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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Zahn Timothy
 

«Cobra Bargain», Timothy Zahn

 

Chapter 1

"Governor Moreau?"

Deep in personal combat with the official bafflegab staring out at him from his reader, Governor Corwin Jame Moreau switched mental gears with an effort and turned his attention to his intercom. It made for a pleasant change; Thena

MiGraw's face was a lot nicer to look at than Directorate papers. "Yes, Thena?"

"Sir, Justin is here. Shall I have him wait a few minutes?"

Corwin grimaced. Shall I have him wait. Translation: should she give Corwin a few minutes to prepare himself. Typically perceptive of Thena... but Corwin had already stalled this confrontation off a couple of days, and if he wasn't ready now, he never would be. "No, go ahead and send him in," he instructed her.

"Yes, sir."

Corwin took a deep breath, straightening himself in his chair and reaching over to shut off the reader. A moment later the door opened and Justin Moreau strode briskly into the room.

Strode briskly; but to Corwin's experienced eye the subtle beginnings of Cobra

Syndrome were already starting to show in his brother's movements. The ceramic laminae coating Justin's bones, the implanted weaponry, servos, and joint strengtheners-after twenty-eight years his body was beginning to react to all of it, precipitating the arthritis and anemia that would, a decade or two from now, bring his life to a premature end. Corwin winced in sympathetic pain, wishing for the millionth time that there was something he could do to alter the inevitable. But there wasn't. Like his father before him, Justin had chosen this path willingly.

And like the late Jonny Moreau, he had also chosen to accept his fate with quiet dignity, keeping his pain to himself whenever possible and quietly deflecting any offers of sympathy. In Corwin's opinion, it was a counterproductive approach, serving mainly to increase the Moreau family's collective sense of frustration and helplessness. But he understood his brother well enough to know they had to grant him his choice of how to face the long and painful path ahead.

"Justin," Corwin nodded in greeting, reaching across the desk to offer his brother his hand. "You're looking good. How are you feeling?"

"Pretty good," Justin said. "Actually, I suspect that at the moment you're suffering more from Cobra Syndrome than I am."

Corwin felt his lip twist. "Caught the debate on the pub/info net last night, I see."

Justin made a disgusted sound in the back of his throat. "All of it I could stomach, anyway. Which wasn't very much. Is Priesly as much of a phrijpicker in private as he is in public?"

"I almost wish he was. I'd actually be happier if he and the rest of the Jects were simply the frothing idiots they look like on the net-if they were we'd have found their strings years ago." Corwin sighed. "No, unfortunately Priesly is as sharp as he is gantua-headed, and now that he's finally hammered the Jects into a real political force he sees himself as holding the balance of power in both the Council and Directorate. That's heavy stuff for someone who considers himself an outcast, and he sometimes goes a little overboard."

"Does he?" Justin asked bluntly. "Hold the balance of power, I mean?"

Corwin shrugged. "I don't know," he admitted. "With his pack of sore losers trying to stir up a full-fledged crisis none of the Syndics or Governors seem quite sure of how to handle him. If Priesly offers them a deal that would henceforth keep him quiet..." He shook his head. "It's conceivable they might go for it."

"We still need the Cobras," Justin interjected with some heat. "Need them more than ever, in fact. WithEsquiline and the other New Worlds expanding like crazy, they need a steady supply of Cobras. Not to mention the need to keep a credible Cobra force here in case some group of Trofts decide to-"

"Easy, brother," Corwin cut him off, hands held palm outward. "You're preaching to the converted, remember?"

"Sorry," Justin growled. "Priesly's pack has a way of getting under my skin. I wish someone had realized sooner that the Jects were a political powder keg waiting for a flicker to come along. That should have been obvious as soon as we found out about Cobra Syndrome."

"Hindsight is wonderful, isn't it?" Corwin said dryly. "What would you have done, then?"

"Given them the regular nanocomputer and made them full Cobras in the first place," Justin growled. "It's just a waste of time, energy, and expensive equipment to have them running around with bone laminae and servos their computer won't let them use."

Corwin cocked an eyebrow. He'd heard variants of that argument before, but never from Justin. "You don't really mean that."

"Why not?" Justin countered. "Okay, so the training period uncovered psychological problems the pre-screening had missed. So what? Most of the glitches weren't all that severe; given time, they'd probably have worked things out eventually by themselves."


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