Harry stepped outside and lit up a cigar. He took a couple of puffs. His hands were shaking. Fitz-Porter had totally broken down and begged for his life after Jane told Quincey to throw him out the airlock of the orbiting freighter. Fitz-Porter was a dead man. He had killed Steve Somerset, Mark Chapman and Allyson Lehman’s father. Fitz-Porter would have killed him, too, had Quincey not put it all together and showed up when he did.
And it all boiled down to greed on a planet where greed was not supposed to exist. That had been Steve Somerset’s grand plan: eliminate want. Give every man all the food he can eat, the clothes he can wear and a roof over his head. All a man had to do was work for it. If you did your job, there was nothing you could not have. Harry shook his head. Somerset wanted to create a perfect society. But how could anyone create a perfect society with something as imperfect as a human being?
But Fitz-Porter wanted more. Harry remembered something from one of the ancient classics he had had to read in school. Something about better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven. What was it with men like Turgenev and Fitz-Porter? he wondered. Turgenev wanted to move up the chain of command. He wanted to usurp Steve and extend his control over the mine owners and the amount of red-ore shipped off the planet, which would have made him a player on the Directorate radar. Harry could understand that. Turgenev was trying to reach a pinnacle within his own business sphere.
Fitz-Porter was different. He wanted to insidiously gain power over a wider territory, to inflict himself on the largest number of people he could. First, he wanted Allyson and to use the export/import company to smuggle red-ore off the planet. He had killed Ali’s father to get it. Only he failed to realize that the power behind the family was the mother. When Allyson broke up with him, he pursued Jane and began to contemplate the power that would devolve to her once her father was dead. When his wife died, Steve had stopped taking the Youth Treatments. How long did Fitz-Porter really have to wait?However long, it was too long. Harry shook his head and knocked the ash off of his cigar. He heard footsteps behind him.
Quincey walked up next to him. “I want to thank you for giving me the clue that caught Steve’s killer,” he said.
“You gave me the clue just after you arrived when you asked me why people kill each other. Once I eliminated Turgenev, Mrs. Lehman, Lydia and Diana that left me with only one option. It was an improbable one, but it was still the only one. It left me with two men who had been murdered because of their daughters both of whom had one thing in common: the same suitor.”
“Are you really going to kill him?”
“On this planet, the law will be swift. He and everyone who aided and abetted him will be done away with. On this planet the law is not a respecter of human beings nor is it merciful. They will be part of the ecosystem by the time you get to bed tonight. The Vigilance Committee will see to that.”
“I don’t know if I can live like that,” Harry said.
“So you don’t plan to stay?”
“What would I do here?” Harry asked.
“I’m sure Lydia could find something for you to do,” Quincey said.
“No doubt,” Harry said. “But I prefer something more civilized than this frontier experiment.”
“Well, wherever you end up, be safe. If you ever need a friend, you know how to get a hold of me.” Quincey stuck out his hand. Harry shook it. The grip was hard and firm. Harry was never going to get used to that.
Quincey walked away. Harry finished his cigar and went back inside. Lydia was sitting in the soft lounge chair on the far side of the room. She was alone. The Vigilance Committee had left. Harry walked up to her. “Are you coming back to Earth Prime with me?” he asked.
Lydia smiled. It was almost motherly and it scared Harry. “Now, why should I do that?” she asked.
“It’s obvious that Quincey will stay and protect Jane’s interests here just as he did her father’s. With Turgenev’s plans exposed, he won’t be a factor in planet politics. That leaves Huntington without employment. Knowing how he feels towards the former Conglomerate captains, he could be your eyes and ears here and oversee your interests with the mine owners. I seriously doubt that anyone would go against him knowing that he’s your man. You have Harrison Hill on Emerson-5. He’s a good man and believes in you. Your real problem is on Earth Prime. You’ve put all the pieces together out here on the frontier for a takeover. On Earth Prime, you could separate the Directorate’s interests from this sphere of operation and spin off a subsidiary which you could control. Eventually, the subsidiary would become stronger than the parent. You know what they say at the Directorate: It’s better to have your enemy’s desk next to yours so you can read over his shoulder.”
