Black Petals Issue #94 Winter, 2021

BP Artists and Illustrators
BP Guidelines
Mars-News, Views and Commentary-Chris Friend
Basement Dweller-Fiction by Justin Swartz
The Beating of Their Wings-Fiction by Brian Maycock
Does the Bogeyman Live Downstairs?-Fiction by Clive Owen Barry
Dark Little Boxes-Fiction by C. M. Barnes
Death by Midnight-Fiction by Charlie Cancel
Forearmed-Fiction by Jan Cronos
Inconceivable-Fiction by Rich Rose
The Wolf's Den-Fiction by J. B. Polk
Treachery-Fiction by Ramon F. Irizarri
Tumour Wakes Up-Fiction by Alexis Gkantiragas
The Opal Ring-Fiction by Michael Dority
Flora and Fauna-Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
Gnaw-Flash Fiction by Tony Kidd
Mad Money-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Madonna of the Damned-Flash Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Special Teeth-Flash Fiction by KJ Hannah Greenberg
The Death Set-4 Poems by Hillary Lyon
Five Haiku-Poems by C. D. Marcum
Misanthrope-Poem by Donna Dallas
The Wish Tree-3 poems by Christopher Hivner
Nebulous-3 poems by Juan Manuel Perez
The Sphinx at Night-5 Poems by Meg Smith
Nameless-Poem by David Barber

Art by Allison Smith 2021


Ramon F. Irizarri



            Jason could not understand treason. Betrayal of an Earth government was in some respects understandable; there was a matter of ideology among the cantons of United Earth.  But betrayal of the human race? Jason could barely conceive such a thing.  A species was the most fundamental category.  What we are is fundamentally human.  Our culture, our very biology cried out for loyalty.  Never mind that humans were the most artistic of species, at least compared to the pods of Alpha Centauri or the castes of Erad Eridini.  They had no Shakespeare or even Jackson Pollock.  Even if humans were the most artistically advanced, it made no difference.  Fundamentally, we are first human.

          This inability to understand was probably why Jason worked for United Earth Fleet counterintelligence.  His job was to hunt spies, speaking of traitors.  Now, CI or counterintelligence included more than just spy hunting.  Dissident control was sometimes under the rubric of CI, as was the practice of getting information from other spies.  Information on a foreign government could be procured from their spies. 

          Jason’s attention was directed to the crackling of his personal computer assistant.  Lifting the small box up, Jason heard a familiar voice on the com-link.  It was Sharon, one of his subordinate agents. 

          “I’m going to try to put the tracking device on the subject.”

          “Go ahead,” Jason replied.

          The subject was a thirty-five year old clerk named Leif, who was suspected of passing along fleet movements to the pods.  The pods, who were vaguely insectoid, had a predilection for espionage that posed a threat to United Earth.  Although not technically at war, there had been military friction between the pods and Earth in the past. 

          Leif was seated at the outside patio where Sharon passed his coat which was situated in a chair next to Leif.  He had been seated on the patio for almost an hour, nursing a shot of tequila.  The searing liquid trickled down his throat.  The burning sensation, something Leif was not accustomed to as he was not a frequent drinker, was a welcome distraction from his worries.  His role as a spy necessitated a stiff drink.  Drugs were mostly outlawed on the outer worlds, as safe synthetics never realized their potential despite some interest in stimulants that might not have side effects or be addictive. However, despite initial interests such substances did not materialize, and only tobacco, caffeine and alcohol were available for legal purchase.

          Leif glanced at the waitress.  She seemed content to leave Leif to his own devices.  The waitress, who sported a fashionable crew cut of the sort sported by models back on Earth, displayed more than a glimpse of cleavage.  Her bosom was rounded and supple, Leif observed, glancing up once from his drink. She wore a mini-skirt of the sort that never seemed to go out of fashion.

