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Authors: Brian Herbert,Marie Landis

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adventure

Memorymakers (13 page)

BOOK: Memorymakers
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Fear? He felt a little now, he thought, but not much, more a selective disinterest about this particular unknown. He could not remain focused on the subject, and soon it slipped away entirely.

Lordmother walked here, according to the teachings, and Jabu felt her sacred energy flowing through him, sorting priorities. The continuance of the Ch’Var race emerged above all, the essential of essentials, but in its path he saw a mammoth, ghostlike image of Emily Harvey, preventing a long, thin line of Ch’Vars from advancing into the future.

He struggled, a mental tug-of-war, and with the force of concentration he partially scattered the image of the Harvey girl. Through the fragments of her countenance he envisioned all Ch’Vars happy, with manufactured or cloned embidiums in every brain and an unlimited supply of artificial Nebulons. His people had no worries of any kind.

Perhaps Margaret Tung was right in her own way, within her limitations.

Now the image of Emily Harvey returned with ferocity, scattering his halcyon vision to dust. And this time no amount of effort could clear his mind of her.

Emily Harvey’s mouth formed a lover’s smile just for him, and this so frightened and unnerved Jabu that he leaped on his ice-cycle and fled across the plain, toward the security of his fortress.

Chapter 17

Motives: In all acts, in all times, in all people. Beware!

—Rornuri, the first Director chosen by Mother Ch’Var

Emily and Thomas managed to scrape up enough money for their cab fare home. When they arrived, Emily counted out the money carefully and paid the robot driver, a friendly machine that made no comment about their disheveled appearance or the fact that it had picked them up in a rough part of the city. Nor did it object when they gave it an enthusiastic thank-you in place of the tip usually earmarked for the Robo-Cabbies Educational Fund.

As Emily and Thomas walked up the long stone pathway that led to their front door, apprehension seized her. The house lay in sunset shadows and seemed less like home than ever before, and she realized she no longer wanted to live there. No longer could she tolerate Victoria or even Mrs. Belfer, and in an alarming twist of emotion she felt herself building a wall between herself and her father. Emily felt like giving him an ultimatum, forcing him to choose between wife and daughter.

I’d lose that confrontation,
she thought.

And she described her feelings to Thomas.

“The old house looks the same to me,” Thomas responded from the top of the stairs. “I think things will be fine, even with Victoria. It will smooth out if you give it a chance. You’re just tired.”

Emily thought her brother might be correct. They had been through a terrible experience that would take time to recover from, to set it in perspective. She wouldn’t get all of her rest in one night. She tried to set negative thoughts aside, but when she crossed the porch she thought of Gweens and Ch’Vars, of the mystery she had been exposed to through Nebulons or drugs or both. She had seen no mention of these racial divisions in books, magazines, newspapers, on television or on the radio. None of the adults or children in her life had ever mentioned such people. But she had information on them in her mind, flickering bits of data that pulsed and receded, just out of her reach for the moment but approaching, inexorably approaching.

“I feel so peculiar about what happened,” she said, “like . . . like something’s hatching within me.”

Thomas giggled as he turned the door handle. “What are you going to do, break through your outer shell, peck your way out and turn into a weird alien? I’d like to see that. My sister the lizard-woman.”

She nudged him playfully, but didn’t feel that way inside. Nothing bothered Thomas for long, if at all. He’d floated through the experience like a charmed person, unaware most of the time that evil forces were raging around him.

Lucky Boy,
she thought, remembering her nickname for him.

Her brother soared with ideas and dreams, it seemed, even in the instants of emergency when he’d helped her produce the Chalk Man that rescued them. Emily seemed cursed with the burdensome task of seeking explanations for puzzles that didn’t want to be solved. Ch’Var and Gween memories stirred again within her: dim, ineffable thought forms.

Mrs. Belfer greeted them at the front door, red wig askew, eyes bleary from alcohol. Her cheeks puffed from the sides of her face like miniature pillows daubed with pink paint.

“Whazzis?” she said, and wrapped her fat arms around the children. “My babies are back,” she sobbed, and tears ran down her face.

Emily was touched by the housekeeper’s greeting, and some of the negative feelings she’d experienced while approaching the house retreated. But not for long.

“Look who’s here!” Mrs. Belfer shouted when they were in the living room. “Oh, Victoria! Come out, come out, wherever you are!” She laughed at her own silliness and glanced at Emily. “Your step-mom’s been really, really worried about you. Could barely make it to the boutique yesterday.”

Mrs. Belfer laughed again and coughed on her own saliva. She grabbed a brandy bottle by the neck and stumbled from the room, muttering as she went, “But your poor dad’s really broken up about you, yes indeed.”

