David. David said she wasn't with him. The whole family had been moved out but for Jennifer.

If she'd stayed on in Aristarchus… or been kept on…

Human medics like Jennifer are needed when something unusual has happened to a human body or brain. Then they study what's going on, with an eye to writing more programs for the 'docs. The bulk of these problems are psychological.

Anton's 'peace games' must be stressful as Hell.

Chapter II

Anton wasn't at the Monobloc Thursday. That gave me another week to rethink and recheck the programs I'd put on a dime disk; but I didn't need it.

I came back the next Thursday. Anton Brillov and Phoebe Garrison were holding a table for four.

I paused—backlit in the doorway, knowing my expression was hidden—then moved on in. 'When did you get back?'

'Saturday before last,' Phoebe said gravely.

It felt awkward. Anton felt it too; but then, he would. I began to wish I didn't ever have to see him on a Thursday night.

I tried tact. 'Shall we see if we can conscript a fourth?'

'It's not like that,' Phoebe said. 'Anton and I, we're together. We had to tell you.'

But I'd never thought… I'd never claimed Phoebe. Dreams are private. This was coming from some wild direction. 'Together as in?'

Anton said, 'Well, not married, not yet, but thinking about it. And we wanted to talk privately.'

'Like over dinner?'

'A good suggestion.'

'I like Buffalo Bill. Let's go there.'

Twenty-odd habitués of the Monobloc must have heard the exchange and watched us leave. Those three long-timers seem friendly enough, but too serious… and three's an odd number…

We didn't talk until we'd reached Suite 23309.

Anton closed the door before he spoke. 'She's in, Jack. Everything.'

I said, 'It's really love, then.'

Phoebe smiled. 'Jack, don't be offended. Choosing is what humans do.'

Trite, I thought, and skip it. 'That bit there in the Monobloc seemed overdone. I felt excessively foolish.'

'That was for them. My idea,' Phoebe said. 'After tonight, one of us may have to go away. This way we've got an all-purpose excuse. You leave because your best friend and favored lady closed you out. Or Phoebe leaves because she can't bear to ruin a friendship. Or big, burly Jack drives Anton away. See?'

She wasn't just in, she was taking over. Ah, well. 'Phoebe, love, do you believe in murderous cats eight feet tall?'

'Do you have doubts, Jack?'

'Not any more. I called my son. Something secretive is happening in Aristarchus, something that requires a medic.'

She only nodded. 'What have you got for us?'

I showed them my dime disk. 'Took me less than a week. Run it in an autodoc. Ten personality choices. The chemical differences aren't big, but… infantry, which means killing on foot and doesn't have anything to do with children… where was I? Yah. Infantry isn't at all like logistics, and neither is it like espionage, and Navy is different yet. We may have lost some of the military vocations over the centuries. We'll have to re-invent them. This is just a first cut. I wish we had a way to try it out.'

Anton set a dime disk next to mine, and a small projector. 'Mine's nearly full. The ARM's stored an incredible range of dangerous devices. We need to think hard about where to store this. I even wondered if one of us should be emigrating, which is why—'

'To the Belt? Further?'

'Jack, if this all adds up, we won't have time to reach another star.'

We watched stills and flat motion pictures of weapons and tools in action. Much of it was quite primitive, copied out of deep archives. We watched rock and landscape being torn, aircraft exploding, machines destroying other machines… and imagined flesh shredding.

'I could get more, but I thought I'd better show you this first,' Anton said.

I said, 'Don't bother.'

'What? Jack?'

'It only took us a week! Why risk our necks to do work that can be duplicated that fast?'

Anton looked lost. 'We need to do something!'

'Well, maybe we don't. Maybe the ARM is doing it all for us.'

Phoebe gripped Anton's wrist hard, and he swallowed some bitter retort. She said, 'Maybe we're missing something. Maybe we're not looking at it right.'

'What's on your mind?'

'Let's find a way to look at it differently.' She was looking straight at me.

I said, 'Stoned? Drunk? Fizzed? Wired?'

Phoebe shook her head. 'We need the schitz view.'

'Dangerous, love. Also, the chemicals you're talking about are massively illegal. I can't get them, and Anton would be caught for sure—' I saw the way she was smiling at me. 'Anton, I'll break your scrawny neck.'

'Huh? Jack?'

'No, no, he didn't tell me,' Phoebe said hastily, 'though frankly I'd think either of you might have trusted me that much, Jack! I remembered you in the 'doc that morning, and Anton coming down from that twitchy state on a Thursday night, and it all clicked.'


'You're a schitz, Jack. But it's been a long time, hasn't it?'

'Thirteen years of peace,' I said. 'They pick us for it, you know. Paranoid schizophrenics, born with our chemistry screwed up, hair trigger temper and a skewed view of the universe. Most schitzies never have to feel that. We use the 'docs more regularly than you do and that's that. But some of us go into the ARM… Phoebe, your suggestion is still silly. Anton's crazy four days out of the week, just like I used to be. Anton's all you need.'

'Phoebe, he's right.'

'No. The ARM used to be all schitzies, right? The genes have thinned out over three hundred years.'

Anton nodded. 'They tell us in training. The ones who could be Hitler or Napoleon or Castro, they're the ones the ARM wants. They're the ones you can send on a mother hunt, the ones with no social sense… but the Fertility Board doesn't let them breed either, unless they've got something special. Jack, you were special, high intelligence or something—'

'Perfect teeth, and I don't get sick in free fall, and Charlotte's people never develop back problems. That helped. Yah… but every century there are less of us. So they hire some Antons too, and make you crazy—'

'But carefully,' Phoebe said. 'Anton's not evolved from paranoia, Jack. You are. When they juice Anton up they don't make him too crazy, just enough to get the viewpoint they want. I bet they leave the top management boringly sane. But you, Jack—'

'I see it.' Centuries of ARM tradition were squarely on her side.

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