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Authors: The Zen Gun (v1.1)

Bayley, Barrington J - Novel 10

 

The Zen Gun

 

Barrington
J. Bayley

 

 

 
          
Pout,
the chimera, half-man, half-ape, was incorporated into one of the plants or
vice versa. He was jammed in a squatting position, while the stems, entering at
his buttocks, merged with his legs, his arms and his torso, emerging at knees,
elbows,-and through his abdomen and thorax. A large, yellow-petalled flower
seemed to frame his face.

 
          
It
was his face that rivetted Ikematsu's attention, while the chimera squirmed in
dumb distress, glaring with huge piteous eyes. For in that face, set into it as
if set in pudding, was the
zen
gun. The gun was his
face, or a part of it. The barrel pointed straight out in place of a nose . . .
the stock merged with and disappeared into Pout's pendulous mouth.

 
          
Ikematsu
leaned toward the chimera. "How you loved your toy! Now it is truly
yours!"

 

 

 
         
Barrington
J. Bayley

           
in
DAW
editions:

 

THE PILLARS OF
ETERNITY

THE FALL OF
CHRONOPOLIS

THE GRAND WHEEL

STAR WINDS

THE GARMENTS OF
CAEAN

COLLISION COURSE

 

 
          
Barrington
J, Bayley

 
          
DAW   
BOOKS,    INC.

 
          
DONALD
  A

WOLLHEIM,
  PUBLISHER
1633 Broadway,
New
York
,
NY
10019

 
 
          
Copyright ©, 1983, by
Barrington
J. Bayley.

 
 
          
All
Rights Reserved.

 

           
Cover art by Frank Kelly Freas.

 
          
FIRST PRINTING.
AUGUST 1983

 
          
123456789

 
          
DAW

 
          
U.S.
  
PAT.  OFF.   MARCA

 
          
REGISTRADA.
HECHO EN
U.S.A.

 

 
        
CHAPTER ONE

 
 
          
Around
the blue, green and white planet, Ten-Fleet disposed itself with a suddenness
that was intentionally frightening. On the diagrammatisation screens in the
control centres of both sides, the criss-cross orbits of the hundred and forty
ships resembled the electrons of a heavy atom orbiting an engorged nucleus like
an enclosing web. In the first seconds of the occupation the planet's own
service satellites, a gnat's haze, had been vapourised, the staffs of a dozen
manned stations taken prisoner. Robbed of communications, the planet was
helpless and nearly blind.

 
          
Meantime
Ten-Fleet substituted its own satellite haze. Everything on and below the
surface was being monitored at a resolution level of one to one.

 
          
Relaxing
in his den, Admiral Archier could imagine the consternation now reigning on the
planet. Its government would be ignorant—or so he hoped—of what he as a
military man understood all too well, namely that to be in a position to blast
a planet by missile, beam or blanket was merely an exercise in military
impotence. The criterion of practical power was the capability to land
effectives, and just as important, to take them off again.

 
          
Ten-Fleet
was depleted. If it came to it, Archier would not properly be able to
administrate the cowering population. Its dreadful weaponry was, in that sense,
a threat that could be bluffed.

 
          
It
was advisable, therefore, to conduct his business quickly, before the
government down below-began to draw conclusions from the fleet's inaction. The
Admiral did not relish having to make a decision as to whether to punish the
planet for recalcitrance.

 
          
Archier
reclined on a mossy bank in the shade of an apple tree. Animals played and gambolled
a short distance away: a dwarf elephant two feet tall; a dwarf giraffe whose
head could crane almost to Archier's shoulder; a chimp, and a bush baby almost
as large.

 
          
Disengaging
itself, the elephant strolled over. "The ruling council is in debate right
now," it announced in a slightly trumpety voice. "According to
bounce-back satellite reports, they are talking over ways to cheat us."

 
          
Archier
smiled. "No doubt they think they can pass off decorticated murderers as
artistic geniuses. Well, we've seen all that before."