I need to get out of this zoo,
Emily thought.

Victoria’s familiar voice filled the room with unwelcome sound. “Mon Dieu, look at the filthy urchins! Where have you been for two days? We’ve been worried sick, and the police are out searching every place. Do you realize how many people you’ve inconvenienced?” She threw herself on the couch, curled into a feline pose.

“We got kidnapped,” Thomas said. “By that guy who was going to give me the free party. He wasn’t so bad at first. He took us to this place that had all kinds of neat things—gold toys and stuff, this neat-o train. But then things got weird and I saw Booger . . . in a dream, I think. And there was this monster named Peenchay, but Emily’s Chalk Man chewed him up and we got away.”

Victoria stared at the children, her eyes filled with cold disbelief. “What an outlandish story.”

“He’s telling the truth,” Emily said. “We were in a scary building on the other side of town, way underground.” Emily paused, realizing that in her rush to escape she hadn’t taken time to notice the address of the building, street names or landmarks. It could be hard to find.

Victoria snorted, and her eyes were narrow lavender slits. “Likely story. Do you know what I think, Little Miss Crazy Brat? I think you talked your brother into running off just to cause trouble between your father and me. Your strange ideas are infecting your brother, and you’ve put him up to the most outrageous story I’ve ever heard. A kidnapping! Come now! Where did you sleep, in the city dump? And how did you get home?”

“Taxi,” Thomas said. “The building we were kept prisoner in had stealth-locks, mole-tubes and a bizarre electronic eye.”

Victoria shook her head in dismay, and her long locks bounced gently with the motion, returning to perfect position. “While I’ve worried my head off, here you two are gallivanting around town, making up wild stories.”

She lifted the phone and tapped one of the blue programmed buttons. “I’d like to speak to my husband, Dr. Patrick Harvey.” A pause. “I don’t give a damn if he’s going into surgery or not! This is urgent!”

There was another pause, and then Victoria’s voice grew softer, sensual. “Patrick? The children are all right, they’re home. I’m sorry I interrupted you, but thought you should know. They aren’t hurt, but they’re telling incredible stories, lies. They ran away, Patrick, I’m sure of it. I see it all over Emily’s face. I’ve warned you over and over, and now the girl is ruining the boy. It’s time to have her institutionalized.”

A burst of angry noise shot from the phone, and Victoria’s face filled with color.

“Don’t you dare speak to me that way!” Victoria screamed. She slammed down the receiver and turned in Emily’s direction, chin out. “See what you’ve done? We got along fine when you weren’t here. I’m not going to let you ruin my life, you freaky child. You’re not going to spoil this marriage with your little schemes and cabals. Thomas, upstairs and take a bath!”

Thomas ran from the room, and Victoria glowered at Emily. “It’s time for a little chat,” Victoria said.

“I’ve nothing to say to you.”

“Then listen. You’re a lying, sick-minded little
merde,
and I’m going to make certain you never cross me again. Understand, little bitch?”

“I do, but you don’t,” Emily answered in a tight voice. Anger threatened to overwhelm her, and she fought off an image of her Chalk Man chewing Victoria into little pieces and spitting them out like watermelon seeds.

“You’re going with me to see the Harvey children,” Jabu said to Margaret Tung. He patted one pocket of his insulcoat. “The boy’s embidium is here, and I’ll bring it. Select a small travel crew to accompany us, and pack whatever equipment you need. Be ready in an hour.”

“But, Director,” she protested, “our work is here. We can’t just—” She paused, looked at him quizzically.

Tung stood before a gray and white computer bank that fed into a row of test tubes, giant and miniscule, arranged in order of size like the pipes of an organ. Workers in blue insulcoats hurried about from the tubes to computer terminals, making adjustments, removing fleshy items from the tubes, placing items in the tubes, conversing with one another in hushed, serious tones. This was one of the fortress chambers used by the Inventing Corps, a gray rock room without windows that had only one door in and out.

Jabu grabbed her arm and shook her, and her features became startled.

“No discussion,” he said in a level, hostile tone. “I’ll return in an hour. Be ready. You and no more than four others. We’ll start with the Harvey girl. I want an on-the-spot report from your team.”

“We aren’t psychoanalysts or physicians,” Tung said. She pulled free, but Jabu detected fear in her
eyes.
The mouth was a narrow, quivering line.

“Bring the correct equipment, select the correct people. You’ve got the resources here. I know you do, so don’t try to snow me. I’m not entirely ignorant of your operations, and know the medical backgrounds, the deep research your people have done.”

Tung stared at the floor.

“Are you there, woman?” he demanded. “Do you understand what I’m saying to you?”

