Diamonds in the Sky


by Daniel M. Hoyt

Meyer felt his brain squish into being in his new biobod.

A struggling investigator, he never could have afforded the exotic light-speed transport himself, but his client, Benton Reege — Time and Space magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year for 36 years running since the mag named him Architect of the Milky Way in 2100 — dropped as many solcreds on his weekly haircut.

“First time, huh?”  A high male voice boomed directly in front of him, but Meyer only saw a too-bright yellow haze and closed his eyes.

“It takes a few minutes for your mind to adjust to your new biobod,” the man recited.  “You’ve just had your brain mapped, flung through space on an encoded light wave, and rewired from scratch into this brand-spanking-new brain matter; you can’t expect to see clearly right off the bat.  Your mind needs to learn the physical connections first.”

After several failed trials, Meyer was able to open his eyes long enough to get a clear look at the medtech, a stumpy blond casually inspecting his fingernails.  He wore a simple white lab coat, with the Reege company emblem embossed on the chest.


Meyer nodded.  His neck felt thicker than he’d expected; in fact, everything felt too large.  “I’m big,” he said, raising his right arm.  Surprisingly, it didn’t feel heavy — more like what he was used to on Earth.

The medtech chuckled.  “That’s how we make biobods for Mercury.  The gravity here is about a third of Earth’s; if we grew bodies with the same mass as your Earth body was, you’d feel like you were a third the weight, too.  Your biobod’s three times the mass of your Earth body — not volume, thankfully, since your skin, flesh and organs are much heavier!  By adapting your biobod for the gravity, instead of forcing your mind to retrain to a low-g environment, we eliminate the need for extensive physical training like the old-time astronauts had to do.”

Meyer didn’t like the emphasis on the word was.  “My Earth body?”

“Didn’t Mr. Reege tell you?  Your old body was destroyed at the other end.  It’s a side benefit of squisher travel — you get new bodies wherever you go, gravity-adapted and maintenance-free.  The only downside is you don’t know who’s looking back at you in the mirror.”  The medtech laughed.  “Want to see?”

He thrust a mirror in front of Meyer.

The face looking back at him was big and strange, with a wide nose and mouth below tiny black eyes.  Meyer had gotten used to seeing a deep, jagged scar near his left ear — he’d hoped one day to scratch together enough solcreds for the medbots to fix it.  That wouldn’t be needed now.

“When can I see Mr. Reege?”

“Now; the transition is pretty quick.  Stand up.”

Despite the medtech’s explanation, Meyer was surprised to find that climbing out of the chair felt remarkably as he’d remembered on Earth.  Walking was similar as well.

Meyer glanced out a passing window.  “Are we going outside?”

“No.  Your biobod’s adapted for gravity, but not Mercury’s incredible temperature swings — starts close to 200 below, Celsius, up here on the 85th parallel, and goes over 100 above — more than boiling water on Earth.”

Meyer whistled.

“Down at the equator, where most of Mr. Reege’s high-temperature experiments are, it gets up well over 400 — enough to incinerate your Earth body without protection.”

As they passed a window, Meyer remarked on a worker outside, wearing full-body space suits.

The medtech paused.  “Mercury’s atmo is flaky — not enough gravity to keep it here, so parts keep floating off.  Supply tanks create a breathable atmo in the buildings, but you need a suit outside.  It’s like the Moon, only much hotter.”

Meyer stared out the window.  It was gray everywhere.  “Is that steam?”

“Water comes out of nowhere; it vaporizes or freezes, depending on the temp.  They tell me there’s hydrogen and oxygen in both the vaporized Mercury rocks and the solar wind, and sometimes they combine.”

The medtech nudged Meyer and led him down a hallway to Reege’s office.  Inside, he found Mr. Reege at his desk, working.  He looked remarkably like a larger Reege — same face and body structure, same pencil mustache, just bigger.

Reege grinned, stood and offered a meaty hand.  “I’ve been expecting you.  How was your trip?”

