Eden 8: Resurrection

Brook stood in the tran-station outside the Medical Center, amazed at the number of people gathered there, waiting for the second coming of Axen Moon. Small pots of flowers lined the entry-way, many sporting handwritten notes. Papers were plastered over the bulkhead - signs, letters, and children's paintings wishing Axen well. A group of people stood watching the safety lock expectantly and talking quietly among themselves.

How things have changed. How indeed, and though nobody knew it, those changes were all Brook's doing, directly or indirectly. It had been four weeks since the colony relocation, and opening the Medical Center had become a colony-wide priority. The sooner it opened, the sooner the injured Elder could be brought out of suspended animation and treated for his injuries, and today was that day.

It had been many months since Axen Moon miraculously arrived back in Eden, unconscious, half-dead, riding in a stolen Scout, with his Savant computer Kraft broadcasting the incriminating news about the mining colony on every available data channel. It had rattled Eden's society to its very foundation and started a wave of change that continued today.

Shortly thereafter the colony had been forced to relocate, and when they'd put it back together, everything had been different.

Someone took his arm gently. He started as he turned and realized it was Echo. She smiled as though nothing had happened between them, and they were two young lovers out for a stroll. “I wondered if I might run into you here. Have you been avoiding me?” She clicked her tongue. “You know, I had made arrangements for us to be on the same Evac Transport, but somebody changed those arrangements at the last minute.” She locked eyes with him. “Curious thing, don't you think? And then, I just never seem to see you anymore, you don't answer my calls, don't do me my little favors. What's happened between us?”

“I've been busy. We're setting up a colony site in record time here.”

She glanced at the decorated bulkhead. “Especially the Medical Center I see. Amazing what a little public will can do. I can't say that I'm glad to see the old fossil back, but I can't really complain.” A smile crept back onto her lips. “With the new status quo, the Masters have gone mainstream. More and more people are listening to what we have to say, and the authorities don't dare touch us.” She chuckled. “As I said, amazing about public will and all.” She looked up at him. “Doing anything later, lover?”

He stared straight ahead. “Yes.”

She looked down at her feet and shook her head. “Pity. Jacque isn't busy tonight.” She swayed from side to side. “Jacque can be a lot of fun.”

Brook ignored her, which seemed to make Echo angry. “He killed your friend, you know!”

“Not so loud!” He looked around nervously to see if anyone was listening, but they seemed to be safe. “Look, why don't you and your terrorist buddies just go soak in the mainstream or something?”

She just frowned. “Suit yourself.” She turned and started to walk away. “I'll be in my quarters tonight, if you want to call me. But don't wait too long.”

# # #

Brook stepped between the two Volunteer Guards, dressed in their newly issued blue and gold-trim uniforms, and into the private room. One of the guards peered inside and made eye contact with the occupant.

“It's fine; close the door.” Axen sat propped up in the med-station bed, an oxygen tube clipped into his nose.

“How do you feel?”

“Not bad for a man who's been shot, blasted, dosed with poisoned air from a damaged spacesuit, frozen, and defrosted. Yourself?”

“They said you'd asked to see me.”

“They said you've been checking on my condition every hour for the past two days.”

“I have an investment in you.”

Axen's eyes narrowed as he studied Brook's face. “You obviously risked your life and status to rescue me, and to liberate Kraft. So why do I feel like we're not exactly old friends here? You got me back as far as Eden, then pulled a disappearing act and made it look like I'd escaped. Why?”

“It was easier and more forgivable for you to steal a Scout and a Savant than me, especially if it knocked the wind out of the Council. Never mind that it was impossible for you to steal those things, I knew people would believe it of you. The impossibility only adds to your mystique.”

“You made me a hero.”

“That was an unintended side effect. Mostly I was covering my own backside.”

He grunted. “I might have done the same, if I'd been clever enough to pull it off.” He leaned back into his pillow and closed his eyes for a moment, as though he were already tiring. “I asked for you because nobody tells me anything, and there are questions I can't even ask. What the frag happened while I was on ice?”

Brook kept his face a blank mask. “First we have to settle something. I'm going to ask you a question, and whatever the answer is, I want the truth. If you can't tell the truth, keep your mouth shut and we'll end it right here. How you answer may not change what I do - you're a means to an end now - but I have to know before I can work with you.”

