The Wit and Wisdom of the Dead

By Neil Faulkner

What turns a man into a traitor? I should know. I feel like one now as I load the chip. Slot it, anyway. After all it's been through, there's no guarantee it will actually load.

Perfidy! That's what Servalan would say, or something very like it. It rather sums up the way she's locked in her wistful dreams of Old Calendar elegance. What I say is, if you have to find your truth in the past, you're admitting the present is a pack of lies. Some people can't seem to find any worth in themselves.

Perhaps I'm one of them now.

...that I shall at all times and in all ways enact my loyalty to the Terran Federation, to its President and Supreme Commander, to its furtherance, that it may endure forever.

I took that oath when I was seventeen. That was a long time ago now. Times have changed, I have changed, and I'm not sure which is the greater pack of lies. Time to find out.

The chip loads smoothly. I've got it slotted in the main computer, the one with a voice synth. Hopefully I can talk to it. And it can talk to me.

<Hello?> It sounds exactly like the comp acknowledging routine instructions. A standard electronic voice, sexless, impersonal. But there's an edge, a hint of something that might be called life. A bit like a bad actor over a long-range relay.

<What is this? Where am I?>

All in due course. First I want to make sure I've got what I really came for. "What's your name?"

<Name? Name's Lurgen. Who are you?>

"Travis, Space Commander. Seconded to Supreme Commander's personal staff." Not strictly true anymore, but he's in no position to know.

<Are you really? Any chance of telling me where the hell I am?>

"You're on solid state ROM. A brainprint chip."

A long pause. Then, <I remember. He came to do the op.>


<That's right. You know Docholli?>

"We've met. Briefly. He told me all about it."

Lurgen sounds cautious. <Everything?>

"He told me you arranged to fake the operation between you. The brainscan was taken, but the second stage wasn't followed through. Then you both made a run for it."

<He told you that ?>

"Oh yes. And it worked, too. You both got clean away. Gave Central Intelligence quite a headache. In the end they gave you up for lost."

<Have you come to arrest me or something?>

"No, just to talk. I need some information. Need it very badly."

<How badly?>

"You're the last one, Lurgen. All the other brainprints were destroyed. The original technicians are burnt-out zombies. You're all that's left."

The ROMstruct falls silent, stays silent. In the intervening time it strikes me that I've been talking to it as if it were the man himself, not just a recording of his brain. Why not? To all intents and purposes, it is.


"So nobody knows where Star One is. Don't tell me you hadn't realised. I've been to a lot of trouble to get you."

<I see,> it grunts. <What makes you think I'm going to tell you anything?>

Continued in Star Three

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