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May 21, 2016

Lerand Wible

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I previously blogged about the Aquarius Trilogy, stories written by an analogue of Jack Vance who lived in the Ekcolir Reality. In the first book of that trilogy, The Clones of Sogdian, Kirth Gersen became caught up in a dangerous investigation of a secretive organization called Zodiac Control.

I've never read The Clones of Sogdian, but apparently Gohrlay did. Previously, I've referred to Gersen's partner during the events of the Aquarius Trilogy as "Drusilla I", but according to Gohrlay her name was Karalin Umdys.

Previously, I was aware that that Retz, who worked with Viole Falushe, was secretly an agent for Zodiac Control and Karalin played a role in revealing his secret identity.

Wible Resort on Sogdian
The opportunity to unmask Retz arose after Gersen became aware of some of the more heinous biological experiments that were carried out on Sogdian.

After visiting Retz and collecting all of the records of those experiments and the commentaries on them that had been written by Viole Falushe, Gersen turned the documents over to Rundle Detteras at Sea Province University on Alphanor in the Rigel system.

rehabilitation center, Sogdian
The Sogdian Experiments
Detteras quickly reviewed the materials and recommended that a rehabilitation facility be established immediately for the treatment of the most severely damaged victims of the Sogdian experiments. Gersen contacted Lerand Wible and asked if he had made progress on the design for a floating lagoon that had been commissioned by Viole Falushe. Wible had indeed worked out the details for construction of a floating city on Sogdian. With funding from Gersen, the treatment facility was quickly built from modular components that were shipped to the Sirneste Cluster and assembled according to Wible's plan.

After the first phase of construction was complete, Gersen left Retz and a team of doctors from Alphanor in charge of the rehabilitation center. Wible continued to build the Central Core of what was to eventually become known as Wible Resort and additional housing pods in the Outer Ring.

IPCC
Returning to Alphanor, Gersen next made his fateful discovery of Karalin Umdys on the Esplanade at Avante. When the "guardians" of Karalin suddenly disappeared, Gersen commissioned the IPCC to investigate. Known to Karalin as Jose and Viquie Umdys, IPCC investigators were only able to find a few weak linkages from them to the Institute.

No Nanites For Me
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On the morning when Gersen received his report from the IPCC, Karalin asked him, "Why would the Institute be connected with Viole Falushe?"

Gersen took Karalin's hand and they went to the garden restaurant of their hotel. Gersen ate quietly and struggled internally with doubts about the wisdom of exposing Karalin to the grim details of his life. Puzzled by Gersen's silence, Karalin gently revived the topic of conversation. "Aren't you a member of the Institute?"

original cover art by John Berkey
Gersen shrugged. "I have not been active in the Institute since I was a lad, but I've never canceled my rank or abandoned my status as a member."

"If you asked the Institute for help, would they tell you anything about Jose and Viquie?"

Gersen slowly shook his head. "The IPCC investigated that possibility. They got nothing useful from the Institute and I'm certain that I would have no better luck."


Gersen again thought about his long-standing goal of publishing a series of articles about the Institute in Cosmopolis. A half dozen articles were ready for the press, but he feared going toe-to-toe with the Institute.

Karalin reached across the table and took hold of his hand. "You're not telling me everything."

Gersen nodded. "I have no right to involve you in my troubles." Still, Gersen reflected, Karalin was intelligent and well educated. Quite possibly she had heard useful information from Jose and Viquie during the years that she had lived with them. Gersen's hope that she might have useful knowledge was balanced against the possibility that upon further investigation of her upbringing and life, Gersen might learn that she had also been the subject of biological or psychological experimentation.

She squeezed his hand, "If it helps, I've decided to involve myself with you and the mysteries of my origins. I don't want to live my life in ignorance."

Gersen was torn between two paths forward. He was eager to forget about Viole Falushe and move on to fresh investigation of the two remaining Demon Princes. However, he was puzzled and disturbed by the evidence suggesting that both Kokor Hekkus and Viole Falushe had connections to the Institute. Gersen himself and his personal war against the Demon Princes had been revealed to Duschane Audmar, a high ranking member of the Institute. It might be unwise to ignore the Institute.

