I made one more call, this one to citizen
Nedra Madour. I reflected, as I waited, that I was lucky enough
to be able to write off all these calls to my LibMed expense account.
The phone she picked up appeared to be in the solarium. She had
evidently been lingering over breakfast; something I hoped to be
able to do someday.
“Citizen Slater, good morning,” she said. “I trust you have good
“Would you hold it against me if I didn’t?” I asked.
She took a leisurely but penetrating look around her. “You
haven’t found her yet, then.”
“Nope, not yet. There are developments, though.”
“There are developments,” she said.
“Come again?” I said, momentarily nonplussed.
“I need to see you,” she said.
Something tingled somewhere in my head. “Okay. Not at the
office, though. What about … the Libria Museum?”
“I don’t care very much for that place,” she said. “Museums are
for the past. What went on there is … not entirely past for a lot
“I know,” I said. “But there’s parking for you, and it’s very
convenient for me by tube. I have to check in at the office
first, though. I have some tasks for my assistant today.
Can you make it in two hours?”
She checked her watch. “I have a commitment … I may be a bit
late, but I’ll be there. Shall we say, just in the foyer?
We can stroll. It’s a big place.”
“Perfect,” I said. “I’ll be there.”
“Right.” She nodded, and we cut off.
On my way to the office, I dropped by the Fillmore Plaza pharma.
Raja wasn’t there, but she had left an envelope for me marked
“Confidential – Patient Records.” That would be my
analysis. The vidscreens on the tube had featured Manda Yolanda’s
latest, along with a bulletin on the ‘East Forty-Eighth Battle;’
investigations were ongoing.
I walked in the door, gym bag over my shoulder, muffin in hand, and
said: “Honey, I’m home.” The young woman at the workstation
threw me a glance. She wasn’t Jak, nor anyone that I knew
of. I was, for the second time in a very short while, momentarily
nonplussed. “Um, miss … can I help you, citizen? This is a
private office. My office. I’m Slater. How did you,
er, get in here?”
She rose from the seat as if she owned the place and stepped over with
a modest smile and an extended hand. “I know. I work here,
citizen. I’m your new office assistant. Citizen Garcia
I took in Citizen Garcia Ramirez. It wasn’t hard work. She
was tall, almost as tall as Nedra Madour, counting the black pumps with
the three-inch heels, and attired in a two-piece business suit with a
ruffled blouse and a bow at the throat. The suit had obviously
come off a department store rack, and just as obviously fit her
perfectly. Her conservative make-up, complete with lipstick,
eyeshadow, and a touch of blush, highlighted good-looking features,
dark eyes, and jet-black hair drawn and pinned at the back. Small
faux-diamond earrings and a matching lapel pin completed the picture of
an assistant who belonged in a Ministry, or a LibMed executive
suite. She went with my small, drab, musty office about as well
as champagne with a reheated box of yesterday’s chow mein. I
thought I’d better quit looking at her before she evaporated.
“Where’s Jakklyn?” I asked. “You’re from the pool?”
“Temporary reassignment,” she said. “The assistance of Citizen
Alderson was urgently required by administration at the records
center. It was rather sudden. I presumed you had received
the ‘mail about it yesterday. They said they would be sending
someone. I was … available.”
I processed that information.
“They supplied me with her keys and code. I was to report at the
accustomed time. Although, judging from your timesheets, that
appears to be somewhat … flexible. So I came early, in order to
ensure optimization of the available worktime.”
“How did you get the password into her computer?”
She flashed the little smile again. “Citizen, the data security
parameters in this office are your affair. I have not accessed
any of the data processing applications yet. But if you are
intent upon maintaining overall system security, you should ensure that
a better password is employed than ‘Password.’ It is the oldest
stratagem in the book, so to speak.”
