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.
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
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.
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
going to try to put the tracking device on the
ahead,” Jason replied.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Sharon messaged back, when out of sight of Leif.
in surveillance positions,” Jason intoned in his computer assistant.
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
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
glittered as the centerpiece of a heart-shaped face. She was almost thirty and
due for a
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
coat back at the bar.
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
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.
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.
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.
of the United Earth surveillance team buzzed
got the tracking device off and he is running,”
Sharon said in a soft voice.
him off at his car,” Jason ordered.
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
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.
“You are under arrest from the Earth Counter-Intelligence Corps.”
I want you to Freeze.”
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.
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.
closed on his quarry, as Olaf and Sharon drew
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.
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
do I care for the human race? I was paid.”
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.
then, Leif belonged to Earth counterintelligence.
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
was bound with plastic handcuffs and unceremoniously shoved
into the back seat. He said nothing and only the rank odor of alcohol betrayed
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 ?”
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
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
chuckled. “Soon I will be living it up on an insectoid
world. They reward their agents
handsomely. Helps them recruit new
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 right...you probably
will be traded,
but first I am going to torture you for information.”
felt his skin go pallid. “You wouldn’t dare,” He said.
of the van ride was dominated by silence. There was a hypothetical ambiance
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
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
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
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.”
started to whimper.
This was not what he was led to expect by his insectoid handlers.
Jason barked, and the two men holding him by his
arms, shoved Leif into a chair. Jason left the room to confer with Sharon.
spoke first. “Should I prepare the MRI for
paused before speaking. “There isn’t time.”
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
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.
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
quickly returned with a half-full syringe. Jason took the syringe and walked
interrogation room B. Spittle was
congealing on Leif’s face.
can’t do this.” Leif said. “I am protected.”
them that,” Jason sneered. “When you explain how you
gave me all that information on moles in the ECIC.
plunged the syringe into Leif’s arm, eliciting a
scream from Leif.
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
me,” Jason started. “What is your name?”
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.”
in charge here,” Jason said. “What is your name?”
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.
to me.” Jason dead-panned.
now you want me to lie?”
to me.” Jason said. “What is your name?”
that’s what you want,” Leif said. “My name is
is your name Leif?”
“Why? Ask my parents,
me another lie.”
am sorry,” Leif sneered.
long have you been employed in Space Fleet?” Jason
years...look, why don’t you save yourself some time
and contact the insectoid diplomatic mission in New York and work out an exchange
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
was a pause. “That is correct.”
is your girlfriend’s name? I assume, based on your record, that you are
don’t have a girlfriend right now.” Leif replied.
Lief was a bit laconic. He gave only the bare minimum answer to each
was a girlfriend’s name and when were you last
involved with her ?”
“Her name was Candace. She left
thought you were a failure. Is that right?” Jason said.
don’t live for others’ gratification.” Leif replied.
“She wanted someone more successful and I did not fit the bill.”
are you,” Leif snapped, “Jason the friendly
psychotherapist? You don’t give a damn
about my emotions, so why are you asking?”
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 ?”
you take me for a simpleton?” Leif said. “You think I
would base a decision like that on a failed romantic relationship?”
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.
why,” Jason said, in a soft voice. “Did you commit
have my reasons.”
have been working for the insectoids for approximately
answered, “You have already established that.”
I want to establish that again,” Jason said, an edge
to his voice.
“Yes? How much were
hundred Guilders per file.” Leif said, partially
most of these files were flight plans and cargo
these cargo manifests. What did they contain?”
manifests and information on the movements of
your knowledge, were any of these forces in the line of
fire with the military altercation on Deneb II?”
spoke after a pause. “No.”
cleared his throat.
“What do you know about the insectoids?”
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.”
you think you are enlightened because you committed
treason?” Jason asked.
think that my position takes a more objective view of
everyone is insane except you…and those who take an
objective view of the bugs?”
are starting to bore me,” Leif answered. “Do as I say,
and contact the insectoid diplomatic mission that one of their spies is
never answered my question,” Jason said, ignoring
Leif’s barb. “Have you ever been to an insectoid world?”
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.”
how did you find vr’xin ?”
a map.” Lief said drolly.
reached over and grabbed Leif’s hair and yanked his
head down into the table top. Leif
hissed in protest.
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.
blinked and decided not to say anything.
something,” Jason barked. “Answer, dammit. How did you find vr’xin?”
was free in ways that Earth was not free.”
do you mean that?”
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.”
that is not why I committed treason.”
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.”
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.”
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
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.”
considered what Leif had said. He needed to bring his statement back to the
Jason said. “You would like such, ah, clarity to be
applied to human society?”
are not capable of such vision. We are too weak.”
you are strong?” Jason asked.
treason make you stronger?”
risks I take make me a better man than most.”
than the sort of man your girlfriend wanted.”
was trifling,” Leif said. “I despise a man who bases his life on
see more clearly?”
Leif said emphatically.
finally we have a motive for treason. You acknowledge
that you took a risk?”
insectoids, the bugs as you call them, protect their
agents. But yet, there is always a risk.”
we are in agreement that you betrayed humanity for the
alacrity of insectoid pod society.”
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.”
glanced at his e-watch and noticed that the viridium
picolate would soon start to work. He
nodded curtly at Leif.
return in a moment,” Jason said, and sauntered out
In the hallway,
he found Sharon. Jason
sighed before speaking.
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
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.”
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.”
of cohorts in Space Fleet?”
will be asking that next…the viridium picolate should
start working about now. Wish me luck.”
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.
me about the moles in ECIC?” Jason asked.
I don’t know. I-I-”
laughed mirthlessly, “So now you have developed a
Let’s make a deal.”
what?” Jason replied.
tell you about the mole, and you let me go to the pods.
I am sure they will understand my candor.”
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
nodded. “Cross penetration, then?”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
would look for fellow conspirators before ending
said, “I know you broke up with your girlfriend three
years ago. Have you seen anyone
romantically since then?”
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.”
“What about the fleet
schedules you gave the insectoids?”
know what information I had access to. Review that and you know what was lost...we
have a deal, right?”
the third time, yes.”
know what you think of me.”
don’t know,” Jason said, “how you can betray your
wasn’t just money.
There was something else...something more valuable than money.”
valuable than money?”
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.
spoke. “I think you’ve been misled.”
and the insectoids have the scientific
they prove this to you?”
I have risked not agreeing to this?”
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
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).