Journeys of the Mind

 

Chapter 21

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-one

 

A Long and Winding Road of Lies

 

 

   

Sreena awoke to find her patient trying to get out of bed.  “What in the world are you doing?” she cried out, appalled that he had almost succeeded before she had awakened.  “Your ankle is still healing, as are your ribs, and you are recovering from what was apparently a fairly severe concussion.”  She laid her hand on his shoulder and gently pushed him back on his bed.  “We will compromise. I will raise the head of the bed some more.” 

“I only wanted to look around, find someone who might know me,” he said, as he lay back on the bed.

“I understand.  I have not been ignoring that, believe me.  I have sent out inquiries and hope to have some news for you soon,” she assured him.   He nodded as she adjusted his bed.  “You still remember nothing?” 

“Nothing,” he said softly.

Again the lost look.  Not knowing the disposition of her brother, still Sreena could not refuse to offer some hope.  “I’ll find out something for you.  I promise.” 

“Thank you.”  He looked around.  “Where am I?”

Remembering her brother’s threats, she did not give Erik’s name.  “You are in my lab on Zeron,” she told him.

“Zeron?”  He cocked his head and smiled slightly.  “I hate to tell you this, but that means nothing to me.” 

Sreena saw some innate good humor and was glad that the amnesia was not total.  Apparently deep-rooted personality markers remained.  Sreena couldn’t help it, she began to chuckle.  “I see what you mean.  I could tell you the name of the planet, quadrant, and so on, but I doubt that would mean much to you.”  She paused. “Mendalis, by the way.” 

He looked puzzled. 

“Zeron is a continent on the planet, Mendalis.” 

“Oh.”  He looked down at his hands and then back up again.  “You’re right.  It means nothing to me.” 

Deciding to go a different route, Sreena asked, “Are you hungry?” 

“A little.”

“Good,” a jovial voice sounded from the doorway.  “Then we must have some brunch sent to you.”

Sreena jumped, recognizing instantly the voice of her brother.  Her patient just looked at him, puzzled and hopeful.  Sreena noted Erik’s happy expression, the friendly smile and wondered what he was up to.

“Do I, uh, do I know you?” the injured man asked.

“No, but I have found out some interesting things about you,” Kormand said. 

Now he really did look hopeful.  “You know who I am?”

“Somewhat, although you are quite an enigma.”  Kormand smiled when he saw Rogers’ hopeful look.  “Your name is Brandt. Whether that is your first or last name, I don’t know yet, but we’ll keep digging.”

“Brandt?”

“Yes, you came to Zeron with your family,” Kormand said. 

“Family?”  Again the hopeful look.

“Um, yes, an agricultural colony north of here,” Kormand said.  “By the way, I am Erik Kormand and this is my compound.” 

“But what about my family?” Brandt insisted.  He said his name in his mind, but found no responsive chord.  He tried to force a companion name, but that, too, was useless.  He brought his full attention back to Erik Kormand, wondering at the same time, how he got here, how he had been injured, where this family of his was. 

“Family?”  Kormand repeated.  He looked concerned, even sad, and then he said, “Perhaps we should wait and talk about this when you are feeling better.”

“No, no, what about my family?” 

Sreena saw what was happening.  Her brother was baiting the injured man, getting revenge in any way he could.  Not only did she doubt this man had a family, she also doubted his name was Brandt.  She saw warning glint in Erik’s eyes as he glanced at her and then back to ‘Brandt.’ 

“If you insist, Brandt.  Unfortunately, your settlement was attacked in a vicious manner by Freeosh militants….” 

“Freeosh?  Who are they?” Brandt asked. 

“Aboriginals.  Natives to this world.  Small, sneaky and sadistic.  They are like pack animals, attacking when their victims least expect it.”  Kormand paused, as though reluctant to continue.  “You were the only survivor.” 

“My family?”  Dread clamored inside his heart. 

Everyone else was massacred, including your wife, your children, everyone.”  Erik paused for dramatic effect and was pleased to see the horrified look on the terran’s face.  He kept his own face sad, in keeping with the bad news.  “I’m sorry.” 

Brandt tried to remember.  A wife!  Children!  But he couldn’t remember.  Then there was a flash, a face, a brown-haired woman with blue-gray eyes and a pleasant laugh.  It was gone almost as soon as it appeared, but he held onto that tiny bit, the only tenuous link.  This must be the wife Kormand was talking about, but the children?  He could remember nothing.  And that non-remembering caused him more grief than their actual deaths did.  How could a father not remember his own children, a husband his wife? 