“H’m. Will you give me a moment, citizen?” I asked her. She
replied with an elegant hand gesture—I noted her manicured nails—and I
went in to my office, which had been dusted and straightened. The
leftovers in the cooler were gone, replaced by some fresh fruit, a
banana-cranberry muffin, and a couple of small bottles of ionized,
sodium-free mineral water, and one of green tea.
This was getting scary.
I dumped my gym bag in the corner and checked my office ‘mail.
Sure enough, there was one from the pool administrator, Citizen West at
LibMed Staffing, timed yesterday afternoon, that Citizen Jakklyn
Alderson would be reassigned as of the following day, and that a
replacement would be arriving, regretting inconvenience, et
cetera. I scrolled through the usual junk: an advert for a
‘women’s health center,’ which meant a place where my wife or
girlfriend could have an unplanned pregnancy taken care of; an
‘urgent appeal’ from the LFF List, ads for office supplies and ‘ware
upgrades. I appeared to have somehow been deemed worthy of a BCI
Center newsletter, which contained an invitation hear new lectures,
among them one by citizen Nedra Madour, listed as ‘co-foundress,’ as
well as new breakthroughs in family planning and a ‘Students’ Activity
Evening.’ There was more; another ‘urgent appeal’ to attend
a rally about immigration, and, of course, the usual updates on this
and that from LibMed administration, the Bureau, and ConSec
notices. I used the vidphone to put in a call to Doctor Authier
Madour’s office. He wasn’t there, but I was told he’d get a
message and call me back. In about three days, probably, I
thought. Then I looked at ‘net news; citizen Herzog was
featured, not by name, as ‘a trafficking-related fatality in
Soho.’ He would be; ‘murder’ was not a word they used
anymore. Investigations were ongoing there, too. There was
some good news. No TeleLibria programmers had turned up dead.
I looked up to see my new assistant in the doorway, inspecting my gym
bag with a touch of concern. “Excuse me, citizen,” she said, with
a glance up at me. “I could have your athletic apparel sent out
to be cleaned, if you’d care.”
“No, thank you,” I said hastily. “I wash it at home. I, er,
use de-ionized water there. And environmentally-friendly
detergent, and I, ah, air-dry them.” I made a little flapping
gesture to simulate clothes waving in the breeze. She seemed to
approve of my newly-invented laundry schedule.
“Admirable, citizen,” she observed. “Libria’s limited resources
must be conserved for the future.”
I made the news-screen go away, and stood up. “Shall we get
started?” I asked her.
“Very good.” I followed her into the outer office and took in the
small vase of carnations on her workstation, as well as the hot mug of
“You … drink that?” I asked, perhaps making it sound not like I
“I permit myself a cup a day,” she said. “It is healthful, and
new studies reveal that it contains essential proteins.
Better for you than the black tea everyone drinks. Though
processed, that still contains trace amounts of caffeinoids. I
was pleasantly surprised to see that you also maintain it here.
Your maker did require cleaning out, however. I took the liberty
of doing that.”
“I’ll take a cup,” I said. “While you’re at it.”
Wonder Woman and I went over the routine. She appeared to have
background in records processing already, and it only took half an hour
before she had started the files humming away, though my system
appeared to stand in some need of ‘optimization.’ I let her
download some updates which I didn’t know existed, and she was able to
point out some redundancies which, according to her, were slowing the
system. It all looked jake to me, so I let her get about it.
Back in my office, I shook my head. Then I pinched myself, and
took one more look out the door. She hadn’t evaporated yet.
It came to me that she would probably earn a pass from citizen Nedra
Citizen John Preston had probably arranged this. His way of
keeping an eye on things. I remembered Beaker’s crack about
‘other types of personal assistant.’ I slit open Raja’s envelope
and read the five sheets inside, mostly technical data downloaded from
an BOH ‘net site. I put it aside to file. This might come
Then I pulled Citizen Keef Herzog’s PDA out of my gymbag. I
wasn’t sure yet about having my new assistant research numbers for
me. I went online and checked ConSec’s directory for an Officer
Lanyok. There wasn’t one listed. That didn’t mean he didn’t
exist. They updated about once every three years, and then not
everyone got included, for varying reasons.
