In the Palace
“Come!” said Gannis heartily, slapping the tabletop with his palm. “Helion has spent more computer time than any of us—millions of seconds for one study alone—to extrapolate which visions the Aurelian-mind may present during the December Transcendence. His devotion is beyond question.
“His dream is a grand one, I admit! Cease the motions of society, and freeze it into its present state! (Fortunate for us, when the waves freeze, those of us now at the crest will be at the tip of the iceberg forever after.) And yet—your pardon, friend Helion—allow me to introduce a note of caution. The Hortator College is a group of populist moralizers; their pinch-nostriled, squint-eyed overzealousness—hah? Is that what we need more of? Or less of? Augmenting their power will increase their power over us, even over us Seven Peers. What then, eh? What egalitarian nonsense will we be forced to stomach then? And I speak not just for myself but for all of me when I say that!”
Gannis’s view of the room was the same as Helion’s, but his sense of humor required him to introduce a slight difference. In Gannis’s view, every object had two shadows, a dark black and a faint gray, for he had placed a second, smaller sun, a mere pinpoint of dazzling brightness, rising in the East.
Orpheus said in his cold, soft whisper of a voice: “Peer Gannis perhaps has cause to fear any close inquiry into the recent events. It is a fine coincidence that he earned so much advantage by the Hortator’s most recent deliberations.”
Gannis should have looked angry at the accusation, but instead he threw wide his arms and laughed. “I am complimented that you think me cunning enough to have arranged these recent debacles! Not so. I fear that mere dumb luck has saved the Jovian Engineering Effort once again. Do you recall when bad investments by my overself brought me to such penury that I was asked to leave my peerage behind? Why, yes, you surely must, for it was you yourself who ask me to depart.”
Gannis turned to the others, and continued: “And you wanted to have no more to do with funny, dumb, lovable, affable old Gannis, did you, my Peers? But then my other selves made back our fortune with the establishment of the Jupiter Equatorial Grand Collider. We did not predict the existence of the continent of stabile transadamantine elements beyond atomic number nine hundred; in fact, the standard model predicted against it.
“Chrysadmantium! What could not be done with this wonder metal? It elevated me back to my due position—others were enticed to dreams more wild, perhaps.
“I am better for my days of loss. More generous. Generous to the point of folly! I am as free with my advice as I am with my bounty. Is it my fault my advice was ignored? Is it my fault the wealth I spent so freely returned to me? This is the reward of fate, who cherishes the magnanimous. Clever lawyers merely help the process … .
“But for all my generosity, good Helion, I cannot see what more I can do for the College of Hortators. The contracts and covenants we make with all of our clients provide that anyone shunned by the College of Hortators we also must shun. For my clients, this means they can enter no structures, ships, or space elevators made from my supermetal; for the customers of Vafnir, this means no power; of the Eleemosynary Composition, no understanding; of Ao Aoen, no dreams; of Orpheus, no life. What more is wanted?”
Helion answered: “Nebuchednezzar Sophotech, who had been advising the College, has sequestered himself. The College presently has little or no sophotechnology at its command; that can be remedied. If they had sufficient computer-time resources, the Hortators could be omnipresent, omniscient: We, my Peers, who are the wealthiest entities ever to live, have no lack of resources to donate.”
Grannis made an expansive gesture. “But why spend so much? Dangerous matters have been resolved—”
Helion said darkly, “There are still those who would overthrow all we have built and done. Do you gentlemen have the word ‘enemy’ in your archives?”