          Leif considered his chances with the waitress.  The alcohol emboldened Leif.  What if he made a pass at her?  Leif was thirty-five and the waitress was in her twenties. Not that Leif should consider himself to be an old man.  Still, the age difference might make a difference.  Leif was clad in a black tunic and black trousers, which flattered his slightly paunchy frame. In terms of looks, Leif could consider himself to be of average comeliness.  He sometimes had bed beautiful women. Nonetheless, he had more considerable things with which to concern himself.  

           While passing by, Sharon placed a tracking device, no bigger than a quarter, on his coat. Not even glancing up, Leif was once more intent on his tequila. He seemed to suspect nothing.

          “Done,” Sharon messaged back, when out of sight of Leif.

       “Everyone in surveillance positions,” Jason intoned in his computer assistant. 

          Leif struggled to his feet, unsteady from the effects of the tequila.  He realized that he should not be drinking.  He had work to do, spy work.  It was his task to leave the data cube of fleet positions at the base of a streetlamp.  A cut-out would convey the data cube to another agent, who would see that it was smuggled to a shared human, insectoid world. 

          Sharon followed Leif from a distance.  She, like the waitress, had a crew cut of the sort prized by women in the Cantons.  Unlike the waitress, Sharon had no substantial bosom to display.  According to Sharon, implants were for tarts and the insecure.  She prided herself of being neither.  She had a husband, who was an intelligence analyst stationed in Beijing, and she would not want him if the size of her chest were an important consideration.  Sharon had almost incandescent eyes that glittered as the centerpiece of a heart-shaped face.  She was almost thirty and due for a promotion.

          Leif, as he caught site of the streetlamp, noticed a figure walking behind him on the other side of the street.  It was the woman that brushed against his coat back at the bar.

          Damn it.  Was he being watched?  Leif thought of his coat and patted down the soft synthetic wool.  He found a small circular tracking device clinging to a fold in the cloth.

          A spy in possession of his faculties would continue the drop and walk away as if nothing had happened.  He would try to escape once the guard of those watching him had diminished. But Leif was drunk.

          The air of Sirius IV was crisp and had a winter edge that bit into Leif.  He was still quite drunk – however, the sharp bite of the cool weather prevented the tequila from causing further inebriation.

          The tracking device was there to follow Leif if he evaded surveillance.  He ripped the device from the coat and threw it on the floor.  In a drunken stupor he ran back to his car.

          The com-links of the United Earth surveillance team buzzed with activity. 

          “He’s got the tracking device off and he is running,” Sharon said in a soft voice.

          “Head him off at his car,” Jason ordered.

          Sharon surged forward, along with two fellow surveillance team members, Olaf and Raj.  Olaf was walking towards Leif from the side of the street opposite Sharon.  He was a thick, forty-something who had served previously on Deneb II during the military conflict with the pods.  He had been decorated with the Nova Star, the first medal to be a holographic pin instead of the traditional medal. It displayed a three-dimensional starburst in full, luminous glory.  Olaf’s large hands delved into his pocket where he removed a stun gun and he yelled out the Leif.

          “Stop,” Olaf said,  “You are under arrest from the Earth Counter-Intelligence Corps.”

          Raj yelled out, “Freeze.  I want you to Freeze.”

          Raj’s leather shoes crunched the loose pavement beneath each footfall.  His shoes were black – dress code ECIC standard.  There were dress codes for agents in the ECIC.  Facial hair had to be close cropped.  Shoes, no matter what type, had to be black.  Indeed, even going to the beach required black sandals.

          Raj was a sort of odd-man-out in the ECIC investigations team.  His family were popular people’s party in the Canton of the Ganges, what was formerly north India.  The people’s party were radical socialists.  They advocated an end to private party and immediate, locally based democracy.  Raj was known for his pointed quips about the wealthy corporations that dominated life in Europe and the Americas.  Raj believed that profit was theft, which distanced him from Jason or Olaf.  A worker in the Ganges was paid only a fraction of the wealth he or she created. If he worked for six dollars and the company sold what he worked on for ten dollars, the remaining four dollars in profit was stolen from the worker by the company.  These radical sentiments did not endear him to his fellow agents.  Nonetheless, the India people’s party had representation in global parliament and hence had to be represented in organizations like the ECIC. 

