The Gap Into Vision: Forbidden Knowledge, p.1Stephen R. Donaldson
THE GAP INTO VISION
Author of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, one of the most acclaimed fantasy series of all time, master storyteller Stephen R. Donaldson returns with the second book in his long-awaited new science fiction series—a story of dark passions, perilous alliances, and dubious heroism set in a stunningly imagined future.
Beautiful, brilliant, and dangerous, Morn Hyland is an ex-police officer for the United Mining Companies—and the target of two ruthless, powerful men. One is the charismatic ore-pirate Nick Succorso, who sees Morn as booty wrested from his vicious rival, Angus Thermopyle. Thermopyle once made the mistake of underestimating Morn and now he’s about to pay the ultimate price. Both men think they can possess her, but Morn is no one’s trophy—and no one’s pawn.
Meanwhile, within the borders of Forbidden Space, wait the Amnion, an alien race capable of horrific atrocities. The Amnion want something unspeakable from humanity—and they will go to unthinkable lengths to get it.
In Forbidden Knowledge, Stephen R. Donaldson spins a galaxy-wide web of intrigue, deception, and betrayal that tightens with inexorable strength around characters and readers alike.
BY STEPHEN R. DONALDSON
THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT
Book One: Lord Foul’s Bane
Book Two: The Illearth War
Book Three: The Power That Preserves
THE SECOND CHRONICLES OF
Book One: The Wounded Land
Book Two: The One Tree
Book Three: White Gold Wielder
DAUGHTER OF REGALS AND OTHER TALES
Volume One: The Mirror of Her Dreams
Volume Two: A Man Rides Through
THE GAP CYCLE
The Gap Into Conflict: The Real Story*
The Gap Into Power: A Dark and Hungry God Arises*
The Gap Into Madness: Chaos and Order*
This Day All Gods Die*
Daughter of Regals and Other Tales
Reave the Just and Other Tales*
* Available from Bantam Books
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Other Books by this Author
Ancillary Documentation: Datacores
Ancillary Documentation: Intertech
Ancillary Documemtation: The Amnion
Ancillary Documemtation: The Amnion
Ancillary Documentation: Gap Drive
Ancillary Documentation: The Preempt Act
About the Author
TO COLIN BAKER:
Who knows how much good he’s done me?
Milos Taverner sighed, ran his hand back across his mottled scalp as if to verify that what remained of his hair was still present, and lit another nic. Then he glared again at the transcript hardcopy on his desk and tried to imagine an approach that might work—without getting himself into so much trouble that the people he was paid to please would turn against him.
He was responsible for the ongoing interrogation of Angus Thermopyle.
It wasn’t going well.
That pleased some people and infuriated others.
Angus’ trial had been a simple enough affair, as such things went. Com-Mine Security had recovered the pirated supplies. The search which located the supplies aboard Angus’ ship, Bright Beauty, had adequate legal justification. With a number of vague, troubling exceptions, the evidence of the ship’s datacore supported the charges against him—the less damning ones. He mounted no defense, apparently because he knew it was futile. Everything was correct and in order; Angus Thermopyle was guilty as charged.
On the other hand, despite provocative rumors concerning zone implants, rape, murder, and the wrecked UMCP destroyer Starmaster, no evidence had turned up to convict him of anything more serious than the burglary of station supplies. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Com-Mine Station’s lockup; but the law simply could not be stretched to include his execution.
Station Security had no intention whatsoever of letting matters rest there.
Milos Taverner had mixed feelings about that. He had too many conflicting priorities to juggle.
As deputy chief of Com-Mine Station Security, interrogation was his responsibility. True, the present charges against Angus Thermopyle had been adequately proven—and true, the evidence didn’t justify any other charges. But Security knew Angus of old. His piracies were a moral, if not a provable, certainty; his dealings with illegals of every description, from druggers and psychotics to the bootleg ore industry in all its guises, were unquestionable, if indemonstrable. His crew had a distressing tendency to disappear. Additionally the unexplained chain of circumstances which brought him back to Com-Mine accompanied by a UMC cop who should have died aboard Starmaster was profoundly intriguing—not to mention disturbing.
All things considered, Milos couldn’t question the decision to keep after Angus Thermopyle until he broke or died.
Nevertheless the deputy chief didn’t really want the job. For a number of reasons.
Because he was personally fastidious, he found Angus repulsive. As far as anyone knew, an addiction to nic was Milos’ only vice. Even people he made no effort to please would have admitted that he was clean, circumspect, and correct in all his dealings. And no sane observer would have ascribed those virtues to Angus.