Meyer shrugged.  “Different.  You do this squisher thing often yourself?”

Laughing, Reege said, “Rarely any more.  I did, of course, in the early days of each colony, but it got tiring after a while.  Believe it or not, all those colonies were set up the old-fashioned way, with materials transported on laser fusion drives developed over a hundred years ago.  I spent more decades than you can imagine making those colonies fly, which also meant creating an economy from nothing for hundreds or thousands.”  He leaned back in his chair and rocked.  “The medbots developed mid-21st are the only reason I’m still alive and kicking today at 160.”  Reege smiled.  “I don’t think I’ve squished in ten, fifteen years now.”

“You didn’t come out with me?”  Meyer was confused.  “I saw you back on Earth a few hours ago.”

Reege nodded, leaned far over his desk and said conspiratorially, “You saw my Earth presence.  After squishing a few too many times for my tastes, I came up with an idea.”  He sat back and rocked his chair.  “You’ve heard of full-body repairers?”

“Replicators?”  The best Meyer could hope for one day were medbots, tiny repairers injected directly into your bloodstream that navigated your body to repair things at a cellular level.  “I thought they were just rumor.”

“They exist.  But you have to plan ahead.  You can’t just grow a biobod overnight, you know — it takes years, even with rapigrow medbots.  Did you know they’re grown from common DNA elements until puberty, when they introduce the DNA variants?  That’s when you can make a custom biobod for yourself, rather than walking around in a generic one like yours.”

“I think I follow you.  You squish into a biobod that’s right there, physically, instead of beaming your brain to another planet?”

Reege jabbed a finger toward Meyer.  “Exactly.  Five years planning, and you can have a much younger replica of yourself, through the magic of the squisher.  Plus, the direct-access squisher isn’t as expensive, since you don’t need to go off-planet to use a gravitational waveguide.”

“You could essentially use a high-volume optical cable, right?  Combined with the brain mapping completed half a century ago, it’s a simple process of deconstructing, transmitting and reconstructing — like Bell’s telephone?”

Reege laughed.  “Not so simple, but close enough for the layman.  The biggest problem is the brain mapping — the process itself damages the brain beyond repair, rendering the body useless.  Remapping doesn’t do this.  The data stream is decrypted at the other end real-time and rehosted to the new biobod, which can be grown to be perfect.”

“I have to say, I’m not feeling very perfect.”

“You’ll get used to it,” Reege said drily.  “Back to the point:  What if I could squish to two places at the same time?”

Meyer stared blankly.

“You don’t need to know the details; all that really matters is that I put a team on it, and they managed to find a way of manipulating the waveguide to split the beam.”

Stunned, Meyer opened his mouth and shut it, like a dying fish.

“And then I thought, what if I could squish to ten places at the same time?”  Reege paused.  “Turns out I could.  So I squished to all nine of my colonies at once, and replicated locally as well.  We all keep in touch, and collectively we get ten times the work done in the same amount of time.”

“Impressive,” Meyer said after the revelation had sunk in.  “But you still haven’t told me why I’m here.”

“Ah.  Yes.”  Reege pressed a button on his desk and stood up.  “I’d like to show you our facilities.”

Puzzled, Meyer stood up.  Something sharp poked his thick neck, and everything went black.

Meyer’s brain squished again.  He felt dizzy, as if he were swaying.

After a few minutes, Meyer’s eyes focused.  He was alone with a petite female Reege medtech — trim and redheaded, she looked northern European.  “Earth?”

The woman shook her head.  “Venus Sky City 4, 50 clicks above the surface,” she said in a raspy alto.  “Up here, it’s similar to Earth’s temperature and pressure.”

The room shifted unexpectedly as Meyer tried to stand, throwing him to the floor.  “I don’t feel well.”

