Sting

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High Lord Patriarch Asmodeus had only to say, “I would carry out an inspection of Hyperion,” and a whole cascade of events would be put into play. The personnel at both Palato and Hyperion would be ordered to put on their best uniforms. The commanding officer of a battleship would vacate his stateroom and order it to be made ready for the use of the Gerash patriarch.

When Asmodeus was taken to the battleship that was to host him, and when the battleship entered the ID Grid to transfer by fold-gate to the Sol system, to a man every member of the Navy of Mastema bowed and averted his eyes in solemn deference to the greatness of his lord. And Asmodeus loved all of this pomp so.

The battleship completed the transit and moved a few miles away from the ID Grid that orbited Hyperion to allow Asmodeus to watch it in operation through the large rectangular porthole of his stateroom while he was served lunch by stewards.

Lilith Gervasi appeared from nothing before him just then and said, “Asmodeus, that food looks delicious, would you mind if I joined you?”

And this unexpected appearance startled the White Beard patriarch to his great annoyance.

“El Shaddai in yet another body,” he said, for it was quite within his ability to detect the fold-line that linked Lilith back to the living star that was her real body, and as a further confirmation El Shaddai had spoken Lilith’s words directly to Mastema’s mind even as Lilith uttered them. Asmodeus pressed an intercom button and ordered a second meal to be hastily prepared, as well as a second web to sit in.

“What is this, the third body?” he asked, turning back to face her. “Always women. Talishi, and Tabaet, and now what?”

“Lilith,” she said.

“Let’s see, Talishi had been the daughter of a glassblower in Salem, Tabaet was a Larund rocket scientist with a death wish, so who was this Lilith person before you took over?”

“A warrior, remote descendant of Abraham. I’ve been looking for a replacement Princess Khondiel since the day you killed her at Nine Mile Wall. This way is better. I folded a serious ass-kicker and all her abilities directly into myself.”

“An ass-kicker? Then why bother wearing the body of a human female?”

“You don’t know this human female,” she replied.

“I hardly need to ask how you got here, of course, but only how you knew. I only made my decision to come to Hyperion a few hours ago.”

“As you probably suspected all along, Asmodeus, your entire organization is rotted through-and-through with my spies.”

The stewards came in to serve Lilith her meal and wine just then, so the conversation paused. Certain compromises had to be made to deal with the fact that the food and drink were to be consumed in free fall, but Lilith had to admit it was generally excellent.

When the stewards deferentially departed, Asmodeus asked, “What does bring you out here to my Jupiter colony, Miss Lilith?”

“I wanted to find out if you had heard the rumors about what’s happening at Hybla-Dia, in the gap between them.”

“Hybla-Dia? What rumors?”

“It is said the Beaters are building a ship with some new kind of motor, something created by a nephil named Ithuriel from the same principles that operate my signature weapon.” And to illustrate her point she held up the Golden Gift, but only in a way that did not threaten Asmodeus.

Asmodeus was disappointed. Essentially, going by what she was saying, Lilith was still mostly in the dark about the sub-macro that now drove and armed all of his capital ships, and she was relaying a rumor that the Beaters had somehow obtained a copy of the mysterious device for themselves. Not even that, were it true, would alarm Asmodius. He had an insurmountable head start over the Beaters. Still, it was informative to know the extent of what Lilith knew about it. He said to her, “I am very touched that you would show such concern for the well-being of my navy, Miss Lilith.”

“Yes, well, I’m really here to make sure that you realize that when the Beaters depart in their starship that I had nothing to do with it, directly. Our ancient bargain has been fulfilled to the letter.”

“What do you mean, starship?”

“Yes, that’s the word on the street. The Beaters are at Hybla-Dia getting ready to make the big jump into the dark. You really should look into it Asmodeus. Do you remember how I first found the humans, when they were just hunters? Do you think it would be more difficult for one of the Elohim who are not in your harem to find the Beaters after they arrive in a new star system and set up a colony? Embarrassing questions among El would be certain to follow.”

