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Stephen R. Donaldson

This Day All Gods Die

Stephen R. Donaldson This Day All Gods Die
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Excerpt from book:

It was typical of Hashi Lebwohl that he did not report to Warden Dios as soon as he returned to UMCPHQ.

He wasn't trying to avoid another confrontation with the man who had outplayed and, in a strange, piquant sense, shamed him. On the contrary, he felt remarkably sanguine about the prospect of talking to the UMCP director. He simply made no effort to bring about a conversation himself. He assumed that Warden Dios was perfectly capable of recognizing an emergency when he saw it--and that he wouldn't hesitate to summon Hashi when he wished to speak to his DA director.

A kaze had attacked the Governing Council for Earth and Space in extraordinary session, apparently intending to exterminate Cleatus Fane, the First Executive Assistant of the United Mining Companies. Only Hashi's personal intervention had prevented serious--not to say embarrassing--bloodshed. And as a direct result of the attack the GCES had voted to reject Captain Sixten Vertigus' Bill of Severance. Indeed, the Members had been stampeded into clinging to the status quo for their lives; to Holt Fasner and the UMCP. None of them had wanted to take on the responsibility for their own safety--and certainly not for the safety of human space.

If Warden didn't call this an emergency, he must have lost all contact with the world of factual reality. Or else his game was deeper than anything Hashi had dared to imagine. Perhaps it was deeper than he could imagine.

Neither prospect offered reassurance. On the whole, however, Hashi preferred the latter. That which he found impenetrable today might well appear transparent tomorrow. And he could always push himself to expand his own capacities. The challenge might conceivably be good for him. In the meantime he could endure the shame of being outplayed.

But if Warden Dios had lost his grasp on events--

From that fount endless disasters might spring.

This was all speculation, of course. Still Hashi wondered--and worried. The quantum mechanics of his conundrum remained as Heisenberg had defined them. By his own efforts he had taken hold of events in flux in order to name them accurately; establish them in their positions. Therefore he was prevented from knowing where those events tended. Certainty precluded certainty.

He chose not to report to Warden on his own initiative because he wanted to know how long Warden would wait before summoning him. That interval would reveal more surely than words the extent to which Warden had been taken by surprise.

In any case the DA director still had plenty of work to do in order to ready himself for Warden's summons; to confirm and solidify what he'd learned on Suka Bator. No one would criticize him for spending every available moment on an effort to be sure of his facts.

Using a tight-beam transmission coded exclusively for Data Acquisition, he'd begun speaking to Lane Harbinger as soon as the UMCP shuttle had left the GCES island and broken free of Earth's gravity well; supplying her with preliminary data; preparing her for the research he required. He felt some discomfort as he did so because he wasn't alone on the shuttle. Protocol Director Koina Hannish rode with him, accompanied by her retinue of aides and techs. And UMCPED Chief of Security Mandich was also aboard: he was on his way to explain his failures to Warden Dios, since his immediate superior, Min Donner, was absent from UMCPHQ. He'd left Deputy Chief Forrest Ing in charge of Security's version of "martial law" on Suka Bator.

At the best of times Hashi disliked being overheard--unless he had some use for his eavesdropper. But his present circumstances didn't supply privacy, or justify delay. He owed Warden restitution for his earlier mistakes. Instead of waiting for the shuttle to reach UMCPHQ, he kept his exchanges with Lane as brief as possible; and when he spoke, he employed the impermeable jargon of DA to disguise what he was saying.

To all appearances Koina ignored him completely. No doubt she had more than enough to occupy her contemplations. Although she was new to her duties, she'd acquitted herself admirably during the extraordinary session. And she had reason to be grateful to Captain Vertigus, despite the failure of his proposed legislation. On the other hand, Hashi deemed that most of her thoughts were more troubled. He knew her well enough to suspect that she feared her performance before the Council may have triggered or catalyzed the kaze's attack. For her it must have been easy to believe that the men who'd sent a kaze against the GCES would not have felt compelled to go so far if they hadn't been surprised or frightened by her declaration of the UMCP's neutrality in the debate over a Bill of Severance; her declaration of Warden Dios' independence from Holt Fasner.

Hashi knew better. Earlier he'd been uncertain: now he was sure. Her performance may in fact have been a catalyst. Nevertheless it was essentially incidental. The men responsible for Clay Imposs nÚ Nathan Alt could not have known that Sixten Vertigus, Senior Member for the United Western Bloc, would introduce a Bill of Severance. In addition, Imposs/Alt had been moving past Captain Vertigus toward Cleatus Fane when Hashi had accosted him. Therefore Captain Vertigus wasn't the intended target. The motivations behind the kaze's attack operated independently of the UWB Senior Member and his bill, as well as of Warden Dios' neutrality.

Hashi said nothing to reassure Koina. She hadn't asked for anything of the kind. And she would hear what he'd learned soon enough.

In contrast Chief Mandich studied Hashi narrowly while he spoke to Lane. Clearly Mandich was waiting for a chance to talk to the DA director.

A pox on the man, Hashi thought with unwonted vexation. The Chief of Security's rectitude was as ironclad as Min Donner's, but he lacked her flexibility of intelligence, her capacity to acknowledge concepts which violated her personal reality. For example, Hashi didn't doubt that if Mandich were suddenly exalted to the position of UMCP director, the man wouldn't hesitate to fire Hashi for having done things which disturbed the Chief's scruples. Min Donner, on the other hand, might well retain Hashi in DA, even though she knew far more about his actions and policies, and therefore had experienced far more outrage to her peculiar sense of honor.

Still Hashi did nothing to fend off Chief Mandich. Instead he made himself accessible as soon as he'd finished his interchange with Lane.

The Chief took the opportunity to move to a g-seat beside Hashi, belt himself down. "Director Lebwohl," he began without preamble, "I need to know how you knew that man was a kaze."

Hashi's blue eyes glittered dangerously behind his smeared lenses. "Do you?" he countered in a tone of false amiability. No doubt Mandich meant, How were you able to spot him when we couldn't?

"I do." Chief Mandich was a blunt man with a blunt face; stolid as bone. His nearly colorless gaze had the dull tenacity of a pit bull's. "And then I need to know why you didn't do anything to stop him sooner."

"Something about him made you suspicious. You left your seat and moved around the hall specifically so that you could get close to him. But you didn't say anything." Mandich spoke with undisguised bitterness. He hated his own failures. "We're just lucky nobody in the hall was killed. If you'd bothered to warn us, a GCES Security guard would still be alive. Ensign Crender would still have his left hand.

"With respect, Director Lebwohl," he sneered, "what the hell did you think you were doing?"

A tremor ran along Hashi's frame. His own reaction to the danger and indignity of the past few hours


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