I already had GD figured out. I decided to just call the ConSec
numbers from where I was. They were official numbers, and I had
business there. Keep it simple, Slater. Just tell ‘em you
got a wrong number, whoever picks up. I already the general
exchange number. I dialled CSD’s main office number. A
female officer answered. “Community Services Department.
How may I direct your call?”
I acted a little confused. “Let’s see, let me try to read this …
officer Listok, is that it? Do you have an Officer Listok?”
“No. We have an Officer Lanyok. Shall I transfer you?”
“Oh, Lipton,” I said. “It’s definitely Lipton that’s
written here. I think. Wait, what’s Lanyok’s extension
number?” She told me. “ No, I guess I have the wrong
department entirely. Thank you anyway, and you have an
outstanding day, officer.”
“Thank you for calling Community Services,” she said, and hit
‘end.’ So, BB was Lanyok. If Herzog had a system, that didn’t
help a lot.
I had another number, marked “RZ.” I tried that one. I was
swigging the last of my syn-caf when a familiar voice said,”Citizen
Slater? Again so soon?”
I couldn’t help spewing out some of the liquid. It was Officer
Roy Roy. “Yeah,” I choked.
“You alright citizen? How’d you get my dedicated PDA
number? Not many people have this.”
I knew I wasn’t going to tell him I had it off evidence I’d stolen from
a crime scene. I thought furiously. “I just had it jotted
down. I talk to a lot of people, in ConSec and out. I write
stuff down. I don’t really remember where I got it exactly.”
“You know what my office number is. You just dialled it this
“I know. But it was on speed dial. I’m not used to entering
it from memory. And my new office assistant accidentally erased
it from my vidphone,” I explained.
“What happened to your PDA?”
“It’s in the other room. My new office assistant’s busy. She
needs to concentrate, and I had to reprogram everything anyway. I
didn’t know this was a dedicated number.”
“Another new office assistant? What happened to Jakklyn?”
“Reassigned yesterday. They sent me a new one. I don’t know
the whole story.” That much was true.
“You new OA sounds like a washout. You’d better get rid of her
before she sets fire to the place,” he commented. I was nettled,
but I didn’t reply to that. “So it’s not your morning,
citizen. Big deal. Hope it gets better. What’d you call
“I wanted to tell you something else about Irina Madour.”
“Um, where she was last seen. That I know of. Albert’s Bar and
Grill. It’s a restaurant in Soho.”
“She was seen later than that. Apparently she was detected using
Herzog’s PDA early yesterday morning. Picked up when he was
called in for work. They got a grab of her image.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yeah. She’s a suspect now. They’ll be bringing her in,” he
“Oh. All right,” I said. “I’ll call you if I hear anything.”
“You do that,” he said. “But at my office number.” He gave
it to me. “This number’s for internal business only. And
wherever you got it, they’re asking for some trouble.”
I had to agree with that.
“Alright, citizen. See you around.”
We ended the call.
I had just about time for a visit to the small room down the hall, and
the vidphone went off. I let Wonder Woman take it, and with a
buzz her picture popped up on my own phone. “Citizen Director.
Doctor Authier Madour, returning your call. Shall I forward?”
Citizen Director. I liked that. Feeling rather directorial,
I said: “Very good, Garcia. I’ll take the call.” The
distinctive image of Doctor Madour appeared on my screen. “Good
morning, Doctor. Thank you for returning the call. I know
“Thank you, citizen. I presume you have news about our daughter?”
“There are promising developments. She was seen yesterday
morning. Has she left any more messages?”
“None of which I’m aware. That she’s appeared is good.
Perhaps she’s preparing to return.”
“I do have some other questions, though. I presume Irina knew of
your work with the Rockland Institute. How familiar was she with
“I share with her no less than what I share with my wife. She is,
naturally, interested in my work. I believe I mentioned that I
hope to have her assist me in it after her graduation.”
