"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
He had the control in his pocket.
Zone implants were illegal, of course.
They were so illegal
that unauthorized use carried the death penalty.
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 "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 the brain.
Violent insanities could be tamed. Manic
behaviors could be
moderated. Catatonia could be relieved -or induced. Recalcitrance could be
turned into cooperation. Pain could be
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
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.
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
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
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
The zone implant.
Almost gently, he returned her
tag, then put a hand on her chin and turned her face toward him.
stark 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
"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 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 different."
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 to powder."
"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
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
anic 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
Angus didn't answer
directly: he was having too much fun.
Instead, he showed her the
control in his hand.
The 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
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 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
heart wrenching combination
of fright and defiance, with a dread
of what he could do to her mixed with a refusal to be cowed.
could do anything he wanted. She was his: he had the
control to her zone implant clenched in
his sweating fingers.
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,
beauty so that it wouldn't
terrify him anymore.
After all, it was a good thing that he'd
darkness and swelling of her
bruises made her bearable: if she'd remained perfect, he would have had no
choice but to kill her.
he paid no attention to the firm lift of her breasts
or the velvet curve of her hips.
He concentrated 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 something.
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.
He could no longer tell
whether he was excited or afraid.
"Does that make you feel like a man?"
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
"Shut up," he replied amiably.
"You'll get used to it. You'll have to."
He was grinning; but he still
had to brace his hands on his hips to conceal the way they shook.
Stephen R. Donaldson, from The Real Story: The Gap into
back to stacks
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