“Welcome to living in the air.  It’s usually pretty stable, but every four or five days, the traveling winds come around at the cloud layer and remind us we’re not on solid ground.”  The medtech shrugged.  “Then again, the ground’s no picnic, either.  That’s why we’re floating up here.  Feels like Earth, doesn’t it?”

“Except for the swaying.”

“That could be solved if we could grow Venusian bodies that don’t crush halfway to the surface — it’s 92 times Earth’s pressure.  We can lick the temperature problem.  It’s over 460 everywhere on the Venusian surface, like a planet-sized greenhouse, close enough to Mercury’s max, 420, to benefit from their high temp research.  But we’re still struggling with the pressure.”

Meyer sighed.  “I suppose I’m to see Reege?”

Meyer followed the medtech down a long hallway with several glass doors.  Through one of them, green bodies hung lifeless.  They resembled humans only in basic form; they looked more like foliage.  “What are those?” Meyer asked, jabbing a finger at a door in passing.

The medtech glanced back at Meyer, but didn’t slow down.  “We call those the Martians.  They’re experimental photosynthetic biobods, modeled after Earth plants, green from the chlorophyll, an attempt to grow a fully environment-adapted biobod, capable of breathing the Venusian atmo and withstanding the environment.  The surface atmo is almost all carbon dioxide — add a little water, and you get photosynthesis.  The problem is that there’s none on the surface, and it never rains.”  She glanced back again and scowled.  “They wouldn’t last very long down there without a healthy supply of water — if they could take the pressure, which they can’t.”

Arriving at the end of the hallway, the medtech swung open a hand-carved wooden door — in stark contrast to the glass and steel everywhere else — and escorted Meyer inside.  There at his desk, identical to the one on Mercury and Earth, sat a twin to Earth’s Reege.

“Good to meet you, Meyer.  Sit down, please.  I have some questions for you.”  Reege smiled pleasantly and indicated a chair opposite his desk.

Meyer hesitated; he remained standing, ready to run if needed.  “Before we get comfortable and someone jabs me in the neck with a hypo, let me ask you a question.  Why am I here?”

Venusian Reege’s smile faded.  “An excellent question, Meyer.  Why do you think you’re here?”

Meyer relaxed and sat down.  “First, I’m here to establish that you’re the real Benton Reege, using a simple question that you would answer in a specific way — which you’ve done.  The rest I’m a little hazy on, now.  When I left for Mercury — this morning, was it? — I thought there was an imposter Reege on one of the colonies, undermining the Reege empire from within, and I was supposed to find him.  When I saw Reege on Mercury, I figured he was the imposter, and my job was done.”

“But you’re no longer sure of this?”  Reege steepled his fingers and looked gravely over them.

Meyer hesitated and fiddled with a pen lying on the desk.  “Mercurian Reege told me an interesting — and plausible — story about there already being bona fide Reeges on all of the colonies.”

Fidgeting in his chair, Reege stared at his desk for a minute before looking up to answer.  “That’s correct; there are ten of us.”

Meyer cocked his head to one side.  “Thus, my dilemma.  If he’s not the imposter, why’d he drug me and send me here?  If he is the imposter, why’d he send me here instead of just killing me or something?”

“Let me be clear.  That Reege should not have confided this information to you; but the fact that he did establishes his authenticity.  The imposter would not have known this fact; the particular team involved in that one-time experiment are all fiercely loyal — and closely monitored.”  Reege looked up and smiled, but he looked past Meyer.  “Isn’t that right, Dolores?”

Meyer realized too late that he hadn’t seen the redheaded medtech leave.  Twisting violently, he tried to spin around and stand simultaneously, but she was quicker, and the hypo found its mark.

“Fiercely loyal, Mr. Reege,” she said, smiling, as Meyer lost consciousness for the second time that day.


Meyer groggily opened his eyes after a few minutes.  Even with the haze, he knew he was alone.  Struggling to his feet, he lurched toward a door.

A sumo wrestler biobod?  Am I back on Mercury?

