Through Fire – Snippet 34
Where Evil Dwells
“To make all equal. To banish from Liberte the fetters of inequality! That is what this revolution is about. The ci-devant Good Man, St. Cyr, he is admittedly a biological creation, a non-natural creature who has for many years behaved as though superior to people created by nature and designed–” The woman screaming in the comcast, in what had been the official channel used by Simon for his announcements, was short, curvy, older than I, and had blond hair in a bun at the back of her head. Her blue eyes shone with intense excitement. And she wore what can only be described as a modified military uniform: a red vaguely military-looking tunic, white pants, and a liberty cap. Only the front of her rather ample chest was covered in medals.
I blinked at the medals, shining in the sun. How could she have won any military decorations?
From what I’d overheard, Liberte was rather traditional in its military forces and preferred all-male troops. There had been no big engagement in which the troops of Liberte had taken part. If anything, the engagement that might happen against the remaining forces of the Good Men still in power would take place between the completely untried troops of Liberte and the seasoned troops of the Good Men. So, where had the medals come from?
Then I noticed the man standing behind her, wearing a matching uniform. He wasn’t wearing a liberty cap, and the sun glinted off his scalp, revealed by his thinning hair in front. He looked familiar.
“I see Dechausse survived,” Mailys said.
“Like cockroaches,” Corin said. “Jean Dechausse is hard to kill. I wonder if Brisbois survived as well.”
Mailys made a sound. I wasn’t sure what it meant, and it occurred to me not for the first time to wonder how attached she was to Brisbois and in what way.
“Who is she?” I asked. “And how can she have those many medals? Are they military medals?”
“They are medals,” Mailys said, in a low growl. “Likely she awarded them all to herself this morning before breakfast. Madame is like that.”
“Do you really not know her?” Corin asked, as though this were hard to believe.
“I’ve never seen her,” I said, staring at the cast, and thinking of course, I might very well have seen her, around the palace. One didn’t pay any attention to people who were there in an official capacity: gardeners, cleaners, or even secretaries. I’d likely seen the poor people who’d died in this house as well, or at least there was a chance I’d seen them. But when you’re living in a house the size of Simon’s, with the number of retainers and hangers on around us at all times, it’s hard to remember everyone who isn’t one of the residents. “Who is she?”
“Madame Rose Parr,” Mailys said. “She’s the head of Egalite, a sub-organization of the sans culottes which is devoted to eliminating all unfair advantages of wealth, power or even inherited characteristics, in the new republic. For years, she’s given speeches at secret meetings, excoriating biological enhancement and denouncing the existence of biologically enhanced people.”
“But I thought there were no… I mean, other than the descendants of biologically enhanced people, there are no enhanced people, are there? Or at least — She can’t oppose what everyone knows has been forbidden for centuries.”
I had the impression Corin and Mailys, being seated on either side of me, had traded a look behind my back. “Oh, can’t she?” Mailys said. “People resent others they know are better than they are, no matter at what, and it’s easy to tell yourself there must still be enhancements going on.”
I didn’t say anything. It wasn’t the time. But I remembered that both these children could keep up with me when I ran, and I suspected that they were both enhanced. Inheritance, or …? I remembered the underground area of the doctor’s home, the bodies in vats ….
There was nothing necessarily incriminating in this. People had been known to grow replacement parts in Eden, which was why the life expectancy was somewhere north of two hundred years. But on Earth all that type of biological cloning and work was forbidden, because it was an easy step from that to creating enhanced individuals, as had been done in the late twenty first century. And Earth was determined to prevent the ascension to power of more bio-lords, or Mules as the common people called them.
But the doctor had grown body parts. And it was a small step from that to growing individuals.
I remembered Brisbois calling the doctor “father.” It was possible, of course, that the good doctor had had a checkered past that involved the siring of children by some giantess, but I doubted it. It was more possible that he had adopted Brisbois.
But all in all, the fact that Brisbois knew of that underground passage and had made it a point of coming back for the doctor and his wife made me wonder.
“She is Brisbois’ wife,” Corin said.
“Ex-wife,” Mailys snapped. “She divorced him when he was in prison.”
I remembered him kissing me. I thought of his tirades against women. Well. If your wife will divorce you when you’re on death row, it’s bound to embitter you a little. At least a little.
I wondered if he was enhanced and if it was hatred for him that had made her anti enhanced people.
She was still screaming on the com, and I noticed that she was repeating herself. The audience didn’t seem to care. They applauded wildly.
I changed positions to another sofa which allowed me to half recline. It was uncomfortable compared to the sofas in Eden which were bio-based and adapted in temperature and shape when you lay on them. But I was almost used to these lacks in Earth. Almost. So that it only bothered me when I was drifting off to sleep.
I half awoke, disturbed by some noise. Corin was gone from the room. I hoped he was checking on Tieri. At any rate, I trusted him enough, whatever Mailys might say of him, that his absence didn’t surprise or scare me. Mailys was asleep on the other sofa. The com was still on. It showed streets filled with a dancing populace. The old, cruel song of the palace was being sung. Some people carried heads on pikes.
I noticed the voice-announcer was calling it “the glorious people’s” something or other. The word was obscure and my nano implants did not decipher it. Celebration? Dance? Exultation?
Corin rushed into the room, opened a drawer. I awoke completely and said, “What is wrong?”
He shook his head and whispered back, “I’m getting a game to play with Tieri. I’m trying to keep her away from–” he looked at the picture on the com. Then at me. “I’ll come down to check if something is happening that needs us to get out of here.”
“Any word?” I asked.
“Your father? Brisbois?”
He shook his head. “I’ll be back.” And rushed back out.
I had the impression of walking in an odd, gray dream, where shapes were meaningless, and everything had nightmare proportions. I fell asleep and momentarily I was back in my ship, with Len, in Earth orbit. He sat the pilot chair, and I stood behind him. He said, “You must be able to save me this time,” and before I could react to it, he turned around and it wasn’t him at all but Simon.
I woke up this time, with a strangled protest in my throat and my eyes prickling as though I needed to cry. I hadn’t cried when I killed my husband. There was no time to feel sorry for myself or for him. It had taken all my ability to limp our ship home to Eden, and by the time I’d arrived I was so tired and so numb that I’d not even cried at his cremation and memorial service, in the garden of his parents’ house. His mother had invited me to live with them. But of course I couldn’t accept. What would the point of that be? I’d always be no more than a memento of Len.
For months, they’d watched me, I suspect in hopes of grandchildren. Len had known our union would not be fruitful. I was too enhanced to breed with normal humans. But he’d never told his parents.
I couldn’t endure their hopes; I couldn’t endure their disappointment. I couldn’t endure seeing Len’s nephews and nieces grow, each with a little bit of him in gesture and word, in look and movement. I couldn’t stand it.
And so I’d turned to my work, and I’d answered gladly the call to go off-world for a good cause. I’d run away from home.
Only to find myself in a perilous situation, with a young man who looked an awful lot like Len, and with another man depending on me. I wondered if Simon was alive; if he knew I’d do my best to save him. He’d sent me away to keep me safe, but did he count on me to come back?