Home Fires: Venus on Half Chelle

One of the mysteries in Home Fires that is never completely cleared up is the connection between Chelle Blue and Jane Sims. In the end, Chelle says that she only got an arm transplant from Jane, but this cannot be relied upon. Chelle is mentally unstable and her memories have been tampered with.

Jane's personality clearly comes through at times, especially her love for Don. She wrote the note "I am Jane Sims" and one time she asks Don how he knew she was "in here" (in Chelle). Chelle herself seems unaware of these lapses.

There are several possibilities.

1) Chelle has more of Jane than she knows: perhaps part of her brain, perhaps an uploaded scan. Against this possibility is the fact that expert spies (Rick for the Os, Ortiz and his men for the EU) tried very hard to bring back Jane and her memories and got nothing.

...And they’ll be after me, whoever it was that hired Ortiz and his gang. You wondered why they wanted you? Why they sent Achille for you, to bring you back to them? It was because they wanted me, and you should have seen what they did to me when they had me, trying so hard to drag out Jane Sims and everything she knew.

At least, Chelle thought they didn't manage to drag out Jane Sims. It seems she was wrong about this.

On the question of who shot Skip and the "guilty conscience," it seems unlikely that Chelle (as Chelle) would have done this. She loved him, at least a little. If she wanted to kill him she had plenty of opportunities. But Jane Sims might have. Chelle said they did a lot of things to her to bring Jane Sims out, and they failed. However, she never remembered when Jane came out. When she was put on the phone to say goodbye to Skip, she asked for Don. The name "S. W. Grison" didn't seem to register with her as she continued to ask for Don to be found. So if she was under Charlie's control as Jane, or she simply didn't recognize Skip and thought he was a threat, she might have been the one who shot him.

It seems we have the purpose of the hijacking of the entire ship here. Spies (probably from the EU) wanted what Jane Sims knew. So they wanted to get hold of Chelle. The initial hijacking failed to accomplish this, and Chelle was still free. So Achille was sent with a message to get Skip, supposedly to negotiate. When he arrived they pretended they had asked for the Captain instead, and knocked him out. This was meant to lure Chelle into an attack, and capture her for interrogation. It worked, but not because of the person they thought. The name of Don on the list was the actual trigger.

Rick's motives are more cloudy. He is supposed to be a spy for the Os, but he seems determined to kill Chelle in the face of common sense. Why? One theory is revenge. Rick may have been uploaded with a scan of Master Sergeant Mort Pununto, the spy Chelle killed. She said he was the best noncom she ever had. A good officer (promoted from the ranks) and a talented spy would be valuable skills for a cyborg to possess, whether he spied for the EU or the Os. When Mort was caught as a spy, Chelle was the only member of the firing squad to aim to hit him, so she was directly responsible for his death. There is little other reason for Wolfe to have included this otherwise completely extraneous story in detail. (One possible clue is that when Rick shot the doctor and nurse he aimed for the chest, the same place where Mort was shot.)

2) Perhaps there was once a deeper relationship between Jane and Chelle than Chelle now admits, and she now carries Jane's persona as a symptom of post-traumatic stress. Possibly they were lovers at one time. Susan's story of a Jane Simmons who contracted with a woman in the rapeseed oil business may be significant. (Contracting has solved the gay marriage issue with the social consequence that marriage has become a virtually forgotten religious institution.) Jane Simmons could have changed her last name to Sims for professional reasons, just as Susan changed her last name to Clerkin to help her get a job. Physicists often run simulations, or "sims."

However, it appears more likely that Susan simply invented this other person as an excuse for why she appeared to recognize the name "Jane Sims," which she learned through her conspiracy with Rick.

3) There could be a supernatural aspect. Perhaps the spirit of Jane haunts her arm and the body connected to it. Tante Élize seems to count Chelle as two people; she is associated with supernatural creatures like zombies.

The name Chelle, which Wolfe emphatically tells us is pronouced "Shell" must be significant. Somehow she is two persons in a single shell.

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