The door swung open.  A husky, dark-skinned man in a Reege lab coat paused in the doorway, frowning.  “See what happens when you don’t wait long enough?  Sit down.”

Shaking his head, Meyer refused.  “I’m okay now,” he wheezed.  “Where am I?”

The medtech pointed to the window.  “Look.”

Stumbling over, Meyer looked outside at the reddish-orange desert landscape.  Mars, probably the Victoria Crater, judging by the view.  Every schoolchild had memorized that crater, since it was near the site of Earth’s first off-world colony.

That explained the plus-sized biobod.  The Mars gravity and pressure were similar to Mercury’s, but without the temperature extremes — merely 140 below on the South Pole’s winter ice cap to a pleasant 20 above in summer up north.  Because of the planet’s tilt and lopsided orbit, the seasons got milder the farther north you went.  Near equatorial Victoria Crater was practically idyllic for Mars — bearable temperatures and interesting views.

“Mr. Reege is waiting,” the medtech said drily, and led the way out the door and around the perimeter of a large round room where several other medtechs busied themselves.  “It’s mostly carbon dioxide here, like Venus — didn’t you come from there just now? — but here we can get oxygen and small amounts of nitrogen from the atmo, too, so we can recycle our air.”

“What?  No green Martian bodies here?”

The medtech’s face contorted, confused.  “Why would there be — oh!  You saw the Martians, didn’t you?”

Meyer grinned.

“Those are actually based on a working design we use here.  Oh, don’t you raise an eyebrow at me!  They’re up at the North Pole, where there’s plenty of ice we can melt.”  The medtech headed down a hallway nearly opposite the squisher recovery room.

“So, there really are little green men on Mars?”

Laughing, the medtech corrected, “Big green men.”  He turned a corner and knocked on a plain metal door, then opened it.

Reege stood by a window.  He turned as Meyer entered.

Meyer sighed, and quizzed him as he had the other two.  “If you’re going to stick me like the others, just do it now,” he said tiredly after a swallow of water the medtech had offered him before leaving.  Meyer sat down.

“No, we drug the water instead,” Reege said with a straight face, then chuckled.  “Just kidding; it’s safe.”  He turned his head and stared out the window.

“Is there really an imposter, Mr. Reege?”

Reege walked to the door.  “No tricks, Meyer.  Come with me.”  He left abruptly.

Meyer followed quickly, but struggled to catch up to Reege through frequent twists and turns down labyrinthine hallways.  At last, Meyer found Reege waiting by an open door.

“In here,” Reege said and slipped inside.  “Close the door behind you.  This is just between us.”

Once closed in, Meyer eyed Reege suspiciously.  “I don’t trust you.”

“That’s okay; I trust you — that’s why you were hired for this task.”  Reege sighed.  “Could you take a seat over there, please?  This … procedure will only take a moment.”

Meyer hesitated.

“I assure you, you’ll be out of here in no time at all.  Put on that headset by the chair.”

Still suspicious, Meyer settled into the seat and donned the headset.


Meyer fought the urge to escape this time; he waited for the inevitable arrival of a medtech to escort him to Reege.

“Jupiter, I presume,” he croaked.

“No,” giggled a statuesque blonde woman, looking straight off Malibu beach.  “We can’t make biobods for the gas giants!  You’re on one of a few dozen observation stations in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  Reege squished in earlier to meet you.”  She huffed and glanced at the door.

Meyer stood.  “Shall we go?”

Navigating the curved hallways in the wagon-wheel space station to a transport tube that would take them across the spokes to the other side, Meyer chatted with the blonde medtech.  Spinning at one-gee and atmoed with Earth air, his space station biobod was identical to his now-destroyed Earth body — except for the scar.

