That Damned Violet Sun
“It doesn't sound like you have a problem with them,” observed Hull. The pale blue eyes probed York's face.
“Not particularly,” she answered. “I suppose an operative has to see these things differently.”
“Why is that?”
“Were you aware that the Directorate has agents active on Kurzweil?”
“You've been there?” Hull looked startled.
“Several times. Kurzweil twice and Nizhni-Rostov once. I can't say that I found most people there to be very much different from people anywhere else.”
“That's not the Naval perspective,” Hull answered.
“Is it the AID view?”
“It's my view,” she said. “I don't pretend to speak for August Karsh. God only knows what that man thinks of anything.”
“You see no danger in blurring the lines between Man and Machine?” Hull raised his eyebrows.
“The machine is merely an extension of the human mind,” York said quietly. “What is Man already, if not an integration of primate, stick, and soul? To expand that integration and elevate it to the level of a religion, as the cyborgs do, that is pure madness, but even so, the sentient machines are nothing to fear in themselves.”
“I can't agree with your reasoning, Miss York. Not at all. If those machines are not dangerous now, it's only because they're impotent. We've pulled their fangs by sealing them off. Would we have done that were it not necessary? Believe me, it is.”
“You've been indoctrinated into that view, Captain.”
“Indoctrinated?” Hull stuck out his jaw, his eyes narrowing.
York shook her head. “Don't be offended by mere observation, Captain. We're all indoctrinated. Indoctrination is a necessary aspect of our professions. It's how the system functions.”
“You speak strangely for an intelligence operative,” Hull accused.
“Perhaps. Have you spoken with many intelligence operatives before?”
Hull ignored the question. “You said the people there are just like normal humans. Do you really believe that? We know that many of them are fully cyborged, and some perhaps worse.”
“Worse?” asked York.
“I've heard rumors of deeper perversions.”
“Perhaps you mean the mind uploads.” York nodded. “They're not a rumor, Captain. They're a fact.”
“You know that for a certainty?” demanded Hull.
She nodded. “I've spoken with one such being. It's a fascinating form of quasi-immortality.”
“How could you be there without their knowing what you are, if they're so advanced?”
“A trade secret, Captain, but I can tell you this: An agent infiltrating one of the cyborg worlds is prepared for a very long time. Indoctrination doesn't even begin to describe the necessary procedures. Not many agents have the chance. I was fortunate.”
“Fortunate? I wouldn't say so,” Hull disagreed. “I wouldn't venture into that snake pit for anything.”
“Your education suffers,” she said with an amused smile.
“You think so?” Hull shook his head and said vehemently, “If I was named High Admiral of the Galactic Seas, we'd have used the sunbuster on them already, Miss York. We'd have wiped out that damned violet sun and its four devil planets my first day on the job. You know why? Because if we don't, someday the god-machines will break out, they'll break out and they'll launch a cyborg crusade throughout the galaxy. Then where would the Ascendancy be?”
“The same place, but with a different set of rulers,” York said wryly. “Who knows, we might even get some sensible government. Say what you will about machines, but if nothing else, they do tend to be logical.”
“That's dangerous talk,” warned Hull.
“Dangerous?” York smiled. “Are we not free, Captain? Could I be free if I wasn't permitted to share my thoughts, or you weren't permitted to hear them?”
“The thought is the father of the action,” Hull replied sternly.
“Now, there's an old chestnut, Captain. But if we're dealing in maxims, you might try this: None is so blind as he who will not see.”
Hull took a deep breath and folded his arms. “That is some of the most treasonous talk I've ever heard aboard this ship. Do your superiors really want agents who think the way you do?”
“Director Karsh wants his agents fully informed and flexible because our ability to think like the enemy permits us to survive on an enemy planet, Captain. And not only have I stayed alive, but every time I return from a mission on a new world, I find myself seeing things from new perspectives.”
“Flexible!” Hull spat the word.
As if she hadn't heard the venom in Hull's voice, York continued. “Much of what I have seen affirms the justice of Terra's rule, but not all of it. Does it make me suspect to say that? In your eyes, I suppose it does, but the consequence is that I have a better understanding of how the other side thinks, and therefore I am better able to pass for one of them. I am better able to anticipate them. Your answer to the machine intelligences is Shiva. But the military answer is ultimately a futile one because it is only temporary. You can't hold the Ascendancy together by force forever, you know.”
The captain reddened. “Please don't presume to tell me what to think, Miss York.”
“I'm not,” she declared cheerfully. “I'm merely answering your question.”
“True enough,” the captain admitted grudgingly. “I should have known better than to match wits with an intelligence operative. I may not agree with how you think, Miss York, but as far as I'm concerned, you've got more balls than any marine on this ship to do what you do.”
“Why, thank you, Captain.” She accepted the compliment for the apology she knew it was meant to be.
Hull nodded briskly. “So. Enough about interstellar politics. I suppose you've been thinking more about our situation. Have you reached any conclusions about that?”
“I have. If it was sabotage, the saboteurs wouldn't have risked disabling the Rigel in a subsector as remote as Zero Seven Zero Two without providing for a means of conveying the technology elsewhere. So, we must assume that any survivors we find are, at the very least, suspects, and treat them accordingly.”
“If any of them are saboteurs, they will face a court of military justice on this ship,” Hull promised firmly.
“No, that will not be possible, Captain.” York straightened. “I'm afraid the exigencies of intelligence work seldom permit luxuries such as courts and trials. But you need not fear justice will not be served. Never doubt that. Justice will be done.