He had to confess there was no factual basis for his suspicions of the human Kee-yes vain Lewmaklin. If such evidence did exist to support any such suspicions, it was clear that the human had concealed it too well for it to be discovered on the worlds of the Families. Therefore, Chaheel Riens decided, he would have to conclude that he was wasting his time or he would have to seek out such evidence elsewhere.
He would have to travel to the eighty-three worlds of the UTW.
As a psychologist, he was more aware than most of the loathing humankind had for the Nuel. The mere sight of one still caused many to turn away in revulsion and horror, and there could be uglier reactions. It was not as dangerous to travel the UTW as it had been years ago, however. Ironically, it was Lewmaklin’s efforts on behalf of the Nuel, which had made such travel safer.
His knowledge of human psychology should help him, however. He would know better than most of his kind when to approach and when to retreat, how to defuse a potentially dangerous situation. Perhaps he even knew enough to get some answers.
His professors were shocked when he applied for the grant to study human society from within instead of from a distance. They remonstrated with him, not wishing to lose a valuable pupil and brilliant mind to the mob violence, which oftentimes plagued human cities. But he persisted and, reluctantly, was given the grant. His record of achievement made it possible.
He booked passage on a ship to Restavon. It was one of the two capital human worlds. He would begin there and make his way, as inconspicuously as possible, to Lewmaklin’s headquarters world of Evenwaith, which under his direction had become such an industrial goliath that it now ranked third in production and importance only to Restavon and Terra themselves.
He would take his time. Persistence and not genius is often the hallmark of the successful scientist….
It was fortunate that Chaheel possessed scientific detachment as well as expertise. Sometimes that was the only thing that allowed him to cope with the many blunt refusals and outright racial insults his attempted inquiries met with. Fortunately, the profit motive (i.e. , greed) was common to both races, so with persistence he was able to find individuals whose love of money enabled them to overcome any personal loathing they might have felt toward the nagging Nuel.
The Orischians were too old an ally of humanity to be of much help, but among the less rigid Athabascans and others, he found programmers filled with discontent, real or imagined, who were able to gather information for him from supposedly inviolate computer sources. This gave him levers with which to pry further at his human contacts.
Slowly, inevitably, his work led him to Evenwaith. By now the human scientific community, at least, had come to accept his presence. He was a student of culture and psychology. They did not resent his presence. There were even a few who sympathized with his work and assisted him, without ever becoming aware of his real purpose.
He never saw Kee-yes vain Lewmaklin. Most of the time the great man was not on Evenwaith but was off inspecting his innumerable interests on other worlds or attempting to close some major new contract or merger.
All the while, Chaheel kept tabs on the activities of Loo-Macklin’s concerns within the worlds of the Families and, in particular, those businesses related in some way to the Birthing industry. He discovered that by dint of surreptitious purchasing, outright merger and careful acquisition Loo-Macklin had gained control of some forty percent of all Birthing-related commerce.
Not enough to constitute a monopoly: not quite, but large enough to influence methods of buying and selling, and certainly enough to influence the products of smaller subcontractors and suppliers.
Among his Nuel employees he found the same kind of dedication Loo-Macklin inspired in his own kind. And why not? Most of them were unaware their efforts enriched, at the top of the scale, a human. Their loyalty was to their company and to their immediate superiors, all of whom were Nuel. Few had any direct contact with humans, none at all with Loo-Macklin himself.
Those family agents assigned to keep watch on him showed no alarm. Family economists actually welcomed the fresh infusion of outside credit while the Si approved of this new evidence of the man’s interest in his allies. Truly was Loo-Macklin’s destiny interlocked with the continued well-being of the Nuel!
So large had the human’s investments among the families grown that the potential threat of confiscation of those holdings had become at least as powerful a weapon for controlling him as the implanted _lehl._
Yet still was Chaheel troubled, for Loo-Macklin continued to pour money into Birthing-related businesses when he stood to enjoy larger profits elsewhere.
Then occurred an event, which shocked Basright and those nearest Loo-Macklin as much as it pleased the Nuel. Kees vaan Loo-Macklin announced his intention to marry. To the Nuel, the prospect of a Birthing to their vital ally was greeted with much rejoicing, for no sentient being responsible for young of its own was likely to risk its life on wild adventures or dangerous betrayals.
Her name was Tambu Tabuhan. Loo-Macklin encountered her on Terra. His car was passing through a plant, which manufactured computer components, when he stumbled on the altercation. That there was a single woman involved, and a slip of one at that, battling three men, was enough to make him step in and put a stop to the fight. That she had been holding her own at the time was enough to lift her out of the seething mass of humanity high enough for him to take notice.
Her hair was jet black and straight, her eyes reflective of her Oriental heritage.
“Who asked you to interfere?” she snapped at him, breathing hard and holding the top of her factory jersey together. Behind Loo-Macklin the plant manager nearly fainted as he frantically tried to indicate by signs and grimaces how important the man she was berating was. He failed. Her attention was solely on Loo-Macklin.
“No one,” he admitted.
“Then why did you?”
“I don’t like unfair fights, even if they’re not my own.”
“This one’s finished.” She turned to go.
He put out a hand to stop her. She tried to shake him off, discovered she could not. That in itself was unusual.
“My name is Kees vaan Loo-Macklin.”
“I own this plant.” That softened her pose, but not her tone.
“That doesn’t give you the right to paw me, any more than rescuing me from the likes of those three wimbs does.”
“What would give me the right to paw you?”
“Not a damn thing. I don’t care if you own the whole planet.”
“What if I told you that I did, more or less?”
“I’d say you were a liar as well as crude.”
“I won’t dispute the crudeness, but I’m not lying.” Then he added the phrase, which caused the onlooking Basright’s heart to miss a beat.
“I’m alone. I’ve always been alone. I’d like to try not being alone. How would you like to be my wife?”
She cocked her head to one side, studying him. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“I’m always serious.”
“You own this plant?” She gestured, taking in the extensive production facilities stretching off into the distance.
He nodded. The numbed manager confirmed it.
“Other plants as well?”
“I am not poor,” he told her.
“Well, I am, and it stinks. There’s neither grace nor nobility to it, as some fatuous fools sometimes say.”
“I couldn’t agree more, having once occupied such status myself.”
“So.” She considered a moment longer, then shrugged. “Yes, I’ll marry you, Kees vaan Loo-Macklin. You’re tired of being alone, fine. I’m tired of being poor.”
So the bargain was struck. Basright pondered over it for many days thereafter. There had to be a reason besides loneliness, he knew. Loo-Macklin might be experimenting with life, as he so often did, or he might be trying to placate the Nuel, who were ever suspicious of unmated friends. But there had to be a reason. Depend on Loo-Macklin to think it through carefully and do the right thing at the proper psychological moment.
He was only partly correct.
After four years of work among the eighty-three worlds of the UTW, four years of enduring insult and imprecation, four years of unnatural working conditions, Chaheel Riens was ready to return home.
For nearly a year now he’d been forced to consider the embarrassing possibility that he’d been wrong about Kees vaan Loo-Macklin. He wasn’t positive he was wrong, might never be, but he was becoming certain he’d never be able to prove anything. Loo-Macklin’s taking of a mate had removed the last vestiges of concern among his family superiors. The human was clearly bent on founding a family of his own, on producing offspring who would inherit the great position that would accrue to the family of Loo-Macklin once the Nuel assumed dominance over the affairs of men.