“We do more than just monitoring out here, you know,” she said defensively when Meyer challenged the usefulness of observation stations.  “We also have raw mineral mining operations all over these asteroids, especially the M-types — metallic, that is.  Like Mars, these are working colonies here, not just research colonies.  That’s how we’ve been able to multiply the number of observation stations out here so quickly, not to mention that the waveguides here established the original departure points for the outer system colonies.  This station orbits our mining HQ on Ceres — also considered a dwarf planet for the last century, by the way; look out that window there — which has about a third of the total mass in the main belt, comprised of some two million asteroids.  Of course, we’re tracking the other three main asteroids, Vesta — that’s the only one you can see with the naked eye from Earth — Pallas and Hygiea.  Together, they make up another half the mass of Ceres.”

“So, if those four are half the material out here, the other two million asteroids are pretty small?”

“In comparison, yes.  But the one that hit Earth 65 million years ago was still big enough to make the dinosaurs extinct!”

Meyer laughed.  “Point taken.  By the way, with all those asteroids and comets out here, how do you keep from hitting them?  This space station is huge!”

The medtech grinned.  “First off, comets are different; asteroids don’t have a coma, a fuzzy atmo formed from frozen gases released as a comet nears the Sun.  The gases grab dust, which makes the comet’s tail.  With the exception of a few main-belt comets orbiting here, most comets only come through the asteroid belt; even the short-period comets — recurring in less than 200 years — originate farther out.  The closest is near Jupiter’s orbit; most travel well past the Kuiper belt, where Pluto orbits, some may even go to the edge of the Solar System.  We still don’t know for sure, but we think the long-period comets come from the Oort cloud.”

The medtech paused outside Reege’s office.  “As for the asteroids in the main belt here, they look bunched together on star maps, but there’s an incredible amount of space for all of them, so don’t worry.  You can go on in; maybe we’ll get to talk later.”  The blonde smiled affectionately and retreated around the hallway.

Unlikely, considering my previous receptions.  Furious, Meyer twisted the doorknob and barged in unannounced.  “Why am I here?” he asked without preamble.  Once verified, before Reege could distract him Meyer blurted out angrily, “Why bother with the formalities, Reege?  Why not just drug me and get on with it?”

Reege shrugged.  “Okay,” he said simply and went back to his work.

Rustling behind Meyer was quickly followed by a sharp pain in his neck.  Me and my big—


I’m getting tired of this routine.

A few minutes later, Meyer followed a medtech to Reege’s office on the largest of Jupiter’s 63 named moons, Ganymede.

“Believe it or not,” Reege said, staring out a window overlooking Jupiter, soon after the introductory formalities established him as the genuine Jovian Reege, “I don’t own the entire Solar System, as some maintain.  I gave the colonies on Io, Europa and Callisto — the other Galilean moons — to friends years ago.”  Chuckling, he turned to Meyer.  “I kept Ganymede because it’s more interesting.  Unlike the other satellites in the Solar System, Ganymede has its own magnetosphere, and it’s permanently embedded in Jupiter’s, which is 14 times larger than Earth’s — enough to protect all four Galilean moons from solar wind.  There’s nothing else like it.”

Meyer found his biobod agile and graceful, considering Ganymede’s one-sixth-gee made for a huge biobod, even by Mercurian standards.  Joining Reege at the window, he said, casually, “Your medtech claimed your office always faces Jupiter?”

Reege smiled and turned back to the window.  “Ganymede is tidally locked, with this face always inward.  You’re fortunate today to see the Great Red Spot — over there, just on the edge of the horizon.  It fluctuates, sometimes disappears for a while, but it always comes back, spinning counter-clockwise, moving within an atmospheric band one way, while other bands around it move the other way.  The time-lapse vids are spectacular.”

“I saw one in the squisher recovery room,” Meyer said.  “I found it unsettling.”

“You probably get seasick on Earth, don’t you?”  Reege headed for his desk without waiting for an answer.  “That planet is fascinating, Meyer, worth every solcred it takes to study it.  It has rings, you know, mostly dust and not even noticed until the late 20th century.  It generates more heat than it gets from the Sun.  It’s a giant gravity well, big enough to have helped shape the entire Solar System.  Comets routinely collide with it, often enough that they used to call it the Solar System’s vacuum cleaner back in the 20th — they erroneously thought that passing cosmic bodies that weren’t pulled in were swept to the outer system and kept away from the inner system planets.”