          Raj quickly closed on his quarry, as Olaf and Sharon drew close.  

          As Leif staggered to his car, the surveillance team swarmed around him.  Sharon grabbed him and threw him to the ground. Leif was unsteady from the effects of the alcohol and he flailed helplessly. Jason was soon at the car along with the rest of the United Earth counter-intelligence team.

          “Why?” Jason demanded to know.  “Why betray the human race?”  Sometimes a mole was misled into service for work by a foreign power. This practice, specifically working for a given government while unknowingly working for another government was called a false flag or false front.  Most any false story could be considered a false front but traditionally, this was the practice of a handler claiming to work for one nation-state while working for another employer.

          Leif smirked.  “What do I care for the human race? I was paid.”

       Leif was inscrutable to Jason.  He could not fathom the depth of his treachery.  How could he betray the most fundamental identity he had, the identity of being human? Leif would soon find himself in interrogation and after that he probably would be traded for a human spy in captivity by the insectoids. 

          Until then, Leif belonged to Earth counterintelligence. 

          Sharon, Jason, and the two other agents of Earth CI bundled Leif into a waiting van.  The van only needed the address of the destination and it would pilot itself – it was loaded with security applications so it would be difficult for anyone to hack into the onboard computer.  Difficult but not impossible.

          Leif was bound with plastic handcuffs and unceremoniously shoved into the back seat. He said nothing and only the rank odor of alcohol betrayed his presence.

        Jason entered last and as the van got under way, he grated, “Is that all you have to say about your treachery, that you were paid ?”

          The liquor emboldened Leif to retort. “You don’t have me for long.  Soon the pods will know I have been captured, and they’ll grab an Earth operative for an exchange of prisoners.  There are legions of pod turncoats in the Earth Counterintelligence Corps, so they will know about this detention.”

        Jason paused before speaking in a low, determined voice, “You know of other traitors. You will tell me what you know. One way or another, you will help me find other turncoats.”

          Leif chuckled. “Soon I will be living it up on an insectoid world.  They reward their agents handsomely.  Helps them recruit new agents.”

         Jason’s eyes narrowed. “I hate to burst your enviro-suit but we have no formal treaty with the pods, so I can treat you any way I like.  You’re probably will be traded, but first I am going to torture you for information.”

          Leif felt his skin go pallid. “You wouldn’t dare,” He said.

          “Try me.”

          The rest of the van ride was dominated by silence.  There was a hypothetical ambiance to the trip. Leif was growing more and more scared and the silence stood as mounting anticipation of an unclear but decisive resolution.  Leif could see the neon signs of businesses and restaurants as they made their way through the colony townships of Star Haven.  Most of the signs were for restaurants, serving the fusion cuisine of Earth colonies.  Mixing everything from Pad Thai to hamburgers, a fusion diner shamelessly served items like a sushi hamburger in a bento box with French fries and wakame sea-weed salad.  The weather, as befit the temperature, was continually overcast. 

          The van pulled into a large, basalt building built into the side of a mountain.  The landscape of Sirius IV was filled with basalt black rock, a legacy of volcanic eruptions that once convulsed the planet.  Everything in Star Haven was either black rock or aluminum prefab.  The regional headquarters of Earth CIC, or Earth Counterintelligence Corps, was built into one of the many ebony mountains.  To make way for the building, ADMs or Atomic Demolition Munitions were used to vaporize rock so as to create a secure space for ECIC operations in the Sirius system. Sirius had a binary star, or, in a sense, Sirius IV had two suns, and was, many centuries ago, inhabited. What happened to the amphiboid denizens of Sirius was a mystery to this day. 