"Kirth, you are stubborn." Karalin asked firmly, "Why won't you tell me your thoughts?"

"I will, but not here." He rose and guided her towards the exit. Karalin needed only a few minutes to pack her travel bag and then they were on their way to the space port. An hour later with Alphanor shrinking below them, Gersen activated the star drive of the Distis Pharaon and he turned to Karalin. "Now we can speak freely. It is almost certain that the Institute has suppressed powerful technologies. The question becomes: are those technologies secretly available and still made use of by some?"

"What technologies? Made use of for what?"

"It is hard to imagine what we cannot see, but here is an example: the cloning technology that gave you your life."

Thamber
Karalin shrugged. "Why does it matter if I am a clone or if Viole Falushe obtained cloning technology from the Institute?"

"I don't know." Gersen projected an image of an Earth-like planet on the main display of the flight deck. "My thoughts went in another direction. Do you recall the planet Thamber?"

"Of course. Its location was made public just last year. News reports described it as the playground of Demon Prince Kokor Hekkus."

"I believe that that the long life of Kokor Hekkus was made possible by cloning. If so, it means that he was able to pass his memories along from clone to clone."

"But the report was that Kokor Hekkus used biochemical techniques to extend his life."

"That appears to have been a half-truth. I had tests performed on the body of one of his aides who claimed to be hundreds of years old. However, analysis revealed that his body was only about fifty years old."

Karalin felt a shiver up her back. "Are you suggesting that Viole Falushe not only made me but also provided me with false memories?"

Gersen put an arm around Karalin and tried to put her mind at ease. "No, I don't think so. However, I worry that he and Retz were using some other technology on Sogdian to experiment with the control of emotions."


Karalin was startled by the possibility. "Are you saying that he could have made me fall in love with him?"

Gersen activated a viewer and showed Karalin pages from one of the notebooks that had been kept by Retz. "Read this."


Karalin scanned the documents and then turned back to Gersen. "Exactly who is this 'Retz'? He clearly has scientific training."

"At first I assumed that he worked for Viole Falushe, but I might have had that backwards."

"He seems to have believed that he could control the thoughts of those poor test subjects."

Gersen nodded. "That is my fear. If so, then he probably also controlled the thoughts of both Viole Falushe and myself. When I reflect on the situation, I don't understand why I trusted Retz to care for the victims of the evil human experimentation that took place at the Palace of Love."

Karalin asked, "But how could Retz take control of your mind?"

Gersen shrugged. "To understand that, I must return to Sogdian, but it will be dangerous. If Retz learns that I suspect him of being the mastermind behind Viole Falushe, he might simply eliminate me. I don't want to expose you to such a dangerous situation."

Karalin shook her head decisively. "You have it backwards again. I am the solution to your problem. I can get close to Retz and learn the truth."

"Very well, if you are willing to risk your life, then I'll make use of you. But we must take precautions; I don't want to lose you."

Karalin took gold of Gersen's arm and rested her head against his shoulder. "Do you have a plan?"

"We'll take an indirect approach. We will be on hand for the opening of Wible's Resort. We'll make no effort to visit Retz. We must entice Retz into our trap. And I want you to be in disguise. Have you ever wanted red hair?"

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Karalin laughed. "Disguise?  I'll play that game. Just don't expect me to have my breasts enlarged."

Gersen put his arms around her, "A good spy has no inhibitions. For now, our only concern is our trap and how to attract the attention of Retz."
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This blog post is part of a  series that celebrates the fiction of Jack Vance. Other posts in the series:
March 6 - Mirky Porod
April 9 - Vance +100
May 7 - Scutinary Vitalists
May 15, 2016 - Director of Forestlands
May 26, 2017 - Perfection of Joy
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Next Blog Post: The Gaia Intervention 
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