I’m crying in the toilet cubicle. I’m not making a noise, but tears are streaming down my face. I put a bit of make-up on this morning, which I have had to take off, to avoid having panda-eyes when I go into the cabinet-meeting. I have just seen something that I wish I had not.
Some months ago, I was on a business trip to I-2, and I released Rosalind. I was too busy to look after her, and I thought it was time she was given the chance to reproduce. We already have plenty of rabbits on I-11, and I thought the climate on I-2 would suit her better. I did something which I now think was very stupid. I wirelessly programmed the sensory transducers that I had implanted in her so that they would only register in my internal eyes and ears if the signal was above a certain intensity – if she was in big trouble, in other words.
When the data stream from Rosalind’s eyes cuts in, it is bewildering at first. She has all-round vision, from the sky almost to the ground underneath her. Her vision of colour is poor, but she can tell the difference between blue and green. She had been lifted off the floor by a man wearing a black uniform (evidently a member of one of the invader’s foot patrols, from the garrison left on I-2). One of her back legs had been caught in a snare. I could hear his breathing. That was the only sound I could hear. Rosalind herself was silent. The last thing I saw before the signal cut out was the invader’s wrists and hands, which were briefly rendered visible as Rosalind’s eyes popped out of their orbits. He had squeezed her to death.
I have a digital image of his face. When I find him, I am going to do the same to him, only it will last longer, and before his eyeballs pop out, other parts of his body will already have done so.
I must think about the war. I must stop crying and think about the war. I must stop crying and think about how to prevent this from happening to other animals, or to more people.
I think I am just about to make the same mistake again. I have just realised that the main vessel in the enemy convoy is one of the ships that was originally part of The Irish Rover, which was liberally sprinkled with my surveillance devices. The signal should be easy to pick up, because I had them all connected to the ship’s own network, to boost the signals. I have looked at the array, and I can see one set of mikes from the ship in question which is showing some amplitude. The cams in the same room are not showing anything, indicating either a malfunction or (more probably) that the cabin is in darkness. This is what I can hear.
‘Jessica. Jessica. Are you awake? Jessica?’
‘Are you awake?’
‘I don’t know. Are they coming back?’
‘No, they have left us alone.’
‘When are they coming back?’
‘I don’t know. Try not to think about it.’
‘Are they going to kill us?’
‘I don’t know, but we aren’t dead yet.’
‘I wish I was dead.’
‘Jessica, you’ve got to be strong. We are going to get through this.’
‘Get into the real world, Sam. We’re prisoners, and when they have finished raping us, they are going to shoot us or chuck us over the side. Oh, god – I feel seasick again. We haven’t even got a bucket to throw up in. I can’t take any more of this.’
‘Jess, don’t cry. Don’t cry. Come here, babe.’
‘What’s going to happen to us? What are they going to do to us?’
‘I don’t know, Jess. Probably more of the same, but we are still alive. We are going to get through this.’
‘No, we’re not.’
‘Yes, we are. We are. I know we are.’
‘You’re a fool. You don’t know what you are talking about.’
‘I may be a fool, but I do know that we are going to get through this, somehow.’
‘What do you think about when they are doing it to you?’
‘I don’t want to talk about that.’
‘It might help me. I just can’t take it at all. It is worse than torture, worse than death. I wish they would just kill me instead. You seem to be able to cope with this ordeal. I don’t know how you do it.’
‘I’m a survivor.’
‘But what do you think about?’
‘I think you remind me of Mr Richardson.’
‘Who the hell is Mr Richardson?’
‘He was a really dweebie, pathetic saddo teacher at my school who wore a tank top and a bow tie and had really bad BO and got done for forcing himself on the first year girls in the audio-visual stockroom.’
‘Yes, there was a teacher like that at my school, but I never heard he did anything like that.’
‘I bet he did.’
‘She’s in the corner. Don’t touch her.’
‘Why not? Is she all right?’
‘Leave her alone.’
‘Why? What’s wrong with her.’
‘They killed her.’
‘Let me just see if she’s – eeeuuuurrrgggghhhh! What’s she covered in?’
‘I told you not to touch her.’
‘She’s got something sticky all over her hair.’
‘What did they do to her?’
‘That psycho bloke said that she was racially inferior, because she was thick, and so they raped her, and then he told them to kill her. They did it by holding her upside down, and slamming her face into the floor again and again, until she died. They did it in front of her husband. When she was dead, they covered her head with a sack, and carried on raping her in front of him. And then they shot him.’
‘Because they’re mad.’
