The Machine's Child (Company)

The Machine's Child (Company) by Kage Baker Read Free Book Online

Book: The Machine's Child (Company) by Kage Baker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kage Baker
Until The Fourteenth Century. I Saw The Black Death. I Watched What It Did. I Saw That There Might Be A Way To Continue My Own Work In Spite Of Our Masters.”
    “But not by killing innocent people,” Joseph said, almost weeping. “You wouldn’t do that, Father, not you! Please—”
    “No. Guilty Only. Let Me Finish. I Tracked Down Preservers I Knew Were Angry As I Was. Some Were My Sons. They Listened To Me. We Formed A Cabal. We Began Work. We Developed Disease Cultures That Would Kill Selectively And Die Too Fast To Spread Out Of Control.
    “The Plan Was To Release Them Where Killers Were In The Mortal Population. Armies. Prisons. No Innocents To Die. But The Preservers Argued With Me.
    “Labienus Said Overpopulation Was Killing The World. He Said I Was Targeting The Wrong Groups. He Said Killers Should Be Used To Do Our Work For Us. He Said Plagues Should Be Loosed On Overbreeders, Defectives, All Who Consume Without Producing. The Lesser Nations. The Poor.”
    Joseph blinked back tears in silence, as the pitiless voice went on:
    “I Overruled Him.”
    “The bastard must have decided to double-cross you,” Joseph said.
    “He Waited A Long Time. Our Cabal Grew. Then He Said We Should Bring In Victor. I Disagreed. I Knew Victor Disliked Me. But Labienus Said Victor Was An Executive Facilitator And Could Be Useful. In The End I Agreed. We Waited Until The Next Great Event Shadow And We Set The Trap.”
    “The 1906 earthquake in San Francisco,” Joseph said.
    “Yes. So Many Company Operatives In The City Then. Easy To Contact Victor In All The Confusion. I Was To Lure Him To A Place With One Entrance. Once I Had Him There Labienus And Others Would Join Me. We Would Have Persuaded Victor To Work For Us. He Would Have Had No Exit. If He Refused We Would Disable Him. One Against Six. He Would Have Disappeared.”
    Joseph shuddered. “You wouldn’t disable an innocent operative? That’s as bad as what Dr. Zeus is doing.”
    “Victor Is Not Innocent. I Led Him To The Trap. Made Him The Offer. He Refused. But Labienus And The Others Never Came. Unless I Disabled Victor He Would Go Straight To Our Masters And Report Me. Labienus Betrayed Both Of Us.
    “They Had Modified Victor. He Didn’t Know. They Made Him A Reservoir Of Poisons, Son. Biological Weapons From Our Own Group’s Facilities. I Scanned Him. Viruses Designed For Specific Targets To Lie Dormant Until Activated By Specific Signals. I Was One Of His Targets.”
    “Labienus designed the viruses, didn’t he?” said Joseph wearily.
    “Yes. Victor Spat On Me As We Argued. It Entered Through A Scratch In My Skin. I Was Paralyzed. I Might Have Reset And Self-Repaired, But He Sent Mortals To Finish Me.”
    “The guys with hatchets?”
    Budu’s shoulders twitched, the closest he could manage to a shrug. “The Mortals Who Owned That Cellar. I Had Killed Some Of Them. Only Justice. When The Earthquake Came It Buried Us All. I Went Into Fugue. Rotted In The Debris Layer Until You Found Me. Only Justice. I Should Have Known What Labienus Would Do. Did He Set Plagues Loose.”
    “Yeah.” Joseph sighed. “I think he started right after that, in 1918. Influenza, that time. Over the years there’ve been outbreaks all over the world, stuff nobody ever finds a cure for. They kill thousands, hundreds of thousands, and then disappear.”
    “The Company Has No Suspicion.”
    “I think the Company knows, Father. There have even been some arrests, but Labienus is still walking around free. It’s my guess the Company’s deliberately looking the other way while he works.” Joseph gave a savage laugh. “After all, he licked the overpopulation problem, didn’t he? No more wars or famines. It’s a real nice uncrowded world now. One of these days Dr. Zeus will arrest him and publicly deplore what he did, and settle down to enjoy everything the rest of us have gathered over the centuries. Labienus will get shipped off to—what did you call it, Options

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