More than anything, Angus looked like a toad bloated by malice. His bodily habits were offensive: he only took a shower when the guards forced him into the san cubicle, only put on a clean prisonsuit at stun-point. That and the way he sweated made him smell like a pig. The color of his skin was like ground-in grime. His mere existence made Milos feel vaguely ill: his presence inspired a sense of active nausea.
In addition his eyes glared yellow with a belligerent wisdom that made Milos feel exposed, dangerously known.
Angus was cunning, crafty; as insidious as disorder. And people like that were risky to work with. They lied in ways which confirmed their interrogators’ illusions. They learned from the questions they were asked, they gained as much knowledge as they gave—as much or more, in Angus’ case—and they used that knowledge to perfect their lies; to work for the ruin of their interrogators even when they had nothing tangible to work with and had themselves been worked over regularly by experts to encourage cooperation. When they should have been at their weakest, they became most malignant.
Angus caused the deputy chief to feel that he himself was the one being tested, the one whose secrets might be laid bare; the one put to the question.
And, as if all that weren’t enough to contend with, Milos had to wrestle daily with the fact that his interrogation was potentially explosive. Angus Thermopyle was an ore pirate. Therefore he had buyers. He had obtained Bright Beauty by illegal—if unproven—means; had outfitted her illegally. Therefore he had access to bootleg shipyards. S
Angus Thermopyle had dealings—direct or indirect—with secrets destructive enough to shift the balances of power everywhere in the United Mining Companies’ vast commercial empire. Those secrets could threaten the security of every station; perhaps they could threaten the security of Earth.
Milos Taverner wasn’t sure he wanted those secrets to come out. In fact, as time passed he became more and more convinced that he needed them to remain hidden. Angus’ silence infuriated some of the people Milos was paid to please: his secrets, if they were revealed, would infuriate others. But the people who hated Angus’ silence were less immediately dangerous.
On the other hand, every moment Milos spent with Angus Thermopyle was recorded. Transcripts were regularly reviewed on-Station. Copies were routinely forwarded to the UMCP. The deputy chief of Com-Mine Station Security couldn’t tackle this assignment with anything less than complete diligence and expect to get away with it.
No wonder he couldn’t give up nic. He found the habit disgusting in other people—and yet he couldn’t quit himself. Sometimes he thought nic was the only thing that enabled his nerves to bear the stress.
Fortunately Angus Thermopyle refused to participate in his own interrogation.
He faced down questions with unflagging hostility and silence. He absorbed stun until he puked his guts out, and his entire cell stank with ineradicable bile; but he didn’t talk. He suffered hunger, thirst, and sensory deprivation relentlessly. The one time he cracked was when Milos informed him that Bright Beauty was being dismantled for scrap and spare parts. But then he only howled like a beast and did his best to wreck the interrogation room; he didn’t say anything.
In Milos’ opinion, telling Angus about Bright Beauty’s fate had been a mistake. He’d said so openly to his superiors—after taking considerable pains to plant the suggestion in their minds. It would reinforce Angus’ intransigence. They’d insisted on the ploy, however. After all, nothing else seemed to work. The outcome was about what Milos had expected. That was one small victory, anyway.
In other ways, most of the interrogation sessions were unenlightening.
How did you meet Morn Hyland?
What were you doing together?
Why would a UMC cop agree to crew for a murdering illegal like you?
What did you do to her?
Angus’ glare never wavered.
How did you get those supplies? How did you get into the holds? Computer security wasn’t tampered with. Nothing happened to the guards. There’s no sign you cut your way in. The ventilation ducts aren’t big enough for those crates. How did you do it?
How did Starmaster die?
How did Morn Hyland survive?
She said she didn’t trust Station Security. She said Starmaster must have been sabotaged—she said it must have been done here. Why did she trust you instead of us?
Why were you there? How did you just happen to be in the vicinity when Starmaster’s thrust drive destructed?
You said—Milos consulted his hardcopy—you were close enough to pick up the blast on scan. You implied you knew a disaster had occurred, and you wanted to help. Is that true?
Isn’t it true that Starmaster was after you? Isn’t it true she caught you in the act of some crime? Isn’t it true you crashed when she chased you? Isn’t that how Bright Beauty got hurt?
Sucking nic so he wouldn’t start to shake, Milos Taverner studied the ceiling, the stacks of hardcopy in front of him; he studied Angus’ stained face. Angus’ cheeks used to be fat, bloated like his belly; not anymore. Now his jowls hung from his jaw, and his prisonsuit sagged down his frame. The punishment he’d received had cost him weight. Nevertheless his physical deterioration hadn’t weakened the way his eyes fixed, yellow and threatening, on his tormentor.
“Take him outside,” Milos sighed to the guards. “Soften him up. Again.”
Shit, the deputy chief thought when he was alone. He didn’t like foul language: “shit” was the strongest expletive he used.
