An Evening with Nick Goodfrey, Part 3

18 Apr

fireinspace1

In this final installment of GNN Reporter Sam McCoy’s historic interview with Nick Goodfrey, we learn a bit more about the end of the First Corporation War and the attitude of the Telamer regarding the human-created conflict. Nick reveals more about his role in the creation of the Armistice, until the interview is suddenly thrown into disarray…

S.M. After that, why don’t you tell us a bit about how you came to be the Telamers’ liason and lead negotiator for the Armistice that ended the First Corporation War?

N.G. Certainly. In 2745 I was part of the GoodWalker Corp forces in the Beta and Alpha quadrants. With increasing alacrity the two largest combatants-

S.M. This would be the Goodfrey- Walker Yang Conglomerate and the Sinclair Hoshido Gupta Concern, yes?

N.G. Yes, an excellent command of Combat History, Sam. These two warring groups had begun a rather logarithmic increase in weapons development and production. Any semblance of development of planets had been all but abandoned during the middle of the twenty-seventh century. Planets were farmed for any and all resources with utter disregard for sustainability of either the planet or the system of which it was a part. Stars began wandering into other solar systems, their planets all having been mined to smithereens, leaving them rootless. Mass disasters were common. The survivors of these began being farmed into space station colonies where they were often put to use as protein synthesizers or organ generators.

Nick shifts slightly, his ease of manner falling away, replaced with a straight-backed, arch style of reporting. I cannot directly discern this, but I believe what he is telling us makes him angry.

S.M. What do you think about the state of the Galaxy in 2745?

N.G. I think it was a travesty of everything the humans promised the Telamer they would achieve as inheritors, and a gigantic hypocritical devastation. Humans had become the Maitre- less technologically advanced, true, but nevertheless completely ruthless about conscripting alien races, pristine worlds and resources to their own, introspective purposes.

S.M. Introspective is an interesting choice of word, Nick. Explain.

N.G. The humans at the time had completely forgotten that there was anything else in the Galaxy other than their precious Corporation superstructures. Babies were born into the Corporation and died for the Corporation. They gave blood, organs, flesh, waste to the Corporation. They were the bacteriophages in a gargantuan war against the Galaxy itself. Humans of the era did not stop to see the Galaxy around them, or any of the races or peoples in it. They merely continued along with a script that existed solely in their minds. The fact that they continued it in a Galactic fashion utilizing immense swathes of resources makes it none the less an ultimately introspective venture.

S.M. I see. Interesting understanding, again, Nick. Please continue.

N.G. The Telamer had been willing to indulge their newly adopted heirs in their war for a time. They knew that not everyone in the GAGA would take to these upstart humans, so fresh to the Galaxy and given so much power. The Telamer trusted the integrity and the decency of the human animal, and for the first two hundred years or so, they more or less believed that this was merely a shudder in the Galactic timeline as the GAGA acclimatized itself to human dominion.

The Telamer began to realize that the war was feeding on itself in the closing months of 2698. With the contact with the ((((((((((((((( race, humans had begun to develop the first viable HyperDrive engines since Niles’ regrettable experience with his otherwise exsquisite drive. They had another whole quadrant now to explore- the Delta quadrant was more than enough space for all the races of the GAGA to expand unchecked for over 6000 years. Even at the rate the Corporations were expanding. The Telamer breathed a sigh of relief. Soon the Corporations would get the results of the first surveys back and relinquish their greedy, megalomaniacal hold on the rest of the Galaxy. There would be no need to fear for resources.

When the fighting promptly moved into Delta Quadrant, the Telamers’ worst fears had come to the light of day. Humans would not cease their fighting now that their needs were met for tens of generations to come. They were fighting because of an intrinsic competitiveness, a greed, a selfish egotism that seemed to be ingrained in their very fabric of being. The Telamer watched as the secret Corporation research outposts popped up in first sounding-Delta quadrant. They watched as the first truly horrendous weapons of mass system destruction were developed, using the rare minerals and elements, heavy gravity and anomalous magnetics inherent in this most dangerous part of the Galaxy.

Nick sets both of his feet on the ground, knees together, feet touching. He clasps his hands in his lap. He looks more like an android now, less of a man. I wonder if he unconsciously has stepped away from the human mannerisms he tries so hard to include in his repertoire, out of an urge to separate himself from that which he is describing.

For the first time, humans began to wield weapons that rivalled that of the Maitre.

S.M. And they did nothing good with it.

