The Man Who Used The Universe by Alan Dean Foster

“If the Council doubts my word…” he began furiously.

“Not your word, truly,” she said calmingly, “but your motivation. Much as you doubt this Lewmaklin’s motivations. It is not enough, psychologist. Do you not see that?”

“Of sight speaking,” Chaheel said tiredly, “doesn’t anyone see that if Lewmaklin is running a lucrative and secret trade with these Tremovan — for I am convinced they are the golden-scaled aliens of the intercepted communication — that there would be some evidence of ship movement in the region of space marked by the communications beam? And that the human’s business empire would show evidence of such trade in the form of large shipments of rare ores or new technology, or something? There is no hint that twenty years of secret commerce with a new race has been taking place!”

“Such trade could be small, difficult to detect signs of, and still quite valuable,” she argued. “Some trade in rare gems, for example, or in the tiny components of advanced intelligence machines. You would have to destroy expensive and bulky equipment to discover the latter.”

“In twenty years even gems or componentry would make itself known to the marketplace,” Chaheel shot back.

“Perhaps,” the representative suggested with infuriating indifference, “he is stockpiling them for saturation release at some still future time.”

“For twenty years? You do not understand this human. No one does. Not even I, who have studied him for years. That is not the manner in which he operates. He does not waste anything, least of all time. Certainly not twenty years.”

“Certain economists would regard such a stockpiling not as a waste of time but as a shrewd business move,” she told him confidently.

“Is it important enough to try and intercept me to prevent me from telling you all this?”

“Again, we have only your insistence that the humans were attempting to do so. You say that you observed a group of suspicious-looking humans waiting to assault you prior to your departure from Evenwaith. You say that because of this the captain of the starship on which you were traveling resisted your departure.

“Those humans, even if they were the type you believe, could have been waiting for someone else. They might have been Clurian police watching for a fleeing Evenwaith criminal. As to your starship captain’s reaction, it is only logical that he would be upset to have a booked passenger removed in midspace from his vessel. Particularly if that passenger was a member of an alien and sensitive race.”

“Rationalization!” Chaheel was surprised at the violence of his outburst. He was beginning to despair. “None of you sees what this human is up to. None of you want to see. He has made blind cave crawlers of you all!”

“Rationalization,” replied the government representative, unperturbed by the psychologist’s outburst, “is an excellent defining of your own theories. You have built implication of betrayal out of your own personal suspicions and deductions. Proof you have naught of. I begin to believe,” she added grimly, “that you are indeed obsessed with this human. Unhealthy are you, psychologist.”

All the resistance, the will to argue, went out of him.

“You don’t know of him, what he’s capable of. No one does.”

“Even admitting truth to all that you have declaimed,” she said placatingly, “what would that leave us with? You admit you’ve no idea what he ‘supposedly’ works with these Tremovan.”

“No,” said Chaheel exhaustedly, “I do not.”

“He provided you with a position close to his base of operations,” she went on, “openly and without concern for what you might discover. You had access to sensitive information. Are those the actions of one with much to hide?”

“He had no reason to suspect that I suspected his intentions,” Chaheel replied. “I expressed such misgivings once and he thoroughly disarmed me of them. Besides, by offering me a position near him, he could have his people keep an eye on me.”

“You say he disarmed your suspicions. Now you say they returned.”

“We must find out what business he has with these Tremovan! Twenty years, representative. Twenty years of secrecy.”

She rose on her cilia and prepared to depart. “Truly, Chaheel Riens, I would expect less hysteria from one of your learning and experience. Think a moment. Who has given us more reason to doubt his intentions? Lewmaklin … or yourself? You have worked long and hard for the Families, Chaheel Riens. Too long and too hard, perhaps. Too much time spent away from home, too much time living among bipeds. Time perhaps to be concerned about yourself and not aliens whose loyalty has been proven many times over.”

She left him, scuttling out through the diaphragm entryway.

Chaheel rested there, surrounded by all the comforts of a family world yet coldly terrified.

It was clear now, oh yes, quite truly clear. They didn’t _want_ to think that Lewmaklin might be up to something. Didn’t _want_ to believe the possibility that their valuable ally might be somewhat less loyal than he appeared to be.

As for myself, I am not obsessed. My decisions are reached on the basis of calm examination of the evidence. Admittedly much is based on personal experience, but that is what a psychologist must draw upon when hard facts are lacking. We interpret the subjective as well as the objective. If they insist on ignoring my findings….

Lewmaklin, Lewmaklin. The name haunted … no, no, it did not haunt him! Was the representative right? Should he forget all about Kee-yes vain Lewmaklin, forget about secret intentions and deceptions?

He could not do that, any more than he could wipe his mind clean of all thoughts. Lewmaklin had wormed his way so deeply into Nuel society that he now had as many friends among the families as among his own kind.

Very well then, he thought, making a sudden decision. If the Council is not interested in my opinions then perhaps the Board of Operators on Terra may be. For it was evident that the human government was as ignorant of Lewmaklin’s association with these Tremovan as were the Nuel. And if men and Tremovan were locked together in some ploy, then possibly the death of one suspicious psychologist might alert one or two among the Si to probing a little deeper into the records he would carefully leave behind. He prepared himself for a return to the eighty-three worlds of the UTW….

Loo-Macklin walked into the massive bedroom and studied the figure napping on the bed. The circular canopy was an imaginarium, a specially coated metallic cloth sensitive to the thoughts of anyone resting beneath it. It was activated by dreams as well as by conscious imaginings.

At the moment it was filled with stars, unreal constellations, the clusters too close to one another for astronomical veracity. He watched them for awhile, then moved close to the bed and whispered to the supple woman recumbent upon it.

“Tambu. Tambu, wake up.”

The woman stirred sleepily, rolled over, and stretched. Her tone was languorous. “Ah, lord and master of the big mouth. What is on your mind?”

He turned away from her. “I am about to embark on important work.”

She made a face. She believed that in knowing him she had softened him somewhat. That in coming to understand him a little she had made him more human. Not that they’d grown close. The true Him remained always hidden from her and she could not pry it open. But for her, at least, the marriage consummated in jest on Terra had become real. He might be distant, but he was kind.

She was about to learn how little she knew him.

“You woke me up to tell me that?”

“That and one other thing, Tambu. We are separating.”

Her inviting smile vanished. She seemed to age a dozen years in the space of a moment. The last star cluster flickered out overhead, leaving the marvelous canopy again only a sheet of silvery metal cloth, cold and empty. Cold and empty as the man hovering near her.

She sat up, propping herself with her hands and swinging her long legs over the side of the bed. “That’s not funny, Kees.”

“It’s not meant to amuse you.”

“You’re lying to me. Testing me for some reason. You’re always testing people, Kees.”

“Not you, Tambu. Not this time, anyway.”

“Then what the hell are you talking about?”

“We are separating. To go our different ways, proceed individually with our lives.”

She shook her head slowly. “I don’t … what have I done?”

“You’ve done nothing … overtly. This is necessary.” His expression was grim. “You’re gaining control over me, Tambu. Long ago I vowed I would never, ever permit that. Would never let another being gain the slightest control over my life.”

“I’ve left you alone,” she argued. “I never questioned where you went or what you did, even when you were gone months at a time. I’ve followed your lead in everything because I saw instantly how important it was to you. How have I exerted the slightest control over you? I don’t understand.”

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56

Categories: Alan Dean Foster