“Does she practice biocardial integration?”
“But of course. As the daughter of the developers of the method,
she has maintained it since we launched it six years ago. It is a
proven method of promoting the health and fitness of the whole person
and establishing harmony between mind, spirit, and body.
Inevitably, it has its detractors. Not all citizens appear
willing to make the effort to understand it. I like to think that
her practice of the method has helped to sustain her throughout the
recent … events.”
“You were on the team at the Rockland Institute that developed a
fertility medication nicknamed R99. What can you tell me about
“It is, as you indicated, a formula that appears to hold promise for
the enhancement of human fertlity, specifically ovogenesis. Some
successful animal trials were concluded. We applied through the
usual channels for a permit to test it on human subjects, but the
proposal was put down. It has been of some concern to me, as it
appeared to be a most promising project, and efforts have been made by
the Libria Family Foundation to revive its cause.”
“Are you aware that R99 has been appearing on the street? It
seems to be being made elswhere and smuggled in.”
“Well, the formula is no secret. It’s there for anyone who knows
how to research the Ministry of Health files. I’m disappointed
and indignant to think of my work being misappropriated and put into
distribution by parties unknown--but I can’t say I’m surprised.
There are those who have an interest in it. At least we may gain,
in however unscientific a manner, some idea of its effectiveness and
“And money could be made, don’t you think?”
“Potentially, a great deal of it, yes. But what does this
have do to with Irina?”
I knew that telecommunications were often monitored. At this
point, I didn’t care; in fact, I rather hoped that this call
“Doctor Madour, Irina had an ID band that mentioned it as a
medication she was authorized to be receiving, and created a false
identity that made her of legal age to be taking an experimental
medication. She is connected to a ring that makes these ID bands
that carry these false prescriptions. No ConSec officer who
scanned anyone with one of these would know that it was in fact an
illegal prescription unless he happened to be an expert in pharmacology
to boot. So far, no speculation. This is all stuff we
“Now, I want to test a theory. I put it to you that she is
involved in this trafficking, and may well be taking it herself.
I put it to you that she received the information about this, directly
or indirectly, from you. And I put it to you that she disappeared
with your knowledge, if not your consent, for reasons involving this,
which your wife was not informed of. Your wife believes it was
related to her treatment for nick addiction. I don’t believe
that. Now, Doctor Madour,” I concluded, “if this theory is
unsound, I am ready to hear why.”
“Irina is pregnant,” he said.
I couldn’t take stance, but I breathed; found the place.
“Does your wife know that?” I asked him.
“She hasn’t said anything. I’m sure she suspects.”
“Why haven’t you told her? Why didn’t Irina tell her?”
He paused a moment. “Why Irina didn’t tell her should be
evident. I think she is trying to tell her in her own way.
There was her message.”
“So when she said ‘we’ need time … she was talking about her, and
… How long have you known about this? When did it happen?”
“I knew only the day before I left for New Rio. I had no idea
Irina would do anything like this.” That had a ring of truth, but
good lies do. I wasn’t convinced.
“And how far is she along?”
“Only a few weeks. I don’t know how it happened.”
“Well, that’s not my affair, nor is what you’re going to do about
it. She can’t take a baby to school with her. You’re a
doctor. There are … medical procedures; technically illegal for
all but the strictest medical reasons, of course, but tolerated.”
“No,” he said flatly. “That isn’t possible.”
“Then you had better tell your wife today,” I said. “Maybe Nedra
can bring Irina home. If Irina thinks she has the right
attitude. If Irina calls again, and she hears the right sort of
message from Nedra, that may be all it takes.”
I heard some movement in the outer office, a voice. I had a
visitor. Wonder Woman would, I was sure, keep him occupied for a
few minutes. “That isn’t bad advice, citizen,” he said.
