people still rode anyway — either as a safety measure to escape from a crashing vehicle, or when they were up to something they didn’t want the all-pervasive authorities of Earth to know about. Being illegal, brooms didn’t have built in trackers that were on every other vehicle.

“Because if we have to use brooms it means that we already botched all sane escape plans.” He looked at me, as though he were upset that I hadn’t picked up on the subtleties of the situation. “They’re monitoring traffic. Patrols and … every other way, even possibly infrared. I don’t want to travel long distance on a broom, but we might not be able to use a flyer. Flyers are much easier to trace.”

“Are you sure we have to leave the seacity to look for help? Can’t we contrive a plan to rescue Simon on our own, if it’s so difficult to leave?”

It seemed to me the longer we took to fight back the more people would die. It was well and good for Brisbois to say Simon was too valuable to be killed, but, as far as people knew, his family had ruled the seacity for years. Fearing him had been a matter of survival. They might not feel free until they killed him. I vaguely remembered it had been like that in old France. The king had had to die.

For the first time he showed a normal human emotion: there was raw fear in his eyes. He put his ear to the door again, as though to confirm there was no one outside. He turned around to face me, and his broad, homely face looked pale and haggard. “I … you’re going to think I’m insane, but it looks to me like we’re in the middle of new Turmoils.”


“Turmoils,” he said. “With a capital T. Historical disturbances, when all the bioed people were killed!” he said. “In Liberte, at least.”

I stared. He had to be exaggerating. You see, unlike most people on Earth, I had seen images of the Turmoils. Most people on Earth had heard of them, but not in the detail we’d heard of them in Eden, partly, I thought, to hide the fact that after the Turmoils the Mules — now calling themselves Good Men and pretending to be completely non-bio-enhanced — had climbed back into power. On Earth, the pictures, videos and holos of that time period were restricted or censored. On Eden they were mandatory viewing, because that was our genesis story, the reason our ancestors had left, the reason we kept our home secret from Earth and guarded it.

For a while, at the end of the twenty first, the fate of everyone on Earth had been determined at birth. Either you were one of the enhanced ones or you were a serf, at best a working drone, at worst one of the myriad dependent on the state for charity.

And then it had broken.

In Eden we were taught it had gone wrong because the bio-rulers, the Mules weren’t quite human. They were genetically human, mind. Made of human DNA. Yet they hadn’t been raised as people, but as instruments of the state. They had no loyalty to humans or the ways of humans. They had wreaked havoc on the Earth while purporting to improve it. They’d destroyed vast portions of the fauna and flora of the continents and ruthlessly moved populations around, reduced populations, enhanced others. We’d been taught it had gone wrong because governments were too powerful. Because one person, whether bio-ed or not could not decide best for multitudes.

But in any case, the results had been disastrous. The rebellion against the Mules was known as The Turmoils, capitalized, as though there had never been and there never would be worse disasters on Earth.

It had started as a hunt for the Mules left behind, but, as those proved elusive, it had expanded to a hunt for all the Mule servants left behind, and, finally, for anyone who was smarter, prettier, faster — anyone who could be bioed. In some places, they’d used gen readers to identify modified genes, but in most places beauty or competence were considered evidence enough.

Interestingly, but not unexpectedly, given the abilities they’d been endowed with, most of the Mules left behind had not only survived, they had gotten new identities and they’d thrived. They’d taken over. In the fullness of time they’d become the Good Men, Earth’s rulers under a regime that forbid bio enhancing and research, and concentrated on keeping the Earth as stable as possible. Having defeated the cloning stops in their genes, they’d also stayed in power. To keep up appearances, they had their brains transplanted into the bodies of their supposed sons, generation after generation and inheriting from themselves, to hold the Earth in an immutable grip.

Simon had escaped the fate of the other sons of Good Men, of becoming a body donor for his “father”, because his father had suffered a disabling accident before he could have the operation performed. Simon had figured out the system and what his fate would have been. I didn’t know if he’d become a rebel then, or if he’d been a rebel before. A few other sons of Good Men had escaped the brain-transfer, and were part of the Earth-wide revolution raging against the old regime. I’d met two of them: Lucius Dante Maximilian Keeva and Jan Aldert Hans Reiner.

It was impossible there could be Turmoils in a world where most of the territory was still in the control of the Mules-by-another-name, still part of the regime that had given Earth a vaunted three-hundred-year-long stability. Wasn’t it? I backed up to sit on the bed. “What do you mean Turmoils? What would precipitate Turmoils?”

I couldn’t read him. I couldn’t tell if he was confused or upset, or if he felt sorry for me. It was all there, but what he said aloud was, “I think,” he said. He swallowed. “I think it’s just as it was, and that they’re hunting down and killing anyone they believe is bioed. That was … the raid on the palace, the people surrounding the seacity. Not the Good Men, but the people, in the territories and in the other seacities. Most of the people here are administrators, so they think…”

“That they’re bioed?”

He nodded. “It was always a danger. The Sans Culottes, you know, want equality, so they swear allegiance to natural people, not to any state. And now they know the Good Man is not precisely of the people, not like the rest of us. And they whipped up a frenzy of maybe there are more. If the Mules lied and took over again, they might be all over.”