Meyer was skeptical.  “I know Jupiter’s big, but surely it’s not that big!”  He took a seat facing Reege’s desk.

“It is, actually,” said Reege.  “The gravitational field acts on a couple thousand asteroids, most of them as far away from here as Mars, some more like the distance to the Sun.  They’re clustered in two so-called camps, the ‘Greeks’ leading Jupiter’s orbit and the ‘Trojans’ following it.”

The medtech spouted a lot of information Meyer wasn’t interested in — like that Ganymede was between negative 120 and 200, with an oxygen-rich atmo — but there was one thing Meyer didn’t quite believe.  “Is it true that Europa orbits exactly twice for every orbit of Ganymede?  And Io orbits exactly four times?  That seems awfully convenient to be a coincidence.”

“It’s true; it’s called orbital resonance.  And you’re stalling.”

Smiling, Meyer said, “Can we dispense with drugging me this time?  Just take me to your lab and I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Fair enough,” Reege said, standing.  “Let’s go.”


Meyer started to remember.  He talked to Jovian Reege, an unexpectedly civil conversation; he followed Reege to a lab, where he was asked to sit down; they talked some more, and then … he was squished to Titan, the largest of Saturn’s 60 known moons.

With a one-seventh-gee biobod, Meyer thought at first that he was still on Ganymede and had just fallen asleep.  The medtech in the squisher recovery room corrected him, and took him to Reege for their usual conversation.

Like Jovian Reege, Saturnal Reege’s office took advantage of Titan’s tidally-locked orbit for a magnificent permanent vidview of Saturn, with its unique ice ring system.  Unlike Ganymede, Titan’s opaque atmo prevented a direct view; the image came from an observer craft Reege had put in geosynchronous orbit.

“It’s very similar to Jupiter in some respects,” Reege reflected, glancing toward the vidwindow from his desk.  “It has atmospheric banding, although the winds are much faster, reaching 1800 clicks per hour.  The most striking difference, of course, is from the planetary rings; they’re actually an uncountable number of individual particles, mostly ice, anywhere from dust to the size of a small ground transport vehicle.  They even have their own atmo.”

Meyer soon tired of Reege’s dissertation, finding him somewhat dry and far less congenial that Jovian Reege.  “I thought there were several colonies on Titan?  This facility seems smaller than the one on Ganymede.”

“It is,” Reege said, with an annoyed twang.  “There’s several dozen colonies, in fact.  They’re very popular; once you clear the dense, nitrogen-rich atmo haze around a colony, you find that the ground features resemble Earth’s.  But this particular colony is strictly research.  We’re trying to replicate the kinds of conditions that spawned life on Earth.”

Stunned, Meyer stared.  “You’re trying to create life?”

Reege offered a half-smile as an answer and rose.  “I think you know the drill at this point.  Let’s go.”


Meyer sat up and swung his legs over the chair.  They seemed very much like his Earth legs.  Rubbing his temples, memories flooded his mind.

He’d observed Uranus from Reege’s orbiter, noted its 27 moons named for characters from Shakespeare and Pope, and marveled at its 13 distinct ring systems — mostly ice, like Saturn’s, but up and down instead of across, due to Uranus’ odd axial tilt, almost perpendicular to its orbit.  It made for some odd weather, which Reege was studying for some experiments in the asteroid belt.  Reege was reluctant to give specific details, but Meyer got the impression he was attempting to terraform one of the oddly-spinning asteroids in the main belt.