 
          
The
giraffe ambled over to rub its neck against his sleeve. "I hope they give
us a good composer," he said in his soft, mild voice. "Would we be
allowed to commission him before we make delivery to Diadem?"

 
          
"While we are in semi-autonomous status, yes."

 
          
"Admiral,
they are asking to talk to us," the elephant chimed in.

 
          
Archier
nodded. He patted the large grey head of his elephant adjutant, whose brain
implant kept it in touch with all of Ten-Fleet's communications. "Come
with me then, Arctus. I might need you to keep me informed."

 
          
From
his present vantage point the mossy wood had no visible limits. But when
Archier stepped behind the apple tree to stroll through the dappled light of
the grove, Arctus padding along behind him, he was suddenly in a wide,
carpeted corridor bearing a steady traffic of men, women, children and animals.
A short walk brought him to the official audience chamber. A spider monkey
looked up and lifted a hand in salute. Then it began to set up the meeting.

 
          
Admiral
Archier took his cloak of rank from a nearby peg and self-consciously seated
himself upon the throne before the view area. Subdued lights came on. He felt
the mantle of imperial numinousness descend upon him. To those whose images now
sprang to life in the view area his clean, pale features would seem majestic
and almost angelically authoritative, and the glint in his eye would betoken a
chilling perceptiveness.

 
          
He
was looking into a council chamber. About twenty people sat around an oval table;
there were no animals present. At the head of the table, raised a little above
the others, was the Chairman of the Rostian Council, an elderly man who bore
his years well, and who wore a white gown that made him look almost clinical. A
short and neatly trimmed white beard sprouted from his chin.

           
The Chairman was the only one able
to look directly at Archier without having to turn his head. The expression on
his face was that of one who knew the weakness of his position and was forcing
himself to bite back heartfelt defiance.

 
          
"Do
I address the representative of the Imperial Directors?" he asked in a
dry, acid tone.

 
          
"You
do, but more specifically the Imperial Collector of Taxes," Archier
answered lightly. "As already stated, you are twenty standard years in
default. The matter is serious; your account must be settled forthwith."

 
          
"We
are not wilfully in default," the Chairman said with steely grimness.
"Ten years ago we offered to render all due services in credit,
manufactured goods or rare materials. We received no reply."

 
          
"I
am your reply. Your offer should not have been made. It bodes the Empire no
service and is interpreted as attempted evasion of payment." Archier
reached out his hand; the spider monkey placed a file of papers on it.
"However, to clear the matter up, the Imperial Inspector of Revenues has
agreed to reduce arrears by fifty percent—on condition that all future levies
are paid promptly at the stipulated ten-standard-year intervals, delivery being
your responsibility."

 
          
The
Admiral bent his head to the papers before him. "These are the levies
which will now be paid by you before we depart."

 
          
He
began to read from a list.
"One thousand two hundred and
fifty-eight artists of the musical variety, comprising both composers and
performers.

 
          
"One thousand two hundred and fifty-eight artists of the
visual, tactile and odoriferous varieties.

 
          
"One thousand two hundred and fifty-eight practitioners of the
literary and dramatic arts.

 
          
"Two thousand and twenty scientists of assorted disciplines.

 
          
"You
are reminded that all persons must -be human, not animal or construct,
containing not more than two percent of dominant animal genes. All persons must
reach at least Grade Twenty on the Carrimer Creativity Test that will be
applied by Fleet psychologists. Further, at least one hundred persons should be
of genius
standard,
or Grade Twenty-Five on the
Carrimer Test."

 
          
Archier
looked up and handed back the file to the spider monkey. The faces staring at
him could only be described as stony.

           
Oh,
I know what you're thinking. We would rather secede from the Empire, that's
what you're thinking. But you dare not speak of rebellion, not openly, not even
here on the fringe, while Ten-Fleet sweeps over your heads."

 
          
"This
traffic in people goes quite against the social philosophy we have evolved
here on Rostia!" the Chairman protested. "It is slavery!"

