Chapter Fifty Nine - Pompous

Douglas K. Hooker, PH.D.

Few things annoy me like poor scholarship.
Here's a major broadcasting service running an interview with a Sagir Gennie
they called; "Guy ".

Anyone could...let me rephrase, anyone who knew anything about Eugenics, (a B.A. will do), will tell you every letter is pronounced. It doesn't matter what it looks like, how it's written. Gennies don't waste letters.

I dashed off an email to the TBC:

"The name is pronounced as the second
syllable in Sergye.. Not
'Guy'. Obtain a
an operational brain before blathering."


I signed it; Dr. Douglas Hooper, (adding my alphabet soup at the end).

Within fifteen minutes I got a response from the station, and the next thing,
I get to be a guest commentator.

I assume this was after someone who could read recognised my name as the
'technical adviser' in the last movie Laker had made; Passing Perfect, (my claim to fame).

So here I am, in a beat up old smuggler ship, crawling in Earth direction, recast as
the Gennie expert. Hey, well I was.

I figure, as it'd be good publicity for the book I'd write, I'd grab it with both hands.
I hadn't smuggled anything for a year, was a model citizen, why not endow the
human race,(Normal subspecies) with my genius?

So I'm sitting by the horn, no vids. (I look like crap and haven't bathed in a week,
nor shaved and am too engaged in sloth to do so).

My favourite news analysts are asking questions. The first to do with pronunciation.

Speaking in my most academic voice, slow and well enunciated, The Great Doctor
Hooker repeats his opening remark, continues, presuming the Universe is
hanging on his every word:

"He admits descent from Piet Barthol, Bart Tomaka, Vlad Kryshenko and
Mical Sergye. It is 'Bart' from Barthol, the Tomaka from Bart Tomaka, The
Krys
, from Kryshenko and g-y-e from Mical Sergye."

I take a breath, and lecture:

"There are other Barthols, Kryshenkos and Sergyes used in the creation of
the Eugenics. No other Tomakas. Only one, which is why you have the whole
name. There may, for example, be an Edvard Barthol, the chip of his name
might be Thol."

Considering I better dumb it down a little for the average listener:

"Take your name, George Rustic. Suppose your genetic material was used
as well as your second cousin, Elvis Rustic. To differentiate the strains, your
batch might be the 'Rus' batch, Elvis would be the 'Tic' batch."

I let them jump with that a time as a brain aid.

Then I was asked about my part in Passing Perfect. I admitted I had passed.
This became the new topic, but it was truncated for in depth coverage at
another date.

The clipping was on both sides. I didn't want to let too much cat out of the
bag, a paw was enough, they didn't want to divert from the current hysteria.

They asked a few more questions about Gennies, then there was a
commercial and my involvement in their fantasy ended.

I decided I better pretty up myself, so leaving the radio on, went into the head.
I took a fast shower,(as my water situation wasn't the best) used a rag dipped
in cooking oil to wipe myself down.

Naked, I did upper body exercises, watching myself in a mirror, hearing about
the Newfrance situation, I turned to a Gennie channel.

As so many words were clipped into a sound. It took me about fifteen seconds
to translate, so I figured I best record. The Gennie newsreader dropped that
Dalmar had captured Newfrance.

A few Germs, (a nice insulting way to describe normal people) were stupid
enough to side with Dalmar. Others, (those with functional brains) realised
they had been conquered by Dalmar, so were suppressed.

A Gennie from Tellur said he was happy the Dalmar focused there, for he
didn't want to see them on his world. Molbe agreed.

Why wasn't I surprised?

I dashed off another email to Terran Broadcasting Corporation. They got back
to me right away. Still using only the aud, as I wasn't pretty enough;

"The Dalmars have invaded Newfrance. They have no intention of going to
Earth. They are trying to convince Earth to enter the war on their side by
playing the refugee contra the invader card. They've already captured
Newfrance, only a few Quislings are allowed speech."

Oh did this explode. And everyone wants to know where Dr. Hooker got his data.
And ever so blase, (I'd marry myself if I could), I said;
"From Eugenic broadcasts, of course."

Did a bomb go off?
Might of.

They went nuts, and I broke connection, sitting back waiting for the
dignitaries to call me.
No.
I better not sit.

