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re-opening had been mandated.

Farren Siliom had no choice at all now.

Korzenowski activated the robot sentries and gave final instructions to

a partial. Should he not return, and should anyone come visiting, the

partial would be there to greet them.

He was not reluctant to return to the sixth chamber and begin the

refurbishing; in fact, he was eager. There was a small and persistent voice

in him that either echoed or perhaps, in some way not clear, created that

eagerness: the unquiet voice of that which integrated his reassembled self,

the mystery of Patricia Luisa VasqUez.

Korzenowski gathered up his small tools and journals, all that was

neces~ry to begin work on the Way, and ordered the laboratory sealed.

 

230 GREG BEAR

 

 

"Be good, now," he instructed a cross-shaped sentry as he walked away

from the domes. He paused at the boundary of the compound, frowning.

It was certainly not in his character to address a remote; he treated them

for what they were, useful machines.

 

Surrounded by kilometer after kilometer of scrub and sand, the Engineer

boarded the tractor that would take him to the train station in the

second chamber city.

 

 

Suli Ram Kikura's partial argued persuasively that its original should

be released from house arrest in Axis Euclid. The partial's appeal was

rejected by the City Memory auxiliary courts on the grounds that under

Emergency Laws, all appeals had to be presented by corporeals. This was

so ridiculous it did not even anger her; she was beyond anger, moving

into sadness.

 

In her apartment, Ram Kikura had known the partial would fail. This

new Hexamon was not above making up the rules as it went along. To

openly object to the re-opening was not so much dangerous now as it was

extremely awkward, impolite in its extended sense of impolitic. For decades,

Hexamon law and politics had been based upon awareness of

boundaries beyond which lay chaos and disaster; the president and presiding

minister, having accurately gauged the true spirit of the orbiting

bodies, were now doing everything within their power to stay within the

boundaries of their duty, yet also carry out the vote of the mens publica

and the advisory of the Nexus. They also seemed grimly determined to

demonstrate the extremes of this mandate, as if they wished to punish the

Hexamon even their ideological partners for this onerous duty.

 

She was not allowed access to any city memory; that meant she could

not speak with Tapi, who would be born any hour now. She had not been

allowed to speak with either Korzenowski or Olmy. They were on their

best behavior, she had been told, and were cooperating fully with the

Emergency Effort.

 

She had refused any form of cooperation. Ram Kikura had her own

boundaries, and she was damned if she would step over them.

 

 

In New Zealand, spring brought lovely weather and the amusement of

lambs. Lanier tended their small flock of black-faced sheep; Karen helped

when she wasn't lost in her own funk. Unable to work, confined to their

home and valley, she was not doing well.

 

They worked together, yet kept their distance. Lanier had lost whatever

enthusiasm Mirsky had kindled. He did not know what would happen

next. He didn't much care.

 

ETERNITY 231

 

In his way, he had once adored the Hexamon, and all it had stood for.

Over the past few years, he had seen from a distance the changing character

of the orbiting precincts, the shifting sands of Hexamon politics.

Now, lost in its own needs and regrets, the same Hexamon that had

worked to save the Earth had finally betrayed him, and betrayed Karen

 

 

     . had betrayed Earth.

Earth's Recovery was not yet finished.

Perhaps now, it would never be done, whatever the assurances broadcast

around the world nightly from the orbiting bodies. He found these

particularly galling; smooth, pleasant, informative, day by day educating

the Earth about progress in the reopening.

Now and then, Lanier heard of Recovery efforts continuing in a desultory

fashion.

He felt old again, looked older.

Sitting on their porch at night, he listened to cool night breezes wafting

through the bushes, thinking thoughts convoluted and fuzzy as balls of

yarn.

I am only a single human being, he told himself. It is right that I should

~vither like a leaf on a tree. I am out of place now. I am finished. I hate

this time, and I do not envy those being borr~

Perhaps the worst part of it all was that for a brief moment, he had felt

the old spark again. With Mirsky, he had thought of fighting the good

fight; he had hoped perhaps here was an agency more powerful and wise

than all of them.

But Mirsky was gone.

Nobody had seen him in months

Lanier tried to get up out of his seat, to go to bed and sleep and for a

short time lose all these painful thoughts. His hands pushed on the wood,

and his back moved forward, but he could not lift himself; his pants

seemed stuck to something. Puzzled, he leaned over one side of his chair.

Silently, something exploded. A ball of darkness edged in from one side

of his eyes and his head became enormous.

The ball of darkness centered and became a great tunnel. He grabbed

the ends of his chair arms but could not straighten

"Oh, God," he said. His lips were numb as rubber. Ink spread in the

back of his head. Doors closed with rhythmic slammings on all his memories.

Karen not with him; not where she was. This was the way his

father had gone, younger even than he was now. No pain just the sudden

withdrawal of He had not thought himself so "Oh, God."

The tunnel yawned wide, full of rainbow night.

 

233 GREG BEAR

 

 

FORTY-SIX

 

 

Thistledown

 

 

Buried sixty meters within the outer perimeter of the seventh chamber's

southern cap were seven generators, connected by seven field-lined shafts

of pure vacuum to the sixth chamber machinery. The generators had no

moving pans and nothing to do with electrons or magnetic fields; they

worked on far more subtle principles, principles developed by Korzenow-ski

based on mathematical reasoning that had primarily begun with Pa-tricia

Luisa Vasquez in the late twentieth century.