“And I have one more question for you,” I said. “You have worked
with Robert Preston’s case. You’ve offered testimony from time to
time. I’m aware that your work is well-funded by Robert’s
father. Is that what the money is really going for?”
“That,” he said, “does not touch on the matter at hand. I would
advise you not to concern yourself with that.”
“That, Doctor, is about the answer I had expected,” I told him.
“But I am not convinced as you are about its irrelevance. That’s
all I have for you today.”
“All right, Citizen Slater. Be careful,” he said. “Be
“I will be. Thanks,” I said, and hit the end button. Then I
buzzed Wonder Woman.
“Are you free, Citizen Director?” she asked. Ah, she still hadn’t
evaporated yet. “There is a citizen to see you. He doesn’t
have an appointment, but he’s willing to wait.”
“Citizen Petanko, citizen.”
“You may send him in, Garcia,” I told her. The door opened, and
my friend Sami brushed past her—rather brusquely, I thought. His
clothes were a mess. “Have a seat,” I invited, closing the door
He shook his mop of hair vigorously. “No, no thank you,
citizen. I’d, ah, rather not sit.”
“Suit yourself. I’ve been trying to call you.”
“I haven’t been home.”
“You haven’t been to work, either.”
“I called in. I’m in trouble, citizen. I’m being watched.”
“Welcome to sweet Libria, citizen. It’s hard to wipe your ass
around here without someone making a note of it.”
“Someone’s after me, I’m sure of it. Three times since yesterday I have
seen the same car. And there is an illegal tap on my PDA; I
ran a diagnostic on it. I don’t work for as a teleprogrammer for
nothing. I haven’t gone home. I don’t want to put Lalia in
“Have you called her?”
“Yes, I’ve called twice from public ‘phones. She’s very worried,
of course. She knows I am in trouble.”
“Why not turn yourself in to the authorities?”
“Are you crazy?!” he shouted, whirling around at me. “I saw
Herzog’s death on the ‘casts. I worked with him. They will
come for me next!”
“Calm down, citizen, calm down,” I said. “I’m not against
you. I’m trying to think, and I want you to think with me.
Take a breath. Sit down.” He stood.
“Sit down,” I said, with more emphasis, looking him straight in the
eye. “Citizen, nobody’s going to ‘come for you’ while you’re in
my office. Now. You can sit down now, or leave this
place. What’ll it be?”
He took a few paces around, and then sat down, leaning on the back of
the chair to face me. I buzzed my office assistant.
“Yes, Citizen Director?” she asked.
“Garcia, two syn-cafs, please, one with. We have an … anxious
“Let me finish the current update, Citizen Director. It’ll take
one moment.” While she was speaking, text appeared on my
screen: ‘Have mild sedative in purse.’
“Very good, Garcia,” I said meaningfully. “Thank you.”
“All right,” said citizen Petanko. “I’m sitting.”
“Excellent,” I said. “Now, let’s take this a step at a
time. Yes, Herzog was killed. But you don’t know why he was
killed. You will remember that he had a nick racket going on the
“But Star,” he said. “Star was there, remember? I told
you. She knows me.”
“So Star was in on his nick racket,” I said. “And the cops know
about her being there. I think when she’s brought in, she’ll be
busier trying to defend herself on murder charges than trying to tie
you in with some small-time fake ID business. Unless there was
more to it than that.”
He said nothing.
“Was there more to it than that, citizen?”
“Damn it! You, citizen--you got me into this fix! I could
be at home with my wife and baby right now! You got me into
this! You have to get me out!”
“You got yourself into it,” I said severely. “This had to
come. You agreed to do coding for the false ‘bands. I may
have been the bringer of bad tidings, but they were coming sooner or
later. Now. You tell me what else there was.” There
was a knock, and my office assistant came in with two mugs, one of
which she set before each of us. Sami’s was light, mine was
dark. I looked up at her, and she looked back with the
slightest of nods. “Thank you, Garcia,” I said. She turned
and went back out, closing the door. I had to hand it to
citizen Preston. He knew how to pick them.
