First Love Twice
Soon the boy would arrive--the culmination of twenty-three years of planning, coercing, and hoping. Moira had waited so long for this meeting that she didn't trust herself to examine her emotions. She was woman enough to hope for some glimmer of recognition in his eyes when he first saw her, impossible as that was. Though she still loved Makar with the single-minded devotion that she had carried with her all her adult life, this version of him didn't yet know her. A clone couldn't possibly remember the love affair of his predecessor.
Moira was standing on the hill of her home world, the Fund. Her handsome, carefully preserved face was set in a stony expression of concentration, her golden hair pulled back in military style. The hillside began changing as the spacecraft approached in hyperspace. The green rolling slope began to meld into the cushioning shape of the landing pad, its artificial surface sliding aside to reveal the titanium workings of the First Family's private spaceport. From Moiras vantage point the hundreds of red-suited workers seemed to scramble about mindlessly, but she knew each was performing a well-known function, she even knew their names. Knowing all the workers was part of her job.
She blinked her left eye automatically and logged into a mental review of all the Fund's activity on the interstellar exchange. A trick she had been taught in order to suppress unwelcome emotion--Grandfather had frequently cautioned her, emotions were not for the public. Forty years later his words triggered this automatic exercise in response to a powerful surge of feeling as she awaited the boy--no, the man--upon whom so much rested. Today was an exception. Today she would allow herself feelings. She shut down the InterlinK.
As the ship decelerated, it seemed to hover for a split second in the red tinged sky above and then suddenly rested motionless in the spaceport. The human eye could never follow that transition from spacetime to realtime. Moira waited for the outer casing of the craft to split from its sides, and then she signaled to her retinue to follow her down. She was not one to postpone a meeting, no matter how fraught with personal meaning. Had anybody been paying attention, they would have noted that this was the first encounter of a personal nature she had faced since her meeting with the boy's mother twenty-three years ago.
It was at that meeting that she had first truly understood what it meant to be powerful. She looked down at the grief-stricken face of the woman in front of her, the woman she had planned on calling "mother" in just a few short weeks.
"I won't be part of this," Taram told her. At that point Moira realized the meeting was unnecessary--an aide could have handled it. Taram was not going to agree with her decision.
"The embryo has already been implanted," Moira said in a tired voice. "It was done while you were in space stasis on your way here." She turned away with distaste as Taram's face twisted in confusion and outrage. "He is your son. I have his genetic material in my private lab. If you terminate the pregnancy, he will just be re-cloned and raised elsewhere."
"He was my son. I watched him die. You have no right to make this kind of decision for me." Moira noted that Taram had too much dignity to mention that he had died deflecting the OuterteK assassin from Moira herself. This was the woman she wanted raising the new Makar.
"I know how you feel about LifeteK, but life is already underway in your womb, and he is once again your son."
"So why use me, why not implant him in one of your employees?" Taram asked bitterly.
"Because it is important to me that this Makar have the same upbringing as my Makar--the same genetic heritage, and the same environmental heritage."
"Why, you can't simply replace a whole human being. He is lost, Moira, you must accept that! What can you gain by this, but more pain--for all of us?"
Moiras cosmetically perfect young face showed a flicker of passion. "I intend to marry him. I will wait for him. He is the one who will share the future of the Fund with me. That is worth waiting a mere twenty years. And you must raise him as close to the first Makar as possible."
Taram's face showed a hint of pity. "Don't you realize he will be nearly 30 years younger than you--even you can't change that."
"You will be provided with everything you need for the duration of Makar's childhood. When he reaches the age of InterteK majority I will send for him. You will be retired from the Fund Payroll with a generous pension at that time." Moira turned to leave the room. She stopped before the door. "Any deviation from this plan and you and the rest of your family will be taken off the Payroll." She left the room--she didn't need to explain that removal from the Payroll was a death sentence.
Moira turned her attention back to the disembarking travelers. Taram had blocked her transmissions requesting news, secure that Moira would not do anything to harm her while she raised the new Makar. Moira had refrained from employing surveillance cameras--she knew it would endanger Taram and the baby if Fund presence was apparent. So after all these years of treasuring only memories, she was to see him again. She felt suddenly young and embarrassed.