I went back into the head, reoiled my skin, considered using a hair remover on
my face, but decided to keep a light beard, to prove I wasn't a Gennie.

The com was dinging, but I wasn't ready.

I dressed in a sleeveless white vest and old jeans, then answered the call.

It was someone who identified himself as being from the Terran President's
office. I was asked to hold. I counted to ten then hung up.

I read a few of my text messages, started answering, got through two of them,
the ding again, a reporter from somewhere, I told him to email.

Then the President's man was back on the line, telling me to hold.

I counted to ten, disconnected, answered another message. The ding again,
another dignitary. I put him on hold while the President's man got back to me.
Begged me to hold.

I didn't say anything, I went back to my previous caller. Spoke to him for
seven minutes. When I went back to the Pres, the connection had been broken.

I stepped away from the com, took up some hand weights, doing reps, the com
dinging like crazy. I set myself fifty reps, and did fifty reps, before I answered.
Guess who?
President's toady trying to sound the injured party.

I lie well:

"My com cuts out if it's on hold for over five seconds. Sorry." Then, I disconnected.

Today, this second, no one is more significant than Doug Hooker.
He's the Norm who played Gennie.
He is the only Norm who played Gennie.
He may be the only one who knows them from the inside.

This wasn't fantasy or hyperbole.
The impossible made true.
I was the only Norm who ever passed as Gennie.

I stood in the centre of the cabin looking into the dirty corners, appreciating
that there was no Norm alive this minute who knew more about Eugenics than I did.

Now I wonder, looking at what's happening in the galaxy, if I hadn't been paid
by the same folks who were releasing these videos of Gye and the Dalmar.

I wonder, if Armand Laker hadn't been pinched by the same people to do the
movie. At this very minute in history.

I also wonder if I'm developing Gennie paranoia. Their idea that everyone is
out to interfere in their perfect genetically engineered fantasy world.

But hey...look how long ago I'd passed...why was it just...last year...that Laker...
contacted me?
Why now so it could be rushed into theatres a few weeks before a war?

The com was dinging, but I didn't want to talk to the President. I wanted to talk
to Firebird. Was she on Newfrance?

When we'd met on Earth we'd exchanged numbers. I had her's on my hand com.
I tried to connect but she was out of range. I could, for an exorbitant fee, have the
message relayed. Okay.

I told her where I was and that I wanted her to get in touch with me.
Urgently.
Then I spoke to the President.

The clown didn't know anything, wanted me to tell him everything, and of course,
I couldn't and wouldn't.

I drip data, just as it had been dripped to me, while keeping one eye watching for a
response from Firebird. Wherever she was.

If she was on Newfrance she'd be dead if they found her.
If she was on Newfrance, I had to get her off, I'd have to get the Pres to do
something to get her off.

It's lucky the thought came to me while he was babbling, not after he'd disconnected.

I cut through his crap, told him Dalmar had invaded and whatever data they were
getting from Newfrance was crap. People were being raped and murdered. I told him
I'd gotten my data direct from Gennie channels.

One of his advisors demanded proof.

"I'm too far from Newfrance to get you proof. We have to get in the System," I declare.

I lie pretty well, not the best, but pretty well, and some how convinced Earth to
send to a huge fleet, with me in my bounceabout leading the parade.

I wasn't going to leave my yacht, as crummy as it was, to get squashed into
someone's fantasy world so took off for Newfrance at top speed, knowing
eventually they'll catch me, but hopefully, that would be after I connected
with Firebird.

When she Called....

I don't know how much of forever I'd
suffered through before Firebird's
message arrived. She was still out
of range, so it was relayed...

---I can't contact Priam . He
may think I'm on Newfrance.
Sending coords...can you help?-
--

She was about fifteen minutes from
realtime range, I upped speed,
contacted her; aud and vid...She
looked a mess. I could see she
hadn't slept for a while. I also saw
she had a baby. Priam's obviously.

So Ahmet was right again.

We spoke choppy words, cause I had a fleet behind me. I told her I'd try to alert
Priam. I asked his full name. She paused, then...

"PriamTalVanZal."

"Firebird, your best chance is with me. I'm to Newfrance with the Earth Navy,
link with me, say you're my woman."

"Send your coords."

