– 2228 Horatio Mundy leaves Paragon.
Horatio, meanwhile, was far from settled. Continuing to live up to his nickname, The Little Horror had completed his secondary education with the minimum required to pass, and had refused to apply to any academic institution, preferring to spend his days hover-racing, and a considerable proportion of his nights in Pocket D. I had lost count of the times I had been woken up by a call from Mother in the middle of the night, telling me to go and retrieve him before Father decided to send private security to do so. So, when Father set down the conditions for his ultimatum, I was sure Horatio would be true to form, and refuse. I was wrong.
Father went all Napoleonic on us again. He declared that now that Hasmita was married, and therefore would continue the line (I wanted to point out that there was no causal link between marriage and procreation, but I thought it politic to hold my peace), it was time to settle our careers: and that, in the old days, it had been the custom for the eldest to inherit, for the second child to go into the Church, and for the third to go into the Armed Forces. At this I did speak up, pointing out that he was an atheist, and so was I, and what Church in particular did he have in mind, because I was not going to compromise my principles for a ridiculous outmoded tradition. This led to a long and heated discussion, and it would be pointless to go into detail about it. The conclusion, though, was that the closest thing to a divinity that we could agree on was Truth, and the closest thing to a religious order devoted to Truth we could think of was a library. And since that appealed to me, and appeased Father, I suggested that I would apply for a job at Paragon Library, and he agreed.
Then Father moved on to discuss Horatio’s future, and pointed out that, since Great-Aunt Adelaide was about to retire from the Admiralty, it would be sensible to make use of her influence as quickly as possible, and Horatio therefore should apply to the TSN Academy. Horatio’s disagreement was louder and stormier than mine, but not at all rational; and ended when he protested that he would never leave his friends in King’s Row, and he’d never salute anyone. He stormed out.
Horatio took his favourite hover-bike and went to Pocket D to get drunk. By midnight, Father had cut all Horatio’s access to credit: his bank account was frozen, he couldn’t buy another drink, he couldn’t buy a meal, his access to all Mundy and Trafalgar Tech properties was denied. I went looking for him the next day, to tell him he could share my student apartment, and I’d use my funds to support him. I found out he had been in Pocket D, and left when his credit was blocked. I hunted all over Paragon, searched King’s Row’s seediest alleys, took a gun and went all through Perez Park, and robots and Skulls be damned. I found his hover-bike near the half-sunken plaque pedestal by the lake. No sign of a struggle, no fuel in the bike. I couldn’t find him.
I reported him missing to P.P.D, in the end, though I hated admitting defeat, and I hated to bring the authorities into the matter. By the time I returned to Chatsworth it was well into the night again, and the ghosts and the glowing pumpkin-heads were out in force. I know, I know. There are no ghosts. The illusions of ghosts, then, the psychic impressions of some past trauma, whatever they are… were. Even the ghosts are gone, now.
I went to my rooms and collapsed, slept late the next day. By the time I went downstairs, breakfast had been cleared up, and there was an unusual hush all over the house. Eventually I found out from Mother’s administrative assistant that Horatio had returned the previous day, while I was scouring Perez Park. He had been walked home from Salamanca station (the trains were free to all, but he had always despised them; it says a great deal about his state of mind that he actually took one) having abandoned his hover-bike when it had run out of fuel and he had no credit to buy more; and none of his friends would lend him a virtual penny. So he capitulated to Father’s demand that he apply to the TSN Academy. He had been on the shuttle off planet that same evening.
I tried to contact him, repeatedly, and got no response. I made enquiries at the Academy, and was told that there was no applicant by the name of Horatio Mundy. Naively, I thought he had had the guts to rebel after all, and had taken off for some unknown destination. I did not question further. My parents never mentioned receiving news from him. I did not find out until years later that in one more attempt to anger Father while not actually going against the letter of his demands, The Little Horror had officially changed his name, before joining the Academy as Rajeev Chakravarthi.
Meanwhile, I attended an interview in Steel Canyon Library, where I was told that I needed better qualifications, but that the Librarians would be happy to consider my application once I had achieved them; and so I began my doctorate.