She turned on her heel and said, "Leave me." A quick questioning look from the security commander, and then she and the other eight members of the team went back up the hill, spreading into a defense arc above Moira.
The space crew had exited and now were putting up stairs for the single passenger. The young man, looking bleary from stasis, made his way carefully down the steps, readjusting to normal gravity. As he looked around Moiras breath caught. It was he! The dark hair, slightly olive skin, burning black eyes, and graceful movements were as beautiful as she remembered, but so young . . . Could a twenty-two year old really be that fresh and unfinished looking? She stepped forward to greet him, reasserting her poise and control over her confusion.
"Makar," she said.
He looked at her. "I am he," he said.
"I am Moira," she said. He said nothing. "I will explain. Follow me."
She felt a tinge of disappointment. Somehow she had hoped there would be some sort of recognition, some sign of connection. Oh well, she had known that was impossible. It would take time for familiarity to be established. But it was he, and that was what mattered. Death had been outsmarted. By the Fund, by her, Moira.
Her servants had taken him to his wing--a wing she had spent twenty-two years preparing. She decided to give him some time to adjust to his surroundings alone and to recover from his journey. She left instructions for Caliph to assist him in dressing for the private dinner she had planned.
She watched his face as he tasted the appetizer--Gornian duck pate, deeply marinated and steeped in spices from the 2nd Galaxy--a delicacy that Makar had loved. His reaction didn't disappoint her--his face took on the lit intensity she remembered so well as he focused on the taste of the food. She loved the way he absorbed himself in what he experienced. After half a dozen rapid bites, he seemed to remember her. "This is delicious," he said. She signaled for a second plate to be brought.
As they waited for dessert, he asked, "How is it possible that everything we have eaten is the most delicious food I've ever tasted?" She decided it was time to put aside the small talk.
"Because I know your taste and know that these are your favorite foods."
"But I've never eaten any of these dishes before," he said with a smile. Ahh! That smile, so familiar yet new again. He looked pleasantly confused. She resisted the urge to stroke his face.
Moira smiled back. "Because the first Makar loved all of these dishes beyond any others."
"The first Makar?" he asked quizzically.
"Yes, your original." And then it dawned on her that he didn't know he was a clone! "Surely your mother must have told you where you come from."
"My original? Do you mean the deceased older brother I was named for? Did you know Makar?"
Moira was silent as she collected her thoughts. She was furious with Taram for concealing the boy's identity from him, but then from long years of discipline her anger subsided and she was able to think clearly. Of course Taram had hidden his origins from him. The outer planets had become increasingly hostile to LifeteK products. She knew that Makar's home planet was now a hot-bed of OuterteK activity. To give the boy that knowledge would have endangered his life.
She began to have a new appreciation of the risks Taram had endured raising a clone on a Nature world. Her mind explored all the dilemmas Taram must have faced--how to explain the look-alike to family and neighbors. Perhaps that explained the difference in hairstyle and clothing even more than the changing of fashion. This Makar had his long black hair in a pony-tail, while the first had always had short-clipped, soldierly hair. This one wore conservative, dark clothing, while the other wore colorful, flowing robes. How many more differences would she discover? As dessert came and she watched him eat the frothy Irovian cream sculpture with delight, she was reassured that essential likes and dislikes would be the same. She was confident that would extend to her.
She realized that she had been silent since the boy's last question. He seemed to accept her silence and to have contented himself with enjoying the cuisine and taking in his surroundings. The room was hung with all his favorite paintings, some of which they had collected together those many years ago.
"Makar," she said. "I have something rather unusual to explain to you." He waited, again with that vibrant intentness she remembered so well. "You see, you are more than a brother to the first Makar, you are actually genetically identical to him."
His look of confusion lasted the briefest of seconds, and then turned to anger. He stood up. "I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are not implying what you seem to be."
"Yes, you are a clone."
A look of revulsion crossed his face. "Who are you that you bring me here from halfway across the galaxy to insult me?" he said with deadly precision. She admired him for not being intimidated--she knew the present surroundings held riches beyond anything he could have ever seen on a Nature world.
"I am sorry," she rose too, "I know this is a lot of new experience and information for one day. I will leave you to assimilate this all and we will talk again tomorrow." She left the room. Moira always knew when to leave her quarry.
