bench, crossed ankle over thigh till he peered across his knee at her,
swallowed a long draught from his glass, took out his cigarette case;
and when the smoke was going he proceeded:
“Let’s next assume the enemy’s viewpoint, i.e. what I learned and
“They–a key one of them, anyhow–he realizes the Terran Empire is in an
era when periods of civil war are as expectable as bouts of delirium in
chronic umwi fever. I wasn’t quite aware of the fact myself till lately.
A conversation I had set me thinking and researching. But he knew right
along, my opponent. At last I see what he’s been basing his strategy on
for the past couple of decades. Knowing him, if he believes the theory,
I think I will. These days we’re vulnerable to fratricide, Kossara. And
what better for Merseia, especially if just the right conflict can be
touched off at just the right moment?
“We’ve been infiltrated. They’ve had sleepers among us for … maybe a
lifetime … notably in my own branch of service, where they can cover
up for each other … and notably during this past generation, when the
chaos first of the Josip regime, then the succession struggle, made it
easier to pass off their agents as legitimate colonial volunteers.
“The humans on Diomedes. brewing revolution with the help of a clever
Alatanist pitch–thereby diverting some of our attention to Ythri–they
weren’t Dennitzans. They were creatures of the Roidhunate, posing as
Dennitzans. Oh, not blatantly; that’d’ve been a giveaway. And they were
sincerely pushing for an insurrection, since any trouble of ours is a
gain for them. But a major objective of the whole operation was to drive
yet another wedge between your people and mine, Kossara.”
Frost walked along her spine. She stared at him and whispered: “Those
men who caught me–murdered Trohdwyr–tortured and sentenced me–they
were Merseians too?”
“They were human,” Flandry said flatly, while he unfolded himself into a
more normal posture. “They were sworn-in members of the Imperial Terran
Naval Intelligence Corps. But, yes, they were serving Merseia. They
arrived to ‘investigate’ and thus add credence to the clues about
Dennitza which their earlier-landed fellows had already been spreading
“Let the Imperium get extremely suspicious of the Gospodar–d’you see?
The Imperium will have to act against him. It dare not stall any longer.
But this action forces the Gospodar to respond–he already having reason
to doubt the goodwill of the Terrans–”
Flandry smashed his cigarette, drank, laid elbows on table and said most
softly, his face near hers:
“He’d hear rumors, and send somebody he could trust to look into them.
Aycharaych–I’ll describe him later–Aycharaych of the Roidhunate knew
that person would likeliest be you. He made ready. Your incrimination,
as far as Terra was concerned–your degradation, as far as Dennitza was
concerned–d’you see? Inadequate by themselves to provoke war. Still,
remind me and I’ll tell you about Jenkins’ Ear. Nations on the brink
don’t need a large push to send them toppling.
“I’ve learned something about how you were lured, after you reached
Diomedes. The rest you can tell me, if you will. Because when he isn’t
weaving mirages, Aycharaych works on minds. He directed the blotting out
of your memories. He implanted the false half-memories and that hate of
the Empire you carry around. Given his uncanny telepathic capabilities,
to let him monitor what drugs, electronics, hypnotism are doing to a
brain, he can accomplish what nobody else is able to.
“But I don’t think he totally wiped what was real. That’d have left you
too unmistakably worked over. I think you keep most of the truth in you,
disguised and buried.”
The air sucked between her teeth. Her fists clenched on the table. He
laid a hand across them, big and gentle.
“I hope I can bring back what you’ve lost, Kossara.” The saying sounded
difficult. “And, and free you from those conditioned-reflex emotions.
It’s mainly a matter of psychotherapy. I don’t insist. Ask yourself: Can
you trust me that much?”
Sickbay was a single compartment, but astonishingly well equipped.
Kossara entered with tightness in her gullet and dryness on her tongue.
Flandry and Chives stood behind a surgical table. An electronic helmet,