          Faraday cages, which were grounded rooms where no electrical or magnetic signal of a technological nature could exist, were one of the many security components that made up ECIC’s station headquarters. The sixth floor was a gigantic, modified Faraday cage.  No signal, whether from a listening device or from the circuit boards of a computer could exist on the sixth floor.  This was distinct from a conventional Faraday cage, where signals could exist in the confines of the Faraday cage but not entering from without.  Such security had a price.  No computer could work on this floor.  Ingoing and outgoing electronics were ruled out.  Paper documents and old-fashioned typewriters were the norm on the sixth floor.  Secure, but that security had a price and it was not practical to ground the entire office in a Faraday cage.  Risks had to be taken, given the limitation of the office on the sixth floor. 

          Leif was dragged to a room on the second floor, past armed sentries that saw nothing unusual in a man being shoved forward with handcuffs.  The room was an antiseptic gray affair with harsh florescent lights.  A sign on the door said, “Inquiry Room B.”

          Leif started to whimper.  This was not what he was led to expect by his insectoid handlers. 

          “Sit,” Jason barked, and the two men holding him by his arms, shoved Leif into a chair. Jason left the room to confer with Sharon.

          Sharon spoke first. “Should I prepare the MRI for interrogation?”

          Jason paused before speaking.  “There isn’t time.”

          The quantum MRI used for mind-reading by ECIC was next to useless.  Because no computer was powerful enough to process the mind, the MRI was a shared state of consciousness between a subject and an inquisitor.  However, quantum entanglement reversed causation; the person answering the questions was causing those questions, making it impossible to meaningfully interrogate someone in the MRI.  Furthermore, the MRI was disorienting. The inquisitor could only remember a few memories from hours of interface.  If Jason had the time, he might glean something useful from hours of interrogation in the quantum MRI.  But he did not have the time – he would have to be cruder and more direct. 

            “Bring me viridium picolate,” Jason said, referring to a truth drug that made the subject nervous and prone to talk.  The name viridium was a hint, etymologically linked to the Latin “veritas” or truth.  Viridium’s psychogenic properties were known to alchemists in the middle ages and this is reflected in its chemical name.

          Sharon quickly returned with a half-full syringe.  Jason took the syringe and walked into interrogation room B.  Spittle was congealing on Leif’s face.

          “You can’t do this.” Leif said. “I am protected.”

          “Tell them that,” Jason sneered. “When you explain how you gave me all that information on moles in the ECIC.

          Jason plunged the syringe into Leif’s arm, eliciting a scream from Leif.

          Jason would start the interrogation as he waited for the viridium to work.  He would begin by getting a baseline and would encroach on the information he wanted as the drug took effect.

          “Tell me,” Jason started. “What is your name?”

          “What?” Leif replied. “You already know my name.  Is this the acumen of Earth counterintelligence, seeking answers to what is obvious?  No wonder Earth forces are riddled with spies.”

          “I’m in charge here,” Jason said.  “What is your name?”

          Leif stared at Jason in shock. Jason decided it best to see how good a liar Leif was at the outset. He started with the most basic counter-intelligence trick he knew.

          “Lie to me.” Jason dead-panned.

          “What, now you want me to lie?”

          “Lie to me.” Jason said. “What is your name?”

          “Umm...if that’s what you want,” Leif said. “My name is Ken.”

          “Ken...why is your name Leif?”

          “Why?  Ask my parents, you jerk.”

          “Tell me another lie.”

          “I am sorry,” Leif sneered.

          “How long have you been employed in Space Fleet?” Jason asked.

          “Three years...look, why don’t you save yourself some time and contact the insectoid diplomatic mission in New York and work out an exchange of spies.”

          “Tell me if the following is true.” Jason said. “You were born in New York to a family of diplomats.  Your schooling was the best that could be afforded, but your school grades were only average.  Three years ago, you took a position as a clerk for space fleet and within the first month you also became an insectoid spy.  Is this correct?”