The next afternoon she met him in the music hall. She hoped the sight of the piano that he loved so much would help ease his adjustment to her home. It was one of the finest instruments in the galaxy, a Terran Steinway that had been preserved through the millennia. It had taken her nearly the entire twenty years to successfully track and acquire it. She knew it would make up for much.
Makar came in, again wearing dark pants and shirt, despite the beautiful robes she had sent to his room. He looked angry.
"If it is true that I am a clone, why was it done? Surely my mother would never have condoned such an abomination."
"It is true your mother would never have agreed to it, but by the time she was aware of it you were already underway in her womb, and I trusted the same repugnance she felt for one aspect of LifeteK would extend to others."
He seemed to absorb this. "But why force her to undergo such a process, why endanger her so? Don't you know she would have been killed had anyone known?"
"I do not succumb to the backward aversion to LifeteK that afflicts your planet. And it meant everything to me to have you restored."
"Why?" he asked.
She gave him part of the information. "Because you lost your life saving mine. It was the least I could do." That she loved him and needed him to live would wait for another time. That he was meant to rule along side her, as well.
"So I am a clone," he said, as if trying out the sound of the word. "It is a lot to take in." He had always had a way of observing himself from afar, seeing the pathos and comedy of his own life while living it. "And you must be the First Lady of the Fund--I know the story of my brother's . . . my earlier self's assassination." He looked at her curiously. "This is my reward for saving your life--this, this life, this new existence that you took it upon yourself to arrange for me." He continued to look at her. "This compensates you for guilt over my death? Forgive me, but the people of the Fund are not reputed on my world to have that much conscience."
She turned from his gaze. Though embarrassed, she was gratified that he was as perceptive as she remembered. Nobody else in the whole Five Galaxies had ever known how to see through her but this man, both the original and the clone.
"The piano is for you, I hope you will enjoy it." She prepared to leave the room. They each had enough to think about. And Moira had waited too long to rush this. She also felt unaccustomed to this kind of scrutiny. Though she valued it, it made her uneasy. She needed to be away from him.
His words stopped her at the door. "I don't play the piano. That was the other me."
She turned in horror. Surely he was joking! "But Taram was instructed to raise you as she had the first time." She controlled the angry words that wanted to follow as she thought of how she would re-pay Taram for this mutilation of the greatest musical genius of the Five Galaxies.
He walked up to her until he was standing uncomfortably close to her. Though she was tall, he towered over her. "Had my mother instructed me on the piano, we probably would have been killed as cultural collaborators by the Naturniks. Things had changed a lot in twenty years on my little home world." Now it was her turn to be surprised. She turned and left the room, but not before she noticed the hint of a smile on his face.
Makar had not been terribly surprised when the helicopters arrived on the hill outside his village, nor when the InterteK guards came to his door. Ever since he joined OuterteK he knew this day would eventually come, but he had expected it years from now. He only felt sad they had come before he had really been able to accomplish something for his homeworld. An inauspicious beginning to the first day of his reaching the age of majority, he thought with irony. Their Surveillance was far more advanced than he or the other members of his cell had ever suspected. Or maybe they weren't as small an operation as he had thought.
He gazed at his home--the living well in the center where he and his parents had talked away many a long night in the cold season, its deep floor cushions faded to umber and smoky gray. The toggle blocks on the table where they had left them after last night's game. It was hard to believe he would never spend an evening here, watching his mother laugh in the soft lamp light.
He shook himself from his reverie--first he must make sure nobody else would be endangered in the minutes remaining him. He climbed the ladder to his stall and gave a quick glance. There was a picture of Salam on his writing table--he had painted it himself. The dual rising moons lit her remarkable orange hair so that she appeared to glow--he dumped it in the tray of dissolvent he kept for document disposal. Salam had recruited him into the underground and was clearly the link to the next level of command. Of course they would know of the other aspect of his relationship with her, but there was no point in handing over that information. No other personal data was evident, a habit he had cultivated since joining OuterteK.
He climbed back down to the doorway to wait. The men were already in his street. His heart grieved him for the pain his mother and father would feel when he was gone, and Salam . . . there was so much more about loving her he had wanted to learn. He fixed his gaze on the rich amber hillside behind the men, trying to imprint on his mind the feel of the evening air, the color of the moons rising . . .