Lydia laughed. “You have certainly thought this out, haven’t you.”
“I have my own interests to protect,” Harry said. “I’m just a junior member of the Directorate. Someone who monitors the movement of raw materials. In the larger scheme of things, I’m expendable.”
“No, Mr. Salem, you are not,” Lydia said. “I will need someone like you as my assistant. If anything you will provide me with years of amusement.”
“How so?” Harry asked.
“I’m 20-times older than you and you think that I have never thought of this before. Looking at things through unjaded eyes might be just the medicine I need,” she said.
Harry smiled.“So when do we leave?”
“I’m already packed and took the liberty to have Jane’s new staff pack your things as well. We will leave with the current shipment of red-ore. When we are in broadcast range of Emerson-5, I will instruct the First Space Cavalry to send us a fast ship to take us back to Earth Prime. Capt. O’Rourke owes me a favor or two that I am sure he will like to get one on the books. The freighter will be ready to depart tomorrow morning. If you have any good-bye’s to say, I suggest you do it quickly. Take my personal cable-car.”
Harry bowed slightly and left the house. He found the gripman asleep at the controls and shook him awake. He messaged Allyson and asked where she was. She messaged back, “With father.” Harry told the gripman where to go on the north rim. On the trip, Harry thought about what he was going to say. He knew what he wanted to say, but he wasn’t sure it was what Allyson wanted to hear.
She was waiting for him on the knoll. She was sitting with her back against their tree staring out into the night. The enhanced starlight filtered down between the branches and leaves wrapping her in a deep purple shadow. Harry walked up to her.
“Mother messaged me how you solved father’s murder. Thank you. I don’t know if I will ever be able to let you know how much that means to all of us,” she said.
“I don’t want your gratitude,” Harry said.
“You will be leaving, won’t you?” she asked not giving him a chance to start the little speech he had been rehearsing on the trip up.
“Yes,” he said.
“Frontier life is not for you, is it.”
“No. It’s not.”
“I didn’t think so.”
“You sound disappointed.”
“I am,” she said.
Her voice was soft and low and with a touch of a rasp and it totally melted Harry’s heart. “You could come with me,” he said almost as softly.
“With you? As what? What could I do?”
Harry knelt down and took her hands in his. He looked into her eyes. “You could come back with me as my woman, my companion, my wife. I love you. I’ve loved you ever since I first saw you on the trip out to Emerson-5. You were sitting in the passenger lounge reading. You looked so ethereal with your hair flowing over your shoulder like a black waterfall and your eyes reflecting the light from your reading tablet. You were/are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. You deserve to be in the center of things not wasting away out here at the edge of the known. I want you with me. I need you with me. Without you, I’m not complete.”
Allyson leaned forward and kissed him softly on the mouth. Harry kissed her back. He leaned into the kiss and grabbed the tree to steady himself. The kiss ended. “What do you say?” he asked.
“When do you plan to leave?”
“Lydia wants to take the current freighter back. It should be ready to depart sometime this morning.”
“Then, it looks like we’re going to have a sleepless night,” Allyson said.
Harry stood up and pulled her to her feet and kissed her again. He held her tightly. When the kiss ended, they, both, were breathless. Harry whispered, “You won’t regret this.”
“I know,” she said and kissed him again.
The warm breeze from the terraforming plant rustled the leaves above their heads. The movement of the foliage made the stars seem to sparkle. A new sensation coursed through Harry’s being. With Allyson in his arms, he felt like he was King of the Known Universe and his adventure was just beginning.
(Author’s Note: If you enjoyed this story, tell a friend. If you really enjoyed this story, the sequel DO ANDROIDS WEEP MAGNETIC TEARS is currently available as an e-book on Amazon.com
Also check out the third book in the series, THE INCREDIBLE COMMERCE RAIDER currently a work in progress and available here on Inkitt.)