“I think there were a lot of factors tied up in that,” he told her. “Part of it was that she seems a lot more in accord with the Board’s quality-of-life arguments. That’s the way he sees her attitude, at any rate. So at least a part of him blamed her for ‘abandoning’ the girl — and him, in a sense — when she wouldn’t support his appeals for a reversal. At the same time, though, my impression is that she wasn’t really anywhere near as reconciled to the decision as she seemed. I think that deep down inside she was trying to deny how badly the Board’s decision was hurting her. But there was nothing she could do about that decision. I think she admitted that to herself a lot sooner than he was prepared to, so she focused her anger on him, instead of the Board. The way she saw it, he was stretching out everyone’s pain — and whatever the girl was enduring — in what he ought to have known as well as she did was obviously an ultimately useless crusade.” He shook his head. “There’s room for an awful lot of pain in that sort of situation, Ma’am.”

“I suppose I understand that,” Bardasano said. “I know emotions frequently do things, cause us to do things, when our intellects know better all along. This was obviously one of those times.”

“Yes, Ma’am. It was.”

“Is the wife’s work suffering out of all this?”

“Apparently not. According to her project leader, she actually seems to be attacking her work with greater energy. He says he thinks it’s her form of escape.”

“Unhappiness as a motivator.” Bardasano smiled ever so slightly. “Somehow, I don’t see it being generally applicable.”

“No, Ma’am.”

“All right, Jack — bottom line. Do you think Simões’ . . . attitude is likely to have an adverse impact on his work?”

“I think it’s already had an adverse impact,” McBryde replied. “The man’s good enough at his job that, despite everything, he’s still probably outperforming just about anyone else we could slide into the same position, though — especially given the fact that anyone we might replace him with would be starting cold. The replacement would have to be brought fully up to speed, even assuming we could find someone with Simões’ inherent capability.”

“That’s a short-term analysis,” Bardasano pointed out. “What do you think about the long-term prospects?”

“Long-term, Ma’am, I think we’d better start looking for that replacement.” McBryde couldn’t quite keep the sadness out of his tone. “I don’t think anyone can go through everything Simões is going through — and putting himself through — without crashing and burning in the end. I suppose it’s possible, even likely, that he’ll eventually learn to cope, but I very much doubt it’s going to happen until he falls all the way down that hole inside him.”

“That’s . . . unfortunate,” Bardasano said after a moment. McBryde’s eyebrow quirked, and she let her chair come back upright as she continued. “Your analysis of his basic ability dovetails nicely with the Director of Research’s analysis. At the moment, we genuinely don’t have anyone we could put into his spot who could match the work he’s still managing to turn out. So I guess the next question is whether or not you think his attitude — his emotional state — constitutes any sort of security risk?”

“At the moment, no,” McBryde said firmly. Even as he spoke, he felt the tiniest quiver of uncertainty, but he suppressed it firmly. Herlander Simões was a man trapped in a living hell, and despite his own professionalism, McBryde wasn’t prepared to simply cut him adrift without good, solid reasons.

“In the longer term,” he continued, “I think it’s much too early to predict where he might finally end up.”

Willingness to extend Simões the benefit of the doubt was one thing; failing to throw out a sheet anchor in an evaluation like this one was quite another.

“Is he in a position to damage anything that’s already been accomplished?”

Bardasano leaned forward over her desk, folding her forearms on her blotter and leaning her weight on them while she watched McBryde intently.

“No, Ma’am.” This time McBryde spoke without even a shadow of a reservation. “There are too many backups, and too many other members of his team are fully hands-on. He couldn’t delete any of the project notes or data even if he were so far gone that he tried — not that I think he’s anywhere near that state, at this point at least, you understand. If I did, I’d have already yanked him. And as far as hardware is concerned, he’s completely out of the loop. His team’s working entirely on the research and basic theory end of things.”

Bardasano cocked her head, obviously considering everything he’d said, for several seconds. Then she nodded.

“All right, Jack. What you’ve said coincides with my own sense from all the other reports. At the same time, I think we need to be aware of the potential downsides for the Gamma Center’s operations in general, as well as his specific projects. I want you to take personal charge in his case.”

“Ma’am –” McBryde began, but she interrupted him.

“I know you’re not a therapist, and I’m not asking you to be one. And I know that, usually, a degree of separation between the security chief and the people he’s responsible for keeping an eye on is a good thing. This case is outside the normal rules, though, and I think we have to approach it the same way. If you decide you need help, you need an additional viewpoint, you need to call in a therapist, feel free to do so. But if I’m right about how imminent Prometheus is, we need to keep him where he is, doing what he’s doing, as long — and as expeditiously — as we can. Understood?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” McBryde couldn’t keep his lack of enthusiasm completely out of his voice, but he nodded. “Understood.”

