Authors: Gordon R Dickson
Tags: #Science Fiction
Sequel to The Final Encyclopedia and newest in Dickson's masterpiece, The Childe Cycle. Disciplined by Friendlies, schooled by Exotics, Dahno builds an interplanetary network of half-breeds called "Others". But Dahno only wants wealth and power for himself, whereas his half-brother, Bleys, sees an opportunity to challenge the Dorsai for control of the Human Worlds.
What was it that Bleys wanted from life?
He forced himself to look squarely at the limited years, months and days of his own likely existence. Suppose he gave himself the longest possible lifetime—say a hundred and twenty years during which he could be active and useful. What a drop that still was in the ocean of time that was the history of human race itself.
He did not want to be just a drop in the ocean of past history . . . His whole self rebelled against the idea that he could live and die without having had any important impact on the rest of humanity . . . He must find some greater value for himself than the millions of others had . . .
He tried to picture the human race. There was much, very much, that was good about them . . . they had spread out from their original home to fifteen other worlds. But what they were on all those worlds now was largely what they had been when they first began to stand upright and think on Old Earth. They were still the same people.
Perhaps there was some way in which he could help them up the stairs, even one step toward being something better. Something more capable—as he was capable.
The moment that thought occurred to him, he knew that the had found it.
That was what he wanted to do.
Beyond the Dar Al-Harb
The Dragon Knight
The Far Call
The Final Encyclopedia
Gremlins Go Home
(with Ben Bova)
(with Poul Anderson)
Home from the Shore
The Last Master
Love Not Human
The Man From Earth
The Man the Worlds Rejected
Mission to Universe
On the Run
The Pritcher Mass
Secrets of the Deep Sleepwalkers' World Soldier, Ask Not The Space Swimmers Space Winners Spacepaw Spacial Delivery Steel Brother The Stranger Wolf and Iron Young Bleys
A TOM DOHERTY ASSOCIATES BOOK NEW YORK
NOTE: If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book.is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 1991 by Gordon R. Dickson
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Cover art by Royo
A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. 49 West 24th Street New York, N.Y. 10010
Tor® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. ISBN: 0-812-50947-1
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 90-48781
First edition: April 1991
First mass market printing: February 1992
Printed in the United States of America
The author wishes to express his appreciation to Professor O. J. Harvey of the University of Colorado. The main themes of Bleys Ahrens' psychological development were based on the theory of belief systems, first published by Professor Harvey, David Hunt and Harry Schroder in 1961 and further refined by Professor Harvey, his students, and his colleagues in the intervening years. The discovery of the theory at a time when I was casting about for a scientific model that would tie my conception of Bleys Ahrens' early life to>the man he would eventually become is one of those happy little accidents that has made my career as a writer so interesting.
YOUNG BLEYS is dedicated to two old friends who have shared fifty years of this twentieth century with it—Marvin and Jean Larson.
The woman sat
on the pink fabric of the softly padded float, combing her hair before the oval mirror and murmuring to herself. Those murmurings were all repetitions of the compliments paid her by her latest lover, who had just left her.
The unbreakable but translucent brown comb slipped smoothly through the shining strands of her auburn hair. It was not in need of combing; but she enjoyed this little private ritual of her own, after the men who kept her in such surroundings as this had gone. Her shoulders were bare and delicate, with smoothly pale flesh; and the equally pale column of her neck was hidden from behind by the strands which fell clear to the float. A faint odor, as of musk and perfume mingled, came from her—so light as to make it uncertain whether she had actually touched herself with perfume, or whether it was a natural scent, one that the nostrils of another person could barely catch.
The boy stood behind her and watched, his reflection hidden from the mirror by her own image in the shimmering electronic
surface. He was listening to the words she repeated, waiting for a particular phrase to come from her lips.
It would come eventually, he knew, because it was part of the litany she taught all her men, without their really knowing that she had trained them to say these things to her, during and after the time of their love-making.
He was a tall, thin boy, halfway only on his way to adulthood, and his narrow face had almost unnaturally regular features that would grow and firm into a startling handsomeness with maturity, just strong enough to be beyond all delicacy. At the same time they resembled those of the woman gazing into the mirror.
He knew this to be true, although at the moment he could not see her face. He knew it because he had heard many people say it; and had eventually come to recognize what it was to which they referred. It did not matter to him now, except in his rare encounters with other boys his own age, who, glancing at him, assumed he could be easily dominated—and found out differently. On his own, and watching the woman over his limited years, he had learned many ways of defending himself.
—Now. She was coming close to the phrase he waited for. He held his breath a little. He could not help holding it, in spite of his determination not to.
how beautiful you are,"
the woman was saying now to her image in the screen,
"never was anyone so beautiful
It was time to speak.
"But we know different, don't we, Mother?" the boy said, with a clear calmness in his voice that only an adult should have been able to achieve—and only hours of rehearsal had made possible even for him, intelligent beyond his years as he was.
Her voice stopped.
She turned about on the float, which spun unsupported in the air to the movement of her body; and her face stared back into his from hardly a handsbreadth away.
In that moment her green eyes blazed at him. Her knuckles clenched about the comb were bloodless, holding it now like a weapon—as if she would rake its teeth across his throat to open both windpipe and carotid artery. She had not known, she had not thought—and he had planned on that—of the possibility that he might be standing behind her at one of these times.
For a long moment the boy looked at death; and if the expression of his own face did not change, it was not because the great fear of extinction was not on him, at last. It was because he was frozen, as if hypnotized, in no expression at all. He had finally taken this risk, knowing that his words might actually drive her to kill him. Because he had at last reached the point where he knew he could only survive away from her. And in the young the urge to survive is strong, even at the cost of risking death.
A few years from now and he would have known what she would do when he said what he had just said; but he could not wait to know. In a few years it would be too late.
He was eleven years old.
So he waited
for her to follow the impulse to kill that blazed in her eyes. For the cruelty of his words—even to her—was the utmost he could use against her. For what he had just said was true. A truth never mentioned.
knew. They two—mother and son—knew. The woman was not bad looking, except for the heavy, squarish boning of her face. With the almost magical art of makeup she controlled, she could be taken for attractive—perhaps very attractive.
But she was not beautiful. She had never been beautiful and never would be; and it was to give her that word for which her soul hungered that she had used the great weapon of her mind, to teach those men she chose to parrot it to her at the right moments.
It was her lack of beauty, in spite of all else she had, that she could not bear. The fact that all her power of intelligence and will, that could give her everything else, could not give her this, too. And Bleys, at eleven years, had just forced her to face it. The comb, tines outward, rose in her trembling hand.
He watched the points of it approach. He felt the fear. It was a fear he had known he would feel; even as he knew he had no choice, for survival's sake, but to speak.
The comb, shaking, rose like a weapon unconsciously driven. He watched it come, and come, and come
until, inches from his throat, it stopped.
The fear did not go. It was only held, like a beast on a chain; though now he knew he would live, at least. In the end, what he had gambled on—her heritage and training as an Exotic, one of a people socially incapable of any violence—was making it impossible for her to do what her torn ego urged her to do. She had left the twin worlds of the Exotics, and all their teachings and beliefs, as far behind her as she could; but she could not, even now, go against the training and conditioning they had given her, even before she had been able to walk.
The blood returned to her knuckles. The comb slowly lowered. She laid it carefully down on the table of honey-colored wood below the mirror behind her; setting it down carefully, as if it was fragile and would break at a touch, instead of being tough as steel. She was once more her controlled and certain self.
"Well, Bleys," she said, in perfectly calm tones, "I think the time has come for you and I to go different ways."