“We will bring the killers to justice.  I promise you that, Brandt,” Kormand said vehemently.  “You just get well and then we can talk further.” 

Brandt could only nod, his heart numb.  He only heard vaguely the swish of the door opening and closing.  

Sreena was torn.  She wished there was a way to offset what Erik was doing, but she couldn’t think of anything to say or do.   “Brandt?”

“I should feel something, but I don’t.  A wife, children.  I feel nothing.  I . . . feel . . . nothing!”  His voice was filled with anguish.  “I can’t remember.  Why can’t I remember those close to me?” he asked her, his eyes filled with pain. 

Somehow, Sreena knew Erik was watching.  “I don’t even presume to understand amnesia or the workings of the mind. Hopefully you will begin to remember as time passes.” 

He only nodded and lay back in the bed, his eyes closed.

 

 

Erik Kormand was, indeed, watching and chuckled softly at the scene in the next room. Rogers was going to provide him with a great deal of entertainment, if he did nothing else.  Kormand turned to Drishel.  “Did you see all of it?” 

“Yes, General, and it was a stroke of genius,” he said, rubbing his chin.  “It’s really too bad you don’t have enough time to cultivate him to the philosophy.”

“True, but we don’t.  We need to set this up in a matter of days, not months.  And we also need to conclude it quickly just on the off chance he does regain his memory.  That ship up there won’t wait sedately forever.  They have already sent communiqués to the Galactic Council and to the Mendalis capital.  So far they are awaiting word from those angles.” 

“Our people will stymie them there, won’t they?”

“Yes, but still, we can’t count on Asimov abiding by any edicts handed to them.   They are fairly resourceful, or that ship wouldn’t have survived this long.” 

Drishel nodded.  “So how do we start?”

“Get Glindon ready with his recording devices.  I want Rogers wined and dined.  I want him treated like royalty.  I want it to begin today, slowly at first.  I don’t want to kill him before I’m ready, but have Glindon get as much as he can.  When he’s well enough we do a ‘recreation’ of the destruction of his so-called settlement.  Supposedly, as it were, to jog his poor memory.”  Kormand laughed.  “And if he isn’t aggressive enough, we’ll use something that will trigger his anger and let Glindon get a good show.  And then we will kill him or let them capture him and poor Captain Rogers’ name will go into that annals of infamy.  And I will escape to follow the Plan in another quadrant.”  Kormand rocked back on his heels, a satisfied smile on his lips.  “You take care of Glindon now and then work on setting up the recreation.”

“Yes, sir,” Drishel said, turning.  Shortly thereafter, Kormand left as well, the smile still pasted to his face. 

 

 

                              =============================

 

 

“Damn all bureaucracy!” Asimov cried out angrily as he stormed out of his ready room.  Everyone knew that he had just received a communiqué from Cronis.  Now, everyone turned and stared at him.  

Dread seemed to knock on her heart, but Wilma asked what everyone was thinking anyway.  “What is it, Admiral?”  She was sitting at the navigational console, for all practical purposes doing nothing.  They had been in orbit around Mendalis for the past four days and she had been hoping against hope for the past two, ever since her escape from Kormand.  

“The council was able to effect Ross Williams’ release from Brix, but only because they promised that we would leave orbit, quit pestering them for permission to look for our remaining missing crewmember and come no closer to Mendalis than the nearest stargate,” Asimov explained tersely.  “And not necessarily in that order.   The bottom line?  We are denied permission to orbit or land anywhere on Mendalis after we pick up Lt. Williams.” 

“What?” Wilma gasped.  She had assumed after Hawk’s trip to Cronis that they would have someone helping them in the upper echelons of the Galactic Council.  She turned and glanced at Hawk and saw the same look of disappointment that she undoubtedly was showing.  Then she saw something else.  A look of instant revelation.

“It would seem, Admiral, that we do not have the right friends in the inner circles of the Galactic Council,” Hawk said evenly.

Sighing, Asimov nodded.   “I would like to see you, and you, Wilma, in my day room.  Also send for Dr. Goodfellow, Crichton, and Dr. Theopolis.”   With another sigh, he turned and strode off the bridge.   Wilma called down to the medical bay and then followed the admiral, Hawk at her side.  She felt the anger of betrayal filling her heart and she worked at squelching it.  Now was the time of logical planning, not emotion.  At times it was just so hard to control those emotions.  

When all were gathered in the Admiral’s private briefing room, Hawk asked, “Admiral, may I ask just which arm of the Galactic Council this order came from?  The ruling council or the judiciary?”