          There was a pause. “That is correct.”

          “What is your girlfriend’s name?  I assume, based on your record, that you are heterosexual.”

          “I don’t have a girlfriend right now.” Leif replied.

          Apparently, Lief was a bit laconic.  He gave only the bare minimum answer to each question.

          “What was a girlfriend’s name and when were you last involved with her ?”

          “Candace,” Leif said.  “Her name was Candace.  She left me.”

          “She thought you were a failure.  Is that right?” Jason said.

          “I don’t live for others’ gratification.” Leif replied. “She wanted someone more successful and I did not fit the bill.”

          “Did that hurt?”

          “Who are you,” Leif snapped, “Jason the friendly psychotherapist?  You don’t give a damn about my emotions, so why are you asking?”

          “I’m asking because I think it was relevant. This break-up...did it make you hunger for revenge and status, leading you to work for a foreign power ?”

          “Do you take me for a simpleton?” Leif said. “You think I would base a decision like that on a failed romantic relationship?”

          Jason glowered at Leif.  If this had been the case, he might have approximated some sympathy for Leif, despite his inability to understand Leif’s motives.

          “So why,” Jason said, in a soft voice. “Did you commit treason?”

          “Ahh...I have my reasons.”

          “You have been working for the insectoids for approximately three years.”

          Leif answered, “You have already established that.”

          “Then I want to establish that again,” Jason said, an edge to his voice.


          “Yes?  How much were you paid?”

          “Fifteen hundred Guilders per file.” Leif said, partially cowed.

          “And most of these files were flight plans and cargo manifests?”


          “And these cargo manifests. What did they contain?”

          “Freight manifests and information on the movements of Fleet Infantry.”

          “To your knowledge, were any of these forces in the line of fire with the military altercation on Deneb II?”

          Leif spoke after a pause. “No.”


          “I said no.”

          Jason cleared his throat.  “What do you know about the insectoids?”

          “What everyone knows.”

          “Be more specific.  Have you visited a bug world?”         The reference to bugs was a gestalt to see how the interviewee saw the extra-terrestrials.

          “Bugs?  I had no idea Jason the friendly psychotherapist was also Jason the propagandist.”

          “Do you think you are enlightened because you committed treason?” Jason asked.

          “I think that my position takes a more objective view of inter-species conflict.”

          “So everyone is insane except you…and those who take an objective view of the bugs?”

          “You are starting to bore me,” Leif answered. “Do as I say, and contact the insectoid diplomatic mission that one of their spies is captured.”

          “You never answered my question,” Jason said, ignoring Leif’s barb. “Have you ever been to an insectoid world?”

          “Deneb II, is as you know, a shared human-insectoid world.  I was smuggled through the gate near Hayden park that divided the human settlement of Hayden from the alien city which went by the name vr’xin, translated to shiny red obsidian.”

          “And how did you find vr’xin ?”

          “With a map.” Lief said drolly.

          Jason reached over and grabbed Leif’s hair and yanked his head down into the table top.  Leif hissed in protest.

          “That is nothing compared to the torture that awaits, unless you want to cooperate.” Jason intoned. Jason had hoped that by this time, Leif would be more loquacious.  He was slightly disappointed in how the interrogation was proceeding.

          Leif blinked and decided not to say anything.

          “Say something,” Jason barked. “Answer, dammit.  How did you find vr’xin?”

          “It was free in ways that Earth was not free.”

          “How do you mean that?”

          “Look...everyone hears in the media that the insectoid pods practiced a kind of totalitarian anarchism.  Meaning, that you can do anything, weather it is simply urinating on a street corner or killing someone or anything in between, provided that your pod had the economic power to defend you from the law. The insectoids were constantly jostling for power, and the goal of power was freedom.  The insectoids back their agents so well, given that the value of espionage, the manifests and schedules, increased the power of the managing pod.  The insectoids cherish freedom in a way Earth democracy does not.”