It had taken him a while to understand he was not a prisoner, but a guest. The politeness of the guards escorting him to the starship had surprised him. Would he mind coming with them on a trip? He was being summoned to The Fund. Perhaps they didn't understand the nature of their errand. It made no sense--or perhaps it was some subtle psychological technique for co-opting members of OuterteK. They had asked him if there was something he wanted to take along, or someone he wanted to see before he left. He certainly was going to give them no more information than they undoubtedly already had.
On the way to the ship, he saw his mother coming down the street. Under her arm she carried the cake box for his Majority Day celebration. She stopped in front of him. "You are leaving," she said. She did not sound surprised, only resigned, as if she had expected this. He had not known that she knew of his political activities, but it was always a mistake to underestimate Taram.
It was hard for him to speak, but he knew he must. "Tell Father I love him. And you." They looked at each other for a moment, and then Taram nodded. He knew the moment could bear no more words, so he resumed walking. He felt her watching his back as he followed the guards.
The guards continued to treat him as a guest, even acting as if they envied him. "Big adventure for a Natureboy," said the large, ruddy one. "A paid invitation to The Fund--you must have done something right, boy!" Perhaps these were more tactics to confuse him.
When they entered the small ship, he was surprised by its luxury. Though he had never been off world before, he knew the soft lighting and luxurious upholstery were not standard issue. Nor were there other passengers--he had half expected to see other members of the underground. This didn't fit his image of an arrest . . . before he had time to think things through he was ushered into the stasis chamber, and it was a long time before he could return to his thoughts.
Moira sat in her gardens with a team of secretaries. She gave quick instructions to divert funds from the mining enterprise on Rigon to the laboratories of Parsec. Right now the work being done there was more crucial--the new genetic alterations developed on Parsec had a greater profit potential than flooding the market with the gemstones of yet another planet. Closing the mining enterprise would ultimately save The Fund money, especially if it was invested immediately in the LifeteK laboratories. It was probable that LifeteK would design better miners in a generation or so, and the gemstones would still be there.
But as she worked, she was aware of the confusion she felt. In her fantasies, she had imagined that Makar would continue the career of her Makar. That together they would proceed to visit the families of the great Index planets. It was his remarkable talent that had brought their paths to cross the first time. It was also that talent that made him a suitable mate for her. Generally Index families never married outside of the genetic index, except in the case of a sport, a proven example of mutation or genius that could enrich the index gene bank. Makar-the-galaxy-famous-pianist had clearly been such a sport.
It would be harder to demonstrate that about this Makar without publicizing his origins. And then the Nature Planets would be even more difficult to control--Makar's authority would be volatile if they knew that they were answering to a clone. This complicated things, especially with the increase in underground sabotage in recent years.
But the confusion went beyond that. She would never hear that music played again. That playing which had seemed to awaken her as a young woman. To awaken her from the endless succession of tutors, finance seminars, alliance meetings and social affairs. It brought to her world a sense of mystery--here was something so vast and so beautiful, it could not be bought or bartered, analyzed or optioned . . . only loved. She had never felt anything like that since.
"Madam," said Virat, her secretary, "you were saying you wanted to see our shares of the iridium market?" She returned her mind to the business at hand.
Makar wandered the gardens of Moiras private estate during the days. Evenings were spent in dinner and conversation with Moira, sometimes with others present. Most of what the others talked about was from a different world and he had trouble following them: options, buy-outs, futures. He understood all too well that he was in the center of power, but he had never been interested in these kinds of things. More fascinating was the wealth of textures around him, the artwork, some of which was obviously priceless; the different color of The Fund's sunlight from his own planet's, the unreality of it's moonless nights.
He was homesick. He thought often of Salam, and of his parents, but didn't dare ask to contact them--though it was clear he had been brought here for reasons other than the political, he still had the wariness born of habit regarding his contacts. And Moira didn't offer. She seemed to expect that he would immediately belong wholly to her world.