I sent them. After an extremely long twelve minutes I saw her ship, and moved to it.
We linked. It was common for people to link ships and travel together, especially
pseudo-married people.

As her ship connected I did a fast virtually useless tidying of my sloborama.
Then she was striding in with the baby on hip.

Seeing her, despite how tired and upset she looked, despite the baby, I wanted
her. She was everything I loved in a woman, (at least this week).

Tall, slender, athletic, sans cosmetic vanity; she might be vain about her intellect
and abilities, not about her eye lashes.

I stepped towards her, arms out;

"Doug, I'll play your woman, but if you touch me, I'll hurt you..." she said as others
would say, "hello", or "nice to see you."

"Are you psychic?" I chuckled.

Her grey eyes beneath her Firebird headband twinkled. "Of a form..." she smiled, slow.

"Sit down, cool your foot, I'll find Priam..." I say, making myself useful.

I sent messages on 'Gennie' frequencies in basic Gennie English, leaving
my contact numbers as well as a vid.

I told Firebird what I'd done with the Pres, that the Terran Navy would be arriving,
what I'd heard about Newfrance, just everything as I thought it, came out of my mouth.

Unlike my wife, Simone...um, my ex-wife, Simone, Firebird didn't turn to coo to her
baby. She listened. She listened, because she had the intellect to know what I was
saying was important, changing diapers was not.

As the last words fell from my lips, the Earth Navy arrived. I spoke with them, she
remained quiet as did her child, then went to her yacht.

The fact I wasn't alone in space didn't raise a half of an eyebrow. Who would be
alone in space? I mean, that is really alone.

Her yacht was better than mine, but that didn't mean she was going to let me into
it. She did whip up a meal which had Priam written all over it as it had about fifty
different ingredients.

She had also washed her face, fixed her hair, left the kid. Sitting at the table she
explained;

"They came for him. We were in space, suddenly a message...then a ship...they
were there, his people...suddenly there, demanding him, and he went. Like a
robot. Asked for his key, went."

"No good-bye?" I toss.

"Told me...told me...believe in him,"

"Well, that means a lot. Three words from Priam is three chapters from
anyone else," I jape.

She glared, looked away, then, opened to me;

"Sometimes I felt he didn't understand, then he'll come out with a brilliant
articulate response. He just never talked. As we're talking. You know what
I mean? We can sit here and describe..." She took a breath, "Maybe he
can't. I don't know."

I shook my head;

"They can talk, Firebird. When I was on Tellur one of them kept up a
narration that was only intercut by another who wanted to narrate.
They did a flick about..."

"I know", she waved away, "They buried Laker not far from a house I occupied
in Martinique. I met the actor who played your character."

"Davy!" I flip, amazed at the coincidence, "he's not a bad guy."

"
He was crying."

"Crying? I didn't think he and Laker were close...?"

"He wasn't crying for Laker, he was crying for himself."

"Whoa. What does that mean?" I flip.

"I don't know. I got annoyed with his reflection. Here he was, a good looking guy,
an actor. Okay, a little important, feeling sorry for himself because he didn't know
what tomorrow held? I mean, like uh huh. Join the human race."

I took a breath; "Firebird, you know about Priam...right??"

"We had this conversation already, Doug. I know all about him, I've even seen
him in action...and the answer to the question you're smart enough not to ask...
He has never been violent or aggressive with me."

Covering, I went back to babble about Davy, one of the few people who listened
to me. Actually respected me.

"He didn't know you," she said drily.

I gave her a look.

"Well Doug," she said, putting her elbows on the table and gazing into my
babyblues; "You're a smuggler. You steal from museums, you have a couple
of wives around the galaxy ...you're not a nice guy."

"You cut me to the quick, Bounty Hunter." I mock fling.

"I know who I am, what I'm capable of. If someone is stupid enough to hero
worship me, I stop them,"

I was going to interject, I don't know what, but there was an alert on my com.
We both ran, colliding in the doorway.

From Priam

The message was from the Gennies.
I had transmitted aud and vid;

"Your friend is here,"

a drawing of the 'Firebird' amulet I'd done free hand before me on the desk.

Priam would recognise it, if Priam was out there.

I had informed El Presidente that I knew a Gennie, which was true. Priam was
the only Gennie I actually knew. So it wasn't a lie. The Pres and his guys would
intercept the message I'd sent and hopefully think the drawing just there, like my
coffee cup, my snack, a stylus, and other junk I had in front of my cam.

