"In the Machine Age,
only to be replaced with a system in which nearly everyone
did demeaning work out of survival anxiety.
"Do it or you will
That's slavery, all right.
The great promise of machine
Every man a king!
Every man a god!
borne its opposite.
Every man a slave!
Slaves without human owners,
under the yoke of money."
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
Zone implants were illegal, of course.
They were so
illegal that unauthorized use carried the
-also of course- mere questions of legality didn't stop humans who worked the
belt from having them on hand for emergencies.
essence, 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.
It had been invented by a
doctor trying to control grand mal epileptic seizures: its emissions blanked
out the neural
storm of the seizure.
People thought that was where the
name "zone" came from: an active implant gave an epileptic the look of being
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 the
insanities could be tamed.
behaviors could be moderated.
Catatonia could be relieved -or
be turned into cooperation.
could be reinterpreted as pleasure.
Volition could be suppressed
without interrupting consciousness or coordination.
Given a broad-spectrum zone implant, which employed several
electrodes, and an unscrupulous control
operator, independent human beings could be transformed into intelligent,
effective, and loyal slaves. Even
the more common, narrower-spectrum implants could achieve comparable results by
turning humans into physical
puppets, or by applying intense
neural punishment and rewards.
Unauthorized 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.
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
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 humans 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 pill-junkie.
Apparently, one out of every hundred humans
had some category of undetectable vulnerability in the tissue of the
brain; and when that
vulnerability was translated
across light-years of space through the imponderable physics of the gap, some
thing happened to that vulnerable
Otherwise healthy individuals lost
command of their lives in invariably
startling, often grotesque, and sometimes murderous fashions. There was no cure
for gap-sickness. But there was a way to cope with it.
Almost gently, he returned her tag, then put a hand on her
chin and turned her face toward him.
horror was back in her eyes.
Her whisper was faraway and forlorn, lost in
self-destruct. From the auxiliary bridge."
His fingers clamped onto her
jaw as if he could force her to tell the truth.
He thrust his face
close to hers. "You did what?"
"We were chasing you."
didn't react to his proximity: the things that appalled her were so bright she
couldn't register anything else.
"Dodging asteroids. 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
"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
"I was floating, and everything was
clear. Like a vision. It was
like the universe spoke to me. I got the message, the truth."
remained fixed; but now she had to fight to keep her sobs down.
'truth.' I knew exactly what to do. What I had to do. I didn't question
"I keyed the self-destruct sequence into the
computer. That was supposed to blow up both drives. We would have been turned
"You aren't an officer," Angus objected. "You're
practically a kid. How did you know the self-destruct codes?"
"We all 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
"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. Destroying
"And then it wasn't clear anymore. There wasn't any
vision. We weren't in any . It was all a lie. I killed my
whole family for no reason."
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 cry out.
Then he lost his self possession.
He was already on the edge of
his restraint: the sight of her pushed him past his limits.
clean -and being clean brought back her fundamental beauty.
She was probably
the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen this close.
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 sweating
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 anymore.
He couldn't stop trembling.
After all, it was a good thing that
he'd hit her.
and swelling of her bruises made her bearable: if she'd remained
perfect, he would have had no
choice but to kill her.
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 that he thought for a moment he'd broken
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 trembling.
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 distress.
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
back to stacks
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