Chapter Twenty Four - on Belladonna

Madame Rhyse

"They still hunt us."

Gye Tomaka's voice was accusatory,
as if all Sagir's tragedies would vanish
when Hawking Corporation began direct trade.

"I am aware," I reply, pouring tea into his cup as we sit on the patio, enjoying the evening of Belladonna.

Gye Tomaka had a love of the outdoors. Being enclosed or beneath, or within, caused anxiety, save when within a space ship. A rather select phobia.

My Gye, the 'true' Gye, was, unfortunately, the recipient of all my faux pas. I hadn't conceived being underground would disquiet...no, not disquiet, terrify. Nor had I appreciated his need to have everything explained in advance to avoid surprises. Had I known, his visit would have been more pleasant.

I blame myself for that.

As a host, it is my obligation to make those I have invited to share my home experience contentment. I have been successful with this Gye, but not My Gye.

I had not conceived the limitations My Gye had known, the sealed environment in which he had lived. I had thought him sophisticated, but his knowledge vicarious, for he had resided upon ships in space, occasional visits to Sagir... he had never been, never done, never seen......

Perhaps because I had a disruptive affection for him I behaved less focused. More concerned with displaying my home, my possessions; so captured by my own feelings, I did not perceive his, until he expressed trepidation.

I sip my tea, close that section of my contemplation, turn to this Gye. This 'Other', who arrived fully appraised of the conditions of my domicile. Aware my home beneath stone, passages and chambers created by the indigenous inhabitants, sentient ants of large proportion, he was not discomforted. Unlike My Gye.

This Gye, desired to experience the events I shared with the 'true' Gye.

He wished to attend the Opera, ride on the back of a dragon fly, bathe in the pool which hung a mile above the canyon. I had scheduled three days for his visit, as I had for the 'true' Gye, foolishly thinking....

I was pleased his visit at an end and he would board another Hawking ship and depart, allowing me an extended period of 'mourning'.

It is undeniable My Gye Tomaka was a unique individual. Though others might share his genes, they did not share his identity.

It was difficult for this One to comprehend identity . He, perhaps they, saw themselves as clones, transmitters of DNA, not singular entities with particular emotions, ideas, and desires.
Difficult for him, perhaps for all those of Sagir, or perhaps for all Eugenics to comprehend uniqueness.

I have been silent too long, I have shut him out of my thoughts. Now, I would speak to him as I ought.

"You must understand," I strive, "Hawking's trade with Sagir is to the detriment of Dalmar. The hatred they have for Sagir would increase, was expected to increase."

"Yes, that is logical. But not acceptable," he replied.

"No, it is not acceptable, but inevitable." I wish he would change the topic.

He looked at me over his tea cup. His eyes so like his brother's but without that
which made My Gye special, this one just another 'Gennie'.

"You could put rewards on them," he stabbed.

"Whatever for?" I inquire.

"Then people would hunt them."

"What purpose, what long term import, would that gain? Let them bankrupt their decreasing coffers. Let them suffer the fate of Arka and his ship." I flicked.

"That was an accident..." he tossed.

"Firebird has survived attempts on her life. I have followed her career. She, unlike myself and Hawking Corporation, prefers lifelike robots. I am sure Arka did not kill her, nor her quarry."

"How can you be sure?" he asked.

It angers me to be questioned, but I would not allow him to believe he could provoke such sensation.

"On every human settled world, every space station, there is a division of Hawking. We have the best information and informants in the universe."

"Priam Zal is not dead?" he asked with more avidity than he had displayed for his deceased brother.

"I do not believe he is dead," I reply, signalling my robot to remove the tea service, "and now, it is time for you to depart." I smiled falsely, rose to my feet.

"Madame Rhyse, I have a request, actually two. The first is that you permit Sagir to use the Invictus for ... meetings; of my people... political ...meetings. These will not effect the security, but must be done in secrecy."

Political?

"Elaborate..." I demand regaining my seat.

He did so. Quite surprisingly, he revealed information Hawking did not have. I agreed to his request and would so inform Captain Paulwell.

Again, I rose, moved towards the exit;

"The Key..." he said softly.

The Key

"Oh, quite right..." I reply, and remove the chain from my neck upon which the little vial hangs. I want to kiss it or perform a gesture, but such is not within my character. I hand it to him as if it were no more than a trivial bit of jewellery.

He removed the vial, returned the platinum chain to me, unaware of it's value.
I took it, saw him out, went to my room.

This Gye clone could not conceive, (nor did most sentient beings), how badly Dalmar would suffer from Hawking neglect. We had not merely sold to them, we had bought from them. Bought items of luxury and perfection only a rarefied clientele could purchase.

Fortunately, there were Hawking subsidiaries which could almost achieve that level of craftsmanship so there would be no dislocation of our customers, no need to go to the
'source'; no need to open negotiations with Dalmar.

Yes, the 'attack' upon a Hawking ship was staged. Put a 'wanted criminal' on the Presidium, have the Dalmar authorities alerted. The gamble, if there was one, was Captain Paulwell's response.

Hawking now could cease to trade with Dalmar; an acceptable commercial reason.
One that could decorate Memos and be enunciated as policy.

Rival corporations would gladly trade with Dalmar; but higher prices, lower quality and the attack of Sagir Pirates. Sagir Pirates who did not attack Hawking ships.

The demise of Dalmar must, to be effective, take time. It must be an erosion, which
gives the inference of possible cessation.

Empires which fall too quickly cause chaos. When Dalmar sinks into oblivion there
will be no possible reconstruction.

I waited until the breath this 'Gye' had exhaled evaporated before reentering the front room.

I tried to turn my thoughts from My Gye, tried not to recall the priceless moments
we had spent here together, but allowed myself a short reverie before turning to work.

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