Angus The men who observed these things
had no other way to account for them, so they
jumped to the one
conclusion which made sense to them; a conclusion which suited both Angus'
reputation and their own cynicism.
Without any viable external evidence, they chose to believe that he'd
given her a zone implant.
He had the control in his pocket.
Zone implants were illegal, of course.
They were so illegal
that unauthorized use carried the death penalty.
But - also of course -
mere questions of legality didn't stop people who worked the belt from having
them on hand for emergencies.
a zone implant was a radio
electrode which could be slipped between one of the skull sutures and installed
in the brain where its emissions were remarkably effective.
had been invented by a doctor trying to control grand mal epileptic seizures:
its emissions blanked out the neural storm of the
thought that was where the name "zone" came from: an active implant gave an
epileptic the look of being "completely zoned."
But in fact medical
research had quickly discovered that a variety of results could be obtained by
varying the implant's emissions -by tuning the implant to different zones of
Violent insanities could be
Manic behaviors could be
could be relieved - or induced.
be turned into cooperation.
could be reinterpreted as pleasure.
Volition could be suppressed
without interrupting consciousness.
Given a broad-spectrum zone implant, which employed several
electrodes, and an unscrupulous control
human beings could be transformed into intelligent, effective, and
Even the more common, narrower-spectrum implants could
achieve comparable results by turning humans into physical
puppets, or by applying intense
neural punishment and
use of a zone implant carried the death penalty automatically,
inevitably; without appeal.
But despite the law - and the possibilities
of abuse - even otherwise reputable miners and pilots,
ore haulers and handlers,
considered zone implants necessary medical equipment.
The reason was simple.
Medical science had developed ways for
complete idiots to diagnose and treat complex diseases; ways for lost or
vision-struck belt pilots to repair the damage done to their bodies by
faulty or inadequate
equipment; ways for crushed
limbs and even crushed organs to be prostheticly restored.
Unfortunately, however, no amount of research had
discovered a cure for gap-sickness, that strange
breakdown of the mind which
took perhaps one out of every hundred people who
crossed the dimensional gap
and reduced him or her to a psychotic
killer or a null-wave
transmitter, a raving
bulimic or a
gleeful self-flagellant, a pedophiliac or a
out of every hundred people had some category of undetectable vulnerability in
the tissue of the brain; and when that
translated across light-years of space through the imponderable physics of the
gap, some thing
happened to that vulnerable brain.
Otherwise healthy individuals
lost command of their
lives in invariably startling, often grotesque, and sometimes murderous
There was no cure for gap-sickness.
But there was a
way to cope with it.
The zone implant.
Almost gently, he
returned her tag, then put a hand on her chin and turned her face toward him.
The stark horror was back
in her eyes.
Her whisper was faraway and forlorn,
lost in darkness.
initiated self-destruct. From the auxiliary bridge."
clamped onto her jaw as if he could force her to tell the truth.
thrust his face close to hers. "You did what?"
"We were chasing you."
Her gaze didn't react to his proximity: the things that appalled her
were so bright she couldn't register anything else.
G was awful. I thought we were going to break up. I was at my station.
Auxiliary bridge. I thought the straps on my seat were going to tear. Or I was
going to rupture."
"Then it stopped. I could see you on the screens. But
I didn't care. You destroyed that mining camp. I had already seen you kill all
those miners. I didn't care. I should have cared, but I didn't."
"The whole inside of my head was
floating, and everything was clear."
"Like a vision."
"It was like the
universe spoke to me. I got the
message, the truth."
Her stare remained fixed; but now she had to
fight to keep her sobs down.
"The 'truth.' I knew exactly what to do.
What I had to do. I didn't question it."
"I keyed the self-destruct sequence
into the computer. That was supposed to blow up both drives. We would have
been turned to powder."
"You aren't an officer," Angus objected. "You're
practically a kid. How did you know the self-destruct codes?"
knew the codes. Anyone of us could do it. So Starmaster wouldn't be captured.
That was our first priority. Not be captured. Under any circumstances. If
forbidden space got us - a ship like that - We can all be trusted. We're all
reliable. Most of us are family. They wouldn't let anybody who wasn't reliable
on a ship like that."
"But fa-Captain Hyland caught what I was doing. He
tried to abort. Only the thrusters exploded. I could hear him yelling at me
over the intercom - yelling at me because I was his daughter and I was
destroying his ship, I was destroying him. His sister and brothers. My cousins.
"And then it wasn't clear anymore. There wasn't any
vision. We weren't in any danger. It was all a lie.
I killed my whole family for no
He bared his teeth. "I told you. You're my crew now.
You're mine. You've been impressed."
He relished the word.
"When I tell you to do something, I expect it done."
He could see panic in her face.
"You bastard, " she breathed
for the second time. "I am not your crew. I am UMCP. I am going to leave you
rotting in lockup if it's the last thing I do. What have you done to me?"
Angus didn't answer directly: he was having too much fun.
Instead, he showed her the control in his hand.
shock when she recognized the
small box was everything he could have wanted.
It was like her
horror of the way she had
murdered her family, like that in helplessness and extremity; and yet
profoundly different in other, crucial respects.
Terror and loathing
burned across her face. Her hands sprang to her mouth; she made an attempt to
Then he lost his self possession.
He was already on
the edge of his restraint: the sight of her pushed him past his limits.
She was clean - and being clean brought back her fundamental
She was probably the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen
And she showed a category of
courage simply by leaving the
san; she had the capacity to face her fate.
Her eyes shone with a
combination of fright and defiance, with a dread of what he could do to her
mixed with a refusal to be cowed.
And he could do anything he wanted.
She was his: he had the control to her zone implant clenched in his
For that reason, he pushed the button which took away
her ability to move.
Then he put down the control and beat her bloody
with his bare fists, marring her beauty so that it wouldn't terrify him
He couldn't stop trembling.
After all, it was a good
thing that he'd hit her.
The darkness and swelling of her bruises made
her bearable: if she'd remained perfect, he would have had no choice but to
So he paid no attention to the
firm lift of her breasts or the
velvet curve of her hips.
exclusively on the livid hurt of her bruises as he climbed on top of her.
His orgasm was so intense he
thought for a moment he'd broken something.
Before he rolled off
her, he had the satisfaction of seeing her eyes flutter open,
seeing her begin to realize what he'd done.
He filled her with revulsion, even though there was nothing she could
do about it.
That was good.
Nevertheless he continued
He could no longer tell whether he was excited or afraid.
"Does that make you feel like a man?"
She sounded bitter and
miserable - and faraway, as though the aftereffects of his blows muffled her
"Do you have
to destroy me to feel good yourself? Are you that sick?"
he replied amiably. "You'll get used to it. You'll have to."
grinning; but he still had to brace his hands on his hips to conceal the way
Stephen R. Donaldson, from The Real Story: The Gap
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