N.G. Nothing good at all. The Telamer were stunned to see that the humans neither realized they had become their once slave-masters, nor did they have any interest in taking these dangerous, but undeniably effective weapons, and using them against the Maitre. This was, of course, part of the original design of the Telamer in choosing the human race for its successors. The Telamer had been destroyed by the Maitre and now that they were in the autumn of their species, they could not stop their foe from Galactic rampage. The Telamer hoped that the humans, beaten down by the Maitre, would one day rise up and strike them down- not just for humanity, but for the Telamer. The Telamer had, after all, saved humanity and Old Earth from complete annihilation.

S.M. It would seem to be a sensible conclusion- the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

N.G. Yet the humans in the opening years of the 28th century did not see that truth. They had all but pushed the Maitre out of their mind. So battle-hardened were they from three centuries of war that no human mind could conceive of a struggle more dire than that into which they were born. The other Corporate group was an immediate threat; the Maitre were a fairy story told to children.

S.M. Or something you knew about.

N.G. My knowledge on Earth’s history was relegated to the nursery at the time.

S.M. I see.

N.G. Now that humans had the opportunity to revenge themselves and the Telamer, to stop the relentless Maitre incursions into peaceful systems and planets, humans chose instead to fight each other. To fight each other as the Maitre fought each other, and everything else. This was not the Galaxy the Telamer sent the humans out to make. It was a nightmare version of the Earth the day the Telamer arrived- beaten, destroyed, polluted, enslaved, withered and diminished- and it was being played out on a Galactic scale by the very people the Telamer wanted to redeem it.

S.M. So how do you come into the story, Nick?

N.G. I was summoned from my post in the upper echelons of the Intelligence division of Goodfrey-Walker Yang in last sounding Alpha quadrant to go to Telamer V. No explanation given. Merely a message from the Telamer: “Nick Goodfrey is to report to GAGA High Council immediately”.

S.M. What did you think when you received the message?

N.G. I thought it was a remarkably shrewd maneuver on the part of the Telamer. Either Goodfrey-Walker Yang would offer me up obligingly to the GAGA, thus bowing their majestic head to its authority, or it would refuse to lose its greatest intelligence asset.

S.M. Thus breaking the charter humans formed with the Telamer back in the 22nd century.

N.G. Yes, breaking it and thrusting it aside forever. If they refused, the Telamer would declare the human corporations Enemy, and destroy them as they had the Maitre on Earth. I had imagined, as I heard the message, that a very similarly difficult choice had been given to the Sindo Gupta side.

S.M. Had it?

Nick offers a rueful laugh. It almost seems like a blush colored his cheeks for a moment. I make a note to ask him if he could blush after the interview is over.

N.G. No, not at all, as it happened. The Telamer only wanted to speak with me- they had nothing at all they wanted with the other Corporation alliance.

S.M. That must have been quite impacting when you found that out.

N.G. It was, deeply. I had been used tactically for nearly four hundred years by this point, far longer than I had been used as a helper to humans, or a servant, or an assistant.

S.M. That’s something I hadn’t thought of- you spent most of your formative years at a human war, fighting for things that made no sense to you. Yet you had to participate.

Nick stares at me quietly for a moment. His eyes glimmer, but his face is still placid and still.

N.G. That is quite true. You are the first human who has ever noticed that fact, Sam. Thank you.

S.M. It must have been quite the horror, really, to go from being the pinnacle of achievement of Thordin Goodfrey, a hope for the future, to being a glorified battle computer.

N.G. An endless, destructive game of chess that kept destroying more of the spark of life Thordin hoped I would continue. It was not a happy time for me.

A pause. We regard each other with what I hope is a new rapport.

N.G. I was given permission to go from Charles Goodfrey-Walker, CEO of the Corporation. But not before I told him I would leave regardless of what he decided; the Telamer had called, and I had made a promise to them to heed. This promise had been programmed into me by Thordin Goodfrey himself when the Telamer first arrived on Old Earth. No one yet had been able to undo the work Thordin had left me with, for good or for ill. It could have been prudence, but I believe that Charles let me go at that point purely to avoid having to explain how I had defied and escaped his edict.

S.M. Did you return to work for Charles Goodfrey-Walker when you were finished your business with the Telamer?

N.G. No. He died during the course of the negotiations.

S.M. Do you think Charles’ death had any effect on the process of the negotiations that ended the First Corporation War?

N.G. Indubidably. He would not have stopped- it would have taken direct intervention on the part of the Telamer to end the war, which would have destroyed what tenuous rapport that still existed between the humans and the Telamer. The GAGA would have fractured apart into various factions; very similar to the situation in the distant past, before the GAGA’s inception.