Axen's brow wrinkled. “Go ahead.”

“Did you kill Della Ricca?”

Axen's mouth dropped open. “What? Where did you get that idea?”

“From Echo Van Dozier, initially, but it made a lot of sense. The window was sabotaged, and you were in the CC repeatedly, including just before it happened. You didn't like my associating with her, and she didn't seem to care much for your hanging around the CC to visit Kraft.”

“Poor reasons for killing somebody.” He sniffed. “If I were that cold-blooded, Nguyen would have parted company with his head long before he had a chance to blow this planet wide open. Killed her! Great Maker.” He sniggered for a moment, then sobered and looked up at Brook.

“You do believe me, don't you?”

“Yes, I'd come to much the same conclusion, I just didn't want to believe the alternative.”

“Which is?”

“That Echo killed Della, directly or otherwise.”

“Van Dozier, the baby doctor? First you tell me she's playing amateur detective, then you tell me she's a murderer.”

“That baby doctor is the leader of the Masters, the terrorist group. She used me to get to the Gene Bank, then destroyed it, intentionally, I now believe.”

“You're sure of all this?”

“She's admitted most of it to my face. She's insane, Axen, I see that now. She believes we have all the genetic material here that humanity will ever need, all us 99th percentile humans. Clone us forever, and usher in the golden age.”

“I assume you can prove all this. Let's just have her arrested.”

Brook pulled a straight-backed chair over next to the bed and sat down with a sigh. “Things have changed while you were out of the picture, Axen. Everything has changed. When news of the illicit mining camp broke, the Council was disbanded, several members put under arrest. The chairman was cleared of any involvement. They'd taken advantage of the distractions created by the disaster to run this without the chairman's knowledge. The chairman's forming a tribunal to charge them formally, and the VG are being organized into a real police force.”

“This all sounds to the good. So, have the new police arrest her.”

“It's not that simple. The existing power structures have been split and fragmented. Some people see the Masters as heroic revolutionaries, visionaries. Echo has gone public, selling her ideas as a kind of immortality.”

“People are buying this?”

“Those who haven't bought into the idea of you as a new messiah and maybe some of those too. Enough to make them politically untouchable at the moment. They signed their handiwork when they hijacked the Gene Bank. If they were going to be arrested, it would have already happened.”

“Frag, this is bad.” He looked up. “Where's Kraft?”

“Under protective guard in the next room. I don't think they wanted you wearing yourself out talking to the computer.” He chuckled. “Kraft is almost as much a hero as you are. The good news is, you're probably politically untouchable too. I don't think you have to worry about any more assassins. Nobody wants to make you a martyr.”

Axen frowned. “How did you know about that?”

“You babbled halfway back to Eden. You'd be surprised what I know.” Actually, the attempt on Axen's life was about all he'd heard, but he'd just let Axen stew anyway.

“You think these guards can be trusted?”

“The VG seem to be staying neutral, and no one faction has a clear advantage. The chairman and his supporters are focused on survival and keeping the colony running. You have a lot more power than you did before, but it's effectively canceled out, just like everyone else's.”

“You've seen the Van Dozier woman lately?”

“A few days ago. She was chiding me for hanging around the Med Center. I told her to get lost.”

“Did she?”

“She didn't give up, if that's what you mean.” He felt his jaw clinch. “I still have feelings for her. I know she's insane, but part of me just wants to fix her. But I'm staying away from her. Don't worry.”

Axen grunted. “To the contrary, that's exactly what I don't want you to do.”

What?

“Be her friend, give her what she wants, within reason, tell her I'm a murderer, whatever it takes.”

“Axen, I can't.”

“You can, and you will. We can't let this situation continue, and if things are as evenly balanced as you tell me, this is our only hope of gaining an advantage.”

Brook said nothing.

“You'll do it.”

Reluctantly, Brook nodded. Ask me to saw off my right arm. It would be easier.

# # #

Brook paused in front of the office door. Dropping in here had seemed like the best thing to do. It would put Echo off-guard, and lacked the intimacy of any of a number of other possibilities. While he hoped to establish some sort of business relationship with the Masters, he hoped to keep Echo at arm's length. Anything else would be unbearable.