“Director, if we leave the Nebulon and embidium synthesis projects, we may not be able to resume them. The creative process is fragile—it isn’t all in the computers and retrievable. We’re in the midst of something now.”

“I don’t care. Do as I say!”

“Yes, My Lord Director.”

In a single trip Jabu transported himself and the Inventing Corps contingent along the filament of fire between Homaal and the surface of Earth. They were six embers speeding along a circuitous void, and when finally they emerged it was before the supine form of Malcolm Squick.

The fieldman’s eyes were open and lifeless, staring into the dead eye of the sensor, death absorbing death.

Margaret Tung touched Squick’s neck and rubbed one of his temples with a forefinger in the ancient way of her people. “He’s barely alive,” she said. “Shittah, stage five.”

“Praise be to Lordmother,” the workers said reverently.

Squick’s eyelids fluttered.

“He’s fighting to the surface of consciousness,” Tung said. “The last surge before death.”

“Body over here!” one of the Corpsman yelled from Jabu’s left. “It’s the Inferior, Peenchay. He’s gone, and it wasn’t self-inflicted.”

Jabu didn’t look in that direction. Impulsively he brought forth the vial containing Thomas Harvey’s embidium and swallowed the whole thing, vial and embidium, staring all the while into Squick’s eyes.

In the Director’s stomach, the gel-glass of the vial dissolved immediately, and he knelt over, laying his hands on the dying man’s face.

Jabu became entirely still, and he heard not a sound or a whisper from any quarter. Beneath the surface of Squick’s skin, far beneath, he felt a movement approaching, ever approaching, like a seismic tremor dispatched from the core of a planet.

Jabu absorbed the motion in a tremendous, trembling seizure, and it consumed him. The surging life spasm commandeered Jabu’s life energies, plunging him back into the depths of existence, to the last breath, the last heartbeat. Plunging, ever plunging went this soul known as Jabu Karuthers-Smith into the soul of another and beyond, far beyond, toward
eternal
stillness.

In the last nanosecond of existence, at the death point of all life, Jabu surged and emerged, and with him came Squick and another, a Gweenchild bearing both of them. A faceless, soulless, memory-less Gween embryo brought them back and then broke away from Jabu, merging with Squick. And from far behind, screaming in the darkness, came another child on a weasel-hound, a boy with bristly hair, jagged carrion teeth, and mean, twisted features. The image shriveled and blackened.

Jabu felt something warm on his neck, a hand, and the image of Margaret Tung formed in his mind, an image that shapeshifted in a haze of swirling water into Emily Harvey, a sea-witch.

The Emily Harvey image spoke in the voice of Tung: “Director, are you all right?”

The image exploded, a sunburst that hurled fiery fragments through every pore of Jabu’s body.

The hand on his neck felt cool now, and his body was every burning life ember of every Ch’Var, and another voice slipped through.

“Squick is alive,” the voice said. “Shittah reversed! How can it be?”

Jabu’s hands became icy, and the force of cold went through his body, repelling heat. Equal forces. And the Director’s body became the water-bearing form of a Ch’Var, barely warm—a fragile organism severed from the Lordmother and left floundering, gasping for life.

The dead eye of the sensor filled Jabu’s soul, and the sensor eye flickered on above him in a lavender, sickly glow.

Faces appeared between Jabu and the sensor, and moist, warm hands were on his face—Squick’s hands. And Squick’s face beyond, closest to his. Where Jabu had been, Squick was, and where Squick had been, Jabu was, and Squick was the more energetic of the two.

But no one spoke of this, as if it hadn’t happened.

Jabu pushed Squick away and rolled into a fetal position. Presently Jabu fought his way up to his knees, breathing hard.

“Are you all right, Director?” Squick queried.

“I’m fine, fine.”

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Tung said, staring at Jabu with concern. “You implanted the Harvey boy’s embidium in Squick, didn’t you?”

“How did I get on my back on the floor?”

“We couldn’t see. There was a blinding light around you and Squick, white-hot, and when it dimmed you had exchanged positions with him.”

“I’ve never been through an implant like that,” Jabu said. “Never attempted during shittah five, so close to death, and never with such an embidium.”

“What do you mean?” Tung asked. “Such an embidium?”

Jabu didn’t answer but tried to regain his breath.

“Something wrong with the embidium?” Tung asked.

“Maybe there is, I’m not sure. I thought I was lost in Squick’s death dance, and then I came back . . . we all came back . . .”

“Whatever that embidium is, it’s in Squick now,” Tung said. “He looks pretty good now.”

“You gave me the Harvey boy’s embidium?” Squick asked, his face radiating fear. He too was on his knees and staring.

BOOK: Memorymakers
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