The Orca is so comfortable that Tay and I live on board even while we're docked at Viktorenko Holdings. Tay is in the luxury cabin while I take the commander's berth. As we take a meal together I browse through the case notes that Tay has brought with her.
I examine the image of Eldrin Dood, Amaryllis Dood's grandson; he's the man who was carrying the antimatter containment designs to Colonia when they went missing. It looks like an honest and trustworthy face, but I've come unstuck too many times making assumptions based on someone's appearance; I reserve judgement much more these days.
"What can you tell me about this Eldrin character?" I ask Tay. "Do you think it's probable that he's the culprit here—made off with the commercially-sensitive material in order to stick it to the Nan?"
Tay squirms a little in her seat and her body languages changes subtly; there's a faint blush in her cheeks and she folds her arms. She's reticent.
"I know him only a little; met him a few times."
So, why this reaction, I wonder.
"Where did he fit in the organisation—in the Dood Corporation?"
Tay looks more comfortable as she talks about systems rather than about people.
"It's quite a complicated story," she begins. "Dood is a matriarchal set-up."
"You mean it employs a lot of women?"
"More than that; it's run entirely
by women and employs only
"Apart from Eldrin, obviously."
"Yes, he's the exception." Again, the defensiveness enters her voice.
"You need to understand that the Dood family, like many dynasties, keeps tight control over the assets and the power of the enterprise. To achieve this, they practise primagyniture."
"Primagyniture; it means that the line of succession to the entire estate passes to the firstborn girl."
"And if the firstborn is a boy?"
Tay smiles ironically. "It's tightly controlled and it's never a boy. All Dood children are conceived in vitro
, implanted artificially, and delivered by section."
"Sounds like a lot of fun," I say.
"It's actually taken very seriously," Tay continues. "Each embryo is screened to ensure a female child will result, and its DNA is genetically engineered to create offspring with optimal potential. They are devoid of hereditary diseases, enjoy increased longevity, and incorporate every gene modification believed to enhance brain function."
"That still doesn't explain Eldrin."
"I'm coming to that," Tay says. "Amaryllis Dood inherited the Dood Corporation fifteen years ago on the death of her mother, Ada Dood. At that time she'd already had three adult daughters—that was protocol; knowing that she would inherit, she was obliged to have three offspring: the heiress-and-the-spare and the third as an absolute backstop, an insurance policy against not leaving a successor."
Tay sees me stifle a yawn and she smiles. "We can do this tomorrow, if you like."
"No, no, please carry on. I need to understand what Eldrin's state-of-mind might have been."
"Okay, but let me know when you've had enough; I said it was complicated."
I nod: "Sure."
"Amaryllis' first daughter is Eldra Lorina Dood. Born by section, she has a broad, clear forehead and an intelligent face. As a precocious five-year old, she was already fluent in a fistful of languages, and she developed into a prodigious, teenaged student of physics, engineering, and business. She was flowing effortlessly and inexorably into the mould that her mother had created for her. She now sits close to the centre of power at her mother's right hand.
"Alice Lorna Dood, the second daughter, is in many ways quicker, brighter, and less spoiled than her elder sibling. The Dood Corporation is such a large conglomeration that there are important positions heading up subsidiaries for all members of the extended family: aunts, cousins, grandmothers and granddaughters occupying all the crucial roles across the organisation. Alice was also groomed for high office."
I start sketching out a family tree, but Tay stops me. "It's all in the codex; you can look it up there."
"Okay, but Eldra and Alice have children, right? I'm trying to see where Eldrin fits in."
"Yes, like I said, it's all laid out in a protocol. Eldra and Alice have three daughters each; I won't confuse you with their names at this stage. It's Amaryllis' third daughter that you're interested in. Edith Tertia Dood is, or rather was, Amaryllis Dood's third child."
"Was?" I say. "You mean she's dead? What happened?"
"That's right. Tertia, as she preferred to be called, was equally talented though she differed in many respects from her sisters. She died mysteriously; some say she was assassinated."
"This is getting interesting now," I say. "I like different."
"There was an error at the fertilisation clinic and the wrong DNA was used—and Dood sued them out of existence; genes tending towards sensitivity and sympathy were introduced into Tertia's makeup—traits not at all suitable for a hard-nosed business leader. The touchy-feely, caring-sharing side of her personality confused and exasperated her educators and mentors; they had no way to train her out of these supposed deviations, and no way of avoiding the wrath of her mother each time stories of Tertia's misbehaviour were reported to her. By the age of twenty, Tertia was estranged from her mother."
"And then?" I ask, draining the last of my post-prandial Eranin Pearl.
"Tertia was spirited and rebellious, and what better way to reject the culture of her family than running off and marrying the revolutionary, Ard Strang. Within a year she gave birth to a son, Eldrin."
This time my yawn is not stifled; that last slug of whiskey has tipped me into drowsiness.
"Okay, I'm done. Much as I want to hear about Eldrin, I need sleep more. Let's pick this up in the morning."
We retire, each to our own cabin.
Two hours later, I'm coming out of a deep sleep cycle and I hear a voice like someone in distress. I climb out of my bunk to investigate and find that the voice is coming from Tay's cabin.
"Tay, are you okay?" I say, but she doesn't hear and her voice becomes more agitated. I guess she's talking in her sleep. Then she screams, loud and long, and starts to cry. I'm not sure what to do, but she's not calming down. It doesn't feel right to enter her bedroom, but equally it would be callous not to offer comfort.
On balance I decide to see if there's anything I can do and go in. Tay is in the foetal position and sobbing uncontrollably. I rest my hand on her shoulder and it seems that she is aware of me for the first time. Initially she tenses, but then sits up and puts her arms around me with fresh floods of tears.
I hold her close and offer soothing reassurances; she's trembling, her hair is draggled, and her one-piece sleep-suit is damp with sweat.
It takes ten minutes for her to calm down. I stroke her hair and back and finally she relaxes. I lay her back down, cover her with the bedding, and wait until she's asleep.
I lie on my bunk wondering what is troubling Tay and whether it's connected to the case. One thing is certain, breakfast will be awkward.