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12 Responses to TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 45

  1. Douglas says:

    So it seems that the Simões family – especially Francesca – existed solely to burnish the Mesan Alignment’s evil credentials. Just in case we were had gotten the impression they were good guys and started feeling sympathetic.

  2. Dean says:

    Unless Simoes turns againt Mesa, and decides to defect…

  3. Ricky B. says:

    I’m hoping they existed for more than that… namely, I’m hoping that despite what Bardasano and MyBryde think, our Mr. Simões is capable of getting his hands on some much more juicy information to help out the, um, heroes of the tale. Whoever they are. :)

  4. dac says:

    @2 Ya think?

    Most of Webers stuff comes as no surprise – yet I still keep reading (and enjoying)

  5. John Roth says:

    @1 Douglas

    I’m not sure what you’re saying with this. If it’s what I think, all I can say is that I’ve never seen either Weber or Flint create a character, especially one who’s going through hell, just to provide background color. Like dac says, Webber’s foreshadowing technique seems a bit heavy-handed.

    It’s still an enjoyable read, although I might skip some of it on a re-read.

  6. efg567 says:

    Herlander Simoes is now a man who deeply understand mesan evil.This guy understand he is a short timer in his deep research dept. If he finds a way out he’s gone. Victor and Anton where are you. Simoes has what Torch and her allies need. Mesa is two worlds slave and not very free.

  7. Robert Krawitz says:

    @Douglas, what McBryde and Bardasano think and what Simoes thinks may not have much in common. He’s already come up twice. This feels like Checkov’s Gun.

  8. saladin says:

    well yes
    but today many people die horribly even if they can be cured
    and not only in the third world but also in the west
    are we evil?
    how many old people suffer and die horribly

    was the killing of the child wrong?
    imho yes. certainly wrong and possibly evil
    my upbringing says it is wrong
    but you can make a morally valid argument that it would have been cruel to let her suffer without any contact or interaction with the outside world (like solitary confinement)

    the real point that weber and flint are making ist that mesa (and the ma) is just another human population like any other
    they have their own understanding of what is good or normal and what is considered evil
    (i think slavery is evil, the ancient greeks and romans didn´t; in the young usa slavery was allowed – and it was more evil and degrading than in ancient times – so was the early usa evil? answer this question for yourself)

    so are Bardasano, McBryde, Simõe and co evil or just doing what is just and proper according to the rules and values they grew up with?

    now everyone here feels with the Simões (me too) but nothing happened to them that they didn´t knew could happen (and in the abstract agreed to / thought was correct and true )
    “sad but true”would be the reaction if it had happened to someone else

    she is doing her duty as she sees it
    (how many cia operatives have done the same?)

    giving mesa a human face and preparing the field for later action (this was an infodump: we know now what the gammacenter is,who their security-chef is and who is in charge of it and where some chinks in the armor are)

    nicely done, isn´t it?

  9. Alistair says:

    My Question is will he escape? And secondly and more importantly for me is will his potential escape be in time for him to give some hints to the manties about the steak drive that might save the all important ship yards?

  10. Willem Meijer says:

    steak drive, yum-yum. I’ll have mine underdone.

    No Manty will have thought of that, the’re far too much centered on physics.
    No Havenite will have thought of that because no one had steak.

  11. John Roth says:

    @9 Alistair

    The Alignment has two different drives no one else knows about: the streak drive and the spider drive. It’s the spider drive that’s being used in Oyster Bay, not the streak drive, and there’s nothing to indicate Herlander knows much about the spider drive. Compartmentalization, ya know.

    As far as saving the shipyards goes: we try to keep the discussion on this forum to just what’s been given to date in the snippets, plus anything from the published books and background info at the jiltanith site that isn’t marked with a spoiler tag.

    So we don’t, at this point, know whether Oyster Bay was successful, if so how successful, or whether Herlander provided any information to Manticore that was relevant before the fact. Since I doubt if the snippets are going to get to that point before the book comes out (Amazon says November 17), we’ll just have to wait.

  12. robert says:

    @11 John–re @9: we do know that Weber stated in the authorial note in Storm From the Shadows that things will get worse for the good guys before they get better. Whatever can he have meant? Can we speculate? Speculating is where the fun of these comments is.
    So I speculate: The shipyard in question is toast as are many of the inhabitants of Sphinx. Isn’t that the home of the Harringtons? Will Honor do something about it? The name of the next book is Mission of Honor, so I guess damn right she will!

    @10 Be nice.

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