‘I think I’m going mad.’
‘We are going to get through this, Jess. We are.’ I stopped listening at that point, but I redirected the feed to the archive.
I composed myself, and decided to join the meeting without receiving the summons from Kelvin, and went into the cabinet room. I still have not got used to him in uniform. He looks like he has stepped out of a black and white film: beret with badge, khaki shirt, khaki tie, battledress, khaki trousers, gaiters, boots. Lance Naik Chandra polishes his boots for him, and you can literally see your face in them (though you would have to get down on your knees to do this if he was wearing them). I asked Kelvin recently if he expects me to wear a uniform, which, as soon as I had uttered the words, sounded like a strange question. The word “uniform” in our house has not usually meant a military uniform. Kelvin said that my role was concerned with deception and concealment, and so I could wear whatever I thought was appropriate. I have just carried on wearing my normal clothes. Recently, I seem to be affecting a 1940s style in hair and dress. Maybe next I will learn to do the jitterbug.
The other people around the cabinet table were Captain McCann, James Holt, Professor Gonzales, Kerr McLean, Prude, and Doctor Condon-Douglas. Also in the room was a side-table with a computer workstation on it. I knew I would be needing this.
Kelvin assumed that everybody knew who I was and did not seem surprised to see me nor annoyed that I had barged into his meeting. He did not introduce me: he just let me get straight on with my report.
‘I’m sorry to interrupt, but there is something that I need to tell you about straight away. I believe that the enemy has been for some time preparing and loading a convoy of vessels in a port on I-13. They set sail several hours ago. I don’t know where they intend to go, but I am told that I-3 is the likeliest destination. Further satellite images will easily confirm or deny this. They will probably have left another garrison on I-13.
‘If you will permit me to log on via this workstation, I will use the monitor to display what the satellites are currently tracking.’
I must admit that I felt excited. I had promised them nothing, apart from an outline I had sketched to Kelvin. Kelvin knew better than to give anything of what I had told him away to the cabinet before my demonstration.
I sat down at the computer, and the government of Achird-gamma stood up and crowded round my back. Kelvin was standing directly behind me, to get the best view of the screen.
‘What you are now seeing is an image, in real time, of the enemy convoy. As you can see, it has indeed set sail.’ I opened another window on the screen, and in this one I zoomed out, got the port they had set off from and the convoy in the same image, and measured the distance between them. ‘They are just over 28 miles from their starting point. If they continue to stay in convoy, and to go at the speed of the slowest vessel, they will continue to travel at just over 6 miles per hour, and they have to travel 2500 miles, which will take about 17 days.
‘They are already traversing the deep ocean. I-13 is an oceanic island, which means that the beaches slope down to the ocean floor quite rapidly. The average depth of the ocean here is very similar to Earth: about 5000 metres.’ I was interrupted.
‘Why are you telling me this?’ asked Kerr McLean.
‘I must admit, I was beginning to wonder that as well,’ said Prude.
‘The mission I was charged with was to deprive the enemy of as much material as possible by non-military means. I think I can destroy four of his tanks and one of his helicopters, plus an unknown quantity of other material, at no cost whatsoever.’
‘How?’ asked several people, of whom Kerr McLean was the loudest.
‘And when?’ asked Kelvin, trying hard to sound as if he did not know what to expect.
‘I considered Major Downing’s mission. I do not wish to diminish in any way the effort and bravery that he and his men put into that operation, but it struck me that there must be an easier way.
‘I looked at what information I had about the ports on I-2 and I-13, and I discovered one important fact which appeared to have been overlooked. On I-2, the vessel on which the colonists first arrived onshore (the one which had come from the Irish Rover) had been broken up for scrap. On I-13, the vessel was still intact.’
‘Why is that important?’ asked Timothy Gonzales.
‘That is what I hope to demonstrate. The convoy contains two kinds of vessel: wooden boats, which are primitive vessels with no computer controls, and the ship which is ex-Irish Rover. This ship is designed to be capable of sailing unmanned. In other words, I believe I can hack into its systems and take control of it.’
I was typing while I was talking. I brought up the control panel, and told the onboard computer that there were no crew and no passengers. I also told it that it was stationary, in port. I intercepted all the streams from the ship’s transducers, and set them to constant values. By that point, the ship was mine.
With some compunction for Jessica, Samantha, and the other prisoners, I then issued the signal to open the ship’s cargo doors, which was duly executed. The ship, which was heavily loaded, sank within a matter of minutes. The convoy stopped moving for a while, presumably to pick up survivors.