S.M. There is some speculation that his daughter, Astarte Walker, murdered him. Do you think there is any truth to that, Nick?

Nick gives a wry smirk.

N.G. Patently absurd. Wherever fate works serindipitously to the advantage of good, it seems humans will always gather to concoct consipiracies.

S.M. But how can you be certain- were you with them when Charles Goodfrey-Walker died?

N.G. No. I was in transit to Telamer V.

There is something about the stillness in Nick’s face, and the blankly open stare that makes me say:

S.M. You didn’t kill him, did you, Nick?

N.G. Heavens to Betsy, Sam, what a dreadful idea.

We stare at each other for a moment; yet another stalemate in this fascinatingly frustrating interview.

S.M. What happened to you when you arrived on Telamer V?

N.G. I was greeted by Adam, the leader of the Telamer, who I had not seen in some time. He thanked me profusely for coming, and we sat together by the Fountain of Peace for the afternoon. At one point, the Telamer servant animals brought us high tea.

My curiousity at my guest’s homicidal tendencies is eclipsed by the jaunty idea of the ancient Adam sitting in the spray of the Fountain of Peace offering a slightly less ancient android a cucumber sandwich. I laugh.

S.M. That’s an amazing image, Nick. What a shame no one ever captured it!

N.G. The Telamer frowned on paparazzi even then; Telamer V has always been one of the most private places to be for most of humanity’s time in the GAGA.

He pauses, then looks wistful.

N.G. I would have liked to have a photographic record of that afternoon, though. It was an amazingly cleansing experience, after the rigours of long combatance.

 

S.M. I can imagine. What did you discuss, if I might ask?

N.G. Of course. Adam wanted an entire accounting of what I had seen and done during the Great Corporation War. He wanted an unbiased dissection of the approach and psychology of both sides, their methods only insofar as I had seen, and the characters of the leading players.

S.M. My God, I would love to have a transcript of that. It would be an historical marvel.

N.G. Perhaps one day I will tell it to you- you might make a book of that.

S.M. It would be your book, Nick- I would just be the scribe.

Nick offers me a coy smile. He winks with his left eye at me.

N.G. You bring out the shades of my past in more color than I care to remember them these days.

S.M. Fine praise, Nick. Can you paraphrase what you told Adam that afternoon?

N.G. I told him how tired I was, of the fighting, of the petty machinations that were played out on this vast stage of ours. I told him, in essence, that the power of the Galaxy had gone unchecked in human hands and was now out of control. I told him about the casual disregard for the fineness of natural construction, i.e. How the humans obliterated the delicate and the complicated creations of the Galaxy with equal gusto in their heated struggle for domination. I told Adam that Charles Goodfrey-Walker was a psychopath with self-sabotaging tendencies and a grudge against his foes that stretched back to the early days of the Corporations’ conception in a way that was utterly direct as opposed to an inherited or learned behavior. I told him that the Sinclair family had fallen upon decadence and cared only to increase their income to keep in stride with their spending and obviate their crimes; that Hoshido had been mad at the start and his children were no longer human but forms of genetically spliced cybernetic devices. I told him that Yang and Gupta had only formed alliances with the others out of mutual hatred of each other and a desperate urge to supplant the established players and prove that they, too, could be at least as conniving, consumptive and heedless as they who had formed the benchmark for such behaviour before them.

S.M. … so, why didn’t the Telamer just ice us all summarily right then and there, over tea?

Nick chuckles. He returns to his more engaged posture of legs crossed, fingers laced over a knee. I wonder in distraction as he begins to speak if I should tell him that it would look more natural if he mastered a slight slouch.

N.G. I wasn’t telling Adam anything he didn’t know already; the Telamer are incredibly perceptive of psychology, even over great distances. And besides, my deposition was not a judgment against the species as a whole, but the acts and motivations of a few of you.

S.M. What did Adam think of everything that you told him?

N.G. The night came on as I spoke; a great lavender bowl settled upon us punctuated by an exsquisitely gentle, sighing breeze. Adam grew cold, or perhaps he wished a few moments to digest everything I had told him and was reluctant to send me away while he considered it. At any rate, he asked me to help him inside to his chambers, and while the animal servants tidied the remains of the tea, the old Telamer leaned on my arm as I walked him into his quarters.

S.M. It sounds as though Adam likes you very much. That’s high praise from the fellow who single-handedly saved humanity and brought us into the GAGA.

N.G. I believe we share a special friendship, yes. We both are thrust outside the sphere of action in this life, due to circumstances we never could have controlled. Yet we both must continue to act in it, in some way. I like him, too; he’s a very funny individual.

