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When I entered Category 4 of the Unity civil service thirty-seven years ago, I gave up my former name and life to become a servant dedicated to all mankind. There are those who say I ceased to be human when as part of the process a computer was embedded in my central nervous system.

I am called John Smith, though my name might as easily have been Xiang Quo or Krishna Singh or Ali Nasr. I am now Chief of Administration, the highest permanent official of the Unity. There are those who say I have the powers of a god and the ruthlessness of an avalanche.

Since I entered Category 4, my only desire has been the long-term good of mankind. Since I became Chief of Administration, my will has been the only will of mankind.

There are those who say I have no more mercy than a surgeon treating cancer.

There are those who say my planning has been mankind's only salvation during these seven years of war with the Kalendru, who understand the concepts of "master" and "slave" but not of "equals."

There are those who say that even such as I must retire, as a blade is retired when grinding use wears it to a sliver—be that sliver ever so sharp.

They say, they say . . .

And they are all of them correct.


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