I picked up my mug. “Have a sip of something before you pass
out,” I said. He sniffed at the mug suspiciously. “What’s
“It’s not poison,” I said. At least I hoped not.
He shook his mop and picked it up with a nervous, sudden smile.
“Some of the old-timers in my office still drink this,” he said.
“I’m an old-timer,” I said, and we both sipped. “Now.
You’ve got to tell me, citizen.”
“The ‘bands,” he said. “They were supposed to be false ‘bands so
if people got caught smoking they could dodge it on their records,” he
said. I nodded. “But they all had prescriptions for some drug on
“And what was that drug?”
“I dunno,” he said. “But I thought it was weird that they all had
them. And most of the names were women. Some of the women,
and all of the men there, were illegal immigrants.”
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“Star told me. She said we were also helping immigrants by doing
this. I remembered, remembered how hard it was for my
family. My father could only do hard, hazardous work that
eventually killed him. My mother, she had medical benefits cut
back. I worked hard in school, got good marks. Very
good. All the native Librians I graduated with went to government
jobs. Not me. Not the immigrant boy. He got to work
for Commo. Libria is still not a good place for immigrants.
Not yet. I thought I’d be helping.”
He drank again, then motioned to me to lean over. “The
“What about it?”
“I never got to ask Star about it. I never saw her again.
But I think it’s the police. I think they are giving all these
immigrants something. Something to--to sterilize them, or poison
I sat back. “No wonder you don’t want to go to them.”
“Yeah. You see. They would make me disappear—pouf! just
like that. I tried calling Star, but she would not answer.”
“You have a PDA number for Star?”
“Yes. She does not answer me, though. It rings, like she is
checking the ID, but she won’t talk to me.”
“What’s the number?” I asked offhandedly. He gave me a
number. I made a note. “So what can I do for you?”
He shook the mop. “I don’t know. I guess--I guessed you
could help somehow. I helped you. Didn’t I? Even your
assistant—she is an immigrant. You are not an enemy. You
have a badge, but you’re not the police.”
“You did help me. And I thank you. I will tell you
“You are wrong. ConSec isn’t behind any plot to poison immigrants
or anyone else.”
He considered. “Then why—“ he waved a hand—“why all this?
Herzog, the prescription, everything?”
“I don’t know. I’m trying to find out. You may be in
danger. You may not be. But ConSec isn’t behind any plot to
poison people, I can guarantee you that.”
“But what can I do then?”
“Why don’t you lay low for awhile? Call Lalia again. Tell
her everything you’ve told me. Don’t you think she’d
understand? She loves you, doesn’t she?”
He took another drink. “Perhaps it is best. Maybe I am just being
“Give it three days at least. A week at most. Then you’ll
be in the clear, I’m sure.”
He finished his drink, while I stood up. “Maybe you’re right,” he
said. “All right then, I’ll move on. I’ll take your advice.”
“Good idea,” I said, and put a hand on his shoulder as I showed him out.
“Thank you citizen,” he told my office assistant. She looked up
from her seat with a gracious smile, and he went out.
“I think you helped him,” she said. “That is good.”
“I think you helped him a bit more than me,” I said. “How’s
things coming along?”
“Very well. I’m doing a filedump now.”
“That was quick. I’m not sure what I’ll have for you to do after
tomorrow,” I added, half-jokingly.
She looked up at me with a shadow of a smile. “I’m sure, citizen,
there will be … things to do.”
Out the door, I stuck my head back in. “By the way,
citizen,” I said. “Like the ‘Director.’ Let’s keep
It was time to leave for the meeting with Nedra Madour. I made
sure citizen Herzog’s PDA was in my kick. Then, safely down in
the lobby, positioned against a doorway arch, I looked up toward
where my office was, drew my head back, and gave it one good solid
crack against the granite. Then I went out.
returned a diagnosis of cancer.”