He sensed in her an expectancy, as if she were waiting for something. Though older, she was beautiful, almost perfect, tall and slender, with almond eyes and white skin, and the poise that comes with absolute confidence--he enjoyed their time alone together and was fascinated by her beauty, but there was an iciness about her that he found repellent. A focusing of the will that he knew would be trouble for any who became close to her. He imagined that he could have loved her--a younger, softer version of her, if, of course, he had never met Salam. Clearly she felt a tie to him based on who the other Makar had been, and he knew that it was beyond admiring him as a concert artist. This, too, kept him from mentioning Salam.
A feeling of impatience rose within him. Obviously he was not to be interrogated and executed, and clearly he wasn't able to provide the musical entertainment that she had anticipated. He wondered why she kept him around. He had better things to do with his life than be consort to a rich woman. He had a life on his home world--a family, Salam, work as an artisan, dreams about art school, all of which he longed for. Surely she had seen enough of the results of her beneficence in re-cloning the man who saved her life to satisfy her rich ego. Somehow this visit with Moira would have to be brought to an end.
"How long am I to stay here?" he asked her one night at dinner, after a glass of Chinian brandy left him feeling particularly melancholy.
He was surprised at the look of hurt that crossed her features. He had never seen her control slip around any of the myriad friends who had been to dine. Another confirmation of his growing certainty about the relationship between Moira and the first Makar.
"Aren't you enjoying yourself?" she asked.
"What are your plans for me?" He felt out of time for chit chat. How long was a man supposed to wander purposelessly as a "guest."
"I'm glad you asked," she replied, a business-like expression covering her features. "I had thought you could begin attending some of the Portfolio meetings and getting the lay of the land."
He was shocked. What possible purpose could she have in mind, sending him, a Nature Planet native, into Portfolio meetings. She couldn't possibly believe he was interested in participating in InterteK commerce, even if he knew something about it!
For a brief moment he wondered if this was a subtle plan to get him to divulge what he knew about OuterteK by involving him in InterteK. But he was far too low-level a member to have any information worth anything to anyone. She must honestly think she was bringing him into the family business. Makar must have been very important to her. But surely she must realize he was a different person, or if not a different person, a different outcome of the same person with a new life.
"No thank you," he replied. She looked angry but then obviously thought better of it.
"Please join me in the parlor for a game of Hyperwinks," she said, in her best society voice.
"No thank you, I'll go to bed early." They rose together and left the room through separate doors, an awkward silence in the air.
Moira was at a loss. This was not going at all as she had planned, and she was not used to her plans going awry. She had assumed that time and exposure would draw Makar closer to her, after all, he was the same man, and there were countless proofs of this--the art he admired, little electric gestures, taste in food, the way he laughed--even little things he said were completely in keeping with the man she remembered. However their growing familiarity only seemed to create more distance and more resentment on his part.
She realized he was bored, but didn't know how to entertain him. His thoughts, and also his heart, were elsewhere. All the glitterati and glamour of her world didn't seem to entice him. She had thought he would leap at the chance to attend high level meetings and the opportunities that implied, but he actually acted disdainful.
There was nobody she confided in about this matter. She was completely accustomed to acting alone--she had been trained to act alone. Again the words of Grandfather came back--No loyalty can withstand the test of ambition. For a brief moment she felt an urge to talk with Taram, the only other woman who knew both Makars and could understand Moiras plan, but she knew she had destroyed any possibility for a relationship. She almost laughed at the idea of her, Moira, turning to a Nature World woman for advice.
It could not be that she had failed! She cautioned herself to give it time--it had only been a month since he had left a whole world and everyone he knew--eventually her world would become his home. She could wait--she had waited this long.
Meanwhile there was an uprising of the miners on Rigon to attend to. She wandered down a long hallway hung with tapestries depicting battle scenes from ancient Fund history until now. She stopped before the massive iron door of her military council chamber. General Mormik and his staff awaited her wishes on the matter of the miners. She would send him to suppress the uprising. There were some things she still knew how to handle.
Makar spent another idle day wandering the expanses of the First Family's estate. He went from the magnificent library to the wonderful gardens, to the breed stables, to the bestiary of samples from all Five Galaxies. It was all marvelous, but he could not find himself in any of it. His life was back on his Nature World--with his aging parents, his lovely Salam, his friends in the underground. He wondered what they thought of his disappearance--did they think him dead? Maybe they thought he was a spy. He hoped someday to ask them.