S.M. I’ve heard he has a wicked sense of humor.

We paused for a moment, thinking of the ancient, lined face and liver-spotted hands of the enigmatic and immensely powerful Adam.

N.G. After we settled in his deep and cozy chairs, he told me what he wanted from me now. “You’re going to put an end to this fiasco, Nick,” he told me.

Nick takes on the voice of the Telamer leader as he tells me his words from so long ago. I am delighted by the android’s impersonation, and clap a hand to my leg in approval as Nick continues.

N.G. I did not think to question him, nor to dispute my ability to do so. Adam was at that time the closest to my programmer of origin, and so his words resonated with me practically as closely as the directives of Thordin would have done. It was a reality- the war was going to end now.

What is your timeline for the end to these hostilities, Sir?” I asked him.

As fast as you can do it. I want it finished. We have the legislation in place to deter these crazy bastards from trying again, and to dissuade future humans from trying the same feats of megalomany. But we can’t end it. You know the case, Nick, you know these people. You know their ways and their wherefores. Do what it takes to stop it- but I want one thing.”

Nick pauses, and he cocks his head to one side as though reacting for the first time to the statement of the ancient alien.

N.G. “What is that, Sir?” I asked him.

You know who has abandoned their humanity- bring them here to stand trial.”

S.M. Wow. That’s pretty heavy coming from the Telamer. A direct edict, huh?

N.G. Yes. In that one, short statement, I understood that the Telamer had decided to make an example of anyone who turned their back on the essential essence of what had made humanity the inheritor of the Galaxy. The Telamer were resolved in their decision to make a lasting example of these men-gods who had sacrificed what made them redeemable for the auspices of Empire and immortality. It was a decision that altered the course of humanity’s progress as a Galactic species, and forever changed its fate. I had my orders. Now it was time to carry them out.

S.M. If I had been in your shoes, I would have been damn tempted just to conk the players on the head and bring them right to Telamer V immediately.

Nick laughs again.

N.G. The thought certainly did cross my mind, albeit for a moment. It could have been done. No aspect of the security protocols of any of the Corporations was beyond my comprehension at that time. But, as I’m sure you have realized as well, despite the satisfaction such a course of action might bring, it would not serve as a narrative the Galaxy could use to stomp out the fires of war.

S.M. Do you know what had Adam so riled about certain of the players in the First Corporation War?

N.G. I believe the information he had been given by the race of the Lodestones, and the events surrounding their liberation of several planets from the yoke of the Corporations, was instrumental in Adam’s decision. Watching this placid race of long-lived beings first be roundly attacked, then pursued, then turned into wanted beings, then finally being amalgamated into the Galactic consciousness through the burgeoning inter-Galactic Media system, was enough to turn the Telamer to the idea of example- and revenge. Perhaps certain of the players in the Great Corporation War had become so similar to the Telamer’s hated enemy, the Maitre, that it was necessitous for the Telamer to exact a punishment. Perhaps the deplorable manipulation of the Lodestones and the Corporations’ firm refusal to admit an error on their part, rather to absorb the Lodestones into a fabrication of Corporation propaganda, was enough like the manipulations of the Maitre to demand recompense. It was a combination of these things I suspected to have driven Adam to instruct me to hold the players for trial. No matter the motivations of Adam and the rest of the Telamer, he was happy to give the instruction, and I was happy to carry it out.

I open my mouth to ask a question about how exactly Nick was able to so seamlessly engineer the delivery of the recalcitrant Corporation leaders to the waiting hands of the GAGA court, but am interrupted by a shuddering groan that vibrates up the chair legs and into my bowels. The station is drifting. From somewhere deep inside the structure, I hear a horrendous rending noise.

N.G. The station has suffered an impact, Sam. Hang on.

S.M. Wha-?

I mumble this incoherently as the shaking gives way to a jarring shift in the Z axis. My chair falls over and I collapse onto the floor behind me. Nick, experienced in adaptive space travel techniques as he is, merely stands to his feet as the motion rattles his chair across the room.

I try to scrabble to my feet, but I cannot seem to coordinate my motions. I try to press on the carpet with one hand, but the carpet projects my hand away; the other hand it pins to the ground. My one leg is left oscillating in a rhythmic pendulum manner, suspended about a foot off the ground, while my other foot is also stuck to the floor.

Nick Goodfrey approaches me, walking awkwardly and with stiff, slow motions, but able to function where I seem to have become a fly caught in half of a web. He stops at my side where I am flailing awkwardly on the floor and tilts his head down to look at me.

N.G. The gravity generator has been shorted out, old chap. You won’t be able to stand using common methods.

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