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Authors: M.K. Wren

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Shadow of the Swan (Book Two of the Phoenix Legacy) (2 page)

BOOK: Shadow of the Swan (Book Two of the Phoenix Legacy)
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CHAPTER VIII
Decem 3257
1
.

On the fourth level of the Hall of the Directorate in the Office of the Chairman, Lord Mathis Galinin stood at the windowall gazing down into the Plaza of the Concord. The atmobubbles were on against the midsummer heat, but the white pavement was a searing glare in the noon sunlight. The Plaza had the look of a desert. The Fountain was off. Perhaps that was it.

The Fountain of Victory was stilled as it always was for a public execution.

Galinin clasped his hands behind his back when he realized he’d been absently pulling at his beard. He despised such nervous mannerisms. An old man’s quirk, so Camma used to chide him. But no more. No more chiding, no more laughing reminders that they were both growing old and might as well make the best of it. And no more pain for Camma. Two years ago on a summer day like this she had at last accepted the peace of death. She had borne him three children, three fine children, and outlived them all, and even
their
children, except for Evin’s daughter, Camila. At least there was something left, someone to give proof in her ready smile of Camma Nordreth Galinin’s passage through this world.

The long sigh was just as much an old man’s quirk. His gaze moved to the steps below him, to the black monolith of the execution stand. He had always experienced an inward shock at that light-swallowing mass of black. It was worse since Rich’s death. Four and a half years wasn’t time enough to dull the pain of reminder, and the reminders came all too frequently now.

There were three execution mechanisms on the stand today, not just one. A bitter economy of his own devising. He had tried to put an end to these barbaric displays, but the Directors, except for Phillip and Honoria, balked. Even Trevor Robek. Examples, they called them; object lessons. There was a crowd of perhaps a thousand gathered to study this lesson—there always was—and he wondered what they came to learn from these deaths.

And he wondered why it never seemed to occur to the Directorate majority of seven that these executions were signals of piecemeal surrender. Galinin had only succeeded, by the expedient of multiple executions, in reducing the number of occasions on which the Fountain was stilled.

The chime of the pager roused him. He returned to his desk, which like everything around him—or so it seemed lately—was heavy with history and tradition, designed by a famous artisan of a bygone century, whose name he had made every effort to forget, displaying the Concord crest in panels of inlaid woods from every part of Terra and even Pollux. Its imposing array of screens and consoles, all of which hid themselves discreetly under polished wood covers at an electronic command, were becoming increasingly intimidating. Or perhaps only annoying. Like the chair, large and deep, soberly carved in ebony, its high back, despite the cushions, offering no comfort for
his
back. It was only a surrogate for that chair in the Directorate Chamber, and neither were designed for ordinary human beings with elderly spines.

He sank into the chair with another long sigh, touched a button, and watched Master Selig’s face materialize on the intercom screen. He wondered if Selig ever sighed.

“Yes, Selig?”

“My lord, Dr. Gilcris is here.”

“Good. Send him in, please.”

Galinin leaned back, waiting for the double doors to slide open and for Dr. Avery Gilcris, lector emeritus, Academicians GuildMaster, and head of the Concord University System sociotheology department, to step gingerly onto the golden carpet.

A peculiarly colorless man, Galinin was thinking; white lector’s robes, edged in black, enveloping his frail, stooped figure; wispy gray hair and beard. He fluttered across the room, the handle of a slim case locked in his bony hands.

“Dr. Gilcris—” Galinin gestured toward the chair across the desk from him. “—please, be seated. I was delighted to hear you’d completed the research project.”

“I must apologize again for the delays, my lord, but it proved more of an undertaking than I envisioned at first.”

“My concern is for insight, not haste. Tell me, did you find the project interesting?”

Gilcris pursed his lips, considering the question, but Galinin wasn’t impatient. The professor was honest in his plodding way. That’s why he’d been chosen for this task.

“Quite interesting, my lord. I’ve done very little research on Bond religion, and a certain amount of that was necessary, of course, to establish a background for Saint Richard the Lamb. I was rather amazed more sociotheologians hadn’t been attracted to it.”

“I gather you found the available material scant. Did you read the theses of Richard Lamb himself?”

“Oh, yes, my lord. I had a Priority-Two clearance since the project was done at your behest.”