The message from the Gennies was to repeat the message. Firebird stood
in camera range when I did. I checked that my transmission being relayed
through four different receivers, so matched it to an hour before it reached.

We were flying faster than the message. I suspected we'd get a response
in about eighty minutes, told that to Firebird.

Then there was dinging from the Navy or Army or whomever these battleships
belonged to. I dealt with them, Firebird went back to her ship and did whatever.

She was as attractive to me today as she'd been the first I met her, no, more
attractive. Having the baby gave her a bit of hip, which she hadn't had before.
And having been with Priam, a Gennie, raised her value.

I took my thoughts from her, focused on what the Mil wanted. They were
interrogating me about the messages I'd sent. As if they hadn't intercepted,
deciphered, discussed and otherwise made a meal of them.

With my most honest face I told them that I knew Priam Zal. After all, I'd passed
as a Gennie, right? They bought it. They asked about 'the woman' with me,
I said, "Off Limits."

I know they were running her license, I should of asked or told her before she linked.

I left the com, went through the cocoon. She was supine on the sofa, her baby on her
heart. She wasn't breast feeding. Just lying there, holding the little girl. She quickly sat
as she saw me, and to my remark replied the yacht was in the name of Tim Donohue.

Then the big excitement.

A Sagir War ship was coming towards our position.
The message came shortly after;

"Priam Zal will meet with his friend."

They meant Firebird, the mil figured me. I told the Brass we'd meet alone first,
then, there could be negotiations. There wouldn't be negotiations. There was
only Priam and Firebird.

She went to her yacht, we disconnected and together flew towards the
approaching ship. I warned her that if we went beyond the Navy's scanner
range, they'd move closer, so we should stop at the edge.

I thought of making a speech, deathless prose or poetry or something fitting
the situation. Wisely, I kept my barker locked.

I was alone in my yacht, she in hers, as we maneuvered to reconnect our ships.
I imagined the Lover's scene. My experiences in Hollywood in play.

She came in with the Baby, and was leaning over me as the Sag ship
blipped on my scanner, now on visuals.

The Confrontation

The Gennie Warboat, stopped, a shuttle
was spat out. Firebird would have to
disconnect her yacht from mine so
the Shuttle could link.

She gave an order to her A.I., and
stayed just beyond the range of the
cam, giving the impression she was
on her yacht. It was more than
obvious the meeting would be
monitored by the mil.

It seemed to take forever to link the boats, but it was only fifteen minutes.

Then, they were stepping in.
Four of them.
I couldn't tell which was Priam.
They all were Priam..
I couldn't tell them apart.
But he knew who he was. He didn't step two feet beyond the door before
turning to his right where Firebird stood, took her into his arms, buried his
face in her hair.

I was distracted by another Priam' saying; "I am Priam Zal and I have been told you know everything."

He didn't say it sarcastically or with annoyance. He said it perfectly calm and open.
No doubt Firebird's Priam had told him this.

"I am Doug Hooker," I reply.

Realising I owned history, said, "I may not know everything, but I know how you
should manage these events."

Three pair of Priam eyes were on me. I couldn't get over the fact they were
identical; perfect clones. No way to tell one from the other.

It wasn't like it'd been when I'd played Gennie and at first bounce 'they all looked
alike' then melded into their separate selves. It was that these 'Priams' were alike.
I don't think I'd fully defined the word 'clone' before. I didn't have to. There they were.

Giving a glance to the monitor I moved them into a spare bedroom, more jumbled
than the other rooms. I had to fling things out of the way to get them in. I spoke quickly;

"You've got the upper hand, in a sense. We'll go over to the Command ship and
you can tell them what your terms are..."

"Terms?" asked one as if the word was unknown.

"Yeah, terms of the truce, the treaty whatever you want to call it."

They looked at each other, began a palaver in a strange dialect. After maybe thirty
seconds of back and forth, "We will contact our Senior. It is with him you should form discussion."

"Okay," I shrugged.

"You must join our shuttle and our ship."

Leaving the safety of my sloborama for one of their ships...with the Navy standing
by? Yeah, sounded good to me.

"Sure," I say. "I'll be happy to go with you."

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