          “You admire this?”

          “Yes…but that is not why I committed treason.”

          “You don’t think that the pods are too free…any society that disciplines a serial killer with a light or no sentence is too free.”

          “What we do is a shadow of the freedom enjoyed by a pod master.  Everything in their society is free and yet everything has a price.  Freedom is the highest good of Earth society.  The insectoids are the notion of freedom to its extreme limit.”

          Jason frowned. “I am not going to debate comparative, government philosophy. But having passed the requirements for an agent of ECIC I can tell you that it is possible to conceptualize freedom not as the highest good but as an instrumental good allowing for the flourishing of the individual.  In other words, freedom is a means so that we can live the best life possible, as an end.  Freedom gives us the right to exercise our rights to enable a worthy life.”

          Leif shook his head.  “I admire the insectoids’ clarity of vision.  Such clarity might not suit humans, but in a sense the pods are free in a way we can only imagine.”

          Jason considered what Leif had said.  He needed to bring his statement back to the interrogation.

          “So,” Jason said. “You would like such, ah, clarity to be applied to human society?”

          “Humans are not capable of such vision.  We are too weak.”

          “But you are strong?” Jason asked.


          “Does treason make you stronger?”

          “The risks I take make me a better man than most.”

          “Better than the sort of man your girlfriend wanted.”

          “She was trifling,” Leif said.  “I despise a man who bases his life on women.”

          “You see more clearly?”

          “Yes,” Leif said emphatically.

          “So finally we have a motive for treason. You acknowledge that you took a risk?”

          “The insectoids, the bugs as you call them, protect their agents.  But yet, there is always a risk.”

          “So we are in agreement that you betrayed humanity for the alacrity of insectoid pod society.”

          “I had already resolved to betray mankind before the time I saw the grandeur of insectoid society.  My motives are in part a sense of greatness and in part the rewards the insectoids promised me.” 

          Jason glanced at his e-watch and noticed that the viridium picolate would soon start to work.  He nodded curtly at Leif.

          “I’ll return in a moment,” Jason said, and sauntered out the room.

        In the hallway, he found Sharon. Jason sighed before speaking.

          “I have never understood the notion that a person could betray his species.  I have always felt this way, and my knowledge of xenobiology and socio-biology underscores my reticence to understand treason.  We are locked in inter-species competition with the bugs and caste aliens.  All of society, on a certain consideration of the problem, is a manifestation of our genes and shared genes.  Even altruism has a socio-biological basis.  Now...I know sociobiology, once called social Darwinism, has led to certain abuses in the past.  But sociobiology is one of the best tools to have to delineate the struggle between insectoid and man. As for Leif, I can understand how he feels ennobled given his failures, to identify with pod anarchism.”

          “No one doubts your loyalty,” Sharon said.  “As you know, as senior agent there are four basic motives to treachery – love, power, prestige, and ideology.  How would you rate Leif on this scale? As the deputy senior agent on the case I need your recommendation for my report.”

          Jason nodded. “Love, as forlorn love is a small consideration as is prestige and ideology.  Leif feels he has distinguished from the common mass of humanity by identifying with the political organization of the pods.  He feels the need to be smarter than everyone else.  That much, I understand.”

          “What of cohorts in Space Fleet?”

          “I will be asking that next…the viridium picolate should start working about now. Wish me luck.”

          Jason turned and re-entered interrogation room B. having given time for the viridium picolate to work.  He was pleased to see Leif bathed in sweat, a symptom that hold him the drug was starting to work.

          “Tell me about the moles in ECIC?” Jason asked.

          “N-no I don’t know. I-I-”

          Jason laughed mirthlessly, “So now you have developed a speech impediment?”

          “D-deal. Let’s make a deal.”

          “Like what?” Jason replied.