Galinin stiffened. “Priority-Two?”

“Why, yes. All Lamb’s theses are now classified Pri-Two.”


All
of them? For the God’s sake—” Galinin paused to control his annoyance. He should have expected this, should have checked with the Board of Censors.

“My lord?”

“Never mind, Doctor. I was only wondering why those theses were given a Pri-Two rating. I’ve read them and found nothing at all subversive or inflammatory, whatever Lamb’s ultimate political choices.”

Gilcris nodded soberly. “I quite agree, my lord. All his works were meticulously scholarly, and not in the least tainted by his political views.”

“At any rate, I’m anxious to hear the results of your study.”

“Yes, of course, my lord.” He rested the case on his knees and opened it. “I have here various recordings and statistical correlations if you’d care to—”

“Please, I’d prefer not to get mired in mathematics at the moment.” Then, at Gilcris’s stricken look, he softened his tone. “I’ll study the material later, if you’ll leave it with me, but now I’d like a summation in your own words.”

“Oh. Yes, my lord.” He closed the case and put it on the desk, pausing for Galinin’s nod of permission. Then he cleared his throat, seeming uncertain about what to do with his empty hands.

“Well, then, to summarize . . . well, first my staff and I sampled compounds on every planet and satellite in the Two Systems and ascertained that Saint Richard the Lamb is a well established member of the Bond pantheon. He’s especially revered in the compounds where he made frequent appearances.”

“I assume you and your staff interviewed some of the Shepherds who knew Lamb personally. Did you ask them about his connection with the Phoenix?”

“Yes, we did, and it’s really quite odd, but none of them seemed at all aware of his association with the Phoenix, or of the fact that he was executed for that reason.”

Galinin gave him a suitably puzzled look. “That’s strange. How do you explain it?”

“I can’t explain it factually. However, I might note that few Bonds are aware of the existence of the Phoenix.”

“I see. But don’t they wonder why Lamb was executed?”

“They explain it as a Testing, my lord, which is—”

“Yes, I’m familiar with the term.”

“Oh. Well, apparently a Testing needs no logical cause. None of the Bonds interviewed showed the slightest interest in the reason for Lamb’s execution. They simply dismissed it as the Mezion’s will. And perhaps . . .” He paused, looking down at his folded hands.

“Please don’t hesitate to voice any speculations, Doctor. If I wanted bare facts, I wouldn’t ask a man of your stature to waste his time gathering them.”

A wan flush came to his sunken cheeks, and the compliment gave him courage to go on.

“Well, my lord, it occurred to me that perhaps the Bonds are closer to the truth than one might think. You see, I checked with Commander Quintin Bary of the Concordia SSB as you suggested. It seems that Lamb was arrested solely on the basis of an anonymous tip, and his trial was only a formality; nothing was actually proven against him because he confessed freely to all charges.”

Galinin nodded, regarding him with attentive interest.

“And what conclusions have you drawn from this?”

“No conclusions, my lord, actually; speculations, perhaps. I was also considering Lamb’s long-standing and close association with Bonds, particularly the Shepherds. He made frequent sojourns into the compounds for years before his death, and his first thesis was published when he was only seventeen. It wasn’t what one would call a normal pursuit for a young person. And he was ill; badly crippled, in fact.” Gilcris glanced almost furtively at Galinin. “Well, it occurred to me that Lamb might have been somewhat unstable emotionally, that he became obsessed with the Bonds and their religion, that perhaps he
wasn’t
a member of the Phoenix. Perhaps he saw his arrest and execution as the Bonds did—as a Testing and the will of the Mezion. He might have confessed to
any
charge brought against him.”

Galinin leaned back, reining the ironic laughter that was his first impulse. Phillip Woolf had been afraid the Bonds would be led to the Phoenix’s banner by Richard Lamb. It was a paradox that not only did the Bonds show no awareness of a link between Lamb and the Phoenix, but this learned man had come to the conclusion that no link had ever existed.

“Dr. Gilcris, that’s an interesting theory, and you may have hit on the truth. I always found it difficult to resolve Lamb’s scholarly treatises with membership in what is accepted as a revolutionary organization. Very interesting. And I’m gratified that you’ve discovered no link between Lamb and the Phoenix in the minds of the Bonds.”

