It Wasn't All Lies

by Jane Carnall

I never actually meant to make you fall in love with me. It's irrelevant now, since you did, but I might as well be honest. Simply, I never thought I could; I'm not that arrogant.

Your record showed you as a man incapable of love. You've taken people as you chose and used them for what they could give you, for as long as you needed them: and then you would discard them, with somewhat less compassion than you would feel for a worn-out machine.

All I intended was to make myself difficult to discard. My instructions were to stay close to you, run you as long as I could, and then take you. I never let you play chess with me; you might have guessed too much. I made myself desirable; and you desired me.

I should have known. I should have guessed; people only grow defenses when they need them, and you had such high hard defenses against loving, or being loved, that I should have been able to calculate that I could render you defenseless. Even so, you never told me you loved me, no. You merely planned to steal five million credits, so that we could be rich, and safe, and together; you were merely prepared to give up the work that was the breath of life to you to run from Earth with me; you merely told me, once, that you would give your life for me. You're a strange man, but predictable, when you know the right codes.

You loved me. Blind, mad, incredible love. You're a superb lover, too; you make love with concentration, deftness, and, oddly enough, gentleness. And your taste in wine, and women, is impeccable.

I didn't love you. I didn't like you very much. I did respect you.

Not for your intellect. You're supposed to be very intelligent; but you're not very bright, about humans, anyway. You were easy to fool.

Not for your ambitions; you'd never be a successful politician. Five million credits was a discreetly chosen sum; large enough, properly invested, to keep two people in luxurious safety for the rest of their lives, but small enough that, once we were offworld, it would have cost the Federation banking system too much to get it back. (Though I noticed that a broadcast claimed you'd planned to take five hundred million; I suppose it makes you sound like more of a threat.) I was told you were political; I can't imagine why. Some Administrative error, I imagine. Anyone less political would be hard to find.

I respected you because, like me, you're honest. That may sound odd, granted that I have lied to you with such complete efficiency over the past year -- in fact, my entire profession is lying. And you have lied to your criminal contacts -- most of which have now been picked up, by the way. That gross fool Keiller turned out to be working for someone else at the same time; someone on the High Council, I believe. But the empty-headed little Delta thief will probably be going out on the same transporter as you, and it's only a matter of time before the rest are located. You never told me your partner's name, but no doubt they'll beat it out of you before you go. You've also lied to your business acquaintances, and to what's left of your family.

But we don't lie to ourselves, you and I. I've never tried to pretend that what I do is clean or decent. It's merely necessary, filthy work, and I'm the necessary filth that does it. And does it very well, for I enjoy it.

And you don't lie to yourself either. You know what you are, and what you do, and why you do it. Someone less honest might have claimed to be doing it all for me; you made no secret of the fact that the difficulty of the game itself pleased you, that you had no qualms about embezzling the money. I don't believe that you'd lie to yourself to save your sanity.

I recognised that integral honesty before you ever saw me. It was time, in any case, to dispose of my original identity; so I gave you an honest gift in return; my own name. The one I was born with. The one my brother knows me by. The one he'll kill you for, if he ever finds you.

And so Anna Grant dies. I wrote the conclusion to her record myself; she died under torture, without breaking silence. Del will be distressed, no doubt, but far less so than if he ever found out what I'd become.

You were the only man I ever respected; it seems appropriate that part of me should die for you. You were civilised, intelligent, honourable, and honest.

You'll rot on Cygnus Alpha. But still, I let you go; I could have destroyed you so easily. How long would you last, tortured by Anna Grant? I let you go, to rot on Cygnus Alpha. Anna Grant is dead. Let Bartolomew live long.


850 words


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