“I was so angry, I didn’t check, Hawk,” the admiral answered.  He looked at his computer read-outs and turned back to the assemblage.  “It appears to be from the ruling council.”  He looked puzzled for a moment and then his face lit with insight.  “Hawk, are you suggesting that Councilman Froligen is part of Kormand’s organization?”

“Yes, or at least sympathetic to it,” came Hawk’s quick reply.  “I told you my feelings about my trip to Cronis.   Mic Froligen did not inspire confidence and I was not satisfied.  Of course, my contact in the judiciary could be Erik Kormand’s contact as well.  We can rule nothing out.”

Asimov turned to Theo, who had been set on the console in front of the computer.  The quad was viewing the message that had just been received.   “Can you provide any clues as to who originated the message from Cronis?”

“I can certainly try, Admiral, but at first glance, it appears that the message is one that was the result of a consensus of the legislative body of the Council,” Theo replied.  “I will investigate and try to find out more details.” 

“And I will offer my able assistance in the endeavor,” Crichton added.

“Do that, both of you.  I think the history of this message might prove useful.”  Asimov turned to the rest of the group.   “Anyone have any other ideas?  I don’t want to leave Buck down there if there is anything, absolutely anything, we can do to find him, help him get back.”

“Let’s sneak down there tonight to that place where we last heard from him,” Twiki said with a determined beep.

Asimov sighed.  “There is nothing I would like better, but it’s obvious that Kormand is in total control of the planet.  Surveillance is very tight right now.  Any of our ships would be picked up quickly and if we are caught after an edict from the Galactic Council….” 

“We’d be toast,” Twiki finished with a much sadder beep. 

“His last message indicated that he was fine, and it was in a code that is quite ancient, so I guess I shouldn’t be so worried.  However, still it seems obvious that he’s either being held by someone against his will, or that he can’t come out of hiding because of Kormand’s influence.”

“Have you thought of the possibility that Captain Rogers is with a group of aliens?” Dr. Goodfellow suggested. 

“Aliens?” Asimov repeated.

“Oh, yes.  The previous message indicated that he was going to try and rendezvous with some of the aboriginals,” Dr. Goodfellow said.  “Then the next message, almost two days later, came from a remote plateau some small distance away.”  The old doctor paused.  “Now tell me why Buck would have gone that far away from his starfighter if there wasn’t a reason.” 

“And there is also the evidence of others’ involvement in that fire that burned almost fifty square kilometers of forest that same night,” Crichton added stuffily, as though everyone was overlooking something extremely obvious.

“Yes, that would indicate someone familiar with the forest, someone other than Buck,” Hawk added.  “I was thinking of that possibility myself.  I was also thinking how useful it would be to explore that plateau.  Dr. Goodfellow’s geological survey seemed to indicate the type of strata that would make caves possible.”

“Yes, another reason to think that an alien civilization would be living there.”  Goodfellow scratched his chin in thought.  

“But now such exploration is not feasible,” Wilma said with a sigh.  

Theo interrupted the groups’ brainstorming session.  “I was able to go into the recent activities of the governing body of the Galactic Council and pull up the discussion and vote for this decision banning us from Mendalis.”

“And?” several voices said at once.

“The initial proposal came from a Councilman Hawn of the foreign affairs committee.  There was a reading of the complaint from Mendalis, but almost nothing to counter it.  A vote was taken and by a three to one margin, the proposal passed.”  

“Which leaves you where you began,” Crichton said.

“Not necessarily,” the admiral countered.   Crichton’s head raised about a foot in his indignity.  “No, now you and Dr. Theopolis get to dig into Councilman Hawn’s past.  As well as the backgrounds of all on the governing body who voted for the proposal.  I also want to know who is on the foreign affairs committee and their recent activities.”  He gave the quads a hard look and added, “And do it as discreetly as possible.”  Then he turned to Hawk.  “After they have concluded their research, get a hold of your contact in the judiciary.” 

“There is something else….”  Dr. Goodfellow interrupted.  “Something I have worked on at times in the past couple of years.  Something that might help in this instance.” 

“What?” the admiral asked a bit impatiently.

“I have been working on something that would block a small craft from planetary sensors.  A distortion shield, if you will,” Goodfellow rambled.  “They are fairly common, you know, on surface objects.   I suspect that is why we haven’t been able to find Kormand’s compound with our surveillance.  However, I wanted one that could be used on something moving, like a small star craft.”

A pin would have been heard dropping on the deck it became so silent. 

 

 

 

 

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