 
          
"
Do
not despair, the cream of your nation will be exporting
that philosophy into the Empire generally," Archier retorted amiably.
"Your reluctance is a sad state of affairs. There was a time when the
gifted among us competed for a chance to migrate to the heart of the
Empire."

 
          
"Were
that so, this tribute would hardly be necessary."

 
          
Archier
leaned forward. "You have told me what you do not like. There is something
/ do not like. I do not like the word 'tribute.' I am here as a tax-gatherer.
We all live under the law. Make arrangements for payment."

 
          
The
Chairman bit his lip. "We shall need time if we are to do this. You come
upon us suddenly."

 
          
"We
shall not brook any delay. We shall know if you stall for time or plot any
trickery against us. Therefore, I call on you to reassert your allegiance to
the Empire." At this moment Archier became aware that Arctus the elephant
was tugging at his sleeve with its trunk. He leaned aside. "What is it,
Arctus?" he muttered.

 
          
The
tiny elephant opened its maw and whispered hoarsely in Archier's ear.
"A message from High Command!"

 
          
Straightening,
Archier turned back to the Rostian Council. "Will you kindly begin your
despatches within one
rotation.
Goodbye for now."

 
          
With
that end to the conversation, hurried as it was, he rose, thanked the spider
monkey, and left the audience room with Arctus. They passed through curtains of
draped light: mauve, lavender, lilac, finally effervescent lemon.

 
          
Suddenly
they were in the space-torsion room.

 
          
A
nine-year-old boy was on duty, a son of one of the crew who had been given the
job much as he might have been given a toy. With an eager sense of ceremony he
presented Archier with the message, which had come in word form.

 
          
It
was a directive, engraved in glowing letters on a sheet of yellow parchment.
Archier murmured his thanks and scanned it.

           
After the addressing and
classification codes
came
a terse instruction.

 
          
ESCORIA SECTOR IN CONDITION REBELLION.
PROCEED IN FULL
MAJESTY, OBJECT SUPPRESSION,
CONDITION
AUTONOMY.
ENABLING DATA WILL FOLLOW.

 
          
Admiral
Archier gazed at the parchment for some time, allowing the key phrases to sink
in.
Full Majesty.
That meant he was to recognise no
constraint on the deployment of the fleet's resources.
Condition Autonomy.
That meant that the fleet had the legal
standing of a sovereign state. In theory it implied that the High Command had
lost its power to act or had even collapsed. He, Archier, could behave as
though
he
were the government of the
Empire, responsible to no one.

 
          
If
the rebellion in Escoria could not be dealt with, he could choose to obliterate
all human life there—and was probably expected to do so. Instead of punishing
the planet below by destroying a city or two, he could, likewise, annihilate
it.

 
          
The
disintegration of the Empire as an organised and effective entity was plainly
proceeding apace.

 
          
He
passed the parchment to Arctus. The elephant took the bottom edge in the tip of
its trunk and raised the sheet before its face.

 
          
"Ah.
This is promotion of sorts, sir."

 
          
"Is
it?" Archier sounded doleful. "It bodes a less happy set of
circumstances to me."

 
          
Ruefully
he thought of the tax reprieve which now had inadvertently befallen Rostia. The
dignity of the Empire would best be served, he thought
,
if Ten-Fleet were to leave without warning, as abruptly as it had come.

 
          
"Come,
Arctus,' he sighed, "let's to the Command Room."

 
          
Minutes
passed. And then the web of orbits surrounding Rostia faded from the
diagrammatisation screens, though the thousand or so satellites were expendable
and remained, a replacement gift for the planet that, Admiral Archier feared,
had slipped for the time being from the Empire's grasp.

 
          
As
the fleet withdrew it was simultaneously reassembling itself into interstellar
flight formation, gathering itself together like a school of fish, while each
ship geared up its feetol drive. The path of exit from Rostia's solar system
was nearly parallel to the orbital plane, and as the fleet passed close to the
primary gas giant a cursory message reached Archier from the environs scan
officer.

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