You shit. I shit. He shits. We all shit.
Now who am I supposed to be loyal to?
He went back to his office and made his usual reports, dealt with his usual duties. After that, he rode the lift down to Communications and used Security’s dedicated channels to tight-beam several transmissions in his private code, none of them recorded. Just to reassure himself, he put through a data req which—when an answer came—would tell him the balance of the bank account he held on Sagittarius Unlimited under an alternative name. Then he resumed Angus Thermopyle’s interrogation.
What else could he do?
His one and only definite opportunity to break his prisoner came when Angus attempted to escape.
In spite of his personal intransigence, his plain sociopathy, Angus was hit hard by what Milos told him about Bright Beauty. When his burst of grief or fury was over, he didn’t crumble in any obvious sense. He was failing, of course, worn down by the physical stress of interrogation and stun; but in front of Milos Taverner, at least, he preserved his uncooperative demeanor. Nevertheless his behavior when he was alone in his cell changed. He began eating less; he spent hours sitting on his lean bunk, staring at the wall. Observers reported that his manner was listless, almost unreactive; that when he stared at the wall his eyes didn’t shift, didn’t appear to focus on anything. As a matter of course, Milos ran this information through Security’s psy-profile computer. The program paradigms suggested that Angus Thermopyle was losing, or had already lost, his will to live. In the absence of that will, the use of stun as an aid to questioning was contraindicated. Angus could die.
Milos thought Angus was faking his loss of will in an effort to get his punishment eased. The deputy chief decided to ignore the computer.
That was another small victory. His judgment was confirmed when Angus contrived to beat up his guard and break out of his cell. He got as far as the service shaft which led into the labyrinth of the waste processing plant before he was recaptured.
Shit, Milos said to himself over and over again. He was using the word much too often, but he didn’t have any other way to express his visceral disgust. He didn’t want Angus’ interrogation to succeed—but now he had a lever he could use, and he would never get away with not using it.
When he’d issued certain very explicit instructions, so that his own plans wouldn’t be compromised, he let the guards have Angus for a while to vent their frustrations. Then he had Angus brought in front of him again.
In a sense, stun wasn’t a very satisfying outlet for frustration. Its effects were strong, but it felt impersonal; the convulsions it produced were caused by mere neuromuscular reaction to an electric charge. So this time the guards hadn’t used stun: they’d used their fists, their boots, perhaps a sap or two. As a result, when Angus reached the interrogation room he could hardly walk. He sat like a man with cracked ribs; his face and ears oozed blood; he’d lost a tooth or two; his left eye was swollen shut in a grotesque parody of Warden Dios.
Milos found Angus’ condition distasteful. Also it scared him because it increased his chances of success. Nevertheless he gave it his approval before he dismissed the guards.
He and Angus were alone.
Smoking so hard that the air-conditioning couldn’t keep up with it, he left Angus to sit and sweat while he keyed a number of commands into his computer console. Let Angus’ resolve erode under the pressure of silence. Alternatively, let him use the respite to recover his deterthe risk on which he’d deci
He was preparing the computer to provide two recordings of this session. One would be the actual recording; the other would be a dummy designed to protect him in an emergency.
When the session was over, he could use whichever recording he needed. He was the deputy chief of Security: he knew how to take all trace of the other recording out of the computer.
But if he were caught before then—
The rather imprecise nature of his loyalties would be exposed. He would be ruined.
Deep in his guts, he hated Angus for putting him in this position.
He couldn’t afford to falter, however. Once his preparations were complete, he hid his hands behind the console and faced Angus across the table. Covering his anxiety with assertiveness, he didn’t waste any time coming to the point.
“That guard died.” This was a lie, but Milos had made certain no one would betray the truth to Angus. “We’ve got you for murder. Now you’re going to talk. I won’t even try to bargain with you. You’re going to talk, you’re going to tell me everything I want to know, everything you can think of, and you’re going to hope we consider what you’re saying valuable enough so that we won’t have you executed.”
Angus didn’t reply. For once, he didn’t look at his interrogator. His head hung down; it seemed to dangle from his neck as if his spine had been broken.
“Do you understand me?” Milos demanded. “Have you got the brains left to know what I’m saying? You are going to die if you don’t give me what I want. We’re going to strap you down and stick a needle in your veins. After that, you’ll just be dead, you won’t even feel it happen, and nobody will ever care what happens to you again.”
That last sentence was a mistake: Milos felt it as soon as he said it. For a moment, Angus’ shoulders twitched. He should have been crying—any other prisoner with a scrap of human frailty would have been crying—but he wasn’t. As soon as Angus raised his head, Milos saw that he was trying to laugh.
“Care what happens to me?” Angus’ voice sounded like his face, bloody and beaten. “You motherfucker.”
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