 

These seven generators had created the stresses on spacetime that had

resulted in the Way. They had not been used for four decades but were

still sound; the vacuum shafts were still operating and completely free of

matter or time-linked energy, that enigmatic byproduct of interaction

between universes.

 

In the hole leading to the seventh chamber, an observation blister had

been erected and the bore hole pressurized with air. The blister was now

filled with monitoring equipment, giant red spheres studded with silver

and gray cubes the size of a man's head, tracting back and forth within

the blister's shell, silently avoiding their human masters whenever encountered

along their complex paths.

 

Korzenowski floated where the Way's singularity had once been, his

body precessing like a slow top, gray hair standing out from his hand in

the blister's gentle cooling breezes. With catlike eyes, he observed the

construction on the southern cap of the seventh chamber, radiating for

kilometers outward from the bore hole, huge black concentric rings of

virtual panicle stimulators and their reservoirs of graviton-stabilized tritium

metal. These would not be brought into play until after the opening

of the Way; the stimulators could be used as weapons, and were capable

of stripping the Way clear of matter for a distance of several hundred

kilometers, giving the Hexamon its first "beachhead," should it need one.

Soon, the traction beam radiation shields would be in place to focus the

 

ETERNITY

 

backwash of disrupted matter that the stimulators might create along the

same path as the stimulator beams.

Fearsome weapon, fearsome defenses .

Fearsome opponents.

At rest, Korzenowski's thoughts wandered. He used his two hours of

daily inactivity to put the events of the past few months in perspective.

The blister was deserted but for him and the machines.

In two more weeks, the Way generators would be ready for tests. Virtual

universes of fractional dimensions continua with little more than

abstract reality would be created in deliberately unstable configurations.

The night sky over Earth would sparkle with their deaths, as particles

and radiations unknown in this continuum or any stable continuum-left

their tracks in the protesting void.

In three weeks, if the first tests went well, Korzenowski would order

the creation of a torus, an independent and stable universe turned in

upon itself. He would then dismantle the torus and observe how it faded;

the manner of its demise could give clues as to the state and superspatial

location of the Way's sealed terminus.

Over the next few months, they would "fish" for that terminus. A

temporary virtual universe the size and shape of the Way, but of finite

length, would be generated, would be encouraged to merge with the

terminus, and would create an attractive bridge between the generators

and their now-independent progeny.

Ramon Rita Tiernpos de Los Angeles

Korzenowski shut his eyes and frowned deeply. He could not help but

know the source of these increasingly frequent interruptions and what

they signified. When Patricia Vasquez's mystery had been transferred to

his assembled partials, to bind them and give them a core, somehow

memory and drive had been transferred as well. In theory, that was

unlikely. But Vasquez had been in a highly disturbed state, and Korzenowski,

unusually shattered, .had not been a textbook model for the

transfer process.

He did not fight the impulses. For the moment, they did not work

opposite to his wishes, and they did not disturb him unduly. But the

reckoning would have to come soon. He would need to submit to major

personality restructuring.

That was risky and he could not take risks now, central as he was to

the Hexamon's effort.

There, he told himself after a few minutes had passed. Quiet. Peace.

Integratior~

"Konrad," came a voice from the blister's bore hole entrance. Korze-

 

234 GREG BEAR

 

nowski grimaced and turned to face the voice. It was Olmy; they hadn't

talked in weeks. He spread his arms and slowed his precessing, then

tracted outward from the center.

They pitted intimate greetings and embraced each other in the near-weightlessness.

"My friend," Korzenowski said.

"I've disturbed your free time," Olmy said, pitting polite concern.

"Yes, but no matter. I'm glad to see you."

"Have you heard?"

"Heard what?"

"Garry Lanier suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage."

"He wasn't protected--" Korzenowski's face paled. "He's dead?"

"Very nearly. Karen discovered him a few seconds after it happened

and immediately called Christchurch."

"His damned Old Native pride!" Korzenowski exclaimed. The anger

was not just his own.

"They reached him within ten minutes. He's alive, but he needs recon-structionmthe

brain is extensively damaged."

Korzenowski closed his eyes and shook his head slowly. He did not

approve of forced medication, but under the circumstances, he doubted

the Hexamon would give Lanier much choice in his treatments. "They did this to him," he said bitterly. "We've all had a hand in it . . ."

"There's guilt enough to go around," Olmy said. "If Karen consents to

reconstruction, most of the damage can be reversed . . . But he'll need

medical aid that he's always been on record as refusing."

"Have you told Ram Kikura?"

Oimy shook his head. "She's being kept under house arrest, held in a

communications null. Besides, my own leash is short."

"So is mine," Korzenowski said, "but I can swing wide enough to hit

some influential people."

"I appreciate that," Olmy said. 'I'm afraid my political status is uncertain

at the moment."

"Why?"

"I've refused to take command of the Emergency Defense Effort."

"You'd be the best choice," Korzenowski said. "Why refuse?"

Olmy smiled and shook his head.

Korzenowski, stating into his eyes, felt a small tingle of sympathy. He's not alone, either. But he couldn't decide what made him feel that

way, or what the feeling implied.

"I'll explain later. It's not the time now. I think I'll be hard to reach

for a while, however." The last message he pitted in tight-beam so that

 

ET E R N I TY 235

 

 

only Korzenowski could receive it. "If you need to tell me anything,

please . . ."

 
2014-07-19 18:44
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