          “I tell you about the mole, and you let me go to the pods. I am sure they will understand my candor.”

“Deal,” Jason said.


          “I said yes.”

          Leif cleared his throat. “I don’t have a name, but I know that when I would BS the pods, sometimes they knew I was exaggerating.  They had a way of verifying my reports, leading me to the conclusion that they had someone higher up to review some of the information I was giving.  Also, the insectoids were bragging about how easy it was to turn an ECIC agent over to their control.”

       Jason nodded. “Cross penetration, then?”

          Cross penetration was spy jargon for having a second mole verifying the information of the first mole.  Also, a mole can direct reports so that some reports which he could not gain access to fall into the purview of the other mole.

          “Yes,” Leif said. “Cross penetration. They didn’t have me work as part of a spy ring or give me a name of someone I was helping through cross-penetration.  But there was a sense, given their requests that someone was redirecting files.”

          “And what of Deneb II?  The information you had on troop movements did not transpire during the incident between the pods and Earth?  You spent time on Deneb.”

          “The military incident you are referring to happened after I left Deneb II to Sirius IV.  At the time, I did not have access to the files that would have pertained to fleet infantry in the Deneb theater of operation at the time it would be relevant.”

          Now Jason would look for fellow conspirators before ending the interrogation. 

          Jason said, “I know you broke up with your girlfriend three years ago.  Have you seen anyone romantically since then?”

          Leif sighed, “A brief entanglement with a married woman. Nothing serious.  Her name is Margaret and she knows nothing of my activities here on behalf of the pods.”

         Jason spoke. “What about the fleet schedules you gave the insectoids?”

          “You know what information I had access to.  Review that and you know what was lost...we have a deal, right?”

          “For the third time, yes.”

          “I-I know what you think of me.”

          “I don’t know,” Jason said, “how you can betray your species.”

          “It wasn’t just money.  There was something else...something more valuable than money.”

          “More valuable than money?”


          “What?” Jason snapped.

          “Immortality.  The insectoids said that human scientists had found the secret of longevity in copying our consciousness to a computer.  Now, I know the standard argument on this point – that it is a copy and not the same stream of consciousness as that of the person copied so the person dies the usual way anyway.  In other words, our mental functioning is copied piece by piece to a computer.  There are other ways, too…reanimation of corpses, which should work unless we speak of the mind as a mystical entity that migrates to another dimension…look --- look --”
          Jason scrutinized his quarry.  It sounded like disinformation to him. Jason knew that all spies sometimes used, what is called a false front or fictional narrative to manipulate an asset to win their loyalty. Traditionally, a false front was a lie as to who the mole really worked for – for example, an insectoid spy could be misled that he worked for a private corporation.  Nonetheless, any lie to run a spy could be called a false front.  Two of the most common false fronts used by the insectoids was that the human race was belligerent and that the pods were peace-loving as well as the claim that human scientists had overcome death.  The latter claim was intrinsically flawed.  A copy of consciousness was just that, a copy; there was no shift in stream of consciousness. As for reanimating corpses, there was no way to overcome aging even if consciousness was the sort of thing that started and could be restarted.  As for a brain transplant, the surface area of the brain was too large to allow for acceptance of the brain by the new body.  The transplant was always rejected by the host.  There were logical problems in this false front.

          Jason spoke. “I think you’ve been misled.”

          “Think...immortality and the insectoids have the scientific data.”

          “Did they prove this to you?”

          “Could I have risked not agreeing to this?”

          Another silence settled between the two men.  Jason would adhere to his part of the bargain; when word got out to other spies that he could be negotiated with, his job would be made easier.

          Jason finally spoke. “I still can’t believe the enormity of your treachery.”

Ramon Irizarri hails from Miami, FL. And has a BA in philosophy from Yale and has been published a total of five times, including this issue (twice at Bewildering Stories, once at Aphelion, and twice at Black Petals). 

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