"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.
great promise of machine technology:
Every man a king!
man a god!
Has borne its opposite.
Every man a
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
viable external evidence, they chose to believe that he'd given her a zone implant.
He had the
control in his pocket.
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
In 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
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.
broad-spectrum zone implant, which employed several electrodes, and an
control operator, independent
human beings could be
intelligent, effective, and loyal
slaves. Even the more
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.
reason was simple. Medical
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
The zone implant.
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
He 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 any thing
"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 every thing 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
"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 that."
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
brothers. My cousins. Destroying them."
"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
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 some thing, I expect it done."
He could see suspicion mounting to panic
in her face.
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
shock when she recognized the small
box was every thing 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.
She was clean -and being clean brought back her
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
heart wrenching 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
any thing 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,
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
So he paid no attention to the
firm lift of her breasts or the velvet curve of her
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 some thing.
Before he rolled off her, he had the
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.
Nevertheless he continued
He could no longer tell whether he was
"Does that make you
feel like a man?"
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
"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 Conflict.
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