“We certainly found no hint of it, and Saint Richard’s dictums are notably pacific, condemning violence for any cause. That would hardly seem consistent with membership in a group like the Phoenix.”

“No, it wouldn’t. Now, the main purpose of your study was to learn what influence, if any, Saint Richard has had on the Bonds, especially in regard to violent revolts or uprisings.”

Gilcris nodded, pursing his lined lips. “Well, my lord, our first task was to determine the range of his influence, benign or otherwise, and we discovered that Saint Richard is all but universally known among the Bonds. We were even able, to some degree, to follow the spread of the cult, or rather his acceptance into the Bond pantheon, both in terms of time and distance. For instance, we know that news of his execution—or martyrdom, as the Bonds would have it—reached Helen on Castor approximately a year afterward along with the reliquary ashes.”

“The reliquary ashes?”

“Yes, my lord. Lamb was considered a holy man, almost a saint, even before his death. Sainthood is bestowed rather informally, apparently, more by mutual agreement among the Shepherds than anything else. At any rate, it’s customary on the death of a holy man or saint to divide his ashes into small containers, which are distributed as opportunity permits to chapels throughout both Systems. They’re considered holy relics.”

Galinin smiled faintly. It seemed fitting that Rich’s ashes should be thus scattered among his believers across planets and satellites and light years.

“Please continue, Dr. Gilcris.”

Gilcris glanced longingly at the case, then, “Well, my lord, we have statistical evidence indicating that Lamb has, in fact, had a markedly beneficial influence in counteracting violent reactions among the Bonds. We also have testimony from over-seers and guards that nine minor disturbances were unquestionably quelled by Shepherds quoting the dictums of Saint Richard. In these cases, the witnesses remembered hearing particular phrases or the name of Saint Richard. These are rare instances, to be sure; however, they suggest that others of a similar nature have occurred, but none of the witnesses were aware of the use of the dictums.”

Galinin paused, one eyebrow lifted. “You said you had statistical evidence.”

Gilcris nodded. “We made stat correlations of all reported Bond Uprisings in the last ten years. We assigned them an intensity rate based on duration, number of Bonds taking part, financial loss, and casualties. We also drew curves based on incidence and correlated both incidence and intensity on other sequences. All curves showed an upward trend from the date of beginning—that is, July 3247. The curve gradually becomes sharper, in fact, and this trend continues well past July ’53, when Lamb died, and into the early months of ’54.”

Galinin frowned. “It continues?”

“Yes, my lord, but that’s the data for the entire Concord. We made similar studies of individual planets and satellites, and various subareas on Terra. In eastern Conta Austrail, for instance, both incidence and intensity curves begin to level off by Septem ’53; that would be three months after Lamb’s death. Luna and Mars show a similar leveling a few months later, although the curves on the Cameroodo compounds tend to be . . . well, rather erratic.”

Galinin nodded absently; he was all too well aware of Lord James Cameroodo’s high incidence of uprisings and the repressive measures that fostered them.

“Dr. Gilcris, does this leveling coincide with the spread of the cult of Saint Richard?”

“Yes, it does; at least, where we have sufficient data to pinpoint the time at which Bonds in a particular area accepted Saint Richard into their pantheon.”

“I see. Go on, Doctor.”

“Well, the general curves for the entire Concord don’t show a leveling until after the first months of ’55, and then there’s a marked downward curve that extends into May of this year. Our studies end two months later in July on the fourth anniversary of Lamb’s death.”

“But there was definitely a downward trend in the general curves for the last two years?”

“Without a doubt, my lord. However, in the latter part of May and into June of this year, they began to level off. I might note this coincides with certain symptoms of unrest among the Fesh.”

Galinin found himself venting another sigh and frowned.

“What conclusions have you drawn from these statistics as a whole, Dr. Gilcris?”

His wispy eyebrows lifted in unison with his shoulders.

“There’s a definite correlation between the downturn of the incidence and intensity curves and the spread of the cult of Saint Richard. We’ve looked for other factors to explain the phenomenon, but none seem to fit the data.”

Galinin gazed out the windowall a moment, then turned away; the Fountain was still off.

BOOK: Shadow of the Swan (Book Two of the Phoenix Legacy)
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