“Lilith, you are merely attempting to get me to start some heavy shit with the Beaters to weaken my fleet.”

She shrugged. “It’s your funeral, Asmodeus. I only wanted to direct your attention to the chain of events that led to this. At every point along the way, it was you, and not me, who enabled to Beaters to take the next step. Sorry to eat and run, mother, but I do believe you will be rather busy here for the rest of the day.”

And Lilith disappeared as quickly as she had come.

The CHAIRMAN: Miss Roland would you take the stand? Would you raise your right hand and be sworn? In this matter now in hearing before the committee, do you, Rebecca Roland, swear that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Miss ROLAND: I do.

Sen. BORSCH: Miss Roland, will you state for the record your full name and home address?

Miss ROLAND: Rebbecca Jeanette Roland, 129 Goode Street, Black Diamond, Washington.

Sen. BORSCH: Is that the only name you go by?

Miss ROLAND: No sir, my friends call me Becky. And as Kim testified I go under the name Becky Hahn recently.

Sen. BORSCH: Why did you use that name?

Miss ROLAND: Because my father asked me to use it. He wanted me to get close to Kimberly Shyear, but he knew that would be impossible if I used my real name.

Sen. BORSCH: And where are you now employed?

Miss ROLAND: My living expenses and allowance are paid out of a bank account that my father maintains.

Sen. BORSCH: For the record: Who is your father?

Miss ROLAND: He is Earl G. Roland, Jr. and he was connected with the Manhattan Project during the War. Today he says works for an agency called DECON but I don’t know anything about it.

Sen. BORSCH: Do you know why your father was interested in Kimberly Shybear?

Miss ROLAND: Yes sir, it was her bone cyst. He was obsessed with it for some reason. I love my father, but I’m not sure he’s entirely sane. He has a position of authority in the government, but he used it to take away the freedom of Kim, the freedom of Sophie Krause, and the life of Kim’s husband. I confronted him at his home in Maryland, and I brought a movie camera to film his confession, and he still told me everything, knowing that it was being recorded. His attitude was one of indifference. I hardly know my own father anymore.

Sen. BORSCH: Are you prepared to enter your film into evidence?

Miss ROLAND: Yes sir, and it is my sincere hope that this will clear Kimberly’s good name, and begin the process to give her justice for the death of her beloved husband and my good friend Jerry Shybear.

The Senate projectionist already had the film threaded through the gate of the projector and ready to roll. Boren asked for the lights to be dimmed, and they began to watch the movie.

To preserve the first moments of the film, Robyn had added the usual Academy leader that looked like a black and white radar screen counting down from five to zero.

Earl Roland stood in the middle of his own living room, wearing his usual black turtleneck shirt under a gray tweed jacket, with no tie. He was bald, with only a fringe of dark curly hair wrapped around the back of his head.

Jill was not seen, but her voice said, “You know how she got her bone cyst, Daddy, but you dance around the issue and refuse to look at it straight on.”

“You’re wrong, we did have a good look at it.”

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“RCS Zero.”

“Your company.”

He nodded. “Short for Radar Cross Section Zero. We used the government’s own engineers and labs at Hanford to analyze it, and learned to synthesize the white stuff on a large scale. It absorbs radar perfectly, at the same time being totally impervious to heat. We’ve already made a fortune selling the material to a fighter aircraft manufacturer to paint on the leading edges of their wings. It’s a goldmine for us. Millions of dollars, Becky.”

“So you lied. Kim wasn’t a source of a dangerous infection, she was your cash cow.”

“I don’t call it lying, Becky . I call it dealing with the world adaptively. When Kim escaped from Hanford the whole house of cards almost crashed around the ears of me and some very powerful people who are also involved in this. The only way to keep her from coming forward was to make her a fugitive.”

“A fugitive. So you lied to the Army, the police, and the FBI as well.”

