[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

man in a big city near ours stole a lot of money from a man in our city, and
that both were involved in criminal activities, and that the victim hired us
to track the thief down because his own bosses would not be very understanding
if they found out. I told him we were private detectives whose work was taking
jobs like this one, and how we'd traced our quarry, found his look-alike
girlfriend, traced them here, and then gotten involved in the gun-fight, the
third Whitlock, and why and how we'd wound up sneaking into the plant and
getting caught in that thing and sent to limbo. He sat there, listening
intently, and never once interrupted until I was done and until Brandy had
tilled in some gaps.
He sat there about a half a minute more, saying nothing, then said,
incredulously. "Do you mean to tell me that you do not have any idea what this
is all about? That, even now, with two trips through the Labyrinth, you are as
Page 79
ABC Amber Palm Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abcpalm.html
ignorant of the facts as you are stuck?"
We nodded in unison. "That's about it, Bishop," Brandy agreed.
"You understand that I am going to have to check this all out? That if any
part of your story is false I will be able to determine it?"
"That's fine with us, sir," I told him. "Why would we lie about it?"
The abbot sighed again. "Mr. Horowitz, I am certain that you must realize that
any organization of the size, scope, and power of the one that controls the
Labyrinth will have its enemies, its opponents. Idealists, revolutionaries,
and ambitious underlings seeking to topple its leadership or to compete with
it are inevitable. Such activity is always ongoing, although lately it has
been sharply on the increase. People have died, stations have been put out of
commission, and a great deal of havoc has been raised. The only reason you are
not in our dungeons is that I think you are telling the truth. A gut instinct,
I admit, but born of thirty years of ministering to people."
"Then you're really a priest? As well as the station master?" Brandy asked.
"Oh, my, yes! Part of this appointment entails also being the station master,
as you put it. We are no false identity put on to mask them. Instead, we have
an arrangement with them that works to our mutual benefit. This is not to say
that they don't have their representatives here they are all over the place,
by which I mean the world and not here. I fear that the general accommodations
here are too spare for their liking. They are a worldly bunch, I must say.
This post is difficult to fill, you understand, for there are few who can deal
with them and still sleep nights. I often am beset by doubts myself, but I
must accept my
Church's decision that our interaction with them serves the common good." He
yawned. "You must excuse me, it is getting quite late. For the moment, I fear
I
must place you under guard and keep you apart from the rest of the people
here.
So far, we have managed to limit the knowledge that you even exist only to
those connected with the Labyrinth, the security staff, and myself. As the
security staff are all under permanent rules of silence, I feel certain I can
keep this quiet for now. In the meantime, I will arrange for Sister Elizabeth
to get you some bedding and something to eat, and I will call for you when I
know more."
He called for the guards, and that was the end of the interview. They took us
back down to the floor with the small rooms, and Sister Elizabeth managed to
find some blankets, a couple of scrawny feather pillows, and some
sweet-tasting beer and fruit and pastries. It wasn't exactly heaven, but,
right then, it would have to do. It was certainly no worse, and a good deal
better, than I'd feared it might be.
They kept us down there for a couple of days. It wasn't all that comfortable,
particularly after being used to some ability to roam, but the food was decent
and it gave us a little time to reacclimate ourselves to the real world, or
what passed for the real world, anyway. I kind of hoped the guards were
eunuchs or
file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20...D.%20Inc%201%20-%20Labyrinth%
20of%20Dreams.txt (68 of 116) [1/19/03 4:16:21 PM]
file:///F|/rah/Jack%20L.%20Chalker/Chalker,%20Jack%20L%20-%20G.O.D.%20Inc%201%
20-%20Labyrinth%20of%20Dreams.txt something, though, since there were times
when the sounds coming from the cell might have made celibates reconsider.
The rest of the time was spent simply comparing notes and seeing what we could
come up with. We had a big picture now of what was going on, even if the
details still didn't make much sense. Somebody, somewhere, had invented a
machine that allowed you to travel between worlds. It wasn't between
planets we kept coming back to the same out-of-the-way spot in Oregon but
between different versions of
Earth. How they could exist, we had no idea, but clearly they did; and it was
Page 80
ABC Amber Palm Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abcpalm.html
the kind of fact you accepted by Sherlock Holmes's maxim: when everything else
is eliminated, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.
The next question was, what were they doing on all these Earths? If they
followed the usual human pattern, which was not certain, then just about every
motive boiled down to wealth, power, or passion. From what we'd seen so far,
passion was not one of their strong suits, which left the other two. Certainly
they'd shown real power, and maybe they wanted to take over and run all those
worlds or maybe they already did, and we just were too ignorant to know it.
Power was an end in itself, but there still had to be a bottom line someplace
to justify all this trouble and expense on a permanent basis, and that left
wealth.
They loaded railcars' worth of stuff into that warehouse back home, and it had
to go somewhere. Maybe natural resources from resource-rich places were being
acquired and shipped to other worlds that were resource-poor, or who had
wasted theirs. That was an idea, but what did the poor ones give?
Interestingly, it was
Brandy who came up with the answer to that.
"Knowledge," she decided. "They trade off both the raw materials and maybe
finished products, and they get knowledge in return. Maybe just little stuff
in some cases, big ideas in others. Just think of all the Edisons that might
come up in a thing like this. And maybe other types of folks, too. Education, [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]