But now that he stood in front of the door, staring at the fake wood grain and counting the rings, he was having second thoughts. Perhaps I should just go back and tell Axen that I can't pull it off. But that idea was dashed when the door opened from inside. Echo looked up into his face and smiled. She looked surprised, but not very surprised.

“Brook, I was just thinking about you.” She stepped back and beckoned him into the office. “Don't be flattered, I wasn't thinking very hard.” She sat on the edge of her desk and gestured Brook toward a visitor's chair.

“So, come crawling back to beg forgiveness, or is this not a social call?”

“It's not funny, Echo. None of this is funny. I don't like being here.”

Her smile faded. “Then leave.”

“I had a talk with Axen Moon today. I gave him a chance to prove his innocence in the death of Della Ricca.”

“And?”

“He had nothing convincing to offer. He pleaded innocence of course, but I don't buy it. That's why I'm here.” He studied her face, trying to read the emotion there, but it eluded him. “That's the only reason I'm here. Axen Moon is too powerful since his return, and I can't stand by and see that continue. On the other hand, there's no direct way I can stop him. My only hope is to ally myself with a force strong enough to counter him.”

“Meaning the Masters.”

“Maker help me, yes, meaning the Masters.”

Her face became very serious. “Brook, you think I'm crazy for my attitudes about the loss of the Gene Bank, but I want to show you something.”

She walked over and unlocked a cabinet near the med-station. As she opened the door, wisps of white fog rolled over the lip and faded as they fell toward the floor. Echo pulled on a pair of heavy gloves and reached inside. She removed a frosty metal cylinder half a meter high and fifteen or so centimeters in diameter. The cylinder was connected by metal-clad hoses and wires to some mechanism hidden in the cabinet. “I'm not crazy, Brook, I'm calculating. Outside the inner circle of the Masters, you're the only one to ever see this.”

“What is it?”

She held it just a little higher and smiled proudly. “It's my own private Gene Bank, culled over a period of years from the original. While the original had tens of thousands of genotypes, this one holds only a little less than a thousand, hand-picked to be the best of the best. These aren't the 99th percentile Brook, they're the 99.9th percentile, the finest minds and bodies from every significant genetic group that existed on Earth. This is my utopia, not some selfish dream about cloning ourselves.”

Brook laughed sarcastically. “But you already have.”

Echo just smirked. “Rank has its privileges, Brook, you should know that. Besides, its just a little game I play. You could play it too. Would you like to be cloned, Brook? A little tissue sample, some altered paperwork, replace a vial when nobody is looking, and before you know it, some unsuspecting couple gives birth to a little Brook.”

Brook's stomach did a flip flop and he felt ill. “No, Echo, I don't want a clone. I just want revenge.”

She smiled smugly. “Clones. Revenge. Two things I'm good at.”

# # #

Despite the protests of his doctors, Axen wasted no time in getting back on his feet. He was still weak and short of breath, but the thought of Kraft sitting guarded in the next room was a prime motivation. There was much work to be done if the current situation was to be salvaged.

When he finally was able to reach the room where Kraft was stored, he had to again thank Panati for his resourcefulness. Not only was the computer hooked up to the power mains, but Panati had also connected a residential data tap. Seemingly a small thing, but Kraft had been trapped behind some kind of heavy security firewall since the Savant had been taken from Axen during the first evacuation.

He sat down next to the computer and put his hand on the cool, smooth upper surface. The first order of business was to find out more about the baby doctor. What had Panati said, something about her bragging that she was a clone? “Kraft, access birth and genetic records for Dr. Echo Van Dozier.”

“Access denied. This information is confidential and classified.”

“Override.”

It took only a few seconds once the command was given. Axen had infinite respect for the computer's abilities - he had long overridden any restrictions in the computer's programming that might have caused it to hesitate in its probings. “Information on screen.”

He stared at the document on the screen, then read it again to be sure he had it right. Then he cross-referenced to another birth record. He put a blank data-slip against Kraft's upper surface. “Transfer these two records to the data-slip.”

“Done,” the computer replied instantly.

Axen took the slip and put it in his shirt pocket. Information was a weapon. Not everyone appreciated that fact, but Axen did, and he knew he had a weapon against Echo Van Dozier. It was a small weapon, and might only work if delivered by just the right person at just the right time, but it was his now, and he intended to see it used.

All he had to do now was figure out a way to get it to Panati.

Written by J. Steven York.


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