“Don’t think ill of me, Becky . I’m your father. I did it all for you and your mother. Civil service pay is just not enough to give you two the things you deserve to have.”

“They won’t take me back, Daddy. I burned my bridges with Kim and her friends.”

“Stop that film!” a voice was heard, and everyone saw it was Earl Roland, the star of the movie.

Roland was accompanied by three thugs, one of whom advanced straight to the film projector. Another thug took his position near the switch that controlled the lights in Room 315. The last thug stayed with Roland. This last thug was Ed Conley, and Jill recognized him of course, from Jerry’s final memories.

“Father!” Jill cried out.

The thug near the film projector spoke a few words to the projectionist in hushed tones. The projectionist looked quite upset and left Room 315 in a hurry, speaking no words, leaving the thug standing there in his place. The film abruptly came to a stop, and the lights were turned back on.

Earl ROLAND: I think, dear esteemed Senators, that in your rush to get these ladies before your panel you moved a little too fast, and you didn’t give thought as to whether these hearings should be public, and not in secret session.

Senator BORSCH: The Senate answers to nobody but the American people. And you, sir, you are out of order. But thank you for coming, you have saved us a little time. I was about to ask my staff to prepare a subpoena to have you appear. We have many questions that require your immediate response.

Earl ROLAND (ignoring Borsch): Senator Boren, this is a matter of National Security. You will not allow that film to be shown in an open hearing.

Senator BORSCH: Mister Chairman, if I may, since I still have the floor. The gentleman will proceed to show the film, notwithstanding the objection by the intruder. And after we have seen the film, I think we should immediately discuss why the intruder should not be held in contempt of this body.

Roland turned to his thug next to the film projector and gave a hand sign. He began to unmount Jill’s movie and mount one of the films Roland brought along to be shown in its place.

Earl ROLAND: Very well, Senator, you are of course correct. We will immediately comply.

His other thug killed the lights, and the new film began to roll.

It wasn’t Jill’s film at all. In this short movie, the Republican Senator Jeremiah J. Borsch, Mister Family Values, who was also the pastor of a large church, was seen leaving a bar that was well-known to be frequented by homosexual men. The film showed him entering a cab with one of the well-dressed patrons of this bar. After that, the film, shot through the windshield of another car, showed the Senator being tailed. Through the rear window he could be seen kissing the man. And the film wound up with images of the Senator entering a seedy Washington no-tell motel with this man.

The hearing room erupted into a cacophony of disbelieving roars and hoots, bringing on a long spate of gavel-banging by Senator Boren before order was restored.

Earl ROLAND: Senator Borsch, I believe this film will be of some use to you on your Senate Select Committee on Homosexual Activities, which I understand you chair. I’m not one to judge, but in this day and age this sort of thing can be a real career killer.

Borsch looked at Boren and he had the answer to his unspoken question why Boren was allowing Roland to disrupt the hearing.

Earl ROLAND: Mister Chairman, I am prepared to show two more short films at this time, of a similar nature. One will be very useful to Democratic Senator Lee Wenden on his Senate Committee on Communist Influence in Government. The second film will be of some interest to you, Mister Chairman, in your other capacity as chair of the Senate Sub-Committee on Graft and Corruption.

Senator Boren said, “This hearing is on hiatus until further notice. The Master-At-Arms will take custody of Kim Shybear and Becky Roland, and transfer them into the custody of the Domestic Enemies Classification, Observation, and Neutralizaion Agency. That will be all.” And he punctuated the proceedings with a final sharp bang of his gavel.

Roland’s substitute projectionist gave his three short films to Senator Borsch, but in return he was keeping Jill’s movie. On his way out, Roland told Ed Conley, “I want the names and addresses of everyone who watched this hearing from the gallery.”

And shortly after this Roland learned a very important about taking any member of the B’nei Elohim into custody. And that lesson was, no matter how secure you make the cell to hold them, do not take your eyes away from the prisoners for even a moment, or they will disappear on your ass.

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