He tried to imagine how he could escape from this labyrinth. But it is hard to leave a world that is completely controlled by one's host. He had never even tried to leave the premises. Could it be done?
He went to the large iron gate at the corner of the South garden, where he had noticed the estate workers coming and going. They all were DNA scanned as they walked, and random spot-checked with questions by a guard. Perhaps he could just walk out.
He approached the gate. Here the foliage was even denser. A line of shrubs crossed the way, broken only in the middle by the gate. Undoubtedly there were energy fields submerged in the shrubbery. The red-suited guard came out to greet him. "Good day, sir," he said. "This is the way to the village."
"Yes," Makar said. "I thought I'd go look around."
"Just a moment, sir," said the guard. Makar recognized the mechanism of subglottal vocalization in the shifting of the man's jaw. He was communicating with someone higher up. A slight wave of fear shook Makar, but then again, what did he have to lose? If he was to leave this place, he needed to understand the rules of his prison. And he would need help from the outside. A feeling of purpose came over him, the first in many days.
"Someone will be right with you to escort you," said the guard cheerily. Makar's heart sunk.
Makar lay in his bed that night. Moira had not dined with him and he had eaten alone in the conservatory. He had never felt so alone; he actually missed her presence.
The tour of the village had been mildly interesting. The construction materials were nothing like those of his home planet--everywhere he looked there was metal and explosive-proof glass. There were Fund distribution centers for food, and Fund Entertainment Centers for pleasure, and Fund LifeteK centers for who knew what abominations. Yet something about it all reminded him of home. Perhaps the way everyone seemed to know everyone else.
His escort was young, handsome, and bland. His attempts at conversation were greeted with polite replies. His questions answered with alacrity. Makar tried to look for faces that he could connect with, some way out of there. But the trip had only served to show him the futility of plans of some daredevil escape. He was alone on this world.
He looked at the beautiful arched doorways and windows of his chambers--the soothing sounds of the fountain in the antechamber, the lush sofas and soft lighting in his sitting room, the marble fixtured bathroom with every form of sonar and aqua therapy imaginable, including live masseurs on command. He sighed.
He must have drifted off to sleep because suddenly he was awake. And not alone. He jumped up. Seated across from his bed was the young guard who had been his escort in the village.
The guard held out his hand to show Makar a small device. "This will cover the sound of our voices with room noise," he said. "My name is Sigar, and I am a member of OuterteK."
Wide awake with excitement, Makar asked, "Can you get me off this world and back home?"
"We need your help," said Sigar, in the same soft voice he had spoken in that afternoon. But now the bland expression was replaced with a look of purpose that Makar had never guessed the man possessed.
"Today the First Lady gave orders for the military control of a mining community on the planet Rigon. It is a community of 12,000 men, women and children who were sent to this planet to mine gemstones for the commodity markets. Without warning they were taken off Payroll and left to fend for themselves."
Makar sat back down. "Go on," he said. He was familiar with this kind of story.
"The miners are too many to be assimilated by the local farm communities, and they have begun staging protests against Fund and LifeteK centers. We need you to stop the military mission until we can get enough OuterteK ships there to take the mining families to a Nature World. They were just left to die, and now they will be killed for protesting."
"What can I possibly do about it?"
"We want to take First Lady Moira hostage and work out an exchange for the lives of these miners."
Makar was shocked. Though he had been a political supporter of OuterteK, educating others, distributing information, discussing political theory, he had never been asked to do anything. Much less kidnap someone, and not just anyone, but kidnap the head of The Fund herself.
"Take this tranquilizing nub with you to dinner tomorrow night. It fits under the left index fingernail, and fires in a straight trajectory when you extend the finger. All you need do is point at her." Sigar approached Makar, who held out his left hand. He felt a slight pressure under the nail as Sigar injected the nub. "Once she is out, simply bite on your nail, and we will come." Makar nodded.
He turned to leave and paused at the door. "I don't need to tell you that 10,000 innocent lives are at stake." Sigar handed him a slip of paper. "This is a message from Salam." He left as quietly as held come.
