Whipping Star

Chapter Twenty

Providence and Manifest Destiny are synonyms often invoked to support arguments founded in wishful thinking.

- from The Wreave Commentary

It was midafternoon on Central before Tuluk sent for McKie to return to the lab. Two squads of enforcers accompanied McKie. There were enforcers all around in augmented force. They watched the air, the walls, the floors. They watched each other and the space around their alternate numbers. Every sentient carried a raygen at the ready.

McKie, having spent two hours with Hanaman and five of her aides in Legal, was ready for down-to-dirt facts. Legal was moving to search every Abnethe property, to seize every record they could find - but it was all off there somewhere in the rarefied atmosphere of symbols. Perhaps something would come of it, though. They had a telocourt order, reproduced thousands of times, giving the Bureau's enforcement arm sufficient authority for search on most worlds outside the Gowachin pale. Gowachin officials were moving in their own way to cooperate - exonerating sufficient enforcers, clearing the names of appropriate police agencies.

Crime-One police on Central and elsewhere were assisting. They had provided enforcers, opened files normally not privileged to BuSab, temporarily linked their identification and modus computers to BuSab's core.

It was action, of course, but it struck McKie as too circuitous, too abstract. They needed another kind of line to Abnethe, something connected to her which could be reeled in despite any of her attempts to escape.

He felt now that he lived in a flushed-out spirit.

Nooses, blades, gnashing jumpdoors - there was no mercy in the conflict which engaged them.

Nothing he did slowed the dark hurricane that hurtled toward the sentient universe. His nerves punished him with sensations of rough, grasping inadequacy. The universe returned a glassy stare, full of his own fatigue. The Caleban's words haunted him - self-energy . . . seeing moves . . . I am S'eye!

Eight enforcers had crowded into the small lab with Tuluk. They were being very self effacing, apologetic - evidence that Tuluk had protested in that bitingly sarcastic way Wreaves had.

Tuluk glanced up at McKie's entrance, returned to examination of a metal sliver held in stasis by a subtron field beneath a bank of multicolored lights on his bench.

"Fascinating stuff, this steel," he said, lowering his head to permit one of his shorter and more delicate mandibular extensors to get a better grip on a probe with which he was tapping the metal.

"So it's steel," McKie said, watching the operation.

Each time Tuluk tapped the metal, it gave off a shimmering spray of purple sparks. They reminded McKie of something just at the edge of memory. He couldn't quite place the association. A shower of sparks. He shook his head.

"There's a chart down the bench," Tuluk said. "You might have a look at it while I finish here."

McKie glanced to his right, saw an oblong of chalf paper with writing on it. He moved the necessary two steps to reach the paper, picked it up, studied it. The writing was in Tuluk's neat script.

Substance: steel, an iron-base alloy. Sample contains small amts manganese, carbon, sulfur, phosphorus, and silicon, some nickel, zirconium, and tungsten with admixture chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium.

Source comparison: matches Second-Age steel used by human political subunit Japan in making of swords for Samurai Revival.

Tempering: sample hard-quenched on cutting edge only; back of sword remains soft.

Estimated length of original artifact: 1.01 meters.

Handle: linen cord wrapped over bone and lacquered. (See lacquer, bone, and cord analyses: attached.)

* * *

McKie glanced at the attached sheet: "Bone from a sea mammal's tooth, reworked after use on some other artifact, nature unknown but containing bronze."

The linen cord's analysis was interesting. It was of relatively recent manufacture, and it displayed the same submolecular characteristics as the earlier samples of rawhide.

The lacquer was even more interesting. It was based in an evaporative solvent which was identified as a coal-tar derivative, but the purified sap was from an ancient Coccus lacca insect extinct for millennia.

"You get to the part about the lacquer yet?" Tuluk asked, glancing up and twisting his face slit aside to look at McKie.


"What do you think of my theory now?"

"I'll believe anything that works," McKie growled.

"How are your wounds?" Tuluk asked, returning to his examination of the metal.

"I'll recover." McKie touched the omniflesh patch at his temple. "What's that you're doing now?"

"This material was fashioned by hammering," Tuluk said, not looking up. "I'm reconstructing the pattern of the blows which shaped it." He shut off the stasis field, caught the metal deftly in an extended mandible.


Tuluk tossed the metal onto the bench, racked the probe, faced McKie.

"Manufacture of swords such as this was a jealously guarded craft," he said. "It was handed down in families, father to son, for centuries. The irregularity of the hammer blows used by each artisan followed characteristic patterns to an extent that the maker can be identified without question by sampling that pattern. Collectors developed the method to verify authenticity. It's as definite as an eye print, more positive than any skin-print anomaly."

"So what did you find out?"

"I ran the test twice," Tuluk said, "to be certain. Despite the fact that cell revivification tests on lacquer and cord attachments show this sword to have been manufactured no more than eighty years ago, the steel was fashioned by an artisan dead more thousands of years than I care to contemplate. His name was Kanemura, and I can give you the index referents to verify this. There's no doubt who made that sword."

The interphone above Tuluk's bench chimed twice, and the face of Hanaman from Legal appeared on it. "Oh, there you are, McKie," she said, peering past Tuluk.

"What now?" McKie asked, his mind still dazed by Tuluk's statement.

"We've managed to get those injunctions," she said. "They lock up Abnethe's wealth and production on every sentient world except the Gowachin."

"But what about the warrants?" McKie demanded.

"Of course; those, too," Hanaman said. "That's why I'm calling. You asked to be notified immediately."

"Are the Gowachin cooperating?"

"They've agreed to declaration of a Consent emergency in their jurisdiction. That allows all Federation police and BuSab agencies to act there for apprehension of suspects."

"Fine," McKie said. "Now, if you could only tell me when to find her, I think we can pick her up."

Hanaman looked from the screen with a puzzled frown. "When?"

"Yeah," McKie snarled. "When."

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