Meyer had orbited Neptune, often called an “ice giant” like Uranus, because of the higher levels of atmospheric ice.  He’d found Neptune’s ring system less disturbing; while not as substantial as Saturn’s, at least the rings were parallel to orbit.  He’d been amused to learn that its 13 moons were all named, like Neptune, after mythological sea gods; he’d been amazed to learn that the winds could be faster than Saturn’s — 2100 kilometers per hour, the fastest in the Solar System.  Meyer wasn’t surprised to find Reege’s principle interest in Neptune was research, but he hadn’t expected Reege’s unbridled enthusiasm.  Evidently, Neptune’s gravitational influence on the icy worlds of the deep-space Kuiper belt beyond the planet was as profound as Jupiter’s influence on the asteroid belt, completely dominating the belt and giving it shape.

“You’re on Earth now,” said a dark-haired male medtech flatly.

“Not Pluto?” asked Meyer, getting up.

The medtech started toward the door, motioning for Meyer to follow.  “Pluto?  Why would we be on Pluto?  We abandoned that research station decades ago.  It was only in operation for a few years, anyway, and it was a political struggle the whole time.”

“Because of its planetary status?”

“Yes.  It started in the early 21st, when they reclassified it as a dwarf planet.  A couple years later, it changed it to a plutoid — along with Haumea, Makemake and Eris, out in the scattered disc beyond the Kuiper belt.  Some astronomers did not take kindly to this, and got it reclassified as a planet years later — that lasted for a decade, maybe.  It’s changed so many times since then, I don’t even know what it is now.  When Mr. Reege established the station, it was a planet; when it was reclassified again, he abandoned it.  There’s nothing of interest on that desolate baked potato, anyway; nothing on any of its three moons, either.  The only thing it has going for it is being the largest rock in the Kuiper belt.”

“I spoke to Mr. Reege orbiting Neptune,” Meyer offered.  “He was very enthusiastic about exploring the Kuiper belt.”

The medtech chuckled.  “It’ll be his great-great-grandchildren doing that; there’s just too much to explore, even at light speed.  Until we figure out how to go faster than light, honestly, there’s nothing there that we can’t get from Neptune’s orbiter.”

The medtech admitted Meyer to Reege’s office and left.

“Mirror?”  Reege pulled a hand mirror from his desk and offered it.

Shocked at seeing his Earth face — less the scar — Meyer stuttered, “M-my face?”

Grinning, Reege said, “A bonus for a job well done.”

“I didn’t do anything!”

“I believe another me mentioned that we were retrieving some of your memories?  That’s not the complete truth.  You were also carrying confidential communications, encoded into your brain scans.”

Meyer felt a lump in his throat.  “I was a carrier pigeon?”

Reege scowled.  “That’s unpleasant.  You were a trusted courier.”

“There never was an imposter, was there?”


Enraged, Meyer stood with fists clenched, fingernails biting into his palms.

“Sit down.”

“Why?  So you can manipulate me some more?”

“Sit down, please,” Reege said calmly.  “Don’t force me to be impolite.”

Shaking, Meyer sat stiffly.  “Do I at least get an explanation?”

“I devised this system decades ago.  Certain … informational aspects of keeping my colonies running smoothly requires the utmost discretion.  Waveguide communications are secure, but the medtechs can’t always be trusted.  All ten of us need to be kept up to date in a timely manner — thus, the trusted courier system via squisher.”

Meyer counted in his head.  “Including you, there were only nine.”

Reege smiled apologetically.  “We chose not to bring you out of recovery on Pluto.”

“Pluto?  Isn’t that abandoned?”

“The Sol Council thinks it is, but I couldn’t abandon it — not with what’s at stake there.”

Meyer thought for a moment.  “FTL?”

Reege’s smiled faded; he punched a few buttons on his desk console, stood and offered a hand.  “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you, Meyer.  I trust quadrupling your agreed-upon fee would ensure your discretion?”

Meyer considered this, stood and shook Reege’s hand.  “Done.”

“Excellent,” Reege said, smiling.  “You’ll find your account credited already.  If you’ll please follow the medtech for debriefing….”


Copyright Dan Hoyt