Makar read the message over three times before it dissolved in his hand. He felt surprised at its contents, and then a tremendous excitement and finally relief. Now he was free to do what he must--she carried his child. He smiled. For the rest of the night he lay with his left fist clenched and the smile coming and going. This mission would get him off this cursed world. He didn't fall back asleep until morning.
Dinner was going surpassingly well. Makar was animated and seemed to take a real interest in being with her. Perhaps that little trip of his to the village had helped put things in perspective for him. Maybe he was beginning to realize the power she was offering him.
Moira found herself really enjoying herself. It was a feeling she didn't often have. After two days of grueling meetings over the Rigon fiasco, she was in the mood for a little levity. A thought came to her. "Would you like to hear a recording of Makar playing the piano?" she asked him. They didn't use recording technologies on nature worlds.
He looked a little surprised. "Why not?" he asked. "It would be interesting."
They moved to a sofa and she keyed the room's system from the arm of the sofa, let her long hair down, and settled in to listen and watch.
Makar gasped. She watched him as he took in the sight of himself in front of them, seated at a piano. Seeing the two together, she was struck by how alike they really were.
"I want to play a piece that you made me think of today. It is a Fantasy by Oram Rigan of the Second Galaxy." The Makar simulation looked at them a little shyly, and said softly, "For Moira." He sat down and began to play.
She was flooded by the sound of the music. The experience of listening to the music with this Makar was overwhelming. She felt herself softening and melting. Feelings she hadn't had in decades flowed into her. She would give herself to him during the music, and he would finally understand. She looked over at him with tears in her eyes--she could see that he was stunned, too. "Oh Makar," she said, and she stood up to come to him. Just as she reached out to touch him, he raised his hand and pointed at her.
For a moment he looked at the woman prone at his feet, her hair spread in a golden circle, and was scared that he had killed her. But she was only in a deep sleep. It had been too much, the sight of himself playing a long gone piano, her approaching with that naked love in her face, and the sound of the music filling his every fiber. His simulation played on--it was like being in the presence of a ghost. He felt unbearably overwhelmed--drenched with the beautiful music and drowning in it. He stumbled to the sofa arm to discontinue the heart wrenching sounds, but didn't know how the controls worked. His holo-self continued, oblivious to the drama unfolding in his audience, lost in his playing. Help, he must have help. He remembered the instructions and bit his nail.
Sigar and two other red-suited guards arrived almost immediately. Makar watched helplessly as they bound and gagged the unconscious Moira. The music was so loud. He couldn't think straight. Suddenly the opposite door opened and Moiras security troops arrived. He could barely hear the shouting as Sigar and one of the two others were surrounded. He stood helplessly as they were dragged out. As if in a dream he saw Sigar lurch free from his guard, raise his left hand and point his index finger at the prone figure of Moira. At almost the same instant Sigar's head flew off with a laser flash.
"No!" shouted Makar, as he threw himself over the helpless woman. He felt his chest explode with the impact from Sigar's nub, and looked up to see himself still playing the piano, a look of absorption on his mirror imaged face. His vision went black and the music finally stopped.
Moira placed the call herself. She knew her duty. Taram, her husband, and a strange girl with unusual orange hair, some relative no doubt, stood at the holoport where they had been brought. Moira recited the events of the previous day and gave her condolences. Once again they would be given a tidy compensation. The man's face crumbled, but the women stood immobile.
Moira informed them that she had set up a memorial fund for the relocation of the Rigonian Miners. She hoped they found that a fitting tribute to Makar, who had obviously cared about those people. The girl, whoever she was, looked away, but not before Moira saw a flash of contempt.
Taram merely nodded, and turned away from the viewscreen to leave the holoport. She was an old woman now, but her back was still straight. As if on cue, the old man, his back bowed with grief, followed.
The orange-haired girl was the last to go, she seemed fascinated by Moiras face, and took a long penetrating look. And finally she, too, turned to go. Only then did Moira see she was with child. For a moment Moira felt a flash of fear, there was something in the girl's look, but she shrugged it off. What had she to fear from some pregnant peasant girl? Moira terminated the transmission.
She was tired. The new Makar was already growing in her laboratory. She would be too old for him, but with the proper upbringing, he would make the perfect-successor to The Fund. This time she would see to it that things were done right.