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moved to the war column, and two voting originally for war dropped off the
voting board. The outcome was a net gain, but surprising.
He nodded absently. "All right, then. The Well is to be divided into military
zones, each under an overall commander. Each participating hex will mobilize
and choose its own commander, but all of them will be subject to an overall
sector commander, who will be from outside the sector and therefore of a race
not related to any of the troops under its command. War is not something we
are used to our enemy will be more accustomed to it. Yet, it can be waged, and
suc-cessfully. Logistics defeated the first Well War, but that was for
conquest and involved no cooperation among hexes in the way of objectives. The
second War of the Well was fought for limited objectives, to reach a certain
point before opposing armies could. Again, there wasn't the cooperation we now
have among the many hexes. And we are moving in re-sponse to another army. In
this case things are on our side the enemy is moving toward an objective, and
all we must do is stop them from attaining that objective. The disadvantages
are theirs,
although they will pick the route of march."
There was a lot more discussion, followed by gen-eral agreement to the plan.
All would make nomi-nations for sector commanders and submit them to Ortega,
who would use the most sophisticated com-puters in the high-tech hexes to pick
the best one for each position.
"I will also notify the North and send a transcript for their council to
consider," he told them. "Brazil is tricky and travel to the North possible,
although with great difficulty. It would be just like him to cause is all hell
to break loose down here while he popped up there where, if this volume of
Entries keeps up, the Well will also be putting newcomers and make for an
Avenue from that side."
Though as yet unheard of, it was already becoming apparent that the Well of
Souls, the great computer heart of the world, was actually putting some
carbon-based Entries into those eerie, non-carbon-based hexes up North. Such a
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thing shouldn't happen, but the Well was acting in sheer self-defense. It had
to distribute the unprecedented volume of newcomers as evenly as possible over
the whole world to make certain it had the resources to manage them. Brazil
had counted on that he needed double the population of all 1560 hexes, not
just in the South.
And as for himself . . . Ortega rocked back on his giant serpent's tail and
folded all six of his arms in contemplation. Ulik, of course, would go with
the ma-jority. He had voted that way, the way he knew his own people would
vote. The word would go off to them shortly by courier while he stayed here,
stuck in this luxury prison.
That's what this was, he decided. Prison. It wasn't the first time he had
thought about that concept. Brazil would be trapped in such a prison, probably
one of the unused embassies. It annoyed him that they were voting to try doing
to Brazil what had been done to him.
Trouble was, of course, that he had done it to him-self. Committed himself to
this cold, sterile prison rather than face death. Pushing toy armies around
tables, putting pins in maps, that would be his battle, his campaign, his war.
It might as well have been a billion light-years away, he thought. And yet, to
go out there meant death, sure, certain, probably quick death.
He recalled the ancient legend of his original people, the legend of Faust.
And when the demon
Mephi-stopheles had been ordered back to Hell, he had re-plied, "Why, this is
Hell, nor am I out of it."
Ortega looked around his comfortable office.
Why, this is Hell, he echoed the ancient line in his mind for the millionth
time, nor am I out of it.
No wonder Brazil was batty. Nobody, he thought, understands that man more than
me. He wished he could talk to the strange little man now.
He wished he could talk to somebody.
Why, this is Hell . . .
the great hall of holy ancestors stood empty;barren stone carved out of solid
granite far beneath the surface, without ornamentation, without light, yet a
perfect cubical space some two hundred meters in any direction. Silent,
tomblike, it waited.
Suddenly a portion of one wall glowed eerily, and something, a presence, came
through into the cham-ber. It glowed with its own eerie white
phosphores-cence, a pale, smoky thing like a piece of ghostly satin rippling [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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